Spreading Kindness: 5 Ways to Get Your Kids Involved During the Holidays

Monday, December 12, 2016

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NoBabyUnhuggedCB #CollectiveBias

The weather in Indiana has turned from cold to brutal within a matter of days.  As I was pulling into school the other day, I noticed a waste management official walking up a long driveway to grab a trashcan that was placed by a garage door.  This was unusual, especially as you looked down the road and noticed the streets lined with cans.  But just as he reached the garage door and grabbed the stranded can, I saw an elderly woman stick her head out the front door, and wave to the man, thanking him for his kind gesture in this freezing weather.  This tugged all my heartstrings and once again reminded me of the importance of showing kindness towards others.  

If I can do one thing right as a parent, it will be to ensure that my children pass on the quality of kindness as they grow older.  Every holiday I try to make sure my kids understand how fortunate they are as well as understand the true meaning of the season.  Together as a family, we made a list of five things we can do to spread kindness and demonstrate the meaning of giving to others during the holiday season.

Here is what we came up with:
1.  Send Cards to the Troops Overseas
My husband was in the Navy for over eight years, so this is one thing that is especially meaningful for our family.  The cards don't have to be amazing works of art because it's the thought that truly counts.  Imagine being thousands of miles away for your family with limited communication during the holidays.  Small tokens of appreciation, even from strangers, can go a long way.

2. Do Household Chores to Earn Spare Change
The other day when we ran into the store, a local boy scout troop was ringing bells by the holiday collection bucket for the Salvation Army.  That afternoon, Cohen and Lola decided to take time to clean up the basement to earn coins to put into the bucket.  We then made another trip to the store just so they could put their coins in the slot on their own.  I talked about how proud this made me and that they were helping people who needed some extra love, especially during the holiday season.  Getting your kids to take ownership is a huge step in creating an understanding for what it means to be kind.

3.  Baking Treats for Foster Animals
Our neighbor has recently started fostering dogs and the kids are obsessed with these sweet pups.  We were baking our annual Christmas cookies when Cohen wanted to make a special plate just for the dogs.  Together we made a bunch of simple no-bake dog treats that we put in a container and dropped off for the dogs to enjoy.  We can't forget our furry friends during the holidays!   

No-Bake Dog Treats

You Need:
*1/4 cup peanut butter
*1/4 cup applesauce
*1/4 cup plain yogurt 
*2 cups of oats

1.  Place all of the wet ingredients together in a bowl and top them with the oats.

2.  Stir things together until everything is well blended.

3.  Scoop out small balls and place onto parchment paper.

4.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator until you are ready to treat your pup!

Easy and dog approved - and almost husband approved as I quickly stopped him from taking an unexpected bite!

4.  Donating to a Women's Shelter
This one was all Cohen's idea, my sweet little boy.  The other night I made a comment about the ridiculous amount of toys that we have in our basement.  He sweetly replied, "Mom, I know.  I'll get a big bag and fill it to the brim with some of these toys we don't use anymore and we can give them away."  So that's what we did.  I found a local women's shelter that was in need for some gently used toys as well as in dire need of baby necessities, including diapers and wipes.  When I was at Meijer recently, I remembered reading about their partnership with Huggies which, for the fourth consecutive year, they had teamed up to empower local shoppers to help families in need during the holiday season with the Huggies No Baby Unhugged donation program.  I made sure to grab a pack of Huggies because for every pack that Meijer sells during November 13, 2016 - January 2, 2017, they will donate $1 and Huggies will donate a day's worth of diapers to the National Diaper Bank Network.  That's a total of $10,000 donated from Meijer and 150,000 Huggies diapers that will be donated to the National Diaper Bank Network through the Huggies No Baby Unhugged program that helps to ensure babies in the Midwest receive the diapers they need.  Also, with the new Huggies Reward App, users can donate their rewards to the National Diaper Bank too!  Sadly, one in three moms suffer from diaper need, the inability to provide fresh, clean diapers for their babies.  Many times parents have to choose between paying for food or buying diapers, which can cause obvious stress and strife.  Since 2010, Huggies has given more than 200 million diapers and wipes to families in need.  They are are also the founding sponsor of the National Diaper Bank Network which is a non-profit organization that strives to drive awareness of diaper need in America as well as build up the capability of diaper banks across the country.  You can check out more about diaper need here.

On a sidenote, if I have to be honest here, I really do love Huggies Little Snugglers.  I'm obsessed with the wetness indicator and love the soft, breathable cover which keeps Remy comforable.  The GentleAbsorb Liner offers great protection between your baby's sweet skin and the mess.  Plus Huggies Little Snugglers are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and the new and improved pocketed waistband helps keep that mess where it belongs.  When Remy was first born, the umbilical cord-cut out was such a life saver when it came to that sensitive belly button area.  Huggies Natural Care wipes are also amazing because they are gentle on that precious skin but get the job done!

5.  Make Cards for the Local Children's Hospital
Indianapolis is home to an amazing children's hospital, Riley's Children's Hospital and especially being a mother, I am a huge supporter of this amazing facility.  It blew my kids' minds away when I told them that there are some children who won't be able to make it home for their own holiday celebrations because they are sick and have to stay at the hospital.   Both Cohen and Lola have collectively started a pile of pictures and cards that we will send off to the hospital next week in hopes of cheering up just one child.  There's always something magical about getting mail, so we will seal up these individual pictures and cards and mail them off in a great, big bundle to Riley's.

As my kids get older, I have quickly started to understand how important it is to instill kindness in each of them as they grow up to become part of society.  It just takes baby steps and plan on continuing this tradition with my family as we grow.

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How do you help your family understand the importance of giving, especially during the holiday season?

Furbaby Stocking Stuffers

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Disclosure:  PetMatrix provided me with the information, product samples, and Visa gift cards for my post.  

The holidays are inching closer by the minute which means I probably should get shopping, right?  Ironically the only family member who has all of their gifts so far is Brady, the ten year old puggle.  Last year my husband hooked him up with a brand new, comfy dog bed so this year we are making it all about his favorite thing - food.  I have to be honest, I do love finding little toys and treats to stuff his stocking up with because I find it ridiculously cute watching him on his hind legs, sniffing the bottom of the it and trying to figure out how to get it down.  This guys was my first baby so it's only appropriate I treat him right, especially during the holidays.

Here are a few of my favorite stocking stuffers for your furry friend:

Dog Toothbrush and Toothpaste 
Don't laugh.  My dog could knock out an army with his breath.  Plus his brother and sisters get a toothbrush in their stockings so I can't leave him out.

New Collar
Every year we like to spruce up Brady's duds with a new collar.  However, I struggle to think of parting with his Indiana University one.  Homeboy looks so spirited in it.

Squeak Toy
It's kind of a family joke to see how long it takes Brady to rip apart these toys to get to the squeaker.  Or just to rip it apart in general.  I get it too, Brades.  That thing is ANNOYING.

 SmartBones® Chews
One year my mom had the grand idea of getting Brady a pig's ear for Christmas.  He ate it in one sitting and was up with an upset stomach all night long.  Right?  Thanks, Nana.  Since then I'm careful about the treats that we give Brady because he can eat things in lightning flash speed, which any pet owner knows can be awful for the stomach.  SmartBones® are my favorite choice when it comes to chews for Brady because they are made from wholesome, favorable vegetables and combined with a layer of chicken which makes for an irresistible treat!  SmartBones® also uses grain-free formula which makes it easier for dogs to digest.  When compared to regular rawhides, SmartBones® are highly digestible and less likely to cause stomach and intestinal blockage.  With flavors like  Chicken, Sweet Potato, Peanut Butter (Brady's favorite!), Beef and Dental, you are sure to find the perfect treat for your pup.

I really am struggling to even process where I need to begin with my shopping this holiday season.  Every year I do this to myself and every year I tell my husband we need to scrap gifts and just go to Disney.  But until then, I will attempt to make this Holiday To-Do List.  At least I know I can cross one person (okay, dog) off the list!

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Holiday Travel Bag Must Haves

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Traveling for the holidays gives me anxiety.  Traveling with three children plus a dog for the holidays gives me ulcers.  While I love spending time with family and friends, being away from home is just not my jam.  This year we are heading up north to spend time with our families for Thanksgiving.  On Thursday we plan on stuffing our face with my family.  My mom seems to forget there are only six adults and 3 kids, but actually just one who will really eat.  The food is everything I dream of each holiday and more!  I guess in the end that's good for me because I can stock my cooler to the brim with leftovers.  But then on Friday, we will be having an early meal with Kurtis' family.  The spread is again, pretty much the same as the day before, which is awesome but two days of stuff-tastic meals does a number on me.  I'm talking indigestion, heartburn - the whole nine yards.  And then we have to get back into the car and drive the two and half hours home.  With three kids and a dog.

Hold me.

This year I packed my bag early full of things I know will be useful for our car ride home after the big meals.  Considering I won't have time to get a run or workout in before we leave, I hope to be mindful on my food choices but also prepared to tame the heartburn beast as it tries to attack.

Here are my Holiday Travel Bag Must Haves:
1.  Wipes::  No really, give me all.the.wipes.  I will use these things when my children are teenagers.  While they won't be helpful with the digestion issues, they do come handy for dirty hands, spills or even emergency bathroom runs if you know what I mean...

2.  Fruit Snacks::  I may call these things babysitters.  And when you sit in the car for over two hours with three children, you will need a good babysitter.

3.  Lip Balm::  After stuffing my face for two straight days, the salt really gets to me.  Keeping my lips moist helps me feel comfortable and focus less on the digestion issues that are usually occurring.

4.  Water Bottle:: This is my second trusty water bottle and he goes with me wherever I go.  I find that staying hydrated helps curb the "I'm not really hungry but that looks so good" appetite but also eases the hunger pangs too. 

5.  Head Phones::  Again, in a car.  With three kids.  End of story.

6.  Laptop::  I'm a workaholic and now that I own two small businesses, I try to utilize my time the best that I can.  Sometimes I'll link up to my hotspot and get some work done...until the carsickness strikes.

7.  PEPCID®::  Last week when I was stock up on Thanksgiving goodies at Walmart, I made sure to throw some PEPCID® into my cart for this road trip.  These trusty tabs are perfect to relieve digestive health issues and help the long, car ride feel just a little more comfortable.  Heartburn is no joke and PEPCID® knows I'm not playing around.  So I can enjoy my meals and know PEPCID® has my back (and my heartburn) too!

But now it's getting late and I must prepare for the journey up north.  My only thing I will be thankful this year is if my kids decide to sleep while we are gone.  Is that so hard to ask?

Be sure to look in your Sunday newspaper for savings up to $3 off IMODIUM®, LACTAID® & PEPCID® and to find all the products they need to be prepared for the holiday at their nearest Walmart!

Why Your Pets Need Insurance - Healthy Paws Pet Insurance + Giveaway

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Disclosure: “The Healthy Paws® information, product, and gift card, have been provided by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance®. All opinions are my own.”

It has been ten years since I adopted this guy into our family.  I got Brady from a pet rescue in the middle of nowhere.  For real.  I made my friend drive out to a small town in the middle cornfields.  He came running out like a madman and I knew right then that he was the one.  And ten years later I have to say he's been enjoying the good life.

My family never had a dog growing up, so this was all new territory.  I had the food, the crate, the toys - but I really needed to find a good vet for him.  After searching I was found an amazing veternarian to take take care of our pup.  But the cost of care can really add up - especially when your dog decides to jump on the counter and eat a pan of chocolate brownies while you are at work.  
True Story.
After an office visit, an induction of vomiting, and all the medicine that goes along with it, my husband flipped when he saw the bill.  Why can't my dog just have insurance like my family?

Oh, but he can!

 Healthy Paws Pet Insurance® is the #1 customer rated insurance for your pets and will pay up to 90% of your vet bills (excluding wellness care).  This insurance allows you provide the best care for your pets without worrying about the cost.  Plus you can protect your budget when these unexpected situations arise - like your dog consuming a pan full of brownies while you are at work.  There are, however, several human-health care techniques for families, but it will cost you!  Healthy Paws Pet Insurance® recommends signing your pup up early because pet insurance will not cover preexisting conditions and lowers the cost of any illnesses or injuries that may occur.  

I wish I knew then what I know now when it comes to pet insurance.  Luckily people are becoming more informed about their choices and what pet insurance can offer their family and pet.  Only 1% of pet owners have pet insurance, however, it is the fastest growing voluntary employee benefit.  Not only is it worth the money, but it is worth the peace of mind.  Brady is part of the family, so to me it only makes sense to make sure he can get the best possible care.  I love that Healthy Paws Pet Insurance® can help me ensure that not just for Brady, but for our family too.

For more information, visit Healthy Paws Pet Insurance®'s website to get your free quote.   Every quote that Healthy Paws gets, they will contribute money to the care of homeless pets.  They also offer a Refer-a-Friend program and will give you $35 for every you get to enroll with Healthy Paws.  Visit their site for more information.

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When the Holidays Get Busy

Sunday, November 13, 2016

This post is sponsored by OREO, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

I just looked at my calendar and realized that Christmas is less than six weeks away.  How in the world did THAT one happen?  While I love the hustle, bustle and excitement that surrounds the holidays, it seems that every year we seem to get busier and busier.  I make all these plans to cook these amazing treats, wrap the most fabulous looking gifts you have ever seen and decorate my house to resemble the millions I pinned on Pinterest.  And don't even get me started on that Elf that I need to remember to move every night.  But when it comes down to it, the only thing that really matters is how I choose to spend the holidays - and that's with my family.

It's important for me to make sure that we spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at our own house.  I love the anticipation of Santa on Christmas Eve and waking up to spend a morning filling garbage bags with wrapping paper and playing with new and exciting gifts that were left for everyone.  Last year I was still in a fog and adjusting to a newborn, so I wasn't able to get around and make the usual Christmas cookies that we leave out for Santa.  Cohen, however, was quick to solve the problem.  He said, "I know, Mom.  We can just leave him a plate of my favorite cookies.  OREO cookies!!"  Brilliant, son.  Brilliant.  So we loaded up our Santa plate with our favorite black and white cookies.

While life hasn't seemed to slow down quite yet, I got excited when I was at Walmart recently and they had all of their holiday displays set up.  Then, I saw the sign that read, "43 Days Until Santa's Arrival" and my heart started beating.  I am nowhere NEAR prepared for the holiday season, especially for Santa!  But that's when I remembered our solution to the problem last year and decided to be proactive.  I quickly found those OREO cookies and stocked right on up.  The best part is there is a $0.50 off coupon on the package PLUS a $0.50 Ibotta offer for a combined $1.00 off!  Be on the lookout for the special OREO pallet display in your Walmart - this is the easiest way to stock up on your cookies!


The countdown continues.  Before I know it the calendar will turn to December and we will be in the homestretch.  But I've played it smart this year and stocked up on my OREOS.  At least we know we have Santa covered!

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How do you manage the hustle and bustle of the holiday season?


Celebrating Shared Experiences with Baby Magic + Giveaway

Monday, November 7, 2016

Disclosure: The information, products, gift card, and giveaway have been provided to me by Baby Magic. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One of my favorite times of the day is bath time with my kids.  Now that everyone is older and actually enjoys soaking in the tub, it's fun to watch them splash and play together as we wind down for the night.  I mean, let's be honest here, what is better smelling than a yummy baby fresh out of the bath?  I love to lotion the kiddos down and dress them in fresh pajamas, before tucking them in with stories and kisses for the night.  My husband and I are both big fans of Baby Magic wash and lotion.  The products are hypoallergenic, tear-free and paraben-free plus they leave the kids smelling ridiculously yummy and clean.  

Baby Magic debuted a revolutionary ad campaign 65 years ago called, "For Every Lady Waiting" featuring designer maternity wear and expectant mothers.  These beautiful photos showed pregnant women modeling gorgeous maternity gowns and dresses.  You can check out some of these photos here.  One of my favorite ads in particular were the follow up ads of the Ladies in Waiting from 1957 after their babies had been born.  But Baby Magic is celebrating the 65th anniversary by revisiting this campaign with a twist -  using DADS to recreate these amazing images.  Check these ads out here!

I was challenged by Baby Magic to share my personal recreation of these ads with my family.  While I can't recreate the gorgeous maternity gown photos, I decided to take my favorite Ladies in Waiting follow up ad and put my own twist on it.

Since 1951, Baby Magic has created a legacy of their brand and continues to offer parents the bond of shared of experiences through generations.  It's the products that I use to bathe my little family but it was also the same wash that my parents used to bathe me too.  As a mom, it's fun to be able to bring a bit of the same experiences that I had as a child to my own family.

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What shared experiences do you continue with your own family?

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Getting Ahead of the Germs

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.  #Healthy4School #CollectiveBias

We are officially back to school - all of us.  Not only did I head back to the classroom this year, but Cohen started Kindergarten and the elementary school adventure.  I was quickly reminded how there is nothing worse than a sick family.  When I was home it was manageable because I didn't have to scramble to make sub plans and take off work.  This year has been a whole new adventure since I used up my sick bank last year when I had Remy and I'm working with a minimal amount of days to take off.  So last week when the sickies hit our house, they hit us hard.  Not only did my kids get sick but I got sick and quite honestly, I think I got it the worst.  We are finally on the mend so my game plan is to be even more proactive this flu season to prevent this from happening again!

I ran to Walmart last week to grab a few things for Cohen's school and decided that I might as well grab a few things to stock the medicine cabinet with in case the sickness decided to strike the family again.  Other than the usual throat drops, hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps, I really needed to grab another bottle of Robitussin® DM Max Nighttime cough medicine.  It’s never just a cough™ (use as directed.)  I love Robitussin® because it can clear cough from your schedule (use as directed) and let's be honest, who has time to be sick?  Not me!  I love that Walmart always has the Robitussin® products I need, especially when I need them the most.  

Another thing I am huge about when it comes to flu and cold season is the act of washing those hands!  Not just with my own kids but with my students too.  I spend the first week of school talking about proper hand washing and how it is part of our personal health.  Recently I made this cute sign to go along with my lessons and decided to laminate and hang it by the classroom sink for a daily reminder.  I teach my kiddos four easy steps to clean hands because let's be honest, when we go past four, no one remembers.

Four Steps to Clean Those Hands

1.  Turn on the water.

2.  Two squirts of soap and rub your hands together.

3.  As you are rubbing your hands, sing "Twinkle, Twinkle" in your head at a talking speed.

4.  Rinse and dry your hands.

In my classroom I have pictures of the kids doing each step posted by the sign as simple visual reminders.  Cohen wanted one in his bathroom, so I did the same thing for him but shrunk the pictures to smaller sizes so they fit all on the same paper.  Hand washing is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spreading of germs, so I'm all about teaching it and doing it right!

Print your copy off here!

Flu Season may not have officially arrived yet but after our first round of sickies, I don't want to mess with that one again!  My medicine cabinet is stocked and my soap is full and ready for some hand cleaning.  This mama is prepared to combat those school germs!

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How do you prepare for family sickness in your house?