The Importance Of Regular Veterinary Care For Cats

Screen-Shot-2017-02-05-at-8.56.52-PM-1024x545

This post is sponsored by Royal Canin® and the BlogPaws® Pet Influencer Network™. I am being compensated to help share information about National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day, but Making Time For Mommy only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Royal Canin is not responsible for the content of this article.

Two years ago I became a cat mom when we brought two tabby kittens home. Peaches and Boomer have added a lot of love to our home over the past couple years (along with plenty of fun and mischief). We do our best to take care of them, from feeding them quality food to playing with them so they stay active. Our cats get plenty of cuddles and have numerous soft spots to settle into for long naps in the warm sunlight streaming through the windows.

I thought I was being the perfect cat mom, and doing everything I needed to do, but recently I learned of one important thing I hadn’t been doing- taking them for regular check-ups at the vet. As dumb as it may sound, I honestly never realized this was something that had to be done. Since cats are so low maintenance most of the time I assumed that a vet visit was only necessary if they seemed sick but it turns out that making time for the annual well-pet visit is as important for cats as it is for our kids. Since cats can hide illnesses easily, preventive health care is vital in making sure our cats are healthy.

Apparently I’m not alone in this lack of knowledge because, in the United States, less than half of cats see the veterinarian on a regular basis. Because of this, I’m proud to be partnering with Royal Canin to share about “National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day“, which is August 22, 2017. This day was created to build awareness among cat owners for the need of regular veterinary care for our fur babies.

If you are a cat parent, I encourage you to make a vet appointment for your cats right now (before your forget or get sidetracked). When you go, share a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram of your cat at the vet -or tips on taking your cat to the vet- with the campaign hashtag, #Cat2VetDay. For each social media share on one of those channels during the month of August, Royal Canin will donate $5 to Frankie’s Friends, which provides grants to help with the cost of life-saving or life-enhancing emergency or specialty care for pets whose families cannot afford the full cost of treatment.

If you are a pet parent, do you take your pet to the veterinarian for regular check-ups?

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

No Kid Hungry This Summer

no kid hungry

Summer can be the hungriest time of year for many low-income families. When schools close, students no longer get school meals, and families struggle to put food on the table. Families struggling to make ends meet are forced to make unthinkable decisions between whether to buy a bag of groceries or pay rent, whether to pay the electric bill or buy enough food. This places a huge burden on children who deserve to be carefree and healthy in order to succeed and revel in their recess.

Luckily, No Kid Hungry has set out to bring some peace of mind to those kids. They have implemented a texting hotline that provides information about when and where free summer meals will be served in any given area. By texting “FOOD” to 877877, families in need will receive a message with the locations closest to them, serving free summer meals by providing their zip code. Spanish speakers are also able to text “COMIDA” to the same number. This information is also accessible by dialing the hunger hotline: 866-348-6479.

Last year, No Kid Hungry’s efforts served 177 million free meals at 47,816 sites across the U.S. through the Summer Food Service Program and they hope to reach many more this year. If your family does not need this service please consider sharing this with your friends and those in your community who may be struggling to put food on the table this summer. 

How To Create A Gift Basket For A Cancer Patient

20170219_130004-2-2

Thanks to Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. for starting this kindness campaign and sponsoring this post.

As a blogger I get to participate in a ton of amazing campaigns but my favorites are ones that let me give back to my community. I was asked if I wanted to join a “spread kindness” initiative to create a gift basket for a cancer patient and I’m happy to be participating. Getting a cancer diagnosis is devastating so making them a gift basket is just a small gesture we can do to show that we care and want to help them get through this difficult time.

Before I created my gift basket I looked online at what items were best to include. At the store I bought cancer fighting foods along with some items to help with self-care and stress-relief and created my basket to give to a cancer patient.

Today I’m sharing what I included in my gift basket. I hope that it gives you ideas if you want to create your own gift basket for someone who has cancer or is going through chemo.

Blanket

The first item I put in the basket was a beautiful, warm blanket to keep the patient warm. Hospital blankets are so scratchy and this nice blanket can bring a bit of home into the hospital.

Fruits & Veggies

Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the best cancer fighting foods you can give a cancer patient. I put together a bag of items including spinach, apples, oranges, tomatoes and carrots.

Healthy Meal Starters

I included an organic soup for a quick lunch option. Beans and quinoa are great starters for healthy dinners.

Snacks & Vitamins

Everyone needs snacks and I included some delicious ones that have health benefits as well, like dark chocolate, nuts and fruit strips. I also added Vitamin C gummies, a protein powder, and honey, a natural sweetener.

Stress Relief

Staying stress free is essential so I wanted to include some items to help the cancer patient relax. I put an adult coloring book and colored pencils in the basket along with some candles they could light and some stress relief tea to sip.

Self-Care

In the basket I included some things to pamper them like healing lotion, epson salt crystals for a bath, and Chapstick for dry lips. I added slippers with no-slip bottoms and a pretty head scarf as well.

Want more ideas of things to include in your gift basket? Get more ideas here.

The best part about putting the basket together was getting my kids involved. Kindness is one of the most important qualities that someone can possess and something I want my kids to learn at an early age. I want them to make it their purpose in life to do nice things for people and put smiles on the faces of others. Having lost their grandma to cancer a few years back, this campaign is really a special one for them to help with and I’m happy they could help me make and donate the basket.

Along with creating a gift basket you can bring a home cooked meal, offer to help watch children or pets, hire a cleaning service to help them around their house, pamper them by painting their nails or just lend a listening ear.

I hope you will join me in spreading kindness this year! Tag me on social media with a picture of your basket if you join in and bring a basket to someone. Also, if you have any other ideas of items to include in the gift basket please share in the comments below. Together we can bring a smile to the face of others :)

Send A Valentine To A Child In The Hospital

Handfuls of love

Today I wanted to share about an easy way you can send some love to a child in a hospital. It won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time!

This morning I saw a post on Facebook that Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is hoping to collect 10,000 cards to give to patients in their hospital. You can send a free valentine by going to their website here. All you have to do is choose your card design and add a personalized note.

Join me in sending a card that will put a smile on the face of a child that has to spend Valentine’s Day in the hospital.

35 Random Acts Of Kindness Your Family Can Do This Holiday Season

Random Acts Of Kindness

The past few days we’ve all been focused on buying. From Christmas decor to Christmas gifts, there has been so much stuff that we “needed”. (Was I the only one who caved and bought the Instant Pot because everyone in their Facebook thread was raving about it?!)

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over we’ve come to Giving Tuesday. A day to give back, do something nice for others and give to our favorite charities. I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about five charities we support over the holidays and if you search #GivingTuesday on social media today I’m sure you will find dozens more you can donate to.

Giving money is great and I hope that you will all make a donation to a favorite charity, but I also wanted to share 35 ways that you can get your kids involved in doing random acts of kindness. Let’s all pick one to do today and brighten up someone’s day!

1) Leave a kind note in an unexpected place (like the fitting room of a store or a book in the library)

2) Hold the door open for someone

3) Buy a dozen flowers and pass them out to people

4) Rake a neighbor’s leaves

5) Leave something special in your mailbox for the person who delivers your mail

6) Bake someone cookies “just because”

7) Offer to help someone with their grocery bags

8) Send a note to a loved one telling them what you love about them

9) Buy the coffee/meal for the person behind you in the drive-thru

10) Have your kids make cards and then bring them to a nursing home

11) Smile at someone who seems overwhelmed and ask if they need help

12) Pay for someone else’s gas when you are at the gas station

13) Leave a couple dollars in the Redbox movie container when you return it

14) Send a gift card to someone anonymously via email (Even a $5 gift card can brighten a day!)

15) Leave a small gift on your neighbor’s porch and then ding dong ditch

16) Offer to babysit a friend’s kids- for free- so they can have a date night or go to the store solo

17) Bring some blankets, hats and gloves to a homeless shelter

18) Leave an extra large tip for the server when you go out to eat

19) Put change in the salvation army bucket

20) Offer to return a cart for someone after they load groceries into their car

21) Leave pennies on the ground (heads up!) for kids to find

22) Let someone in front of you when you are sitting in traffic

23) Shovel your neighbor’s driveway

24) Give up your seat for someone

25) Drop off food at a food pantry

26) Pay for someone else’s groceries

27) Give a genuine compliment to a stranger

28) Visit a nursing home

29) Pay the toll for the person behind you

30) Buy extra cat food or dog food and drop it off at an animal shelter

31) Say thank you to the folks you come into contact with as you are out and about

32) Volunteer your time

33) Gather items you don’t need any more and drop them off at Goodwill

34) When you receive great customer service ask to speak to a manager and let them know

35) Let someone go in front of you in line

What ideas do you have? I’d love to hear about Random Acts Of Kindness that your family has done!

Our Favorite Christmas Pajamas: Buy A Pair, Give A Pair

Screenshot 2016-11-21 at 4.37.08 PM

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

One of my favorite purchases every holiday season is a set of matching pajamas for my boys. Each year, on Christmas Eve, they wear their new pajamas when they go to sleep and wake up to celebrate Christmas morning in their festive jammies. (Truth be told, they pretty much lounge around all Christmas day in them!)

We’ve had Christmas pajamas every year and this year I found the cutest pair at Carter’s. With close to 900 styles, including 1-piece, 2-piece, 4-piece, and gown options in cotton, flannel and fleece in sizes newborn to 12 years, parents and gift-givers are sure to find the perfect PJs at Carter’s to outfit all the little ones on their holiday gift lists. I was thrilled to find out that Carter’s is doing something special for Giving Tuesday, which is November 29th, because I love supporting companies that give back. I also now have a reason to head back to the store and get another pair of pajamas for our New Year’s Eve celebration at home :)

Carter’s is partnering with Pajama Program to help further its mission of delivering new, warm pajamas to children in need. This year’s campaign aims to surpass $2 million worth of pajama donations. For every Carter’s pajama purchased at one of Carter’s 600+ US retail stores or online at www.Carters.com on Giving Tuesday (November 29), Carter’s will donate one pajama to children in need, up to 100,000.

If you’ve never heard of the Pajama Program, it’s a great charity. Pajama Program provides new pajamas and new books to children in need nationwide, many of whom are waiting to be adopted. These children live in group homes, shelters and temporary housing facilities and are shuffled often from one place to another. Many of them have been abandoned, abused or neglected. Most of these children have never enjoyed the simple comfort of having a parent tuck them in at bedtime with warm, clean pajamas and a bedtime story. Some of the children are living with their families below the poverty level, in desperate need of food, clothing and shelter. These two simple gifts of pajamas and books let the children know that someone cares – sometimes these are the only new things they have ever received.

Will you join me in supporting this great cause and giving back on Giving Tuesday?

5 Charities To Support This Holiday Season

Giftational

One of my most popular posts this time of year is a post I wrote about teaching our children generosity and gratitude. Though these are things that most parents are always wanting our children to learn, I think that we are especially focused on it as Thanksgiving draws near. One of the ways that I try to teach my children generosity is by doing a number of charitable things during the holidays. I wanted to share five charities that my family loves supporting during this season in case you are looking for ideas to do with your own family.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is a project organized by Samiritan’s Purse that encourages people to fill shoeboxes with small gifts and necessities to be sent to those in need. In past years we have taken boxes home and shopped on our own to fill them. This year we went to a packing party in October and, as a group, filled 196 boxes in about an hour and a half. We made cards to put in the boxes and talked about where our boxes might end up. Operation Christmas Child is something we love doing as a family.

COLLECTION WEEK IS THIS WEEK but it’s not too late to participate! You can build a box online or you can fill a shoebox and drop it off at a collection site near you. Get all the details here.

Angel Tree

Angel Tree is a ministry that provides gifts for children with a parent in prison. Their website talks about how 2.7 million children in the U.S. have a mom or dad in prison and how the children are often filled with the abandonment, loneliness and shame that come from having a mom or dad in prison. Angel Tree®, a program of Prison Fellowship, reaches out to the children of prisoners and their families with the love of Christ. This unique program gives you an opportunity to share God’s love by helping to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the families of prisoners.

Requests on the tree are usually very basic, such as pajamas, a winter coat or a simple board game. Purchasing gifts for children on the angel tree puts things in perspective for my children who never have to wonder if they will have a winter coat or pajamas to sleep in. Learn more about the program here.

World Vision

World Vision International is an Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization. Every year around the holidays they have a gift catalog with gifts that you can donate to those in need. I wrote a few years back about our experience with World Vision’s gift catalog and how it inspired Jacob’s “Giving List”. He had asked why soccer balls were in the gift catalog and I had to explain to him that not everyone had soccer balls to play with like he did and how some children kick around a ball of trash and leaves because that’s all they have. It was amazing to watch as he realized that these people needed things that we take for granted like eggs, milk and water. The items in World Vision’s gift guide truly make a difference in the lives of others.

Compassion International

Compassion International is a monthly sponsorship program that lets you make a difference in the life of a child. While World Vision, which I mentioned above, does this as well, I don’t have any experience with their program. We sponsored a little girl named Rita through Compassion and I love that children can connect with the child through letters and photos. Sponsoring a child in need provides them with medical checkups, nutritious food, health and hygiene training, educational assistance, and mentoring among other things. Learn more about sponsoring a child here.

Heifer International

Heifer International works to empower millions to go from poverty to self reliance by providing alternative gifts of livestock, seeds, trees, training and more to families in need. Heifer’s strategy is the hope that these families will pass on the gifts- by sharing their animals’ offspring with others – along with their knowledge, resources and skills – to create an expanding network of hope, dignity and self-reliance that reaches around the globe. Like World Vision, they have a gift catalog as well.

Other things your family can do this season include donating hats, gloves & warm blankets to homeless shelters, donating food to food pantries and donating toys at a toy drive. There are so many people in need and I hope that this has given you ideas of ways your family can give back this year. I’ll be sharing another post soon with even more great charities to support during the holidays (and all year long!)

I’d love to hear what charities you support and how you help teach your children generosity. As a parent I can always use more ideas <3

Over A Million Dollars In Donations To Schools

Screenshot 2016-10-13 at 10.59.55 AM

This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

I love companies that give back so it’s been great partnering with Staples this year to help share about their Staples for Students program. Staples, with their partner Katy Perry, teamed up to help hundreds of teachers and schools by fulfilling $1 million in classroom projects through the non-profit organization DonorsChoose.org. Their donation was driven by a statistic from the Education Market Association that an estimated 99.5 percent of all public school teachers use their own money to equip their classrooms, frequently at a cost of more than $400 per year.

This year Staples was able to fulfill 1,072 classroom projects across the country, providing 787 teachers in 402 schools with their classroom needs, and impacting 98,609 students. Additionally, Staples customers nationwide donated more than $330,000 to DonorsChoose.org at Staples stores and www.StaplesForStudents.com.

Superstar singer Katy Perry said that teaming up with Staples taught her “firsthand how important it is to support our nation’s teachers, and how often they are forced to dig into their own pockets to provide even the most basic school supplies for their students”. Perry also says that she is “delighted” that their efforts have “helped pave the way for students to realize their dreams”.

In addition to donations, Katy Perry and Staples were giving away a $50,000 scholarship. That grand prize winner was just announced yesterday, October 13th when Katy Perry presented Patricia O’Keefe and her son Matthew from Deep River, Conn. with a $50,000 scholarship at a Winners VIP Celebration in Los Angeles. Matthew is a senior in high school and is currently applying to colleges for enrollment in fall 2017. Four lucky first prize winners and one guest each also joined the celebration and met Katy Perry.

This program has really done amazing things in the community. Thank you to all who have helped make this campaign a success by making donations online or in store. The donations made this year will have lasting impacts on the classrooms that they helped!

 

The Great American Milk Drive

579ecc5d95a43-ENT_MilkDay_FB_v4_810

My boys love drinking milk and they have since they were little. We are lucky that nowadays we can purchase a gallon of milk whenever we are running low but we were not always so fortunate. When we first started our family and lived off one small income, things like milk, and other necessities, were hard to afford. Milk can be a delicious and nutritious part of a child’s day, but we know first-hand that for some food-insecure families, drinking milk can be a rare indulgence. Because of this, I’m proud to be partnering with Entenmann’s to support The Great American Milk Drive.

The “Entenmann’s® Donuts & Milk: Perfect Together Sweepstakes” is helping deliver milk to those who need it the most. For every entry received during the sweepstakes, one 8 oz. glass of nutrient-rich milk will be donated to The Great American Milk Drive, up to 100,000 servings. As if the charity component weren’t enough incentive to enter, consumers have the chance to win a variety of prizes during the Facebook sweepstakes, which continues through October 31st. As part of the Facebook sweepstakes, 25 first prize winners will win a one year’s supply of milk and Entenmann’s® donuts and 100 second prize winners will win four boxes of Entenmann’s® donuts. (No purchase is required. For official rules and donation program terms you can go to the Entenmann’s Facebook Page linked below.)

Enter the Entenmann’s® Donuts & Milk: Perfect Together Sweepstakes here.

Share Your Hero

20161006_112846 (2)

When I was growing up, a trip to the mall meant a freshly baked cookie was in my future. The smell from the Mrs. Fields’ cookie shop was mouthwatering and I loved stopping by to get a freshly baked cookie. Now, as an adult, I can still enjoy that special treat without stepping foot into our local shopping mall because my favorite childhood cookie brand is now in grocery stores! I’m happy to be partnering with Mrs. Fields today to promote their newest cookie campaign called ‘Share your hero’.

Heroes (like cookies) come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe your hero is your child’s teacher who makes your child excited to go to school and learn every day. Or maybe your hero is a local police officer that your family can count on in emergencies. Your hero may even be a family member or friend! Whoever it is, Mrs. Fields Cookies wants to learn about them!

Mrs. Fields Cookies is searching for America’s Hometown Hero and they need YOUR help to find him/her. All you have to do is go to their website and share your hero’s story between now and October 31, 2016. One lucky hero will be chosen and that person will have the opportunity to donate $5,000 to a charity of their choosing, plus an honorary Hometown Hero event recognizing them.

To sweeten the deal, everyone who nominates a hero will receive a coupon for $1 off a box of Mrs. Fields cookies! Who will you nominate?

Just Be Good To Each Other

Screenshot 2016-10-04 at 11.44.29 AM (1)

I believe that one of the most important things we can do is to simply be kind to each other. Can you imagine a world where kindness is commonplace? How amazing would that be?! I’m proud to partner with CustomInk on this sponsored post to share about their Be Good to Each Other campaign because it unites people of all ages and promotes kindness, acceptance and inclusion.

This month, CustomInk is encouraging people to take a stand against bullying by wearing custom bullying prevention t-shirts that promote kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. Their special lines of shirts, created with the help of a number of celebrity supporters, have positive and motivational messages on them that reinforce self-worth while promoting acceptance in a personal, yet unifying way. T-shirt sayings include: “Be Daringly Different,” “Be Humble,” “Be Dynamic,” “Be Unbreakable.”

Want to get creative and design your own bullying prevention gear? You can also support the cause by designing your own custom bullying prevention t-shirts to wear with family or friends, or for your children’s school, club, or team. Check out the customizable templates for inspiration or to get started. I’ve created personalized shirts through CustomInk before and it was such a simple, fun process that only took me five minutes to do!

Now through October 31st, CustomInk will donate profits from the sales of bullying prevention t-shirts to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center to help in its effort to engage, educate, and unite communities nationwide. It’s a great cause to support!

These special edition t-shirts are available for purchase, ranging from $12-$27, here.

Let’s Stomp Out Bullying

Screenshot 2016-10-03 at 2.16.57 PM

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Did you know that 1 out of every 4 children is bullied? With the prevalence of children and teens online, bullying has only gotten worse because now the perpetrators can bully other while they hide behind a computer screen.

Today, October 3rd, is Blue Shirt Day® World Day Of Bullying Prevention. In honor of this I wanted to share some tips for parents from the Stomp Out Bullying organization. It’s essential that we as parents talk to our children about bullying.

First, encourage your children to report bullying to adults. Whether they are being bullied, or they see someone being bullied, this is a vital step in getting bullying to stop. Children can talk to their parents, teachers or another adult that they trust about the situation.

Another thing children can do is be a friend to someone who is being bullied. I tell my boys that it’s more important to me that they are a kind person and a good friend than if they get good grades. I ask them questions like “did you see anyone sitting alone in the lunchroom today?” and encourage them to invite others, who seem lonely, to play.

Children should also be reminded to stand up to bullies and tell them to stop when they see bullying happen. If other kids laugh when the bully is tormenting someone, the bully will just continue but if they are told that what they are doing is not cool then perhaps they’ll think twice about it.

Will you join us in standing up to make a difference by raising awareness for bullying prevention today? I encourage you to share about bullying prevention on Facebook or Twitter. Here’s a tweet you can easily RT:

If you are looking for more ways to raise awareness around bullying prevention at your school or in your community group please visit  www.stompoutbullying.org.

Discover A Better Fundraiser

F2OShoeDriveFundraisers2

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

With 120 candy bars to sell for Jake’s football and baseball teams, and a few hundred dollars worth of popcorn to sell for scouts, I feel overwhelmed at the moment. Add to that the school fundraisers I know are coming and I think there is only so much that my neighbors and family are going to be willing to buy.

While I want to support our school and my children’s activities there has to be a better way to raise money right? Well, there is! What if fundraising for your school was as easy as helping people get rid of extra clutter? What if your community organization could get the money they needed without you having to sell hundreds of dollars worth of more “stuff”? I’m happy today to share about a creative fundraising solution that doesn’t involve any selling. (I can hear you all cheering!) We are also giving you the opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

Funds2Orgs was created by Wayne Elsey after he became fed up with selling calories and products that nobody needed to his family, friends and work colleagues. After a couple years of doing that he just wrote a check for a couple hundred dollars and gave the items away instead of selling them. He knew there had to be a better way but little did he know that he would get the opportunity to make it happen.

In 2004, he watched with the world as we saw the devastation of the Indian Ocean tsunami. At the time he was the president of a global footwear manufacturer. He says that when he watched a shoe wash ashore on television, the image stayed with him and he knew he had to do something. Within a few weeks, with a great group of people, they shipped hundreds of thousands of shoes to families who lost everything.

He did this again after Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. In all, he shipped over 17 million shoes to people in need. In the process, he learned a lot about developing nations where there are limited work opportunities, even when nature is quiet.

Eventually, he got an idea. He realized after having spoken to thousands of people as a philanthropist that schools, nonprofits, churches and groups needed another way to raise money. He also knew that micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries (small business owners) needed inventory to sell in their local communities. And, as a former footwear executive, he was aware of the fact that over 600 million shoes in the United States alone are thrown into landfills. This is bad for the environment and health.

So he created Funds2Orgs. Today, it’s the leading shoe drive fundraising social enterprise in North America. With a great team, he was able to develop a proven fundraising system. All the shoe drive partners have to do is collect gently worn, used and new shoes and then Funds2Orgs issues a check based on the total weight of the shoes collected.

This organization has earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and worked with thousands who have good words to say about them because they are a company that’s committed to customer service. This has happened because they have a unique solution to fundraising, and are able to offer it with no out-of-pocket costs.

Working with Funds2Orgs is easy!

  • They have a team of fundraising coaches to work with you for the entire drive.
  • They give you the shoe collection material (including bags and rubber bands) along with the marketing and promotion material, which you can customize to your drive.
  • Once your shoe collection is complete, one of their driving team members picks up the shoes from your location.
  • Then they send you a Funds2Orgs check within 2 business days of the shoes being received at their warehouse.

When you do a shoe drive fundraiser with Funds2Orgs, you can literally help change the world. Along with raising thousands of dollars for your oganization with their easy, creative fundraising ideas, you are helping others. They consolidate and ship the shoes you collect to micro-entrepreneurs in developing nations where those people then sell them in their communities. You also help the environment because all of those shoes are staying out of landfills.

If you’d like to learn more about Funds2Orgs and what they can do for you please click here. There you can also find out how to enter to win our giveaway of a $50 gift card and some great books!

Creating A Nursing Home Care Package

PicMonkey Image (19)

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

It’s important for me that my boys grow up to be kind to others. I believe teaching this character trait is not something that can be done only with words but has to be modeled through actions. Whether it’s dropping off toiletries to a homeless shelter, holding a door open for the person behind us or assisting a friend, there are a variety of ways to model kindness. One of my mom’s groups has arranged for visits with a local nursing home so I figured it would be the perfect time to talk with my boys more about caring for our elderly and ways we can show kindness to them. We talked about how some residents of nursing homes may not have any family around and how excited they would be just to have some company.

We wanted to make their day extra special and decided to create a care package to bring along that had some gifts to pass out along with some essentials that residents may need. The first thing I did was find a reusable container to put everything in. Since space is probably at a premium I wanted to bring something someone could use for storage. Once I had my small plastic bin I thought about what they might like to do and bought some things to keep them busy. I chose to add in an adult coloring book with colored pencils, some blank cards for letter writing, a crossword puzzle book, some women’s magazines and a small embroidery craft kit.

I wanted to include some essentials as well so I added in some luxury hand soap, pocket packs of tissues, slipper socks with no-skid bottoms and a blanket.

One other important thing I chose to bring along for the staff to hand out to those who need it is Depend® Fit-Flex® Underwear for women. These new Depend products provide protection with a smooth, close-to-body fit for outstanding comfort.

I found a great deal on Depend products at Sam’s Club and you’ll want to be on the lookout for the special packaging shown above. When you open your Depend packaging it will have a sticker inside that you can use to redeem at the pharmacy for an awesome caregiver sample kit. I’m going to stop by Sam’s Club to redeem it and add the items to my nursing home care package.

Other things you may want to add to your nursing home care package include:

  • Lip balm
  • Poise® pads or liners
  • Housecoat
  • Book with large print
  • Newspaper
  • Flowers
  • Lotion
  • Reading glasses
  • Tea
  • Small seasonal decor

There are so many things you can add to your nursing home care package. You could even write a handwritten card or note and add in some hard candies as a special treat.

If you are a caregiver to a parent or grandparent, or just want to learn more about the resources that Sam’s Club offers, there is an app to download called Digimarc Discovery where you can scan the Depend product box to be taken to the Sam’s Club Caregiver website. On the site you can place orders online for nutritional, incontinence & personal care products to have them delivered to your home or to be ready for you at your local club with free Club pickup. It’s such a convenient, time-saving perk of being a Sam’s Club member!

Have you ever visited a nursing home with your child? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Support Teachers This Back-To-School Season

PicMonkey Image (8)

Thanks to Staples for sponsoring this post and supporting teachers in our community.

With the new school year around the corner many parents are busy buying school supplies. I know sometimes as a parent I look at the list of supplies needed and wonder why we have to purchase so many things and I know many other parents have the same thoughts. The truth is though, as much as we spend on supplies, most teachers spend even more. In fact, according to the Education Market Association, an estimated 99.5 percent of all public school teachers’ use their own money to equip their classrooms- to the tune of over $400 per year out of their own pocket.

Staples and Katy Perry teamed up to help teachers across the country this back-to-school season as part of the Staples for Students program. They’ve been funding projects posted on DonorsChoose.org as part of Staples’ $1 million donation to support teachers and schools. Donors Choose is a charity that has funded more than 700,000 classroom projects for teachers and has positively affected more than 18 million U.S. students.

I’m excited to share that they’ve funded a large number of programs right here in Chicago! Staples announced this morning that it is funding all middle school and high school literacy projects, and all career & college prep projects listed on DonorsChoose.org by Chicago teachers. This donation, worth a total of $134,733, will fund projects in 86 schools, impacting 106 teachers and over 13,000 students. For example, Mrs. Shippy from Dawes Elementary School received over 90 books for her classroom library, so that her 7th grade students have ample reading options. Her school does not have a school library, so Mrs. Shippy’s classroom is the only place for her students to get books.

If you want to get involved, use the Staples for Students Snapchat Geofilter. Through August 10th, every use of the Geofilter will trigger a $1 donation (up to $5,000) from Staples to be used towards Chicago classroom projects on DonorsChoose.org. The Geofilter is available for use in the Staples store at 111 North Wabash Ave., and in the surrounding area.

I hope this news has inspired you to support teachers by helping give them the tools they need to create enriching learning experiences for the students in their classrooms. You can make a $1 donation either in Staples stores or online at www.StaplesForStudents.com, with proceeds funding DonorsChoose.org projects. As a thank you, every customer who donates in-store will receive a free, exclusive Katy Perry pencil, while supplies last.

There is also a fun sweepstakes going on. Now through September 10, 2016, fans who spend $25 or more in any Staples store will receive a unique entry code on their receipt to enter the sweepstakes online at www.StaplesForStudents.com. One grand prize winner will win a $50,000 scholarship plus a trip for two to Los Angeles to meet global pop music star, Katy Perry. Four first prize winners and one guest each will also win air travel to Los Angeles and accommodations for two nights to meet Katy Perry at the VIP Winners Celebration.

Entries must be submitted before September 10, 2016 at 11:59 PM ET. Entrants must be 13 years or older. Visit www.StaplesForStudents.com for official rules.

To learn more about all of Staples’ initiatives please join me at the #StaplesForStudents Twitter Party on Tuesday, August 30, from 7-8PM EST.

 

How You Can Help Teachers {And Win A Chance To Meet Katy Perry}

Staples Katy Perry Print PSA_2

I’m proud to be partnering with Staples this back-to-school season to share about some great things they are doing in the community.

Did you know that most teachers spend their own money to equip their classrooms? The Education Market Association estimates that they spend more than $400 per year buying things they need. Staples wanted to do something to support teachers across America and help them as they start preparing for the upcoming school year so they made a $1 million donation to DonorsChoose.org. DonorsChoose.org is a charity that has funded more than 700,000 classroom projects for teachers and has positively affected more than 18 million students across the country.

Katy Perry, who has previously supported Staples commitment to education in the past, has joined in to help support teachers across America. She says she believes in “education as a foundation for a great life” and wants “to make sure that students across the country are inspired by their teachers and afforded every opportunity to realize their dreams.” Perry knows “firsthand how desperately teachers need our support.”

In the video above, Katy Perry shares about an inspiring project she made as a 4th grader in music class that helped her express her dreams for her music career. She thinks about how she may not have had that chance to create her vision board if her teacher hadn’t had the materials and goes on to talk about the harsh reality that many teachers face on a daily basis, having to spend their own money to provide adequate supplies and equipment to students. Staples and Katy Perry hope their PSA will encourage viewers to help support teachers by making their own donations at a local Staples store or online at StaplesForStudents.org.

Staples is also hosting a sweepstakes. Beginning June 26th through September 10th, fans who spend $25 or more in any Staples store will receive a unique entry code on their receipt to enter the sweepstakes online at Staples.com/StaplesForStudents. One grand prize winner will win a $50,000 scholarship plus a trip for two to Los Angeles to meet superstar, Katy Perry. Four first prize winners and one guest each will also win air travel to Los Angeles, two nights stay and spending money to meet Katy Perry at the VIP Winners Celebration. (Visit Staples.com/StaplesForStudents for official rules.)

Teachers make such a difference in the lives of children and together we can help them make an even bigger difference this back-to-school season. By donating at a Staples store or online, anyone can help a classroom in need. Donations help teachers with books, art supplies, field trips, technology and other resources they need to help children learn.

Will you join me in supporting this important cause?

 

How to Be a Benevolent Role Model: Raising Generous Kids Through Example

image 1

Disclosure: The following is a guest post.

Kind, compassionate, caring, charitable ― there are qualities every parent wants to see in his or her kid. However, most kids won’t naturally develop these altruistic traits without help from parents and guardians to develop charity.

Many experts ― let alone parents ― are divided when it comes to strategies for imbuing goodness and generosity in children. Financial gurus stress the importance of teaching financial literacy, which will inevitably allow kids to generate the resources to give back; meanwhile, psychologists value empathy-building conversations regarding other peoples’ wants, needs, and feelings. Yet, one method whose efficacy nearly every expert agrees upon is being a good role model.

Children naturally look to their parents as examples for how people should act, so behaving generously will encourage your kids to do so, as well. Here are some tips to help you display more benevolence in your daily life.

Demonstrate Emotional and Physical Self-Control

A famous study from Stanford University found that children who demonstrate willpower are destined to do better later in life. In the experiment, researchers gave kids between the ages of 3 and 5 the choice between a single treat now or a better treat later, if the kids were able to wait. The kids who demonstrated restraint and held out for the better treat were found in later studies to achieve higher academic degrees and live healthier lifestyles into adulthood.

When your kid screams, you probably want to scream, too. However, as a mature adult, you have the responsibility to demonstrate self-control to your children. Willpower takes many forms, from moderating your intake of junk foods to calming your emotions when they threaten to boil over. By refusing to succumb to your urges, you express to your children the necessity of inner strength and self-will, which are essential to becoming benevolent.

Respect Others and Command Respect in Return

Children learn respect directly from their parents, which means you must strive to demonstrate respect in every social interaction you have around your children. You should avoid casting negative judgement on others, especially those with fewer privileges than you and your family, and you should strive to use appropriate language in all social situations.

Just as important, you should expect everyone around you to treat you the same, which demonstrates the concept of self-respect. By being positive, polite, trusting, and caring to everyone you meet, you will teach your children how to be respectful ― and more importantly, that everyone deserves respect.

Be Willing to Part With Your Possessions for Others

It is only natural that children believe their needs and wants are most important; after all, their thoughts and emotions are the only ones they hear and feel. However, it is vital that as your kids get older, they recognize that those around them also have thoughts and emotions, and that sometimes, others’ needs and wants are more important.

Undoubtedly, you have boxes full of possessions stored in your home; you might even have large items taking up space, like an old vehicle that doesn’t run. When you have no use for an item, you should donate it to a worthy cause to show your children that owning things doesn’t increase happiness. Crucially, you must explain your choices to your children and telling them how your donation will benefit someone else.

Volunteer Your Time and Effort to Worthy Causes

More than your behavior and your donations, generosity is the action you take to make the world a better place for those around you. Volunteering in your community allows you to interact directly with those in need, which gives you (and your kids) a better sense of what more you could do to help others.

There are hundreds of ways to volunteer and demonstrate benevolence, from baking treats to sell for charity to visiting food banks and homeless shelters, so you have plenty of opportunities to learn all the ways people need help. From a young age, your children can accompany you on your volunteering adventures, so as they age, they will view volunteering as a normal activity.

Gifts For Kids That Give Back

Screenshot 2016-05-04 at 1.07.21 PM

I love purchasing products that give back to charity and throughout the years some of my favorite items have been part of Kohl’s Cares® collections. I’m happy to be working with them to share about their newest collection that is here just in time for Summer.

Kohl’s Cares® donates 100 percent of the net profits of the collection to children’s health initiatives nationwide. The children’s books and soft toys are priced at just $5 each so the sets make great gifts. The summer collection of Kohl’s Cares books and plush is available now through June 26 at Kohl’s Stores nationwide and online at Kohls.com.

The collection includes:

  • Penguin on Vacation book, Penguin’s Big Adventure book and penguin soft toy
  • Board Book Set and clownfish soft toy
  • Found book and bear soft toy
  • Stormy Night book and dinosaur soft toy

To date, Kohl’s has raised nearly $300 million through the Kohl’s Cares program which they have donated to hospitals across the country. The donations fund hospital outreach programs focused on children’s health initiatives and address the specific issues needed most in each hospital’s community. These tailored programs provide vital resources to families at no cost and include topics such as injury prevention, asthma awareness, dental care, and fitness.

The Importance Of Everyday Moments With Our Children

vroom

I am happy to be working with the Bezos Foundation to support their Vroom initiative which was developed based on the premise that every child is born with enormous potential, and every parent can help them realize that potential.

I recently spoke at a parenting event and shared about the importance of moms cherishing the special moments of motherhood, even on the most chaotic of days. As much as those everyday moments are important to moms and other caregivers though, they are even more important to children. Everyday interactions between parents and their children have a significant long-term impact in the lives of kids.

Science tells us that our children’s first years are when they develop the foundation for all future learning. Every time we connect with them, it’s not just their eyes that light up—it’s their brains too. In these moments, half a million neurons fire at once, taking in all the things we say and do. We can’t see it happening, but it’s all there, all at work.

Vroom, an initiative from the Bezos Foundation, was designed to give parents and caregivers simple tools that turn everyday activities, like mealtime and bath time, into brain building moments where we can nurture our children’s growing minds. They help to empower parents and caregivers to interact with their children during their daily routines, engaging them in activities that require no additional time or resources but have long-term benefits. I think as busy parents the “no additional time” piece is so important because it means we can incorporate brain building activities easily into what we already do. Below are some great tips for parents to remember when interacting with their children.

Today the Bezos Foundation launched the Vroom Superheroes campaign to demonstrate the heroic role that every parent and caregiver plays in the lives of children, and reinforces the message that anyone can be a Vroom Superhero to a child. This video below tells the story of an aunt-turned-foster-mother, Camellia, and her daughter, Cammie, showing us a powerful example of how the everyday moments they share have a profound impact on both of them.

Here are ten easy ways that you can foster healthy brain development by maximizing everyday interactions you have with your child:

  • Sit down for dinner as a family and ask children about their day
  • Take a walk together and point out things you see along the way
  • After school, ask children questions about what they learned that day
  • Find things to count at the playground, whether it’s steps or the number of times they go down the slide
  • Let your child help make the grocery list and find the items at the store
  • Read a story to your child at bedtime and during the story ask them to guess what happens next
  • Cook or bake together and share some of your favorite food related memories with your child
  • Fold laundry together and ask questions about what seasons they would wear items of clothing (like a coat or a bathing suit)
  • If you hear a sound ask your child what they think is making that sound and where it’s coming from
  • Point out colors, shapes and words throughout the day

Want even more ideas? Download the Vroom app for Apple or Android! I’d love to hear about your favorite way to connect with your child during everyday moments.

BabyGap Mr Men Little Miss Events This Weekend

gap

I am so excited to share that I am working with Milk & Bookies and Gap to help celebrate the launch of BabyGap’s Mr. Men Little Miss clothing line collection! I will be at the Chicago event at Water Tower Place this Saturday morning as the guest reader at their special event.

BabyGap is collaborating with Mr. Men Little Miss this Spring to create a limited edition collection featuring beloved characters from the iconic children’s books created by British author Roger Hargreaves. The collection includes onesies, bibs, blankets, socks and hats all designed with Mr. Men Little Miss’ signature bright colors and bold lines.

In conjunction with the collaboration, 20 Gap stores across the country will host a celebration of reading on Saturday, February 6th in partnership with Milk + Bookies, a charitable organization that celebrates reading and provides books to under-resourced families. Guests will enjoy a Mr. Men Little Miss book reading by a local parenting blogger, refreshments and activities for children and the opportunity to take part in a book drive benefitting a local Boys & Girls Club.

See the invite below for the Chicago Water Tower event, RSVP here and please make sure to introduce yourself if you attend the reading! I’d love to meet you :)

Not in Chicago? Here are the rest of the events:

• 17th & 5th 122 5th Ave. (New York)
• 59th & Lexington 734 Lexington Ave. (New York)
• Chestnut St. 2159 Chestnut St. (San Francisco)
• Chinook Centre 6455 McCloud Trail SW (Calgary)
• Copley Place 100 Huntington Ave. (Boston)
• Garden State Plaza 290 Garden State Plaza (Paramus)
• The Grove 189 The Grove Dr. (Los Angeles)
• Hoboken & Washington St. 222 Washington St. (Hoboken)
• Houston Galleria 5085 Westheimer Rd. (Houston)
• Court King Prussia 160 N. Gulph Rd. (King of Prussia)
• Lenox Square 3393 Peachtree Rd. NE (Atlanta)
• Lincoln Rd.1001 Lincoln Rd. (Miami Beach)
• Michigan Ave 555 N Michigan Ave. – Chicago
• The Mall at Millenia 4200 Conroy Rd. (Orlando)
• NorthPark Center 728 N. Park Center (Dallas)
• South Coast Plaza 3333 Bristol St. (Costa Mesa)
• Stanford Shopping Center 228 Stanford Shopping Center (Palo Alto)
• Eaton Centre 260 Yonge St. (Toronto)
• Tysons Corner Center 7906 Tysons Corner Center (McLean)
• Water Tower Place 835 N. Michigan Ave. (Chicago)

A Chevy Full Of Love

chevy full of love

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

The past few months have been difficult for me. It started around Thanksgiving when I lost a family member and also developed a severe illness that attacked the tissues of my body causing inflammation and excruciating pain. For weeks it hurt to stand, sit and walk. I struggled with simple tasks like putting on my own socks and getting in and out of bed. It was the most pain I have ever endured but after a month full of numerous doctor appointments, hospital tests and lab work I finally received a diagnosis and was put on medication. Thankfully the medicine has helped and I am feeling better now but it was a rough journey.

Through it all, a huge highlight of the past few months for me has been partnering with Chevy in their #ChevyShopsForGood campaign. One of the only days I got out during the worst weeks of my illness, my family and I headed out in our loaned Chevy to go to the store and shop for gifts to donate. I let the boys decide where we were going to donate gifts to and they chose to donate them to the children’s hospital for the “sick kids”. The boys were excited to fill the cart up with gifts, going down every aisle to make sure they had toys for children of all ages, from infants to tweens, and all interests, from arts to dolls to lego building.

All the gifts we bought for the children at the hospital fit perfectly into the back of our Chevy Trax. There was a lot more space in the back of the SUV than I thought there would be. Something unique about the Chevy Trax is the amount of cargo space it offers for such a small SUV. I was surprised to find that all seats (other than the driver’s seat of course) folded down to offer space for something up to eight feet in length. I don’t know of any other vehicle with a front passenger seat that folds down like the Trax’s does which is great for those times when you need to transport something long, like a dresser you found at a garage sale.

Image courtesy of Chevrolet

The small crossover SUV was fun to drive but, most importantly, offered all wheel drive which made me feel safe as I drove our family to the city in one of the few snowstorms we’ve had this season. The vehicle also has 10 airbags and a steel cage for safety in case of an accident.

The Trax also has tons of great features. Technology-wise it was loaded with everything from wi-fi to Siri Eyes Free to OnStar Remote Link. The vehicle had remote start which is my best friend during the winter months. Chevrolet even has an app for smartphones that lets you lock and unlock the car remotely and map where you left your vehicle when you park it.

I also loved the large color touchscreen in the middle of the console that showed what was behind us when the car was in reverse.

The design of the vehicle was well thought out with an instrument panel on the steering wheel that offered easy access to entertainment and information. The vehicle has a USB charging port in the upper glove compartment box which was great for traveling.

Overall, the Chevy Trax is a nice SUV. Loaded with great tech features and a lot of available cargo space it’s the perfect choice for someone who is single or has a small family. (If you have a larger family check out the Chevy Traverse or the Suburban!)

Thanks to Chevrolet for letting us test drive the Trax and for the fun weekend in the city. Though my family received perks from Chevy, all thoughts about the vehicle are my own.

50 Ways To Give Back This Holiday Season

ways-to-give-back-holidays

The Christmas season is here! All of the crazy Black Friday videos online made me realize today would be a great day to share my list of ways to give back during the holiday season. It’s important to remember this is a season of giving more than it is a season of getting. My family’s goal is to do at least a handful of these ideas each week leading up to the holidays. I tried to include a number of ideas that were either free or fairly cheap so even if you are on a budget you can find ways to give back!

1) Bake cookies for a neighbor

2) Buy gifts for a child on the Angel Tree

3) Take your family and friends to sing carols at a nursing home

4) Adopt a family and buy them gifts for the holidays (this can be someone you know personally or you can contact a charity in your town to find a family in need)

5) Send a care package to someone in the military

6) Volunteer at a food bank or a non-profit that packs meals for the hungry (like Feed My Starving Children in the Chicago area)

7) Donate art supplies to a local afterschool program

8) Pay for someone behind you in the drive thru

9) Donate toys, books and games to a children’s hospital

10) Babysit a friend’s children so she can have some time to herself

11) Donate clean water (charitywater.org)

12) Make a meal and drop it off to a new mom, someone who lost a family member or someone who is homebound

13) Leave a large tip for your waitress or barista

14) Drop off magazines you’ve already read at the hospital for people to read while in the waiting rooms

15) Donate pet food or cat litter to a no-kill animal shelter

16) Hold the door open for someone at a store and wish them a good day

17) Donate toiletries to a homeless shelter

18) Adopt a pet or use your social media channels to share about a pet that needs to be adopted

19) Host a pajama and book drive for the Pajama Program

20) Pay for someone’s groceries at the grocery store

21) Donate used items to a thrift store that gives back to charity (my favorite is Savers)

22) Bake treats to bring to your local school for the staff to enjoy

23) Put money in the Salvation Army bucket when you pass by (or volunteer to ring the bell yourself)

24) Shovel someone’s driveway for them

25) Donate food to the local food bank

26) Fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

27) Hand out gas gift cards to those pumping gas at the gas station

28) Send a handwritten note to a loved one telling them how much you appreciate them

29) Make cards for those in a nursing home or hospital

30) Help grant a child’s wish through the Make A Wish Program

31) Donate blood through the American Red Cross

32) Buy a meal for someone in need

33) Donate to a cause that is important to you

34) Donate hats, gloves and other winter accessories- many Churches have “Mitten Trees” where you can donate them

35) Plant a tree in celebration or memory of a loved one through the Arbor Day Foundation

36) Have children create thank you cards for community workers and deliver them along with a treat

37) Volunteer your talents. Whether that’s offering your marketing services to a non-profit, cooking food for the homeless or tutoring children

38) When purchasing Christmas gifts, shop local or purchase an item that gives back (like something from the World Vision gift catalog)

39) Donate coats and blankets to a homeless shelter

40) Bring a gift basket of essentials to a new mom

41) Volunteer at an animal shelter

42) Offer to help someone clean their home or wrap their Christmas gifts

43) Donate toys to Toys For Tots

44) Pack ziploc bags or stockings with toiletries, snacks and an encouraging note and store them in your car to give to any homeless you may pass by this season

45) Make a blanket or pillowcase dress to donate

46) Volunteer at a nursing home

47) Head to the store and leave kind notes of holiday cheer on windshields

48) If you have a friend who will be alone for Christmas this year, invite them over to celebrate with you at your house

49) Send a letter to a hero in the military

50) Spend time with your loved ones. Remember- your presence is more important than your presents

What does your family do to give back? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

An Easy Way To Support Great Causes In Chicago

savers logo

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

I love sharing about easy ways to support worthy causes so I’m excited to share about the new way that you can help support the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago (EFGC) and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). EFGC is particularly close to my heart as my mom passed away during an Epileptic seizure in the middle of the night back in 2009 and I support their work in helping prevent, control and cure Epilepsy so that nobody else has to experience the loss of a loved one in the same way. Vietnam Veterans of America is also a great organization, supporting veterans and their families.

The two charities- through their partnerships with Savers –opened four Donation Drop Spots in the greater Chicago area this year. At the Donation Drop Spots, people can drop off their gently used goods which support the EFGC and VVA’s programs because Savers pays them for every donation made at the Donation Drop Spots.

The new Donation Drop Spots are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are conveniently located at:

  • 115 West Rand Road, Arlington Heights, IL 60004 (Donations benefit Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago)
  • 7212 W 191st Street, Tinley Park, IL 60487 (Donations benefit Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago)
  • 13200 Cicero Ave, Crestwood, IL 60445 (Donations benefit Vietnam Veterans of America)
  • 2300 US Highway 34 Oswego, IL 60543 (Donations benefit Vietnam Veterans of America)

Not only do your donations help charity but you also help create a better world by donating instead of throwing things away. Savers as a company is one of the largest recyclers of used goods in the world, keeping 650 million pounds of reusable goods out of landfills each year! The items you donate are sold at Savers stores and given a new home.

images courtesy: Savers

Savers sells vintage and name brand clothes, shoes and accessories for the whole family along with a variety of household goods. They are different from other thrift stores because they are clean and well organized with all items in good condition and affordably priced. With more than 100,000 items on the sales floor at one time I always find a cart full of items to take home. My favorite things to buy at Savers include kid’s clothes (especially sports brands, jeans and dress shirts), books and toys.

The holidays are coming up and if you are looking to save money consider checking out Savers for some items on your shopping list. One gift I purchase used is books. My kids don’t know the difference between a brand new book and a gently used one but I often save $3-$5 per book buying them at Savers. There are also plenty of new-with-tags items that can be found at discount prices. What will you find at Savers?

 

Red Robin’s Burgers For Better Schools Program {Giveaway}

burgers for better schools

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. The Red Robin information and gift cards have been provided by Red Robin but all thoughts are my own.)

As a member of the PTA at my boy’s school, I know that raising funds for schools is a lot of work. It seems that our school is constantly doing fundraiser after fundraiser and it takes a lot of work to make them successful. Thankfully there are companies that help schools raise funds without parents having to put in hours of hard work.

Red Robin is one of those companies. With their Burgers for Better Schools program, Red Robin Royalty members (those who are part of the free loyalty program) have an opportunity to support local K-12 schools simply by dining at participating Red Robin restaurants and using their Red Robin Royalty member account. When a Red Robin Royalty member’s account is presented at the time of purchase, Red Robin will donate one percent of the total bill to their school of choice (excluding taxes, gratuities and gift card sales).

This means, instead of buying some overpriced wrapping paper, I can raise money for our elementary school simply by going out and enjoying a wonderful lunch or dinner with my family! It’s so easy to sign up for, too. Just sign up for their loyalty program and go to the Burgers For Better Schools dashboard where you can choose which school you want to support. Then, when you go to dine out, just give your Red Robin Royalty member number and a portion of proceeds will be donated to the school you have chosen.

Members who have opted into Burgers for Better Schools can follow their progress in supporting a K-12 school of their choice on their Red Robin Royalty account dashboard. Details include individual contributions, how many others are supporting that school, and total donations raised by all supporters.

Want to support your school while enjoying a meal out? Enter my giveaway below! Make sure to sign up and make sure to select your child’s school on the site before you visit Red Robin!

GIVEAWAY:

Enter to win a $75 Red Robin Gift Card!

HOW TO ENTER:

1) Leave a comment below telling me why you want to win

2) Share this giveaway on social media

Giveaway ends October 10, 2015 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident to win. No PO boxes.

 

Five Signs A Loved One May Be Considering Suicide

2015_wspd_banner_english

Did you know that in the United States, one person dies from suicide approximately every 13 minutes, resulting in 40,000 deaths each year? Today is World Suicide Prevention Day so I wanted to share some information from NurseWise, a national multilingual nurse triage and health care provider.

Often, those who commit suicide feel hopeless, as if they do not have a reason to live, that they are a burden on their families or society, and that the world may be better off without them. By learning more about the red flags, you can be an active part of interventions that save lives.

1.     Keep your ears open. We could all probably be better listeners in general, but when it comes to friends or family considering suicide, listening is crucial. If you’re hearing statements indicating they can’t handle things anymore, they feel trapped, life would be better without them or they’re expressing an interest in death – take heed. Talking about dying is not a normal reaction to stress, so act calmly, but quickly. Don’t upset people displaying these symptoms or make them feel as though they cannot talk to you about how they are feeling, but it’s probably time to seek help.

2.     Watch for signs of depression. If you’re noticing bouts of continued sadness, seclusion from friends and family, or decreased interest in activities or social environments, these may all be indicators they are suffering from depression. They may also show an increase or decrease in their eating or sleeping habits, or their mood may become more aggressive or anxious. This is the time to have a conversation for some nonjudgmental fact-finding.

3.     They’re suddenly a daredevil. Are they taking more risks than they used to? Are you noticing them participating in dangerous, harmful or reckless activities? If you’re noticing behavior that could hurt them, including substance abuse, it’s time to speak up.

4.     Saying “goodbye.” This may seem obvious, but often calls or visits to say “goodbye” are dismissed by others as being peculiar but not alarming. If you experience calls like this or see similar posts on social media bidding farewell, reach out to professionals for help right away. Giving away favorite belongings may also be an indicator they have given up on life and are preparing to take drastic actions. Call the suicide prevention hotline below for information about how to talk about your concerns.

5.     There’s a history of or recent increase in risk factors. Certain situations or conditions can increase risk of suicide, including a family history of suicide or abuse as a child. It’s also important to consider if your friends or loved ones are suffering from a significant loss (job or family), physical illness, mental disorder (including depression), substance abuse or impulsive behavior. These and other risk factors may serve as an alert to keep a watchful eye and ear open.

If you are concerned someone is considering trying to commit suicide, help is available 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

 

I Was Born To Be A Parent

sinisa and boys in carriage

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am a Dad Ambassador for the March of Dimes #imbornto campaign.

I am a father to two amazing boys. My goal is to guide them to grow up strong and instill the sense of power in them that they can do anything that they want to. I was born to be the best dad I can be for my boys.

My sister, my dad and me

During this time of year I enjoy the attention and affections my children give me but my thoughts also turn to my own father and my childhood. It is during my own childhood that my father helped me see what I was born to do. He taught me to play sports and how to have fun. He indulged me and gave me everything I wanted but he also pushed me not to give up and pushed me to excel in everything I do. Thanks to my dad, I am born to guide my kids to be awesome.

I am also born to make my children proud by advocating on behalf of those who can’t. I’m happy to say that I am a Dad Ambassador for the March of Dimes. For more than 75 years, the March of Dimes has helped babies be born strong and healthy through research, vaccines, education and breakthroughs. Lucas was in the NICU for a week at birth and thanks to the March of Dimes and the developments they’ve helped create in the past years, he made it through and is now a healthy, almost six year old.

The March of Dimes imbornto campaign celebrates the great things babies are born to do and thanks mothers and fathers who are the guardians and protectors of babies’ hopes and dreams. It’s a noble cause and a great calling to help babies and parents around the world. All babies are born to thrive and be healthy and I am privileged to be able to help them get a fighting chance by partnering with March of Dimes.

 

Vacation With A Purpose At Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

best friends

(Disclosure: Best Friends invited me on an all expenses paid press trip to experience the sanctuary first hand but all thoughts about the sanctuary and charity are my own.)

Recently I went on an amazing trip to Utah. It was my first time in the state and I was there for a very special reason- to learn more about Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Located outside of Kanab in Angel Canyon, this sanctuary is the largest in the United States and is home to about 1700 animals. Best Friends is a leader in the no-kill movement with a mission to end the unnecessary killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters and to ‘Save Them All’.

I’m excited to share all about it today because I think it’s the PERFECT volunteerism trip for families. Your family can enjoy the beautiful views while spending time with animals and supporting a wonderful non-profit.

Let’s talk about those views…. I’d always thought no view could be better than the beach but I don’t know anymore… the beauty of Utah really amazed me! Angel Canyon is famous for being the backdrop of famous westerns, including ‘The Lone Ranger’.

As much as those views were a highlight of my trip, they were nothing compared to the people and animals that I got a chance to spend time with. I loved chatting with the founders of the sanctuary and learning how Best Friends Animal Sanctuary came about, how they have grown and what plans they have for the future. They told stories of the animals that they had rescued, from hoarding situations across the US to taking in some of the dogs from the Vick dog-fighting case (that they nicknamed “Victory” dogs).

I enjoyed visiting all of the animals that lived at the sanctuary and even got to spend some time volunteering in one of the cat houses that housed cats with special needs. I enjoyed taking one cat named Bob on a walk. He is said to love his leash so much that he will come running when he hears it and he sure did like to rest in the sun. I also got to spend some time with a three-legged cat and hear how brave she was.

Another fun thing I was able to do while I was at Best Friends was visit their puppy preschool. This is where the young puppies go to play and get used to household things (like the noise the vacuum or doorbell make) and how to interact with other people and animals. The puppies were so sweet and it was fun watching them play. A few even attempted to ride skateboards which was seriously the cutest thing I’ve probably ever seen in my life.

You can tell each staff member truly cares for each animal by the pride in their voices when they spoke about them and by watching the way they interacted with them. The staff takes great care of the animals there but the main goal is to get all of the animals adopted. I loved seeing signs in each building that showed how many animals had been adopted.

While Best Friends has an amazing team, they couldn’t function without the help of volunteers. From taking animals for walks, cleaning their homes, or just cuddling with the animals, there is lots to do at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary! You can learn more about volunteering here. I think this would make a great trip for the whole family. You can enjoy the breathtaking views while making a difference. This is truly a vacation your kids would remember for the rest of their lives.

Give The Gift Of Hope To Families In Need This Holiday Season

Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

For many, the holiday season is a time filled with festivity and fun. For the more than 800 million people in the world that go to bed hungry every night, however, this time of year isn’t filled with the joy that it should be. Together we can change that by giving a gift that can make a meaningful difference for a family in need.

Heifer International works to empower millions to go from poverty to self-reliance by providing alternative gifts of livestock, seeds, trees, training and more to families in need. Heifer’s strategy is the hope that these families will pass on the gift—by sharing their animals’ offspring and their knowledge, resources and skills—to create an expanding network of hope, dignity and self-reliance that reaches around the globe.

Photo courtesy of Heifer International

So while you check off your holiday gift list and gather last minute ideas, consider making this the year you helped end hunger. Give an animal instead of a gift and help change a life! Heifer has some suggestions if you are interested in shopping from the Most Important Gift Catalog in the World:

* GIVE A GOAT Goats provide milk and extra income that lead to opportunities for education and improved healthcare

* GIVE CHICKS Chicks immediately begin producing protein-packed eggs for children and families

* GIVE A COW The gift of a cow can transform a family’s life providing milk, income, and manure for better crop yields.

For every donation, Heifer provides a free custom honor card, making it easy to honor someone special to you. To learn more about alternative gifting and Heifer International please visit: www.heifer.org.

Let’s Stop Child Hunger In America One Child At A Time

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.15.04 PM

Thanksgiving is in a few days which means many families here in America are busy planning their holiday menu. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce… the list of ingredients needed for just this one meal could fill a grocery cart. We are lucky to be able to enjoy such a meal and really to be able to afford food at all. As incredible as it seems for many living in the land of plenty, an estimated 16 million children under 18 years old live in “food insecure” households which means they don’t know where – or when – their next meal will be. This is one of the reasons that I’m partnering with Unilever Project Sunlight this holiday season. I want to shed light on child hunger in America and inspire people to help do something about it.

Last month, Project Sunlight premiered an original documentary, titled Going to Bed Hungry: The Changing Face of Child Hunger, which breaks the stigma of those who are hungry here in America. It also reveals the power and the promise of a shared meal for families across America.

I believe that one meal can change a life and I hope you will join the movement and help turn the tables on child hunger in your city. Here are some things you can do over the holidays (and any time, really):

  • Help a Family in Your Neighborhood:  Simply sharing a meal with a neighbor either in the form of a simple lunch or dinner party, or even packing an extra lunch for your child to take to school, could go a long way.
  • Partner with Local Organizations: Local community organizations are great resources for sharing a meal in your area – simply tap into their networks to see how you can help.
  • Coordinate with Your Local Food Bank: Whether you wish to volunteer or host your own local food drive, use Feeding America’s online Food Bank Locator tool to get in touch with a food bank in your area.
  • Host a Virtual Food Drive: Feeding America’s Personal Fundraiser tool is a great place to start and to reach out to friends, family, and colleagues for contributions.
  • Donate: Consider swapping a night out with a night in and share those extra savings with children and families in need in the form of a donation to Feeding America.
  • Lend Your Voice:  Inspire others by revealing why you’re helping to end child hunger on social media using, “I #ShareAMeal because…”

I know stopping child hunger is a lofty goal but if we all do just one or two things to help that can go far. In the next month I will be working on contributing directly to our new neighborhood and offering to pay some delinquent school lunch balances for kids at the boys’ school along with donating to the food drive our school is hosting.

How will you help?

Haribo’s Pink Ribbon Packages {Giveaway}

haribo

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Haribo and helps to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation.)

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month as I’m sure you all know. Many companies donate to the cause during this time period and I am happy to partner with one of them. Haribo has added a pink ribbon on the gold bags of the original Haribo Gold-Bears gummi candy nationwide in partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).

The Foundation provides hope and inspiration to those affected by breast cancer through early detection, education and support services. NBCF provides free mammograms to women in all 50 states through their network of hospitals, and is one of the most recognized and respected breast cancer charities in the world. For more information on NBCF, please visit nbcf.org.

Haribo Gold-Bears pink ribbon bags will be sold in select Target, Kroger and retailers across the nation at a suggested retail price of $1.09 – $1.69 and NBCF receive a portion of Haribo pink-ribbon bag sales.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win 2 packages of Pink Ribbon Haribo Gold-Bear gummi candy

HOW TO ENTER:

 Leave a comment telling me one thing you learned about Breast Cancer on the NBCF website

For an extra entry, share this giveaway on a social network and leave the link below

Giveaway ends November 5, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident and 21 or over to enter.

Brawny® Partners With The Wounded Warrior Project®

ToughIsWordArt_3

I am proud to be working with Brawny® over the next couple months to share about their partnership with Wounded Warrior Project®. The Brawny® brand has donated $1.4 million to the Wounded Warrior Project®, which, it says, shares the same brand spirit and values: an inner strength that emboldens and inspires people to be “Tough to the Core.” WWP helps wounded servicemen and women adjust to civilian life and persevere through the visible and invisible wounds of war. US Service men and women are some of the toughest people. They put themselves in harms way to protect us and it’s a choice that they’ve made that I will be forever grateful for.

Another group that comes to mind when I hear the word “tough” are parents of children with special needs {and the children themselves}. These moms and dads have to be tough, not for themselves but for the children they are raising. As one of those parents, I had no idea what was to come when I got pregnant but once I had my children, and disabilities were diagnosed, I had no choice to be tough because it’s my job to protect my boys and advocate for them.

More so than the parents, the children are tough. They learn to embrace their differences, overcome their obstacles and adjust to a world that doesn’t always understand them. These kids here? They make me proud to be their mom every day.

Tough is so much more than physical strength. For some, it’s about being resilient. For others, it means showing compassion. Tell us what “tough” means to you and the Brawny® brand will donate $1 to WWP for every text or photo submission, and for $5 for every video (up to $350,000). You can share your definition and donate using #ToughIs on Facebook, Instagram or visit www.brawny.com/wounded-warrior-project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay connected with Brawny® on Twitter and Facebook. To learn more on the partnership, go to www.brawny.com/wounded-warrior-project and for more information on Wounded Warrior Project®, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.com.

Support Schools And Dress Your Child With Schoola

This outfit cost $10 and $4 went to support schools

I shared a couple weeks ago how I was working with Schoola to support funding for a music program at a school in the Bronx. Thanks to everyone who has helped support the program along with me :) Today I wanted to share a little more about Schoola and how you can use the site to earn money for your child’s school by donating your children’s gently used clothes.

To donate your used clothes you simply request a bag and send in your gently used clothes. You specify the school you want to support and then $2 of each $5 sold goes to your school. To get some new clothes for your kids you simply go to schoola.com, find some clothes you want to buy, add them to your cart and then go through the online checkout process. 40% of your purchase goes back to schools!

I’m excited to head to my first PTA meeting this year because each year they always are looking for fundraising ideas and I think this would be an easy one for us to do that wouldn’t require much of a time commitment from parents. Honestly, I’m sick of having to sell wrapping paper, candy and pies. Clothes though? Every parent has some they want to get rid of and some they need for their growing kids.

This outfit cost $10 and $4 went to support schools

Money goes a long way at Schoola. My $52 order included 2 hoodies, 2 pairs of jeans and 6 t-shirts. Many of the clothes available on the site are name brand. Four of my items from this order were The Children’s Place brand and my last order included pieces from GAP Kids.

What will you find at Schoola.com? Use the code BacktoSchoola20 for 20% off your order {expires on August 20, 2014}.

Celebrate Play in the Windy City this Saturday with Let’s Play!

#LetsPlayChicago

As many of you know, I’ve been working to help share the importance of play in the lives of children as a Play Ambassador for Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple to get kids and families active by providing them with the tools, places and inspiration to make physical activity a daily priority

Play is important to children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual development. It is more important than ever for kids and families to get outside and play, especially in Chicago, where playgrounds are often lacking at public elementary and middle schools, according to research shared by the Chicago Tribune.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce that Let’s Play is helping bring play to Chicago this Saturday, August 9 and we want you and your family to join the fun! In the morning, Let’s Play will be working with its partners KaBOOM! and Good Sports and a team of volunteers to build a playground from the ground up at O.A. Thorp Scholastic Academy and donate nearly 2,000 pieces of new sports equipment valued at $68,000 to eight youth organizations in Chicago.

In the afternoon, you can come on down to #LetsPlayChicago, a FREE community event for families and kids of all ages, featuring fun play activities like bouncy houses, obstacle courses, face painting and snacks. The #LetsPlayChicago community event is from 12:30 p.m. 4:00 p.m. at O.A. Thorp Scholastic Academy (6024 W Warwick Ave., Chicago, IL 60634). It will be a fun time for all and a great way to get active with your family!

For more information and to register to join the fun, visit LetsPlay.com.

Disclosure: I am currently serving as a “Play Ambassador” for Let’s Play. This is a sponsored post, however, the opinions expressed are my own.

 

The New School Lunch Offerings

sna

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

What comes to mind when you hear the term “school lunch”? When I hear that, I think of the foods that were offered when I was in grade school- pizza, overcooked broccoli, meatloaf, taco salad, hamburgers and the like. So when I was invited to Boston to attend the School Nutrition Association’s School Lunch Conference I was blown away by how much school lunches had changed.

The first thing I noticed was the variety of foods available. Yes, some of the staples from years ago are still being served but there are so many new things, too. I saw sushi, Chinese food, pasta salad worthy of a backyard celebration, mushroom burgers and shaker salads.

Another thing I noticed was the great effort that companies were going to to market their foods and make them appealing to kids and teenagers. Things like hard boiled eggs on lollipop sticks, fancy containers that made the foods look like they were from a restaurant, and colorful packages.

***

Most of all though, the main theme throughout the convention center was making school lunches healthier. Whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables were found down every row of booths. Not just healthy but the food had to taste good. As the food service coordinators for various schools shared, it’s important for food to taste good or else it’s just going to end up in the trash can and nobody wants that. I had pizza on whole grain crust that was so delicious that I would have assumed it was delivery.

And speaking of pizza…a lot of large brands were there including a well-known pizza delivery company. At first I thought it was a bit odd but it’s important to note that the foods that these well-known brands serve at schools are not the same foods that we buy at the grocery store or that we order to be delivered. All foods served in the cafeteria have to meet strict guidelines.

Overall, I left the conference feeling empowered. I really feel like, as parents, we have a responsibility to be more aware of what is happening in our children’s school cafeterias.I always thought I’d pack my children’s lunch but after attending the conference I feel more confident that my children are going to get healthy, balanced lunches at school.

Help Support The Music Program At KIPP Academy In The Bronx

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 10.59.25 AM

Did you know that our tax money doesn’t always cover music and art programs in schools? I was surprised to learn this recently. I’m excited to be partnering with Schoola to share how you can earn money for schools in need. The best part is that busy parents like me (and like most of you that are reading this) can do this easily, without spending much of our limited time doing so.

I’m proud to be supporting Schoola’s efforts to raise money for KIPP Academy in Bronx, NY. The goal is $25,000 to fund the music program. A small school in the Bronx, KIPP Academy works hard to support kids who need all the help they can get. Ninety-five percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch. More than one in seven receives special education services. Music helps KIPP Academy reach and engage every child who enters its doors. The slogan on the Music Room wall sets the stage—All of Us Will Learn Music.  No matter what backgrounds they come from or what challenges they face, they learn lessons together that will serve them the rest of their lives.

I chose to support this school in particular because I was involved in my school’s choir when I was younger and I believe in the importance of music programs. I love their slogan- “All of us will learn music” and how it speaks to those of different backgrounds and abilities. Also, as a mom with children in special education, the number of children with special needs that KIPP Academy supports also drew me to this school.

What is Schoola? Schoola is an online consignment store dedicated to recycling brand-name children’s clothes, with a portion of the proceeds going to schools in need. Three bags of clothing sold at Schoola will fund one violin for a child at KIPP Academy. Watch this video below and see the children’s faces light up when they are talking about how much music means to them and you’ll see why I’m participating in this campaign!

Here is how you can help me raise money for KIPP Academy:

  • For every transaction you do on Schoola.com, Schoola will donate $1 to KIPP Academy.
  • For every person who requests a Schoola donation bag (it’s FREE!), Schoola will donate $1 to KIPP Academy.
  • PLUS – when you donate clothes and fill out your school information, $2 of every $5 made will go back to the school you chose to support! A win for KIPP Academy and a win for your child’s school!

Ready to help? Check out Schoola.com and request a donation bag or find some great clothes for back to school!

Creating A World Where No Child Goes Hungry

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 8.02.50 PM

I am proud to be partnering with Feed the Children, an organization that exists to end childhood hunger. I’ve shared how important this cause is to me numerous times here on the blog and will continue to do so until all children have enough food to eat. It seems like a lofty goal but I truly believe that it’s one that could be seen in my lifetime.

Currently, hunger hurts 1 out of every 7 children. Feed The Children is working on a number of initiatives to end child hunger, one of them being a pilot program in Oklahoma City. The pilot, called Oklahoma Summer Food and Education Program, represents Feed the Children’s new vision and commitment to unite like-minded organizations to defeat the status quo of hunger.

In Oklahoma, the school lunch program that lower-income families depend on shuts down for the summer break, which means roughly 300,000 children may be left without a stable source of nutrition. While the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program helps fill that gap over the summer, there are still children who go hungry. Feed the Children’s Pilot program provides better access to more meals and also educational resources like books and school supplies.

Though this program will be focused on Oklahoma this summer, it will benefit those who live in other places as well. Results from the pilot program will be offered to Feed the Children partners to identify ways to better solve summer food insecurity that have impact, are far-reaching and cost-effective. This will hopefully spur programs in other states.

Want to learn more about Feed The Children or The Oklahoma Summer Food and Education Program? Join me at the #HelpKidsBeKids Twitter Party on July 9th from 1-2 PM EST.

 

Energizer Night Race For A Brighter World {Giveaway For Chicago Race Registration}

Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 7.17.34 PM

(Disclosure: I am a Blogger Ambassador for the Energizer Night Race but all thoughts are my own.)

Did you know that 1.3 billion people lack access to clean lighting, forcing them to rely on kerosene lamps? It sounds innocent, but kerosene is actually responsible for 1.5 million deaths annually. Without adequate lighting, children in these rural communities can’t study effectively. Physicians can’t provide proper medical attention after daylight hours. And, kerosene is so expensive that it ends up costing these families half of their income.

Energizer has decided to help by donating 14 million hours of light to families around the world through their partner, One Million Lights – a non-profit that provides clean, safe, affordable solar lighting to rural communities globally.

 

Energizer is hosting a series of races this year where participants race at night, with the light of an Energizer® headlight to guide them, letting them unite to raise awareness for the global need for safe, affordable solar light for the 1.3 billion people in the world living without electricity. This year’s Chicago Energizer Night Race is on June 7th.

GIVEAWAY:

Two readers will each win registration for the Chicago 2014 race

HOW TO ENTER:

 Tell me why you want to win

FOR AN EXTRA ENTRY:

Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends June 1, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident to enter. Giveaway includes registration only and does not cover any other costs including travel, parking, etc…

Help End Child Hunger

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 10.05.46 PM

(Disclosure: I participated in this program on behalf of ConAgra Foods and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.)

As I sit down to write this post I think about how hungry I am. My stomach rumbles and I realize I forgot to eat lunch and it’s now way past dinner time and I haven’t had that meal either. I’ve been busy all day with work and then was at Jacob’s baseball game tonight. I can take a break and go eat something if I want because my fridge, freezer and pantry are packed. I’m lucky because I have food.

Not all are that lucky. Did you know that more than one in five children in the U.S. may not know where their next meal is coming from? That’s nearly 16 million children, a number that could fill 8,000 playgrounds.

Children who experience even intermittent struggles with hunger may suffer serious, long-term consequences to their health, well-being and educational achievement. What’s more, being hungry robs kids of the promise of childhood – the ability to play, grow and learn.

This is unacceptable. ConAgra Foods believe the same thing and they are partnering with P&G to build a community of people to make a difference and help donate up to 7 million meals through the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign.

How can you get involved? Here are 2 great ways!

* Enter Codes to Trigger Donations. It’s easy to make a difference: Look for the red pushpin on participating product packaging for a code found on these specially marked ConAgra Foods and P&G products. For each 8-digit code entered at www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com from March-August 2014, ConAgra Foods or P&G, respectively, will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to Feeding America.

Looking for participating products? Find great deals on some at Meijer this week!

Deals at Meijer Sale Dates
Banquet Homestyle Bakes: Buy 1 for $2.99 4/6 6/1
*Orville Redenbacher’s (6pk or larger): Buy 1, Save $1.00 4/13 5/31
Blue Bonnet Sticks: On Sale for $0.69 4/20 5/17
Egg Beaters (32oz): Buy 1 for $3.99 4/21 5/17
*Hunt’s Ketchup (24oz): Buy 2, Save $1.00 5/1 5/31
*Reddi Wip (13 oz): Buy 2, Save $1.00 5/4 5/17
Parkay (41 oz tub): Buy 2 for $5.00 5/4 5/24
*Healthy Choice Modern or Traditional Classics, Café Steamers, Baked Entrees or Greek Yogurt: Buy 6, Save $1.50 5/4 5/31
Healthy Choice (Single Serve Meals): Buy 5 for $10.00 5/11 5/17
Marie Callender’s (Single Serve Meals): Buy 11 for $5.00 5/11 5/17
Chef Boyardee (15oz): Buy 10 for $10.00, Get 11th FREE 5/11 5/17
Snack Pack (4-pk): Buy 10 for $10.00, Get 11th FREE 5/11 5/17
Wolf Brand Chili with Beans (15oz): Buy 10 for $10.00 5/11 5/17
*Lofthouse Cookies: Buy 1, Save $0.75 5/11 5/31

 

* Join the Community and Get Involved. One of the easiest ways to learn how to get involved is to join the Child Hunger Ends Here Facebook community at Facebook.com/ChildHungerEndsHere or follow the news on Twitter and Instagram at @ChildHungerEnds.

Here are 10 other ways you can get involved. How will you help end child hunger?

 

Free Coloring Book Download Benefits Nonprofit

brushing fun

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

Last month I shared how Tom’s of Maine was raising awareness about the importance of oral health during National Children’s Dental Health Month. Though the special month may be over, their coloring and activity book called “Brushing Fun” is still available.

The free coloring and activity book supports Oral Health America, a national nonprofit dedicated to oral care and prevention.  With each free coloring book download, Tom’s of Maine will donate 10 tubes of its Wicked Cool! natural toothpaste (up to 200,000 tubes) to children in OHA’s  Smiles Across America program.

The boys came home from school and colored some more of the coloring book. Lucas loved that his name was on the pages.

Jake’s coloring page

***

Luke’s coloring sheet

 You can find the coloring book here.

A little background on Tom’s of Maine in case you aren’t familiar with them…. Tom’s of Maine Silly Strawberry toothpaste is the first and only natural kid’s toothpaste to receive the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance for its proven effectiveness. With no artificial dyes or sweeteners, Tom’s of Maine Silly Strawberry toothpaste gets its naturally sweet flavor from real strawberry juice.

Have older children? There new product is ”Wicked Cool!” which is designed for kids ages 8 and over. This mild mint-flavored toothpaste fights cavities, strengthens enamel and freshens breath and is great for kids who want a more “grown up” toothpaste but find the adult mint versions “too spicy”.  Plus, it’s ADA-accepted, dye-free and never contains any artificial sweeteners or flavors.

Connect with Tom’s of Maine on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Connect with Oral Health America on Facebook and Twitter.

 

The Pink Elephant In The Room

kohls elephant 1

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is October but I think that conversations around it shouldn’t just be limited to one month out of the year. This is a constant conversation that we should be having so I’m happy to be working with Kohl’s this month to talk about this important subject.

Kohl’s Department Stores and Katie Holmes invite women everywhere to start a conversation about their breast health in an effort to confront the “pink elephant in the room” – breast cancer – and support the fight. As part of this initiative, Kohl’s will donate up to $1 million to Susan G. Komen® to help support the cause.

“Breast cancer is like a pink elephant in the room that women don’t really want to think about, but know they should,” said Katie Holmes. “Women have so much going on in their day-to-day lives, it can be easy to ignore their own needs, like scheduling a mammogram or routine screening. I’m honored to team up with Kohl’s to remind women of the importance of having a conversation about breast health right now.”

From now through Monday, February 17, customers who earn Kohl’s Cash on purchases at Kohl’s stores or on Kohls.com will receive a new, pink version of the traditionally green coupon. From Tuesday, February 18 through Saturday, March 8, Kohl’s will donate $1 to Komen for every pink Kohl’s Cash coupon redeemed, a minimum of $100,000 up to $1 million.

Kohl’s is also featuring a special, pink elephant necklace from the LC Lauren Conrad collection beginning February 19th with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward the fight against breast cancer through Kohl’s Cares®, the company’s philanthropic platform. Priced at only $5 and $8 each, two sizes of the necklace will be available while supplies last for a limited time in stores and online.

(Disclosure: I received a necklace from Kohl’s but all thoughts are my own.)

Ways To Help The Boys & Girls Clubs Of America This Season

(Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys and Girls Clubs of America. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.)

The Holiday season is in full-swing! We are all busy with parties, decorating, gift buying and everything else that goes along with it but I think it’s also important to give back during this time as well. There are many good causes to support but I wanted to share about one specifically today.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America serve nearly 4 million youth, but millions more need the life-changing programs and positive guidance Clubs provide. You can help create Great Futures for kids by making a gift to Boys & Girls Clubs of America this holiday season. The easiest ways to support BGCA is to volunteer, donate or shop at a store that donates proceeds to them.

Other fun things you can do on the Holiday website include:

Isn’t that fun!? I especially love the tips they offer for parents on helping kids get in the giving spirit.

 

 

Giving Tuesday {Giving Back To My Community Thanks To Kohl’s}

giving back with kohl's

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. Kohl’s provided a gift card that I used to purchase gifts for others in the community.)

I try to give back to my community and those around the world all year round but I absolutely love the fact that there is one day that is called “Giving Tuesday”. This very special day is tomorrow, December 3rd, this year. What a great feeling to see people blowing up social media with talk of giving after a week of shopping and “getting”. When someone from Kohl’s emailed me and asked if they could send me a gift card to go shopping for others I was really excited. I enjoy working with Kohl’s on a regular basis and love that they give back to the community throughout the year with their Kohl’s Cares program. This was just more proof that I’m blessed to partner with such an amazing company.

Once I received the gift card I wanted to shop online right away because Kohl’s had fabulous deals and they were giving Kohl’s cash back so, like their commercial says, it’s like getting paid to shop! I had a few things in mind that I wanted to do with the money. My kids and I had chosen two “angels” off of the angel tree at Church to buy gifts for. The gifts would go to children who had parents in prison. I also wanted to purchase mittens and gloves for the mitten tree which would keep children and adults warm during the cold winter. With the remaining gift card balance I was going to get toys for a local gift mart. These toys would fill a makeshift store in a neighboring low income town’s school and gave parents the chance to “shop” for toys. Paying just $2 per toy allows parents to keep their dignity while being able to afford gifts for their children and then all proceeds go back into the local school. During my first few years of motherhood I would have been one of these parents so I’m happy to be able to help them.

I started with our angel tree gifts. Each parent in prison had written (or dictated) a note for their child that would be attached on the gift. It was humbling to see their Christmas wishes were so simple- they asked for clothes. The 3 year old wanted blue shirts and Spongebob themed clothes. The 6 year old’s wish was red clothes and Angry Bird themed items.

Gifts for the 3 year old- had a coloring book and crayons for him as well

Gifts for the 6 year old

The Angel Tree ministry is such a wonderful ministry and I’m so happy that we could bless not one, but two, kids this year. These kids will see gifts under the Christmas tree and a note from their parent that can’t be with them and I think it will bring such joy to them on Christmas morning.

I bought two 3-packs of mittens for little kids, a 3-pack of gloves for boys in elementary school, and a pair of gloves for a teenager or woman. Though it’s called a mitten tree I realized that we could have brought hats and scarves as well so I will definitely have to keep that in mind next year.

The mitten tree!

I’m still waiting on the second half of my gifts because I ordered the toys just a couple days ago. I found great deals on Thomas The Tank Engine, Melissa & Doug, Imaginext, and lots more to bring to the gift mart in a couple weeks. With my Kohl’s Cash I plan on buying some warm blankets to bring to a local homeless shelter. I bought a sherpa lined blanket from Kohl’s last month that I love so I think that I might get a few of those for the shelter. Again, a huge thanks to Kohl’s for providing the gift card and sharing the love this holiday season.

I hope that this post and the #GivingTuesday campaign have inspired you to think about new ways that you can give back this year. If you have ideas I’d love to read about them in the comments below!

Gifts That Give Back To Mercy House Kenya

in mercy

(Disclosure: I joined in supporting this cause because it’s important to me and did so without expectation of receiving anything in return, however, recently I was sent some unexpected gifts as a thank you.)

Back in September I shared about a great cause I was helping support and raise money for called Mercy House. A group of bloggers came together with {in}courage with a goal of raising $74,000 by Christmas. The project was split into 5 phases and I’m so happy to share that the first four phases have been fully funded! These moms and babies now have a new van, new classroom space, a new generator, and computer lab. Now it’s time to work on funding a second home and we have a little under a month to raise the money.

We’d love if you’d help by donating money to the project. Another option is to purchase your Christmas gifts through Mercy House or to purchase select {in}mercy items from Dayspring because both donate a portion of the proceeds to the cause. You can give a great gift while doing something amazing for these moms and kids in Kenya. What’s better than that?

Here are some of my favorite items:

***

***

***

***

***

Find more gifts here and here!

 

 

Give With Purpose This Holiday Season {Giveaway}

world vision gift catalog

(Disclosure: I received a bracelet and earring set but all thoughts are my own.)

There is nothing better than a gift that gives back. I’m happy to be working with World Vision again this year to help promote their Gift Catalog. The World Vision Gift Catalog offers more than 250 items that help fight poverty and save lives here in US and around the world. With a financial contribution, donors can select one of the 30+ Handcrafted Gifts that can be shared with a loved one and at the same time help a person in need.

I received a Colors of Africa Bracelet & Earring Set to review. This gorgeous Zakale bracelet and earring set from Nairobi are made from recycled materials by Kenyan artisans. The people received a loan from World Vision to grow their business and lift themselves out of poverty. With a $100 donation people can get this set for free.

This colorful set would make the perfect gift for any woman or girl. I love how the beads really capture the light. Knowing the story behind the bracelet makes me even prouder to wear it.

Want to donate without receiving a gift? The Gift Catalog lets you choose how your donation is sent. Love playing soccer or have kids who do? Donate soccer balls to kids who would normally play with “soccer balls” made of banana leaves or rolled-up trash. Passionate about education? Give kids books and tools they need to be successful in school and help them fulfill their potential and even lift themselves out of poverty. Or maybe you just simply want to give a child food, water, or clothing to protect them from the freezing temperatures.

Want to go beyond yourself? I love these ideas that World Vision shared:

  • Organize a family giving night and have kids select charitable gifts from an organization such as the World Vision Gift Catalog. Talk with your children about how giving back changes lives of children and families living in poverty and that their efforts truly make a difference.
  • Host a house party for friends and family and ask your guests to contribute to a share of a group gift such as a farm animal, winter clothing or school supplies to families in need, or even a water well. Make the selection of the item, how to raise funds for that gift, and the collection of the money a collaborative, group effort.
  • After Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping, consider celebrating Giving Tuesday (12/3) and make meaningful, life-changing gift purchases such as medicine, mosquito nets or a fish pond.
  • Be active in your giving — volunteer at your local homeless shelter or senior living center; cook a meal or bake cookies for an elderly family member or neighbor.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a bracelet and earring set like the one mentioned above

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

 1) Leave a comment telling me what gift you’d give a child in need

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Comment on another one of my blog posts

Giveaway ends November 24, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must a a US resident and 18 or older to enter.

Kohl’s Cares: Holiday Giving With The Peanuts Gang

kohls cares

(Disclosure: I am working with Kohl’s to promote their Kohl’s Cares program and received promotional items but all thoughts are my own.)

Kohl’s Department Stores is offering classic Peanuts storybooks, plush toys of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and friends and gifts, for just $5 each that will leave the entire family grinning from ear to ear this holiday season. Through the Kohl’s Cares program, 100 percent of the net profit from this collection supports children’s health and education initiatives nationwide. I love this program because it’s a great way for people to find gifts for those they love while giving back to the community at the same time.

Now through late December, Kohl’s offers exclusive hardcover editions of beloved Peanuts storybooks by renowned author Charles M. Schulz, along with coordinating plush toys. Kohl’s also offers a cookbook, holiday CD and a Peanuts Jigsaw Puzzle –perfect gifts guaranteed to spread holiday cheer this season.

Kohl’s Cares Cause Merchandise for Kids

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown plush: Join Charlie and Linus as they uncover the true meaning of Christmas through fun holiday traditions, including ice skating, participating in the school pageant and finding a Christmas tree.
  • You Can Be Anything and Snoopy plush: Children will dream big with Snoopy as they learn they can do anything or be anything – from an astronaut to a lawyer to just plain cool – as they grow up.
  • Be Yourself! and Woodstock plush: The whole Peanuts gang is gathered together to show children that being yourself is fun and everyone has different qualities that make them unique and special!
  • Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown and Snoopy plush: Follow Linus as he tries, with the help of his friends Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Lucy, to part with his beloved blanket before his Grandma’s visit.
  • Peanuts Classic Gift Set: Experience two-times the holiday cheer and endless Christmas miracles with a book two-pack of Happiness is a Warm Puppy and Christmas is Together Time – great classic Peanuts stories.
  • ONLINE EXCLUSIVE – Linus plush and Lucy plush: Children will buddy up with Linus and Lucy plush toys as they celebrate the holiday season. Available exclusively at Kohls.com.
  • Peanuts Jigsaw Puzzle: Wrap up in a blanket, pour a cup of cocoa and get to work with the family assembling a jigsaw puzzle with artwork from the classic Peanuts storybooks. It is the perfect stocking stuffer or new family tradition this holiday season.

Kohl’s Cares Cause Merchandise for Grown-Ups

  • Holiday Cheer: Make sure the halls are decked and everyone is jolly this holiday season with the perfect book for holiday recipes, decorating, entertaining and gift ideas. The go-to holiday handbook this season is filled with tips and tricks from Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Country Living and makes the perfect hostess gift for holiday parties and festivities.
  • Upon the Winter Solstice: Trans-Siberian Orchestra CD: Delight in the holiday spirit with the sounds of this year’s CD from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Grab one for the car, the home and the office to spread the holiday cheer!

Gifts that promote literacy and give back to the community? These are a must for any gift list!

Literacy Events Around The Nation Today

jumpstart

Join the record-breaking literacy celebration today, October 3, with Jumpstart! People all across the country will read the children’s book Otis by Loren Long in support of Jumpstart’s mission to work towards the day that every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. Joined by Tiffani Thiessen, actress and star of USA’s White Collar, Jumpstart hopes to break last year’s record of 2.3 million participants reading the same book at the same time.

Jumpstart will host several large scale events on October 3 in cities and towns across the country with marquee events in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. In addition, many of Jumpstart’s campaign Reading Partners and sponsors will be hosting events. Gymboree will host events in every Gymboree, Janie & Jack, Crazy 8, and Gymboree Play & Music locations across the country. Additionally, official Reading Partner, We Give Books will have Otis available to read online for free in both English and Spanish at www.wegivebooks.org.

”Jumpstart’s Read for the Record is a meaningful way for Americans to support the critical need for high-quality early education in our country,” said Jumpstart’s president and CEO, Naila Bolus. “We know that for children living in low-income communities, this need is significant. By the time these children enter kindergarten, they are already 60% behind their more affluent peers. Jumpstart’s Read for the Record brings light to this national issue and gives citizens a platform to voice their support for this cause.”

Learn more at http://www.jstart.org/campaigns/read-record.

Chicago Area Events

Chicago will hold two events today in honor of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record.

Lincoln Park Zoo:

The Lincoln Park Zoo will host three readings of “Otis” by Loren Long on Thursday morning. The readings are open to the public, and U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley will attend. Readings are at 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Chicago Children’s Museum:

The Chicago Children’s Museum will also hold an event. Kraft Family Free Night will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is open to the public. There will be readings of “Otis“ throughout the night.

 

 

Child Sponsorship Works

We sponsor a little girl through Compassion International named Rita. I found this infographic online and thought it was interesting so I wanted to share. Often times we think “I’m just one person, what can I do?” but we can make a big difference to a child.

Compassion International Child Sponsorship Works

Infographic from Compassion International.

 

Talking About Domestic Violence One Purple Purse At A Time

purple purse 1

This post is part of a sponsored campaign with The Allstate Foundation and MomSelect. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Domestic violence happens more than 145 times each hour in the U.S. and on average, three women die every day as a result. It affects more women than breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer combined. You’d think with how prevalent it is, more people would be talking about it but they aren’t mostly because people don’t know what to say and how to help a victim.

Lacking financial knowledge and resources is the number one indicator of whether a domestic violence victim will stay, leave or return to an abusive relationship. Many people don’t realize that women who are victims of domestic violence are usually subject to financial abuse along with the physical abuse. They often face financial restrictions and are given limited access, if any, to bank accounts, important documents, and information about shared assets. This makes it even harder to escape the situations they find themselves in.

To get people talking about domestic violence, The Allstate Foundation created Purple Purse and PurplePurse.com. The Purple Purse was created because a purse represents the center of a woman’s financial domain and purple is the color utilized by domestic violence awareness campaigns. The website appears to be an online fashion magazine, but when the user looks more deeply, she will find a safe place with a variety of information and resources specific to the issue of domestic violence and financial empowerment.

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, The Allstate Foundation is sending more than 1,000 purses carrying domestic violence information throughout the country. The purses will be passed between co-workers, friends, and family, sparking important conversations along the way. For every purple purse passed through the end of October, The Allstate Foundation will donate $5 to YWCA and will give up to $350,000 for programs aimed to help domestic violence survivors and stop the cycle of abuse.

If you don’t get your hands on one of the purple purses that are being passed around the country, you can still help by logging onto Facebook.com/PurplePurse and sharing a virtual purple purse. Each time a virtual purple purse is shared or re-shared, they will make a $5 donation to YWCA.

(Disclosure: Information and images provided to me by sponsor.)

A Christmas Gift For Moms & Kids In Kenya

in mercy

I know, I know…it’s still September and you probably aren’t thinking about Christmas yet but I am. I am honored to join in on a special project with {in}courage to raise money for Mercy House in Kenya.

Image courtesy of: Bess Brownlee

The reason we are starting early? We have a goal to raise $74,000 by Christmas 2013. We’ve fallen in love with 12 teen moms and their 12 babies in Kenya. And we’ve got five special gifts we want to give them for Christmas this year. Van, Classroom, Generator, Computer Lab and New Home. This is Mercy House Kenya. They’re family and sisters you can meet without leaving home. Come to Kenya with us! Let’s give the gift of mercy together!

Wondering how you can help?

 You can….

Give - Donate towards one of these key projects.
Share - Share about this amazing work with your friends and family.
Rally - Ask people to join you in advocating for Mercy House Kenya.

Stand With The Children Of Syria‏ {One Tweet = One Dollar Donated}

education

As Malala Yousafzai recently said, ”We must not forget that 57 million children are out of school. We must speak up for peace and development in Nigeria, Syria and Somalia… let us help them through our voice, action and charity.  Let us help them to read books and go to school.”

2 million people are now displaced refugees of Syria. 1 million of them are children.

These children have lost the home they’ve known, often, their families, and the opportunity to grow and prosper as they struggle to grasp what has just happened to them.

Many organizations in neighboring countries such as UNHCR, UNICEF, Save the Children, the World Food Programme and others are working to provide them with essential shelter, food, and the chance to continue their education.  But the resources needed for this work are severely lacking.

A World At School has developed a plan to provide Education without Borders so that the Syrian refugee children in Lebanon can go to school within a few weeks.  But they need your help to make this a reality.

Here are a few ways you can help do this:

1) Sign the petition we will deliver to world leaders on September 23rd asking them to fund education for Syrian refugees.

2) Tweet for good – every time this tweet is shared, $1 will be donated to humanitarian aid - at no cost to you:

Click to Tweet your support for Syria's child refugees
3) Donate to efforts on the ground to establish schools, provide books, and other humanitarian aid.  Just $34 USD can provide a ‘back to school kit’ so a child can continue their education and $72 can provide food for a family for an entire month.  Check out ways to donate here

If you can’t donate at this time I hope you will still lend your voice to this important cause with a signature and a tweet.

(Content courtesy of A World At School.)