What Diaper Banks Really Need #ThisIsGood

diaper-bank-picture

An unfathomable scenario: Choosing between feeding your child or changing her diaper.

In the United States, one in three mothers have had to make that choice.

This is why the work diaper banks are doing for their local communities is crucial. When diaper banks facilitate diaper donations, babies in need have access to clean diapers. However, diaper banks also ensure that a large expense is lessened for struggling families, which ensures those babies are fed, clothed and that their parents can get to work. (Sometimes parents have to miss work due to diaper need, as most day care facilities require a day’s worth of diapers – thereby perpetuating the diaper need cycle.)

Here is how you  – and your children! — can support the important work being done by diaper banks across the country.

Donate Diapers…or Cash

The most basic way you help a diaper bank is by throwing a big box of diapers in your cart during your next grocery or wholesale store run. Go to the National Diaper Bank Network website, search for your nearest diaper bank and see if that diaper bank has a specific diaper size need. (If they do not, I always grab Size 4. My kids wore Size 4 diapers forever!) Then bring your diapers to your closest diaper bank drop-off location.

If you have unused diapers hanging out at home, check with your individual diaper bank if they accept opened packs (some allow this, others do not.)

If your schedule is crazed, consider a cash donation to your nearby diaper bank. Your contribution will go even further as the diaper banks have access to wholesale diaper prices and may have contributions matched by larger corporate sponsors. The DC Diaper bank states that a mere $12 enables them to buy almost 100 diapers through discount suppliers and keep a baby freshly pampered for two weeks.

Host a Diaper Drive

A diaper drive is one of the easiest social good goods-raisers that you will ever coordinate. You can host a diaper drive at your workplace, school or parent organization. You can even choose a diaper drive in lieu of or in addition to a baby shower! The National Diaper Bank Network has a toolkit to make your diaper drive a breeze. Simply put, you communicate to your group to bring in diapers at a specific date (or date range) and then the coordinator brings them to the diaper bank or organizes a pick-up.

A group event multiplies the diapers generated for children in need, sure. But just as importantly, a diaper drive greatly increases the awareness of this silent crisis.

Volunteer at a Diaper Bank

Diaper banks welcome — and depend on — volunteers to assist in counting, bundling, packaging and distributing the diapers delivered to their operations. Many hands are needed to get those diapers out the door and into the hands of families.

My local diaper bank, the DC Diaper Bank, welcomes playgroups, moms’ clubs, scouting troops and other organizations to come in to lend a hand. Individual families can drop in to assist, too. One incredibly fun volunteer option they offer are evenings in which parents can bring in bottles of wine for a social good-focused moms’ night out. What a fabulous way to connect with your friends and make new ones!

Serve as a Diaper Drop Off Location

Active on your neighborhood list serv? Have an office space in your city center? Then contact your local diaper bank about serving as a community drop-off location for others’ diaper donations. Often diaper banks are located in warehouses a little off the beaten path, so you can increase diaper donations by offering your address as a drop site. You can coordinate with your diaper bank about regular pickups of the donations you receive.

Get the Kids Involved

My children love assisting with diaper drives or the simple, beautiful act of adding an extra box of diapers to our errands. They have a great time counting diapers for donation and making signs for diaper drives. Other charitable efforts may be tough to convey to children (matching funds? advisory boards? huh?) But putting their hands on brightly-decorated booty covers that someday soon help a sweet child like themselves stay comfy and dry? That is such a concrete way to communicate the concept of helping others.

After all these years of changing diapers (How long have you been at it? I just finished 9 years!), it feels really good to keep on diapering babies in our community.

It is also a whole lot neater.

Make ‘Em Laugh – The Key to a Happy Home

laugh

School has started back full swing in our home, and I’m not going to lie – It’s blissfully glorious to have a few solid hours of uninterrupted quiet time around here. No one begging for a snack, tattling about all the wrongs done by a wayward sibling, or shooting Nerf darts above my head (or at my head) 452 times a day.

Blissful.

There’s always a small part of me that misses the children when they head back to school. Life is much more hectic when they’re here, yes. But it’s also more fun. And so, for a few brief moments each day, I miss the bustle and the hustle, and even the Nerf darts.

Then I laugh, grab an iced tea and open a good book.

The arguing and bickering are the one thing I do not miss for a single second. Toward the end of summertime, when the beauty of all that togetherness has worn off, it seems that my children cannot walk through the same room without finding some way to tear each other apart. They’re like little chickens pecking one another to death, and I am the mother hen in the corner ready to fly off the handle at any given moment.

There are a few tried and true methods that I’ve found to combat the arguments that leave me feeling weary with annoyance and exasperation…and sometimes curled up in a fetal position in the corner of my closet.

First, separation. Sometimes everyone just needs to return to their corners to regroup. Ten minutes in a bedroom with closed doors does wonders for bickering children…and exasperated mothers. Some days, ten minutes is all it will take. Other days, ten minutes could turn into an hour.

The second method I’ve found to help curb bickering is actually heading it off altogether. We’ve all been there, sitting at the kitchen table with our coffee when a child stumbles out of the room all scowled and grumbly. From that very first curt greeting, you can tell that you’re in for a long day. These are the times when I’ve found it’s best to make them laugh.

My children are still young enough that they find me more funny than annoying. This method will probably have to be tweaked in a few years when teenage attitude incites eye rolls over giggles. Even still, my eleven year old is in that interesting phase between grown up and little kid. He’s the boy-man who has already mastered the art of the eye roll – he just forgets to utilize it. 

You want to make a grumbly preteen boy laugh? Walk past him and very quietly whisper “poop,” or any other potty word you can think of. Even the hardest of boy hearts cannot resist a good potty word.

A little well-placed sarcasm (the funny kind, not the mean kind) can go a long way to breaking a mood. As the children sit stewing at the table, turn on the blender and fill the kitchen with the most awful, loud, grinding sound imaginable. And when it goes off, turn to them with wide eyes and ask, “Did you guys hear that?”

Sounds ridiculous, right? Not to an eight year old. She will snicker every. single. time.

A little tickle under the chin, or a silly dance as you walk by the table can do a lot to soften a mood, and a laughing kid is less likely to stick her tongue out at her brother. It’s not fool-proof, but it works more than it doesn’t, and those are odds I can live with.

My husband and I love to laugh, and we work hard to keep laughter central in our family. From silly practical jokes to lip synching KidzBop songs, we are willing to make fools of ourselves if it means we get to hear that delightful sound bubbling over from happy hearts.

And when they become teenagers, we will continue to work hard to keep laughter in the house. If anything, they will be laughing at us then, which is fine, too. I can take it. It beats arguing and eye rolls any day of the week.

What about you? How do you keep laughter in your home?

The Very Best (and healthiest!) Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Muffins

Hi everyone!  Kasey from All Things Mamma here!  Today I’m sharing a fun recipe that your kids are going to love you for – Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Muffins!  Good for you ingredients and yummy to eat!

Enjoy!

My kids love those little muffins you buy at the store in the individual packages. You know, the ones that are so yummy, soft and sweet?  But, they’re full of preservatives and who knows what else AND they’re not very good for my grocery budget.  Those little packages are expensive!  So, I set out to make my very own that the kids could have for breakfast, snack or even take in their lunch boxes for a treat.  But, I didn’t just make any muffin, I made them with healthier ingredients so that I could feel good about giving them such a sweet little treat!

Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Muffins

These Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Muffins are sure to please both mom and kids! Made with White Whole Wheat Flour and Organic Cane Sugar – they  actually are pretty good for you!  Try them out! I’m sure your kiddos will be thrilled to taste test them for you!

Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Muffins

 

Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Muffins

12 mini muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur's)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil - melted
  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • Cinnamon Sugar Topping
  • 2 TBS melted butter
  • 1/4 organic cane sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Lightly grease mini muffin pans or add liners to pan
  3. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy
  4. Add egg just until combined
  5. Add melted coconut oil and mix
  6. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  7. Add to liquid mixture slowly - mixing until just combined
  8. Spoon into muffin pan - filling 2/3 full.
  9. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly golden and tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  10. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool slightly
  11. Melt butter in microwave for cinnamon sugar topping
  12. Mix sugar and cinnamon together.
  13. Dip tops of muffins into butter and then into sugar mixture.
  14. Cool on wire rack.
  15. Store in airtight container or freeze. Take out the night before you want to eat them or place in lunch boxes the night before for lunch the next day
http://www.extraordinarymommy.com/extraordinary-food/the-very-best-cinnamon-sugar-breakfast-muffins/

Are you drooling? Did you try them? Did your kids love them? Be sure to come back and tell us!

The Promises We Make

He reached out and put his little hand on my chest, feeling for my heart, seeking the truth in the pulsing. If he could feel the life pumping through my veins, he could believe me when I answered, “Mommy, am I safe?”

“Yes, my sweet handsome, ” I promised as I knelt next to his bed, pushing his soft blond hair from his forehead, watching his eyes hold mine. He waited for a blink and let his eyes drift softly closed when he was confident I wasn’t lying. “Are you sure?” he whispered, his lips not fully closing again, lulled by my hands on his face, his hand still holding fast to my heart, willing each beat to keep its promise.

“I’m sure.” I swore, knowing full well that hundreds of mothers before me have wished, have prayed the very same over their children, only to be proven wrong.

CooperSleeping

This child, my sweet, sensitive one crawls under the covers tonight reliving today’s school ‘Intruder Drill’: a painful, but now necessary step our schools must take because it has happened one…two…five…ten…twenty times too many and now? It isn’t simply law enforcement and our teachers who must know how to behave in case of this type of emergency, but our children. The smallest among us must now be told where to go, how to hide, and what to do in case someone intrudes, in case the school must go in to a lockdown.

It is no longer simply ‘stop drop and roll’, or jumping from your desk when the alarm sounds, diving underneath to cover the base of your skull and neck in case of an earthquake (my West Coast upbringing included that little gem courtesy of Mother Nature), but rather preparing for something, or what SOMEONE might choose to do. We aren’t talking about an accident, we’re preparing our children for the possibility of danger: a danger that has invaded our schools more than twenty times since Columbine.

I looked him in the face tonight and told him he was safe. But I have no doubt that parents of children at Santana High School, Red Lake Senior High, Sandy Hook or Sparks Middle School all believed the very same thing.

I feel as thought I’m walking a tightrope, caught somewhere between the idyllic, June Cleaver-ish, “Here? Oh my HEAVENS…that type of things could never happen here!” (which, in my brain, ironically seems to BEG for something awful to happen) and drifting to the other side – the panic of constantly looking over my shoulder and forever locking my children in a bubble to protect them from the world.

So, I surrender to trust.

I can’t and I won’t live in a state of fear, and I won’t allow it for my small dude either, but it breaks my heart that there is something in him, in my sensitive one that knows the drill falls in to a real life category. He allows me to placate him, to reassure him that he is safe, that the drills are to reassure him that his teachers are there to protect him, but I can read the questions in his eyes. His old soul bounces the ‘what-ifs’ around his brain somehow growing up so much faster than I want, but placing his faith in me, in his Daddy, in his school.

“Ok, Mommy. You’ll keep me safe, Mommy. They’ll keep me safe, Mommy.”

And yet, it was 5am this morning as he pushed his little body flush against mine, feet, stomach, hands, neck…all seeking comfort… finding it only in touch:  “Mommy…. I had a nightmare….” refusing to tell me what happened.

I promise, Buddy…. I promise. I’m here. You’re safe.

 

10 Reasons You Should Visit The Generations Riviera Maya Resort in Mexico

The sensory moments – they are all sticking with me from my visit to the Generations Riviera Maya Resort. I can still hear the waves as they rocked me to sleep at night, I can still smell the salt in the air, I can close my eyes and picture the view from my room. It was peaceful, and beautiful and GOOD. Shortly after I returned, I shared a few of my favorite pictures and a video room tour. Now, I want to take you through what I consider to be the most compelling reasons to plan your next vacation and make a reservation right now. (Yes, I know Summer is winding down, don’t let that keep you from thinking about Fall breaks and beyond – keep dreaming, keep planning – here’s why!) 10 Reasons to Visit Generations Riviera Maya - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

The view

I would be remiss if I didn’t start by sharing the highlights of the view you enjoy at Generations Riviera Maya. It is exceptional – from the resort itself (stunning both day and night) to the ocean…something that can be seen from every room. In most cases, resorts buy property along the shore and then build BACK away from the beach. Generations and their sister-properties, did just the opposite. They built LONG – stretching down the sand to ensure that all of their guests could love and appreciate the view. All rooms are ocean view and the bottom floor opens right in to the pool. Generations Riviera Maya Resort

Generations Riviera Maya Night

The Food and Restaurants

Let’s be honest….you likely don’t have high expectations for impressive meals when you choose an ‘all-inclusive’ resort. But I’m here to tell you, at Generations (and the other Karisma resorts) you SHOULD. In fact, the culinary experience is much like eating at the most exclusive restaurants you would choose at home. Enjoy gourmet breakfasts, Sushi, Japanese, Mediterranean, traditional American fare and of course, AMAZING seafood options. Generations Riviera Maya Food

Generations Riviera Maya Food2

Generations Riviera Maya Habb Mediterranean Restaurant Generations Riviera Maya Wine Kitchen

The Generations planning

I love that this resort specifically caters to generations of families and, of course, groups of friends traveling together. Each set of three suites is connected, allowing guests to share rooms and enjoy downtime when they are relaxing. Additionally, the grouped rooms open to a balcony AND a pool that runs the length of each floor. Generations Riviera Maya Room2 Generations Riviera Maya Room3 Generations Riviera Maya Room1 Generations Riviera Maya Room View Pool

The kids and loved and spoiled

So many resorts claim to cater to kids and families, but don’t think of the small details.  Generations is just the opposite – housing a kid’s club that you will have to force your kids to leave – it includes a ball pit, a nap room, games and many, many activities. Additionally, one of my true favorites – pint-sized umbrellas and lounge chairs surrounding a kid’s fountain JUST for your small people. Generations Riviera Maya Kids1

Generations Riviera Maya Kids2

Generations Riviera Maya Kids3

The beach

It could be just me, but the beach – everything about it – the sand, the waves coming in, the salt in the air that makes my hair go crazy curly – is centering. I feel calmer in the presence of something so beautiful and powerful. Simply waking to this view, walking along the shore, dipping my toes in the water – it is magnificent. Even bungalows on neighboring Karisma properties (just a short walk down the boardwalk) will leave you positive you are in Paradise. Generations Riviera Maya Beach Generations Riviera Maya Habb Mediterranean Restaurant Generations Riviera Maya Beach Bungalow

The pools

I know. Some people prefer the pool to the beach. At Generations, you have options. Naturally, you can SEE the pool from your room. Or, as I mentioned, if you have a first floor room – you can walk right in to it. There is never a moment when you are worried if there will be chairs available. There are tables and chairs IN the water and a swim up bar. Get there. Generations Riviera Maya Pool

Activities for everyone

One of my favorite things about Generations was the variety of options suited for both adults and children. I know….not everyone loves to wile their day away at the pool or on the beach. But there is, quite simply, no shortage of activities – some listed daily like yoga or pottery painting and others you can schedule for an additional fee – like horseback riding (which I loved). Generations Riviera Maya Horseback Riding

Generations Riviera Maya Pottery

Generations Riviera Maya Yoga

Gourmet Inclusive

Just what IS Gourmet Inclusive? Great question. I have a post coming soon that will explain it in full, but let me simply tell you, this is the gold version of inclusive – staff that knows your name, you are greeted with a cool towel and a cocktail or juice, you have your choice of pillows and scent for your room and linens, food that is not only edible, but divine, drinks that are not watered down, and service to die for. It is that EVERY room at this resort has an ocean view as part of this Karisma experience includes understanding how you value the sight, the sound, the value of this ocean vacation. Generations Riviera Maya Juice Generations Riviera Maya Room View

It is good FOR and TO the environment

One of the things that most impressed me was this greenhouse. This resort grows many of their own fruits and vegetables – all of which are used for their multiple resorts AND to help families in the community. This means that the food you are eating is fresh and ‘home-grown’. Just awesome. Generations Riviera Maya Greenhouse2 Generations Riviera Maya Greenhouse1

The details

From swings at one of the beach bars to exquisite menus to the opportunity to have a wedding or vow renewal ceremony to that little extra celebration of love, the Karisma Resorts and Generations Riviera Maya have all of the details covered. Generations Riviera Maya Swing Generations Riviera Maya Wedding Generations Riviera Maya Details To say that Generations Riviera Maya has thought of EVERYTHING would be an understatement. I felt loved and cared for from the moment I arrived. I could play or rest. I could eat or sleep. I could sit with my toes in the sand or lie by the pool. I could take a yoga class or go horseback riding. And though I experienced this resort with girlfriends, I know I would have just as much fun with my family – with generations of my family. And I know you would as well. Start planning. And then let me know what you think.

Disclosure: I was delighted to be a guest of Generations Riviera Maya within the first few weeks they opened. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

Prepare for Back to School: Build a Better Breakfast by Rethinking Cereal

My small dude made his way in to my room this morning even before I was fully awake, “Did you enjoy your day off, Mommy?”

I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. Day off? It’s Wednesday. It’s 6:30am. I was pretty sure I worked yesterday. And I’m getting ready to work today….so….?

It IS early and I’m not a morning person. I shook my head to clear the ‘I-haven’t-had-any-breakfast-yet-fog’ and tilted my head in confusion.

“I did everything for you, Mommy. I made lunches for school AND I made breakfast.”

Breakfast. And school lunch.

At some point my life began this rapid fast-forwarding and my small people turned in to real people.

Back to School 2014

They morphed from crazy little beings who were always underfoot to the two you see here – a now third and fifth grader. I’d break out all of the cliches and tell you I don’t have any idea how it happened and I didn’t see it coming, but the funny thing is, I suspect there are a few of you out there who have or are experiencing a little of the very same thing.

The good and the crazy of it is they still like to surprise me with little things like making their very own breakfast. And they still let me do things like throw Back-to-School Breakfast parties for their friends and families….a little something I did just before school started specifically because breakfast is such a big deal in our house, it is the first meal we share together every day, cereal is a staple for us and I believe families need to start ‘rethinking’ the way they do cereal to make it not only an easy and quick option, but we sometimes we forget it is a healthy one too. (Think protein, grains,  and fiber.)

This though process was the basis of our:

Back to School Cereal Recharge Bar

I structured it based on the experience I had with Kellogg’s this summer when they hosted their pop-up Recharge Bar in New York City. For a week they were open to the public, offering gourmet cereal options to inspire the breakfast experience. They, of course, brought in Tony the Tiger, Dr. Travis Stork and The Roots for education and entertainment.

Kelloggs Recharge Bar NYC

I can’t say I was as fancy….I hosted an Open House – allowing families to stop by anytime between 8am and 11:30. It was at my home and well, my small people, my husband and I were the only entertainment offered – which only says so much. We laughed quite a bit, but there was no singing. We had nearly 70 people RSVP’d (this meant I was up at 5am slicing, chopping, pouring and arranging. I was nervous, but excited.

Build A Better Breakfast - Rethink Cereal: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

I offered that same gourmet menu.

Back to School Cereal Recharge Menu

Nearly a dozen Kellogg’s cereals

Back to School Cereal Recharge Bar

And as many fruit, nuts and amazing fun toppings as I could think of….just to get our friends, neighbors, kids and parents combining, experimenting, and RETHINKING cereal before their kids were heading back to school.

Back To School Cereal Recharge Sides2

So many of our friends know that I have partnered with Kellogg’s for quite some time and am a huge fan, not only of cereal, but of the brand. For me, what I enjoyed most about the morning was watching everyone experiment, even trying new cereals…and realize that they loved adding nuts or fruit or even a second cereal to their bowl. It was mostly the adults who tried the gourmet menu – the Banana Nut was the favorite -I think I have hooked quite a few friends on Almond Drizzle. I’ve told you before mine is the Pistachio Lemon, and while I didn’t succeed in converting everyone, I do think  so many walked away with *something* new that they loved – and THAT was the goal.

The series of Special K options were favorites with the adults and many of the kids. Naturally, the small people loved Frosted Flakes, but parents learned they could pour a bowl of one of the healthier varieties and sprinkle one of their child’s favorite cereals on top, add some fruit or nuts, milk and make everyone happy.

Back to School Cereal Recharge Cafe Au Lait

Back to School Cereal Recharge Recipe2

Back to School Cereal Recharge Recipe2

Back to School Cereal Recharge Kids

To challenge everyone to ‘rethink cereal’, I did ask guests to submit their favorite recipe creations and I HAVE chosen a few winners. The fun part (at least for me) is that the winners do not yet know what they have won – but I am excited about it and will be sharing both their cereal recipes and their PRIZES soon.

Back to School Cereal Recharge Rethink

Back to School Cereal Recharge Bar Gift Bags

I will admit to being a *touch* exhausted when everyone left, but I couldn’t help but smile when one of my friends texted me pictures of their ‘dinner’ the next night: Cereal.

The text message said they were ‘rethinking’ dinner.  And don’t think that bowl of cereal wasn’t filled with healthy goodness, because it was. She made a full meal out of it. I was both happy and proud. And this morning, when the small dude made breakfast? He did his share of ‘rethinking’ too.

What is your favorite cereal combination? I’d love to experiment with something new?

Disclosure: I am proud to have a long-time working relationship and partnership with Kellogg’s. I threw this party of my own accord…it was hosted by me, not by the brand. And as always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

 

5 Back to School Organization Ideas

I swear I was just putting the Winter coats and school paperwork away. Yet, here I am again, making plans for another school year, shaking my head – amazed that the days of sunshine and pools are slipping away and my children have, in fact, entered a higher grade.

When did this happen?

I’m promising myself I will DEFINITELY be organized this time around. Each year, the routine begins and I feel as though we are just a few steps behind…. we haven’t quite figured out school lunches, I’m worried I missed something on the school supply list and I swear I forgot all about tonight’s baseball practice.

But this year, I’m disorganized no more. And I’m dragging you right along with me.

5 BacktoSchool Organization Ideas - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

 

Here are five tips to keep you on track as your kids head back to school for yet another year.

Mark that Calendar: I don’t care what you use, but use SOMETHING. Maybe you have a large white board calendar by the garage door or you and your significant other have managed to make good use of an online service like Google Calendars or Cozi Family Calendar….the important thing is finding what is right for you. In this calendar, you need to put everything: school events, sport’s schedules, doctor’s appointments, family travels, etc. If you are using an online service, definitely jump ahead and fill in the entire year so next month’s half day at school, parent-teacher conference or weekend soccer tournament won’t come as a surprise.

Pull your Papers together: Some schools and school sports teams require important paperwork…everything from immunization records to proof of doctor’s visits. The very last thing you need is a panicked search for one of these the night before the first day, so check the school’s website to confirm any needs.

Study before you Shop: I know back-to-school shopping can seem alternately exciting and overwhelming, but it is best handled with a bit of advance planning. First of all, what clothes still fit? Which are destined to be passed down, given away or tossed? And which might your kids simply refuse to wear again? When thinking about school supplies, not only are you best served to head to the store with the school’s list in hand, it would be smart to check any arts and crafts areas around the house. With just a small amount of cleaning, I discovered unused erasers, red pens, highlighters, notebooks, folders, pencils and rulers. I can promise you I would have purchased each and every one of them all over again if I simply hadn’t LOOKED to see what we already had. Another quick tip – if you can get away with it – the process is quicker and a touch less expensive if you can go without your kids. (no one is begging for extras or adding anything to your cart!) Additionally, if you are looking for a great way to keep your supplies organized, Mabels Labels is a favorite.

5 Back to School Organization Ideas - Mabels Labels: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Master your mornings: Mornings can easily morph from a slow to chaotic in a matter of seconds if you don’t take the time to plan ahead. As your kids get a little bit older, teach them to take a bit of responsibility for getting ready. Lay clothes out the night before and make sure backpacks are packed and ready to go. Mom and dad can set the table for breakfast, prepare a few snacks for the week and even prepare a portion of the next day’s lunches. Again, if the kids are older, get them involved in each of these steps as well.

Ready the Routine early: Don’t wait until the night before school starts to establish a new ‘school year’ bedtime, a regular dinner time and yes, that early morning wake up call. The shock of Summer ending and re-entering school is more than enough for your family without a battle on the first day. Since Summer is typically a time when bedtimes vary ….as do the morning wake-ups, the scheduled meals and full days, it would be smart to begin re-establishing a routine at least a week before your kids have to make their school days a reality once again. (keep in mind – I suggest this, but find it almost impossible to implement!)

What are your best tips for getting back in to the swing of school? Share your thoughts with me here or on Twitter. You can find me @DanielleSmithTV.

How to Dress for Early Fall

Summer is officially winding down, and with the start of the school year right around the corner, Fall is on my brain. I’m ready to whip out my boots and sweaters, aren’t you? If your local weather isn’t quite on board yet, there are still ways to incorporate some Fall fashion into your wardrobe!

Booties

If you’re not ready to break out your knee length boots yet, booties are a great early Fall alternative that will last you the entire season. You can even wear them with skirts and dresses if it’s still too warm for jeans or long pants! what to wear early fall work

Vests

Can’t imagine going long-sleeved yet? Vests are a great layering piece that don’t add a lot of weight. Try a cargo vest or a faux leather version!cargo vest with shorts

Neutrals and Browns

Mixing earth tones into your wardrobe is a great way incorporate hints of Fall. Think creams, khaki and brown leather accessories.early fall work wear

Light scarves

A lightweight scarf won’t be too heavy for even the warmest of early Fall days. Look for plaids or moody prints to switch your look up for the new season.

lightweight scarves for fallHow will you incorporate Fall accents into your wardrobe?

 

Tips for Learning a Second Language

Hello everyone!

Can I just say I love being here? I love coming here to write about other cultures and encouraging people to step outside of their comfort zone and experience something different. While you can usually find me writing about inspiring women to embrace their beautiful, I am also passionate about what I write here!

A few posts ago I wrote about teaching your kids another language – whether or not you speak that language yourself. Unfortunately, America doesn’t start teaching a second language until around age 12 when it is sometimes too late for the mind to ever grasp that language as a first language. I want to encourage families to make a change in their own home and start introducing and learning another language.

So today I am going to talk about adults learning another language and some tips I’ve picked up along the way. In case you’re wondering what kind of credentials I have on the subject, I have lived in France on and off for the last 7 years and now I can finally say that I am fluent in French. And MAN was that a long road! I still wouldn’t consider myself perfect, but enough to to the point that my entire life in France exists in French. No one switches to English for me and that makes me feel good.

Tips for learning a second language

Tips for learning another language

Let me start by saying I do understand if you don’t live in a country that speaks the language you are trying to learn it can be a lot harder. It will take a little bit more effort, but it’s still doable to the point of communication. To be entirely fluent, you might have to spend some legitimate time in that country to really pick it up. Let’s get started on the practical tips you can do to learn another language.

Just start

It’s intimidating, looking down at all these words can appear to be gibberish to you. It can seem overwhelming looking at a whole sentence when you can barely understand one word. I get it, I’ve been there! But just start. Pick up a very simple learning book and start at the beginning. Start by learning one or two words and move onto verbs and then maybe conjugations. You’ll be surprised how fast you progress!

Consistency

Now there’s no set time you should study per day, but you should be doing it daily. Set a time, early in the morning, at night before you go to bed, during kids nap times, or whatever works for you and just do it. It may not seem like a lot or even enough, but when you add it up over the course of the week and then month, you’re getting a lot of language practice in!

CDs

I used these a lot before marrying my husband and moving to France. I had about a 45 minute commute to work and I would listen to Pimsleur French CD’s. I would say this gave me a nice base of the language. I could say simple sentences and I learned some new vocabulary words. I could order a cup of coffee in French. It wasn’t a lot, but when you piece these things all together, it added up!

Find Friends

The best kind of friends are those who speak the language you want to learn. When I was in college and studying Spanish, I actually found a Spanish speaking church to attend. I didn’t get too much out of the service, but I got to chat with a bunch of Spanish speaking people each week. Some would even call me up and chat on the phone to give me a little extra practice. Very helpful!

You can also look into finding others who are wanting to learn the language as well. It won’t be as helpful, as it’s hard to correct other’s mistakes, but we all do better in groups, even if just for encouragement.

Associations

It’s amazing that there are associations for things right under our noses that we didn’t even know existed. I’m speaking to myself here too! There is a group called Alliance Francaise which has chapters all over the world! There is one 45 minutes from my house and I had no idea! Simply do a little Google research for a similar association or alliance in your area for the language you’ve chosen. If you’ve chosen French, I’ve already done that research for you. Now just look them up, find a chapter near you, and get involved! They even have language summer camps for kids.

Local University or Junior College

Consider taking a class at the local university or jr. college. You will likely encounter many like-minded people there. Just take a simple summer course and make it your goal to become friends with the professors for teacher’s aids so you can potentially get some help outside of class. Up until this last year I had never taken a French class. I could speak at a pretty high level but didn’t know a ton of grammar and my writing was atrocious! After just one semester I improved so much!

Language Exchange

Guess what — there are people all over the world also wanting to learn another language! And a lot of them are wanting to learn English! Thankfully, there are plenty of sites that bring people together to allow them to teach each other their own language. Try Googling language exchange and you will see quite a few. Some might be in your area, some might just become pen pals and give you a reason to visit another country. Either way, you’ll be learning the real language, not just from a book, but rather from a native speaker and you will be helping someone in return. Oh and it’s free!

Don’t be afraid to mess up

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something stupid or offensive or that simply didn’t make sense. I’ve made a fool out of myself plenty of times and no, it isn’t fun. No one wants to feel that way. But it’s part of the struggle. Try to remember you’re end goal. Don’t worry about what people think of you in that moment. Just speak. If it comes out wonky, try again. If they don’t understand, use as many hand gestures as you can. You’ll get your point across, eventually. If you let the fear of messing up prevent you from practicing you’ll never improve. I hate to be harsh, but it’s true.

Just speak

This piggy-backs on the last one, but it’s also different. When you have to sit there and translate every word coming out of your mouth, it’s hard, slow, and tiring. My encouragement and advice would to be just spit it out. Don’t worry about the conjugation or word form, just say it. Either you’ll get your point across enough so that they understand and that’s that or if it’s that bad, they’ll correct you and you’ve learned something new. It’s a lot harder to understand someone who’s saying “je me – no wait – je m’appelle – wait, was that wrong? what’s the word again?” You get the idea. Just spit it out, the other stuff will come!

Now one last side note on why I believe you should be learning another language. You might be thinking “I have two young kids at home, it’s all I can do to keep them alive!” I get that, I really do. Here are my reasons you should give it a shot:

  • Something for you – diapers are only so fulfilling. Learning another language is time to yourself to work your mind.
  • Sense of accomplishment – I cannot tell you how good it feels when I can spend the day speaking French. You will start to feel this as you make progress!
  • Keep your mind sharp – As we get older, life gets harder! Learning another language stretches your mind, like a mental work out! It will keep you sharp!
  • Progress in your studies – The more languages, the more opportunities!
  • You never know where it will take you – You really never know where life will take you, speaking another language – even if not fluently – can open up so many doors!

I hope you’re encouraged today to start learning another language! It’s hard, but it’s not as intimidating as you’re thinking. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Baby steps and you’ll be speaking in no time!!

Go get ‘em!

Top 5 Family Friendly Activities in Florida

It’s no secret that Florida is the ultimate family vacation spot. The land of sunshine, beaches and Disney World offers a plethora of fun for families big and small, old and young. I was born in Florida, and though we moved away when I was young, this was the place we always came for vacation. so saltwater runs through my veins. When my husband and I were able to relocate our family here a few years ago, I felt like a small piece of my soul had finally come home.

While Disney World, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens are the obvious fun-time reasons to visit Florida, many people miss out on the smaller, hidden gems that the state has to offer. For those of you looking forward to a Florida vacation in the future, I offer you my Top 5 Family Friendly Activities in Floridaand not one of them is affiliated with the giant mouse.

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1.) Visit Seaside – Seaside, Florida is a gem of a town. A throwback to the days of yore, Seaside feels like a coastal Mayfield. It is quaint, historic, quiet and peaceful. The streets are built for walking and riding bikes, and the slower pace allows for greater relaxation. Situated on the Gulf Side of the state, Seaside offers the pleasure of a sugar-soft, white sand beach which beautifully compliments the gentile pastel houses and historical buildings.

Seaside is a town that looks and feels as idyllic as it sounds. Don’t miss an opportunity to soak in this serene locale.

2.) Weeki Wachee Springs Park - For almost 60 years, Weeki Wachee Springs Park has mesmerized visitors with its natural Florida beauty and unique attractions. You thought mermaids were a myth, but Weeki Wachee Springs just may change your opinion.

The spring in Weeki Wachee bubbles daily at 74 degrees. With water flowing steadily from subterranean caverns, it’s reported that the bottom of Weeki Wachee Springs has never actually been found. Not only can you enjoy the mermaid shows in the underwater springs, but you can enjoy a variety of Animal Shows, an afternoon ambling through the park, and a full day splashing in Buccaneer Bay, the nation’s only spring-fed water park.

Located an hour north of Tampa, Weeki Wachee Springs is an easy day trip for Gulf Coast vacationers.

My kids enjoying a little dolphin spotting on Clearwater Beach.

My kids enjoying a little dolphin spotting on Clearwater Beach.

3.) Clearwater Beach – Consistently voted one of the nation’s top family-friendly beaches, Clearwater long lives up to it’s name. Stretching for miles down Florida’s Gulf Coast, Clearwater Beach is the epitome of Florida beauty. The sand is powdery and soft, the beach wide and pristine.

A large playground is situated right next to Pier 60, where nightly entertainment keeps families occupied with street shows, handmade vendors, and outdoor movies. You can take a ride on Captain Memo’s Pirate Ship, or visit the famous Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Want a little downtime away from the hustle and bustle? Walk a half mile down the beach to the SandPearl Resort and grab a table at Tate’s Grill. You’ll enjoy a glass of wine and an unobstructed view of the sunset while your children play in the sand nearby. (Tip from a local – Give your children a few glow sticks after the sun goes down. This will allow you to continue your relaxation next to the fire pit, which is lit nightly, and you can still keep up with your kiddos in the dark as their glow sticks bounce around the beach.)

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Photo by Jenni of Avodah Images.com

4.) Dry Tortugas National Park – I’m biased to the Gulf Coast…clearly. But there are some amazing gems to be found on the Atlantic side of the state as well, not the least of which is Dry Tortugas National Park. Now I have, admittedly, never been to this park, but it was placed high on my bucket list a few months ago after seeing a friend’s photos from her family’s visit.

Situated 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, Dry Tortugas is surrounded by the clear blue waters that define Southern Florida and stretch into the Carribbean. Accessible only by boat or sea plane, Dry Tortugas boasts a brilliant shoreline, ample snorkeling, and is the home of the Fort Jefferson National Monument designed by Franklin D. Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act in 1935.

In short, Dry Tortugas is worth the time and investment it takes to get there.

5.) The Everglades – A unique treasure located in South Florida, the Everglades give visitors a chance to soak in Florida’s spectacular nature. We are more than beaches and sand, my friends. We also boast miles of shallow marshes and swamps, and a variety of wildlife that all come together in the Everglades to form a balanced ecosystem.

You can ride on a airboat, look for gators living in their natural habitats, or simply enjoy the peaceful act of bird watching. There’s plenty for young ones to both enjoy and learn from a day spent in the Everglades, and if you find yourself needing some time out of the direct sunshine, this is the place to visit.

Florida has so much more to offer than theme parks and tourist traps. The land is beautiful and serene, peaceful and wild. So the next time you plan your Florida vacation, I urge you to take some of these lesser known locations into consideration.

Happy vacationing!

Dry Tortugas Photo Credit