October 23, 2014

Free 2 Week Trial of StyleWriter4

I wrote this promotional post while participating in a campaign through USFamilyGuide for StyleWriter4 and received a free copy of the software in exchange for my honest review.


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8 Things I want my Step-Daughter to Know

Life as a step-mom isn't always easy, especially when the real mom is still very much a part of the child's life.  Even though I'm sure my step-daughter will never read this, I really wanted to write the things that I hope she will one day come to realize.

















































Dear Step-Daughter,

I've been a part of your life since you were three.  That's five years that I have brushed your hair, tucked you in, gave you medicine when you were sick, and chased away your bad dreams.  Five years of me holding your hand across the parking lots, telling you to be careful, and telling you to eat your broccoli.  You may think I'm the Evil Step-Mother, but here are a few truths that I want you to learn as you get older.

I love you.  In my own mind, I stepped into the "mom" role way before I had any children of my own. You have a special place in my heart just like your siblings, and you were here first.  So when I'm getting on to you for doing something careless, when I'm pushing you to get better grades, and when I scold you for getting in trouble at school - it's because I want to see you succeed.  I want for you the same things I want for the little people that I gave birth to: to be safe, to always try your hardest, and to be a good person.

I'm not trying to replace your mom.  She's always going to be a bigger part of your life than I am, and I accept that.  Since I have my own kids, I know how special that mom-child bond is, and I try my hardest not to interfere with that.  Although you may hear me mutter some incomprehensible words under my breath when she drops you off, please know that I'm not trying to make you see her like I do.  That's why all conversations that involve her usually happen after you're in bed.


I don't always agree with your mom's parenting methods.  I never will.  I believe in science, medicine, and structure.  She believes in freedom, homeopathy, and nature.  Yet, it's not my choice on how you are raised.  I do have input, with your father, and will make suggestions.  However, you will never be treated exactly like your brother and sister because I can't legally go against your mother's wishes.

I will go against your mom's wishes, in some cases.  Luckily, your dad views much of parenting as I do.  I took you for your vaccines, I had you tested for ADHD, and I've had meetings with your teachers.  I give you your medication every day to help you reach the potential that we know is there, even though your mom refuses to believe that you have any problems.

I will never give you complete freedom.  Your insistence on wearing mini-skirts or shirts that are too tight is something that I'm sure we will battle about until you are 18.  I don't care what your mom lets you wear (I do, but I can't do anything about it), I want you to realize that some things are not appropriate.  The same goes for wanting to wear stilettos to school.  Kid, you're 8.  I didn't start fighting my mom about things like that until I was well into my teens, and she wouldn't let me leave the house like that either.  I want you to be treated with respect, and to have respect for yourself.  That starts with your appearance, and then goes on to your behavior.

I'm here to stay.  I've been with your father for 5 years.  Things have gotten rough, there have been times when we almost split up - but for you, and your brother and sister, we have worked things out.  That's not to say that we're only together for you guys, but you factored largely into our commitment to each other.  It was because of you children that I was able to forgive your father for cheating on me, and for us to work past it.  I am a constant - remember that.

We will butt heads.  It's already started, and you haven't even reached puberty yet.  I know that you will hate me before it's over with, but I hope with all my heart that as you become a grown woman, you will understand my methods and realize I have only done what is best for you.  I will try to pick and choose my battles, because I don't want us to fight all the time, but in your eyes I will always be the "other woman" and will never compare to your real mom.  That's fine, but I hope that at least a little of what I teach you will stick.

And the last thing that I hope you learn, is that you are a very special girl.  You are intelligent, beautiful, and sensitive.  You've helped shape me into the woman that I am, and I can only hope that I can help do the same for you.  I love you like you're one of my own, even if you never will be.

Love always,

Your Step-Mom


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October 20, 2014

Taking the Toddlers Hiking

Hiking.

I usually avoid the outdoors as much as possible, because sunlight, bugs, fresh air... That's not my cup of tea.  But Matt's family invited us to go to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest with them for hiking and a picnic, and before I could object - Matt said yes.

I was a bundle of pessimism the night before, because the idea of bringing an 18-month-old and a 3 year old into the woods, up a mountain, for a two-mile walk just didn't seem like a good idea.  Seriously, who does that??  I begrudgingly packed a healthy lunch for us that was portable, adjusted the baby carrier so it would fit both Kaya and me (it's been a few months since we've used it), and picked out some movable warm clothes for them since I knew it would be chilly when we headed out in the morning.

Honestly though, it was a lot of fun.  It got us out of the house for an entire Saturday morning, the kids played and climbed and wore themselves out, and I think the adventure really did us all some good.



We started out with Kaya and Sammy both walking.  I'm telling you, there is nothing sillier or
sweeter than watching a newly confident walker climb up steps.  (There were quite a few wooden stairs built into the path to help make it an easier trail.)  We stopped to look at almost every leaf, puddle, and tree on the way up the path; It was a learning experience for Kaya and she loved repeating all the new words she was learning.

By the time we'd been walking about ten-fifteen minutes, we started falling behind from all of the stopping, so I decided to carry her for a little while.  She loved the new view from up high and happily babbled away as we continued up the hill.  I started struggling a little bit (I'm one of the most un-athletic people out there) and stumbled over one of the many roots in the ground, so Matt took over carrying her for a bit.


Check that out.  A dad in his natural habitat, toting his young while meandering up the mountainside.  Kinda hot, right? [You know you're a mom when...?]
I love how she monkeys onto him when he carries her, they've totally got that father-daughter bond thing going on.  

I digress.  Where was I?  Oh, notice how the first two pictures don't include Sammy?  Yeah, that's because he decided he was too cool to hang out with Momma and Daddy and ran off to hold his big cousin's hand.  We're chopped liver now.  

Matt's sister decided to capture some memories and had a couple of "photo shoots" almost every time we came across a big tree (there's a lot of them) or something else neat.  Of course, Kaya and I were lagging behind again because she insisted on being a big girl and walking again.  Not that I minded, I knew that she was enjoying herself and ultimately wearing herself out for a good nap later.

Sammy was loving the adventure, and kept shouting for us to look at his new discoveries.  My favorite was a big fallen tree that he was trying to climb into:

All in all, it was an amazing day.  It taught me that just because I have reservations about how something is going to turn out, I should still make an effort.  I hope it turned into a day that they'll remember for a long time!



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October 17, 2014

Teen Contact Lens Safety

I wrote this review while participating in an Influencer campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. and received a promotional item from Mom Central to thank me for participating.




Halloween is almost here, and as everyone starts to plan their super-creepy costumes Johnson & Johnson wants to remind everyone, especially teens, of eye care and safety.

Remember: Always be sure to purchase prescription contacts.  They are made specifically to the dimensions of your eyes.  OTC "cosmetic" contacts can cause serious eye damage.

I started wearing contacts when I was in the 7th grade.  My eye doctor gave me the full lecture about what not to do with them, and I didn't really listen.  I slept in them, didn't let them soak for very long when I did take them out, and if one popped out onto the floor I would just rinse it off with water and put it back in.  I am so lucky I still have eyes!  That's not to say I didn't end up with some pretty nasty eye infections along the way.

Now my niece, who's 13, is trying out contacts for the first time.  She's pretty gung ho about being able to see without the inconvenience of wearing glasses all the time, and I heard her talking about trying out cool colors for Halloween.  As someone who learned their lesson, I want to make sure she doesn't make the same mistakes that I made.



The Do's and Don'ts of Eye Care Safety

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Babies R Us #Giveaway Event

Enter to #WIN a $75 Babies
Welcome to the #BRUHalloween Giveaway Event!
Sponsored by: Pampers
Hosted By: Nanny to Mommy
Babies"R"Us Event + Sweestakes!
From 10/15-10/31: Share your baby’s Halloween photo with #BRUHalloween or enter HERE for a chance to win a $1,000 Babies”R”Us Gift Card! Babies“R”Us and Pampers are partnering to help you celebrate your Baby’s First Halloween. On Saturday, Oct. 18 at 10 a.m., all Babies“R”Us stores nationwide will be hosting an in-store Halloween event for moms to celebrate Halloween with their babies!

The events will include:

- Craft time where you and your baby can design a personal trick-or-treat bag
- A parade around the store where you and your baby can show of your Halloween costumes
- Halloween story time where you can sit with other moms and babies and listen to a story from Highlights magazine

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My Fans ROCK! Giveaway

I just have to say, you guys are awesome.  My Facebook page hit 5,000 likes today!  That's a super major deal to me, and so I want to show you all how much I love you all by giving away something I think you'll really like!


That's right: you can win your choice of gift card, either a $50 Starbucks Gift Card or $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Just enter on the form below, and good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway




More international giveaways at: osvojito.com
This giveaway is listed on contestheat.com/
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Treat Yourself Giveaway Hop

We’re just a couple of weeks away from Halloween and there’s one thing that’s on everyone’s mind… treats!



Welcome to the Treat Yourself Giveaway Hop, hosted by the Blogging Mamas Network! In this Hop, you’ll find lots of special treats to keep you entering giveaways until it’s time to go out and gather your own - so be sure to hop around to all the giveaways in the Hop Linky below and don’t miss the AMAZING Grand Prize Giveaway - from Step2!

I've written about this Etsy shop before, and I'm so happy to let you all know that I'm working with her again in order to bring you my contribution to the giveaway hop.


Adelaide's Attic by Director Jewels creates and sells these adorable infant and toddler headbands, along with lovies and other goodies.  She is sponsoring a $25 gift certificate to her shop for the Treat Yourself Giveaway Hop.

Just enter on the giveaway form below for your chance to win!
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October 12, 2014

Dishwasing Tips and Cascade House Party

This review was made possible by Double Duty Divas and Cascade. I was provided the featured product free of charge to facilitate my review, but all opinions are 100% mine.

Cascade Party #2 has come and gone and now I finally have a chance to sit and write about it. There's something kind of awesome about throwing a party where everyone is excited to clean up after themselves!



For this party, I made some delicious french toast, courtesy of The Food Network and Alton Brown (love him!) and to be honest? My kitchen was a disaster area.  While I was cooking, I gave everyone some orange juice in fancy glasses - that's right, we broke out the stemware for this one.  

Now the french toast was simple to make, but left a pie pan, mixing bowl, saute pan, and cookie sheet dirty.  Plus the plates - of course everyone wanted syrup on their french toast but it leaves such a sticky mess on plates!

That was ok though, because we had Cascade Platinum Power Pacs on our side.  After everyone was finished eating, I showed them how to load a dishwasher for maximum results.

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Baby Mantra Skin Care #Review

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Baby Mantra. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

My baby girl has sensitive skin.  When you think about it though, don't most babies?  Sure, most children probably don't break out in rashes from normal every day products, or get hives from "histamine overload" like mine do, but even without allergies a mom still worries about what their babies come in contact with.  Their skin shouldn't be exposed to harsh elements or chemicals, so why would you bathe them in things that may be harmful?  That's why I was happy to review Baby Mantra's line of organic baby products.


We're talking about all-natural, allergy tested, toxin-free bath products that will not only put your mind at ease, but they are great products in general. My little ones are a bit older than "newborn": 18 months and almost 4.  The Newborn Shampoo + Body Wash was the first thing I tried, and on spaghetti night.  The 18 month old has really fair skin and spaghetti sauce usually stains her hands (the knuckles and between her fingers) since, well, toddlers are allergic to forks you know.  As soon as we were done eating, I gave her a bath and the coconut and olive oil combination worked really well getting her clean.  It's a different smell for a baby product - not bad, but different.  The light scent of coconut smelled cleaner than I thought it would, and  the soap itself rinsed off well.

Since she was already in the tub,and playing happily, I decided to try out the bubble bath as well.


Although the 3-in-1 bubble bath is also a shampoo and body wash, it didn't leaver her skin dry or anything like that.  She was super happy to see how well it made bubbles, and I was glad that it rinsed off easily.


I was much happier with the smell of the bubble bath; the lavender oil and aloe had a calm and natural scent that left her smelling like a clean baby.  

After her bath, I rubbed her down with the calming lotion (lotion is always part of our bedtime routine) and it didn't take long before she was all snuggled up and sleepy.  

If you visit their website, they have a page dedicated to all of their ingredients - Lavender, Avocado, Coconut, Apricot, Shea Butter... For a minute I thought I was on an organic food site!  Everything they use in their baby products is completely natural and allergy tested - to make sure your baby's skin is getting the best care. 

Baby Mantra Products are available at select Walgreens/Duane Reade stores nationwide, Walgreens.com, BabiesRus.com, and Amazon.com.

You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.
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October 7, 2014

Are Your Natural Remedies as Safe as You Think?

There's been a huge deal lately about being all-natural and depending more on homeopathic remedies in lieu of jumping straight for the medicine cabinet.  Home remedies can be a great way to treat symptoms (and underlying problems) without a huge doctor bill or unnecessary side effects.  But when opting for the more natural cures, be sure to keep in mind that there is a right way, and a wrong way, to treat yourself at home.  Always consult your doctor or midwife before taking any home remedies.



Remember - "Natural" does not always mean "Safe."  Many herbs and supplements are dangerous during pregnancy, and for small children.

Probably the most used, and misused, supplement would be Vitamin C.  Did you know that Vitamin C can cause miscarriage?   That's why you will often find "rose hip" in a vitamin c ingredient list, as it is a more natural version that will help prevent miscarriage from ascorbic acid.  If you are pregnant, be sure that any vitamin c you ingest contains rose hip.

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