Friday, July 24, 2015

If I Could Be Anywhere, I Would Be...

Ever since I was a little girl who wanted to grow up to be Holly Hobbie or Laura Ingalls, I wanted to travel to some of the most mysterious and alluring places. Here I am at 41 and I haven't left the continent yet! I dreamed of Austria, Hungary, (my ancestors came to the United States from there!), Poland, Russia, Australia, Iceland, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and The Netherlands, 

I devoured every book, rushed to the library to borrow any VHS tapes I could find about any of these faraway places, I anxiously awaited assignments in school where we could choose a country to learn and write about. I even started listening to shortwave radio stations from as many countries as I could pick up on my little transistor like radios. Even today, I will sit and watch other people's vacations on Youtube and if you check my viewing history, you'll find every documentary known to man, (or the world wide web)

I started to collect pen pals from these places, but the only friends who would write back were from Russia and Indiana. (Yes, I know Indiana is part of the United States!) but, one of the pen pal organizations I signed up with, paired me up with a girl named, Anna Laybarger, from Indiana. (By the way, if Anna is reading this or somebody who knows her is, please let her know I think about her a lot and would love to reconnect!) 

As I got older and had children of my own, I still long to visit these enchanting places. Maybe even more so now, since I can search for anything I want to know and find images, facts, people, video, the whole world is at my fingertips. As much as the internet fascinates me, I long for the days when we had to use encyclopedias, imagine, write letters and mail postcards.. So, I try to keep doing things this way so that my children have those same experiences. 

Since I am older and my budget for travel is limited, (for now.), I have found that there are just as many extraordinary places right here in my own country, (The United States). There are so many places I would like to see across this country. I do hope that someday, I can travel through each state and eat the local food, shop at the mom and pop shops, check out the local attractions and ride any roller coasters they may have there!

I was recently asked to write a post about where I would like to go for vacation and after thinking about this for a few days, I decided that I would be thrilled to drive cross country. Williamsburg, VA was at the top of my list until I decided that maybe, if I zig zag and plan accordingly, I can hit all of the spots I have on my list and find all of the treasures I can. Maybe a scavenger hunt kind of vacation? I do love scavenger hunts so, that just might end up being what my change jars get cashed in for.

Now I can't get Depeche Mode's, "Get your kicks on Route 66" out of my head! I will probably stay away from Route 66 if I can, just because that will be all I hear!

I don't know how much time I would need to get across the country and back and visit every state I wish to visit. I plan on camping whenever possible and eating all of the local food and shopping at all of the unique shops. (Lewes, Delaware is one of my favorites for things like this!) But, since Wow Summit takes place in San Diego this year, I just may have to drive from Pennsylvania to Chicago (after a few zig zags of course!) and hop onto Route 66.

Well it winds from Chicago to L. A.
More than two thousand miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well it goes to St. Louis, down to Missouri
Oklahoma City looks oh, so pretty
You'll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona, don't forget Wynonna
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino

ProFlowers created this totally fun campaign, #MySummerStaycation. All you have to do is share your dream getaway on social media and don't forget to add the hashtag: #MySummerStaycation!

My Little One's New BFF

** We received compensation in return for our review. All opinions are my own. **

One morning, we received a package in the mail and although I knew what would be inside of there, we had no idea which Necknapperz friend it would be. We already decided who would be able to call the new toy/pillow their friend and that was, Deegan. He's 5 and loves stuffed animals, Legos, dinosaurs, Minecraft, Tom and Jerry, all that typical little kid and little boy stuff. But, he loves to snuggle with his animals and his mommy, especially at night. He also needs something soft and cuddly when he builds his fort, fights Enderman, and tries to collect as many diamonds as his little heart desires!

All of the kids watched the Necknapperz video, over and over and over again and they each picked out their favorite ones. (Yes, I do need to order a few since we all fell in love with these adorable, soft, comfy, pillowy pals.) Deegan shrieked with delight when he saw his first pick inside, the tiger!

Not only is the tiger a cuddly friend who enjoys hanging out with teddy bears, all of the kids and even the Lego minifigures. But he is also a helpful friend when it comes to rest and relaxation.

Genevive is always super happy to borrow Deegan's Necknapper while she watches her favorite shows, reads a book, plays Minecraft or takes long rides in the truck. I think everybody's favorite part is the sweet little tiger picture on the pillow after you turn the tiger into a Necknapper.

You can choose from over 20 different Necknapperz friends. They have cool names like, Grizzly the Bear, Hopper the Frog, Oinky the Pig, and Diver the Dolphin. Just like my little ones say, "They only cost $19.99 so we can each pick a couple of Necknapperz!"

Our review of Necknapperz, is a 5 star review. They are well made, very comfortable, even my youngest can easily transform between his new best friend or an ergonomic neck pillow and you can tell each one is made with love. The tiger has the sweetest features and the extra special touch, adding the outline of the tiger onto the pillow, is much appreciated by little ones! Necknapperz would be perfect for families who travel by car, plane, boat, bus, or train. They are huggably soft and provide lots of relaxation and support. (and yes, the price is quite reasonable too!)

You can also find Necknapperz on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Must Have For Sleepovers, Camping, And All Summer Long

These are the perfect addition for any slumber party! I am so happy I found an actual canister of 100 rather then having to grab a bunch of smaller packs and possibly running out. (Yes, the price is very nice to!)

We have been using these so often and you would think we would have run out by now but, we sometimes freeze some and reuse them. (This doesn't always work BUT it works sometimes.) It seems that the green and yellow work well for refreezing and I have no idea why. (If anybody knows why, please, fill me in!) I have 4 kids so, everything I buy or make, has to be a bit bigger or in excess of, so that everybody has their fair share. Plus, we always like to be sure we have enough for friends, guests, play dates and spontaneous princess parties!


This 100 pack of glow bracelets (or glow sticks if you don't want to use the included attachments), come in a nifty canister and are very reasonably priced! So far, we only had a couple of duds and that is expected. I actually expected more, since if I buy a 10 pack, I usually have a couple that don't work, at least.

The color selection inside the can also made the girls shriek with delight! Yes, there are pinks and purples and the boys were happy with orange and green. (The typical glow stick colors.) They sometimes end up making necklaces or glow stick circles to throw around the backyard and much to my surprise, these actually worked and stayed together quite well!

This is a product I would purchase again. Especially since we host several parties, sleepovers and have neighborhood kids over a lot. These make great party favors, they are perfect and inexpensive enough to hand out to friend's and neighbor kids and they make fun special treats for movie nights or sleep in the living room night.

I would also recommend these to anybody who needs extra prizes, treats for classrooms, your kid's sports teams, your community center, teachers, day cares, anything where kids are involved, these will certainly bring smiles to their faces!

I also use these for chore rewards, in our, "Behavior Bucks Store" (This is where the kids can buy items with their "behavior bucks" that they earned each  month.). We make our own "Healthy Happy Meals" and the kids love these because they have their favorite snacks, healthy foods and  a small prize inside. These work well for those too!

I think another fun use for these would be for games after dark, in the warmer months. Hide and seek maybe? I know you can come up with something! I would also love suggestions! Please comment with your ideas for family fun with glow sticks!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Learning Baseball The Ripken Way (AND A Giveaway!)

 Today’s post is sponsored by Ripken Baseball through the Bloggy Moms Network.

If you're a baseball fan, chances are, you have heard at least something, about the Ripkens. Usually, when I think of baseball, one of the first names that pops in my head, IS Cal Ripken. I'm sure you have heard of the Baltimore Orioles and if you know them, you definitely know who Cal Ripken, Sr and his 2 sons, Major League Baseball Hall Of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr and his brother, Bill Ripken.

Cal Ripken, Sr always said, "If we take care of all the little things, we'll never have a big thing to worry about." That wisdom carried as much weight at home as it did on the baseball diamond. The fundamentals matter. That's just one of the core philosophies of Ripken Baseball, the youth baseball company started by Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr and his brother, Bill Ripken.

Cal Ripken, Sr spent 37 years with the Baltimore Orioles organization. First as a catcher then as a manager and a company man. His sons played a combined 33 years in the Majors, with Cal Jr. setting the Major League record with 2,632 consecutive games played and Bill owning a .985 career fielding average. I can't think of a more experienced, more dedicated, more passionate or more committed family, to teach our children the sport.

Learning Baseball, The Ripken Way.

One of my favorite Ripken Way tips: Celebrate The Individual.
No two players are identical. I think this is very important to remember not just for baseball, but for any sport and life in general. In baseball, players differ in size, strength, speed, quickness, and level of understanding.

Young people are more apt to learn if they have flexibility and freedom. I find this to be true, every single day, for all of my kids and they are always so anxious to experiment and learn and try new things. If we incorporate this with things such as, baseball, which is built on core fundamentals, our kids will be able to find their own style, their own way, becoming their own individual. As with everything we try to teach our children, parents, coaches and teachers should research and understand as much as we can about it, so we can better adapt the fundamental teachings to each young player's existing talents and comfort zone.

Ripken baseball camps deliver an immersive baseball experience. Campers live and breathe baseball, while trained coaches provide an innovative instructional experience, The Ripken Way. The mission of Ripken Baseball camps is to inspire athletes through remarkable experiences, teach the game's fundamentals while preparing them for life beyond the diamond. This is something I find quite fascinating. Using baseball as a way to help teach our children the importance of integrity, respect, perseverance and watching them become passionate about something they love and not quitting while refining their skills.

Besides being decked out in the latest, Under Armour gear, campers will learn detailed and technical aspects of baseball while enhancing their overall knowledge. Campers will select 2 different defensive positions to focus on and will spend time each day developing their skills in those positions. (Positions include: catching, pitching, infield, and outfield.) All players will also focus on hitting, base running, and other team fundamentals, In addition, Ripken Baseball also offers a rookie camp program for 7 and 8 year old campers!

Ripken Baseball certified instructors, (including former Major League players, current and former collegiate baseball players, high school/college coaches, and Ripken Full Time Operations Staff) are trained in the 'Ripken Way' philosophy of teaching. The camper to instructor ratio will be approximately 8:1.

You can check here for a listing of locations and dates for Ripken Baseball Camp!
Can't make it to Ripken Baseball Camp? Ripken Baseball offers a "Virtual Academy" complete with instructional videos!

I grew up around baseball and a few other sports, so, it's always been a huge part of my life and my childhood. I still have shoe boxes and binders, filled with complete sets of Topps, Donruss, and Fleer baseball cards. (I invested a fortune in my Darryl Strawberry collection. I wish I would have invested some in a couple of other players!!) Naturally, baseball, soccer, ice hockey, boxing, and street hockey are a big part of my children's lives and we spend a lot of time going to games.

Our oldest daughter played basketball and soccer as a kid and now, our oldest son plays baseball, soccer and street hockey. I hope to have our younger 2 involved with baseball as well as other sports, as they get a bit older.

Street hockey season started this week, so, we are getting back into the strict schedules, practice, practice, practice! Hockey days are extra hectic, since we have to fit in an extra 2 to 2 and a half hours into our already super busy day, Since I shared a tip from, Ripken Baseball, I thought I'd share my own sports tips too!

Sports Night Quick and Easy Dinner Ideas

I'm one of those "cook from scratch as much as I can" kinda moms and depending on the meal, this takes a huge chunk out of my evening. Street hockey just happens to be close to the same time that I would be cooking and cleaning up. I feel guilty just saying, "Grab some cereal" or "Make a sandwich!" (even though, this happens from time to time.), so, I started coming up with quick and simple and still healthy, quick meals.

I asked the kids for input since they are the ones eating it and we came up with quite a few ideas. My kids favorite is "diner night". "Diner night" is pretty much just that, however, we don't visit a diner. We do it right from home. They love this because I'll even rush around and take their orders after the review our short menu and I prepare it, deliver their diner specials in baskets and even go as far as to give them fake receipts with those infamous mints that those lucky waitresses get to keep in their pockets! The menu is simple, usually a variety of sandwiches and their choice of bread, toasted or untoasted, a couple of sides and a piece of fruit. (I realized after having 4 kids that the more fun you make meals and the more your kids are involved, they will willingly eat healthy foods. Even the picky ones! The top choice is a ham salad sandwich on toast, a side of pasta salad, some sort of chips or pretzels and a banana, yogurt, apple slices or an orange. This fills them up and gives the fuel needed for the rest of the evening.

Another trick I learned is to make the meal to go! We cal them, "Homemade Happy Meals". I'm not a  big fast food fan but my little ones love those small toys that come with their chicken nuggets and fries, I do give in from time to time, but I seem to be paying for just the toy while some of the food ends up uneaten, I have a stockpile of small toys, stickers, little prizes, Matchbox cars, and Lego Minifigures for times like this. These are similar to our "Diner Night" meals, but they include the toy, a juice box and are put in a brown paper bag or an insulated lunch bag and can be eaten on the go. (This is another fun way to incorporate healthy foods and make it fun!)

Some other quick and easy sports night dinner ideas that we rely on:
Throw some chicken and cheddar cheese in a tortilla and place in a George Foreman grill and voila! Quesadillas! Serve with a piece of fruit and some salsa or any other veggies your kids like and you're set! Quesadillas only take a couple of minutes to warm up and you can add or hide, any kind of veggies inside all of that gooey cheese.

English Muffin pizzas are another sports night favorite and the kids can help with these too. You can set up a little pizza topping bar and place dishes of cheese, veggies, pepperoni, pizza sauce, the choice is yours! Have the kids make their pizzas and just heat them up.

Of course, always be supportive and cheer for your child(ren) and their teammates.
Volunteer to bring healthy snacks and drinks for the team and coaches or even to be a team parent!
Coaches and assistant coaches are volunteering their time to help teach our children how to play the sport and a simple, "Thank you!" goes a long way.

Ok and onto the GIVEAWAY!!
You can enter to win this awesome Baseball The Ripken Way bundle. This bundle includes 3 DVD's and a CD rom. Perfect for parents and coaches!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kiwi's Next Great Young Chef Contest

I will be entering this awesome contest, one day! As soon as I can figure out how to work this new camcorder, I'm in! (Well, my kids will be.) I have watched a lot of the entries over the years and I am clueless as to how to edit, add music and do al of the fancy things they do but, we are mega foodies and love to cook and bake!

Anyway, from now through July 5, 2015, you and your little ones, have the opportunity to become, Kiwi's Next Great Young Chef! 

This is an annual contest and there are 3 categories to choose from! (Yes! A new category has been added for this year's contest! Cooking Together!)

Ages 4 to 8
Ages 9 to 14 and the new category for this year,
Cooking Together!

All you have to do to enter is check out the sponsors, create a recipe using products from the sponsors and create your video! This years sponsors are 2 yummy brands that we use at home, Bob's Red Mill and Nielsen Massey.

Bob's Red Mill, sells some of the best flours, seeds, granola, cereals, beans, mixes, oats, grains and gluten free products that are available on the market! We use a lot of their products and not only do they sell fabulous products, they are a brand you can trust. As they say, "Whole grains from the heart!" They are very active on social media and you can also find some scrumptious recipe ideas on their site!

Nielsen Massey, has been crafting the world's finest vanillas and flavors since 1907! Their products are enjoyed by restaurant and bakery chefs, manufacturers of premium foods, gourmet food shops and grocers and home consumers looking to enhance their fine cooking and baking.

Once you have your video complete, just upload your video and your recipe here! You have some time to get your video in, through July 5th. Voting will begin on July 31, 2015.

One winner in each category will be chosen and each winner will receive a prize pack from each sponsor, $1000 and a feature in Kiwi Magazine.

You can read the official rules and regulations here. 

Good luck to those who enter and if you aren't entering, please be sure to check back with Kiwi Magazine when the voting begins!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How To Raise An Adult

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

 I'm a mom of 4 children, 3 still at home, while 1 is all grown up and on her own with my 2 granddaughters. I hear so many people, nurses, doctors, (Yes, the same doctor who delivered all of my children, delivered my granddaughters as well!), other parents, friends, family, compliment us on the job we did raising our oldest daughter and how wonderful of a mommy she is. Which is nice, but sometimes, I still wonder whether we are doing an ok job or not, with her or our younger 3. It isn't easy to raise children. I certainly don't claim to be an expert and we are always trying to figure out how to be better parents.

It's a very stressful, very rewarding job and personally, I think it's one of the hardest jobs around. I try to steer clear of giving advice to other parents, including our oldest daughter. I will try and share stories that may relate to their stories, or if asked, I will find a way to relate to the issues they are having whether I or my mother had similar issues or if I read something somewhere where they offered suggestions. But, I wouldn't tell other parents what they should or should not be doing. I believe that parenting is up to the parents and we are all learning as we go. That being said, my husband and I have also had our fair share of friends and family and of course, even our own children, making comments about some aspects of our parenting and I can understand that. However, just like when I grew up and became an adult and realized why my mom did certain things and gave me chores I did not agree with as a child and teen, I understood her reasoning and I think my children will also.

 I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will be using this as reference in the future and passing on to friends and family when they may need to borrow it. Julie Lyythcott-Haims, did a fabulous job articulating why it is so very important to raise your children to become successful adults. No, this doesn't mean a CEO of a company or a millionaire or a celebrity, it means something even more important. A very well rounded individual who has respect, values, morals and can manage and function on their own.

It is surprising to me, how many young adults and even some older adults, can't figure out how to do their own laundry, change a tire, pay a simple utility bill or even write a check. (I know, so many bills are paid electronically, which is another reason I sometimes think so many seem to have forgotten.) It's unrealistic to never help your child understand simple tasks that they will need the second they leave home. (and even before they leave home.) Preparing your children and focusing on life skills, are extremely important and even if they moan and whine, they will thank you in the long run. School has always been a great place for our children to learn, of course. But, do all schools teach your children how to unclog a toilet? Use a mop? Make a dentist appointment? Or make a grocery list and prepare a meal? Sure, some do, some tasks are covered in school. Our school offers a program, (voluntary), where your child can attend a Vo Tech and be introduced to different trades, including, cooking. But, for the rest of school, they stress on math, reading, science, history, handwriting, gym class, etc. Parents can't and shouldn't rely on just your child's teachers, to teach them how to survive. 

Julie Lythcott Haims was a dean of freshman at Stanford University for 10 years and she discusses how over the years, her students came to school, less prepared for adulthood. Which is why she decided to dig in and research and figure out what exactly is going on and she came to the conclusion, that our children are being coddled and their hands are being held a bit to much. Sure, as parents, we worry about our children, but we shouldn't be constantly holding their hands. We should be teaching our kids how to be individuals and make their own decisions and advocate for themselves. Advice is fine but at some point, they should be more independent and be doing their own work and figuring out their own social issues. I couldn't agree more with the author and I'm really impressed with her findings, her advice and her book.

One of my favorite lessons is to not use the word, "we" so much. "We" are not on the soccer team and "We" are not doing a science project or studying for a history test. There does come a time when it is up to our children to make decisions and figure out things on their own. Sure, we can be in the background for them to rely on when needed but if we continue to be over protective and make all of their decisions, they won't learn how to do this on their own in the real world.

 I also love the chapter that focuses on what age groups should be able to do what chores and simple life tasks. I was more than pleased to find that we already do most of what is on her lists! However, there are still some that I never thought about but will be adding immediately to our chore and skill lists. For example: we already have our 11 year old, planing a grocery list, making a menu plan and making dinner one night a week, all by himself. Not only does this help him in the long run for when he goes out on his own, but he actually enjoys this quite a bit! He begs and pleads to be in charge of dinner more then 1 night a week and lately, I've been thinking, I may take him up on his offer :) He also mows the lawn, helps look after his younger siblings and has a list of chores that he sometimes complains about and when his friends are over,t hey say things like, "Wow! I'm glad my mom doesn't make me do things like that!" But, it's all for the best. However, I found some things on the list for instance, age 8 read a recipe and prepare a simple meal and take care of personal hygiene without needing a reminder. These are things we haven't necessarily started with our 8 year old daughter just yet but we have already put the plan into place to get these 2 things off of Julie Lythcott-Haims' list. Actually, I am revising our chore chart and the kid's "time cards" and things we expect and this will be implemented tomorrow.

I would recommend this book for ALL parents, no matter how long you have been a parent or even if you are just expecting your first child. I promise, your children will thank you when they get older and they will be very pleased with themselves and how they were raised to be upstanding, functioning adults and very independent individuals. This book isn't boring, it doesn't read like a "How to" book. Julie adds humor, life experiences and a ton of wisdom as well as covering every aspect you can think of, in, How To Raise An Adult.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

#TeamSnuggle Fresh Spring Flowers Mission

** I received a free box of Snuggle Fresh Spring Flowers scent, in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own. **

I am always trying to find ways to keep everything smell as fresh and sunny as I possibly can. I love springtime air, fresh cut grass, fruity scents, wildflowers and anything that smells super clean.

Snuggle has been a staple in our laundry room for as long as I can remember. I remember seeing the Snuggle bear commercials when I was a kid and I always wanted one of those bears for my bedroom. (One of my younger brothers believed the Snuggle bear really talked and played in laundry!) I don't think I ever had a favorite Snuggle scent, so, I guess I would choose the original scent. They are always long lasting and fresh smelling and I can't think of a scent we didn't like. 

I recently joined the Snuggle community and was accepted for the Fresh Spring Flowers mission. That is one scent I don't usually buy in many cleaning or laundry products, it's usually a bit to strong. So, I stick with everything but. (I go crazy over real fresh flowers though!). 

One thing I found with the Snuggle fabric softener sheets, was that the flower scent was NOT overpowering and actually is rather pleasing. I can deal with these! Especially when, (Now, I don't know if it's just me, but...), they seem to have a little afterscent of original Snuggle. 

These sheets are pretty long lasting. Clothing, towels, sheets, blankets, can sit for a few weeks in a drawer and the scent STILL lingers. We decided since they last so long, maybe a good idea would be to make some pretty sachets for our drawers! I can't sew, lol! and I have so much fun with do it yourself projects so, it's hard to believe but, my husband does the sewing here. I just helped by supplying the patchwork fabrics squares and being the cheering team. Oh and helping to stuff with Snuggle sheets! 

The kids were able to learn how to sew and dad was included in this project so, that was a bonus! We have so many different sizes and some are being used for doll pillows! The neat thing is, they are just as fresh smelling as they were on the day they were made! 

One of my cleaning hacks, has been to use fabric softener sheets for dusting. They work extremely well on electronics and on heating vents, edges of floors, walls and behind hutches and cabinets. These little buggers pick up every speck of dust, polish game consoles nicely and they keep the dust from falling back down. My sons actually brought up the fact that when they opened the bottom of the TV stand, to play some video games, they could still smell the fabric softener sheets! 

I will be buying these again and will be using them for everyday dusting and hoping to get the kids to sew some more gorgeous sachets for the house. Maybe to use as air fresheners!! Besides, they make our bathroom closet, bedroom closets and drawers, smell so lovely, that I actually enjoy opening the dryer and folding laundry!

Have you tried this scent yet? What did you think? 
I would love to know what you thought of the new Fresh Spring Flowers scent!