Category: Cool Stuff for Moms & Dads

Upcycling with Chick-fil-A

As a member of the 2016-2017 Chick-fil-A Mom Panel, I get to try menu items for free in exchange for my opinions about food, kids’ meal prizes, and more. Sometimes, I am also asked to participate in fun challenges.

Recently, Mom Panel members received coupons for free bowls of chicken tortilla soup or chicken noodle soup and were challenged to upcycle the empty containers. According to Merriam-Webster, upcycle means “to create an object of greater value from (a discarded object of lesser value).”

It wasn’t long before the Panel’s Facebook page was flooded with posts showcasing all of the amazing things my craftier comrades were creating with their plastic containers—bird feeders, turtle crafts, toy boats, etc. But if you know me, you know I I am not the crafty type—at all. I’m the mom who buys her kids’ “homemade” classroom Valentines on Etsy.

So when thinking about how to make use of my soup containers, I thought about it from a more practical standpoint. As a busy mom with three kids ages 5 and under, I have a lot of STUFF all over my house. So the soup bowls, with their tight-fitting lids, offer endless possibilities for helping to control the clutter. Here are some items that can be stored in the containers:

TOYS/KIDS’ ITEMS:

  1. LEGO bricks — You can even glue mini base plates to the lid to make a travel building kit!
  2. Crayons — Throw a small notepad inside, too, and you’ve got an on-the-go coloring kit.
  3. Pokémon or other trading cards
  4. Barbie shoes and accessories
  5. Shopkins, Army men, and other small toys
  6. Beads, pom-poms, and other craft items
  7. Tiny hair clips, rubber bands, and other hair accessories
  8. Stickers
  9. Kids’ jewelry
  10. Rocks, marbles, and other collectible treasures

HOUSEHOLD ITEMS:

  1. Office supplies like paper clips and rubber bands
  2. Receipts
  3. Box Tops, if you collect them for your kids’ school (which I do)
  4. Business cards
  5. Band-Aids, gauze, and other First-Aid items — You can keep a mini First Aid kit in your car or diaper bag!
  6. Q-tips, cotton balls, and other small bathroom items
  7. Cosmetics
  8. Travel-size toiletries — You can just toss the whole container in your bag when it’s time to travel!
  9. Snacks such as pretzels, goldfish, and nuts
  10. Batteries

As for my soup container, here’s what I am using it for:

Chick-fil-A soup container holding perfume samples

Chick-fil-A soup container holding perfume samples

Yes, that would be my collection of mini and sample perfumes, which previously were scattered all over my bathroom vanity. I am thrilled that they are now all in one place. Why didn’t I think of corralling them sooner?

As for Keith’s soup container, I was going to let Lily decorate it and use it to store her beloved stickers. But, she went a little paint happy on it and ended up making a big mess out of it, which gave me another idea for the soup containers—you can use them as paint cups during art projects!

Chick-fil-A soup container used as a paint cup

I’m glad this challenge got me thinking about ways to reuse items that pass through my home every day rather than tossing them into the recycling bin or the trash. It’s a great way to help protect the Earth and save some money.

Also, this challenge inspired Keith and me to try Chick-fil-A soups for the first time—we had always been loyal to our salads and chicken sandwiches. We thought both the chicken tortilla soup and the chicken noodle soup were delicious, and perfect for days when you want a lighter lunch option. Thank you for the fun challenge, Chick-fil-A!

Share Your Hero With Mrs. Fields

Merriam-Webster defines the word “hero” as follows: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities. I can’t think of anyone who fits that description more completely than my husband, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Keith Walters. Keith has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, during which he received three Purple Hearts for wounds he sustained in combat. He is well respected by so many soldiers and officers who have served with him. Those are the reasons he is considered a hero to many.

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This was at 6 am on July 4, 2011. Keith was holding one of our 2-week-old twins before leaving for Afghanistan … and he was still smiling. If that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is!

But to me, Keith is a hero because of the way he lives his life each day—because of the type of husband, father, family member, and friend he is. He is a hero every time he pushes through a run despite having been shot in the leg in Afghanistan. He was a hero when he happily looked after our three kids and my friend’s three kids—all age 6 and under—in our basement on a Friday evening so I could have the girls over for wine. He was a hero when he moved a morning work meeting to take care of the kids so I could sleep off a stomach bug. He was a hero when he practically carried my father, who’s over 6 feet tall, up the stairs during an illness earlier this year. He’s a hero every time he shovels a neighbor’s driveway in the bitter cold.

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But enough about my hero. I want to hear about your hero—and so does Mrs. Fields! The cookie company has launched the Share Your Hero campaign to help embrace local heroes who serve their communities all across the country. Through October 31, 2016, you can go to www.mrsfieldsmoments.com to nominate a hero. Mrs. Fields will choose one nominee to be America’s Hometown Hero, and will donate $5,000 to a charity of his or her choosing. And as if that weren’t sweet enough, everyone who nominates a hero on the site will receive a coupon for $1 off a box of Mrs. Fields cookies. (Trust me, they’re delicious!)

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So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to www.mrsfieldsmoments.com and #ShareYourHero. And while you’re at it, leave a comment below and let me know who you nominated. Can’t wait to hear all about your heroes!

Diapers.com Has Everything for Moms, Babies, and Kids!

This post was sponsored by Diapers.com as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

When the twins were babies, I’d spend hours running around to different stores—often with the two of them in tow—to buy the endless list of items they needed. I’d pick up baby food at the grocery store; diapers, wipes, and formula at a baby store; tiny clothing at the mall. But by the time Lily came along and I started working more, I no longer had the time or energy to do that. I needed a one-stop shop where I could buy whatever it is was the kids needed at the time—even better if I didn’t have to leave my house.

That’s where Diapers.com came in. Diapers.com carries so many sizes and brands of diapers, of course. But it also sells way more than that. There are the basics, like bottles, diaper cream, and wipes. There’s all the baby gear you could need, from car seats and strollers to monitors and safety gates. There are items for mom, like maternity clothing, diaper bags, and groceries. There’s clothing, shoes, toys, and food for babies and kids. And there is tons of other stuff! And, all of the products sold on Diapers.com are handpicked by experts, meaning you can be sure anything you buy on the site is a top product.

I truly wish I had known about Diapers.com during those first few crazy months of motherhood. It would have taken a lot of the guesswork out of shopping, given me more time to spend enjoying the boys instead of toting them around town, and allowed me to shop from home in my spit-up-soaked pajamas.

Luckily, I do know about Diapers.com now, and I do a lot of shopping for Lily on the site. Consider my most recent purchase, which came in at a little under $100:

As you can see, the prices are also competitive on Diapers.com. I was quite happy to get all of that for less than $100! Shipping was free, too, since all orders above $49 qualify for free shipping. And because Diapers.com offers 1-2 day shipping, I got my items quickly!

If you’re new to Diapers.com, you can save even more money because the site offers the following promotion:

  • First order: 20% off your order* plus extra $5 off with a case of diapers
    • Enter code: TRYUSLOVEUS
  • Second order: Get 10% off your entire second order**
  • Expiration Date: 12/31/2016
    • *Excludes diapers, wipes and formula. Brand exclusions apply. Max. discount $35. To redeem enter code TRYUSLOVEUS. Offer subject to change and cancellation
    • **Discount will auto-apply in about 24 hours to use on second order. Brand exclusions apply. Max discount $50. Offer subject to change and cancellation.

To place your first order on Diapers.com and redeem your new buyer offer, visit diapers.com/tryusloveus. And if you’re a new mom, click here to find a page just for you that lists everything you might need for your new baby. Happy shopping!

Get Unlimited Kids’ Classes in the DC Metro Area with JumpIt Pass

Happy summer! Northern Virginia (NOVA) public schools have been closed for nearly two weeks now, but for Matt and Nate, preschool ended right before Memorial Day. That means it’s already been summer for us for over five weeks. And what a busy summer it has been. Besides the two weeks of camp the boys have done, we’ve gone to the pool, the splash pad, the nature center, movies, playgrounds, the trampoline park, the library, baseball games, and so many more fun places. Every day has been a new adventure. Here’s a shot of the kids at the Independence Day Parade in downtown Fairfax on July 4:

3 Kids on 4th of July

But there are still two more months of summer to go, and even with our upcoming trips to New York and Hawaii, we have many more days to fill. And it gets hot here. Really, really hot. That leaves me and so many other NOVA parents with a bit of a challenge: How do we entertain our children on these long, hot summer days without spending a ton of money?

NOVA—and the Washington, DC area in general—has many indoor gyms, play spaces, and other venues that offer children’s classes. The problem is, they are generally pretty expensive: Many of them have monthly memberships that cost $75 or more for one class per week. And what happens when your kid gets bored of going to the same place every week, or when your schedule doesn’t allow you to be at the same place at the same time each week?

Luckily, there is an option that can help solve those problems—JumpIt Pass. JumpIt Pass provides unlimited monthly access to some of the best kids’ classes across the DC metropolitan area. Families can attend classes at a variety of venues including play gyms, art studios, fitness centers, martial arts studios, dance studios, and more. You can take as many classes as you would like per month (up to three each month at the same venue).

When I first learned about JumpIt Pass back in October (about a month after its launch), most participating venues were in Bethesda, Rockville, or DC. As more and more NOVA venues got on board, I decided to give JumpIt Pass a try with Lily in January and February while the boys were at preschool. Unfortunately, frequent snow and the fact that Lily was still under 18 months old at the time prevented us from taking full advantage. But, we still really enjoyed the classes we took at Great Play of Fairfax with our JumpIt Pass.

Since then, JumpIt Pass has expanded even more. Now many NOVA venues participate, including Blue Box Sports in Chantilly, Gymboree Play & Music in Alexandria and Burke, BusyBees in Falls Church, Monkey Joe’s in Sterling, Tippi Toes in Alexandria and Arlington, World Karate in Fairfax, and more. There are also many fun locations in DC and Maryland. Click here to see a full list of participating venues.

And this summer is the perfect time to try JumpIt Pass because there’s an amazing promotion going on. JumpIt Pass usually costs $99 per month for unlimited classes for one child and $169 per month for unlimited classes for two children (additional kids cost $70 per month extra), or $59 for a three-class starter plan. But this summer, you can get 50 percent off any JumpIt Pass by entering promo code SUMMER at checkout. That is a huge bargain!

So if you live in the DC area and are looking for ways to entertain your kids this summer, head over to jumpitpass.com and give it a try. Your child may just find a new favorite place or discover a new passion. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary JumpItPass to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

 

 

“He Named Me Malala”: Global Broadcast TV Premiere

If you’re home tomorrow night (Monday, February 29, 2016), be sure to tune in to the National Geographic Channel at 8 pm EST/PST or 7 pm CST. The channel, in partnership with Fox Searchlight Pictures, will present the exclusive global broadcast television premiere of Academy Award-winner Davis Guggenheim’s feature documentary “He Named Me Malala,” an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai. Malala was shot and severely wounded by the Taliban while returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in October 2012.

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He Named Me Malala” will air commercial free on National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo MUNDO in the U.S., with a global rollout planned within a week in 171 countries and 45 languages.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance screener of “He Named Me Malala.” Keith and I were left speechless by the film, which offers an intimate look into Malala’s life before and after the attack. Malala was only 15 at the time of the shooting, when she and her father were singled out for advocating for girls’ education. Malala miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that invests in and advocates for girls’ secondary education.

The film explores both the extraordinary aspects of Malala’s life, such as giving speeches at the United Nations and hobnobbing with politicians, to her typical teenage activities of joking around at home with her parents and brothers and blushing over cute boys. I was so inspired by the strength, bravery, and passion of this otherwise normal teenage girl, who proudly woke up each morning and went to school despite constant threats against her life. The film also explores Malala’s close relationship with her father, who instilled the importance of education and advocacy in her from a young age.

I was particularly struck by the video clips of Malala when she was little—probably around the same age as my daughter, Lily. Seeing those videos of a young Malala laughing and playing with her dad reminded me that Lily is no different than the 60 million girls worldwide who cannot go to school. Lily is simply fortunate to grow up in a place where education for women is valued and encouraged. She is fortunate to grow up in a family who will have the means to send her to college when she is older. But so many girls around the world who are just like her—girls who love to play and tease their brothers and hug their daddies—don’t have access to education.

But you can help Malala make education accessible to girls worldwide. The National Geographic Channel and 21st Century Fox, in partnership with the Malala Fund, have launched a social initiative to raise awareness for girls’ right to education. Facebook fans can show their support and stand #withMalala by transforming their profile picture into a yearbook photo that includes animation that dissolves female users’ photos from the page. Facebook users can visit supportmalala.com to get started. For every person who participates, $1 will be donated to the Malala Fund.

A $1 donation will also be made to the Malala Fund for every tweet using the hashtag #withMalala through March 10, for a total donation of up to $50,000.

So if you stand #withMalala, watch the powerful documentary and show your support on Facebook and Twitter! Teachers can also access free education resources, discussion and curriculum guides, and more at education.nationalgeographic.org/malala.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Review Wire Media for 20th Century Fox. I received information to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

 

Check Out These Adorable and Stylish Baby Shades!

Remember when my family and I lived in California? And remember how I couldn’t stop talking about how much I loved every warm, sun-soaked moment?

I did—and so did my twins. But protecting their little eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays was a struggle. It stressed me out. After all, pediatric optometrists warn that lifetime UV damage starts in early childhood, with retinal damage from the sun having its greatest impact in kids under 10 years old.

We bought the boys all sorts of fun little toddler shades. But no matter what we did, their shades could not seem to survive very long. They always seemed to end up mangled at the bottom of the beach bag, crushed under the double stroller in the trunk of the car, or destroyed by grubby little hands that managed to find them even when I thought I had put them in a safe place. Eventually we gave up, tired of constantly spending money on toddler shades that were just going to break anyway, and just tried to improvise by shielding their eyes as best we could with sun hats and baseball caps.

Recently, I received an email offering me the opportunity to try ro•sham•bo baby shades. These stylish, Italian-made sunglasses come in many fun designs named after ’90s icons, like “Kelly Kapowski pink” and  “Zack Morris blue.” (Where are all my “Saved By the Bell” fans?) They block 100% of the sun’s UVA/B rays and are BPA- and pthalate-free. They’re also a favorite of celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Jamie King.

But here’s the part of the email that intrigued me the most: “Designed specifically for babies and children’s use, abuse, and love of putting things in their mouths, ro•sham•bo are so durable that they can be bent, stretched, pulled, and stepped on (they have even been run over and survived!) and bounce right back to shape.”

Um—yeah right, I thought. They haven’t met my Lily, who shares her big brothers’—ahem—curiosity. But this video of the shades being manhandled and surviving was quite convincing:

 

I wrote back and said I would love to try the shades. I received two adorable pairs—one in “Breakfast @ Tiff’s teal” and one in “Simpsons yellow.” Lily seemed to prefer the teal ones, and so did I. So, even though it’s winter here in Northern Virginia, we bundled up and took them with us to the playground on a warmer day. She looked super adorable in them! She also wanted to wear her brother’s blue puffer vest—a little fashionista in training. Here’s Lily modeling her cool new ro•sham•bo shades:

Toddler wearing teal shades
See? Adorable! (Please excuse the crumb on her chin!) Since that day at the park, we’ve had gloomy days followed by the mega blizzard now known as #Snowzilla16, so Lily hasn’t had much opportunity to sport her shades out and about. However, I have allowed her to play with them to her little heart’s content, and so far, they really have held up! She even chewed on them a couple of times. I’m really surprised that there aren’t any scratches yet.

Now, the question is: Will Lily keep them on for longer stretches at the pool, the park, and the beach this summer? I think she will. The lightweight arms bend gently inward to help keep the shades on a baby’s head. And because they’re so soft, they seem to be a lot more comfortable than stiffer shades. I know because I tried them on. (No, I will not post a picture of that!)

ro•sham•bo baby shades fit babies and toddlers ages 0 to 2 and up, depending on the size of the child’s head. And, get this: They come in adult and kids’ sizes, too! I’m seriously considering getting teal ones for myself and the boys so we can all match. (I doubt I’ll get Keith to go along with it.)

To purchase your own ro•sham•bo baby or adult shades, head to roshambobaby.com. Baby shades sell for $20 per pair and adult shades cost $35 per pair. Buy three pairs and enter the coupon code Family10 to get 10 percent off your order. Purchase four or more pairs and enter the code Family15 to get 15 percent off your order. Then, feel great about your purchase: The company donates a portion of all proceeds to autism research!

Now, let’s hope summer gets here quickly!

Disclosure: I received two complimentary pairs of ro•sham•bo baby shades to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

 

Send A Cup of Home to U.S. Troops Stationed Overseas

If I could hook myself up to an IV that would pump caffeine through my veins, I would. That’s how much I rely on coffee to get me through my hectic, busy days with three kids ages 4 and under. The holiday season has made things even crazier for me, which explains why I have been all but MIA from this blog.

Even though I make almost-daily trips through the drive-through of my favorite coffee shop, I do brew lots of coffee myself at home. I like to make a giant pot every few days and turn the leftovers into iced coffee. So I was very excited to learn about the Community Coffee Company, which supports the military through its generous online Military Match program. As a military spouse, supporting the troops is very important to me.

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I recently had the opportunity to try out some premium ground coffee from the Community Coffee Company in three flavors—pumpkin praline, golden caramel, and cafe special. They were all delicious! The pumpkin praline was perfect for the fall season, the golden caramel felt like an indulgence, and the cafe special had a rich and full flavor. The company also makes lots of other blends and flavors, including my favorite, hazelnut. Plus, they make whole-bean coffee, single-serve coffee, and tea.

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But the best part about this family-owned company is its generous support of our troops. Through the Military Match program, the company has shipped over 55,000 pounds of coffee —about 2.2 million cups—to active-duty military personnel!

Community Coffee Military Match

Here’s how it works: For every set of four 12-oz., 16-oz., or single-serve 18-count coffees you buy, the company will match your purchase with an additional four items and send all eight items to the APO/FPO or military base address you provide. The company will also include a Signature Military Mug in the shipment. It’s a wonderful and affordable way to support troops stationed overseas and/or away from their families by sending them a cup of home. I know Keith and his buddies would have really appreciated receiving this delicious coffee when they were in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Visit communitycoffee.com/militarymatch to learn more about the Community Coffee Company’s Military Match program and to send some coffee to a servicemember. And if you’re a coffee lover like I am, buy some for yourself, too!

Disclosure: I received complimentary packages of Community Coffee Company premium ground coffee to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!