Category: Cool Stuff for Moms & Dads

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!

Giveaway: Win A VersaVia Kid-Proof Car Seat Cover

If you have kids, there’s a good chance your car’s backseat is covered with goldfish, spilled milk, muddy footprints, and more disgusting messes. And chances are, the seat protector underneath your child’s car seat does little to contain the mess. Trust me, I know—before Lily came along, the space between the boys’ car seats was gross.

What I really could have used at that time was a VersaVia Kid-Proof Car Seat Cover. Unlike most seat covers meant to go under car seats, the VersaVia covers the entire backseat. This thing is no joke! At 54 inches wide and with adjustable straps, it fits securely in most cars, small trucks, and SUVs. It’s made from a heavy-duty waterproof material (polyester and nylon) to protect seats from even the biggest messes. And it comes in grey, tan, or black, so it matches most car interiors.

We received a grey VersaVia car seat cover to test out ourselves. Unfortunately, the cover does not have openings for middle seat belts, so we couldn’t use it in our SUV because we have all three car seats across the backseat. We do, however, have spare car seats for the boys in Keith’s Acura (sometimes one, sometimes both), so we put the VersaVia in there. And we love it!

IMG_9860The VersaVia seat cover blends in nicely with the car and does not look out of place at all. It was quick and easy to install. Because it has a non-slip backing and seat anchors, it does not slide around, and the car seats still have a tight fit. It has openings for both seat belts and latches, but we found it fit more securely with the latch system, so that’s what we used. And so far, after two months of use, it looks as good as new. It also has a lifetime warranty!

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I highly recommend the VersaVia Kid-Proof Car Seat Cover for anyone with one or two car seats in their backseat. You can purchase it on Amazon—it’s currently priced at $79.90—or you can win one by entering my giveaway!

To enter, just leave a comment below by midnight on Sunday, December 6, letting me know your choice of color—grey, tan, or black. I will choose a winner at random on December 7 and the company will send your prize directly to you. Good luck, and thank you for entering!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary VersaVia Kid-Proof Car Seat Cover to facilitate this review and giveaway. All opinions are my own!

“The Pump and Dump” — A Hilarious and Raucous Night Out for Moms

Last week I had one of those mommy days. I had just spent 20 minutes looking for my cell phone and finally found it in between the couch cushions. Then I walked into the kitchen to find Lily eating a Cheerio off the floor. (I have no idea how long it had been there.) As I scooped her up, Matt came running into the house screaming, “Mommy! Nate needs help!” I ran outside to find my adventurous 4-year-old hanging by his leg from our tree, his foot wedged between two limbs. As he stared at me with wide, frightened eyes, I did the only thing I could think to do in that moment—I burst out laughing.

This may seem like an odd response to a stressful parenting situation, but I’m hardly alone. A couple of days earlier, a friend had gone into her daughter’s room after nap time to find that her one-year-old had pooped—and decorated her entire crib with it. My friend stood frozen in place for a moment, then started to laugh uncontrollably.

The thing is, parenting can really suck. Kids can be gross, they can act like assholes, and you can get completely overwhelmed. You could deal with that by having a nervous breakdown … or you could take a step back and find the humor in the situation.

Comedian/musicians (and TheBump.com contributors) Shayna Ferm and Tracey Tee (a.k.a. MC Doula) understand the power of laughter when it comes to raising young children. So they created “The Pump and Dump: A Parentally Incorrect Show and Night Out, For Once,” a raucous and hilarious musical comedy show inspired by parenthood. The 90-minute show features parental commiseration, fun swag, and live performances of original songs such as, Eat Your F-ing Food and “When I Die, I Want to Come Back as a Dad.”  Audience participation is encouraged with segments like “The Most F-ed Up Thing My Kid Did This Week,” where moms write down the craziest thing their child did and the ladies read the cards on stage.

The show began three years ago  in a Denver bar, performed to a small crowd of burned-out, sleep-deprived moms who needed a break. It has since grown to fill 600-seat venues and sell out premiere comedy clubs across the country. And it’s easy to see why. Just try to watch this performance of “Eat Your F-ing Food” without laughing hysterically:

Don’t believe me yet? Check out “The Lies We Tell Ourselves”:

I was lucky enough to score free tickets to a performance of “The Pump and Dump” at the Arlington Drafthouse this coming Thursday, and my friend Christina and I can’t wait to go. Christina also has three young children that include a set of twins, and she’s in such dire need of a night out that when I invited her a few weeks ago, she lined up a sitter within five minutes just in case her husband doesn’t get home from work in time.

In preparation for the show, I asked Shayna, who has a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, and MC Doula, who has a 4-year-old daughter, a few questions. Their responses show just how relatable they are:

Q: We all think we’ll get sh*t done when our babies go to sleep, but that’s a lie! What do you actually do after your kids are in bed?

A: We watch a little TV and are zonked before 10 p.m. You know, like every other parent in America.

Q: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever resorted to in order to get your kids to eat their f-ing food?

A: Bribery? Sent them to bed hungry? Begged? Cried? We’ve done everything.

Q: If you suddenly got an hour all to yourself, what would you do?

A: We’d probably just wander around the house thinking about all the things we could get done in an hour.

Q: How do you manage to maintain such an awesome sense of humor while raising young children?

A: Once we realized we could admit that parenting is pretty f—ed up and ridiculous, it became easy to laugh about. There are plenty of tears, too. Parenting is HARD. The worrying is really hard. But that’s what friends, drinks, and nights out are for—to release the pressure gauge.  One could argue that we literally created the show to save ourselves—ha!

Check back on the blog for a review of the show next week. I’ll also fill you in on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While the Arlington show is sold out, there are several more shows scheduled in 2015, including ones in Nashville; Tempe, Arizona; Denver; Fort Lauderdale; and West Palm Beach, Florida. More nationwide tour dates are coming soon, so be sure to follow Shayna and MC Doula on Twitter so you don’t miss out!

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to “The Pump and Dump” to facilitate this blog post and upcoming review. All opinions and uncontrollable laughs are my own. 

Play Power!

A few years ago, I wrote a cover story for Scholastic’s SuperScience magazine called “The Power of Play.” The story explored the benefits of free play, or unstructured play—something kids are unfortunately getting way too little of these days.

With pressure mounting to increase students’ test scores and grades, more and more schools are cutting back on recess or eliminating it altogether. Kids’ schedules are also filling up with homework and extracurricular activities. As a result, “play is disappearing from the lives of children,” Joan Hoffman, a play expert at Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, told me at the time.

And that’s a huge problem. Research has shown that play has all sorts of physical, social, and cognitive benefits for kids. It helps children develop many of the skills they’ll need to be successful adults.

Through play, kids learn problem-solving skills, critical thinking, decision-making, and teamwork. Play allows them to act out their fears and emotions and teaches them empathy and understanding. Play builds kids’ confidence, boosts their creativity, and reduces their stress. It also helps them develop strong and healthy bodies, which is so important in the fight against childhood obesity. Research has even found that play helps kids perform better in school by improving their concentration. And I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. If you don’t believe me, watch this video to see the power of play in action:

The video is part of the Toy Industry Association‘s Genius of Play campaign, which seeks to spread the word about the importance of play. I recently took the campaign’s Play Pledge, meaning I’ve committed to support Matt, Nate, and Lily with opportunities to play every week.

It’s something I was already doing anyway. I have never been one to overschedule my kids with too many structured activities, especially during the summer. And that has allowed their imaginations to blossom.

The boys like to turn Lily’s Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Home into a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through window, then have me “drive” up and place my order. They arrange their Hot Wheels cars and action figures into elaborate parades. They raid their dress-up bin and transform themselves into astronauts and superheroes. They pretend our backyard is the zoo, weaving in and out of the shrubs to see all the “animals.”

And Lily already loves it when I sit back and let her explore. Every time she pushes buttons on her toys to hear sounds, stuffs the boys’ Star Wars figures into her toy fishbowl, or taps the LEGO Duplos against her xylophone to make music, her mind is bursting with new discoveries.

So click here to join me in taking the Play Pledge to ensure your children get enough play time each week. Better yet, get down on the floor and play with them!

And to learn more about the Toy Industry Association, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by the Toy Industry Association. All of the information is research-based and factual!

Show Your Team Spirit with Softjox

Last month at Sweet Suite, I saw so many amazing, high-tech new toys that I am really excited to tell you about in the coming months. But sometimes, in a sea of gadgets and gizmos, it’s the simplest toys that bring kids so much joy.

One such toy is Softjox, a new line of customizable plush sports characters that I and the twins have fallen in love with. Designed by a dad with two active young athletes, the inaugural Softjox line features super-soft and cuddly football characters that come in four colors—blue, red, green, and black. They are available in two sizes, 15 inches and 20 inches, and can be customized with any name and number on the back. There is also a 17-inch purple soccer character.

Matt and Nate were absolutely beside themselves when Softjox’s owner—who happens to be the nicest guy ever—sent them their very own 20-inch football guys. Matt picked number 23—Keith’s baseball jersey number in high school—and Nate picked 19, his birthday. Matt chose red and Nate picked blue (their respective favorite colors). Check these guys out:

Two Softjox plush football charactersNate and Matt Softjox plush football characters

Aren’t they awesome??? The boys just love them and have been sleeping with them every night. And every morning, they come downstairs toting their Softjox guys in their arms.

Here is a photo of the boys a couple of nights ago getting ready for bed with their football pals:

Happy boys holding Softjox plush football characters

I mean, do you see those smiles??? After I snapped this picture, they insisted I take another photo so they could show off their names:

Happy twins holding Softjox plush football characters

Then, as is typical, Softjox just had to join in on the boys’ bedtime story with Dad:

A father reads a bedtime story two twin boys and their Softjox plush football characters.

And then they made us tuck their Softjox guys into bed with them. I was going to sneak in later to take photos, but I was worried I’d wake the boys up. But just picture those round helmets sticking out from under the covers and you can imagine how cute the scene was.

Softjox would make the perfect gift for any sports fan for holidays, birthdays, or any other occasion. They are also available to special order with the name or logo of your organization on them. That makes them great for sports teams and leagues, schools, promotions, fundraisers, and even special party favors.

What’s even more exciting is that more sports characters will be released soon—baseball, basketball, hockey, and even cheerleaders! Matt and Nate are so excited for the baseball guys to come out so they can get those, too.

I write about many products I like on this blog, but seriously, I am so beyond excited to share Softjox with you all. Any sports fan, young or old, would just love one. It’s such a simple, yet unique toy that could really become a special friend in a child’s life. Plus, as I mentioned, the owner could not be a nicer guy, so it just feels great to support his growing business.

The 15-inch football character and the 17-inch soccer player cost $19.95, and the 20-inch football character for $29.95. Customization costs $7.95. And for a limited time, Softjox is offering free priority shipping and a 100-percent money-back guarantee on all orders.

Click here to purchase your own Softjox character. Then be sure to take a photo of your child with his or her new pal and share it with Softjox on Instagram!

Disclosure: I received Matt and Nate’s Softjox characters free of charge in exchange for my honest review, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Really Cool Coffee Delivered to Your Home!

If you know me, you know I love my coffee. I NEED my coffee. And most of the time—especially in these steamy summer months—I prefer iced coffee to hot coffee.

Usually, I brew an entire pot of hot coffee, dump it into a pitcher, and place it in the fridge to cool. But that’s not ideal because I always have to drink the first cup hot, and then it takes forever for the rest of the pitcher to chill. Plus, the coffee often develops a bitter taste.

Recently I learned about another option: cold brew coffee. Cold brew coffee does not use heat, and the brewing process occurs over time. That results in a balanced cup of coffee that is said to be 60 percent less acidic and easier on your stomach than iced coffee, without the bitter taste.

Sounds complicated, right? I thought so too. But then I had the opportunity to try a new coffee brand called Really Cool Coffee.

Really Cool Coffee is cold brew coffee that’s delivered right to your doorstep in one-, two-, or three-month supplies. Each stay-fresh foil pouch contains three biodegradable bags of coffee.

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Here’s how you brew them:

  1. Place all three bags in a pitcher.
  2. Fill the pitcher with eight to 14 cups of water—eight for coffee concentrate, 10 for very bold coffee, 12 for bold coffee, and 14 for medium coffee.
  3. Let the coffee steep overnight (18 to 24 hours).
  4. Remove the bags.

And there you have it: A pitcher of cold brew coffee that will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks!

I received a sampler pack of three coffee bags to try. The coffee was so easy to make. I used 12 cups of water for a bold flavor. When I removed the bags the next morning, I was surprised at how smooth the coffee was—no grinds floating around and no bitter taste! The coffee tasted full-bodied and delicious.

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I added a little hazelnut creamer and some sugar and it was still a bit strong, so next time I’ll probably use 14 cups of water (since I prefer my coffee a little lighter).

Two more things to note about Really Cool Coffee:

  1. If you want hot coffee from time to time, the Really Cool Coffee bags can also be hot brewed and will fit almost any traditional filter coffee machine.
  2. The coffee is vegan, gluten-free, and lactose-free.

If you like to drink your coffee cold like I do, I’d suggest giving Really Cool Coffee a try. It’s inexpensive, it tastes great, and it’s super convenient. (I mean, how much easier can you get than having coffee delivered right to your door?) You can order a sampler pack here to see if you like it.

If you do like it, the three-month supply is the best value. It costs $67 and makes 120 to 180 cups of cold brew coffee. That’s only 37 to 56 cents per cup—way cheaper than what you’d pay at a coffee shop. And for a limited time, there is free shipping on all U.S. orders! Check it out at reallycoolcoffee.com.

Disclosure: I received a free sampler pack of Really Cool Coffee for my review. All opinions in this post are my own!

My Amazing Experience at Blogger Bash 2015

Several months ago, an invitation to Blogger Bash landed in my inbox. Blogger Bash is an annual event that connects hundreds of bloggers, vloggers, and social media professionals to more than 100 lifestyle brands.

I spent weeks going back and forth about whether I should purchase a ticket. After all, this blog makes up just a small portion of my part-time freelance writing career. But I finally decided to take the plunge. After all, Blogger Bash was set to take place in New York City—my city—on July 16 and 17. My sister-in-law, Pat, came to watch the kids, and my cousin Kim let me stay at her apartment (which just so happens to be within walking distance of Pier Sixty, the gorgeous venue at which the event took place). And I was excited for the opportunity to make connections and meet other bloggers.

So on Wednesday afternoon, July 15, I hopped on  an Amtrak train to New York. The next few days were a whirlwind of parties, information sessions, and meet-and-greets. And now that I’m back home and have had some time to gather my thoughts, I cannot describe how thrilled I am that I decided to go. I met so many wonderful people, made valuable connections with amazing brands (some of which I am already working with), learned so much about the blogging world, ate delicious food, and had a great time! Here is a recap:

DAY ONE:

Care Bears Share Your Care Brunch

Day one began with the Care Bears Share Your Care Brunch, where I took the #ShareYourCare Oath and became an official #ShareYourCare ambassador. (Puffing my chest out with pride!)

Care Bears #ShareYourCare ambassador badgeI learned all about the new series “Care Bears & Cousins,” coming to Netflix November 6, as well as a new line of adorable plush toys. The highlight for me, though, was meeting 10-year-old Zach Kaplan, who was honored with Care Bears’ first #ShareYourCare Ambassador Award for his commitment to helping others through philanthropy. Last year he raised over $1,200 for Typhoon Haiyan relief, and this year he is collecting stuffed animals to hand out to homeless kids in New York City. Of all the young philanthropists I have met through my writing for Scholastic, Zach is one of the greatest. Learn more about him here!

Blue Man Group performance

Having lived in New York City for nearly 30 years of my life, I’m lucky to have seen many Broadway and off-Broadway musicals and plays. But one show I never had the pleasure of seeing was Blue Man Group. So I was thrilled to learn that Blue Man Group would be doing a special performance just for Blogger Bash attendees at the intimate Astor Place Theatre.

Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group blends music, comedy, and technology into a dynamic, fun, and wacky performance. There wasn’t a single dull moment during the show. Afterward, we were treated to a Q&A with Creative Director (and longtime Blue Man) Randall Jaynes. I even got to take a photo with one of the Blue Men! Don’t we look cute together?

A woman poses with a member of the Blue Man Group

Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of Blue Man Group. I will also be giving away a 4-pack of tickets to any Blue Man Group performance in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, or any national tour stop!

Sweet Suite 2015

After Blue Man Group, we returned to Pier Sixty for Sweet Suite 2015, also known as the Biggest Night of Play. And boy, did I play! Nearly 100 toy companies were there displaying their hot holiday toys for 2015, many of which have not even hit shelves yet. Here are just a few photo highlights:

My new friend Katrina of Tots Network and I grabbed some yummy cocktails on the way in!

Two ladies hold cocktails in front of a #BBNYC backdrop

This lovely lady and a few of her friends greeted us!

A costume woman on stilts holds a giant lollipop at Blogger Bash

And now for my favorite holiday toy, hitting stores later this year: Playmobil is releasing a new NHL line! The initial line will include a hockey arena, zambonis, referees, the Stanley Cup, and players from the original six NHL teams. We all know which players Matt and Nate will want. (Let’s Go Rangers!!!)

Playmobil hockey rink and players

Another favorite of mine was Wicked Cool Toys‘ Girl Scouts Cookie oven, set to arrive this fall. Kids can make popular Girl Scout Cookie flavors including Thin Mints, Trefoils, and more!

A woman holds a toy spatula in front of a Girl Scout Cookie Oven

There are so many more amazing toys coming out this year, but I don’t want to give them all away at once. I can’t wait to share them with you in the coming weeks, and I’ll also have some handy Holiday Gift Guides for you starting in October!

DAY TWO:

Disney Infinity Breakfast

Day two began with the Disney Infinity Breakfast, where we were among the first to play the new Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition, coming soon. Star Wars joins Disney, Pixar, and Marvel for this latest installment of the toy/video game hybrid. What a great way to start the day!

A still shit from the new Disney Infinity Star Wars game

All-Day Expo and Rite Aid Recharge Lounge

After the breakfast, Katrina and I headed over to the All-Day Expo to get to know more amazing brands. Some of my favorites—which I will write more about in later posts—were Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Kolibree, and Crunch Live.

By that point, our backs and legs were starting to hurt from all of the amazing swag we’d been receiving. Good thing for the Rite Aid Recharge Lounge, where we got to recharge both our and our phones’ batteries! At the lounge—which offered sweeping Hudson River views—we indulged in delicious chocolate, drank refreshing beverages, and received amazing beauty kits filled with top brands like Maybelline, Neutrogena, and Physicians Formula. Many bloggers also indulged in free massages!

Rite Aid Recharge Lounge at Blogger Bash

Baby Palooza

Next up was Baby Palooza, where we connected with top baby brands and learned about some amazing products for infants. Brands included Fisher-Price, Gund, TOMY, and more. Once again, I will be sharing some of those amazing products with you in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

For me, though, the highlight of Baby Palooza was meeting legendary baby photographer Anne Geddes. She even signed a board book full of her beautiful photos for me!

Photographer Anne Geddes

Peanuts Keynote Lunch

We then headed over to the Peanuts Keynote Lunch. This event was truly a blast! We got to meet the young stars of THE PEANUTS MOVIE, which hits theaters November 6. They were so cute and charming! I just can’t wait for the movie to come out.

We received amazing Peanuts swag bags filled with some awesome products, including all laundry detergent, Horizon Organic mac and cheese and other treats, a Hallmark Snoopy ornament, and more.

Oh, and I met Snoopy! Swoon!

A woman poses with a Snoopy character at Blogger Bash

After the lunch, I headed back over to the All-Day Expo to meet with some more brands. By that point, I was pretty exhausted. I spent some time at a health and wellness event hosted by Rene Syler of Good Enough Mother, checked out a fashion show, and popped into a closing carnival sponsored by Canadian Lentils. I was too tired to take photos at that point, but there were ladies hanging from chandeliers and serving drinks. Really!

Blogger Bash was such an amazing event, and I am so awed by all of the hard work and detail that went into it. Thank you to all of the sponsors, the staff, and the incredible hosts: Laurie Schacht of the Toy Insider, Joey Fortman of Real Mom Media, and Charlene DeLoach of Charlene Chronicles. I can’t wait for Blogger Bash 2016!