Wednesday, June 28, 2017

30 Summer Boredom Busters for Kids, Indoor and Outdoor Fun!


Two weeks into summer vacation it was apparent we weren't going to survive with my laissez-faire approach to making our own fun. How quickly I'd forgotten how much my kids like schedules, how much they thrive on plans and how their behavior is much less mommy-is-hiding-in-the-bathroom when they have something fun to look forward to each day. 

In order to save my sanity and make the rest of our summer vacation enjoyable for everyone, I quickly put on my cruise director hat, grabbed a pen and paper and sat down with the boys asking each of them to rattle off some things they like to see and do before heading back to school in the fall. While suggestions such as "build a rocket and fly to the moon" didn't necessarily make the cut, the four of us were able to come up with a pretty rockin' list of things to do and we hope that by sharing them you may spend less time hiding from your kids in the bathroom too. The best part? Most of these activities are very affordable, if not free to do! 


Most recently, all three of the boys were able to cross "try paddle-boarding" from their summer boredom buster lists. Being the slightly over-protective mother that I am, I was super hesitant to let our almost-seven-year-old hop on a board all by himself but both my husband and my son reassured me that everything would be okay. 

You want to know what happened?

He had the absolute best time of his life and requested to paddle board every chance he got during our weekend away at the beach.  He listened so intently to my husband as he explained to him the mechanics of climbing onto the board, maintaining a kneeling position until he was centered and ready to stand up and how to keep his balance by engaging his core, head and shoulders as well as how to use his paddle strokes to propel himself through the water in varying directions. 

While our other two boys weren't quite at the level of SUP independence that our oldest is at, they, too, enjoyed a ride around the canal on their dad's paddle board. 









I'm always on the lookout for a rugged waterproof shoe to accompany the boys on their many summer adventures and these fisherman sandals by M.A.P Footwear are the perfect lightweight yet durable sandal to tackle whatever excursion comes their way. With quick-dry technology, these stylish sport sandals can take the kids from beach to mountain top and all of the wild and wettest places in between. 

If indoor fun is more your speed, here's our list of indoor summer boredom busters guaranteed to keep your kids entertained for at least 15 minutes. As for the other 11 or so waking hours of the day? Well, that's on your hands. 


As the month of June comes to a close, we've tackled 10 items on our summer boredom busters list. 

learn a new card game
host a family movie night
eat hot dogs
travel to a new state
fly a kite
go to the beach
catch crabs off the dock
go to a baseball game
plan a water balloon fight
try paddle boarding

Curious as to what's up next for us? Boredom busters number 29 and 30 include attending a neighborhood cookout and making s'mores! Shortly after that we'll be heading to our very first bonfire back at the beach! While I wasn't planning on making any lists this summer outside of grocery lists, I'm so glad the four of us worked together to come up with a fun list of things to keep us entertained, engaged and having fun as a family all summer long! 

What are some of the things on YOUR family's boredom buster list this summer?


I received two pairs of M.A.P footwear in exchange for my honest thoughts 
as expressed above. No additional compensation was given.


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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

3 Tricks to a Successful Road Trip With Kids


This post is brought to you by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, 
Working together with parents to tackle those #SickJustGotReal moments wherever they may hit.

How do you prepare to travel with your kids? Do you start packing weeks in advance, curl up into the fetal position at the mere mention of a "family vacation," or are you confident enough in yourself and your family that you can "get by" with whatever finds it's way into the car the day you leave? 

It's no secret that traveling with your kids can be scary, stressful and overwhelming and certainly nothing like the vacations you were used to taking before you had kids. These feelings, however, shouldn't stop you from hitting the road and exploring the world around you with your kids, even if it means a taking stay-cation right in your own hometown. 

While we don't travel nearly as much (or as far) as we once did sans kids, both my husband and I believe in the importance of getting up and going whenever and wherever we can with our three boys. We've flown across the country, driven up the Eastern coastline and even tackled New Orleans with an infant and toddler. Sure some might think we're crazy but we've chalked it up to "making memories." 

As much as I'd like to be spontaneous in our road tripping, that's just not realistic when I'm traveling with my family of five. I know that I need to research, plan and check and double check accommodations, activities and packing lists even before I can think about leaving the house. If you, too, find yourself overwhelmed at the thought of taking your family anywhere for even a short getaway, then you might find comfort in these 3 tricks to a successful road trip with kids list that I've put together. 



1. Set low expectations. 

Not only does this apply to road trips but to motherhood in general. I've learned, after having 3 kids so close in age, that expecting too much from them at their young ages not only sets them up to fail but sets me up for failure as a mother, too. While the destination is what makes it all worth while, road trips are often wrought with antsy children tethered down for too long. While their little bodies are designed to move, it's not always the right time during a long trip to pull over and let them stretch their wiggly bodies. Keep your expectations low and your travel bag full of age-appropriate activities for them to partake in. Some suggestions include mess-free markers, "Water Wow" activity pads, educational workbooks, Wikki-Stix, magnetic toys and an Eye-Spy type card game. (Are you wondering how to store it all? Check out this awesome backseat organizer!) Be sure to include some fun music for those traffic-stop dance parties! 


2. Be prepared for everything.

And I mean everything. There's nothing worse than a sudden "Mom, my belly hurts," spoken from the third row seats. To combat those Sick Just Got Real road trip moments, the first bag I always pack before hitting the road is my children's medicine Go Bag. Not only does it include any prescription medications they may currently be taking such as asthma inhalers and allergy tabs but it also includes medicine for all of the lumps, bumps, aches, pains, itchies and ickies that so often find themselves unwelcome guests on our family vacation. 

When sick gets real, the pediatric brands of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare are there with 3 solutions Children’s Advil®, Children’s Robitussin® and Children’s Dimetapp® – to tackle the ickiest of symptoms. Whether it's a headache, unrelenting cough or a runny nose, Pfizer with their variety of age-appropriate formulas wants to make sure those symptoms won't put a damper on the family vacation.

Be sure to check your medication bottles of expiration dates and never use an expired medication.
Also, be sure to ALWAYS store your medications safely up out of the reach of children. 
  • Ease those aches and pains, while reducing a child’s fever fast with Children’s Advil®*, a great solution for kids as young as 2 and up to 11. Children’s Advil® comes in several great-tasting flavors, including: Sugar-free Dye-free Berry, Bubble Gum, Grape, Blue Raspberry, Fruit and Dye-Free White Grape flavors. There’s also Infants’ Advil® White Grape, which provides unsurpassed fever relief (among OTC pain relievers) with a syringe for easy dosing for children 6-23 months.
  • For your child’s cough, trust Children’s Robitussin® Extended-Release 12 Hour Cough Relief to control and relieve symptoms all-day or all- night. Available in grape or orange flavor, for children ages 4 and up. Please note, certain Children’s Robitussin® products are only suitable for children ages 6 and up.
  • Children’s Dimetapp® Multi-Symptom Cold Relief Dye-Free eases your child’s stuffy and runny nose, while quieting a bothersome cough. All in a great-tasting grape flavor that’s dye-free, for children ages 6 and up.

3. Keep a master list.
Keep a master list of everything you might need for a successful stay away from home. During the summer months, it's easy to use and re-use the same list over and over again as most of our destinations include sand and water fun. This makes it easy for me to keep a printable check-list on my computer at all times to print off and utilize at a moment's notice. As the boys get older I can easily edit the list to swap out things like "pack and play" for "pillow and blankets." If the destination allows, ship some of the bulkier items ahead of time such as a box of diapers and wipes so that they're waiting for you upon arrival.  


Above all else, stay safe and have FUN! What are some of your best summer travel tips and tricks? I'd love to hear them so be sure to leave them in the comments section below or on Facebook!

Finally, wherever your travels may take you this summer, don't forget to be prepared. My friends at Pfizer want to help make the most of your time on the road by offering one lucky reader this awesome prize pack! Be sure to enter below using the Rafflecopter widget. 

Your prize pack will include:
  • $25 virtual visa gift card
  • (1) Children’s Advil® Suspension, Grape
  • (1) Children’s Robitussin ® Extended-Release 12 Hour Cough Relief
  • (1) Children’s Dimetapp® Multi-Symptom Cold Relief Dye-Free
Giveaway is open to U.S. Residents, ages 18+ years of age. Must have valid U.S. mailing address to win.
The giveaway ends on 07/02/17
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Monday, June 12, 2017

How Disney Junior Makes Me A Better Mom (And Inspires Us to DIY Dog Treats!)

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Summer has arrived and with it, the monotonous daily chorus of "I'm bored's" and "I want a snaaaaaaack!," (s's purposefully elongated to mimic ear-piercing whining). It's a constant battle keeping these complaints to a minimum therefore, I wanted to pop in today to share with you, on behalf of Disney Junior, one of the many ways in which I battle the boredom doldrums.
It may have taken me a few kids to realize this but the first few hours of the day are usually indicative of how the rest of our day will flow. This means if in the hours following waking, I've lost my temper, the boys have lost their minds and everyone is in a tizzy, this behavior does not bode well for the remainder of our day. It's kind of like the tone for our day has already been set by 10am and there's little we can do to turn it around.  
One neat trick that I've found is that I'm a much nicer mommy if I've had a few moments to myself in the mornings, after the kids have been awake, teeth brushed and bellies fed. I'm all about meeting their intrinsic needs before I even think about meeting my own and it's around this time, particularly on Fridays, that the Disney Channel airs a morning block full of premier Disney Junior programming. These brand new, never-before-seen episodes air here first, during the hours between 6am and 10am and it's usually the perfect time to put on a show for the boys while I sit out on the front porch and drink my first cup of coffee piping hot.
What I love most about Disney Junior programming is that I can rest assured knowing it's packed with safe, age-appropriate and educational scenarios that are suitable for my middle and youngest children, ages 3 and 5. This allows me to put on their most favorite show at the moment, Puppy Dog Pals, and step away from the TV for a minute or two to center myself, make plans for the day and prepare for the chaos that lies ahead.
 Bingo and Rolly, the fun-loving stars of Puppy Dog Pals, are a canine duo of brothers who love nothing more than the thrill of a good adventure. Many times it's these adventures that take them on exhilarating escapades both in their neighborhood and around the globe. Most recently the boys enjoyed an episode where their sister-cat Hissy was feeling down in the dumps. They rallied together and brought her to all of her favorite places to try and cheer her up. That got my boys thinking, "what could they do for Sullivan, our Sheepdog, if he was ever feeling sad?" The answer was quickly "bake him one of his most favorite things, TREATS!"

Right click and save this image to use as a label for your own Puppy Pals Dog Biscuits!

That's how one silly episode of Puppy Dog Pals inspired us to create these organic, grain-free DIY dog treats that include some of our pup Sullivan's most favorite things. Not only was it a great bonding experience, the three of us together baking in the kitchen, but it also served as a great activity to pass the time during one of those long, hot summer days. When we realized we'd baked more than enough treats for our own pup, the boys decided to box up the extras and go door-to-door sharing the tasty treats with all of our neighboring canine companions. It was kind of like we had created our own little adventure, one that would surely make Bingo and Rolly very proud!
 To make your own DIY Grain-Free Organic Dog Treats just follow the very simple recipe* below and be sure to tune into Disney Junior on Fridays between 6am and 10am to catch all new programming suitable for toddlers and preschoolers!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup peanut butter or nut butter of your choosing
4 organic eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 1/3 c pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350*
Combine all ingredients into mixing bowl.
Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper.
Use desired cookie cutters to press-out treat shapes
Transfer using a spatula to a lined baking sheet.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are hard.
Let cool completely before sharing!


Disney Junior is putting the YAY in FRiYAY all summer long! Tune-in for the #DisneyJuniorFRiYAY new episodes airing all summer on Disney Channel. Remember moms, the days may be long but we can do hard things! (With the help of a little Disney Junior....)

You can also find Disney Junior content (music videos, promos, shorts) on the Disney Junior YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/disneyjunior and on Facebook: http://bit.ly/2rkjqp3.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Disney Junior.
*Recipe adapted from Lexi's Clean Kitchen

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Meet Your Convertible Car Seat B.F.F: The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max


So, if you didn't know it, yesterday was National Best Friends Day. While I'm never one to miss a bandwagon holiday, I usually don't celebrate the ones that don't involve praising some kind of food or drink. National Doughnut Day? Consider it done. National Margarita Day? Most notably another favorite of mine. While I wasn't plastering pictures of my besties all over the internet yesterday for all to see, I was working on putting together a post to share how the newest car seat from Maxi-Cosi, the Pria 85 Max, is the premier convertible car seat on the market that offers a first-class ride from 5-85 pounds. 

It's based off the much-loved previous model, the Pria85 but comes with some pretty incredible upgrades.

Meet the ClipQuik, Maxi-Cosi's newest and most innovate buckle technology.



This makes the seat, hands down, every Mom and Dad's new best friend with its innovative features for a Better. Faster. Fit. See what I did there? Featuring brand new ClipQuik technology that lets you easily buckle a child with a magnetic chest clip and can be unbuckled with one hand, this seat makes strapping your little one in, a fuss-free experience. 

Maneuvering the ClipQuik is simple. You can release the clip by placing your thumb on the grey circle and sliding up. Yes, it sounds simple enough if you're the caregiver deactivating the magnet from the traditional seat-facing position. However, even if your tiny rider knew how the mechanics of the clip worked, it would still be impossible for them to maneuver from their angle inside of the harnessed seat. This innovation in itself is priceless when it comes to parents who have children who've mastered the great seat escape.

What I wouldn't give for the ability to buckle and unbuckle my child with one hand while juggling groceries, a handbag and heck, even a smaller sibling in my other hand. The ease with which this chest clip can be buckled and unbuckled by an adult is mind-blowing. Even better is that the ultra-strong magnetic clip makes it near impossible for your tiny passenger to un-clip their own chest buckle.


Another feature that I love is the flip away buckle. This feature prevents the buckles from getting stuck underneath your child or wrapped up in their clothing when you're trying to load or unload them from their seat. 

What about rear-facing and forward-facing guidelines?

The Pria 85 Max convertible car seat fits children rear-facing starting at 5lbs. with the brand new removable infant cushions. These cushions give smaller babies a safer, more snug fit and when used properly can keep them cozy up to 40lbs. 



When the child is ready to ride forward-facing, this seat can be turned around to safely accommodate children up to 85lbs.; the highest weight range offered by a convertible car seat. Forward facing, the Pria 85 Max is rated from 22-85lbs. and from 29-52 inches tall. 

It's important to keep in mind that the child's ears much be fully contained within the head reast and the harness must be at or above the child's shoulders at all times. The seat will be outgrown when the first of these limits are met. Both stages, infant and older child, benefit greatly from the safer side impact protection provided by Air Protect technology which protects your child where it's needed most, around the head.




But can I clean it?

YES! With a fully removable cover, the seat pad unsnaps and removes easily over the seat frame. There's no need to remove the seat from the car or to make complicated maneuvers with the harness straps. The seat pad is both machine washable and dryer safe making it easy to achieve a thorough clean for the many unexpected messes this seat may meet. We've all experienced them- from car sickness to diaper blowouts and all of the crunched up goldfish in between, it's easier to clean this car seat than most other car seats on the market.

Seat Highlights: 
1. Easy install.
2. Magnetic chest clip (great for seat Houdinis)
3. 1-step removable cover, machine wash/dryer safe fabric
4. Air Protect Technology surrounds child's head
5. New infant cushions safely adapt to babies as little as 5 pounds

What are my options and how much does it cost?

Available in Black, Nomad blue, Nomad green and Nomad sand, this seat retails for $349.99 and, in my opinion, is worth every single penny. This seat is quite large and with it, comes a need for ample space front to back when installed in a vehicle. The price tag is hefty which won't necessarily fit all budgets but it does boast some pretty neat upgrades that will last average-sized children quite some time. For those interested, this seat is installed in the second row captain's seat of a Chevrolet Suburban using the seat belt tether installation for a forward-facing rider 40+ pounds seated in position one. (The Pria 85 Max has a 40 pound lower anchor limit and my middle rider is currently 43 pounds). 

*I received this seat for free in exchange for my honest opinion as expressed above

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Dog Who Saved Me

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This post is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, a world-leading animal health company providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health and well-being of dogs, but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.
In 2008, I became a statistic.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve talked openly about my miscarriage on this blog. In fact, it’s been a little more than eight years since it happened and today, I’m working with the HEARTGARD® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel) team to share my story, because while this post will recount some of the deepest, darkest moments of my life, it isn’t really about what I went through during that time. Instead, it’s about how 25 pounds of slobber and fur saved me.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with their grief when it comes to the loss of a pregnancy and I chose to experience that loss privately, or as privately as someone could losing a baby at 14 weeks. It was an odd reaction, I guess, especially when everyone around me was devastated. After all, my husband and I had only been married a year and although this baby wasn’t planned, we embraced our new addition with open arms and open hearts and shared our news as soon as we gleefully moved beyond the safe zone at 12 weeks. But then I woke up bleeding in a hotel while on vacation with my husband’s family and everything changed.
Family and friends sent sympathy cards and flowers while I tried my hardest to pretend like nothing was different. Ignoring our loss and the deep grief that surrounded it helped me in a way to move past those overwhelming feelings of loss and defeat. I was okay until I wasn’t. In the weeks and months following my miscarriage, I would have these moments where I was absolutely blindsided by feelings of sadness, guilt and fear. What had I done wrong? How had my body failed this precious life? Would I ever be able to have a healthy baby? I was broken and I didn’t have any idea how to fix myself.
I quickly learned that in the midst of tragedies like the one we went through there are countless blessings to acknowledge and be grateful for. One of these blessings came to me in the form of a puppy. Three months after I walked out of that hospital with nothing more than a pack of super strength maxi-pads and a “don’t worry, this happens all of the time” from an OB I’d never met before, I met and fell in love with an Olde English Sheepdog puppy.
There will never be any doubt in my mind about how this dog saved me. Sullivan was a true gift to me during a dark time in my life and there isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think about how much he means to me and our family. He was there for me before there ever was a “family,” and when those moments of grief and loss would engulf me, he would be at my side before the tears even started to fall down my face. His sense of empathy and his innate ability to bring comfort during these times of duress is not something I’ll soon forget. Just sitting here, reliving these moments is difficult and while I cringe at my own weakness, I can recall curling up into a ball around Sullivan, burying my face into his thick coat and crying as if it was yesterday.  
It would have been easy to become overwhelmed during those early puppy months while focusing on housebreaking and training up a new pup, but I quickly learned that Sullivan brought so much more joy into our lives than stress. He helped heal me from the inside out and when I became pregnant a little over two years later, he continued to be a source of comfort and reassurance that I will forever be grateful for.
 

Here we are, 8 years and three little boys later, and Sullivan remains one of the most beloved members of our pack. He loves our boys immensely- protecting them from skinned knees and things that go bump in the night. He comforts them when they cry and goads them into playing fetch when the moment moves him. I can’t even begin to picture a single day without Sullivan in it.

I’ve experienced firsthand the healing nature of dogs and I’m pleased to share with you that the
HEARTGARD® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel) team and Warrior Canine Connection® (WCC) are joining forces to help bring the healing power of dogs to Service Members, Veterans and their families. WCC offers canine-assisted therapy to service members and veterans affected by the invisible wounds of war. With your participation the HEARTGARD Plus team will help WCC continue its mission of helping U.S. Service Members and Veterans reconnect with their life, their families and their communities through the healing power of the human-animal bond.

From now to June 30, the HEARTGARD Plus team is offering supporters nationwide the opportunity to nominate a deserving U.S. Veteran or Service Member to win an all-expense-paid trip to Nashville and a year’s supply of HEARTGARD Plus for their dog. For every nomination, the HEARTGARD Plus team will donate $10 to WCC. The HEARTGARD Plus team will contribute up to $100,000 to WCC in 2017.
I’m nominating my dear friend’s husband, Corporal Thomas “Skipper” Solimando. A U.S. Marine, dedicated husband and father to two beautiful little girls, “Skip” served overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, from 2004-2005. While a simple “thank you” will never be enough, I love that this platform gives voice to so many service men and women. After all, every Veteran is worthy of recognition for honorably serving their country and recognizing his or her sacrifice brings the value of our American freedoms to life.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-G7vsvUFxwZ8/T4jWld6EswI/AAAAAAAAEnY/UuYS4V8b-i0/s400/fucking+war.jpg
Veterans can be nominated on heartgardians.com or via Twitter® or Instagram® by using the hashtags #NominateAVeteran and #Sweepstakes.
The love of a pet is truly unmatched. From ashes comes beauty and while Sullivan will never replace the baby we lost, both he and his love for our family remains a priceless addition to the story of us. We are so undeniably happy that he is ours to love.


The maker of HEARTGARD® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel) worked with bloggers like me for its “Heartgardians” program. This blog has been written by me on behalf of the HEARTGARD Plus team. I received compensation for my time.
®HEARTGARD and the Dog & Hand logo are registered trademarks of Merial. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.
©2017 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim. [WCC_Social4] (6/17)
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