Monday, September 26, 2016

How To Create A Boo Kit For Teens and Tweens

My older kids are young teenagers, and this is new territory for me.  I want to do all kinds of fun things for them, but as they get older it seems harder and harder!

All the fun holiday surprises I see on Pinterest are great for younger kids, but just not appropriate for tweens and teens.  I love the idea of a "Boo Kit" - anonymously gifting someone with a basket of Halloween treats.  I decided to modify this to a Boo Kit that tweens and teens will truly appreciate!  

Halloween should be fun for kids of all ages.  That's why I made this phone-accessory Boo Kit that's perfect for tweens and teens!


Let's face it.  What's most important to them?  Their phones.  Their tablets, their laptops... staying plugged in and charged up.  

I found these fun emoji baskets through Walmart.  My store didn't have them in stock but I ordered them online and had them shipped to my store - super easy.  


I don't know about your kids, but socks are a thing with mine.  I have all boys, and fuzzy socks are coveted.  I found these in the Dollar Spot section at Target.


In Walmart I came across some coordinating accessories - emoji stickers and cups.  Because this is how we roll, I thought the poop cups would be funny.  They have other ones if you are not as crass as my family.  


On to the crown jewel of this kit.  I don't know about your kids, but mine lose phone accessories like it's their job.  If I'm buying, it's going to be inexpensive.  If they want higher end accessories, their wallets better be open.  I found these accessories in Walmart for $3.50 each.  That most definitely fits the budget of this project.  Earbuds (a two pack!), a portable charger and a wall plug each all went in my cart.


I also love the super cute Boos sign I found in the Target Dollar Spot.  I threw in some of their favorite candy - sour worms, gummy fish and bubble gum.  I saw this multi-plug outlet on Amazon and jumped on it - don't the plug faces look just like emoji faces?!?!  This will be handy on an upcoming hotel stay when I never know how many plugs there will be. It's the Bestten 4 Outlet Wall Mount Surge Protector with 2 USB Charging Ports (2.4A/Port, 3.1A Total) and Safety Covers. (Amazon affiliate link).


I can't wait to surprise my teens with this fun kit!  You could also include gift cards to download Google or Apple apps or services.  A Pokemon Go! theme would be fun as well.  Get creative and style your Boo Kit to your tweens / teens tastes.

**Update** - I just came back from Five Below and they had all these Emoji items!  If you have a Five Below store in your area, it's a good resource!



What would you add to a tween or teen Boo Kit?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Four Surefire Stress Busters For The Stressed Out Mama


I have got so much going on right now, y'all.  Three kids in three different schools.  I teach preschool.  I'm a serial volunteer at the elementary school.  I blog. I run.

I was finding a lot of stuff coming to a head the other night.  I rolled up to the Freshman Parent Meeting but couldn't seem to get out of the car right away.  It hit me that the thought of ONE MORE effing school meeting was affecting me on a visceral level.  There was Freshman Registration.  Then Freshman Orientation.  Next up?  Freshman Open House.  Now, we have Freshman Parent Meeting.  This is not mentioning all the registrations, open houses and whatever else happened for my elementary and middle school kids along with my own meetings for my preschool class.

Stressed?  Chill, Mama.  I've got four surprisingly easy ways to take that stress down a few notches.  Cupcakes included.


I came out of that meeting even more low.  On top of all the pressure I feel to accomplish a ridiculous amount of things every day, I heard all about the ridiculous things my 14 year old is supposed to be on track to accomplish over the next four years.  The testing.  The AP classes.  The amount of homework I should expect him to have every night.  My heart was heavy for both of us.

I needed to do something to bust out of this funk and function better, immediately.  But what?

Become A Less Adultier Adult


Find an acceptable level of adulting, one with which you are comfortable.  In other words, don't feel like you have to do everything that is expected of you all the time.  It's the stupidest little things that, when all piled on, drag us down.



I'm in a pretty new book club.  I love reading.  But the current selection just wasn't holding my attention.  It was due back at the library soon and I couldn't renew it.  But I HAVE to finish the book club book!  Wait, what?  No, I really don't have to. I'm neither hosting nor leading the discussion. I felt immediately lighter with that small decision.

Ditto with my blog.  I had been feeling guilty for not posting regularly lately.  I should, I should, I should.... and when I didn't knock out a super fabulous post I felt bad about myself.  Nope.  It's my blog.  Unless I've agreed to do a sponsored post, I'm beholden to nobody.  Guilt, gone.

There are a lot of things I have to do - prepare for my job, make good on the volunteer gigs that I agreed to coordinate, actually train for my upcoming half marathon, provide for my family's needs.  I'm not going to pile on with a bunch of things that are of no real consequence.

Hello From The Other Side


Talk to someone who has been there.  Suss out a friend or acquaintance who you feel has been in a similar situation.  I was wailing my despair for my son to my co-teacher at the preschool.  She has two kids who have already passed freshman year at our local high school and she gave me the real deal on what to expect.  She assured me that the picture painted was much bleaker than the reality and filled in all the "unofficial" information that I hadn't gotten the night before.  God bless the Experienced Mom Network.  Even if your person confirms that things are as stressful as you think they are, they can be helpful and encouraging.  Sometimes just knowing that someone else has climbed your same mountains helps to make your climb seem less hazardous.

Eat The Damn Cupcake


I have a raging sweet tooth.  Fortunately, I work with people who are enablers.  I stopped at the grocery store before work to pick up something different for breakfast.  I'm looking over the breads and coffee cakes.  Like a beacon, the cream cheese frosted cupcakes called out to me.  I hesitated.  I debated internally.  Wait.  I'm a 46 year old woman.  If I want to eat a cupcake for breakfast - every now and then - I should just eat the damn cupcake for breakfast.  I shared with my coworkers.



 The scene was like a college dorm hall.  I first lured my friend Jenny in with the promise of cupcakes, explaining that it was probably PMS that made this purchase.  My co-teacher came in.  Did not hesitate to accept a cupcake.  Another teacher poked her head in, saw the cupcakes and asked what we were celebrating.  By the time a couple more teachers rolled by, it was universally acknowledged that the special occasion was my impending period.  As people started to disperse, Jenny called out, "Congrats on not being pregnant!"  which led yet another teacher to stop, poke her head in and call out, "OH MY GOSH, DID YOU THINK YOU WERE?!?!"  It was hilarious.  This is just proof that cupcakes bring people together and make them happy.  Eat the cupcake.  (P.S. - I also know where the best cupcakes in Atlanta are.  Just sayin'.)

Just Go To Bed


It's not just the title of one of my family's favorite children's books.  If you are strung out and wrung out, just go to bed.  If the day has left you with depression and sadness, just get in that dreamy bed.  There has not been one time - not one - where I went to bed feeling dirt low and woke up feeling the same in the morning.  Sleep is restorative.  Take a sleeping pill if you need it, but get those eyes closed.  The morning brings a new day, a new chance and fresh hope.  I was so beat down after that high school meeting that I came home and went to bed before my 3rd grader.  I just wanted to escape the day.  I woke up feeling recharged and better capable to handle what's been thrown at me lately.


Find your "nope"s.  Cross things off your list not because you did them, but because they just didn't need to be on that list in the first place.  Talk to an experienced friend before you crawl out on your ledge.  Eat the cupcake (or cake, or ice cream cone or whatever your vice is).  And if all else fails, cash in your chips and escape to sleep knowing, like Scarlett O'Hara, that tomorrow is another day.

And call me if you do decide to go the cupcake route.

Monday, September 5, 2016

We Went On A Hasbro Playdate!

Disclosure:  I was invited to this special event hosted by Hasbro and received complimentary promotional items.  I was not required to write a blog post.  All opinions are mine (and the eight year old's).  This post also contains Amazon affiliate links.

Y'all, this blogging gig has it's ups and downs.
Being invited to events such as the Hasbro Playdate was waaaaay up there on the "high" list.



Although my youngest son is 8 and therefore on the cusp of being a little too old for some of the products featured at the event, I am a preschool teacher of two year olds.  I was looking forward to seeing what's new for these little guys!

I loved seeing my favorite toys - even from when I was a kid - reimagined with brand new theming!  I had no idea that Play-Doh has been around for sixty years!


In a room full of toys, my son made a direct path to the mini-Mr. Potato Head parts.  Did you know that Hasbro first manufactured Mr. Potato Head in 1952?  Here's another fun fact: it was the very first toy advertised on TV!



What was so interesting to my boy about Mr. Potato Head parts?  They were Superhero parts, of course! My son sat there and played with the Ultimate Mr. Potato Head Mashable Marvel parts for ages. As in, I had to physically remove him from there in order to get him to see anything else in the room.  So much for being too old to enjoy these toys.


But about that Play-Doh.  Y'all remember this?  I TOTALLY remember this!


Well, we got to play with - and take home - the updated version of the Play-Doh Doctor Drill 'n Fill Playset!



My boy's other favorite spot in this room full of toys?  The games center.

Yes, that's the Operation Game, the game most likely to lose it's batteries immediately.  Guess what?  That's what we got to take home!!  Fortunately my kids have an annoying noise aversion (unless that  noise is coming from one of their body parts) so Operation didn't get much play once we got home.  The other games, though, are pretty perfect for the younger set.  Junior versions of the classics - Monopoly, Scrabble and Life.  The Scrabble Junior Game actually grows with them.  One side of the board has the words filled in and the kids match their letter tiles to them.  When they get a little older, you can flip the board over and the kids can make their own words.  I like that feature A LOT.


My son and I started playing The Game of Life Junior and soon enough we had three other kids come along and want to join in!  This was SO MUCH easier to play than the regular version of Life.  I was happy that we were able to take this game home as well.

Transformers.  Y'all, my boy loved these Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots  toys.  Again, I thought he would be too old, but he kept playing with the one we got to take home and he even took it to school the next day.

There was one toy that he was definitely too old for, but the preschool teacher in me wants to tell you about it!


Playskool Sesame Street Love2Learn Elmo is not a tired old reincarnation of "Tickle Me Elmo".  This is one for the tech savvy caregiver.  What's so cool about this?  You can totally customize the play experience to your child!  Caregivers download a free app.  Then, customize the toy to speak your child's name and know his or her favorite colors, animals and foods!  There are different levels of learning and a variety of subjects.  My favorite?  The "Parent Helpers".  Using the child's name, Elmo encourages kids to use the potty, brush their teeth and more!  The toy also responds to the child's touch for a completely interactive experience.  This toy is going to be HOT this Christmas, y'all.  It just came out this fall.

One last item. I had no idea this was even a thing.  I've heard of Amazon Dash buttons for things like toilet paper and laundry detergent, sure.  Did you know they have one for Play-Doh?!?!


That's awesome.  Because, all sarcasm aside, I have had Play-Doh emergencies before.  You open up those cans, hoping the kids will be happy and occupied, only to find that someone hadn't closed the lid properly and it's all dried up.  Or, you need a fun birthday present, stat.  Push that button.  There's also a NERF Dash Button.

We had such a great time at the Hasbro Play Date!  It was so much fun and I'm grateful for having that play time with my son.  I need to give a shout out to Hasbro who allowed me to take home extra Mr. Potato Head parts and a load of Play-Doh to use in my classroom!  The kids are LOVING them and both those toys are great for their fine motor skills.  Score!

We got a hands on play date with all the latest preschool toy favorites from Hasbro!


What was your favorite toy as a kid that you  have now introduced to YOUR kids?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cupcake Smackdown: A Birthday Taste Test

Cupcakes are life around my house, y'all.  

In honor of #BirthWeek (which is TOTALLY a thing at my house, but only for me; nobody else gets #BirthWeek) I decided to hold the first of what I hope will be many cupcake smackdowns.

The process was simple.  We visited three different cupcake establishments in metro Atlanta.  We got two cupcakes from each location.  Wait.  That is a lie.  We ended up getting 4 cupcakes from our last place because... choices are hard.  My partner in selection was my middle son who was allowed to claim a share in #BirthMonth (also a thing) since his birthday is at the beginning of August and mine is at the end.  Seeing that I gave birth to him, I get #BirthMonth.

Our first stop was one of the newest cupcake establishments in Atlanta, Georgetown Cupcakes.  As the name implies, the company originated in DC but now has a location in Buckhead.

Bright and Eager at our first stop of the mission.

The interior is spare and sleek; the focus is on the cupcakes, for sure.  The selection was good and hard to narrow down but we decided on a Butterscotch and a Peanut Butter Fudge.


Our next destination was only a few miles away but had a unique feature - an ATM.

A Cupcake ATM.

We traveled down the road to Lenox Square Mall to visit the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM.  You can go inside and order from a real live person, but where's the experience in that?


A touch screen comes up and allows you to select your flavor.  For this one, we chose a namesake Sprinkle cupcake.  For our second choice, we wanted something that we hadn't had before and sounded unique.  The chocolate marshmallow cupcake met the specifications and we finished out our order.  Swiped the credit card.  Waited for that little door on the right to open.

Ta-da!


The door does finally open and your cupcakes appear like the sweet little presents from the cupcake angels that they are.  Here's a tip for all Sprinkles Cupcake ATM users everywhere:  if you hesitate too long by, say, trying to capture this moment digitally, the door starts to close.  My son yelled, "MOM!"  and we both shoved a hand in there to grab our cupcakes before they were lost forever.  Fun fact:  the door WILL spring back open if it meets with enough resistance.  "Enough resistance" means that it will not cut your hand but it will leave a definite line imprint on there.  If there is a (paid for) cupcake on the line, I will take some pain.

Our third and final stop of the day was a familiar one.


Gigi's has two locations near our house and is much closer to us than the other bakeries visited that day.  This is why we picked four cupcakes from this stop - we wanted two somewhat different cupcakes, but we do have some standard favorites from Gigi's.  We went with a cherry limeade, a chocolate chip cookie dough, a Texas milk chocolate and a red velvet.  Okay.  So, only the cherry limeade was "different".  I wanted the vanilla float cupcake but realized that I was pretty much drowning in excess already and showed a little restraint.  Actually, it was more the fact that my sweets-loving 13 year old was giving me side-eye over a 9th cupcake purchase.  When you get to that point, you know you need to pack it in.

I feel about a pink Gigi's bag the way some girls feel about a blue Tiffany's box.

The cupcakes had to wait - I promised to take people to the pool.  Upon our return, I was a mean mom and made people actually eat regular dinner-like food.  I was not their favorite person.

But when I decided it was, in fact, cupcake time, all animosity melted away and people could suddenly not get close enough.


I'm telling you right now that there was not one scientific thing about this taste test.  I asked people which flavors they wanted to taste.  We cut things in half and passed them around.

Appearance


So, I noticed a few things right off the bat.  See the cupcake in the above picture where the icing appears to be falling to the left a bit?  That's the peanut butter fudge from Georgetown.  I noticed that their frosting was different from the others.  It was the first location we went to and those cupcakes sat in the car while we hit two more locations.  Then all the cupcakes sat on the counter while we went to the pool and ate dinner.  Now, the butterscotch cupcake from there was fine, but the peanut butter fudge frosting got melty.  If you go to Georgetown, you might want to refrigerate those cupcakes if you're not going to eat them shortly after purchase.

The Gigi's cupcakes are definitely bigger and the frosting is taller.  This could be a pro or a con for you depending on your preferences and needs.  If you are a frosting fiend, you get PLENTY of it.  If you are looking to treat a child, though, it might be a bit much.  (FYI, they do have mini cupcakes.)

All of them were beautiful and tempting.


Taste

I'm telling you right now that my children were really no help here.  Everything they tasted was the best damn cupcake they have ever had in their mouths, to hear them tell it.

 I personally felt like the Sprinkles cupcakes were on the dry side.  This is the third time I have had their cupcakes and I've had that opinion every time.  I don't know if it's an ATM thing or if they would be more fresh in-store.  However, for the hassle you have to go through to park at Lenox Square and the price tag that is higher than others, I will probably be parting ways with Sprinkles.

Both the Georgetown cupcakes and Gigi's cupcakes made me happy.  The cakes on each were moist and the frostings rich and delicious.  I was pleasantly surprised by the pairing of the Gigi's cherry cupcake with the limeade frosting.

There were cupcakes left because Mean Mom limited everyone to ingesting one whole cupcake each at one sitting.  These are all gone now.

And the winner is....

As far as taste goes, it's a tie between Gigi's and Georgetown.  They were both delicious and satisfying. The Georgetown frosting is lighter while the Gigi's is very thick, so it's really a personal preference.

But for me and mine, I'm going with Gigi's.  The first reason is simple economics - Gigi's cupcakes are bigger and you get waaaay more frosting for a nearly identical price. If you're a frosting whore like I am, you'll be down with that. The second reason is geographical desirability.  Gigi's has locations all over metro Atlanta.  Georgetown Cupcake is a good 35 minutes from my house when there's no traffic involved.  If they would like to branch out north of the city, we might be able to explore a steady relationship.



As I mentioned previously, there are more cupcake locations to be conquered!  I feel we should do this like Jeopardy where Gigi's will come back to defend her title against the next two competitors. We may have to have a special First Day of Autumn Cupcake Smackdown since the next family birthday isn't until November and that's just too long to wait for cupcakes.  



Tell me: what are your favorite cupcake bakeries?  Where should I go for our next Atlanta Cupcake Smackdown?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Get Your Geek On With Groupon

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are mine!

Y'all, I'm a superhero nerd.  Totally.  

I am way into the whole Marvel Universe and want badly to be an Avenger or Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  This summer, my kids sucked me into the DC world, too.  They started a binge of The Flash, which then prompted starting a binge of Arrow, of which Flash is a spin off.  So now I'm hooked on that, too.

My Agent Mulinda costume for Disney's Princess Half 2016 - my Agent May / Mulan mash up

Atlanta's Dragon Con is pretty pricey, and not enough of the folks I want to see are going to be there, so I wasn't that tempted.

But... there's a Heroes & Villains Fan Fest later this year.  Y'all.  The entire core cast of Arrow is going to be there!  But... it's $75 for two days.  It's totally worth it to me, but I'm a mama on a budget so some things just go undone.



Imagine my supreme excitement when I looked for Groupon Things To Do for my city and saw the Heroes & Villains Fan Fest listed!  A two day ticket through Groupon is only $40.  Woot!  That's a lot more doable.  

For you Walking Dead fans, there's a Groupon to the Walker Stalker Con, too!

I can get my geek on AND save some cash, too.  

If you want to make sure you don't miss out on events, like the Groupon Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.

Y'all go on Groupon and look for things to do in your city.  I'll bet that hot ticket of the season will be listed somewhere! 

What's your favorite Groupon score?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Toddler Paint Supplies From The Dollar Store


I teach that most special group of preschoolers, two year olds.  If they love to do anything, it's paint.  

Most parents don't really like to introduce that mess in their homes, and that's where I come in!

I love letting kids make messes in my classroom.  With the cement floor and plastic chairs, it's reasonably easy to clean up.  And it's totally worth it to see the delight on their faces!  

But painting with brushes all the time is boring.  What's fun about that?  In order to be creative, you have to be creative about the painting tools you use.  Creativity doesn't have to cost a bundle, though, if you roam the aisles of your local dollar store!


A super easy way to let them paint without borders is to cover the table in kraft paper.  I couldn't believe that I could get this whole roll for $1.  



For a truly original artwork, head to the cleaning supplies!  When dipped in paint, these dusters and scrub brushes make crazy fun prints on the paper.  It's really cool when the child switches tools part way through so you have different impressions on the paper.  The best thing about these is that they have substantial sized handles, perfect for little hands to hold on to.


How fun are these?  Dip them in paint and roll them across the paper for painting fun.  Again, the handles are the perfect size for toddlers to grip.  


Scrubbies make great painting tools.  Even better when you can get a multipack of them for a dollar!


When you are using larger tools like the scrub brushes and the massaging rollers, you need a container for the paint that is a little larger and deeper than what you would use with paint brushes.  These aluminum roasting pans are perfect.  They don't tip over easily and the high sides help keep any paint splatter in the container.  

For another fun art project, put a piece of paper in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Squirt a few different colors of paint randomly on the paper.  Add some marbles or small bouncy balls.  Have the child gently shake or tip the pan from side to side.  The round objects will roll through the paint and leave cool trails all over the paper!  


These plastic containers also work well.  The clear container allows for kids to get at the paint without having to reach in.  That helps if they are sitting instead of standing.  The black container is awesome for being able to put lots of different colors of paint on the table at one time, allowing the kids to turn the bowl around to access different colors.  You could put a bit of water (not too much!) in the middle section so they could dip their paint tool to clean it off before they moved on to the next color.  I know.  A girl can dream, can't she? 

Creative painting with toddlers doesn't need to break the bank!  Whether you're a mom or a preschool teacher, you can stock cool art supplies on the cheap!


The well-stocked preschool classroom or home art closet is full of outside-the-box tools!  Your kids will delight in new ways to create with the same favorite paint.  The best part?  Supplying your little Picasso won't break the bank.  

What other budget painting tools have you discovered?  Share in the comments!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Three Reasons Why You're Not Sleeping - And What To Do About It



The internet is in a tizzy with back to school posts.  All about how to get your kids back on a schedule and how much sleep they need to be successful in school.

But what about Mom?

You're a package deal, Mom and kids, and their new schedule affects you, too.  Here are three reasons how your child's new routine is throwing your sleep cycle off:


You're overloaded

People think the start of school means the kids being someone else's responsibility for more time.  However, the start of school means more going on at home.  Handling carpool or bus stops.  Supervising homework.  Getting people to and from after-school activities.  Sports on weekends.  Keeping everyone on task and making sure everything is ready for the next day It takes a toll on Mom's sleep!

Early just got earlier

Ugh.  I slept in all summer and this was the hardest part of back to school for me!  I even get up 30 minutes before I wake up the first child so I can just sit with a cup of coffee and ease myself into the day.  I like the quiet time, but the shift in waking hours messed up my sleep cycle.

The body is tired but the mind is racing

This one gets me - a lot.  I'm frequently so tired - and so stressed.  I'll start to drift off but then remember something that I need to do the next day.  And I obsess about it.  Then I start worrying about forgetting whatever it is that I need to do tomorrow.  Even if I do fall asleep, this kind of thing keeps me waking up periodically through the night.

What can you do?

I never want to take sleeping pills - I worry about sleeping too soundly to hear my kids if they need me.  I also worry about being groggy the next morning if the pill is too strong.




Thanks to Natrol for sponsoring this post and inspiring me to try Natrol melatonin!  The first product I took was Natrol Advanced Sleep Melatonin.  It's a 100% drug free sleep aid that is a 10mg dosage.  That seemed high to me until I realized the dosage is time-released.  The first 5mg is released to help you get to sleep.  The next 5mg are released over time to help you stay asleep.  Melatonin helps regulate sleep cycles and Natrol is non-habit forming.



I was having a particularly stressful night and I had all kinds of worries popping up in my head, but I knew I needed to get to bed if I was going to be any good the next morning.  I took Natrol Advanced Sleep Melatonin and it wasn't long at all before I started to feel sleepy.  And guess what - it lasted!  I didn't wake up a million times during the night rehashing my worries.

After that good experience, I was happy to try the other product I was sent, Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve.  While still drug-free and non-habit forming, this product is different in that it's only 5mg and it's meant to dissolve in your mouth.  To help make that more pleasant, the product is strawberry flavored!  No water needed.



I took it to help me ease into my bedtime routine.  Shortly after settling in bed and tackling just a few more pages in my book, I felt myself getting sleepy.  Who am I to fight that?  I put away the book and gratefully drifted off!

Both products are 100% vegetarian and I woke up feeling refreshed - no grogginess or drugged feeling.

I've given my kids melatonin previously to help counteract the effects of their ADHD medications wearing off in the evening.  It worked like a charm, but I never thought of taking it for myself!  I'm pretty glad that I've got these products tucked away in my nightstand.

Where can you get your own?  Natrol Advanced Sleep Melatonin and Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve are available in mass-market retailers, online and at natural food and supplement stores.  Be sure to look for the purple bottles!  I've got some incentive for you to try it out for yourself - a printable coupon for $2.00 off a bottle of Natrol!

Good news!  I'm being sent one Natrol Sleep Care Kit like the one pictured above for one lucky entrant!  It will include one of each bottle of Natrol Melatonin, a sleep mask, socks and a pair of earplugs.

U.S. residents only.  Open August 22 - midnight, August 29th, 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway