#Sponsored: When Calls the Heart Returns for Season 2! #FaithTV #Hearties #Giveaway @WCTH_tv

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Disclosure (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.”

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What will you be doing this Saturday night at 8/7c?

I will be on the couch, tuning into the new season of When Calls the Heart on the Hallmark Channel with my oldest daughter.

This is one premiere that has had me giddy with anticipation.

In order to create this post, I did receive the opportunity to view the Season Premier before it airs thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC.

I can’t give away any details, but OH.MY.GOODNESS. You cannot miss this premier! My daughter has been anxiously awaiting the return of When Calls the Heart, and it has been SO difficult to keep the details from her. But, I must. If for no other reason than I can’t wait to see her reaction as she watches it.

I love When Calls the Heart, because it is good, clean, family friendly, and fun. In my opinion, this is one of the best shows on television, and it’s something I don’t have to worry about my children watching. It’s perfect for the whole family!

In case you don’t know what When Calls the Heart is about, here’s a brief summary of the series:

The series is inspired by Janette Oke’s bestselling book series about the Canadian West. “When Calls the Heart” tells the captivating story of Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow), a young teacher accustomed to her high society life, who receives her first classroom assignment in Coal Valley, a small coalmining town where life is simple, but often fraught with challenges. Lori Loughlin plays Abigail Stanton, a wife and mother whose husband, the foreman of the mine, along with a dozen other miners, has just been killed in an explosion. The newly widowed women find their faith is tested when they must go to work in the mines to keep a roof over their heads. Elizabeth charms most everyone in Coal Valley, except Constable Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) who believes Thatcher’s wealthy father has doomed the lawman’s career by insisting he be assigned in town to protect the shipping magnate’s daughter. Living in a turn of the century coal town, Elizabeth will have to learn the ways of the frontier if she wishes to thrive in the rural west on her own.

Remember, the new season starts this Saturday, April 25th at 8/7c.

To get you excited about this week’s premier, World Films has offered up a set of When Calls The Heart Season 1 on DVD ($60 value!!).

Win a copy of Season one of When Calls the Heart!

To enter, use the Rafflecopter gadget below:

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Contest ends May 1st.

I also want to encourage you to get social with other #Hearties in the following way:

Guest Post: Family Attractions on a San Francisco Vacation

family vacation in san francisco

San Francisco’s popularity as a tourist destination has never diminished, and in fact more people than ever are choosing to visit this Californian city. The sheer number of attractions and scenic highlights makes SF a firm family favorite for either a weekend city-break or a longer vacation.

Nearly 17 million people arrive in the ‘City by the Bay’ each year and if your family are first time visitors then there are more than a few not to be missed highlights.

Fun at the bay
You could spend an entire day on bustling Pier 39 and still not see all of the attractions of this highly recommended family-friendly location. Children will be enthralled by the sea lion shows and street performers or they might just want to try out the bungee trampolines before taking a ride on the vintage carousel. The famous Aquarium by the Bay is also located right by the water’s edge and this venue is home to 20,000 sea creatures that can be viewed via underwater clear tunnels. You don’t need to leave pier if you fancy a bite to eat as there are plenty of restaurants and cafes where you can dine while admiring the bay views.

A children’s favorite
There’s no better way to explore this city’s neighborhoods than by taking a Duck Tour San Francisco in a remarkable boat on wheels. These specially designed vehicles allow visitors to travel the city streets before splashing into the bay waters to view the skyline and the Bay Bridge. You’ll pass many iconic landmarks along the way including Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach and Chinatown. Kids will love this tour as they’re actually given the opportunity to drive the duck boat once in the water.

Not to be missed
If you’re looking for more sightseeing attractions then the SF Zoo is well worth a visit, and this 100 acre park is home to over 1,000 rescued and endangered animals. The Golden Gate Park is another family favorite, which stretches over 1,000 acres and contains two museums, botanical gardens, a kid’s playground and carousel as well as a relaxing Japanese Tea Garden. This park is worth a day out alone, and many families come here for picnics in the sun and to spend some time boating on the lake. Of course the bay itself is the place to take boat trips to visit Alcatraz, sail underneath the iconic bridge and take in a whale-watching trip to the Farallon Islands.

This is definitely a city of fun attractions and some unforgettable sightseeing, and you’ll never be short of things to do in San Fran. Buy a ticket, hop on a cable-car and start exploring this unique destination.

Image by kaddisudhi used under the Creative Commons license

#Sponsored: #DrinkDripDrop & Keeping My Family Hydrated @DripDrop @SheSpeaks #Review

sampleDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post for DripDrop and SheSpeaks. I received samples in order to facilitate my review. Opinions expressed are 100% my own.

dripdrop keeps us hydrated

Keeping my family hydrated during cold and flu season is of the utmost importance to me. There are so many options out there. How do you know which one is right for you and your family? I want the best. I want what is going to get my kids hydrated again and back to playing in no time.

For this review, SheSpeaks and DripDrop sent me samples of DripDrop Hydration Powder along with a fantastic water bottle. They couldn’t have timed it better.

As you can see in the photo above, we recently had a real need for DripDrop Hydration Powder. My son Parker ended up with a severe toothache. It was so bad, I couldn’t get him to eat or drink anything. He laid around all day and just cried. (Of course it was a Saturday, and there were no dental offices open.) I was so worried about him getting dehydrated. He quickly became weak from not eating or drinking, and I had to do something.

The only option I had was to offer him a bottle of water with the DripDrop Hydration Powder. I had to get it to room temperature because his tooth was so sensitive, but once I did, it was a hit! He tried both the lemon and the berry flavors, and he couldn’t pick a favorite. He loved them both. (Honestly, I think he loved the fact that he was the only one that got to drink the “special” juice.) :) (Please note: I did put in a call to the doctor’s after hour line and made sure his pediatrician was alright with me giving him the DripDrop powder. She agreed that I had to get something in him and thought the DripDrop powder was a great way to go.)

What impresses me most about DripDrop is that it’s the first hydration solution developed by a Mayo Clinic trained physician to save lives. It delivers 2 – 3 times the electrolytes of sports drinks and 25% more than the pediatric drink options. It is patented and clinically proven to hydrate better than the other available options.

I also love that there are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

DripDrop is a product I can feel good about giving my entire family. The next time we have the flu cycle through our household, I can be prepared and have DripDrop on hand. (And with 10 people in our house, you can only imagine what a nightmare the flu is for all of us. It is usually a month long battle with everyone just passing it back and forth.)

I am so thankful for products like DripDrop that are made to help me keep my family safe and healthy when the worst strikes.

Let me encourage you to learn more about DripDrop in the following ways:

Also, please check out the following links for more really great info:

You can read about more moms’ experiences with DripDrop by searching the hashtag #DrinkDripDrop on your favorite social media channels.

Ready to stock up on DripDrop and keep your family hydrated when colds or the flu strike? Head to your local DVS, Walgreens, or HEB store and grab some right now!

Guest Post: Thinking Beyond the Sleepless Nights with Window Treatments

Any prospective parent out there will have undoubtedly stumbled on the “must have” checklists ahead of their new arrival. Most of the time, somewhere on this list (below the cot and other essentials) will be a blackout blind.

The blackout blind is said to be one of the absolutely necessary fittings for any new-born baby. It’s the blind which blocks out all sources of natural light and ultimately, provides baby, mom and dad with that elusive sleep. It might not (in fact, it WON’T) be a full night’s sleep – but some suggest that the blackout blind can provide several hours’ extra sleep every night just because of its basic properties.

blackout blind

Bearing the above in mind, it’s easy to become embroiled in this fitting and forget about all of your other requirements. Yes, a blackout blind will give you those extra hours initially, but you must remember about all of your other eventual requirements as your little one gets older.

For example, let’s take a look at safety. In the midst of all of the negative publicity surrounding blinds and their safety, a lot of people have turned towards cordless options. Fortunately, these can be purchased in a blackout solution – meaning that you can get a best of both worlds approach. However, with a lot of prospective parents having so little time and probably money considering all of the other necessary purchases, it can be easy to simply opt for the cheapest blackout on the market. Try and avoid this, by looking to the future and finding that cordless blackout shade which isn’t going to pose a safety threat to your little one as they begin exploring.

There are other considerations as well though. This next one also focuses on when your little one becomes something of an explorer, and substances seem to stick to their fingers and anything else that gets in their way. Unfortunately, blinds and curtains are usually on the receiving end of such mess – leaving you with a room that looks artistic for all of the wrong reasons.

It’s in these cases where you need to be looking towards the actual material of the blind. While it might be a little more difficult to find one that’s cordless, blackout and maintenance-free, some companies do offer such products. You’ll need to find a blind that can easily be wiped, to get rid of all of those sticky substances and leave your child’s room looking completely accident-free.

Unfortunately, it’s also easy to forget about a different type of factor – the character. While safety and practicality is always going to be of parallel importance, don’t forget that blinds and shades now come in all sort of colors and designs. Even as a new-born, your little one will require stimulation and this is exactly what a good children’s room blind can provide. If you can combine this with all of the practical factors we’ve mulled over, you’ve just found the perfect fitting for your nursery for years to come.

#FreePrintable: If You Think My Hands are Full…

As a mom of many, I hear the phrase, “Wow! You’ve got your hands full!” ALL.THE.TIME. So, when I heard the phrase, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart,” I immediately fell in love. It’s my go-to answer whenever I’m out.

I wanted to find something that had the phrase on it, but everywhere I looked, it just wasn’t what I wanted.

So, I decided to design something myself. :)

Because I love my readers so much, I decided to share it with you as well. Click on the image below to save the full resolution file to your computer. (Do not right click and save to print. I can’t guarantee the quality will be enough to print well.)

full hands full heart

I originally made my design in an 11″x14″ print because I already had the perfect frame for it. The one I’m sharing here is sized to an 8″x10″. Don’t try to print it in another size, because it won’t crop right. I recommend either printing it out yourself on a good photo printer or sending the image off to a photo printing service.

Here’s how my entryway looks with my new print all framed and on display:
entryway

I hope you love this print as much as I do!

February 13th is “#ValentinesForDogs” Day. Celebrate with @Milkbone

sampleDisclaimer: This post is brought to you by Milkbone. I received samples of their products in return for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

zander and scout

My readers may or may not know that we recently adopted a new four-legged friend from our local animal shelter. Scout has quickly become one of the family, and we can’t imagine not having him here. He is so good with all of the kids, and he is always so well behaved.

A good dog like that deserves a special reward! So, I’m excited that Milkbone wants to give dogs their own Valentine’s Day, and they have declared February 13th “Valentine’s for Dogs” Day! It’s a special day where we can show our four legged favorites how much we love them.

The good folks at Milk-Bone, Pup-Peroni, Milo’s Kitchen, and Canine Carry Outs have made it easy for you this year with a doggie Valentine’s Day card. Get yours today. Just click here: [https://www.bigheartpetvalentines.com/]

I also want you to take a moment and check out this infographic. It’s  special Valentine’s Day survey of U.S. Dog Parents:

doggylove_infographic_15_national_640

So, tell me. How will YOU show your dog you love him/her this February 13th? For us, it’s easy. The kids are off school on Friday, so there will be someone here to show him extra love and attention all day long. If the weather’s nice, we’re also hoping to take a family hike and bring Scout along. He *loves* to be outside, so this will be perfect for him!

We’ll be celebrating our furry friend Scout this Valentine’s for Dogs Day with extra love and special treats courtesy of Milk-Bone, Pup-Peroni, Milo’s Kitchen, and Canine Carry Outs. And I’ll be sure to tag all of our pictures of the fun we have with #ValentinesforDogs. I hope you’ll head on over to [https://www.bigheartpetvalentines.com/], print out your cards, then tag YOUR pictures of fun with #ValentinesforDogs as well! Can’t wait to see what fun, creative ideas you come up with!

Highest Grossing Religious Movies of All Time

religious movies

The second film adaptation of the best-selling Christian book series “Left Behind” arrived on DVD in late 2014, followed by the DVD release of the religious film “When the Game Stands Tall.” While the second film only briefly played in theaters before going to DVD, “Left Behind” and other religious films spent more time in theaters. Some of those films delivered big results at the box office and made Hollywood think twice about religious films. Though not all of the religious films over the years grossed a lot at the box office, some made twice as much as the films took to produce.

“The Passion of the Christ”

Long before Mel Gibson gained a reputation as a difficult actor, he made headlines as the director of “The Passion of the Christ.” The film, which told the story of Jesus Christ’s last days on earth, became popular with a large number of groups. Churches across the country even rented buses and planned trips to see the film in theaters. Gibson referred to the movie as his passion, and while some had their doubts, the movie grossed more than $370 million.

“The Chronicles of Narnia”

Some of those who saw “The Chronicles of Narnia” in theaters had any idea that the film dealt strongly with Christian and religious themes. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” grossed more than $291 million in theaters and paved the way for the studio to make two sequels based on the same book series. Those two films grossed an additional $200 million at the box office, and some reports indicate that the studio may produce the remaining books in that series.

“Heaven is for Real”

Based on the best-selling book of the same name, “Heaven is for Real” tells the story of a little boy and his relationship with his father. Ed Young Jr and others in the industry might find the film appealing. The young boy suffered a life threatening medical condition that landed him in the hospital. After recovering, he told his parents of what he saw on the other side and passed along messages from family members who died before his birth. His dad later wrote a book about his son’s experiences and how his family felt. The adaptation of that book grossed more than $90 million.

“God’s Not Dead”

“God’s Night Dead” is a complex film that tackles themes of faith and spirituality. Released in 2004, the film became one of the highest grossing religious films of all time. It tells the story of a religious college student and an antagonistic college professor. The professor demands that his students state that God doesn’t exist, and when the student refuses, the professor gives him several chances to prove that God is real. Though the film only played in select theaters across the country, it grossed more than $60 million and made a significant amount in DVD sales later.

The ten highest grossing religious films made more than $1 billion at the box office and sold millions of copies on DVD. Those films let Hollywood know that film goers enjoy seeing stories based on classic bible tales and that church goers would pay to see those films. With several of those films coming out in 2014, this might indicate that Hollywood will tell more religious stories in the future.

#MC #Sponsored: What’s Your #RedKettleReason for Giving this Year?

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Disclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for The Salvation Army. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

red kettle reason

The holidays are here, and you have probably already noticed that the Red Kettles are back out. Those special kettles belong to The Salvation Army, and they go to help those in your community that need it most.

The Salvation Army is a faith-based ministry that has been in America for over 130 years. They are set up to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. In fact, last year, The Salvation Army’s 3,600 officers, 59,000 employees, and 3.4 million volunteers served almost 30 million Americans in need. If you add that up, it comes to about one person, every second, every day. That’s amazing!

And their money really goes where it says. The Better Business Bureau set a guideline of 65% of every dollar spent going toward support, yet The Salvation Army blows that out of the water. They spend nearly 82 cents of every dollar donated to support community service programs.

The best part? All donations remain in the community where they originate. So, if you give in your community, it goes to help someone in your community. I love that!

This year, to celebrate the 124th National Red Kettle campaign, The Salvation Army is encouraging you to share YOUR reasons for giving by using the hashtag #RedKettleReason. When you post using that hashtag, you can view other posts focused on giving. You can also check out RedKettleReason.org to learn why the rest of America is giving.

Now, I want to share our #RedKettleReason with you.

As a mom of 8, there have been times when my family has needed help. Somehow, this help has always been provided, though most of the time, we never even know who our “helpers” are. An anonymous card will show up in the mail with just enough money to pull us though the week. Bags of groceries mysteriously appear on our doorstep, just when we need them most.

Because of how much others have helped us out, it is so important to me to teach my children how to give back. So, every year in December, when my husband gets his bonus, we sit down as a family and decide how we want to give back. We budget some of his bonus to go toward helping others in need. It gets the kids excited about the thought of giving to others, and allows them the chance to help someone else just like they have been helped.

My kids don’t have the best of everything. They don’t get new ipads, fancy clothes, or the most expensive gadgets available. But they are loved, and they have all of their needs supplied. By giving back to organizations like The Salvation Army, I’m trying to instill a spirit of giving in each of my kids. That way, they’ll grow up thinking of others during the holiday season instead of the “gimme, gimme, gimme” attitude that seems to run rampant. And you can bet, every time we pass a Red Kettle this holiday season, our spare change (and then some) will be given to help someone in need.

I want to encourage you to share your own #RedKettleReason and consider donating to The Salvation Army. You’ll spread a little holiday cheer, and you will make the difference in the life of someone who needs it.

Please connect with The Salvation Army in the following ways:

Please share your #RedKettleReason and let us know why you’re giving this year!

christmas tree

How to Help Others with Your Old Furniture

If you are thinking about upgrading your interior design scheme and you want to get rid of any of  your old furniture, you should think twice before simply throwing it away, especially if you really do not want to see it go to waste and it is still in decent shape. Even an old and worn piece of furniture can be revived again with the right DIY approach and expert touch, and this can all be done at a very affordable rate too, so there is no need to think that an otherwise old or unattractive sofa, bed, desk, etc. should not be salvaged.

So, are you ready to learn how you can keep your furniture out of the trash and out of the landfills and help others in need at the same time? Continue reading for a few ways to do just that.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill

There are many ways to help others save money, and one way is to donate your furniture to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Both of these charitable organizations will be happy to pick up the furniture from your home, so you really do not even need to lift a finger to be a good person and help the less fortunate acquire beautiful furniture.

Find Local Centers Seeking Furniture Donations

Look around town, as you may be surprised by the many organizations that work to help others every day and would be happy to take your old furniture off your hands if you are planning on getting rid of it. Consider places like senior centers, homeless shelters, synagogues and local churches, and even theater companies that may be in search of great props for their productions, especially since they may appreciate the history of Chesterfield sofas and vintage pieces of furniture that have loads of character.

Contact the National Furniture Bank Association

The National Furniture Bank Association will route your old furniture to the Partnership for the Homeless, as well as other non-profit organizations that are available to help people when they are trying to set up their own households.

Give to Your Friends and Family in Need

Sometimes you know people in your personal life who are in need of new furniture. If you know anyone who is hoping to get their hands on furniture from places like The Original Sofa Co but they do not have the money or they are struggling in any way, consider giving them your used furniture at no cost. This will greatly help them while also giving you the chance to free up some space in your home and go shopping for new pieces that you will love to use and look at for years to come.

Rather than throwing out your old furniture, give it away to someone in need, whether it is to someone you know personally or to a charitable organisation that helps people who are struggling every day. Your conscience will feel great and you will be able to snag great deals on new furniture to beautify your home.

#Sponsored: #SeeMuchMore – Keeping Your Family Healthy with a VSP Vision Care Plan #Giveaway

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Disclaimer: I will receive a pair of sunglesses in return for my post. Opinions expressed are 100% my own. Information provided by VSP.

VSP logoEye exams are important for everyone in your family – from babies to adults, and everyone in between.

Did you know that annual eye exams are important to your overall health? They allow eye doctors to detect early signs of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, among others.

The kids have been back to school for awhile now, but we can’t forget that getting them an annual comprehensive eye exam can help them learn and experience life to the fullest. Have you made their yearly eye exam yet?

It is important that parents should take their children to the eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam starting as young as six months old, then again at three years old, before kindergarten and every year after that. Because 80 percent of what we learn is through our eyes, an eye exam is essential for your back-to-school “to do” list.

In-school screenings do not provide the same level of detection as comprehensive eye exams. Even the screening the doctors office does at their yearly well care visit isn’t enough to get your child through another year.

Do you know the common signs of vision problems? The can include squinting, head tilting, avoiding “close work,” trouble focusing, continuous rubbing of eyes and headaches.

1 in 4 children has an undetected vision condition that can negatively impact learning. Don’t let your child become another statistic!

But, eye exams, glasses, and contacts can be expensive.

That’s why I want to share with you the benefits of enrolling in vision insurance. With VSP Vision Care, you can:

  • Keep your eyes healthy with highly credentialed doctors who provide the most thorough exams
  • Save money – the average VSP member saves approximately $320 each year with vision insurance!
  • Get access to great eyewear – more than two dozen brands and hundreds of styles to choose from!
  • Enable your family to experience life to the fullest

Please take a moment and check out the following resources:

Our eyes should be one of our top priorities. Please take a few moments to educate yourself on the facts, and learn more about enrolling in a vision insurance program today.

Want to win a pair of Designer Sunglasses worth over $100? Enter using the Rafflecopter gadget below.

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#MC #Sponsored: Start Your Journey to Healing at CaringBridge

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Disclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for CaringBridge. I received product a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

caringbridge

Sometimes, you just want a place where you can connect with family and friends online, safely and privately. No matter what your reason, CaringBridge is here to help. This unique nonprofit was launched so that people could start their own free website to receive support when they need it most. A website through CaringBridge allows users to share important information with family and friends quickly and easily. Those with access to your personal site can then offer love and encouragement and help you focus on healing.

If you or someone you love could benefit from starting a CaringBridge website, please visit CaringBridge.org to learn more and get started today.

Have you used CaringBridge? What is your experience? Tell us in the comments below!

 

Prayers Appreciated!

ourchildren

Early tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading into our local hospital to be induced. Soon, our family will be complete and baby #8 will be welcomed with open arms.

If you can spare a prayer for a quick, easy delivery with no complications, I would sincerely appreciate it.

Things may be quiet for a few days around here while I adjust to becoming a mom of 8 and snuggle my sweet little newborn as much as humanly possible the first few days.

Thanks for being loyal readers of the blog. I promise to be back soon and things will be better than ever!

Guest Post: The Top 10 Safest Countries for Your Next Family Vacation

family vacation

Planning a family vacation can be challenging; you want to find a place to holiday that works with your budget and your vision of the ideal family vacation, but also offers a sanctuary for you and yours. So, where should you travel without having to worry about the safety and you and your family? Below are the top ten safest countries in the world suitable for your next family getaway:

Denmark
Denmark, and the rest of Scandinavia, has enjoyed a long reputation as some of the safest (and most beautiful) places to visit. Though Denmark can be a bit expensive, they also have some amazing free music and food festivals complete with kid-pleasing fireworks displays. As a top contender on Lonely Planet’s list of Best Family Destinations for 2014, Denmark has some great theme parks with fun rides, and Copenhagen is where you can find Hotel Legoland.

Statistically speaking, Denmark is one of the safest countries in the world to live as well:

  • Open Travel states the homicide rate as 0.88 per 100,000 people
  • Low crime rate
  • Low risk of natural disasters

The people of Denmark are remarkably hospitable and kind, so travelling to this naturally beautiful country with your family is a must.

 

Italy
With the Italian way of life centred onthe idea of family, it’s no surprise that Italy comes in second as one of the safest places to visit with your family. The people of this country are described as incredibly welcoming and you will never feel anything but secure in the bustling cities, world-famous restaurants, and kid-friendly beaches.

Lonely Planet lists the following as Italian features that your kids, and you, will be sure to enjoy:

  • Ice cream and gelato
  • Pizza
  • Pasta

Ciao Bambino raves about the pools and play areas in Italian hotels, and you can even sign your family up for cooking lessons.

 

Iceland
This country features a little bit of everything for every taste, and may be about the closest thing you can get to a true winter wonderland (if you decide to travel during the winter season). The worst thing to hear your children say whilst on vacation is the dreaded “I’m bored”, though they won’t have a chance to in Iceland.

Lonely Planet recommends the following family-friendly activities:

  • Horse riding
  • Elf Hunting
  • White-water rafting

This can all be done affordably, with a great exchange rate and travel prices.

 

Canada
Touted as one of the most polite countries in the world, Canadians are welcoming and hospitable, and the hotels and activities are much like what you would find in the United States, though typically more affordable. Safety is a top priority in Canada, with a relatively low crime rate and minimal risk for any natural disaster.

Visiting the various national parks is sure to delight your family, as well as:

  • Niagara Falls
  • The Maritimes
  • Banff National Park

 

Brazil
Brazil is a fantastic place to explore and get caught up in the lasting excitement surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Brazil also has some great sightseeing spots:

  • Iguazu Falls
  • Christ the Redeemer
  • The Amazon Rainforest

And many beaches, colonial towns, and other amazing sights for a memorable holiday.

 

Japan
Japan, though revered as one of the cleanest and most polite countries in the world, ranks lower on our list due to the hazardous recent events that have happened, including the devastating tsunami and earthquake and the nuclear power plant meltdown.

However, the bustling cities and incredible train journeys throughout are a luxury for those wanting to see much in little time. Don’t expect it to be incredibly expensive either; because of the dependency on tourism, travel deals are easy to come by.

 

New Zealand
Another country boasting extreme natural beauty, New Zealand is a great place for families to holiday in. The British Government advises that “weather conditions can quickly become treacherous, especially in winter”, so you may want to plan your vacation for a more weather-friendly time of year.

Though rare, earthquakes have been known to cause significant damage in some cities in New Zealand, including the 6.3 earthquake that hit Christchurch in 2011.

 

Belize
As one of the most affordable Caribbean destinations, Belize is a popular place for families to relax on the beach, snorkel, scuba dive, or just enjoy the island culture.

Go beyond just the beach when you visit the spectacular Mayan ruins and cenotes in the interior of the island. Yachting is a lifestyle in Belize; sailing the waters can easily be researched and booked through sites likeonboardonline.com. You could even have a working holiday onboard!

 

Singapore
Asian charm extends into a welcoming, clean, and safe atmosphere in Singapore, where families are welcomed and treated as locals. Open Travel ranks Singapore as the top safest destination in the world, stating that crime and theft are a rarity and a low homicide rate.

There are many activities and sights to partake in when visiting Singapore, and the culture alone is fascinating and never dull.

 

Malaysia
After undergoing a major revitalisation, Malaysia is now focused on providing the very best for its tourists. Children will love Legoland Malaysia and the new Hello Kitty Town, while you and your spouse can relax in the famed Asian gardens or sightseeing tour.

Getting to Malaysia can be an issue as your connecting flights may cross some danger zones, and the region is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

 

About the Author: Andy Woodbridge is passionate about writing and has often written for a number of industry websites and both online and offline journals.

#MC #Sponsored: BGCA Keeps Kids #CyberSafe with the #CyberTribe

sponsoredDisclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for BGCA. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.

I will admit, I am a little more than protective when it comes to my kids and the internet. There is so much BAD out there, that I want to protect their innocent eyes for as long as I can.

Now, I am not dumb. I know that with technology today, it is easier than ever for kids to access the internet, and get involved in all sorts of situations that could potentially be scary.

Even when I was a teenager, the internet wasn’t the best place to “hang out.” Back then, it was chat rooms. I will never forget when I was 16, and I met a guy in a chat room. My boyfriend had just broken up with me, and I was young and vulnerable. This guy knew all the right things to say to make me feel better, and I fell for it – hook, line, and sinker. I ended up making plans to meet this guy, all without my parents’ knowledge. I told my parents I was meeting a friend that night, and instead, I met this stranger from online. When I got to the park where I was to meet him, there was a man there – probably in his early 30s. Definitely NOT the guy I had seen pictures of online, and not who I was intending to meet. As I drew closer to him, I noticed he had printed out my picture and was holding it in his hands. So, he was the guy I had been talking to all along. Not the 16 year old boy I thought it was.

Everything inside me was telling me to run, and so I did. Straight to my car, and I drove to my friend’s house, because I didn’t know where else to go or what else to do. I couldn’t go home and confess to my parents what I had just done. I knew it was stupid. I knew my life could have been in danger that night. And, looking back now, as a mom myself, I want to bang my head against a wall. That was probably one of the stupidest things I have ever done in my life. Thank God I was smart enough to get out of there. I don’t even want to think about what could have happened.

I wish that back then, we had had something like the BGCA CyberTribe. A safe place for kids to go to ask teens questions about online safety and bullying and get real answers. It’s also a fantastic resource for parents! In fact, I encourage you as a parent to take the “Are You a CyberSmart Parent?” quiz and see how your answers stack up. I ended up being a Cyber Survivor, and proving that I am doing my best to keep my kids safe while they are online.

I also encourage you to ask the CyberTribe any questions you may have about online safety and/or cyber bullying.

You can find the quizzes and ask your questions on the Boys & Girls Club of America’s Cyber Safe Website. All in all, it’s a great site that *every* parent needs to explore. Our kids are worth it!

Here are the two questions I asked the CyberTribe:

1. With easy access to cell phones, laptops, tablets, kids can access things they shouldn’t at any time – day or night. How can I protect my kids from seeing something they shouldn’t see if they click on an ad while playing a free version game on my cell phone?

2. I often feel like the “bad guy” because I won’t let my kids have a social media account until they’re old enough. I constantly hear, “But ALL my friends have one.” What can I say to convince my kids that it’s better for them to wait until they’re ready for an account instead of just giving in and letting them have an account?

I’m excited to see how the CyberTribe responds. I want to do right by my kids. I want to keep them safe while they are online, and I want them to always think before they post anything. This is something we will continue to talk about at length, especially given the number of kids I have!

Also, remember, that through today, June 30th, you also have the chance to win an ipad mini AND $500 to the Boys & Girls Club of your choice. But, hurry! Your chance goes away at midnight tonight! So, get your questions in!

How about you? How important is online safety to you? Have you ever had an experience where you or your child should have taken better precautions online? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

Have a Super Dad? Make Him a Super Gift!

Super Dad Gift

I wanted to do something special for hubby this year. Something unique and fun that plays on his personality. As the dad of 4 boys, (with another one on the way!), Superheroes have a big part of our lives.

I had seen the quote on a Father’s Day card, and thought it was perfect. The Super Man shirt was way too big for anyone in this house, so I cut out the logo and attached it to a very thin piece of wood. I painted the frame black, (it’s an 11″x14″ frame), and used a red paint marker to add the quote “Our HERO doesn’t need a cape… we call him DADDY.”

The gift was a HUGE hit. Hubby loved it, and now he just wants to finish the basement so we can have a Superhero themed living room down there. :) For now, though, it will just have to hang in our living room with everything else.

This is a super easy craft and doesn’t take long at all to make! (And it’s cheap if you use a t-shirt you have on hand!)

What other quotes do you think would work well on this frame?

Grandparents House Rules Free Printable

I’ve mentioned on the blog before how much we love “PapPaw” around here, and how important he is to us. Last year for Father’s Day, we made him a special Father’s Day Present (and Birthday Present). It went over quite well, and I knew I was going to have a hard time finding someway to top it this year.

So, I enlisted the help of my eldest daughter, and together we started browsing Pinterest. We came across this pin, and we both fell in love. I couldn’t find a place to purchase the already made plaque, so I decided to make my own using materials I had on hand. (Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post, because I’ve got free printables for YOU to enjoy!)

Grandparents House Rules Free Printable

Here are the materials I used to create the special gift above:

  • 12×16 frame
  • 12×16 mat with 10×13 opening (Or a 12×16 piece of cardboard, painted black)
  • 11×14 thin blank canvas
  • 11×14 printable (printed on two 8.5×11 pieces of copy paper)
  • antique Mod Podge
  • Red paint
  • Black paint
  • Black & White Polka Dot grosgrain ribbon

Now, it sounds like a lot, but in this house, it’s what I had on hand, and I had to make it work. When I first started to paint the frame, I was certain it was an 11×14 frame, and I could just put the canvas print into the frame. Imagine the shock (and horror!) when I discovered the frame was actually a 12×16 and the canvas fell right through the opening! GASP! But, I quickly solved the problem and proved just how crafty my mind is. 😉 And, honestly? I love the way it turned out more than I would have if I had just put it in a frame. The ribbon and mat gives it an extra special touch.

To make the print, I simply printed the 11×14 printable onto 2 sheets of 8.5″x11″ copy paper. Then, I taped the two pieces of paper together (on the back of the papers). I applied a coat of Antique Mod Podge to the blank 11×14 canvas then applied the papers to that, trying to smooth out all the wrinkles. (Obviously I have not perfected keeping the wrinkles out, as you can tell toward the bottom of the canvas. If you know the secret, would you PLEASE let me in on it?) Once I got the papers perfectly lined up on the canvas, I applied a thick coat of Antique Mod Podge on top of the papers and let dry.

It was then that I discovered the frame was not an 11″x14″ like I had originally thought. So, I took the mat that had originally been inside the frame and painted it black. The only problem was, the opening was only 10″x13″, and my printable was an 11″x14″, so it cut off too much of the quote. So, I had to get creative. I decided to use hot glue and glue the 11″x14″ canvas to the outside of the mat. (You could also just use the right size piece of cardboard and paint it black if you don’t have a mat.) Once I got the canvas stuck to the mat, I hot glued black and white polka dot grosgrain ribbon along each of the edges for a special touch.

I absolutely love the way it turned out, and PapPaw did too.

Now, here are your free printables in a variety of sizes. Click on the picture to be taken to that size printable and save to your computer. Enjoy!

8″x10″ printable:
Grandparents house rules free printable

8.5″ x 11″ printable:
Grandparents house rules free printable

11″x14″ printable:
Grandparents house rules free printable

If you use one of these printables, I’d love to know how! Be sure to comment below, and if you have pictures of your finished project, leave us a link to them.

#Sponsored: Check out the New Superman Website Just in Time for Father’s Day

sampleDisclaimer: I received samples from SupermanHallofHeroes.com in order to facilitate my review.

Superman Hall of Heroes

Living in a house with a husband and 4 boys, (with another boy on the way!), you can only imagine how much we *love* superheroes.One of our favorite heroes? Why, it’s Superman, of course!

I actually grew up with a Daddy that was a little more than obsessed with Superman. I grew up watching all the Christopher Reeve movies, and I could tell you anything about Superman that you could possibly ever want to know.

So, when my boys were born, there was no debate: our boys would be versed in all things Superheroes. (And if you could see all of their shirts in the picture above, you would notice that each one of them has a shirt with a different superhero on it. :) Superheroes are just part of our daily lives.

And that’s just one of the reasons why I am SO excited about SupermanHallofHeroes.com. This fantastic website is inspired by Superman and the character attributes that define the world’s first and most recognized Superhero – unwavering morals and an endless pursuit of truth and justice – and the website offers a fun and inpirational way for fans to pay tribute to REAL, everyday heroes by submitting their photo and story online.

Do you have a hero in your life? Someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty, or someone who has touched your life in a special way? Induct them into the Superman Hall of Heroes today! There are multiple gift-giving options and levels, and each one contains special Superman-themed items similar to those pictured above. These are high quality items, and they are certain to bring a smile to the face of your favorite hero.

Through Father’s Day, a portion of the proceeds from the sales of Superman Hall of Heroes packages will go to the The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. I love that!

Also, right now, if you have a hero that you want to nominate, but you just don’t have the funds to do it, use the code MYHERO at checkout and you will receive a free Level One induction of your hero.

So, what are you waiting for? You have NO excuses. Head on over to SupermanHallofHeroes.com  and nominate your hero today.

Superman Hall of Heroes

Cute Gender Reveal Photo Idea

This weekend, my daughter had quite a surprise up her sleeve for me.

I had gone out to coffee with one of the girls from our youth. (Who also happens to be my niece.) After coffee, I was also treated to the new Fro-Yo place in town. While we were out, my phone rang. It was my oldest daughter who had been spending the night with her cousins.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Ashley: “Mom? I’m at the church fellowship hall helping Aunt Sabrina with VBS stuff, but I really don’t feel well. Can you come get me? I just want to go home.”

Me (panic stricken, because Ash *never* gets sick) : “I’ll come right now. Do you need anything? Ginger ale? A bucket?”

Ashley: “No, just take me home so I can lie down.”

Me: “I’m on my way.”

I sped all the way to our church. When I got there, the parking lot was empty, and Ash came out to meet me. “Mom,” she said, “Sabrina needs to ask you a question. She’s right inside.”

I told Ash I’d be right back and walked into the fellowship hall.

I about died right then and there when I heard “SURPRISE!” from quite a few of my favorite people. The entire fellowship hall was decorated in pink and blue, (with elephants everywhere!), and so many of my friends and loved ones were in attendance.

Apparently, Ashley had told everyone that she knew 20 weeks was really early in a pregnancy to have a shower, but I had been under so much stress with Gage that she wanted to do something to bring a smile to my face and help me forget about everything – even if it was just for a little while. That, and she KNEW I would never make it to the birth without knowing if the baby is a boy or a girl. :) And she also knew it was driving me batty to have to drive to Atlanta with Gage so much, (where there are actual STORES!), and not be able to buy something for the baby to be.

What a sweet, sweet girl I have.

Before I get to the gender reveal part, I do want to show you a couple of my favorite pictures from the shower.

First, the adorable cake:

gender reveal cake

Isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen?! My sweet friend Jodi did the most amazing job. And because Ashley didn’t want to reveal the gender with the cake, (because apparently *everybody* does that), the cake was chocolate – which  made it taste as amazing as it looked!

Next, we have the sign in “sheet” – a framed picture of the ultrasound photos where attendees were asked to choose Team Pink or Team Blue and sign in with the appropriate color marker. This is something I will treasure forever, and I smile every time I look at it:

Gender reveal sign in

I also need to explain this one. You see, quite some time ago, I had mentioned to Ashley that a friend of mine had said she wanted to “Surround her baby with Scripture” at the birth and afterward. I thought that was the most wonderful idea, and I said that I was going to steal the idea and do it for our baby as well. Ash beat me to it, though, and several weeks before the shower, she asked friends and family to send over their favorite verses. Then, she made these cute little cards with each of the verses and hung them on the wall at the shower. I am so excited that I already have all these verses and can start reading them out loud to Baby before he/she is even born!

Surround baby with Scripture

I am pleased to tell you the party went off without a hitch, and she revealed the gender by having me pop a black balloon…. full of BLUE glitter. :) Yep, I was actually right this time! IT’S A BOY!!

Because I have so many friends and loved ones that weren’t able to attend the shower, I wanted to announce the gender on Facebook in a cute way.

Here’s what we came up with:

It's A Boy!

(See it as my profile picture on Facebook.)

I love the way it turned out, and I loved that I could get hubby involved with the reveal. :)

And, p.s. I am SO glad I know for sure that’s it’s a boy now and I can finally do some shopping. Yaaaay!!

**Edited to add: Shortly after announcing the gender of our baby to be, we decided to change his name. I already had issues with calling each of the kids by each others’ names. Carter and Carly were just waaaaay too close. I’d never get him and her straight. So, we changed his name to Sawyer Michael, even though people in the South don’t say “Sawyer” properly.

What cute ways have YOU revealed the gender to family and friends?

Our Ponce de Leon Lighthouse Adventure #vinezvacay2014

lighthouse

It’s no secret, I love lighthouses. Not just because of their beauty, but because of THE Lighthouse that saved me from my sin. If I had the money to collect anything, it would be lighthouses.

On our recent vacation, we had to drive from North Georgia all the way down to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. We decided to toss the Mapquest directions aside, and we purchased an atlas for our drive down. Because this was the kids’ first real vacation, we wanted to take as many opportunities as we could to show them sights and things they might never otherwise experience.

So, it was no surprise when I saw a lighthouse just a few miles out of the way that I asked hubby if we could stop. Because he’s such a wonderful man, he agreed.

We piled out of the van and headed into the gift shop. It was there that we discovered there was quite a hefty charge for us to enter the lighthouse or do any looking around. I knew we were counting every penny on this trip, so with much disappointment, I told hubby that it was OK. It was enough that we got to see the lighthouse from the outside. We didn’t need to go in.

As we were getting ready to leave, the cashier waved my husband over to her desk. “Let me help you out. I come from a big family and I know what it’s like when money is tight.” She gave us a HUGE discount and soon we were sporting our beautiful paper bracelets and heading out to the lighthouse.

lighthouse

Now, I don’t know what I was expecting taking seven children to the TOP of the tallest lighthouse in Florida, and the second tallest in the United States. I must have lost my mind for a moment when I thought this would be fun.

We stepped inside the lighthouse and looked up.

lighthouse stairs

There were a LOT of stairs. And they just seemed to keep going up and up and up. Panic set in with a few of the kids – mostly my 9 and 10 year old sons. But, I was determined. We were going to do this.

We started making the long climb upward on the very narrow stairs. Every 20 steps or so, there was a landing so that those coming down the stairs could get past us. This made the climb a little easier, except on the two boys that were already scared out of their minds. However, the younger kids were really enjoying themselves and weren’t scared at all.

lighthouse

At one point, we were fairly high up into the lighthouse, and Gene, Zander, Jace, and Lucy had stopped on a landing to wait for me, Ashley, and the younger kids to catch up. Jace was in full freak-out mode at this point, and was clinging to anything he could find to hold onto for dear life. All of a sudden, Lucy stomps on the landing as hard as she could – just to freak Jace out. Boy, did it work. You could hear the roar of her laughter and Jace’s screams all throughout the lighthouse. Oh, what the other visitors must have thought.

We got one landing away from the top, and all of a sudden, *I* started to panic. I grabbed Gene and said, “I can’t do this. I need to get out now. I can’t be here.”

Now, let me tell you, when MOM freaks out, it’s not good. This caused an even worse panic in Zander and Jace. Within seconds, we were all crying and needed to find a way out.

My husband, being the loving man that he is, told me that he had made it this far, and he was going all the way to the top. So, he took Ashley, Lucy, and Parker to the very top of the lighthouse to see the sights. I stayed on the landing with the other kids and enjoyed the view from the window:

lighthouse

The view was just fine from where I was standing, thankyouverymuch. 😉

After hubby came down from the very top, it was time for us to figure out how we were all going to get down. Gene picked up Carly and Gage and started to walk down the steps, and at that moment, I completely lost it. There was NO way I was going to let him carry both of my babies down those stairs at once.

There was quite a bit of debate, (and quite a few giggles from passersby), but it was decided that Ashley and Gene would take the kids down, and Gage and I would wait for Gene to come back up and help us down. I was willing to wait all day if it took all day. I knew Ashley would be fine at the bottom with the other kids, and I knew the boys would just be thankful to be out of the lighthouse.

I watched as Gene walked out of the lighthouse with all the kids, and I started to feel a little less panicked. Gage and I slowly started making the trek down the stairs, and we met Gene about halfway. He helped us get all the way down to the bottom.

Once we got down to the bottom, you should have heard the laughter that came from my entire crew. We were all so relieved to be out of there that we couldn’t help but laugh about it. That was definitely one part of our trip that we will never, ever forget. And I’m sure we will be talking about it for years to come.

lighthouse

What’s your funniest family vacation moment?

Why I Seem to Have Disappeared… Again

As a mom of seven, and a pregnant one at that, one can only begin to imagine the amount of chaos a “normal” day can contain. That being said, since we got home from our vacation, it has been one thing after another, and I have barely had the chance to sit down – let alone breathe.

Our vacation was wonderful, and I have 3 posts sitting in my drafts right now to tell you all about it. We survived a 5 night cruise to Haiti and Jamaica with all seven kids! And it was awesome! I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

However, shortly after we got home, my son Gage had another seizure. (I posted about his first seizure here: My Child Had A Seizure). The second one came on completely out of nowhere. There were absolutely no warning signs this time. It was my husband’s day off, and we had just come home from getting our taxes done. Gage was laughing and playing and running around the house, chasing my husband. All of a sudden, he hit the floor and went into a seizure. My husband stayed right beside him while I called 911, and we took another trip to the ER. Because he had fallen and hit his head, they ran a CT scan. The first scan came back with some abnormalities, and because those abnormalities were right in the area where they had removed the cyst, they did a more dedicated scan of that area. The second scan came back better, but we still need to discuss the results with a neurologist. He was already scheduled to have an EEG done, and that happened on Tuesday of this week. It required a 2 hour drive to TC Thompson Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga, TN. The test was over quickly, and Gage did GREAT. However, thanks to a wreck on the mountain coming home, a detour took us out of our way and caused it to take 4 hours for us to get home. By the time I finally did get home, I was beyond exhausted.

After dinner that evening, my two oldest sons started arguing over dessert. I told them to put the dessert away, get their pajamas on, and get ready for bed. Not two minutes later, one comes running out of the room yelling, “I didn’t do it!” and the other one comes out of the room bleeding from the nose. A trip to the ER and we discovered that my ten year old’s nose was broken in two places. The joy of raising boys! :)

brokennose

We had to meet with an ENT/Plastic Surgeon today, and they will need to put Zander’s nose back into place. Because this will be quite painful, he’ll need to be put under anesthesia. We’ll go back on March 12th to have it taken care of.

So, as you can see, things are quite chaotic around here, and I’m trying to find a moment to catch my breath. I’m doing my best to get things back to normal, but until I know more about what’s going on with Gage, I just can’t commit to anything right now.

Thanks for sticking with me… and if you have any prayers you can spare, I’d certainly appreciate them. I’m longing for things to calm down and life to return to normal chaos without all the doctors and hospitals.

I sure hope things are going well on your end! If you’ve got some good news you’d like to share, I’d LOVE to hear it! Just leave a comment below.