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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Surprise Your Teen With A Sweet (and Slimy) Back To School Treat


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

Surprise your teen with a sweet (and slimy) surprise hidden in their back pack!  I've got a cheap & easy recipe for homemade slime to help you get started.


Down South, we've been in school for almost three weeks now. That's not a really big deal.  Unless you're my oldest son who just started high school.

Then, it's a huge deal.

Right now, he's still in the cautious stage.  The "getting to know you" stage of high school.  Let's liken Freshman Orientation to a first date.  He went in not entirely sure of how this would turn out.  He had some awkward moments as we tried to follow his schedule and made what felt like miles of wrong turns and backtracks to find his classrooms.  He left with an overall good impression, but still not entirely sold that this would be a fulfilling relationship.

Sound familiar to you?  Do you have a teen in the same place?

As he's exploring this partnership further, he seems to be doing okay.  He knows his way around but he's still getting used to the usual freshman stresses: only six minutes between classes and lugging oversized textbooks because he has a locker that is in a completely different building from 5 of his 6 classes.  That class near his locker?  It's his last class of the day, natch.


With all the usual stresses comes all the consequential anxiety.   What happens when this kid has anxiety on top of raging teenage hormones?

ATTITUDE.

We have not been getting along super peachy lately.

But he's still my baby.  He's the kid who has taken the brunt of my inexperience as he tests the waters for his younger brothers.  I felt like I needed to extend an olive branch.

What can I do to let him know I'm thinking of him during the school day?  No texts - he'll get in trouble.  There is absolutely no showing up on campus for lunch.  We would have to move to a new school district if I pulled that business.


What' s his love language?  Chocolate.  If you are what you eat, you would think this child would have a much sweeter disposition, amirite? This is one of the few forms of parental affection that is socially acceptable to my teenager.  I grew up in the South where we firmly believe in "Why do when you can overdo?"  How could I make this little surprise more fun?

I was in Walmart getting - what else - more school supplies when I found this little treasure among the masked turtles and princess items.  My boy has never met a container he didn't like and I knew the Ghostbusters theme would be a hit since the movie is currently in theaters.


I asked myself - what's fun about Ghostbusters?

Slime.

I don't care how old they are, boys love slime.  So I set to work gathering what I needed.  I'm a preschool teacher and no stranger to slime, so I had all the materials already.

Homemade Slime

You'll need these 4 ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup liquid school glue
  • 1/2 cup liquid starch
  • Food Color (if desired)

Mix the glue and water together and stir well.


This is the time to add color, if you'd like.



Place the liquid starch in a separate bowl.  Slowly mix the water & glue solution into the starch.



Stir well, but you're going to have to knead it with your hands for a little bit until it hits the consistency you want.  This is the fun part!



If you're not going to use the slime right away, you can place it in a resealable plastic bag.  Be sure to squeeze excess air out!  

On To The Good Stuff!

While I was in Walmart, I went in search of chocolate.  I was pretty happy to find this in the main pathway at the entrance to the candy aisle! M&M's® have been my son's favorites since his actual first day of school ever, so I knew these would be a part of his back to school surprise!  They would be something familiar and comforting in the midst of so much change.

I ended up making a rather generous selection.  Don't judge me.  I have five mouths to feed.  Caramel lovers.  Who can resist THAT?  And the mixed mini variety bag.  Nobody in my family likes the same candy, so this bag is going to please the masses.  I was worried I wouldn't have enough M&M's®.  Do you think I have enough M&M's®?


I strategically placed the candy in the slime and added one last touch so he would know, without a doubt, that this was from Mom.  I love how the face on the top of the M&M's® Milk Chocolate Bottle is giving the ghost side eye.


I tucked it in his backpack.  Actually, I shoved that thing in there with all my might because it's already packed pretty tight with textbooks and binders.  

Y'all, he LOVED it.  I'm so happy!  He admitted that he thought I was crazy when he saw the slime but then realized that this is not anything out of the realm of Mom.  Added bonus?  He got to share with new friends, and if it's one thing you need in high school, it's friends.

We might just be okay.  

Want to surprise your teen with a Back to School surprise?  Check out more fun Ghostbusters themed ideas and show your teen that they're on your mind!


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Disney on Ice and Disney Live! Tickets On Sale Now For Atlanta!

If you're a Disney family in Atlanta, you've got TWO great ways to treat your family this fall and winter!


First up is Disney On Ice presents Follow Your Heart at Philips Arena October 5 through October 9. If you've seen past Disney On Ice shows, you'll want to know that this show features Finding Dory as well as Riley and the Inside Out Emotions making their icy stage debut!

Y'all, over 60 beloved characters will be on hand to encourage families to embark on their own journey of self-discovery with courage and compassion.

Photo Credit: Feld Entertainment

No ice-related show would be complete without the sisters from Arendelle, Anna and Elsa!  They'll be joined by their Disney•Pixar pals from the Toy Story movies and a host of other favorites for a show that will delight everyone in the family.

Photo Credit: Feld Entertainment
Where:  Philips Arena
               Atlanta, GA 

When: October 5 through October 9

Order tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.disneyonice.com

To learn more, head to DisneyOnIce.com, visit on Facebook and YouTube and follow on Twitter and Instagram!


Need an unforgettable Christmas surprise for your Disney-loving family?


Tickets are now on sale for Disney Live! Mickey and Minnie's Doorway to Magic at the Cobb Energy Performing Art Centre Saturday, December 17 and Sunday, December 18.

Photo Credit: Feld Entertainment


Disney classic favorites Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy star in this show, but you will also see 25 of your favorite characters!  In addition to The Fairy Godmother, Tinker Bell, Snow White, Genie and the Toy Story Gang, Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder are making their stage debut, so this is a don't-miss event even if you have attended past shows.

Photo Credit: Feld Entertainment


In Disney Live! Mickey and Minnie's Doorway to Magic, families will discover that the ultimate key to unlocking their imagination is already in their grasp.

Where:  Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
               2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30339

When: Saturday December 17, 2016 Shows at 2:00pm and 6:00pm
            Sunday, December 18, 2016 Shows at 11:00am and 2:00pm

Ticket Prices: Starting at $20.00

Order tickets by phone at 800-745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.disneylive.com

To learn more, head to DisneyLive.com, visit on Facebook and YouTube and follow on Twitter!



Friday, August 5, 2016

How To Help Your Teen Unplug This School Year


I love school vacations.  I love everything about them.  It's as much a break for me as it is for my kids!  It gives this momma a pass from the constant nagging over homework, bedtimes and the like.

I feel like we did them a disservice over the summer, though.

We didn't monitor the screen time.  It was an experiment really.  Well, let's just go with that.  I wasn't a lazy parent, I was conducting research.  I was hoping that once they got a little freedom with it, the initial thrill would wear off and they would rein it in a little.

Nope.

Phone.  Computer.  X-Box.  Nintendo DS.  They were all being worked this summer.

My husband and I knew that we would have to make serious changes once school started.  We had some less than acceptable grades last year and constantly fought with the older boys about getting their homework done.  It took a lot of our energy and time, and we agreed wholeheartedly not to go down that road again.  Here are the changes we put in place for our kids:


No Electronics In the Bedroom

This one met the most initial resistance.  My oldest likes to listen to his playlist on his phone.  But he also likes to message friends via Instagram and Skype with friends.  He's starting high school and a good night's sleep is more important than ever.  My middle schooler can sleep a little later, but he shares a room with his little brother who has to get up the earliest.  I can't have him disturbing his little brother's rest. There are NO exceptions to this.

Screen-Free Hours

With one child each in elementary, middle and high school, we have people coming and going on different schedules.  We declared the time between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm reserved for dinner and homework.  If you finished both... find something else to do. In the past, we had said they could get on electronics when their homework was done.  So, in true boundary-testing fashion, people would swear up and down that they either had no homework or that it was already done.  By declaring these hours when everyone is home "screen-free" regardless of homework status, we have removed the temptation to part ways with the truth.   My only exception to this is educational websites.  It has to be truly educational and not just games marketed to be educational.  My middle son is allowed to visit the Duo Lingo site to practice French, for example.

Maintain ShowTime

We give them one hour each weeknight to play video games.  They can be on their phones in the time between arriving home from school and 5:00 pm.  However, they can't use other electronics outside of our 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm "show time".  In that hour, they can utilize whatever electronic they want - video game system, TV, computer or Nintendo DS.  We felt that cutting out all electronics all week wasn't necessary and would probably lead to children who were zombies on the weekend, trying to catch up on all their gaming.  This gives them a reasonable amount of time to indulge their habit and they have a clear understanding of when they need to stop.

Got a tech-addicted teen like mine?  Here are our guidelines for our teen's screen time in the school year.


Take Up A Collection

Our boys are good boys, but they sure have gotten attached to these devices.  A few times we have caught them with devices they knew they weren't supposed to have.  So much for the Honor System.  They are checking in their devices with us when it's time for them to stop using them.

Expect Push Back

While my laid back middle schooler met all of this with  low resistance, my high strung high schooler almost lost his mind when he realized that we were actually going to DO all the things we had been telling him we were planning to do.  We've heard several impassioned, heart-felt speeches about why this is cruel, unusual and completely soul crushing punishment.

The most important thing is to sincerely acknowledge how hard this must be for them, but CALMLY hold firm.  We explained, repeatedly, over and over, again and again, (that's just a little taste of how I felt during the negotiations) that if they had not dug themselves in holes that had required so much of our assistance last year, things could have been different this year.  We stressed that we are simply helping them by removing temptations they did not yet seem to be able to resist.


We've only been in school for three days now.  Yes, I got into a 15 minute showdown yesterday to get my oldest to hand over the cell.  Yet, I'm seeing changes.  My oldest ferreted out the book he had abandoned at the start of the summer and brought it up to his bedroom.  One of my kids has dug the Lego bricks back out to pass screen-free time.  I feel more confident in enforcing because we've set crystal clear limits and they are the same for all three boys.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Have A Family Tie Dye Party


The first day of school was rapidly - much too rapidly - approaching.  I was starting to feel bad about all those things I had planned to do but never did.

This called for a last minute get-together!  I was inspired by my friend Tania's post about her shirts and how great they turned out!  I love having friends that don't care how clean my house is or if the lunch I serve is just standard lunchmeat on sliced sandwich bread.  I provided sammies and dye; everyone else brought sides and shirts.  We took shifts decorating shirts out on my screened porch and had so much fun.

Even the youngest kids can tie dye!  It's a great family activity that produces a lasting memory.


Most tie dye kits are relatively inexpensive and mine were even more affordable by looking out for 50% off coupons to my local craft store!

I've got a few tips for a successful party:

  • Cover up!  We set various dropcloths down, but my porch floor now looks, as my oldest said, "like a unicorn threw up on it." Those cheap plastic tablecloths really do work the best as the areas where we had those down didn't get a drop.  Shower curtains can work well, too. Tape the cloths down so people don't trip.

  • Have gloves.  Each kit only comes with a few gloves.  I found a whole box of gloves for dirt cheap in the first aid aisle of my local grocery store.
  • Rubber bands are a must!  Again, each kit comes with some but depending on how many people you have over, you might need more.  Rubber bands are required for some of the shirt designs.
  • Plastic wrap and grocery bags OR self-sealing plastic bags.  Each shirt will need to be either wrapped in plastic wrap for 6-8 hours or placed in a zip-top plastic bag for that amount of time to allow the dye to set.  Have a permanent marker handy to write people's names on their bags. 
  • The kids love the creative freedom of dyeing their own shirts, and tie dye is REALLY hard to mess up.  If you are concerned about the mess, though, you may want to just let your little one choose the colors and where they want that color to go while you control the squirt bottle.  
  • Sop up the dye after each person!  Imagine - a kid soaks their shirt and leaves a puddle of dye on the drop cloth.  Someone steps in it.  They step in your house.  This is not a good situation, unless you live in the back of a VW bus.  
Most kits come with instructions on how to create different designs and you can find plenty online.  I decided to go with a spiral pattern on my shirt.  To be a little different, I chose a shirt with a picture already printed on it!


I got this at our local craft store for $5!  The shirt is advertised as one you can color in with markers, but I thought it would be really cool to tie dye.  Got a shirt you still love but has stains on it?  Tie dye it and give it a new lease on life!  

With the shirt flat, pinch a bit in the middle of the shirt and begin to twist it in a circle.


Once you've got the whole shirt into your compact circle, secure it with rubber bands.

 Now the fun part!  Pick your favorite colors and go wild.


After you are finished using the dye, place it in your resealable bag or wrap it in plastic wrap.  


If you're using a kit, read the instructions about how long to leave the shirts.  Our kit said 6-8 hours.  Before you throw it in the washer, you'll need to run each shirt under water until the water runs clear.  This removes excess dye and keeps it from attaching itself to other things in your laundry!

Once rinsed, the shirt is ready to be washed - no special detergent or care needed.  However, I would wash all the tie dyed items together the first time with no other laundry items - just to be sure!

Here's my shirt after Round 1:


Hmmm.  Cool, but not nearly what I was going for.  Oh, look who has some leftover dye packets!  I proceeded with Round 2, making sure I used a lot more dye and really got it in some of the crevices.  My son decorated his Star Wars shirt and I'm really pleased with how they turned out!  I wanted to use enough dye to make it stand out, but not too much to totally obscure the pictures on the shirts.


My husband and youngest son really went to town and had great success!  They used the same technique I did, but clearly used A LOT more dye and made sure to cover as much white space as they could.


It's fabulous how creative you can get and how different you can make the shirts look!



Because I have teen boys, I don't know if we can get away with all wearing our shirts at the same time.  That might irreparably damage their social life.  But that's okay.  We all made the shirts together and had a great time doing it!  

This activity is great for groups, whether it's your family or a gathering of friends.  Need a cool tween / teen birthday party idea?  This would be a big hit!  Each person walks away with memories and their own unique piece of wearable art.