5 Ways To Power Through Your Crazy Week

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC., The Coca-Cola Company, and Conagra Brands all opinions are mine alone. #PowerfullySmart #CollectiveBias

Life. Is. Busy.

I know, I know. It’s a recurring theme around here lately. But seriously, this time of year is SO BUSY for me, and I know it is for you, too! For a while, I was just really struggling to keep up the energy and drive that I needed to tackle this season (literally and figuratively).

The first thing I did was to get organized and come up with a schedule to keep things on track and from slipping through the cracks. I recently shared that with you in my How To Rock Your Back To Life post. All the organization in the world, though, doesn’t do you a bit of good if you’re so exhausted you can’t get through it, or so distracted that you can’t focus.

So today I’m sharing with you things I’m doing in my life to be able to Power Through My Busy Week and actually manage to accomplish half of that list!

Get Enough Rest

Again, I know, I know. You’ve heard this one a million times, and chances are you might even laugh at it. Like, HOW is it possible to get enough rest? This one has always been super challenging for me, too. For one, I’m a night person so living in a morning person world now that the kids are in school is not pleasant. Also, I’m one of those “lucky” people who truly does need 8-9 hours of good sleep or their whole world is out of joint.

These are the things that have really helped me be able to get the rest I need. Some you’ve heard before, and others are a little non-conventional, but hopefully, they’ll get your mind going on how YOU can get the rest you need. As you’ll see you can tweak your routine according to your personality. The more you know about yourself the more you’ll be able to make it work. For example, extroverts and introverts both need time alone each day–but for opposite reasons!

  • Early Bedtimes For Kids – So a lifesaver for me is that my kids have early bedtimes. Even at ages 7 & 9, they’re both still in bed with doors shut at 7:30 almost every night. Then they can stay up reading or cleaning/organizing their rooms until 8, which is lights out. They’re both extroverts, like me, so this time alone helps them to get tired and shut down their brains for the night. Which plays right into the next step
  • Intentionally Wind Down— When my kids go down for the night is also when I stop working. I shut down my email and my social media and I “mush” for the night. This is so helpful. As I mentioned I’m an extrovert and a night person. In order for me not to be jazzed and my brain not to be whirling into the middle of the night, I have to intentionally shut it down. Plus I think there really is something to that screen light keeping you awake theory (look it up if you’re curious). Cuddling up in a comfy room, with dim lights, and a good book makes it possible for me to pass out easily at a decent time every night!
  • Sleep In — Yepp. You read that right. While there are a ton of articles on the merits of waking up early, I’ve found it’s best for me if I hit that snooze. My kids actually are up *before* I am. *gasps*. But, as I mentioned, they’re the ones who have to be up, dressed, and ready for the day early on. All I need to do is be up in time to make sure they’re good to go, haven’t forgotten anything, and drive them to drop off. It’s amazing what this extra 20 minutes of light snooze does for me each morning. It gives my inner not-a-morning-person a chance to ease into the day–while still in my cozy bed.

Power Up With Your Food

I hate breakfast. I wish I didn’t and I know how (supposedly) it’s the most important, but usually, I skim by with just a little of something like Greek Yogurt. I think it’s that whole “not a morning person” thing still. Because I go lightly on breakfast, though, it means I need a delicious, filling, and smart meal to help me power through the rest of my busy day. I also need something convenient and quick. Since I work from home I don’t want to spend a lot of time whipping up a meal during my precious little lunch break.

Que Healthy Choice® Power Bowls and smartwater. This dynamic duo is the perfect answer to lunch!

First off, let’s talk hydration. Because, really, it should go without saying, but I will anyway. There’s absolutely no way to power through your busy week if you’re not staying hydrated with water! Personally drinking water is one thing that I’ve always been really good at. I love it and it loves me! I know so many of my readers have trouble drinking water, though, so I’d love to introduce you to smartwater. It comes in this gorgeous, sleek packaging and is vapor-distilled for purity, inspired by the clouds, with just the right amount of electrolytes for a uniquely clean taste. If you don’t drink enough water because of disliking how it tastes, you need to purchase this brand! I love the size of the bottle, too. For someone who chugs water all day, this is the just-right amount for lunch or when I’m out and about!

And now for the food! For me, food has to taste delicious, or I just don’t want it. However, I know I need power for my days so I’m trying to be more intentional about what I’m putting in my body. That’s why I was attracted to Healthy Choice® Power Bowls. They are food with purpose that insist that every ingredient matters. They’re also made with an intentional balance of vegetables, proteins, and whole grains to fuel your lifestyle. They come in a variety of bold, fun flavors:

  • Adobo Chicken Bowl
  • Cuban-Inspired Pork Bowl
  • Chicken Sausage And Barley Bowl (my favorite!! I just love the flavor combination in this one, soooo tasty and filling!)
  • Korean-Inspired Beef Bowl

You can find both these products at Walmart! And right now you can even Earn .75 cash back when you purchase Healthy Choice® Power Bowls at Walmart (any variety – any size) through iBotta!

Another thing to do when you’re eating is to **Just Eat**

This is a tough one. When your schedule gets so completely jam-packed it’s possible to want to over-task every single second. I’ve found that this ends up in a very frazzled, tired, and stressed out me! Even if you’re making these for on the go, find a spot, sit down, and actually just *enjoy* eating and drinking. It only takes a few moments and just the act of taking a break and enjoying your food makes a huge difference in giving you power and energy for your day!

Create a Stress-Free Space

This is another big one! When you get overly busy is also when those things that *can* slip through the cracks, do. Often this means that workspaces get super chaotic looking and cluttered. For me, clutter absolutely adds stress into my life. I find it much harder to focus and concentrate when working in an untidy space (although usually, I don’t even consciously realize that’s what’s going on). This also applies to my first step, as well. If your master bedroom looks like a storage room instead of a restful oasis, chances are it’s adding to your exhaustion. Clear the clutter, add in some items that bring you joy, and get back to being productive! Wondering how on earth you can find the time to do this with your current workload? Read on!

Find Your Sweet Spot

In my post on organization, I mentioned how using timers can be huge for helping increase focus and productivity. Learning how and when you work best can make or break this system. For example, I’ve found that when I’m working at the computer I’ll be super focused….and then “all of a sudden” I’ll find myself rabbit trailing down a sea of mindless social media scrolling, stray post clicking, or thinking about the million other to-dos.

By using my timers I’ve found that my brain can focus and work hard for 30-45 minutes. At this point, I start to get distracted by everything. So now I set my timer for 30-45 minutes depending on my daily schedule. Then after that, I reset my timer for 10-15 minutes to do something that breaks me away from whatever I’ve been focused on. Usually, I try to make this something when I get up and move around. So these time chunks are where you’d work in de-cluttering your work area! It’s amazing how much you can get done in 10-15 minutes when you’re motivated. Since I work from home this is the block of time that I do my laundry and other housework in. It takes the time that my brain would automatically be zoning out in and works in active, productive activities. I find once I’m back it’s so much easier to refocus!

Move Your Body

When your life gets busy crazy it’s soooo easy to also let being active slip to the wayside. Again, this is one of the worst things you can do since it’s a great source of energy! I’ve found that during this time of life I just have to get super creative with *how* I’m sneaking exercise into my routine. As you know for a long while I worked on our treadmill once the kids were in bed each night. Over the past half a year, however, for several reasons that just wasn’t working well any longer. Then I came up with a great idea.

When my kids worked out, I joined them! At first, this looked like me playing with them on the playground. When I ran us by after school, instead of scrolling on my phone while they played tag, I joined in! This was a great “work smarter not harder” move as it combined quality time with them and moving for me.

This summer they joined our local martial arts school. For months I’ve sat and watched them while I played on my computer a few times a week. Then I realized that with the group discount rate my husband and I could both join in for just a little bit extra each month. Last week I officially started and we’re all loving it! Our local school combines kid and adults, so we’re all out there together. Again, a super win for working smarter not harder.

Chances are good you have active kids, too. When they’re active find a way to move *your* body as well. That might be playing with them, or walking around the track, or going out for a jog during that time. It’ll look different for us all, but it doesn’t have to be hard!

Have any amazing tips I missed? I’m always looking for more ways to power through my own oh-so-crazy days!  Leave me a comment letting me know and don’t forget to use the iBotta offer on your next trip to Walmart!

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How To Build The Perfect Diaper Bag Gift

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

It’s hinting at being fall and babies are everywhere! Every time I log into social media my feed is full baby grins that make me melt and adorable photo reveals of pink or blue. Every week I also volunteer at Heart of Hope. It’s our local Pregnancy Resource Center that gives out free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and also has an Earn While You Learn program. Through this moms can earn items they need for their babies while working through important pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting curriculum.

So although it’s been a while since I’ve had onesies and diapers in my house; they’re still a frequent part of my everyday life! Anyone who’s been around babies at all knows that the one thing a new mom’s NEEDS is diapers and wipes, and lots of them! They also know that if you just go and purchase them at a regular store they can get pretty pricey, pretty fast! That’s why when I heard about the amazing deal that Sam’s Club has going on right now for new members I just had to share it with you!

Join now and get $45 in Instant Savings on participating Huggies® products! Follow these steps in order to get this amazing deal!

Purchase a NEW MEMBER Sam’s Club Savings membership using THIS LINK *or* you can purchase your membership in store. If you’d prefer to do that, please visit this link and print out the offer page to bring into your club so that they can load this offer for you! (the bonus to joining online is you’ll get a $5 e-gift card!)

Mom Tip: If you purchase your membership online you’ll then go to the club to pick up your card. When you go be sure to bring both your license *and* your confirmation number. They won’t be able to pull up your membership to get you a card with your license alone if you go in the same day you purchase it. If you forget you can always log in to your email or your new Sam’s Club membership profile and get it there {we won’t discuss how I know that 😉 }

Once you’ve purchased your new membership just head on in to your local club and purchase any three participating Huggies® products to get rewarded with $45 in Instant Savings!

 

If you’ve ever thought about getting a Sam’s Club membership now is the perfect time to try! I learned more about Sam’s Club and how awesome it was through my in-laws during a visit years ago. They love the savings they get by buying things in bulk, and always have the business membership for themselves. Since that visit took place when Amber was a baby they stocked me up on diapers while we were there.

I was amazed at how much money you can save by purchasing diapers and wipes in bulk! Another cool thing about Sam’s Club is that they have some really handy services available. My favorites are Sam’s Club Pick-Up service and their Scan and Go option.

This trip we decided to try out their Scan and Go to avoid the after work lines. It’s really easy to use! You download the app on your phone for free and then just open it up! Log in using your Sam’s Club member profile information and you’re good to go! You scan the barcodes as you shop, then input your payment information. That checks you out then you just show your phone at the exit for them to scan and you’re good to go!

If you have a baby it’s a no-brainer to stock up and save. (Plus–you *don’t* want to have to make a diaper run when it’s nap time, trust me.)

Are you like me and no longer having to wake up 3 times a night? There’s still plenty of reasons to buy diapers and wipes in bulk! As I mentioned babies are all over, and with them come all those fun baby showers and visiting 2nd or 3rd (or even 9th) time moms to hold a sweet newborn! The gift I’ve found that is always the most appreciated by new moms is Huggies® Diapers and Huggies® Wipes!

Also, diapers and wipes are some of the most needed and most requested items for local community resources. Did you know that nearly all Pregnancy Resource Centers and Food Banks accept (and desperately need) diaper and wipe donations?! Do a little digging around to see where you can donate these needed items in your community!

At Heart of Hope when a new mom has her baby they visit her and bring her an amazing present–a brand new diaper bag fully loaded with diapers, wipes, and everything us veteran moms know she’ll need!

Today I’m sharing with you just How To Build The Perfect Diaper Bag Gift!

Here are the items to purchase and include:

  • An Adorable Diaper Bag — (the chevron and lil elephant made me squeal a little)
  • Huggies® Little Snugglers Diapers –– what’s a diaper bag without the diapers?! I actually fill it with size one, instead of newborn. That way even if they have a big baby (like I always did) they’ll be able to use them all! Huggies is a brand that moms know and trust, and I used them exclusively with Tyler. These ones are so cute too. I adore Pooh Bear and I love the little “front and back” stamps–so helpful for brand new mommies running on NO sleep

  • Huggies® Natural Care Wipes — I like to always give sensitive wipes to new moms in case their babies have allergies! The Huggies® One and Done wipes are another great choice to include, and are especially amazing for moms with older babies!
  • Diaper Rash Cream — another “diaper bag MUST”
  • Adorable Outfit — Babies are messy! I recommend that new moms always keep a spare outfit in their diaper bag at all times for those “just in case” moments
  • Pacifiers — my kids loved their “pacis” and I think they’re wonderful! New moms usually need to try a few kinds to see which their baby will take a fancy to (if any). Mine always loved this type best, so I always gift them. I make sure to only give 2, though, just in case they’re not a hit. I couldn’t resist these cute ones with the cute sayings. If anyone needs to “Keep Calm and Carry On” it’s a mom with a newborn!
  • Pacifier clip — nothings more frustrating than continually replacing your pacifier supply because they’re falling out of your little one’s mouths or they’re *flinging* them wildly for fun. Paci Clips are genius and every mommy needs a few!
  • Light, comfy, sturdy blanket. — These can be used for everything from a blanket, to a play mat, to a diaper changing pad, to a nursing cover. Never underestimate the power of a good blanket!

Gifting these will give the mom in your life all the essentials that she’ll need and a good start on her stockpile! Did I forget anything? Leave a comment and let me know!

Don’t forget to stock up at Sam’s Club and take advantage of the special Huggies offer to save big!

British Soccer Camp Review

Legalese Disclosure Nonsense: In exchange for giving you the Mom Scoop Amber was able to attend British Soccer Camp. All opinions, chatting, and blue haired children are my own.

British Soccer Camp Review

What seems like it was just yesterday I shared with you about Why It’s Better to Do Sports In The Summer. Our camp week has now come and gone, and as it was our very first experience with British Soccer Camp I wanted to come back and let you all know how it went!

Going up to the camp there was good communication through email. The first day we ended up getting rained out and they were great at keeping us in the loop about whether or not it would be canceled. To make up for the first day that we missed they added on extra time at the end of each day to make sure all the parents got their investment’s worth.

As I mentioned before Amber loved being in soccer, but only when she was able to be the goalie. As a result, she was a little unsure if she would enjoy the camp or not. After the very first day, though, she said she was really enjoying it!

When I first showed up I realized that the kids were grouped into two groups, the younger kids camp, and the bigger kids camp. Because of this Amber had some kids her age at the camp, but also a few teenagers. I was wondering if this would be a problem, but it wasn’t at all. There was a nice mix of learning, drills, and games.

They also did a great job of mixing in lots of fun. For her week they split all the kids into different world soccer teams. Then they kept score throughout the week to see which team would win the World Cup. One of the ways to earn points was to dress any way you could in your team’s color. We went all the way and I even let Amber dye her hair blue using a temporary wash out dye! (Our family has an affinity for fun hair if you hadn’t noticed by now). The coaches couldn’t stop laughing when she showed up in blue from head to toe, but she did earn extra points! Each day they had a new fun, funny challenge for points.

Another fun thing they did was during snack and water break they had the kids take turns telling funny, silly, or other kinds of stories. The kids all loved this, and there was lots of laughter!

The coaches were so nice, too! I especially loved Coach Dan who was over the younger kid’s group. Since it was only part of the time Amber was in camp he spent lots of time chatting with me and the other parents. He even helped Tyler hunt for bugs in the woods. The coaches British accents are just way too fun and we had a great time comparing life in Texas to life in Great Britain (so many differences!)

The very last day was all fun and games. At the end the coaches even let all the kids attack them with water in all its fun forms. (Personally, I think that they really enjoyed it since by Friday it was HOT!!!)

We had a wonderful experience and I am very impressed! Many parents showed up and watched from the sidelines the entire camp time. However, you were also free to drop off your kids and leave. I did both throughout the week. During our sideline chats several moms most told me that they do this camp every single year. It was clear it’s always ran well, and that they all love it. We had a great time and I know Amber is looking forward to doing it again next summer!

If you’d like to find a British Soccer Camp Near You Check out the Challenger Sports Website Here.

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When And How To Introduce Your Children To The Internet

Legalese Disclosure Nonsense: This post is brought to you by sponsors and affiliate links. That means I got a little bit of money and/or if you click on the link and sign up for anything I’ll get a little bit of money without it costing you any additional! I love a win/win for us!

 

My first experience with a computer was playing the Oregon Trail in elementary school in the computer lab. I remember dying of dysentery and running out of supplies. I’d go back after school to click and clack out a chicken pecked story on those big, bubble, colorful Apple Computers.

Computers in our home life, however, simply didn’t exist. I didn’t have an email address until I was nearly out of high school, and our family bought our very first home computer – just one for all six of us, right before I was heading to college. I remember our parents shouting at us to get off of the Internet so they could make a phone call.

Obviously, that’s no longer the case. If you’re reading this you’re probably even guilty of letting your two-year-old play an educational app in the grocery cart at the store. When you make the jump from that, to introduce them to the Internet, though, is a line that can be a little fuzzy and be intimidating. I have always been very conservative until the kids started school. I was shocked that my Kindergarten was using the computer and iPad daily, and pretty soon was as comfortable as I am navigating them. This last year for 3rd grade Amber was assigned her own iPad, and most of her books were on it. I quickly was introduced to how many amazing tools there really are online for kids, and have since allowed them to be on the computer quite a bit more at home.

Of course, like everything in parenting, this is going to vary wildly depending on your family and your child. Today I’m just sharing what works for us, in hopes that it might help you decide what works for you!

Get The Right Tools

 Old Computer The next time your laptop gets sluggish and you upgrade hang on to that out of date one. The last thing you want is for your six-year-old to “accidentally” anything on your $4,000 MacBook. Having an older, slower laptop for your little to bang away at will make everyone a lot happier. The same goes for old phones! Before you deactivate that old phone download all the free games and educational apps you can find. Even without cell service, it works amazingly well for keeping kids entertained during Dr. Office waits!

Ad Blocking Software Once you get the hardware you’re going to want to get the ideal set-up. I highly recommend installing an ad blocker on your computer and your phones. While I always allow ads on sites like blogs or Youtube that the content creators depend on that income when it comes to your child’s computer you want as little “stray links” for clicking as possible.

Antivirus Protection The next thing you’re going to want to invest in is a good AntiVirus App for your phone and software for your computer. As I just mentioned, you’ll have those weird links to a minimum, but you still can’t be positive they won’t end up somewhere weird. Making sure you have great protection is a must! Especially with PC and for Android Security.

Parental Blocking Software There are lots of great options out there when it comes to monitoring or blocking software. These can make sure your child stays away from those really sketchy sites. To be honest I don’t have this for us yet. Amber and Tyler are 9 and 6 and haven’t used the computers without our direct supervision yet. I figure once they are closer to teens and we give them a little more leeway I’ll start researching these more in depth.

Use The Right Sites

Now that you’ve got everything “kid ready” it’s time to discover the right places to send them online! Here are my very favorite FREE, fun, educational, and kid friendly!

PBSKids.org – If you have little kids you are surely big fans of PBS Kids already. Their website is equally great with games that are educational and fun and feature all your kid’s favorite characters

DisneyJr.com – Same as above, lots of fun with your kid’s favorite show characters. This one is a lot like the tv channels are to each other with Disney being educational but more on the line of fun and not so educationally based.

Prodigy – We discovered this free math game this year through Amber’s school. It starts out at 1st grade but Tyler wanted to do it so bad after watching Amber that I signed him up and he’s been able to do the work with a little bit of help. The kids absolutely love this site and beg to play it—even with the math snuck in!

ChessKids – I found out about this website when Amber participated in Chess Puzzle this past year. It teaches kids how to play chess through fun videos and they can solve puzzles or play against other kids.

ABCMouse.com — I’ve heard amazing things about this site for years, but we have just started playing on it this summer. I’ll be bringing you our full review of it soon!

Yepi – This is another site that I found out about from Amber’s school. It has a ton of free games to play online. I will mention that these are NOT educational and I would CAREFULLY screen them before your children start playing them. Tyler found some Zombie/Ghost games (like Plants VS. Zombies) before I realized they were there and while they really are harmless they did scare him. So I recommend this with those disclosures.

Your Local Library Website – Many libraries’ have sections online dedicated to fun games!

Hopefully, these tips will give you a great starting point for your family! If you have any tips or know about any amazing websites I’m missing out on please let me know! I’m always looking for more amazing tools to use!

How To Make Buying a Vehicle Stress-Free

How to Make Buying a Vehicle Stress Free

If you’ve followed along with our adventures for any length of time, you know that life for us has been constantly changing over the years.  We’ve added babies, moved through several states, and shifted careers! I think that that’s life for everyone, though. We’re all constantly passing through events that shake up our world. Some changes are big, huge, and exciting. Others are more subtle, but still impact and change life. Each new stage and change bring new challenges and needs that impact every aspect of life.

Take, for example, the vehicles you own. With each of these life changes, your vehicle needs change as well.  The west’s crazy icy winters and dirt roads meant 4×4 vehicle was the best choice for safety and fun. A car has often been the best option to tackle my husband’s perpetual 45-minute commutes through big cities or across interstates.  Our most recent vehicle transition was into a minivan that works well for our current life stage of pickup lines and family activities.

Since our lives have changed so much and so often, we’ve had to go through the vehicle purchasing process so many times that I consider myself somewhat of an expert. Somehow, I get a feeling you’re also going through some life changes that will require a new vehicle soon.  So I wanted to put together some of my very best tips and tricks to help the process go as smoothly as possible! Because life changes tend to be stressful enough without adding a difficult vehicle buying experience on top of them!

How To Make Buying a Vehicle Stress-Free

Part One: Do Your Research BEFORE You Go

Following these tips makes all the difference in the world! To me, the biggest part of stress when it comes to purchasing a vehicle is feeling like you’re being pressured into a decision that’s not a wise one. Thanks to the internet, however, you never should be in this position again! These are the different areas you’ll want to tackle before you ever even think of driving to a dealership lot. The best part is that I found out about an amazing free tool you can use to bring everything together into one place.

Set Your Budget

The first area to consider is your budget. This is one area that always frustrated and stressed me during the vehicle buying process.  It’s hard to plan a budget when monthly payments and your APR aren’t known ahead of time.

That’s why I wish I’d always had the Capital One® Auto Navigator®  tool to use!  The Auto Navigator focuses on adding transparency to a sometimes confusing process by allowing you to pre-qualify for auto financing and see their financing terms before visiting a dealer and without impacting your credit score. I went through the process and it really was quick and pain-free.

Once you are pre-approved the  Capital One® Auto Navigator® walks you step by step through everything you’ll need to do. The first step is just what we’ve been talking about, nailing down your budget.

You tell it your budget, your down payment, trade-in, and all the different body styles you’d be open to!

Once you fill in this information you can browse more than 3 million cars from over 12,000 participating dealers across the country, including in your area!

Pick Your Best Fit

Now it’s time to circle back to what life change brought you here in the first place. Did you get a new job that you need to commute to? Are you adding a member to your family? Is your family moving from the city to a small town? Will you be traveling often or is this a “for fun” vehicle that you want to bang around and get dirty? Make a list of exactly what key traits are most important like good gas mileage, safety ratings, or special options you’ll need. Narrowing down exactly why you’re purchasing and what you’re hoping to get clarifies things. This can help you know what to pay attention to and not get overwhelmed with all those options!

Review Everything

One of my favorite parts of the Capital One® Auto Navigator® was this page! As you’re browsing through vehicles you can see all the details you’d ever want to know, all in one place! These include dealer ratings and car reviews, and even lets you access car history reports. This information it makes it easy for you to arrive confident and ready to buy when you visit a dealer.

Part Two: Visit strategically

Now you should know your budget, be pre-approved, and know exactly what kind of reliable vehicle you want. Using the dealership ratings you can head to a place you’re confident will help you out! Now, there are just a few more things to take into consideration. These are optional, but can make wrapping up the process as smooth and stress-free as possible!

Pick Off Hours

If at all possible, take some time off during the week to make your purchase. This will allow you to get your salesman’s full attention, and neither of you will feel rushed. If you have older children in school this is great timing as well, which brings in my next tip for my parent readers!

Don’t Bring the Kids 

Buying a car is just no fun for anyone when even the best-behaved kids have to come along. If they’re not in school, try hiring a babysitter. If that’s not possible, don’t worry! Another strategy is to have just one adult go for the first part to get the ball rolling. We’ve done this several times, and although I was the co-signer they didn’t need me until the end. Especially if you’ve already prepared online you can feel comfortable and confident about the vehicle your spouse is looking into.

Some dealerships even have the flexibility of allowing you to keep a vehicle overnight. This lets you test it out without someone looking over your shoulder. It also gives you the chance to see how practical the vehicle is for your day to day life. Then you can show up with everyone just to sign the dotted lines.

Life is constantly changing for all of us, and it’s wonderful to be able to adjust to meet these needs! I hope these tips help make the next time you’re buying a vehicle stress-free experience! Don’t forget to bookmark the Capital One® Auto Navigator® so you can do your research ahead of time!

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

Things You Don’t Want to Forget When You Spring Clean Your Car

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

The fresh layer of grass, blooms bursting into color, and pale green gracing the trees are banners everywhere. They’re declaring that spring is finally here! With all of nature alive and gorgeous, it’s no wonder it creates a desire to make the rest of the places we live beautiful, fresh, and scrubbed brand-new also.

The warmer weather makes this the perfect time of year to Spring Clean Your Car too! While a good wash and a detail job are great places to start, there are a few things that you might want to add to your list. They’re easy to forget, but they’re crucial not to miss!

Things You Don’t Want To Forget When You Spring Clean Your Car

#1 Check All Your Current Maintenance Needs

This is a great time to run down the list of regularly needed maintenance your vehicle requires to check if anything is due! Oil changes, replacing or rotating tires, liquid flushes, etc. Make a note of what needs to be done now, or what is coming up and what time or mileage you’ll need to be watching for. One thing you might not think to change is especially vital for spring, in fact, it’s so important I’m giving it all of the next point which is….

#2 Change Your Cabin Air Filter

I love Texas in the spring. It explodes with gorgeous color everywhere. However, that beauty comes along with a sneaky little something that’s not so glorious. The name of this wretched companion? Pollen!

Yes, even if you didn’t have allergies before, if you move to East Texas there’s a good chance you will! Because of this, the main thing not to forget on my car spring cleaning checklist is swapping out my cabin air filter. Cabin air filters clean the air you breathe inside your car, which makes a fresh one a MUST during allergy season.

Cabin Air Filters are often overlooked, but changing them out is easy to do yourself. It is recommended you do this annually or every 12,000 miles. As always, you should follow recommended change intervals as noted in your vehicle owner’s manual.

It’s easy to see if your vehicle has a cabin air filter by using this site to check.  If your vehicle does have one, it will also help you find the part number for the FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter  that you need! Of course, your next step will be to purchase it at your local Walmart. Just look for the green packaging!

I mentioned that the cabin air filter is easy to replace yourself, but obviously, you’ll still need a guide. I love that FRAMFreshBreeze.com provides installation guides and times in both video and written format, which are so useful! Don’t want to copy it all down or lug your laptop along? The site also provides a texting feature which allows your search results (installation videos and part number) to be sent to your phone!

The FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter is the only cabin air filter that uses the natural deodorizing qualities of ARM & HAMMER® baking soda. This means while you’re filtering dust, dirt, and allergens from the air, you’re also freshening it at the same time! Did you know that contaminants that enter your vehicle with outside air can become concentrated? This means the air inside your vehicle can be up to 6X’s dirtier than the air outside. Yuck!

As I mentioned, you can find the easy installation guides at  FRAMFreshBreeze.com, but I also wanted to show you just how easy swapping it out is!

Step One: Locate your cabin air filter. Using the guide, locate the cabin air filter. On our minivan, it’s located behind the glove box. We just pushed in the tabs on both sides, and it popped down and allowed access.

Step Two: Remove the cabin air filter cover. Our cover looks like this long, black plastic piece.

Step Three: Next, remove the old cabin air filter. Our cabin air filter definitely needed changing! I couldn’t believe how much debris it had in it, not to mention you could tell it was full of pollen and dirt as well. Quite a bit of debris had built up in the housing for the filter as well, so we also cleaned all of that out during this step.

Step Four: Replace with new FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter.  All you have to do is place it back in the empty slot, with the arrows facing down.

Step 5: Finally, replace cover and close back up.  It really is so simple! It took us under 10 minutes from start to finish. Changing out your cabin air filter is definitely something you’ll want to look into as you spring clean your car.

With a new cabin air filter you can have peace of mind about the air your family will be breathing during all those car line pickups and long summer road trips. Next, it’s time to tackle another peace of mind area.

#3 Re-Stock Your First Aid Kit

Every vehicle should have a first aid kit in it. These have come in handy more times than I want to recall for my adventuresome children. For a vehicle kit, you’ll want items that can cover minor bumps and bruises to a more serious injury. Here’s just a good starting point! It might seem like a lot, but you really only need just a few of each thing, the rest you can use to restock your medicine cabinet!

  • Bandages in a variety of shapes and sizes including butterfly bandages
  • rubber gloves
  • Gauze & adhesive
  • Alcohol Wipes or type of disinfectant
  • ice pack
  • burn cream
  • insect bite cream
  • Pain medicine
  • List of Emergency Contact Numbers

When it comes to safety, being prepared is wonderful and can give you peace of mind. It can also help that busted chin at the playground a little less traumatic for everyone!

#4 Create a Just-In-Case Kit

There are plenty of “If only I had thought to bring…” moments in life. Not the ones that an emergency first aid kit tackles, but those little every day inconveniences. When you tuck a “Must-Have” kit safely into your car, however, those will happen a lot less. This is the perfect spot for those things that are crucial to have on hand if you need them, but are a hassle to lug around in your purse. I keep mine handy in my glove box or middle compartment, and it’s come to my rescue many times! You’ll want to personalize this to your stage of life and personal needs, but here’s a sample of some of the things I keep in mine!

  • Mechanical Pencil or Pen
  • Mini Note Pad
  • Disinfectant gel or wipes
  • Tissues
  • Laundry “To Go” Wipe
  • Lollipops
  • Mints (or gum)
  • Cough Drops
  • Hair Band
  • Contact Case
  • Few dollars in Quarters

Once you add these items to your Spring Cleaning Car Checklist your car will be beautiful and ready for hours of fun!  You spend a huge amount of time in your car each day whether you’re commuting, taking a summer road trip vacation, or playing chauffeur for the kids. Now you can feel confident that you’re breathing fresh air and fully prepared for whatever life throws your way!

We all love to make our lives easier, right? Be sure to check out the ideas here for even more car tips, tricks, and life hacks!

What It Means To Be Strong

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

I grew up in Wyoming, in a family with brothers and a sister, who didn’t feel the need to pigeonhole any of us into stereotypes.

Now as an adult, I’m so thankful for that. It meant that I grew up being equally comfortable playing in the dirt, chasing lizards and snakes, wearing pretty dresses, and aspiring to be a princess. As a teen, I learned how to do makeup, and how to change a tire.

My favorite job ever, outside of the one I’m doing right this second, was a summer hire position at a Trona Mine & Plant in Wyoming. My Dad worked there for eons, and if you worked hard and received great grades you could apply for one of the coveted high paying college summer positions. I was accepted and placed to work in one of the plants. I was the only female in the entire building, but I absolutely loved it. I loved the work and I loved my hilarious co-workers, who were all my Dad’s age or older. This dirt playing girl was thrilled to put on a hard hat, go around into dirty and dangers areas to collect samples, and then after a 12-hour shift to go shower, put on some perfume, and rush off on a date with my sweetheart (now hubby.)

Because, beautifully and thankfully, I always grew up knowing that Strength Has No Gender™.  I pursued the play and work that delighted me, not the paths that I felt forced into. As a result, I was blessed to experience the challenges and rewards of a full time, Trona Plant, male-dominated job.Now I’m also blessed to experience the totally different, yet equally challenging and rewarding career as a part-time work-from-home writer and marketer.

Strength is not just physical. It reaches across boundaries. It’s the emotionally challenging push that gets you through that grueling final in college. It’s the bravery that allows you to tackle a career field that you love but is uncharted territory for you and those around you. It’s getting up with a colicky baby for the 10th time that night. It’s reaching that career goal you’ve been working towards for years. It’s being there for those that you love. It’s reaching out your hands, time, resources, and genuine concern to those in need.

The fact that Strength Has No Gender™  is a beautiful truth. It encourages us to delight in the success stories of others, and be inspired by them.

Which is exactly how I felt when I saw this Strength Has No Gender™ video that was put together by Brawny®. I adore this campaign and their mindset behind it. The Strength Has No Gender™ campaign highlights the inspirational stories of everyday women in cities across America who have been breaking down barriers in traditionally male-dominated industries and changing the world as a result!

We all love Eric Solie, the original Brawny® man, but at the same time, it’s awesome that they’re letting him “step aside” and share the platform with these inspiring women! To do this they’re featuring this fun, exclusive to Walmart, limited-time Strength Has No Gender™ pack. This package is the Brawny® Pick-a-Size 8 Giant Plus, which is perfect since it’s the size we use and love in our family already! Because Brawny® can help tackle giant, strong messes at home, they were inspired to take that same focus and encourage and inspire all their customers to extend it into every area of their lives.

Speaking of family, one of the areas that I need to be strong in the most, right now, is parenting! I’m discovering as we tiptoe into the tween years that while parenting in the early years is physically exhausting, parenting in these years is emotionally exhausting! It takes real strength to allow your children to discover and become who they are meant to be.

I wanted to bless my kids with the same freedom I was given as a child. Last fall Amber had the option to pick an after school program. The writer in me was immediately interested in the storytelling and writing programs. Wanting her to choose for herself, though, I gave her the sheet to look over and to tell me which sounded fun. To my surprise, she chose Chess Puzzle. Not simply just teaching the kids how to play the game, Chess Puzzle makes them learn strategy, memorize terms, and the competition they have is a paper and pencil test that includes a series of chess boards with pieces in particular positions. It is great for developing strengths in the STEM fields!

The first day after practice the door opened and out swarmed our entire city’s 3rd and 4th grade hoard of boys, and a gentle trickle of girls. Amber climbed into the car smiling, and declared she had “lots of fun”. Before the Christmas break they took a test to cut the team down to less than half, and happily Amber made the cut! This time the swarm of kids at pickup was smaller, and now only Amber and two girls remained in the sea of boys.

The final test cut both grades, 4th, and 3rd, down to two tiny teams of just four kids each. These would represent our entire school district in a competition with other cities and their top Chess Puzzle Students. Amber diligently practiced to prepare for the day. The test came, and the next day we waited anxiously for the results. That morning I got the call that she had made the team–the only girl to do so!

She was all smiles and bouncing excitement!

The competition was the past Saturday, and I’m so excited to share that her 3rd grade team placed 2nd overall, with all the different teams from her school putting them into 1st place for the regional meet!

Throughout this all she’s never stopped to think much about the fact that she was one of the only girls, or had any extra challenges or hurdles to overcome because of it. Like me, in my childhood, right now she’s able to happily accept the fact that Strength Has No Gender™ because it’s just a truth.

A beautiful, wonderful truth.

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How To Help Your Kids Feel Special & Loved Each Day

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #2Good2Bear #CollectiveBias

How To Help Your Kids Feel Special & Loved Each Day

I absolutely, positively, cannot believe it–but this precious little rolly-polly baby turns 9 today.

I know that whether your baby just turned 9 months, or 9 years, you’re already shaking your head and wondering where the time is disappearing to. As a fellow mommy, I’m right there with you. I’ve heard over and over again, that it just seems to go faster the older they get, too!

Now that both kids are in school all day loooong (from 8:40-3:20) I want to make sure that I’m making the most of our time together. Now, don’t get me wrong. As a social media & blogger gal I’m absolutely guilty of pounding away at my keyboard as the kids are trying to talk to me, or of scrolling through Instagram at the park. Days fly by and life just happens. I know that if I’m not deliberate and intentional it’s far too easy to let those precious, important moments be sacrificed on the altar of the urgent things flying around and at me every day.

Because of this, a few years ago I decided that I would give each of the kids a little slice of my total and undivided attention each day. It started out being called “Tickle Bugs” because when they were smaller they would beg and beg and BEG for me to tickle them. As they’re getting older the activities change, but the name and the time stay the same. I’ll start my watch and first give Tyler 10-15 minutes of undivided attention to do whatever he wants, then I do the same for Amber.

Every once in awhile I make this fun time a little sweeter by surprising them with a special treat! I recently just found out about the new TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snacks. They are made with quality ingredients such as milk, eggs, and chocolate. Not only do they have the good stuff, they also have no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors, and no artificial colors! Plus how cute are they in this adorable bear shape?! They inspired me to break out classics from my childhood–this rocking chair and bear are actually mine from when I was a little bitty girl!

Oh, and it probably goes without saying, but the kids absolutely LOVE them! You can pick them up in the Cookie & Cracker aisle of your local Walmart, or look for a special display. Also, there will be a special demo on 2/23 so keep your eyes out for that  as well.

Even better, you can earn cash back with the iBotta app! Have you tried that app out yet? It’s seriously awesome!! I finally got it recently and have already received more than $20 back! So amazing to get cash back on items I’m already buying each trip, anyways! It’s free, and simple to use–so definitely download it and check out this offer!

I actually got the idea to do concentrated play time with my kids after listening to a child psychologist at one of my mom’s groups a few years ago. She was talking about play therapy and how important and useful it was for her, and how as parents we can work it into our life to help our kids. Basically, it boiled down to exactly what I said above, setting a timer for just a short amount of time and giving your child your undivided attention to do whatever they want during that time.

Because you let your child direct the play, it will look totally specific to them. You might end up watching them perform a play, you might color a page for them, or you may end up as a superhero.

These days for us “tickle bugs” sometimes means playing with building bricks, sometimes it’s playing Tyler’s crazy elaborate game with beads, marbles, action figures and vehicles that he’s invented, sometimes it’s crawling around on the floor and being a mama tiger and they’re my baby. It’s a perfect way to let each of them know that they are special to me and that they are loved. It’s also great because it leads naturally to them opening up about whatever is going on in their little worlds. I’m hoping that this habit can shift into long “tickle bug talks” as they hurry into the tween and teen years. Keeping communication is so vital during every stage of parenting, and this is a beautiful, simple, and sweet way to make sure your kids know how loved and special they are to you.

Even just sharing a TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snack and sitting and talking for a few minutes, about anything they want, will be such a beautiful break for you both. I feel like so often as parents we’re trying to guide and help and direct them. This is great and needed, but it can start to feel like it’s nothing but a continual stream of rules and directions, which is understandably exhausting for all of you! Give yourself this chance to reconnect and let your kids know how special and loved they are, no matter what the rest of the day has looked like!

How do you help your kids feel special & loved each day? Have you tried new TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snacks yet? Leave me a comment and let me know–and don’t forget to download ibotta and use that rebate!

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Why It’s Better To Do Sports In The Summer (even in Texas)

Spring is here and with it comes the barrage that is after school activities. Clubs and Scouts, and Sports–oh my!! You could easily book something from Sunday to Saturday and be left exhausted, stressed, and penniless.

Or, you could, *gasp* choose to do something radical. You could, like us, opt out of everything, at least for the spring. Yes, you heard that right, I’m giving you permission to hop off the crazy train, folks!

Now, why and how and if you should do that are all things I’ll be sharing in an upcoming post, that will be far longer than this one. So for right now, I’m going to just explain that when I sat down and filled out my “Things To Say No To” sheet that I gave you in my How To Organize Your Life As a Working Mom one of the first things that were super easy to say no to for our family was sports this school year.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think we should ever have our kids do sports, however. In fact, Amber really enjoyed soccer when she played, and she’s missed it. I know that a season long commitment is not what would be best for her, or us, at this point, though.

The perfect answer is for the kids to do sports when we all have the most free time–the summer! Summer sports camps are amazing options for a variety of reasons. If your child is interested in doing a sport, I’d highly recommend doing a summer camp of it, first. You might end up saving a whole lot of time and heartache and arguments when you find out the sport you thought was a perfect fit, is one that they actually don’t like after all. (Speaking from painful experience). They’re also usually just a week long, so they won’t interfere with your vacation schedule, and they focus a lot more on teaching, learning, and growing as a player. This means more fun and less pressure which I really love.

Because of this, I was super excited when I found out that there will be a British Soccer Camp right here in our new hometown this summer!

British Soccer Camps are the most popular soccer camp in the US. With an innovative curriculum that develops skills, speed and confidence in players ages 3-18, The British Soccer Camp provide boys and girls with the rare opportunity to receive high-level soccer coaching from a team of international expert’s right in the heart of their own community. In addition to teaching new skills and improving game performance, each British Soccer Camp provides lessons in character development, cultural education and is the most fun your child can have learning the sport they love!

In exchange for letting Amber go to camp for free (yey!) I’m sharing this post with you, plus giving you the chance to get an awesome discount!

Enroll you child in a British Soccer Camp today REGISTER FOR CAMP & GET FREE SOCCER JERSEY, SOCCER BALL, T-SHIRT & POSTER with code: CAMP17