Friday, June 27, 2014

10 Sunburn and Sun Protection Facts

Over here in Pennsylvania, summer is in full swing.  School has been out for a few weeks and the kids are enjoying camps, pools, beaches, lakes and running wild until the sun goes down.

If your kids aren't running wild until the sun goes down I beg you to limit the ipads, ipods, phones, tv shows and game consoles.  I promise they'll find something to do.  In fact, I bet they surprise you and find MANY things to do.

With how much time my kids spend outdoors, I wanted to share everything I've discovered thus far about sunburns, sunscreens and how to protect your little rugrats.  I'm ashamed to say I always either forget or skimp on that sunscreen early in the summer because I'm out of practice.  

We live in subzero temperatures for a solid three months in the northeast.  Sunscreen isn't a hot topic from late October until early June.  I've heard we all should wear SPF 15 every day but I'm so pale white in January I'll risk it and pray for some freckles when I walk to my mailbox in eleven layers of clothes.

But in June? It's time to get serious about the sunscreen.  

10 SunSmart Facts

1.  A person's risk of melanoma DOUBLES with five or more sunburns.  Scary stuff.

2.  Apply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors.  This is where I get very lazy.  I'm all about applying before the beach or pool.  It's the re-applying that catches us every time.

3.  Wear sunglasses.  The sun can seriously damage the eyes over time.  The lighter your skin and eyes the more susceptible you are to damage from UV rays.  

4.  Sunburns appear between three and five hours AFTER being in the sun.  Don't assume you or your kids can skimp on the sunscreen based on appearance.

5.  Ibuprofen can make you more sensitive to the sun.  

6.  Try a cool bath to relieve sunburn discomfort.  Cool compresses work as well.

7.  A white cotton shirt has an average SPF of 7, if it's wet the SPF sinks to around 3.  Darker and brighter colors absorb more UV Rays and provide more protection.

8.  You can get a sunburn on a cloudy day. 

9.  A high SPF doesn't equal more protection.  Once you climb past SPF 30, the smaller the difference in sun protection.  An SPF of 15 filters 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters out 97% and SPF 100 filters 99%.  The trick is to reapply and stay out of the sun between the hours of 10am and 3pm.

10.  Suntanned skin isn't healthy.  It's sun damage.  I still prefer some color, but these days I'm settling with less.  

Happy summer everyone.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Make Your Own Travel Crayons

Back in the day, when we had two munchkins, we enjoyed eating out.  We were regulars at kid's night at Perkins.

The waitress knew our order, and knew we liked a basket of rolls.  She brought our drinks before we even ordered them.

Bless her heart.

Along with some play-doh and sticker sets, crayons and other art supplies were a necessity.  We had a bag of goodies to keep tiny hands and brains busy while myself and Hubby enjoyed some conversation.

Or maybe we just stared at the walls enjoying the peace.

Either way, these handy travel crayons are ideal for parents. I made mine out of a container that previously housed rainbow sprinkles.

Rainbow sprinkles make my heart sing.

Of course, old spice containers work too.
Just rinse the container well, and allow to dry.  Peel off the label, and type out some sort of fancy title for your container, such as "crayons."

Using packing tape, apply label neatly.

Fill with crayons.  Or markers.  Fill with something that will keep your kids busy when you need them to be busy.

And place it in your purse.
These containers are awesome because they are large enough to hold a few sheets of rolled paper for coloring.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The 1980's

Last night Teen Wolf was on television.  Not the corny Teen Wolf show on MTV that always tricks me into thinking the real Teen Wolf is on...I'm talking Michael J. Fox Teen Wolf.

And then I thought about Sixteen Candles.  And Pretty in Pink.  And the first four Rocky movies.  All of this movie nostalgia has me missing the 1980's.  Which is kind of silly because I was only 11 when we rang in 1990.

This was me and one of my forever friends in the 80's.  The gold shirt was probably stolen from my older brother's closet. 

Here's the thing.  The 80's were so much better than any other recent decade.  The hair, the clothes, the movies, the music and economy were all booming.  We were cell phone-less yet we still managed to survive (imagine that).  I remember calling my parents from pay phones outside the school for a ride home.  This gets even parents didn't even have caller id to know it was me!  And they still answered the phone!

Part of me gets a little sad for my kids because they won't ever experience the same innocence of being a kid.  No matter how much we shelter and how much we teach the world has truly gotten more risque.  Less patient. More preoccupied.  I probably sound a hundred years old when I say this....but just the commercials  these days have me trying to cover little eyes.

I give major props to all the companies who are clever enough to use humor and wit in their advertising.  They are few and far between and unfortunately we see much more of "sex sells" every time we turn on the television or open a magazine.  It's very easy for companies and famous peeps to say it's not their job to raise our kids, but I firmly believe it takes a village.  And with nonstop, neverending access to everything via the Internet, the village is the entire world.

Scary stuff, and put some pants on my eleven year old idolizes you!

I'm gonna say the 1980's was a pretty good time.  My dad never sat on a cell phone playing games.  He sat in "his chair" watching his shows after dinner.  If we wanted to sit in the family room we watched what he was watching.  If we wanted something else we huddled around the tiny bulb television in the kitchen. 

Hair was high, clothes were bright, Michael J. Fox ruled primetime and life was good.

R.I.P. 1980s.  Thank you for the music and the movies. They don't make them like that anymore.

Happy Weekend all!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The (not so) Dog Days of Summer

Summer is busy.  Does anyone else feel like they check their calendar and every weekend is booked until school starts up?

It's frustrating because every summer I wish for long, lazy days.  We have them, but they are fewer and farther between.  I take comfort in knowing my kids don't feel the squeeze of summer chaos because they only feel what they are involved in.  My oldest doesn't worry about gymnastics classes with my youngest and my middle kids don't worry about what camps the other kids in are in.  Everyone gets to do their one camp and we make time for a family vacation.  

The trouble is with each kid in one camp, and football starting up in August, the weeks and weekends are booked solid.  And I feel all of it. I arrange the rides, the food and the babysitting.  

This past Monday we took a family day and hit up Knoebels, a small theme park about forty five minutes away.  There is no admission and no fee for parking.  We bought ticket books for 20% off at the grocery store and arrived when the park opened.  We didn't wait in lines and the weather was perfect.

It was just the kind of day we needed to catch our breath before another busy week of camps, work and practices.  

I remember feeling like summer lasted forever when I was a kid.  I can still see myself swimming in our pool and reading books.  I walked to the town lake and spent hours with friends.  The days went slow and when September rolled around I couldn't wait for school to begin.  It was truly the "dog days of summer."

I loved it.  And I'm wondering if my mom felt the same way I do now.  Rushed but thankful summer is finally here.  There is really nothing like it; late nights and no homework or lunch packs.  It's busy, but it's wonderful.

What is everyone else up to this summer?  Do you sign the kids up for camps or keep it simple?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Everything I Need to Know in Life I Learned from Watching Little League Baseball

Listen to your coaches.  Even when things get tough, never quit.  Politics stink, and they're here to stay. You're capable of more than you realize.  Take your shoes off before you go in the house. Stand by your team. Bite your tongue when someone else makes a mistake; next time it might be you.  Never, ever go down looking. Be on time. Everyone has a bad game, the trick is getting back out there and playing again. Be responsible for your things. Wear sunscreen. Being confident is good, being an ass is not.  When your kid is at bat, remember the kids in the field are just kids and vice versa. Cheer for your team, not against the other.  Keep things in perspective, 99.9% of the players are not going to the major leagues. The little things are most often the big things. It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.  Don't coach from the sidelines, you'll only confuse the players. You can't hit the ball if you don't swing. If you can't donate money, volunteer your time. Nothing beats a good snack bar at 1pm on a Saturday. Bring an umbrella so it doesn't rain.  We all strike out, the trick is getting back in the box.  There is no substitute for hard work.  Don't get caught sleeping in the field, you never know when a ball is coming your way. It's okay to talk to the other team when a runner is on your base. There is no substitute for good sportsmanship, and more coaches and parents should teach it by example. Eat a good meal before you head to the field.  It takes a team to win a game, it also takes a team to lose a game.  Blame doesn't belong in the dugout, the car or at home.

Love the game, and remember to have fun.  Life is what you make it!

Happy almost end of baseball season everyone!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vitafusion Love (and enter to win $100 Visa giftcard!)

I have a major sweet tooth.  I'm also incredibly horrible at remembering to take pills or any supplements. This isn't the best combination.  I've never struggled too much with exercise, and I manage to eat a few healthy meals every so often.  But all those gross tasting gel capsules?  And extra fruits and vegetables? Usually not happening.

When I was pregnant, I couldn't handle prenatals.  They were so large and had this disgusting aftertaste.  Pure torture for a pregnant woman.  My midwives finally settled on iron supplements, and told me I could take children's vitamins.  
I was in heaven.  
For years I stuck to those children's vitamins because I preferred the taste, and I didn't need a glass of water to get them down.  It was eat and go.  Just what this mama is looking for in a vitamin regimen.  Needless to say, when I discovered vitafusion™ I immediately became a loyal customer.  Vitafusion offers a variety of vitamins and supplements for adults, and they are in great tasting gummy form.  
It's easy to stick to a vitamin regimen when you enjoy taking the vitamins.  I also love that the gummies are made in the United States, and with natural flavors.  My entire family takes vitafusion, with my kids enjoying the L'il Critters vitamins every morning.  All of my readers know I'm a frugal mom with a tendency to buy generic.  These vitamins are not expensive, and they are well worth the few extra cents if there is a price difference.
I try my best to work in vitamin and mineral rich foods for my family, but we are constantly on-the-go and it's much tougher than it sounds.  On days we fall short I'm comforted by two things: 
1.  I'm doing the best I can.
2.  We always get in our vitamins.
I'm all about keeping it real, and there is plenty I need to work on.  I'm just thankful I have the vitamin thing figured out.
I'm excited to share that in March 2014, Vitafusion™ launched its PLUS line to support overall well-being while focusing on specific health areas*. The new products include:
•             vitafusion™ MultiVites PLUS Digestive Support*
•             vitafusion™ MultiVites PLUS Heart Support*
•             vitafusion™ MultiVites PLUS Hair, Skin & Nails Support*
•             vitafusion™ MultiVites PLUS Immune Support*
To be entered to win $100 Visa giftcard, share how you keep yourself or your family feeling great.  Don't forget to include a contact email! Thanks!

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

I received free product and payment for this sponsored post. All opinions are 100% mine.

Sweepstakes Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 6/10-7/31.

Be sure to visit the vitafusion and L’il Critters brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Our Summer Chore System

We just had the "summer meeting."  This is the meeting when we sit down our four kids and explain, in detail, what is expected of them during the summer.  Yes I believe in long, lazy summer days.  I love sleeping in and going to bed late.  The beauty of summer is the freedom to just enjoy friends without the pressures of schoolwork.

Unfortunately, my kids have many more distractions than I did at their age.  They have ipods and ipads.  We have game consoles and two hundred television channels.  By default, my summers looked a lot different than theirs do.  The family meeting is our way to lay down the law regarding video games, laundry, television and electronics in general.

Last year we implemented a simple system that was easy to follow and very successful.  If something includes payments, charts, stickers or anything on a daily basis I do not follow through.  It's just how I'm wired.  After all, I want them to have more responsibility.  NOT ME.

I start the meeting with a general overview of what I always expect at home and at camp.  Good behavior.  Be helpful.  Be kind.  Put out into the world what you would like to get back.  

I follow this with the basic rules all four kids MUST follow.

1.  If you have not read for at least 25 minutes I better not see you on an electronic or in front of a television.  You can be outside, playing board games or anything similar and I won't say a word.  If I see you in front of a screen you better be able to tell me when you read, how many pages and what happened in the book.


Along with reading, your chores MUST be done before you "power on" any electronic (more on chores below). The screen is your last resort.  Abuse this rule you lose electronics all together for a week.  The main focus here is to remind them that game consoles and television shows are privileges, not rights.

If you finish a book you earn a day "off" and the next day only chores will be necessary to play a video game.

2.  If your laundry basket arrives back in your room with clean folded clothes, you have 24 hours to put them away.  There is no way you can't find the time in 24 hours to put away clean clothes.  If you don't put them away I take the basket, and you are very short on clothes.

Chances are fresh laundry has favorites such as cute bathing suits and under armour shorts.  If you want them, put them away.

3.  Make your bed.  No excuses.

The second part of the meeting gets more interesting.  As a family we come up with daily and weekly chores. Our daily chores are things like emptying wastebaskets, putting shoes in the shoe basket, recycling and sweeping the kitchen.  

Weekly chores are more detailed.  They include poop scoop, taking out the trash, vacuuming and the dishwasher.

Every child picks one daily chore and one weekly from a hat.  Those are the two things you are responsible for that week.  Some of the chores don't get chosen which keeps the selection process more exciting.  I mark on the fridge (on a laminated paper that lists the chores) who chose what chores because I know I will see it every day.  Whenever I see the laminated paper I give the general reminder to get your daily chores done.  Weekly chores are more scheduled, since the trash is on a set day and I don't want the kids running the vacuum without me nearby.

The kids are welcome to mark the laminated sheet with dry erase markers as they complete their responsibilities, because I have the days of the week listed underneath each child's name.  I like to stick to one daily and one weekly because I'm already requiring them to make their beds, tidy their rooms and put away their laundry.

The goal isn't to overwhelm my kids but keep them productive, helpful and mindful of what is necessary in the house.  

Obviously there are days something slips by me or we're running around like nuts and chores fall by the wayside.  It happens.  But without detailed charts and allowances, this system is easy for us.  All it requires is ten minutes to gather and re-pick chores for the week ahead.  The kids are eager to switch after seven days which serves as our reminder to re-choose chores.  

Even less I need to remember.  

I've realized I'm much more effective when I keep our chore system reasonable and easy to manage.  Rather than limit the television or the video games, I allow them as long as chores and reading are done.  If chores or reading fall by the wayside?  Electronics are the first thing to go.

How do you keep your kids in check during summer vacation?

Thirty Years Ago...

About 30 years ago, I looked like this:

There are a few key points I need to make about this photo, the first being recital gear hasn't evolved much in the thirty years since this photo was taken.  The second being I am extremely blessed my girls don't do dance, because if memory serves these recitals cost a small fortune and parents have to sit through very long programs of many classes just to see that one super awesome routine for three whole minutes.

I remember my dad always making funny comments about how many other "dances" were in the recital, but I think back on it now and I realize he was extremely serious and just trying to sugarcoat the truth about how painful recitals were. 

I'll finish this with I pay an arm and a leg for football, gymnastics, baseball, basketball and whatever else my kids are into these days.  Which brings me back to being grateful we never added in dance.  My goodness I did dance for YEARS and my mother drove me to lessons, competitions and recitals.  And she had six kids to worry about.  I have four and with three heavily involved in athletics, I think my head would fall off if I had one more place to go.

Happy Weekend, and even better happy summer vacation to us. No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers dirty looks....

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Maternity Ward Anyone?

I've been slacking on the blog.  I know it.  Working four days a week, eight hours a day is a real time sucker.  There is not much time for anything other than hugging my babies, carting them around, cleaning and buying groceries when I get home.

Some nights I don't even want to check email.  I just want to crawl in bed and SLEEP the second my kids close their eyelids.

Since working in a maternity ward, I've learned many things.  I obviously can't share any of the specifics (laws and all) but I can share a few of the vital lessons I've learned these past three weeks.  

1.  Mamas come in all shapes, sizes, colors and temperaments.  It's truly impossible to judge a book by it's cover.  Keep an open mind and keep on trucking.

2.  You never know what is going to walk though the maternity ward door.  Ever.

3.  Sometimes when things look like they could go bad they're fine, and the opposite is true.  Always be ready for the unexpected.  

4.  There are women who really slack on the hygiene.  Nice people, bad bathing habits.  I will never understand this because of my love for a hot shower.

But hey, different strokes for different folks.

5.  No matter how many times you tell someone something, they hear what they want to until they're ready to hear something else.  This is the exact reason we still have parents who do as they please regardless of what is advised by medical experts. 

Frustrating, but true.  

The upside to working in the Birthplace?  Every day is different.  The downside?  I'm exhausted by 9pm.  

The good news is that school is out and I no longer have laundry worries and school lunch prep.  

Cheers, it's almost Friday!

Monday, June 2, 2014


This time last year, my eleven year old was going to bed in a strange place.  I'm not speaking literally.  He was in between meeting new friends and missing old friends.  We had just moved three hours from the place he knew as home; he left behind best friends and teams he'd played on for years.  He left behind the only bedroom he remembered, and family he saw frequently.

It was a very tough move.

I spent many nights wondering if we did the right thing.  While everything else was going swimmingly, my oldest was heartbroken.  It wasn't a lack of new friends and experiences, he just missed his old life so terribly.  He wasn't as open to a new school and a new existence as my other three kids were instead he clung to what he knew and loved.

I asked him before we moved to give me a year. ONE YEAR.  I asked him to be open to new friends and new coaches.  I promised him in one year he would feel at home.  I prayed it would be sooner, but I promised he would feel like himself again in one year.

And then I waited.  

The first few weeks there was enough going on to keep him distracted.  He was meeting new kids, adjusting to a new school and learning his way around a new (very small) town.  But after those first two or three weeks he was more quiet, and he didn't smile as much.  He was moody.  Oh my word the moods were almost unbearable.  I knew he was homesick, and I had no easy fix.  This was a parenting scenario I'd never navigated, and other than loving him I didn't know how to help.  

All my kids met new friends easily, and they were busy.  They attended summer camps and we immediately met families we enjoyed spending time with.  We spent time at barbecues and parties; we went to dinner and saw kids we knew when we ran errands.  My other three were happy as clams, but my oldest still resisted accepting our new home completely.  He had days he was fine, and then he had days he seemed distant and unhappy.

He broke down one night in July and told us he didn't want to play football anymore.  My heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest.  This was a boy who lived for Sunday afternoons in the fall, and here he was telling us he was done.  There was no determination left, just confusion.  After many agonizing nights I told him that when we lose our way, we need the people who know us best to remind us who we are.  We need our family to show us the way.  Football would help him feel like himself again, because it was always a part of his life.  To abandon a love you've had since you were six would only exacerbate the problem.  

Reluctantly, he listened.  

It still pains me to remember how heartbroken he was, and how helpless I felt because the only answer was time.  One day in late summer I took a picture of him with his sister at the town pool.  The picture is one of my favorites, because it is one of those moments I felt he was truly happy.  He was him.  I knew at that moment he would be okay.  We weren't there yet, but we were slowly trudging along.

After school started up again, and football season began, he started to snap out of his moods.  By now he had many friends, and he was comfortable in our new town.  I started to see his old smile, and he seemed more "him."  I hoped this would hurry along his adjustment period, but then we'd always have a setback. He'd talk to one of his best friends he left behind or he'd cry himself to sleep.  More heartbreak for him and by default, me.

Just a few months ago we were driving a friend home, and this boy's family was moving to a new house.  I asked if he was ready for his move, and if he was all packed up.  My oldest went from smiles to stone faced. After we dropped the boy off, my son broke down.  Just the little bit of moving discussion drudged up too many memories, and he confessed he still missed our old home.  He missed his old friends and his old school.

Another setback.

Tomorrow my son is 13, and we are just over a year into living in our new town.  He's met wonderful friends, and although I know he still misses New York State, he is happy.  He has found a place for himself in our new town.  I think of his birthday last year, and all the tears he cried because he was so out of sorts.  He was so confused and longed to be back in his old life.  

This year, I'm confident he'll wake up happy.  I'm thrilled we are one year into our life in Pennsylvania.  We've adjusted wonderfully, and I can now count my oldest into the "we've."

Such a relief.

Happy 1-3 to my baby. This past year was difficult, and I'm beyond proud of the kid he is despite having to make many adjustments.  I can't believe he's a teenager, especially since I remember examining him in my hospital room like it was yesterday.  I feel like I blinked and he went from playing trains to finishing seventh grade.

Scary stuff. 

Enjoy it mamas.  I feel like I went to bed last night and today my son is thirteen.  Unbelievable.

Happy Tuesday!