Check This Out: What’s In Your Rug: Spring Cleaning Edition #Infographic

With 8 kids and a dog in my house, you can only imagine the amount of dirt that gets tracked inside. All those little feet that have been jumping in mud puddles, splashing in the creek, and tromping through our 5 acres of land. Oh, heavens. It makes me crazy! My husband and I often talk about  rug cleaning and how we have to get it done! I had absolutely no idea how much dirt gets trapped in our rugs until I took some time to check out the infographic I have posted below.

Please take a minute and check out the infographic from Ahdoot Oriental Rugs:

Ahdoot-Spring-Cleaning-Infographic2

Oh, those numbers make me crazy! Multiply them by 10 people living in our house, plus a dog and a cat. Eeek! I think it’s time to get our rugs cleaned: STAT!

How about you? Have you ever even given your rugs a thought before now? I’d love to hear from you!

#Sponsored: “Captive” DVD #CaptiveMovie #FlyBy #Review & #Giveaway

sampleDisclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

captive

Captive is based on a true story about the power of faith over fear. It is the story of how two lost souls collided. Brain Nichols is on the run and desperate to make contact with his brand new baby boy. He takes Ashley Smith hostage in her own apartment. Fearing for her life, and wanting nothing more than to be able to see her daughter again, she finally tuns to Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” for guidance. Ashley and Brian come to a crossroads where they discover hope and light in the midst of despair.

I received a copy of Captive for my family, and we couldn’t wait until our next Family Movie Night. I made the choice to allow my older children to watch the movie, (ages 11 and up), but I’m thankful I didn’t allow the younger ones to stay up and watch it.

My husband and myself were able to have some really deep discussion after the movie with my older children, and I was quite surprised by how much they understood and had questions about. There was a lot of drug use in the movie. Lots of violence. Some was scary violence. Brian Nichols was a very scary man. And we all discussed how making one bad choice can lead you down a path of many bad choices. Before you know it, you’re going down a path it’s impossible to come back from. (Luckily, we know that through Christ, ALL things are possible, but that still doesn’t make it easy!)

The story was intense from beginning to end. I don’t think any of my kids moved from their seats. The only thing I wish is that faith had been more of a motivator in the movie, or that God had been featured a little bit more. But, there was enough faith shown that it helped open the door for great discussion with my kids. I was able to talk with them about the choices they make when they’re young, and how they will impact them when they get older. We talked a lot about staying away from drugs and alcohol, and not even trying them when “all” their friends are. We talked about having courage and strength to say NO, and if they don’t have the courage to say no on their own, they can trust Christ to give them the courage they need.

Overall, I did enjoy the movie, and I’m thankful for the discussion it was able to open up with my children. I cannot imagine all that Ashley Smith went through, but I’m certain her testimony has led – and will lead – many people to Christ.

To learn more about the movie, please check out the following links:

Want to win a copy of Captive for your family? Just leave a comment on this blog post and tell me a time when you needed faith to get through a scary situation. (If you don’t have an example, just leave your favorite Bible verse as a comment.)

Contest will end January 29th at 11:59pm ET. Please use the guidelines in the disclaimer to see if you qualify. Contest open to US & Canada.

Party Entertainment for All Ages

Some parties and party hosts unintentionally exclude many of the people who attend these special events. However, there are many ways you can get people of all ages involved in the activities at a party. This often makes these types of get-togethers more enjoyable for young and old people who attend and provides many happy memories in years to come. These are some of the most popular types of entertainment that can be enjoyed by a wide range of age groups who are attending a special occasion together.

Party Rentals
Party rentals are extremely popular at parties and most people can get involved in these activities. Bounce houses, carnival games, slides, water slides, moon walks, thrill rides and rock wall rental options are available and are just some of the forms of entertainment you can add to your party for most age groups.
Create a Party Theme
Creating a party theme is an effective way to get everyone involved in a party that includes kids, teens and adults. The only limitation with this type of entertainment is your imagination. The most popular types of party themes include film themes, beach themes, popular celebrities or other themes everyone is familiar with. To make things even more exciting and interesting you could hold a competition for the best dressed attendee or similar competitions.
Music
Music taste differ between younger and older audiences. To cater for this, have different areas where each age group can listen to music that’s more suited to their tastes. This is the perfect way for adults to relax and chat, especially if they have taken part in more energetic activities earlier in the day.

Karaoke
If you want music to play a bigger role in a party, Karaoke is normally a sure way to find out who the real entertainers are at your party. It’s the ideal way to get young and old party-goers involved and have a few laughs along the way too.

Computer Games
Many adults are just as interested in gaming as their younger counterparts. A party is the perfect place to hold competitions amongst older and younger gamers to see who’s best. Once again you could provide some prizes for those who fare best in these competitions between young and old gamers.

Unfortunately, not all parties are as good as they should be. Some parties alienate certain people who attend and the party doesn’t have the same feeling you get at a party that includes everyone. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. There are many different ways a host can encourage more interaction between people of different age groups at a party. It’s also a great way for people to get to know people they may not have known very well before the party took place. The two main aims of a party are for everyone to enjoy themselves and take away fond memories of the occasion. Involving everyone in the activities at a party is the most effective way to do this.

#AD: Keeping Our #GameDayTraditions FUN! @SheSpeaksUp @ProcterGamble @Walmart

sampleDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/P&G. Opinions expressed are 100% my own.

gamedaytraditions

Game Day in our house means lots of preparation! I’ve got so much to do! There’s the food to prepare… the house to get clean… every little detail must be taken care of… Even down to what toilet paper I’m going to make sure is available for my guests! (I don’t want someone coming over, using my bathroom, and then going home to tell their spouse, “Ugh. That toilet paper was like sandpaper!” No thank you! Only best for my guests! They deserve the ultra strong, yet squeezably soft goodness that only Charmin can provide.) Luckily, I can head to Walmart and grab everything I need to make our traditions for Game Day perfect.

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Set up is crucial. Spray some Febreze to get the furniture smelling fresh and clean. Then, I need everything laid out just right so my guests can get to it easily. I need the right paper towels to handle clean ups, because with the crew we host on game day, there are sure to be a few spills! Bounty helps me get the counters clean after I’ve slaved in the kitchen all day, and then Bounty paper towels are perfect for clean up during and after the party!

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And then there’s the food. Oh my goodness, the food! Meatballs, sandwiches, chili cheese dip and chips, bread, pasta, desserts galore. I don’t do anything small. I have to make sure there’s plenty of food for everyone, and that there’s no chance of anyone leaving my house hungry!

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And while I’m going out of my mind, trying so hard to make everything just right, I remember the most important tradition I have when it comes to game day: the people I share game day with.

Even though I have ten people living in my house – and we can make any occasion a party! – when we add family and friends to the mix, it’s always something to remember!

Once the game is over, and everyone has left, that’s when I’m thankful I stocked up at Walmart! It’s time for the real clean up! I find dip under the couch. Stains on *everyone’s* clothes. And the bathroom usually looks like a tornado ran through it. (Did you notice all those kids in the picture above?!) Luckily, I’ve got Bounty to help with the clean up of the house, and Tide to help make laundry easier.

After every game day happening, all I want to do is sleep for a week, but I’m always thankful that I’ve had the fun with family and friends. They make every moment of preparation, frustration, and clean up worth it. It doesn’t even matter who wins the game!

Companies like Walmart and P&G make Game Day even easier. I’m thankful for quality products that make everyone happy, at a price that makes my wallet happy!

Want to read about other bloggers and their #GameDayTraditions? Here are the links that will help you do just that:

Now, tell me about Game Day at your house. Do you have any traditions you follow? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Moving From the City to the Suburbs

suburbs
If you grew up in the heart of a big city or live in one now, you enjoy many benefits of city life — easy access to public transportation, extensive shopping and social activities, vibrant art and culture. But you might be like many who wonder if raising a family in a large city is a good idea. Many parents and parents to-be worry about the quality of schools, frequency of crime and lack of safe spaces for kids to play. You’ll drive more if you live outside the city, but there are some distinct advantages to ditching your city digs and taking up residence in the suburbs.

Affordability
In the city, an apartment or flat costs more. You pay a premium for sidewalks, cafes and theaters, as well as the shorter commute. But you money simply goes further in the suburbs. In Seattle for example, a one-bedroom apartment might cost $1,500 in a moderately priced city neighborhood, but in a suburb a mile away, the same apartment might be $900.

Less Noise & Less Pollution
Suburbs have the benefit of less crowding and more green space. When people aren’t packed in like sardines, crime is also less frequent. You can check out crime rates of an area before you move to see what your new neighborhood might be like. With less people and less industry comes better air quality too. See where your current city ranks in terms of pollution according to the American Lung Association. Less noise and pollution can lead to less stress and a higher quality of life.

Better Schools
City schools often don’t compare to their suburban counterparts. Part of the reason for this is the lack of tax base to support the school districts financially. Lower incomes correlate to school bonds and measures not being funded. So families choose the  suburbs to help ensure their children get a better education, even though doing so often means paying higher property taxes. Last, homes and apartments in good school districts hold their value which is important even if you don’t have kids. Look up schools ahead of time and compare. Global report card even allows you to compare any town or suburb to locales outside the U.S.

More Kids
While there are plenty of children who live in the city, parents usually find more convenient access to child care centers, parks and recreation facilities in the suburbs.

If you are considering a move to the suburbs, rent first, or rent permanently. The benefits of renting include flexibility to move should the commute turn out to be too long or the neighborhood doesn’t meet your needs. Renting may be a great permanent option for your family. It also might be a place to stay while you look for a larger place or house. Check out some of the hottest suburbs in the country for renters. Many of the suburbs on this list are among the safest places in their broader metro area. In some cases the rents might be higher too, but the benefits might be worth the premium.

#Sponsored: Another @PhotoPad_VG #Giveaway! ($25 OR $100 Amazon GC – Your Choice!)

sampleDisclaimer: This post is sponsored by PhotoPad. Any opinions expressed are 100% my own and have not been influenced in any way.

photopad_logo

Last month, I ran a contest for a $100 Amazon Gift Card, and I have to say, I’m a little baffled. There wasn’t one entry on that giveaway post! That’s just crazy!

So, I approached the owner of photoPAD, and we talked. We want to give you another chance to win! I’ll get to the giveaway in a minute. :)

While I kind of kept a business focus on my last post, I want you to see how great this can be for sharing family photos with those you love most!

Take a look at my family PAD:

Isn’t it cute? And it only took a few minutes to make. Now, I can share my PAD with family and friends on Facebook, twitter, or through email at the click of a button!

It’s like digital scrapbooking without all the headache, expense, and frustration. It’s so easy to create a PAD!

Just in case you’ve forgotten, here are the steps to create your own PAD:

  • First, head to the PhotoPad website.
  • In the top right corner, click on “Start Exploring.”
  • Click on “Join Today.” (Takes 30 seconds to join. SO easy!!)
  • Click on the Plus (+) sign at the top left of the page to create a new pad.
  • Follow the steps to Describe your Pad and get to work using the tools on the right!
  • Now, add pictures and create pages to complete your Pad.

Be sure to save your work at the end, and then you can share your pad by finding the link and sharing through social media. To find the link to your Pad, go to the home page, then click the funnel icon. Just click on “My Pads” and there you have it! SO easy!

I really want to encourage you to try out the new photoPAD for yourself. I think you’re going to love it!

And, to reward you, we’re holding another giveaway. You can win a $25 Amazon Gift Card OR a $100 Amazon Gift Card – your choice. Here’s how it will work:

  • 1. To enter for a $25 Amazon Gift Card, visit the PhotoPad Business Facebook Page. (Because we can’t ask you to “like” the page, according to Facebook rules, we sure would appreciate a “like” if you “like” what you see!)
  • 2. Want to increase your prize to a $100 Amazon Gift Card? Simply create your own Pad, with at least 2 slides, using the PhotoPad creator. (Follow the steps above.)
  • 3. Leave a comment on this post and tell me you did the above. If you created a pad, please leave a link to your PAD in your comment.(You MUST leave a link to your pad in order to win the $100 prize.)

Contest will end Sunday, January 17th at 11:59pm, and winner will be announced and contacted on January 18th.

Winner has been selected…. thanks to all who entered!

photopad_winner

#Sponsored: LeapTV – Educational Fun to Get Your Kids Moving! #Giveaway #LeapFrogMomSquad

sampleDisclaimer: This review and giveaway is made possible through my relationship with LeapFrog and the LeapFrog Mom Squad. Opinions expressed are 100% my own.

leaptv giveaway

Have you heard of LeapTV?

It’s this fantastic little gaming system that gets your little ones up and moving and *learning* all at the same time. My kids love it, and they just can’t get enough of it.

We’ve had our LeapTV for awhile now, and it definitely hasn’t gotten “old.” The kids still ask to play with it all the time, and I’m happy to comply when I know they’re going to be learning while they play. My favorite part is that ALL of my kids love it – from Carly (almost 3) all the way up to Zander and Jace (who are 12 and 11). The bigger ones help the little ones, and a fun time is had by all.

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There are so many games to choose from, and something to make everyone happy. From Blaze to Frozen, Paw Patrol to Sophia the First, all of our favorite characters are part of the kids favorite games. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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LeapFrog has been one of my favorite companies to work with, and product like the LeapTV are why! In their kindness, they sent me 2 LeapTV systems, so I’m sharing one with you! That’s right! You get the chance to win your very own LeapTV system and a Letter Factory Adventure game to go with it! How lucky are you?!

What if you don’t win? That’s OK! The LeapTV system is now retailing for just $59.99. That’s a fantastic price for a great product, and it’s worth every penny! No excuses. Now you can use up those gift cards you got for Christmas and make the kids happy. (Which, in turn, will make YOU happy!)

Use the Rafflecopter Gadget below to enter the giveaway. The contest will end January 19th at 11:59pm.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rejoice in His Blessings this Year. Join Me in #Blessings366

At my most recent MOPs meeting, I was talking to some of my fellow moms and telling them that I wanted a break from social media. Facebook becomes a time suck for me. I get so wrapped up in reading and liking posts that before I know it, I’ve spent an hour getting absolutely nothing accomplished.

So, I had decided that I wouldn’t be doing my “Blessing of the day” in 2016 so that I could keep myself off of Facebook.

One of the moms begged me to change my mind. She told me she had gone through some really hard times this past year, and my “Blessings of the day” posts were what helped encourage her to keep looking up. She told me I had no idea how much those daily pictures and posts had helped her, and she couldn’t imagine not having them to look forward to in 2016.

I told her I would pray about it, and the more I did, the more I knew I had to keep sharing. Not just for her, (though I do love knowing it was an encouragement to someone out there!), but because of the effect it had on me. I was able to look back through this past year and see all God brought us through… and there was a lot! God was so good, and even on the hard days, I was still able to find some kind of blessing during that day. It’s been a great way to remember to be grateful, even when times are tough.

#blessings_366

So, I will keep tradition alive, and I will share my blessings each day in 2016. Because it’s a leap year, I’ll have to change the hashtag, so this year, you can find the blessings at #blessings366 on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

I would love it if you would join me. Your photos don’t have to be anything fancy. Just find one blessing every day and share it using the hashtag #blessings366.

If you are committed to participating in #blessings366 this year, grab the button below and put it on your blog. It’ll help remind you to share your blessings with those around you.

#Blessings366
I am excited to see what the Lord does in 2016, and I’m hoping you’ll be a part of it. Let’s give all the glory to our Savior this year and watch the blessings roll in!

Kids in the Outdoors: The Benefits of Outdoor Playtime

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Confined within the house or classroom, your kids may become stir-crazy. Make sure they have an outlet for all their energy, and let them run free outside. Outdoor recreation has been scientifically linked to physical and mental health benefits. Nature can also serve as an outdoor classroom that teaches your children about wildlife and plant life. Regardless of where you live or how old your children are, there are many ways you can incorporate outdoor outings into your family’s routine.

Learn the Benefits of Nature
Time outdoors reaps many benefits that bolster mental and physical health. The mere act of frequent nature outings encourages exercise and an active lifestyle. The University of Essex studied the effects of colors in relation to exercise. The study found that the color green produces better results — less mood disturbances and lower feelings of exertion — than any other color. From this study, it was deduced that the greenery within nature provides an ideal setting for exercise.

Nature helps improve brain function and concentration within children. A study conducted by the National Center for Biology Information found that children with ADHD who spend time outdoors have lessened symptoms. Those who engage in the same activities indoors do not show the same increase of concentration.

The summer sun provides an ample amount of vitamin D, which increases your children’s bone and cell growth, increases their immune functions and provides them with energy. Make sure that your family wears sunscreen that is 30 SPF to be protected from skin damage or cancer.

Make It a Habit
Make outdoor recreation a habit for your family. Schedule time when you and your kids can take walks through your local parks, go on weekend hikes or try new outdoor activities. You can incorporate outdoor activity into your daily routine, even if you have smaller children with some simple solutions. For example, install a kid seat on your bicycle for regular rides around the neighborhood after dinner or to and from school.

The habit of outdoor recreation can be implemented in any environment or weather conditions. If you live in the city and nature isn’t as accessible, many cities have interurban trails or arboretums that are abundant in greenery. If you’re in a colder climate, there are a number of cold-weather activities you can take part in. Equip your kids with the right winter gear, and teach them about snow and ice safety so they can fully enjoy the outdoors in the winter.

Fun Activities
There are plenty of outdoor activities that the entire family can enjoy. Excite and engage your kids with a variety of outdoor games that will keep them outside for as long as possible. Take your family to a park or some fields with a soccer ball for a friendly afternoon scrimmage. Purchase some small, multi-colored cones to place around the field for a game of frisbee golf.

Bird watching is an activity that provides your kids with outdoor time as well as an increased knowledge of all the varieties of birds. Research the best spots for bird watching in your area and bring along a picture guide and a journal. You and your child can make a game of how many types of birds you spot.

You can also take nature walks with your children to identify plants, trees, insects and wildlife. A number of handy outdoor apps will assist in your identification of all the life that lies within nature.

The Lessons Every Good Parent Teaches Their Children

As a parent, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to teaching your children the lessons they need to learn. Here are some of the most important ones that you should focus on to begin with.

That Respect for Others is Vital
Your children are not born with the understanding that respecting the other people around them is important. Many parents seem to think that these things should just happen by themselves. But it’s actually up to parents to show their children that being kind and respectful is important. It’s only then that they will begin to understand and believe what you say. So, you need to show them in practical ways why respect is a good thing. You can do this by only giving them something they want when they show you some respect and talk to you in a polite and considerate way. The message will eventually get through.

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Photo Source

That Mistakes Can be Learned From
Everyone makes mistakes, and you don’t want your children to stress over these basic mistakes too much. That’s why it’s so important to show them that even when something bad happens, or they make a mistake, they can learn from it. It’s the perfect way of showing your children that there are positive things to be taken from every situation. This will then help them to develop a positive view of the world, and that can surely only be a good thing. So, when they or you make a mistake, talk to them about how they can learn from it and not make that mistake again in future.

That There is a Range of Different Beliefs in the World
One of the biggest problems that we have in the world come from a lack of understanding and openness. You don’t want you child to grow into the kind of adult that has no knowledge of other cultures and beliefs, do you? That’s why you need to introduce them to diversity and different beliefs as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean that they have to take up a particular religion or set of beliefs. It’s merely about showing them the diversity that there is in the world. You can do this by exposing them to different religious texts, so why not get them a Bible as a gift?

That Telling the Truth is Always Best
This is the one that every parent knows about, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard to get across to a child. Children are not stupid. In fact, they’re very clever and a little cunning. They know that they can sometimes escape trouble or get their way if they tell a little lie here and there. That’s what makes it so difficult to show them that lying isn’t a good thing and that telling the truth is always best. But it is a vitally important lesson and one that they need to learn sooner rather than later. So, when they lie, punish them for it and then show them what the negative consequences of lying are.

Here’s How I Help My Toddlers Walk Further

No two kids are the same. Some will pull themselves up to standing at seven months and then not let go of the furniture until eighteen months. Others will just choose to stand up and run off all in the same day! These things aren’t predictable, but there are plenty of things you can do to help them find their feet and use their legs.

Active kids are healthier kids. Usually, children need no encouragement to run around and play. But it doesn’t hurt to get them out and about and walking as much as possible anyway. Pram shoes aren’t any good for walking around outside. It’s best to wait until your little ones are fitted for their first pair of proper shoes, especially if they’re on their feet early.

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Rheuch is the provider of this picture

Start with walking about indoors. You can play Follow The Leader, or become a human choo choo train to get them up and moving. Turn up the music and do some dancing for a while. All these activities help your toddler to develop core strength and balance. Best of all, it gets them active so they will sleep better at nap time!

Once they’re ready for walking about outside, take their hands so you can stop them falling on the hard ground. You might prefer to take them out in the pushchair to the park. Then they will still have enough stamina to walk around the park a little. If it’s cold, be sure to use your pushchair footmuffs, so the legs and feet don’t get too chilly. Little bursts of walking are all a small toddler needs to make big progress with his walking.

Over time, your little one will be more confident and more skilled at walking. You might be ready to let him walk without holding hands. When you are out and about it is essential you still have hold of him, though. Why not try a backpack with a wrist strap? That way you can stop him running off, but his arms are free for balancing.

Head out for a walk every day. Choose a spot to stop that is a little further away from your starting point every day. This will help your child build up his strength and stamina. Some toddlers get bored, though. You might want to have points of interest and things to see and do on the way. And if your little one decides enough is enough, you may have no choice but to carry him all the way home. Heading out for a reason can help motivate him to see the journey through.

All my big kids were different as toddlers, but they all got through those first tentative steps eventually. If you’re worried your little one isn’t walking, you can speak to your child’s doctor. There is rarely anything to worry about before eighteen months. Try to make a game of it, and add a little extra padding to their trousers just in case! And just think, the next big milestones will be jumping and running!

Exciting Gift Ideas That Any Man Will Love

Whether you’re shopping for your husband, brother or father, choosing gifts for men is never easy. The main problem is that when it comes to buying for him, it can be a real struggle coming up with a fun and unique idea. Often, when we’re gift buying, we ask people what they want, to get a few ideas, but men tend to state that they ‘don’t need anything’. (This is seriously unhelpful and makes shopping for them even harder.)

While picking the perfect gift for the man in your life can be tricky, it doesn’t have to be. To make gift buying a little easier, I thought that I would share a few ideas with you here, that all men are sure to love.

Sports themed gifts

Almost every guy supports one sport or another, so a sports themed gift could be perfect. Think about what his favorite sport is, as well as what team or player he supports, and use this to come up with some gift ideas.

Tickets to watch a match are always a safe bet, as is memorabilia. If he likes to collect stuff, he might love a selection of vintage memorabilia of his favorite sports team or player. You can find some fantastic vintage pieces on selling sites like eBay, so make sure to have a look on there.

If he has always wanted to give a particular sport a try, why not book him in for lessons or an experience day? Men love trying new things, especially if it’s something that they’ve wanted to try for a while.

Gadgets

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Photo source

If the guy that you’re buying for loves messing around with gadgets, something technological could make the perfect gift. The good news is that there are so many options to choose from, that whatever his interests, there should be something that’s perfect.

Ask yourself what his hobbies include. If, for example, he loves taking photos, why not buy him a top of the range camera? It’s important to choose him a gift he’ll cherish and use, so something that relates to an interest he has is a good idea.

Or, for instance, if he’s crazy about remote control cars and helicopters, consider treating him to the ultimate boy’s toy – a drone. These might not come cheap, but if you pick him a good one – check out the Pro Photo UAV website, he’ll have hours of fun with it.

If he doesn’t have a tablet of his own, this could make the perfect gift. Today tablets are affordable to buy and have so many uses, and because of this make great gifts. While ipads are the most sought after device, there are plenty of tablet designs that are just as good and a lot cheaper. (To find out the best makes, have a look online.)

Edible treats

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Image credit: Flickr

If all else fails and you’re stuck for ideas, edible gifts can be a great success. When we think of edible treats, we often think of sweet things. However, savoury foods can also make great gifts. How about treating him to a hamper made up of all his fave treats? Instead of buying the hamper, get creative and make it yourself. Ready made hampers can be a little pricey, so going down the DIY route it best. Plus, that way, you can customize it just for him.

All you need is a basket, some tissue paper, ribbon, and a selection of his favorite food and drink. Pack the hamper with lots of bits and bobs that you know he’ll love, and you can make him the most incredible gift.

So there you have it, my guide to exciting gift ideas that all men will love.

#Sponsored: @PhotoPad_VG Makes Business Better | $100 Amazon GC #Giveaway

sponsoredDisclaimer: This post is sponsored by PhotoPad. Any opinions expressed are 100% my own and have not been influenced in any way.

photopad_logo

When you run a business, it’s so important to “brand” your business. Even with my blog, I’ve tried to brand myself so that when people see my logo or maybe even an anchor, they think of “Blessed Beyond Words.”

Do you own a business or a blog and need to brand yourself? PhotoPad is the best way to brand your business through Photo Stories.

You won’t believe how easy it is to start creating!

  • First, head to the PhotoPad website.
  • In the top right corner, click on “Start Exploring.”
  • Click on “Join Today.” (Takes 30 seconds to join. SO easy!!)
  • Click on the Plus (+) sign at the top left of the page to create a new pad.
  • Follow the steps to Describe your Pad and get to work using the tools on the right!
  • Now, add pictures and create pages to complete your Pad.

Be sure to save your work at the end, and then you can share your pad by finding the link and sharing through social media. To find the link to your Pad, go to the home page, then click the funnel icon. Just click on “My Pads” and there you have it! Easy, right? (Ok, I’ll admit. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to find my finished pad, but I did it!)

Here’s what my finished Pad looks like:

Not too shabby for my first try, right? I love it!

While PhotoPad is still in beta, I have to say, I’m in love with it! This is such a great way to share photos with clients, and even with friends and family!

Don’t run a business? That’s ok! PhotoPad is still the perfect way to show off your beautiful babies! In November, I hired a photographer friend to take photos for my family. Here are the results of that:

Super cute, right? And what a fun, easy way to show off my photos! I just love it! Now, I can quickly and easily share all the latest happenings with my family.

Now, PhotoPad wants YOU to try out their new program, and they’re giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Create your own Pad using the PhotoPad creator. (Your pad *must* have at least 5 slides.)
  2. Like the PhotoPad Business Facebook Page.
  3. Leave a comment ON THIS BLOG POST letting me know you did both. (Please leave a link to your created Pad in the comment. I want to check them out.)

That’s all you have to do! Remember to leave a link to your Pad as a comment on this post, because that’s how we’ll pick the winner!

Now, go create! I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

*Contest Ends January 1st at 11:59pm. Winner will be announced and contacted January 2nd. Facebook is not associated with this giveaway in any way.

The Top 5 Playful Dog Breeds for Young Children

Everyone loves dogs, right?  Well, although your children may be pestering you to adopt a puppy, it’s important to remember that not every kind of dog loves kids.  Some breeds of dogs can be aggressive in general, and some may not think kindly of children who aren’t always particularly delicate when handling them.

So if you’re considering getting a family dog, it’s important to research, and think very carefully about which breed to get.  You want a dog that your kids will love of course, but your dog needs to love them back.

Here are a few ideas to get your research started:
Australian Shepherd
Why consider an Australian Shepherd?  Well, these dogs are very much people dogs.  Hugely friendly in fact. They really want to be (and stay) part of the family, and be involved in everything you do.  Plus they could quite happily fetch, retrieve, fetch, retrieve, fetch, retrieve a ball all day!  In fact, your kids might get bored of the activity before your dog does.

Teddy Bear Shichon
Do little dogs any cuter?  Search Google for pictures and I’m sure you’ll agree they don’t! And just like any dog, you can bring it into your fold as a baby, or perhaps when it’s older.  So if you are looking for little puppies online do a special search for Teddy Bear Shichons.  Deal?

Bernese Mountain Dog
This type of dog is much larger than the others we’ve listed.  But if you’ve got the space, and your kids aren’t scared of such a big animal, then give it some serious thought. And don’t worry about its size.  Bernese Mountain dogs are surprisingly docile and easy going.

Boston Terrier
This small dog can be particularly easy to take care of.  They’re tough, love having fun, but also have huge amounts of personality.  It’s also been said they don’t need much exercise, but you may want to research that further.  Don’t let it be an excuse not to take your dog on walks.

Jack Russell
First things first, Jack Russells often have so much energy they don’t know what to do with it!  To say they have personality is putting it mildly. They come in long haired and short haired varieties.  The longer haired varieties can often have quite a scruffy look, while the short haired breed is much sleeker.  And they often have their tails snipped to just a few inches.  At full length, it’s around a foot.

Jack Russells can sometimes be aggressive against other dogs, but they are wonderfully good natured at home.  If you treat them well, and bring them up well, they’ll be great with kids.

However, it is of course important to remember that even the kindest, friendliest dogs can snarl, and even bite, if treated poorly. So as well as choosing the right dog for the family, you need to teach your children how to handle dogs and understand their personalities.  Of course, every dog is different but there’s some definite baseline characteristics to keep in mind.

Therefore you’ll want to show your children how to safely handle dogs, so the dog feels secure and comfortable, especially if it’s being picked up.  You’ll also want to show your children how to safely play with them, feed them, and make sure they never get bitten by accident.

#Ad: #Momoji by @Luvs for the Times When Parenting Needs More than Just Words & a Giveaway!

sampleDisclaimer: This review and giveaway was made possible by iConnect Influencer Management and Luvs. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine.

momoji keyboard

Do you ever have those days when you need more than just mere words to express just how your day is going?

Boy, do I ever.

Take a look at last night’s conversation with my Hubby:

momoji

What a day. I don’t know what it is about December, but the kids all seem to act out. Maybe it’s the shorter days. Or the thought of Christmas presents and a break from school. I don’t know. But about 6pm every night, I’m ready to put all 8 of them to bed, just so I can breathe for a few minutes!

The Luvs Momoji Keyboard is perfect for parents. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words – especially in those parenting moments when you simply have no words. (Like all the time?!) It’s a fun way to express yourself in your favorite way: emojis!

I will admit, I am a huge user of emojis. Sometimes, I use them a little too much. So, when I downloaded the Luvs Momoji Keyboard, I had a little too much fun with it.

momoji

Now, I tend to talk… a lot. So, I switch back and forth from the momojis to the letter keyboard, and that takes a little bit of work. But, it’s totally worth it to get my point across! And I probably drive my husband crazy with all my texts, but he just ignores me and goes about his day. We understand each other. 😉

The other great feature of the Momoji Keyboard is the “Promoji” feature. Luvs is the first brand every to share coupons, deals, and special offers with their customers in a fun new way. Now we busy moms can hunt for diaper deals while we’re out and about. It’s fantastic! I always seem to forget my coupons at home. Doesn’t matter any more, because now I can pull out my phone and see if there are any new deals or promotions for Luvs diapers right in the store!

Want to know the best part? It’s available for Apple AND Android! (As an Android user, this impresses me most! Most companies release the “iPhone” version first, and the Android users have to wait forever for their version – if it ever even comes to fruition. Thanks for thinking of ALL moms, Luvs!)

Hurry and download the Keyboard here:

Once you’ve downloaded and activated the Keyboard, be sure to check out the #Momoji Twitter party with @iConnectIm on December 15, 2015 at 9pm EST. There will be prizes and fun galore!
carly and luvs
To celebrate the launch of the Luvs Momoji Keyboard, and fantastic new Luvs with NightLock, I get to giveaway a fantastic prize to one lucky winner! Use the Rafflecopter below to enter for your chance to win a $100 American Express Gift Card and one package of Luvs diapers (size 1-6, you pick!). Contest Ends December 21st at 11:59pm.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How To Make Your Next Children’s Birthday Party Memorable

Kids birthday parties are one of the joys of having kids. Getting to be there with them on their birthday as they enjoy themselves with their friends is priceless! You want your child to remember their childhood birthday parties forever. Here is how you can make your next children’s birthday party a memorable one, for your child and all those invited!

Pick A Theme
Choosing a theme is a great way to make a kids party memorable! Pirates is a great theme idea, as both boys and girls will enjoy it. As well as having them dress up as little pirates, you can incorporate the theme into your party games. Finding the buried treasure is guaranteed to be exciting! A theme makes a party more personal to your child, as they can involve something that they enjoy. If you are stuck for ideas, there are plenty on the internet!

bdayparty

Link

Take Photos
The easiest way to make it memorable is to make sure to take lots of photos. Ask your guests moms and dads to take photos as well as you, or hand out some disposable cameras so you definitely get to see them. Alternatively you might want to hire a photographer if you think you’re going to be too busy helping to entertain kids to take photos. The Las Vegas Photographers site tells you how to pick the right one.

Go Big On Food
Make sure you have a wide range of food on offer, as you don’t want your children’s party to be memorable for the wrong reason. Kids can be fussy, and you don’t want them going hungry if they don’t like what you’ve gone on offer. Food can also make the party memorable for a good reason! Consider getting a really memorable cake, perhaps one that is shaped like their favorite cartoon character.

Little Touches
Little touches make a big difference! Make sure to decorate with plenty of banners and balloons to make your child feel important on their special day. A great decoration is a big birthday balloon with their age on it. You could also buy some party poppers, just make sure the kids are supervised with them! Then how about putting photos of them when they were even younger around the house. Older visitors to the party such as family members will appreciate these.

bdayballoons

Link

Choose The Location Wisely
The location is what the kids at the party will remember the most. So choose wisely! There are plenty of options available to you. If you’d rather not have to do the work yourself and run around after kids, you could hire somewhere like a leisure center or a swimming pool. This would also be a great option for kids who like being sporty or active. If you’d rather have something a bit closer to home, why not choose a garden party? You could hire a bouncy castle and arrange party games such as pass the parcel. This is a great option for younger kids, so you are able to keep an eye on them.

Making your child’s next birthday party as memorable as possible is easier than you might think. Try out these tips and see!

#Sponsored: New DC Super Hero Girls Cartoons & a #Giveaway

sponsoredDisclaimer:This is a sponsored post on behalf of DC Super Hero Girls. They provided the information, but any opinions expressed are my own. They are also sponsoring and controlling the giveaway.

dc super hero girls

In our house, Super Heroes are #1! We all love them. And, now that DC Entertainment has released their new animated series featuring DC Super Hero Girls, we are even more excited! My girls and I are all about a little “girl power” now and then, and this dynamic group of girls are strong, fearless, edgy, and fun! We each have our favorite Super Hero Girl, and even my boys love watching right along with us.

The DC Super Hero Girls YouTube channel makes it easy for our kids to watch their favorite characters, on-demand, and from any device. Thank heavens for wi-fi, because Carly keeps the DC Super Hero Girls channel playing on my Kindle Fire as often as I let her. Take a look at the playlist:

For even more DC Super Hero Girls fun, check out the DC Super Hero Girls website where kids can play games, download free printable activities, and so much more. Head over there now for some *super* fun!

To celebrate the launch of these Super Hero Girls, DC is giving away a $100 Visa Gift Card! Enter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


How excited are YOU about the DC Super Hero Girls? Tell me in the comments below!

#Sponsored: Top Toy Trends for the Holiday Season from #zulily!

sponsoredDisclaimer:This is a sponsored post on behalf of Zulily. They provided the information, but any opinions expressed are my own.

’Tis the season for gifting little ones the toys they’ve been wanting all year long. This year, it’s not just about play – the most popular toys this season promote learning and creativity!

That said, we’ve tapped zulily’s resident toy expert Kenji Yoshinari for a list of trends to keep in mind as you scour the zulily Toy Shop for the perfect gifts that will both entertain and educate your child this season. Kenji’s tips are:

  • Use the Force to make sure you give the hottest toys! With the upcoming December 18th premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’re sure Star Wars toys and apparel will be flying off the shelves this holiday season. Make sure to purchase early so you don’t miss out!
  • Look out for open-ended building toys. Giving kids the opportunity to let their imagination run wild and not be constrained by instruction manuals is the heart of this hot trend.
  • Switch from STEM to STEAM. Adding the ART component to STEM gives you more ways to introduce creativity and fun to your children’s world of educated play.
  • Customize Your Play! Make the play experience meet who your child is – from personalized rockers and ride-ons, to a doll that looks just like your child.
  • Retro, classic play remains a top trend. Brands and toys that bring back memories of days gone by are at the top of everyone’s list this season.

zulily toys

In addition, Kenji has pulled together a list of the Breakout Toys of 2015 and I’ve featured a few below:

  • TEGU Classroom Kit – combine art and education for a great gift. zulily toys
  • Green Toys – teach your child to care for the environment with these eco-friendly toys. They are easy to maintain, dishwasher safe and don’t require batteries.
  • Build-Your-Own (Customizable) 18” Dolls from Madame Alexander – Customizable and hands-on building, this toy covers off on two top toy trends!
  • Razor Crazy Cart Spinning Go Kart & JoyBay Pink Swing Car – These toys are perfect for kids on the go.
  • FINIS Mermaid Swim Fin – a fin-tastic choice for kids who love the water!

At online retailer zulily, shoppers have something new to discover each morning including toys, gifts, apparel & accessories, home décor and more. Be sure to check back often on zulily.com or on their mobile app to get the best deals for the whole family this holiday season.

Cleaning Up During The Holidays Shouldn’t Be A Pain

For those of us raised with ambitious holiday cooking traditions, looking forward to a food prep schedule can cause a deep sense of dread. In the American holiday tradition, there has been an arms race of who can prepare the most impressive and delicious spread, and it’s getting harder and harder to prepare. It’s also getting a lot more difficult to clean up after all the holiday cooking, baking, and noshing is complete. This can leave the beleaguered cook with a mountain of dishes high as a yule log (I actually don’t know how big a yule log is….or what it is). With Chinet, this exercise in frustration is no longer necessary.

This holiday season, why not lay down the culinary burden passed down to you by your holiday-happy forebears. Order a pizza, get some take out, or call a catering company. Finally, get rid of all the mess with Chinet. Chinet provides the industry standard in attractive, sturdy, and affordable dishware and flatware. Everyone at your holiday table will be able to eat their fill then toss their refuse in the bin. With meal cleanup as simple as that, you might just be able to, I don’t know, ENJOY your holiday meal this year. It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work.

The holidays shouldn’t be about toiling. Take the toil out of your holiday meal plans, without making your spread look cheap. Chinet is the disposable dishware of choice for people who don’t want to look like they bought it on the clearance aisle at a dollar store. Chinet can hold up under even the most heaping of holiday portions, and is strong enough to even go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths! So grab some Chinet and make this holiday’s meals the happiest and most convenient in living memory.

#IC #Ad: #WaterWipes – Amazingly Pure Baby Wipes Now at @Target @WaterWipesUSA

sampleDisclaimer: This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

water wipes

I have two little ones still in diapers, and both of them have extremely sensitive skin. Carly’s skin is so tender that I can only use certain diapers and I have to be extra careful about the type of wipes I use. I used to make my own baby wipes, but that is time consuming and sometimes difficult – especially when you have 8 children and all that entails!

And then I heard about WaterWipes. I had to know more! A wipe that is chemical free and made of 99.9% water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract? I had to know more. I had to try these wipes for myself.

I also love any excuse for a Target run as well, so I hopped in the car and headed to my favorite store to pick up some WaterWipes.

When I got to my local Target store, I knew I was heading right for the baby section. I made a few stops along the way, grabbing a few other items I knew I needed – and some that I didn’t really need – and then finally found myself in the aisle with the baby wipes. 😉 The WaterWipes were easy to find. At my store, they were up on the top shelf and easy to spot. I grabbed a couple of 60 count packs, and a few more “necessities,” and then I headed back home.

waterwipes display

I wanted to be sure I used the WaterWipes for several days so that I could truly test them out, especially on Carly’s ultra sensitive skin. I am pleased to tell you that they worked *great!* If I try to use a “normal” baby wipe on Carly, she would scream loud enough for the neighbors to hear. (And we don’t even have neighbors right now!) But, with WaterWipes, it was like wiping her bottom with straight water. The cloths are soft but strong. They clean effectively, and wipe off gunk easily, but without any irritation at all. So wonderful!

They are fantastic for Sawyer’s sensitive skin as well. Even though his isn’t quite as bad as Carly’s, it’s still quite sensitive. Not to mention all the urologists visits and issues we’ve had with him that have required chemical free wipes. The WaterWipes are perfect for on-the-go and at home diaper changes for Sawyer. (And he doesn’t wince when I come at his runny nose with a WaterWipe either!)

waterwipes

There are a few things that you need to know about WaterWipes:

  • Because WaterWipes are chemical free, there are no preservatives. One package will still be good for up to 15 months before it is opened. Once you’ve opened the package, WaterWipes recommends you use that package within 1 month.
  • WaterWipes are not interfolded like other wipe brands. This keeps the inside of the package a sterile environment. Because of that very reason, WaterWipes recommends you do not move the wipes into any other type of container.

If you have a new baby, a little one with sensitive skin, or if your little one has trouble with diaper rashes, I would highly recommend you try out WaterWipes. I have been so happy with our results after using them, and I will continue to keep a large stash in our home.

Use this link to find a WaterWipes retailer near you now!

Also be sure to connect with WaterWipes in the following ways:

Want a chance to win a $100 Target Gift Card? Now through December 4th, Influence Central is hosting a contest for WaterWipes, and that’s the prize! Enter below by choosing a social media sharing option from the social media amplification tool. It’s so easy!

WaterWipes Target

*I-C will randomly select 1 winner from all program entries and will handle fulfillment of the winning prizes.

Thank you, WaterWipes, for making such a great product. And, thank you, Target, for putting them on your shelves so I can get them any time I need them! I am so thankful to have found these wipes, and I know Carly and Sawyer are too!