Tips To Make Laundry Quicker & Easier

Legalese Disclosure Nonsense: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free

Mt. Washmore

When I first heard this description of what we as moms tackle in regards to laundry I just had to laugh. At times it definitely feels like I’m tackling Mt. Washmore. As I love to work smarter, not harder I’ve come up with some tips and tricks that help make laundry a whole lot faster and easier, and today I’m sharing them with you!

Tip 1: Condense Your Loads

Figure out what you can wash together safely and easily! For me I personally have 3 loads I always do– Dark Towels, Jeans, and Dark Underwear & Socks all go in one load–this is my load that always get washed in hot water and a super scrubbing mode! Load #2 is all my light colored items of every shape and size. Load #3 is my darks & reds of any other kind. With just these 3 categories I can easily wash all our clothes in a way that will make them last a long time but also combines similar enough items to give me just a few big loads (but that’s getting into a future tip)

Tip 2: Sort As You Go

If you have a laundry room with space this is an amazing trick! As I mentioned I do 3 loads so I have 3 small, foldable baskets without lids located in our laundry room. For my kids instead of having them throw their dirty clothes into a hamper, I have the bring it straight into the laundry room and put it in the right basket. Our master bath/closet is further away and where our dirty clothes end up, so I have a small basket for us, but every few days I take it into the laundry room and sort it out quickly. This means once it’s laundry day you’re ready to go!

Tip 3: Do It All

I know some people who do their laundry all week long, but I’ve found for me personally this wastes a lot of time. I always try to get a head start on my laundry on the weekend, or start Monday morning. Since I only have the 3 loads I can do all those large loads over 2 or 3 days, , and then have all my laundry done for the week no matter how busy I am. This is a huge time saver for me and it feels great to know I’m “done” with laundry until the next week!

Tip 4: Get A New Machine With Better Features & Energy Saving

Do you have a clunker that’s as old as the hills and as energy efficient as a huge, black cloud billowing machine? An upgraded washer and dryer will save you time, energy, and money! And right now at Best Buy, you can get new ENERGY STAR®  certified electronics and appliances that include these features:

  • Better for you – ENERGY STAR certified clothes washers and dryers save energy, which means that you will save on energy bills. Save $490 over the lifetime of an ENERGY STAR certified clothes washer and even more with an ENERGY STAR washer/dryer pair. Many are also equipped with advanced features that make cleaning and drying easier and more effective.
  • Better for the environment – Saving energy means that ENERGY STAR certified washers and dryers help protect the climate, which means that your kids and the planet will benefit for years to come. Clothes dryers that have earned the ENERGY STAR use approximately 20% less energy than standard models.
  • Better for your clothes – ENERGY STAR clothes washers use a variety of sophisticated cleaning methods that are gentler on your clothes, while ENERGY STAR clothes dryers use less heat and sensor drying which reduces wear and tear on clothes from over-drying.

To learn more about ENERGY STAR you can check out this fun video here, or read this great article here!

What are your tips and tricks for making laundry faster and easier? I’d love to hear them!

How Books Changed Our Lives–One Family’s Literacy Journey

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

We all know reading is important. If you can read, you can learn about the things that fascinate you and experience far-off places you long to visit and see life through the eyes of someone who is different from you, all within the pages of a book.  As a homeschooling mom, every day of my week centers around reading with my children and encouraging them to appreciate and love reading.  For the last 5 years we’ve been using the Charlotte Mason method for our home school, which focuses mainly on learning through reading great literature.  All those hours we’ve spent immersed in great books have shaped us so much as individuals and as a family.  My kids haven’t just learned history and science and grammar.  They’ve learned empathy and compassion and courage, and that “normal” doesn’t mean “exactly like me.” Reading has a way of changing us for the better, and it’s a joy that everyone should be able to experience.

That’s why I’m so excited to share with you about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and how they’re making the dream of reading a reality for so many people. Since it began, the Foundation has awarded more than $140 million to nonprofit organizations and schools that have helped over 9 million people improve their literacy and education. That’s a lot of good!  You can learn more about this literacy initiative and also enter the #DGMyStory sweepstakes to win a $50 Dollar General gift card (nice!) by clicking here and sharing your own personal literacy story with the hashtag #DGMyStoryEntry.

And now I can support a cause that’s really important to me by buying the cereals my family loves anyway, because Kellogg’s® is a proud sponsor of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation! Head over to your local Dollar General to pick up some Kellogg’s cereals. I found several varieties on an end cap in the food section and grabbed a few because we really like our cereal around here.

This initiative is a great example of the fact that every day, Kellogg employees work together to fulfill their vision of enriching and delighting the world through foods and brands that matter.   Hover over the image below to be a part of this great initiative and start conveniently shopping right now for Kellogg’s timeless cereals, including Rice Krispies®, Froot Loops®, Frosted Flakes®, and my family’s favorite, Frosted Mini-Wheats®!

Check out the literacy stories featured on select Kellogg’s cereal boxes and be inspired by the encouraging stories people have shared.  We’ve all been on some sort of journey that relates to reading, and sharing our stories with each other has a way of connecting us.

Each of my children has unique strengths, interests, struggles, and abilities, so it makes sense that each one would learn to read in a different way and at a different pace.   Today I’m going to share about my experiences in teaching three very different kids to read and how we have all grown as a result of reading.

Let me introduce you to my 10-year-old.  Sweet, helpful, conscientious, thoughtful…a typical firstborn child.  Teaching her to read should have been a joy.  She was eager to please and willing to learn anything I wanted to teach her.  Unfortunately for her, we had friends whose 3-year-old was doing a reading program and already knew more than my almost-kindergartener.  My daughter could recognize letters and knew many of the sounds (which, in hindsight, was absolutely fine), but comparison had me in its clutches and in my mind we were suddenly way behind.  I got the same online program that our friends were using and she started official reading lessons.  While my daughter caught on quickly and was soon able to read short words, it wasn’t a joy for either of us.  She didn’t love reading, and that broke my literature-loving heart.

So I did some serious soul searching and realized I was burdening both of us with an unspoken pressure to measure up to a ridiculous and unnecessary standard.  Did I want her to learn to read early just to keep up with someone?   No! I wanted her to learn to read in a way that made reading enjoyable.  So I took the pressure off and went back to the things that make reading fun–books!  I started simply reading lots of books to her again for the sheer pleasure of it.  Reading became fun again. When she started kindergarten and it was time to pick up reading lessons again, it was a breeze.  This time I had the ultimate goal in sight–cultivating a love of reading.  We tried some traditional methods, like flash cards and early readers, and some hands-on activities using things like Easter eggs and popsicle sticks.  But no matter what approach I used this time, her reading improved rapidly because now there was no pressure and she could learn for the joy of it!

Then came my son.  Energetic, creative, stubborn, wild and wiggly…he didn’t have the time or inclination to sit and learn anything in the “normal” way.  Luckily I had learned my lesson already and was determined not to make learning to read a chore for him.  So I spent hours just reading books to him and my girls.  When I read biographies or mythology or poetry to his older sister for her lessons, he sat at our feet building creations with Legos.  He seemed completely engrossed in what he was doing, but he was quietly listening to every word.  He would exclaim over a surprising turn of events in the story or ask a question about why the characters did a certain thing and I realized he was really interested in hearing these stories.  And as he sat there playing with his favorite toys, he was unwittingly learning.  His vocabulary grew, his grasp of language improved, and his love for literature blossomed.

This composed the entirety of his kindergarten reading “curriculum.”  The next year I wanted him to really start reading so we started working on some phonics and sight words.  He didn’t enjoy this at all, so we took it REALLY slowly and only spent a few minutes a day on it.  He couldn’t handle more than about 5 minutes at a time and would melt down if I tried to go any longer.  (We’ve since discovered that he struggles with anxiety and ADHD, making traditional learning incredibly overwhelming and frustrating for him.)  I got discouraged and started to wonder if he would ever learn to read at all.  But I was determined to let him learn at his own pace and in a way that would foster a love of reading.  So I just kept reading lots of books aloud, and he kept listening.  We also found some audiobooks at the library, which we put on to help him settle down at night and fall asleep.  He loved these so much that he started listening to audiobooks anytime he was in his room building with Legos (yep, it’s still his favorite pasttime.)  He was being exposed to hours of literature every day and couldn’t seem to get enough of it.  I was tempted so many times to push him to catch up to where I thought a typical first-grader should be, but I reminded myself over and over to just let him love literature until he was ready to read it.

Now he is in 2nd grade and he just read his first chapter book, which he finished in two days.  On his own.  With no prompting.  I almost cried.  Only a few months ago, I could hardly get him to read a few sentences without becoming overwhelmed.  Occasionally he gets stuck on a word, but his vocabulary is so extensive from all those books he’s been soaking up for the last few years that he can almost always figure out what something says without help.

After these two polar opposite experiences with teaching my first two kids to read, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my youngest.  Fun-loving, bright, chatty, intelligent, cuddly, compassionate…this little 4-year-old is very much her own person.  I was expecting to start teaching her to read when she starts kindergarten next year.   Boy, was I wrong!  Right around her 4th birthday she started asking me to teach her to read.

We were part of a home school co-op and she was in the kindergarten class for lack of a better option.  We really joined the co-op for the sake of her big sister and brother, and she was pretty much just along for the ride (or so I thought).   I honestly didn’t expect her to learn much academically because she was only 3.  She quietly listened every Friday as her teacher introduced a new letter, and one day it just clicked for her that each letter makes a sound.  After that, she wanted to read her letter cards every day, so we read those five cards over and over, and the next week she got a new one, and then came cards with two or three letters on them…and still she couldn’t get enough.

I created some hands-on activities to help her recognize upper-and lower-case letters and practice letter sounds and even make words from loose letters.  For this one I simply wrote letters on paper, laminated it, and had her fill in each letter with Froot Loops and Frosted Mini Wheats.  Bonus: She got to eat them for her snack when she was done.

For her all of this is fun and exciting, and if she gets discouraged or frustrated at any point we put it away until another time, because I want her to continue to see reading as a joyful experience and not a chore.

I can’t take any credit for this early interest in reading.  Maybe it was her co-op teacher, maybe it was seeing her older siblings reading, maybe it was hearing so many hundreds of books read aloud.  Whatever it was, I’m not complaining!

The one common element in each one of my kids’ reading journeys was hearing lots of great books read aloud.  It’s also the reason they love books!   So I want to share with you a list of read-alouds that I highly recommend for elementary-aged kids.  These are all wonderful to read with the family or listen to together in audiobook form.  Some kids will want to read these themselves and that’s great too!

  1.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    • I know this is actually a series of books but every one of them is absolutely worth reading.  They’re beautifully written and filled with adventure and imagination.  The characters are so easy to relate to, and every character struggles through something at one time or another.  In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund, one of the four siblings, starts off mean-spirited and cynical and ends up betraying his family.  In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, cousin Eustace is petty and cowardly and appears to have no positive qualities at all. But these characters that struggle with selfishness, fear, pride, and other issues that are common to humanity experience undeserved redemption and they’re forever changed.  My son deals with lots of anger and he often lashes out verbally and physically when he’s frustrated.  He knows he shouldn’t and is always repentant afterwards but he can’t seem to stop himself when he’s angry.  For him to see these characters, who don’t seem to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, completely transformed into people who can put others first and choose what’s right gives him hope for his own life.  These books also have a way of infusing us with a sense of purpose and greatness beyond the smallness of our day to day lives.  There are a thousand reasons to read the Narnia books, but that would probably be an entire post 🙂 These are definitely more suitable for elementary age and up.
  2. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
    • This book is only a few years old but someday it will probably be considered a classic because it’s that good.  It’s about 10-year-old  August Pullman, who had multiple surgeries for a medical defect and is left with a severe facial deformity.  The story follows his journey of entering public school, being rejected and ridiculed by some, and finding acceptance and friendship with others who see past his appearance and appreciate him for who he is.  This one sparked some great conversations with all my kids about giving everyone a chance to be known for who they are and not judging people by their appearances.  Several sections of the book are written from the perspective of different characters, and we even felt bad for Julian (the bully) because we got to see into his life.  All of my kids developed a new level of empathy and compassion for people who are obviously suffering, but they also realized that everyone’s story involves some kind of sadness or diffuculty.  I strongly recommend this book for the whole family.  The audio version is great because the voices are done by different people and it’s even easier to connect with each character.
  3. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
    • This one is definitely a classic.  Set in the Swiss Alps, this book transports you to a place where life is beautifully simple, yet rich.  Kids growing up in today’s world don’t always think about the simple pleasures in life, but Heidi makes all of us, children and adults alike, long to run with goats in a field of wildflowers and watch a glorious mountaintop sunset and have toasted cheese and milk for supper.  This book somehow had a calming effect on my son.  Every time I started reading it he settled down and listened.  We all laughed at Peter the goatherd and his jealous antics.  Heidi’s determination, optimism, and genuine concern for others are an example for us all, particularly kids who struggle in those areas.  The contrasts between her life on the mountain and our modern lives make us want to slow down and enjoy the little things in life rather than always wanting to add more to the busyness.
  4. Ramona the Pest (and all the other Ramona books) by Beverly Cleary
    • There’s a reason most of us read these books as kids.  Beverly Cleary weaves so much humor into these stories about an ordinary girl and her everyday life.   She writes what kids often think, making Ramona such a relatable character that kids can’t help but empathize with her many mishaps and fiascoes.  The way she thinks people see her is exactly the way a lot of kids think of themselves–as bothersome, or not smart enough, or not as pretty as someone else–and realizing they’re not alone in feeling this way can be a huge relief.  My son specifically identifies with Ramona because he’s often the one getting in trouble or causing a problem without intending to.  He sometimes thinks of himself as the “bad” one just like Ramona, but she’s the heroine of the whole collection in spite of (or maybe because of) her tendency to make a mess of things.  Sometimes just knowing there are other people (or characters) out there who share our struggles makes us feel understood, and that’s a tremendous relief for kids who are a little different.  I love Ramona for making so many kids feel this way 🙂
  5. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
    • We just finished this book.  Every time I started to put it down my kids begged me to keep reading just a little longer.  Teenager Sam Gribley runs away from his over-crowded New York City apartment to make a life for himself in the Catskill mountains.  I was a little skeptical of this one because I didn’t want to sensationalize the idea of running away. But Sam isn’t running away to escape his family–he simply believes he can make a great life for himself on his family’s old property in the wilderness. He reads many books and prepares himself extensively before he goes on this mission. His experiences are fascinating and fun for kids and adults alike, and he makes all of us want to get out and enjoy nature.

Because my kids have grown so much through exposure to great characters in well-written books, I’m incredibly passionate about literacy.  The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is celebrating over 20 years of helping individuals learn to read, prepare for their high school equivalency, or learn English.  Just think of all those lives that have been forever changed because they were given an opportunity to better themselves.   Kellogg’s is committed to providing 3 billion Better Days through 2025 through initiatives that feed people and their potential.  So have a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Froot Loops in honor of all the good these two companies are doing!

And don’t forget to go tell your own literacy story here and enter the #DGMyStory Sweepstakes with the hashtag #DGMy StoryEntry for a chance to win a $50 Dollar General gift card!

Sharing Poetry with Kids

Every summer, I spend a few weeks planning everything we’re going to cover during the upcoming school year. Call me crazy, but I love those weeks of planning and researching and ordering books. I figure out all the historical time periods and people we’re going to study, choose a focus for science lessons, settle on a math curriculum, plan writing practice…all the core subjects.

And then it’s time to add in the fun stuff–subjects that aren’t usually given priority because they’re not considered as important. Things like literature, Shakespeare, art, and poetry.  This is my favorite part of planning because, not only are these subjects vitally important to study, they’re also fun!  In a Charlotte Mason education, these subjects are valued just as highly as core subjects because they expose our kids to rich, beautiful language and timeless works of art.  They give our kids a chance to see greatness.


While all these “extras” are wonderful, today I want to focus on sharing poetry with your children.  With all the subjects you have to cover, do you really need to add poetry to the list?  Is it important enough to take up valuable school time each week?  Does it provide any real benefits?

Experts say YES!

Hearing the meter and rhyme of poems in the early years helps create phonological awareness and can lay the foundation for literacy.  Poetry exposes kids to language they might not otherwise hear, expanding both their vocabulary and their understanding of the world.  And well-written poetry can awaken the imagination and speak to the soul like nothing else.


So how do you go about sharing poetry with your kids?  The good news is that it’s ridiculously simple.  Just read it!  No need to analyze it or search for hidden meaning.  Simply reading poems that your kids can enjoy is all it takes.  You can read a poem a day, study a certain poet’s work for several weeks, or institute weekly poetry teatime.

We’ve tried all these options and my kids enjoy poetry teatime the most.  (I’m sure it has nothing to do with the apple cider, hot chocolate, or treats we enjoy with our poetry 😉 ) It started as a nice way to end our week on Friday, but now my kids love it so much they ask for teatime more often.  All we do is pull out some poetry books and read whatever poems we’re in the mood for.  I try to include something new along with the old favorites.  I’ve also recently started having my kids recite something they’ve memorized each time.  This can be Scripture, poetry, or stories in German (the language they’re learning).  That way they’re learning to speak in front of people in a way that isn’t too intimidating.

Feeling inspired but not sure where to start?  I’ve compiled a list of some great poets and books that are perfect for preschool and elementary-aged kids.  Here are some of our favorites.

  • A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
    • His poems are fun for even really young kids.  Most of them are about happy aspects of childhood so they’re relatable and easy to understand.
    • Most are relatively short, so they’re great ones to memorize
    • Some favorites by Stevenson include The Swing, A Good Play, and Whole Duty of Children.

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
    • By far my kids’ favorite–all of his poems are funny and a little ridiculous.
    • Great ones to read include Hungry Mungry, Peanut Butter Sandwich, and Sick, but really the whole book is wonderfully fun.
    • Shel Silverstein has a few other books of poetry as well if you just can’t get enough of his work.

  • Lewis Carroll, edited by Edward Mendelson (from the Poetry for Young People series)
    • His poems are full of nonsense and made-up words, which makes them especially fun.
    • They’re better suited for elementary ages–the language and length of the poems might be a little difficult for really young kids.
    • This book (and the whole Poetry for Young People series) is wonderful because it gives some interesting information about the author and his life and also gives definitions for some of the more difficult words (including the words Carroll made up!)
    • Favorites include Matilda Jane, Father William, and especially Brother and Sister (which my kids happily memorized together).

  • Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
    • This book is mainly short stories, but there is a poem that goes along with each story.
    • Kipling also wrote many other poems that aren’t specifically for children but some are still great to share with older kids.
    • Great poems by Kipling include If and How the Camel Got His Hump.

Hopefully this gives you a starting place for beginning to share the beauty of poetry with your children.  Other great poets to study include A.A. Milne, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman…there are so many great writers and resources out there.  Whether you’re looking for something that makes you and your kids laugh or something that speaks to your heart, there’s plenty of beautiful poetry out there for everyone.  Share some of your favorites with us!


An Active Family’s Guide to Keeping Laundry Fresh

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

Laundry.  Piles and piles of laundry.  If your family is as active and busy as ours, you know what I’m talking about.  Between my husband’s gym clothes, my yoga clothes, and my oldest daughter’s sports outfits, we go through a lot of laundry.  Factor in my 5-year-old’s need to change into 12 different outfits a day and my son’s super-human ability to sweat at the first hint of activity, and we keep our laundry room really busy.

I used to hate this particular chore because it just felt so mundane and never-ending.  To make things even worse, sometimes I would pull a load out of the dryer to fold it and notice that it didn’t smell clean.  It seemed like the odors I was trying so hard to get out of our clothes somehow ended up ingrained into the fabric permanently after being washed and dried.  Something had to change.  After a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out some tips for truly getting our laundry clean and fresh every time.

  • Wash wet or smelly items as soon as possible.

    This might seem like a hassle, but it makes a big difference.  The longer unpleasant odors and damp clothes are allowed to sit, the harder it is to get them really clean.  I learned this the hard way.  I remember actually having to throw away someone’s favorite t-shirt after multiple washes because it just never smelled clean.  If you can’t wash something right away, be sure it is in a laundry hamper or bag that is breathable until it can be washed so it has a chance to air out and dry.

  • Use a good detergent.

    This is a big one.  We’ve tried so many different detergents over the years, from incredibly cheap bargain detergents to well-known brands, and there really is a difference.  My absolute favorite liquid laundry detergent is Gain Fresh Water Sparkle™.  It smells heavenly!  One cap of Gain liquid laundry detergent keeps clothes smelling fresh from wash until wear for up to 6 weeks.  It would take a 50 oz. bottle of the leading baking soda detergent to provide that much freshness.  I love that the cap is clear so you can actually see how much detergent you are using and know you are getting the right amount for each load.

    All Gain Fresh Water Sparkle™ products are exclusive to Dollar General, and you’ll want to try all the great laundry products in this scent.  For extra savings, check out these coupons. If you want to make doing laundry even simpler, try the new Gain flings!™ laundry pacs in Fresh Water Sparkle™.

    Gain flings!™ are packed with 50% more scent than Gain liquid laundry detergent.   Just place the pac into the drum of the washer before adding your clothes, using more than one pac for larger loads.  No pouring or measuring required, and the pacs contain everything you need for a load of extra clean, great-smelling clothes.  Doing laundry has never been so easy!

    They dissolve in hot or cold water, so you can use them for any temperature setting.  Even our stinkiest clothes and towels come out smelling amazingly fresh after using Gain flings!™.  Plus, they make doing laundry so easy!  Both Gain liquid laundry detergent and Gain flings!™ are compatible with regular and HE washing machines.  As always, keep laundry products away from children.

  • Don’t overfill the washer.

    It’s so tempting to squeeze in just one more towel, or pair of jeans, or sweatshirt, or whatever.  Don’t do it!  Don’t exceed your washing machine’s maximum capacity for each load size because your clothes won’t come out as clean as they should.  They need plenty of space to move around in lots of water if you want them to get as clean and fresh as possible.  Plus, a huge load of laundry takes much longer to dry, often more than one cycle.  If you’re like me and you often forget to turn it back on right away, your clothes could end up smelling like mildew.  And who wants to start the whole load over again?

  • For ultra-smelly loads, use an extra boost of freshness.

Let’s face it–sometimes you end up with things that are just extra stinky.  Your kid’s gym clothes that were left in a locker all weekend, or wet towels in your trunk from swimming three days ago, or a sweaty shirt shoved under a bed from who knows when.  These situations require a little more odor-fighting power than regular loads.  That’s why I’m so glad I found Gain Fireworks™ In-Wash Scent Booster Beads in Fresh Water Sparkle™ scent.  Gain Fireworks™ are scent beads that give your clothes an extra boost of scent.  Simply sprinkle the beads into the drum of your washer before adding your clothes.  The more you add, the fresher your clothes will smell!  My husband loves it when I use these.  He can’t get enough of the Fresh Water Sparkle™ scent, and when I add Gain Fireworks™ he always comments on how amazing his clothes smell.

  • Always use a dryer sheet.

    This not only makes clothes smell great, it also keeps static at bay, reduces wrinkles, and makes things feel extra soft.  I always toss in a Gain Dryer Sheet in Fresh Water Sparkle™ scent to finish off the laundry routine the right way.  Folding laundry never smelled so good!

Head over and pick up all of these great Gain Fresh Water Sparkle™ products exclusive to Dollar General stores.  For extra savings on Dollar General’s already low prices, click here.  Add the new Gain flings!™ laundry pacs and Gain Fireworks™ In-Wash Scent Booster Beads in Fresh Water Sparkle™ scent to your laundry routine and your clothes will be fresher than ever.

My local Dollar General store had all the Gain products I was looking for in a convenient place so I was able to quickly stock up on all the things I needed in Fresh Water Sparkle™ scent.

Do you have more laundry tips for getting clothes smelling fresh and clean?  Share your ideas with us in the comments!

Coupon For the New FriXion Erasable ColorSticks

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

It’s back to school season and I love the new FriXion Erasable ColorSticks and FriXon Erasable Colors Marker Pens at Target because my kids are able to write fearlessly!

With FriXion Erasable ColorSticks and FriXon Erasable Colors Marker Pens, my kids are able to write, erase and rewrite repeatedly without damaging their schoolwork. No wear or tear! The secret is the unique thermos-sensitive gel ink formula disappears with erasing friction. My kids do not have jitters about creating errors because they have unlimited do-overs!

There are two new packs of FriXion ColorSticks Erasable Gel Pens & FriXion Colors Erasable Marker Pens and they are only available at Target; make back-to-School less stressful and more fun with your favorite FriXion pens and #PilotYourLife

Ready for some more exciting news? You can save $1.00 on any 2-pack (or larger) of FriXion ColorSticks Erasable Gel Pens & FriXion Colors Erasable Marker Pens if you shop now in the Back to School Season.

DIY Cat Supply Cabinet

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

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know I absolutely adore my two cats, Edmund and Phil.  Of course, that means we have lots of cat-related items in the house.  Until recently, we always just kept cat food near the back door where it was accessible but not very organized, and other things like flea medicines just got stashed randomly on a shelf in the laundry room.  We didn’t really have a great place to keep all of our cat supplies and food in one central location.  As a bit of an organizational enthusiast, this lack of order really started to bother me, but I didn’t have any brilliant ideas about how to get it organized.

Both of our cats love 9Lives® cat food, and we always have a variety of 9Lives wet and dry food in our house.  We’re big fans of anything related to 9Lives because they are dedicated to the health and happiness of cats everywhere.  Why?  Because 9Lives believes your cat deserves to be happy.  Well, this year Morris the 9Lives cat is celebrating his 50th Adopt-i-versary!   So in honor of Morris, I decided to create the perfect organizational solution to our problem out of an old cabinet.  Using just a few inexpensive supplies, I was able to turn this…

into this…

But first, Morris has quite a story.  He was discovered by an animal talent scout at the Humane Society in Hinsdale, Illinois, who immediately noticed his charming personality.  At his audition, Morris was so charming that the art director declared him “the Clark Gable of cats”, and he soon became the spokescat for 9Lives, starring in over 50 commercials and even appearing in a film with Burt Reynolds. Despite his fame, Morris has always had a social conscience.  He has spent much of his time visiting schools to promote kindness to animals, and he also launched Morris’ Million Cat Rescue to help find homes for animals in need.   That’s worth celebrating, right?  To see more about the story of Morris and his 50th Adopt-i-versary, check out this adorable video, or get to know his Cat Pack (yes, he’s that cool) in this article.

Today I’ll show you how to make your very own DIY cat supply cabinet that will give you one place to keep all your cat food, flea medicines, brushes, and everything else feline-related. Plus, it will look nice enough to make Morris proud!

Let’s get started!  You’ll need a few basic supplies:

  • An old cabinet
  • Paint in a color you love
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sandpaper (if needed)
  • A container for dry food
  • Small shelves, baskets, or bins to corral small supplies

First, remove any drawer pulls or knobs and put them in a safe place.

Next, you can sand your cabinet (if needed) and wipe clean with a damp cloth to remove dust and grime.  Then it’s time to get painting!  Paint all surfaces that will be your main color, being careful to catch any drips before they dry.

When the first coat is dry, add a second coat if necessary.  When all coats are completely dry and no longer sticky, you can tape around the areas that you want to paint with a chalkboard surface.

Chalkboard paint can be tricky to use, so be sure to read all instructions carefully.  Following the directions, paint your chalkboard surfaces with 2-3 coats, allowing paint to dry between applications.  To create the smoothest writing surface possible, start in the center with a liberal amount of paint and try to overlap all brush marks.  It should now look something like this:

Now the paint needs to cure.  This means you simply leave it alone for three days.  Three WHOLE days.  That may seem like a long time to wait, but if you rush it the surface won’t be as smooth for writing on.  After it has cured, it’s time to prepare the surfaces with chalk.  Lay a piece of white chalk on its side and rub over the entire chalkboard surface.

After a few seconds, erase this layer of chalk and you can start writing on your chalkboard surfaces!

Reinstall any hardware you removed from the cabinet.

Now it’s time to start organizing all your cat food and supplies.  A cereal container makes the perfect place for storing dry food, and it fits just right.  I also picked up a handy 3-tier pantry organizer at Dollar General to keep our wet food organized so that we can easily see all the flavors we have at a glance.

While I was there I also spotted these colorful trays that are perfect for holding flea meds, collars, etc. in the top portion of my cabinet.

After getting everything situated, I’m so happy with the way our new cat supply cabinet turned out.  Now all of our feline-related supplies are organized and in one place, and we won’t forget any important information regarding our cats!

Every time I go to Dollar General for 9Lives cat food, I can stock up on all of Edmund and Phil’s favorite varieties and have an organized place to keep them all.  Right now you can save even more on dry food at Dollar General with this coupon.

And if your cats are like mine and enjoy a variety of flavors, get this one for extra savings on wet food varieties like 9Lives Meaty Pate with Chicken and Tuna, Hearty Cuts Beef and Chicken in Gravy, and Super Supper.

Hopefully you’re feeling inspired to make your own DIY cat supply cabinet.  Leave us a picture in the comments if you do–we love cat-centric projects!  And be sure to visit 9Lives on Facebook to stay up to date on all the latest happenings with Morris.

Why I Require My Kids to Share a Room


Let’s face it. Sibling relationships are complicated.  Two (or more) little imperfect humans are placed into one family, each with his or her own blend of personality, habits, desires, frustrations, jealousies, and quirks.  So it’s no surprise that kids spend a crazy amount of time arguing, yelling, hitting, name-calling, and tattling.  Everyone knows that some sibling rivalry is to be expected in families with multiple kids.  When iron sharpens iron, sparks fly.  But I’ve come to realize that brothers and sisters can actually be friends.  That’s right, friends.  With each other.

When my youngest was a baby, I put my other two kids (who were 5 and 3) into one room simply out of necessity.  The baby needed naps during the day and still woke up several times a night, so for the sake of everyone’s sleep she needed to be in a room by herself.  So we doubtfully put her big sister and brother together, wondering how long this arrangement would last.  They had always had their fair share of sibling rivalry.  One was loud and the other liked peace and quiet.  One liked to spread out Legos EVERYWHERE while the other needed space for dolls and reading and creative pursuits.  One was an early riser and the other a night owl.  Were we crazy to put them together?

Initially things were a bit rough. But soon they surprised us by starting to get along better.  They came up with games and activities that were fun for both of them.  They shared their toys more freely.  Every night they listened to audio books together.   They started to actually enjoy being together.  

There were still plenty of disagreements and frustrations, but they had learned to work most things out.  To consider each other’s feelings and preferences instead of just thinking of their own wishes.  To take turns choosing what to play or what book to listen to at bedtime.  To be quiet when the other was asleep.  They were learning to live together in (relative) harmony because they had to.  When we took a two-month trip to see my husband’s family, they were inseparable.  They wanted to sit together on every plane, bus, and train.  They told us they were travel buddies and couldn’t be separated.  They treated each other like friends.

As I marveled at their newfound friendship, I thought back to my own childhood.  I was the oldest of four and we lived in a 3-bedroom house the whole time I was growing up, so my sister and I shared a room until I got married and moved out (a bit extreme, I know).  I often resented having to share with her, but there were so many nights we stayed up talking and laughing and connecting.  We would have missed out on all of those conversations if we were in separate rooms.  We both learned to live with each other’s quirks, habits, messes…things we would eventually have to learn when we got married.  Today my sister is one of my absolute favorite people in the world.  As much as I wanted my own room back then, I’m so thankful that I never got it because I would have missed out on so many blessings if I had.

So when we moved to a new house this summer, it seemed like it was time for our youngest to have the blessing of sharing a room with someone.  We gave our oldest daughter, who is now 10, her own room for the first time in years, and put the other two, who are 7 and 4, in a room together.  Several family members and friends were skeptical of this decision, and a couple of them genuinely tried to talk me out of it because my two youngest have always been at odds.  They are both strong-willed, emotional, dramatic, and really good at pushing each other’s buttons.   But we decided to give it a try anyway.  And I’m so glad we did!

They still fight like all brothers and sisters. We still have days that make me want to separate them so I don’t have to listen to any more arguing. But in the few weeks we’ve lived in the new house, my 7-year-old son has let his sister choose the audio book almost every night.  For him this is huge.  He has kept his Lego mess confined to one rug.  He brings her water at night when her cup is empty.  And she serves her brother in so many small ways.  She puts away his laundry so he won’t have to.  She surprises him by making his bed.  She encourages him when he gets frustrated or disappointed.

I know being room-mates won’t make them into selfless angels, but my hope is that it will start a bond between them that will last into adulthood.  Learning to live together in harmony is such a valuable gift I can give them, even though they may not see it that way right now.  When the time comes for them to have their own rooms, I hope they will go looking for each other because they want to be together.


Save Money For Back To School With Groupon

When I think Groupon I usually think of huge discounts on amazing experiences. But that’s not all that Groupon is amazing for! Did you know that Groupon has over 9,000 retailers and over 70,000 deals?!

With back to school barreling on us I’m trying to get all my shopping out of the way now so I can avoid the crowds. My favorite way to do this is by shopping online, shopping now, and using Groupon Coupons.

Of course my love for Amazon is no secret by now. From birthday gifts to school supplies we’re always ordering from them.  The great news is that right now Groupon has over 156 deals on amazon items! Right now, one of the Groupon Amazon deals is FREE shipping with Amazon without having to have Amazon Prime. So if you don’t have it like us you can stock up!

Groupon isn’t just about Amazong though. There are so many retailers you can shop such as Target , Macy’s, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walgreens, and Aeropostale. No matter what your shopping need may be, Groupon has a deal for you! So, get saving and check on the deals for yourself!

Signs Your Credit Card Information Has Been Stolen

Businesses are targets for credit card fraud. This criminal behavior causes major problems for owners and patrons, especially if customer financial data is stolen. Because of this threat, Merchant Account Solutions offers point-of-sale systems that have advanced security features. If you are victimized, there are signs to look for that can help minimize your financial loss.

Bills Arrive Late

Are your bills arriving late – or not all? If so, contact your vendors. Chances are identity thieves have rerouted your mail to a new address, so they can use your personal information to apply for and to max out credit cards in your name.

Creditors Call You

Are creditors calling you about unpaid bills for good or services you never purchased? If so, there’s someone making purchases with your credit card information. Your customers will have the same issue if criminals breach your customer database. Advanced technologies like Clover POS system have built-in fraud and security protection that helps prevent ID theft.

Statement Errors

Look at your bank and credit card statements carefully. Pay attention to any unusual charges, especially small ones. Hackers often make small transactions first before making huge purchases. Call your financial institutions when you notice any suspicious account activity.

Credit Issues

Criminals often apply for multiple loans and credit cards using stolen financial information. They max out the accounts and leave their victims with unpaid balances. If you have been targeted, you may experience the following:

  • Loan applications declined
  • Credit application turned down
  • Unfamiliar accounts appearing on your credit report

You can get a free annual credit report from Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Monitor your credit regularly, so you can stay on top of what’s being reported to these firms.

If you encounter the issues above, take action immediately. This may involve filing a police report and/or contacting the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. To protect your patrons’ financial data, use one of these advanced POS platforms.

How to Choose Accommodations When You’re Traveling With Kids

Traveling with kids can be a nightmare if your accommodations don’t accommodate them. Lots of hotels simply aren’t kid-friendly. The secret to a fun family vacation is ensuring the kids have a good time too; otherwise, you’re going to be subjected complaints and negative attitudes. The following is a guide to help you choose accommodations that your kids will love so much they’ll be raving about the fun they had for years to come.

Kid-Friendly Hotels in Adult Cities

Some destinations are more fun for adults than kids. For example, Hollywood. If you’re not riding rides at Universal Studios Hollywood, there’s a chance your kids are going to be bored. But, family friendly hotels do exist. A fun hotel can cheer a kid up and give them something to look forward to. The best boutique hotels in West Hollywood are the most kid-friendly, such as Loews Hollywood Hotel which is located on the Walk of Fame and features a rooftop pool and lots of kids toys. Look for resorts, huge pools with water slides, and on-site arcades to accommodate kids in adult-friendly destinations.

Is It Near the Beach?

It’s hard to find an ocean-front hotel that doesn’t cost a fortune, but kids love to play in the sand don’t they? They also love to boogie board, swim, and splash. Instead of paying for a hotel, why not consider the benefits of a beach front home or condo rental. AirBnB is a great place to seek out waterfront property that fits in your budget. For added fun, seek out places that include watersports equipment, such as use of kayaks or snorkeling equipment. This will provide hours of fun for kids, but requires safety demonstrations beforehand.

Look for On-Site Restaurants

If your hotel has an on-site restaurant (and, it’s great if it does) call ahead to make sure they accommodate kids. Do they offer crayons and pages to color? Do they encourage kids to be themselves? Are there games to play and a menu that’s packed with the stuff they like to eat? Keeping kids full and having fun will ensure your vacation goes swimmingly, and a stuffy hotel restaurant won’t help with that at all.

It helps if the restaurant also serves a daily breakfast. Some will offer a free hot or continental breakfast; others will charge for breakfast. What you want to do and what you can afford is up to you; however, feeding kids bright and early will help them start the day with positive attitudes. All day long, they should be treated to nutritious and filling meals because it will help keep them happy while traveling.

Be Nearby Attractions

If your attractions aren’t already on-site, such as staying at an all-inclusive resort, make sure they’re nearby. Long walks or car rides aren’t going to bode well with your little ones. Of course, they can suck it up for one vacation, but if you’re looking to keep the trip on the sunny side, don’t expect them to always have a smile on their faces (especially on long journeys). They are almost guaranteed to complain about long trips, but will be pleasantly and happily surprised by nearby destinations. Look for rentals and hotels that are right by your favorite attractions or expect to be complained to.

iMom recommends that you identify what’s bothering a whiny kid. It’s likely a sour tummy or they’re too hot, or some other travel related reason. Then point out and challenge the attitude. Offer the kid some incentive to turn the attitude around, and the ride should go more swimmingly. You can basically use that method to solve any of your journey’s issues; coupled with kid-friendly accommodations it almost guarantees a happy vacation.


By Monique