Valentine’s Day “Love a Teacher” Gift Ideas

*I felt the magic of swiss herbs in Ricola® Herb & Throat drops as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars #swissherbs – All opinions remain honest and my own.

For Valentine’s Day it seems like we forget about our teachers. The very people that educate our children and play a major part in their development. We went through a year in the past with one awful teacher and it’s made me appreciate the wonderful teachers that much more. You really do not realize how a teacher can negatively impact your child until you come across one. This year both of my kids have STELLAR teachers. They’re so good that when I found out who they had for the coming year I actually cried with relief. I’m not one to complain, but I didn’t want another repeat bad year and I was prepared to put on my big girl pants and march down to the school if need be.

Because of my kids teachers being so awesome this year I wanted to do something special for them and their classrooms, so I put together this Valentine’s Day Teacher gift bag full of goodies. Some are for them to take home or for their personal in-class use and some are for them to use in the classroom when they’re working with the kids. A lot of people don’t realize that the teachers pay for A LOT of what goes into their classrooms. All that decor that helps with learning? The teacher bought that. The tissues, anti-bac, rewards, special art supplies… it’s all out of pocket for them. At the beginning of the year I always send in a Sam’s Club pack of tissues and anti-bac gels but obviously by now all of that would be gone.

After that long-winded intro here are some items to put in a Valentine’s Day “Love a Teacher” Gift Bag:

Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel. Yesssssss. All of this. The big sizes. It’s also good to send in the anti-bac wipes so if a child sneezes all over a desk it’s easier to wipe up than having to spray and grab paper towels.

Hand Cream. So. much.hand.washing. Give your teacher (male or female!) hand cream to keep their hands from drying out or cracking.

Tissues. So essential. My son has allergies and I bet he goes through a box a week on his own.

Rewards. Kids love to get stuff and nothing motivates them more than getting to pick a goodie from the prize chest. You can buy things in bulk at most mass-drugstore retailers or check out the dollar spot areas and discount stores. I send in fun erasers, pencils, stickers, tattoos…

Throat Drops. I’ve worked in child care in several capacities.. babysitting, day camps, before and after school care… You get sick. I can’t remember a cold weather season that I didn’t get at least one or two really bad sinus infections. Ricola® Extra Strength Glacial Mint are great because they combine a unique blend of ten natural Swiss alpine herbs (called Chrüterchraft), natural menthol and soothing syrup center for powerful cough relief. This way you can save your sick days and “Call in Well” 😉

FYI you can still win $500 or a trip to Switzerland by entering this giveaway on the Ricola® website! All you have to do to enter is tell them how you’d Call in Well!

Pencils. I’m dead serious. My kids school is set up to where they can buy pencils for a quarter, but a lot of kids will forget to bring it in or simply don’t have the means. You can buy packs of them and it’s not expensive. I’ve heard this is one of the number one items teachers request when they ask parents for contributions! In keeping with this theme you can also send in other supplies like paper, glue, scissors, crayons… anything you thing they need they do!

What items can you recommend for putting in a “Love a Teacher” Gift Basket?

*I felt the magic of swiss herbs in Ricola® Herb & Throat drops as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars #swissherbs – All opinions remain honest and my own. For more info on Ricola visit them on Facebook & Twitter.

How To: Prep for Holiday Guests

It’s inevitable. You have guests invading your house this holiday. Beyond cleaning like you’ve never cleaned before and cooking for the masses you need to stock up on the every day home staples. You have to prep for your holiday guests.

I’ve found that the best way to ensure your guests have everything they need while they stay is by assembling a gift basket for them and placing it in their room. This way they’re not stumbling around in the middle of the night looking for things… or worse... waking you up asking where stuff is. This is basically about your holiday survival while at the same time making sure the guest(s) are comfortable.

Make sure to include:

Room Spray. Okay, so maybe this one is more for your benefit. You get what I mean.

A Candle. This is something that always makes me feel more cozy and “at home”. Lighting a candle gives off a nice scent and can be relaxing.

Treats. Candy, popcorn… something for them to snack on after they go into the bedroom to get ready for bed and watch some TV. I also like to stick a little gift mug in there that has something like coffee, tea or cocoa. They can use it or take it home to drink.

Kleenex. A whole lot of Kleenex. People use them for more than what you’d imagine… makeup removal, cleaning makeup brushes… you just never know. Plus, the festive designs make the basket look good 😉

Toilet Paper. This is especially important if you have a guest bathroom. Stock up on the Cottonelle. It blows my mind the amount of toilet paper people can go through. Extras everywhere.

Paper Towels. Like Kleenex you’d be surprised what your guests use paper towels for. I use Viva for things like blotting my face, cleaning up spills, a place mat for when I paint my nails, to lay makeup and brushes on… etc.

A card. I like to stick a little note in there. Just say something welcoming and reiterating that they should feel comfortable here. Plus it’s an excuse to add more glitter.

Flowers. What good is a guest basket that looks ugly? Add in some flowers to display it beautifully in their room.

For mornings it’s also good to set non-perishable food items out the night before. A box of pastries, a fruit and or veggie tray, set the coffee timer. If you baked something leave out instructions and if they’re so inclined they can heat it up in the oven.

Make sure while you’re shopping for the must-haves you’re using the Ibotta app. When you use that app you can find great deals on all Kleenex, Viva, Scott and Cottonelle products at your local Walmart.

What would you put in your guest basket for the holidays?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

How I Found My “One” #AYTO

They say there is someone out there for every one. Their “one”. I found my “one” when I wasn’t looking. Just two weeks earlier I had actually decided that I was perfectly content with no one. Just hanging out with my friends and my dog.

When you’re 22 hanging out is all you really want anyway. Then one day, at the local beer distributor (because CLASSY is how I meet my men), I met Jeff. I was picking up beverages for a pool party I was having the next day and he was there to stock the beer fridge in his garage. He invited me to walk around with him and pick out beer. In hindsight I’ll call this our first day because our actual first date was a bit of a disaster and the second date was even worse.

After that we were together non-stop, he basically moved in with me after 2 weeks and we already knew we were getting married. A year later we bought our home and two months after that we were officially engaged.

Six months later we were married in the Bahamas. That next year we had our first child followed by our second two years after that.

Since then we’ve held strong through all of the ups and downs and arounds. Always coming out on top. Because when you’ve found your “one” that’s just how it it all is.

What would you do to find your “one”? How far would you go? This season on the MTV showAre You the One 20 people are living together in a house in Hawaii playing the game to find their perfect match. I’ve seen the first two episodes and it’s unreal how involved I am in this whole process. I actually get anxiety because I want the contestants to match up with who they want and not lose even a penny of the million dollars that is at stake for them!

Watch the trailer for Are You the One Season 3 here.

My favorite person in the house so far is Rashida because in the beginning she talked about how she had all this bad luck with jerk guys but she still remained SO positive and seems incredibly sweet. I instantly wanted to be her BFF and help her!

Watch Are You the One Wednesday at 10/9c on MTV. By the end of episode one (watch it here!) you’ll be sucked in. Which is good, because you can play a game too! The prize? A trip for two to Hawaii! Learn about the game and play it here during each episode to earn points. At the end of each episode the #1 finisher (one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast) will be entered to win the grand prize. There are ten episodes so that’s a lot of chances to get your name in there!

Good luck!

4 Things to Remember Before You Buy Your First Home

Finding your first home isn’t easy. Nothing about it is easy. Well, deciding you want to move out of your parents house is easy… because every one eventually wants that. But that’s just the beginning. Now you’re looking for a home. Your home. Maybe it’s a starter place, maybe it’s a forever home contender… regardless it’s not a simple process or even a quick one.

When my husband and I started to look for our first home, our forever home, we weren’t even married yet. Ideals were high. You know in your head what you want. But what you learn, as you go through all of these other houses, is that your “ideal” isn’t out there. I’ll spare you stories of some of the junk we saw that people wanted top dollar for and just let you know that it took almost an entire year before we found something we could work with. At that point “ideals” had been thrown out the window and we just wanted something clean that we could easily add-on to in the future. That was in 2004 and we’ve been renovating and adding- on ever since.

I’m certainly not old (right?!) but I feel like at this point I’ve seen things and can give some decent advice. No matter what the initial cost is, owning your own home is an investment. You don’t want to screw this up.

Take your time.Do not jump on the first place you see and think you love. Look at the ceilings (Is it a drop ceiling? Why? Look under that thing for water damage. I can’t tell you how many houses we saw with water damage to their ceilings that were just covered up), walls, floors, windows, roof, doors, cabinets… every.single.thing. Why? Because if it needs replaced that’s more money. Maybe more money than you have or are willing to spend. It doesn’t matter how much you love something if it eventually collapses all around you and becomes a money pit.

Look at it twice. Or three times. We went back to one place four times even. We brought our parents, a contractor friend, etc. Others can see through your shiny-eyed “get me out of my parents place” gaze and notice things you may not have. Or, even better, give insight as to what the potential (or lack of) the place has.

Ask the right questions. Do not direct them at your Realtor. If a neighbor is outside and looks friendly say hi.. have a chat. Go into a local business and shop, ask the employees what they think of the area. Look at the schools, crime rates, the homes that surround the home you’re looking at. Eye up every thing. If it seems too good to be true find out why. It’s not rude and you owe it to yourself and your family to be smart.

It’s okay to start small. Before we went looking I wanted a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom (or more) house with a finished game room in the basement. We looked at those. Cosmetically they looked great but when you got in the thick of it all things really needed replaced, and badly. We ended up with a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom that was solid. Oh, and that bathroom only had a bathtub. It was the first project.

Since that first project of simply redoing our only bathroom we’ve added on a huge addition to the back of the house which expanded the kitchen as well as added on a master bedroom, master bathroom and a full attic and basement above and below the newness. We’ve also had to redo the steps into the basement and put in another full bathroom. Our next project is the garage of my husbands dreams and the pool of mine!

What I’m saying is renovations are going to be constant. Get that in your head now. From an older home to a brand new, custom built one – you need to be ready for what will eventually happen. Save your money for your sunny day! Get what you want and never, ever settle! We ate cereal and noodles when we first moved into our house so we could save for the big renovations we wanted. We never regretted any of it. Not even once.

What is your sunny day? Begin planning yours at yoursunnyday.com.

Sunny Days start here. At SunTrust, they have the tools and resources to help you achieve your sunny day. Start here to find out how they can help you enjoy the things that matter to you.

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you. They know we all live for the sunny days and want to you help you live yours.

For even more sunny day inspiration visit yoursunnyday.com

Subscribe to the Shine newsletter and receive inspiration and advice twice a month to help you live for a sunny day.

Visit the SunTrust resource center anytime for help achieving your financial goals.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust Bank. The opinions and text are all mine.

How To Organize Your Medicine Cabinet

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

Organizing the medicine cabinet is LONG overdue in this house. First off the drawer that houses all of our over-the-counter (OTC) medicines is way too low. My kids are taller and stronger now, so more likely to be able to get into that drawer. Also, nothing really seems to have a place. Lotions, shampoos, towels, medicines, skincare… it’s all randomly tossed onto any old shelf. It’s not okay, and gives me anxiety when I look at it.

Because it’s back-to-school time I’ve decided it’s time to get at the medicine cabinet. My goals for this reorganization are (1) purging expired medicines, (2) putting all medications up high, (3) organizing kids meds and adult meds into separate areas and (4) making the cabinet space more functional as a whole.

The obligatory but painful before picture:

(1) Purging Expired Medicine. Sadly, this was a heavy task. Before we administer anything (which is thankfully pretty rare) we always check the expiration date as well as dosing directions. If I happen to see that it’s expired that med gets tossed and tbh it usually means a trip to the store to pick up a new one. By doing this purge and organizing I can make a list of what we need to have on hand before the school year starts and the cold/flu season is upon us.

(2) Putting All Medication Up High. Regardless of the child-proof caps all meds should be out of reach of little hands. I’m embarrassed I haven’t done this a lot sooner. My kids have never been ones to go anywhere near things that aren’t theirs (unless it’s makeup and my daughter is involved… she cares nothing about boundaries in that respect) but that doesn’t mean they won’t start. There are a lot of things in the bigger part of the cabinet that we never use or that are meant for babies. Seriously. My kids are 8 & 6 and I still have some baby things. That’s how often I don’t go through this stuff.

(3) Organizing Adult Meds & Kid Meds Into Separate Areas. Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night by a coughing, sneezing, miserable child? Or a husband rummaging loudly in the bathroom? Separation of the medicines will make it easier for everyone to quickly find what they’re looking for.

(4) Making the Cabinet Space More Functional. This is just something that needs done. As much as I love to organize it’s surprising I haven’t touched this space yet. I want to move the towels around a bit and get some of the taller shelf space for shampoos, lotions and skincare products.

The much happier after pics:

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I had to throw out. I found one bottle way in the back from 2009. You can’t make this stuff up =\ It’s much more organized and accessible now. I packed all of the ointments and creams in a gold and purple travel bag and put them on the top shelf. All of the kid medicine is in the middle basket and the adult medicine is in the bag beside it (because I couldn’t find a basket that was perfect yet) and the bigger bottles beside that. A place for everything and everything in it’s place makes me a happy person.

It helps to save some money while you’re replacing all of those expired products and stocking up on new ones. At Walgreens if you spend $30 on Pfizer products, you’ll receive 10,000 Balance rewards points! Look for the endcap (pic below) at your local Walgreens store for products and pricing!

How do you organize your medicines? Leave tips for me in the comments so I can make sure I’ve got all the bases covered!!

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

Your Kid Probably Needs Glasses #ThinkAboutYourEyes

*This post and the giveaway are sponsored by Think About Your Eyes via the Mom It Forward Blogger Network. All stories and opinions are honest and my own.

Here’s something you may not know about me (unless you’re my Mom… Hi, Mom!). I wear glasses. I wear thick glasses. You’re probably sitting there right now thinking how your prescription of a minus 5 is bad. Up until a month ago I was a minus 8 in both glasses and contacts. Now my glasses have been bumped to a minus 9. My husband also wears glasses. His prescription isn’t that bad but it makes it almost certain that our kids will have to wear glasses at some point.

Recently I noticed my son Owen, who is currently 8 and around the same age I was when I first started wearing glasses, was leaning over the table and getting close to read homework papers. I asked him a few more questions about how well he can see the chalkboard, does he get headaches… the usual. Up until now I’d just been playing eye doctor at his pediatricians during his yearly check-up and randomly quizzing him via the eye chart they had hanging on the wall. He’d never actually been to see an optometrist. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have him looked at by a professional.

He went in and had a blast at the eye doctor. I’ve never seen anyone go through the motions of an eye exam with as much enthusiasm as a kid buying junk food at a carnival. At the end the doctor informed me that my son was around a minus 1. He probably needs the glasses just for heavy reading and school, but recommended since it’s Summer (which means tournament baseball games and all day camp activities) Owen should go the season before we purchase them, since they’d likely break if we bought them now. So, we’re going back in August to get him reassessed and to try on some specs.

Owen was SO MAD he wasn’t getting glasses! I remember wanting glasses at his age too, and for sure he looks adorable in them, but per doctors orders we are waiting a few months. Because it’s stated “only 2 in 5 (40%) parents believe an eye exam is essential to a child’s healthy checkup schedule. This is roughly half as many who say an annual trip to the dentist (81%) and an annual trip to the pediatrician (78%) are essential. Younger children are more likely to miss out – parents of children age 7 and older are significantly more likely to say an eye exam is essential than parents with children 6 and younger (44% vs. 36% respectively)” when we go back in I’m also going to have my daughter looked at. Lydia is 6 and isn’t showing signs of vision troubles, but just in case we might as well have our doctor take a peek. It’s likely she’ll be mad if she isn’t getting glasses also… because fashion.

Yes. That’s absolutely a tattoo on her arm. Obviously a fashionable one.

Speaking of fashion… all year long we need to be aware of harmful UV rays, so it’s important that in addition to getting your kids eyes checked for regular eye glasses you’re also choosing sunglasses that are protective. Annually kids generally get three times as much exposure to sun than adults and by the time they’re 18 they’ll have acquired almost 25% of their lifetime UV exposure.

Tips for choosing sunglasses for kids:

  • Look for a UVA/UVB sticker or label when purchasing quality sunglasses.
  • Make your purchase from a reputable retailer. Inexpensive party favors or holiday-themed shades are not always UV-protective.
  • Check out sunglasses with large frames or adjustable straps (e.g., Velcro or elastic) which are more likely to stay in place.
  • Consider shades without hinges so that children can put on their own sunglasses without pinching their fingers.
  • Increase protection with wraparound sunglasses that can protect the side of the eyes and eyelids.
  • Purchase plastic sunglasses for children who are prone to losing or breaking them; they’re inexpensive and easily replaceable.

Now that you know all about my family’s vision issues and how to choose the right sunglasses for the kids in your life, how about a little giveaway?

The prize: One winner will receive a pack of Eye Care Essentials which includes —> Chelsea Morgan sunglasses from VisionWorks ($139), Computer glasses from Chemistrie ($65), Lens care kit from Hilco ($50), Eyeglass case, Eyeglass holders, Cleaner and cloth and an Eye Health Kit from Alcon ($32) which includes —> Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops, Systane Balance Lubricant Eye Drops, Systane Lid Wipes (for makeup removal) and Zaditor Eye Drops (allergy). This prize has an ARV of $286.00!

The details: Entrants must be 18+ and reside in the US. Please enter below by waiting for the Rafflecopter Widget to load. Full terms & conditions are listed on the widget and make sure to follow all directions listed on the widget entries or your entry will not be valid. There is only one mandatory entry for this giveaway —> Go to the Think About Your Eyes website and locate your nearest eye doctor by using the eye doctor locater. Come back to the Rafflecopter widget and leave the name of the nearest eye doctor in the space provided. After you complete the one mandatory entry more entry options will appear. Those are optional, but will obviously increase your chances of winning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

*This post and the giveaway are sponsored by Think About Your Eyes via the Mom It Forward Blogger Network. All stories and opinions are honest and my own.

PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes // When Quick is All You Have Time For

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

Picture this. You’re at a cheerleading competition with your 6 year old. It’s crowded with kids of all ages and their families, in a huge gymnasium completely packed with people and their germs. As you’re watching a team perform, right in the middle of the routine, the girl at the center base of the pyramid throws up right on the floor where everyone needs to do their thing that day. The best meme’s in the world could not have described my face at that moment. Did everything stand still? No. Not even for a millisecond. That’s not how this works. Everyone, even the girl that got sick, kept on cruising… tumbling, dancing, jumping their way through that vomit. Flipping around with their hands touching the puke mat. Never missing a beat. Impressive, sure, but in the stands parents were scrambling… digging through pockets, purses… looking for anything they had to use as a germ killer.

Maybe you’re thinking “Oh, just run them in the bathroom and clean the girls up” – there’s is absolutely zero time during a cheer competition for that jazz. Some of the girls are in 2-3 teams within their gym and are running from the floor to their next report time so the only saving grace you’re going to have is something quick and convenient to get at them with as they run.

In addition to the hairspray, hair bows, sequins, bobby pins, shoes and red lipstick I also keep the newly released PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes (available in 70-count and 35-count canisters) in my “Cheer Mom” bag. When the family goes to any competitions, practices or games I stockpile these because they’re safe for use on the hands and face and are formulated to remove dirt and kill 99.99% of illness-causing germs on hands without messing with your skin.

So the PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes are a little hard to find and I’m going to let you in on where I found them because it’s definitely not in the first place you’d think of. At Walmart, go to the household cleaning section and look by the All Purpose Cleaners. Beginning on May 17th look in the Sunday paper for a coupon that will save you $1.00 on any PURELL® Wipes canister or $1.00 on any two PURELL® Products. PURELL® also has loyalty program on their brand site.

In case you were wondering what the outcome was with the whole cheerleader regurgitation – after the team finished their performance a janitor did come out and clean it up with all of his puke warfare materials. But… the stain lived on throughout the entire day. Everyone knew where that puke was and every time a kid came near it I would hold my breath. It didn’t matter if I knew who it was or not because there.was.that.puke. You make it rain money? I make it rain PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes at cheer competitions.

When would the PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes have come in handy in your life?

Don’t Forget Your Coupon! Click here to Save $1.00 on any PURELL® Wipes canister or Save $1.00 on any two PURELL® Products.

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

Valentine’s Day S’mores Pops // Activities for Kids

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My kids are currently in the throes of a FOUR DAY WEEKEND. That’s right. No reason, really. Friday was a teacher in-service and Monday is Presidents Day. On a personal level, YES I’m losing my mind. They’re already feeling the cabin fever because it’s way too cold to be outside (we’re actually under a windchill warning). The other day we made some S’mores Pops with a Valentine’s Day twist and I thought it’d be a fun share today for the holiday and maybe help some of you give your kids something to do – and/or curb a sweet tooth craving!

You’ve likely seen and heard of S’mores .. if not YOU’RE KILLIN ME SMALLS (snaps to those who got the reference to The Sandlot, if not please see this YouTube video). This recipe features the same ingredients sans the fire and add sprinkles. And also sticks.

What you need:

Melting chocolate. I’m legitimately lazy and bought a microwaveable bag of them. It was a million dollars. Not really but it’s a lot cheaper to suck it up and buy the other kind. I’m no top chef and I’ve ruined many a pan (not kidding, ask anyone) trying to melt chocolate on the stove.

Marshmallows. I just bought the regular ones but there are also monster size campfire ones if you’re feeling really hungry or heart shaped ones but idk how well those would roll in the graham. I’d steer clear of the tiny ones.

Graham Crackers. Any kind, probably not the ones with cinnamon on them but that’s your preference. Mine were plain.

Sprinkles. I got the small, sugary red type for the theme but if you do these for St. Patrick’s Day it’s obviously easy to switch this out for green ones or other colors for Easter and so on.

Sticks. You can buy them or even use Popsicle sticks if you happen to save them. The fancy ones in the pics are like $2.25 but you only get 10 or 15… the plain white you get a ton of and it’s definitely more cost effective.

Wax Paper. To lay your masterpieces on to dry.

(1) First, put the sticks in the center of each marshmallow.

(2) Then, smash the graham crackers. I put them in gallon sized freezer bags and let the kids go off. It’s destructive so it’s fun and the freezer bags keep it mess free. It’s easier if you crush them into a fine-ish powder type but the BEST tasting ones we ended up with had graham chunks. It’s def not as pretty but omg so good.

(3) While my kids were smashing the grahams I put the bag of chocolate in a bowl (I thought this would be easier for dipping than the bag, so another reason the expensive micro bag was a waste for this) and began the process of melting. Directions for this are always on the bag so I’ll spare you.

(4) After all was melted, crushed and speared I put everything in bowls. Pick up the mallow on a stick and dip it into the chocolate. After you pull it out let the excess drip off a bit and then dip the end into the sprinkles. Take it to the grahams and roll it around. Lay to dry. (tip: I learned about half way through that it looks better and a lot cooler if you do the sprinkles after the grahams. Initially I didn’t think that would work out.. thinking it would hide the sprinkles, but it ended up making them pop more).

That’s it. If I can do it, you can do it. Super easy to make and clean up wasn’t too bad even though two little people who shall remain nameless completely ditched me for that part.

In the end they turned out really well, even for my 5 year old who decided to give them faces. She made a heck of a mess but the smiles and laughter always makes up for that!

I hope you’re all spending Valentine’s Day with someone you love and if you are alone I hope you’re pampering yourself to the highest degree! YOU DESERVE IT!

*Apologies for the super yellow toned photos. I took my camera out of it’s usual office environment and the lighting in the kitchen was muchhh different. If I ever do another recipe type post I know now to mess with my settings 😉

Holiday Incentives for Kids // feat. Hallmark Northpole Holiday Gifts

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

ETA: some Walmarts are marking down the Northopole items right now (up to 50% off!!!) – get you some!

The holiday season is the perfect time to reward my kids for all of the good they’ve done throughout the year and also hitting good grades so far in the school year. I’ve found that random incentives like this make them work hard all year long and also teach them that presents aren’t just handed over. Traditionally I get them a small toy or book that I know they’ll love but this year I wanted to try something different and pick up a few items from the Hallmark North Pole Holiday display that I saw recently at Walmart.

The display is loaded with toys & goodies for every budget and are all based off of a new movie called Northpole!

On this trip I picked up the Once Upon A Northpole Christmas story book + Find me Santa Snowflake($19.97 – Exclusively at Walmart) plus an extra Find me Santa Snowflake(because.. two kids.. I don’t even want to think about the fight that would cause with only buying one!), the Northpole Communicator($24.88) and two cans of the Snow Now! (Instant snow: just add water and a little magic) ($4.88).

The Find Me Santa Snowflake was a big hit because it can be personalized to your child. I had mine write their own names on it and explained that when you hit the button it glows and Santa knows just where to find you. Obviously they know Santa has found them before but they also now understand that this is a time-saver for Santa and he appreciates all of the help he can get 😉 My kids decorate the tree themselves every year (they help with the garland and I put a few things at the top, but 90% is all them!) and were thrilled to add these new ornaments in with their personalized and homemade ones.

The Snow Now! is a riot! When I told the kids they just needed to add water into the bowl with the small amount of mixture from the pre-measured bags they looked at me like I had lost my mind. The mixture activated immediately and it was a lot of “Whoa” and “Cool” to follow. You can decide how much water you want to add for the desired consistency. I thought 1 cup worked best but I let them add it like crazy the first go around to see what would happen. It got a little slushy but eventually more snow happened. It was a Winter Wonderland, y’all!

Look how cool this Northpole Communicator is – every day you can dial in and talk to the Northpole residents! So far we’ve talked to several Elves and we’re all anxious to see what’s in store for the rest of the month. You can only dial in once a day so my kids take turns, which actually works out well (even though it normally doesn’t under any other circumstance) because they know they’re about to talk to the people making their gifts. They want to talk to these elves ALL DAY LONG so it’s a good thing the Elves use their breakaway statements after a few minutes.

Check out the 30 second video for the Northpole Communicator below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OG0WYcF12Ys

The

Hallmark Northpole Holiday

items are fantastic December incentives or rewards for kids and also make perfect stocking stuffers. There’s something for all ages there so make sure you check it out – especially if you’re at a loss for ideas on a hostess or teacher gift.

How do you reward your kids for good behavior around the holidays?

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

Guardians of the Galaxy // The Ultimate Family Movie Night #OwnTheGalaxy #CollectiveBias

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

On those long yet enjoyable holiday school breaks it’s hard to find things to do that will keep your kids entertained and occupied on every single day that they’re off. Being one of those moms that fails at all things “Pinterest-y” I’m usually out of ideas by the end of the particularly long Christmas break. If you’re like me rejoice in this post, because it’s got an activity that’s fun and easy. Take “family movie night” and really make a day out of it. Rather than just cuddle up and watch a movie for two hours go to extremes and bring out the toys, dress ups and printable coloring sheets (which you can find online for free). Recently we purchased the MARVEL movie Guardians of the Galaxy on DVD at Walmart and even found fun dress up outfits in the clearance section!

The Guardians of the Galaxy DVD was easy to spot on the display and also had the Disney Infinity 2.0 characters of Groot, Drax and Rocket Raccoon along the bottom row. From 12/7 – 12/13, when you buy one of these Disney Infinity 2.0 figures, the cashier should be prompted to give a $5 Walmart gift card instantly. The DVD features exclusive an Character O-sleeve and exclusive music zinepack as well as a 64 page magazine with cast and crew interviews, exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and trivia PLUS a custom “cassette” laptop decal.

Movies such as this one are great because the kids love the heroes as well as the action and as a parent I enjoy that it’s not the same old cartoon. We can all watch it together with genuine interest, play with the figurines, color pictures for the fridge (get free printables here) and even act out a scene or two! Generally when we have a family movie event we watch the movie 2-3 times because we’re having so much fun with the activities. The day goes fast and everyone is entertained and happy! If you run out of ideas this holiday break hopefully this will help you out a bit 😉

How do you keep your kids occupied and yourself sane during holiday break?

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