Saturday Giveaway Linky-Love


Got Giveaways? Link Them Up Saturdays!




Made in America



This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Ramblers Way. All opinions are 100% mine.
I remember walking home from school everyday with my older brother (my kids will probably never really know this experience in their childhood....but that's another story.) and we loved it! A group of us would always stop at a mom and pop liquor store/candy store...and , well, buy candy!!

I miss those days, and even more so now because things are so different growing up for kids today. Mom and Pop stores are pretty much gone-- family owned businesses just seem to not be able to compete with the big companies now. For my kids, we live in a city where there is still a bit of 'small town'  feel to it, but nothing like when I was growing up.

I love to read and hear about family businesses that have survived and are going strong. It is like a piece of American history continues with them. Ramblers Way Farm is a family business that first started as "Tom's of Maine" 40 years ago. They were one of the first makers of natural personal care products. Rambler's way Farms was started with a desire to re-imagine wool, that is  Made in America, as a next-to-skin, superfine fabric, to warm and comfort people of all ages and walks. What makes this company special is their dedication to maintaining high standards of ecological responsibility, community involvement, and customer satisfaction. They bring opportunities to other family owned companies in the domestic wool industry,through their collaboration with farmers and producers around the country.

The Ramblers Way Corporate Office is a fully refurbished building that was originally built in 1792 how cool is that?) and is located in downtown Kennebunk, Maine. The building has been restored to its original condition, while being modernized to meet today's environmental standards. Makes me think of that little candy store I used to visit daily with my big brother. How I wish that little building was still around!

Visit my sponsor: Made in America

Is Anyone Not Going To BlogHer?

Sigh. I think the blogosphere is going to be lonely next week; Everyone seems to be going to BlogHer. Everyone, that is, but your truly.

I have such a fear of flying,,,,,I mean seriously huge.....that there was just no way I could even consider going to N.Y. Sad, uh?

So is anyone else not going to BlogHer?? Will I be all alone here in bloggy-land?

I am already sad, jealous and feeling oh so silly for letting this fear of flying get the best of me. And I have both fingers and toes crossed that next year's event will be somewhere that I can take a train, car or bus to.

Hear that all ye in charge???? Take pity on me, please?!

How about good old L.A.?? Think about it, will ya?

What a Thirst -Quenching Idea!

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This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Haws. All opinions are 100% mine.
So we all know that we need to save money, be green, and conserve water. And it is easy enough at home to save money and recycle by not buying water at the store over and over again by simply using our own water bottles and filtration systems at home, and refilling our water bottles.

But what about when we are at the gym, the office, school, airports and other public places and buildings? What if we do hav eour personal water bottle with us, but no source available to refill it with clean filtered water?

That is where The Hydration Station comes in, and I love this idea!

"The Hydration Station is a touch-free, filtered water dispenser for reusable bottles and containers. The unit is perfect for office buildings, schools, gyms... anywhere people stay hydrated! Perfectly designed for green projects, Hydration Station eliminates the need for wasteful bottled water and awkward five-gallon office water jugs. The HydrationStation™ processes tap water into great tasting pure water using state-of-the-art filtration technologies. The hands free sensor assures touch-free hygienic use."

I think it would be awesome if clean filtered water was available for us at all the places families and students tend to go everyday. I know it would keep me from giving into my kids demand for soda, juice or whatever I can buy them while we are out running errands everyday. Even though we try to fill up our individual water bottles before we leave home,  we always seem to drink all the water before we are ready to head home. And I know my kids would get a kick out of spotting one of these Hydration Stations, and refilling their water bottles!

No more icky germ-infested water fountains?? I love this idea!

Visit my sponsor: Hydration Station Product Review

Happy Healthy Families Asks: Got Insomnia?


If you have trouble falling asleep at night, and end up falling asleep much later than you wanted to, try this tip:

Go to bed just 10 minutes earlier than you normally go to bed for four nights in a row. Then 15 minutes earlier for another four nights in a row. Continue increasing the time for consecutive four nights in a row, until you reach the bedtime you want to fall asleep at.

Sleep specialists at The Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri say that night owls need to be tricked into going to bed earlier, or else they find themselves tossing and turning the night away!

Giveaway and Review: Nature Made SAM-e Complete



I could probably qualify as a poster mom for being cranky, moody and tired. All those that can also qualify along with me, raise your hand!!

I guess this is just part of being a mom with kids, pets, husband and dealing with everyday stress. But when Mom Central asked me to try out Nature Made SAM-e Complete Vitamins, I absolutely jumped at the chance.

So what is Nature Made SAM-e Complete, and how is this vitamin supposed to help us women out ? According to the SAM-e Complete website:

As we get older our bodies start making less SAM-e, a naturally occurring compound, which ultimately works to maintain a balanced mood. Nature Made SAM-e Complete helps replenish your body's natural levels of SAM-e and when taken daily it can begin to help naturally restore a healthy mood in as little as 7 to 14 days.
And because SAM-e is naturally produced in your body, it also has other vital functions aside from helping to maintain healthy emotions. One of these other functions is to promote joint health, which naturally deteriorates with physical activity and age.

While SAM-e supplements have been shown to be very safe, with no known side effects, it always best to discuss taking vitamins and/or any kind of supplements with your doctor first. One reason for the low level of side effects is that SAM-e is a naturally occurring molecule in your body, and a SAM-e supplement simply replenishes your body’s own natural supply.

I have been taking the recommended dose to start, 400mg/day of SAM-e Complete, and I am feeling the benefits!  I do feel less tired and have been less cranky. Believe me, I am not great when it comes to remembering to take vitamins, but I have noticed a real difference with SAM-e, that I am remembering to be consistent in taking one everyday.

To learn more about Nature Made SAM-e Complete, visit the website at http://www.sam-e.com/about.

 You can purchase a 36 count box of the 400mg tablets of SAM-e on Amazon.com for $34.79.

WIN  a  3 MONTH SUPPLY of Nature Made SAM-e Complete, along with a Nature Made aluminum water bottle and mood journal!

To enter:

Visit the SAM-e website, and leave me a comment telling me what you learned about SAM-e.

Extra Entries:

1. Tweet this giveaway for an extra entry (one entry per each daily tweet)
2. Follow HHF on Google Friend Connect--widget on right sidebar (3 entries)
3. Follow HHF on Twitter (3 entries)
4. Blog about this giveaway (3 entries)
5. Subscribe to HHF (3 entries)
6. Grab a HHF Button and paste it on your sidebar, or add HHF to your blogroll. (3 entries)
7. Become a fan of HHF on Facbook
8. Comment on another post here.
9. Share this giveaway on Facebook, Digg, Stumble Upon, Kirtsy, and leave a comment.
10. Enter another giveaway on Happy Healthy Families

Please leave a separate comment for each entry, and a valid email address,
Giveaway will end August 20th, 2010 at 11:59 EST.
Winner will be drawn by random.org and notified on here and by email.
Winner will have 3 days to confirm or new winner will be drawn.
Open to U.S. addresses.

I was sent a the SAM-e Complete by momcentral to try out to facilitate this review/giveaway. All opinions expressed here are based on my own experience with these vitamins, and are not a medical opinion. Please check with your doctor before starting a new vitamin or supplement, or if you have any questions. No compensation was given to me for this review.

Review: Pop On Pals

My two munchkin boys were recently sent a new toy to test out-- the very cute "Pop on Pals" Amusement Set.

This Pop on Pals set,  comes with one pal, the amusement set you see here, and three park-themed easy pop-on rings. It encourages little ones to use their imagination and a little eye-hand control as well. There are different cute sounds, lights and music when one of the five different activation points (Ferris Wheel, Roller Coaster, Swing, Hammer Toss, and Knock Down The Pins Game, ) is played with.

My boys had fun checking out the set, and having the play pal switch rings for different activities. My 3 year old definitely appreciated this toy more than his six year old brother however. But since the manufacturer's recommended age is 2-4 years, I guess this made sense.

I actually love the colors on this toy. It is bright and welcoming, and the parts are perfect for a little one's grasp. I do find my son playing with this toy quite often, which makes me happy. Many toys will come and go, with only being played with once or twice. So to see a toy get repeated attention is a nice thing. I would say it is best for kids under 5 though.

There are other pals, pet pals, vehicles and play sets to go along with the amusement set that we received, as well. You can purchase Pop on Pals and Playsets at Target and Toys R Us, Sears, K-Mart and other stores (the set we received retails for $34.99). You can also check out Pop On Pals at www,poponpals.com.

We received the toy set to facilitate this review courtesy of Team Mom. No financial compensation was received. All opinions expressed are my own and may differ from others.

Wordless Wednesday: The Toys



I wrote a post about "the toy dilemma" yesterday and how the husband and I have differing views on this subject (mine are right, his are wrong), and used this picture. (is this cheating today for WW?? Oh well...I'm cranky so too bad) Anyway, this looks like my house threw up toys, does it not? LOL. Where do you keep your kids toys? Are they organized and out of sight? Or sprawled everywhere like at our house?

What's For Dinner?

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Mission Foods. All opinions are 100% mine.
This is the question I hear everyday. And usually it is coming from my own head. I am always pondering the age-old dilemma of what to make for dinner. While I would love to answer myself, with a "why, we are going out to dinner!" it is usually more of a "Heck if I know!" answer I give myself.
Thank goodness for burritos. They make my kitchen life a little easier for a few reasons. Number one, all 3 kids will eat them (that is a big reason, believe me!) Number two, they are cheap. And number 3, they are easy to cook up.
Since we eat a lot of burritos in our house (egg burritos....aw, yuuuumy!), we have a lot of tortillas in our kitchen pantry. If you happen to want to share a recipe or two with me that calls for tortillas, please feel free to! And you can also send in any budget-friendly recipes to Mission at Mission Menus Challenge for a chance to compete in a cook-off in Los Angeles and win a $10,000 dream kitchen makeover as well as a host of weekly prizes. (Bet you didn't know about this contest!) The grand prize winner will win round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations for two to the Mission Menus Challenge Cook-off on September 10, 2010 at the Hard Rock Café in Los Angeles. Pretty cool.Just make sure you send in your recipes by August 9th.
Visit my sponsor: Mission Menus Challenge

Happy Healthy Families Asks: Where Do You Keep Your Kids Toys?



My husband and I have a running argument disagreement failure to see eye to eye situation. He believes that all of the kids toys should be more or less out of sight. Which means basically they should all be kept in their bedrooms. I feel it is okay to let them play with their toys in the family room and if they are left out there (the toys, not the kids,) it is not a big deal.

Of course I am too tired to pick up toys we do things my way here...and so toys stay out. I rather like the feel of a kid-friendly environment and I am too tired to pick up toys or fight with munchkin boys and I personally do not mind if company happens to drop by and sees toys scattered about our family room. (did you hear that gasp...not to worry....that was just the hubbs expressing his disdain of my views.)

So the toys will be out in our house, should you happen to stop by. Of course, I do not let the toys take over the house, unless I am really really too tired to pick up toys or argue with munchkin boys who are looking at me like I am invisible....I insist the kids keep toys off the stairs (how unsafe would that be?) and out of the living room.

My husband  has acquiesced ( I love using grown -up words!) with my terms. And that is how it is in our house.
The toys would never all fit in the boys' room anyway. But that is another sore point between the hubby and me discussion for another day.

So how do you handle the toys in your house? Are they kept organized and put away? Or are they hanging out and about like members of the family....on floors, couches, stairs, and tables?

HHF wants to know. Please share unless you are going to make me feel bad by telling me how perfect and clean your home is     the hubby needs to know!

And yes...that is a picture from our home. Yes, those are some munchkin boys toys out on the floor. No, it doesn't always look that bad (usually that tricycle would be outside...honest!). But in my defense....do you ever watch "Everybody Loves Raymond?" Don't you notice how kid-friendly that house always looked with the kids toys everywhere? Well, that's what I have: A kid-friendly house. And I am sticking to that excuse.

Need a Vacation Idea?

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Memphis Travel. All opinions are 100% mine.

How about a Memphis vacation this summer? Not sure? What about a free trip to Memphis this summer??  Got your attention for a minute? It's true....you could win a free vacation if you enter to win a trip package at memphistravel.com.

Memphis offers you an authentic and vibrant destination, headlined by music and full of one-and-only, nowhere-else experiences: Blues music, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Sun Studio, performing arts, alternative rock music, an ornamental metal museum, Beale Street, Pandas plus the new Polar bear exhibit at the Memphis Zoo - Northwest Passage, heritage tours, Mississippi River views, mouth-watering barbecue, jazz, lively festivals, intriguing galleries and museums, not to mention the deliciousSouthern Soul food.

Take a look at their Memphis-savvy travel guide to tickle your traveling funny bone. So many things to see and do--you just need to figure out which you would pick! I would definitely put seeing Michael Bolton on my list (maybe number one on my list actually!)--who will be in Memphis in October!

They are giving away 8 weekly travel packages, including family, singles, and couples trips. For more information and details, visit memphistravel.com

Visit my sponsor: Plan a Memphis trip and enter to win a trip.

Giveaway: Penguins of Madagascar




Saturday morning cartoons and a bowl of yummy cereal (preferably while the rest of the family snored away) was one of my favorite things when I was little.

General Mills is sponsoring a giveaway that is tugging at my memories!

Inside specially marked boxes of General Mills cereals, you´ll "commence operations" with one of five characters from The Penguins of Madagascar; Skipper, Rico, Kowalski, Private or King Julien. Each participating cereal contains one character launcher with mission details outlined on the back of the box including:

Each character is unique and has their own specific role, and together, they´re a team with lots of character. With five character launchers to collect, make a splash this summer and try to successfully complete all of their missions.

A fun Penguins of Madagascar Gift Pack for the kiddos is being given to a lucky reader, and it includes:

A box of Trix Cereal, a Penguins of Madagascar Launcher, and the new Penguins of Madagascar movie, The Penguins of Madagascar Operation: DVD Premier.

My boys spent a happy Saturday afternoon enjoying their new movie, a bowl of cereal (followed by a good brushing of the teeth of course!) and playing with their launchers. And considering that it was so unbelievably hot here yesterday,watching the munchkin boys laugh at penguins while enjoying the air conditioning made for a very nice Saturday for me too!

To Enter This Giveaway:

Leave a comment telling me which character from The Penguins of Madagascar is your kiddo's favorite (or a special memory of your childhood.) Either comment plus a valid email address is all you need to enter!

Extra Entries: 

1. Tweet this giveaway for an extra entry (one entry per each tweet)
2. Follow HHF on Google Friend Connect (3 entries)
3. Follow HHF on Twitter (3 entries)
4. Blog about this giveaway (3 entries)
5. Subscribe to HHF (3 entries)
6. Grab a HHF Button and paste it on your sidebar, or add HHF to your blogroll. (3 entries)
7. Become a fan of HHF on Facbook
8. Comment on another post here.
9. Share this giveaway on Facebook, Digg, Stumble Upon, Kirtsy, and leave a comment.


Giveaway will end August 12th at 11:59 EST.and is open to U.S. residents.
One winner will be drawn through Random.org, and notified by email.
The winner will have 48 hours to confirm or new winner will be drawn.

General Mills and Nickelodeon provided me with the prize pack, information, and additional prize pack through MyBlogSparkTM. 



Review and Giveaway: Breyers Smooth and Dreamy Ice Cream


One thing my kids can never get enough of is ice cream. So when we had an opportunity to try Breyer's Smooth and Dreamy Ice Cream, well, let's just say they didn't have to ask twice!


Breyers Smooth & Dreamy Ice Cream Bars and Sandwiches are available in:
  • Triple Chocolate Chip Bars
  • Vanilla Caramel Chip Bars
  • Chocolate Covered Strawberry Bars
  • Vanilla Fudge Brownie Sandwiches
  • Chocolate Caramel Brownie Sandwiches
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sandwiches
By mom's choice (hey--I love ice cream just as much as any munchkin boy!) we went with the Triple Chocolate Chip Bars. And they were delicious. Seriously, would you expect anything less then deliciousness from Breyers??

But there is an extra special treat with Breyers Smooth and Dreamy Ice Cream Bars: they have just 130 calories and only 6 grams of fat! Creamy ice cream not full of fat and calories?? Now that is extra-deliciousness in my book! And all of the Smooth and Dreamy Bars and Sandwiches have less fat and calories than regular ice cream bars and sandwiches.

Want to try some Breyers Smooth and Dreamy Ice Cream Bars and Sandwiches yourself? Well, of course you can go buy some, but two lucky ice cream lovers will each win a free coupon for a box of these yummy treats!!

To Enter

Just tell me which Breyer's Smooth and Dreamy Ice Cream you want to try. That's it.

Want Extra Entries??

1. Tweet this giveaway for an extra entry (one entry per each tweet)
2. Follow HHF on Google Friend Connect (3 entries)
3. Follow HHF on Twitter (3 entries)
4. Blog about this giveaway (3 entries)
5. Subscribe to HHF (3 entries)
6. Grab a HHF Button and paste it on your sidebar, or add HHF to your blogroll. (3 entries)

This giveaway will end August 7th at 11:59 EST.
Open to U.S. Addresses only (sorry)
Please leave a valid email address with your entry.
Winners will be notified by email.
Winners will have 48 hours to confirm or new winners will be drawn.

"I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Breyers and received products necessary to facilitate my review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate."

Marriott Hotels "Nickelodeon Your Stay!" Plans For Families


It seems summer vacation from school just started, but yet here we are almost done with July already! Thank goodness we still have August to look forward to.  Marriott Hotels wants to help make vacation travels for families as special as they can be this summer, and are offering special  "Nickelodeon Your Stay" programs at nearly 2,000 hotels with the Marriott brands. All kids get free activities including a Nickelodeon bracelet with a code to access free online games at Nick.com, and an activity book with challenging puzzles and mazes.  Kids who eat at the hotels' restaurants also receive a placemat featuring favorite Nickelodeon characters, SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.



To further the experience, Marriott and Nickelodeon also offer an upgrade package at several of Marriott's brands, including Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, SpringHill Suites, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites locations for $10 that includes all the free items plus a SpongeBob activity bag and splash ball, Nickelodeon sunglasses, and a 3-D build-your-own SpongeBob craft. The package costs $20 at Marriott and JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts and kids get all the above items and a special SpongeBob SquarePants or Dora the Explorer pillowcase and storybook. At great price points, Marriott and Nickelodeon make the stay easier and more engaging for us as parents and for the kids.

Visit www.nickelodeonyourstay.com for more information on the promotion and to start booking.  This site also has free, downloadable, Nickelodeon themed travel games under the free goodies section, including a travel journal, travel bingo and coloring sheets.

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Marriott and received a Nickelodeon gift pack to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central also sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.”

Wordless Wednesday: Taking a Moment


Everyone needs a moment to pause and enjoy the view!

A Sneek Peek at Upcoming Giveaways!

A couple of yummy giveaways are coming up!

1. Love Wendy's? They will be giving one HHF reader a gift certificate!

2, Summer = Ice Cream. Breyers Ice Cream to be exact! Delicious giveaway coming up!

3. Check out little one books now. Why, you ask? Because HHF will be giving away a $25 gift certificate to their online children's store! Lots of fabulous Childrens Books, DVDS and CDs...go take a peek now!



4. Check out Meredith Le Vande, from Monkey Monkey Music, and her latest children's record "What Are the Odds? which will be released August 31!  And HHF will be giving away a free copy right here!


Yay for summer giveaways!

Kung Zhu: A Fun Review!


Our family has expanded. Yes, we added a bunch of Kung Zhu hamsters to our happy home. Thanks to Mom Select and Cepia, my munchkin boys had a delivery from the UPS man that rivaled Santa Claus (no kidding!)

The boys were sent several Kung Zhu hamsters, the gear that went with the hamsters, a battle arena, tanks and  extra accessories. Understanding that their expertise in everything Zhu Zhu was needed and eagerly anticipated, my little testers went straight to work on their review.

The Kung Zhu hamsters are much like their cousins, the original Zhu Zhu pets introduced last Christmas (remember that craziness?) They are cute, make different sounds and have their own fun names. But these hamsters are ready for battle, which of course, little boys will delight in. Tanks, armor, weapons....just what my munchkin boys could really get into.

From my maternal point of view, the aspect of battle and fighting made me a bit uncomfortable. From my realistic rational point of view, well, boys are boys and as long as they understand it is only "play," I guess I can relax and let them enjoy.

And enjoy they have done, and continue to do. I did warn the boys to not put the hamsters near their hair, and they have remembered to be careful about that. Plus, there are warning stickers on each Kung Zhu pet hamster as well.

All in all, we were all pretty happy with the new hamsters. They have provided a great source of imaginative play for my boys, and they have been motivated to practice their patience and kindness with each other (did I really just type that? About my little men??) Seriously, they have had to understand that in battle, one of their hamsters will most likely "win" while the other ...well....does not win. But it is all in fun as these warriors scurry about in their arena, squeaking and chortling at each other!

Oh yes,about  the munchkin boys review: Both boys love their hamsters and play sets. In  my five (sigh) SIX year old's words: "I can't believe we got these! We are so lucky! I love this!". My three year old... **giggles**  smiles.. **more giggles.**

In other words..4 thumbs up on this one!

Disclosure: All opinions expressed here are my own and that of the two munchkin boys. We received the Kung Zhu pets and play set accessories to review and report on courtesy of Cepia and Mom Select. Our opinions may differ from that of others.

Winners!!

Random Integer Generator

Winners of the all Oxi-Active Laundry Detergent:

 Here are your random numbers:
11
2
19
Congrats to numbers 19 and 2! (numbers 2 and 11 were from the same email address, 
so to be fair, number 19 was picked as the second winner!)




Winners of the Trigger Tuesday Giveaway:

Here are your random numbers:
7
32
22
Congrats to numbers 7 and 32! 

Emails will be going out shortly to all winners to confirm. Please respond w/in 3 days!

Parents Choice


This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of PBM Products. All opinions are 100% mine.

Our days of buying baby formula are behind us, but the memories of walking down the aisle at the grocery stores checking out the prices of baby formula are still with me.

Between baby formula and diapers.....we spent alot of money! Even though I also nursed my babies when they were little, we still did buy formula to supplement and to have on hand. The decision to go with the well-known brands of formula vs. the store brands was always tough for me. The mom side of me was torn....wasn't it always best to go with name -brand for my babies? But the practical side of me was comparing prices and labels and realizing that yes, even the store brands could provide the same benefits and nutrition as the popular brands, but at a lesser cost.

I admit it was not easy to walk past the big name formulas. And I do not particularly miss those hard decisions. But really, for parents today dealing with this issue, you might want to take a look at Parents Choice baby formulas. Parent’s Choice baby formula is nutritionally complete and meets the strict nutritional guidelines determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It provides another option for baby formula that is as complete and healthy as the name brands, but not as expensive.

To find out just how much you could potentially save, you can visit the Savings Calculator. And to help parents decide which of their formulas are right for their babies,  Parents Choice offers a Formula Finder.

Visit my sponsor: PBM

Win Free Wiggles Live Tickets!



Designing Spaces is having a "Wiggles Live Ticket Giveaway Contest!"

The Wiggles Live Family & Friend 10-Pack Grand Prize includes


(10) Tickets to The Wiggles "Wiggly Circus"
(10) Meet and Greet The Wiggles Backstage Passes
(10) Wiggles Hot Poppin' Popcorn DVDs


This fun "wiggles" giveaway ends July 15th, so if you haven't already entered, hurry on over to Designing Spaces for complete entry instructions, and enter Now!

WINNER of Set of Six Marble Racer Cars!!

The winner for the six car set of marble racers is :

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
43
65
58




#43, For Their Future said... "Twitted this giveaway!"

Congratulations! A confirmation email is on the way!


Thanks to everyone who entered!

Tips To Avoid Summer Reading Slumps

Tips to Avoid the Summer Reading Slump

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Guest contributor and MobiStories.com producer Wendy Toone, offers great tips this week on how your kids can avoid brain drain when they're out of school.

It's Summertime! Yipppee! Time for swimming, trips to the beach, camping, and all sorts of "no more school" activities. However, many kids suffer from a backward slide in their reading development when reading activities wane over the summer months.

Students can lose as much as three month's worth of reading level during the school break. Research shows that younger elementary school students rarely make up deficits in reading once they fall behind. Conversely, students who read during the summer could end up three months ahead, too.

Children will benefit more if their reading activities are fun and not looked upon as 'homework.' While reading books is important, games that use letter-recognition, alphabetizing, syllable, rhyming and rhythm skills can keep kids' reading skills sharp without cracking open a book. If you have a road trip or plane excursion planned, use that travel time wisely. Here are some games to try when traveling on summer vacations:

Create a New Ending:
Exercise their storytelling skills by rewriting their favorite story or a book they just finished...'It could also have ended like this....'

Write That Tune
Remember the game show "Name That Tune"? Pick a familiar song and rewrite the lyrics....a topic such as "gardening" sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques" ?? This exercise works on rhyming, syllable recognition, creativity, and can expand vocabulary.

Kids get carsick reading but can watch movies on DVD? Try digital books.
Amazon's Kindle is amazing for Young Adult and adult digibooks, but they don't have children's titles. Only publishers such as MobiStories.com provide children's picture books in color, narrated and ready for on-the-go reading practice. Order from digital publishers that offer downloads to your mobile devices for convenience.

Car Games:
Animal ABC - 2 ways to play...either start w/ "A" and name as many animals (aardvark, alligator, antelope) as you can, or take turns (Cindy does "B", Joey has "C"). Great for young readers (K - 2nd grade). Can make it more challenging by starting the next animal's beginning letter w/ previous animal's ending letter, i.e. dog -> goose-> elephant.

Roadsign Roundup - Same idea, but this time call out words seen alongside the road in alpha order: billboards, safety signs, signs of businesses being passed. Good for intermediate readers (2nd - 5th grade).

Pimp My Plate - Using letters found on license plates, create what the personalized plate meaning would be (phrase, name of their business, whatever you can come up with). Can work on alliteration, homophones and creativity. Good one for advanced/older readers who need something more challenging.

Where Do I Turn - This one isn't really a game, but why not let the kids pass a little time reading the map and becoming the navigator. You trust them, right??

TrueText - If they've got the phone and you have unlimited texting, you could institute a 'must spell it correctly - no text jargon' rule for a portion of (or the whole?) trip. Of course, no texting to or from the driver, please.

So whether you're traveling by car, plane, train, or sticking around for a "staycation," remember to incorporate reading activities into your children's summer schedules. Read to them, read with them, and give them plenty of encouragement to keep their reading skills from sliding in the wrong direction. Happy reading!!

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Wendy Toone is a child expert, having owned and operated a leading children's fitness center and now produces MobiStories, Digital Books for KidsTM. She is a cableAce-award winning television producer and has worked on hundreds of television commercials as a Production Manager after spending a decade onstage as a professional dancer. Wendy's two children have been inspirational in the creation of MobiStories.

To download a free digital book for your PC visit MobiStories.com, click on Summer (in the Ages 2 - 4 category) add it to the cart and Michelle Obama then enter the code SUM0710 in the Coupon Code Box.

*This post is sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer's Network.

Robby Wash: Laundry Washing Ball : GIVEAWAY!!


How cool are these laundry detergent balls? They are from France, and we in the U.S. are now able to buy them too!

So let me introduce you to Robby Wash!

These laundry balls were designed in France to meet the strict compliance requirements of the Europe and contains no phosphates or chlorine.  The Robby Wash ball has received safety certifications from REACH, RoHS.  Each ball is made of durable ABS materials.

First, how they work. (simple. even a stubborn hubby can do the laundry!)

  1. Toss it in your washing machine and leave it there (works with both front and top load washing machine. 

Easy-Peasy, right?
 
Second, how these detergent balls really work to clean your laundry:

The Robby Wash ball uses a unique and patented worldwide technology to clean your laundry even better than the powder laundry detergents it was independently tested against.  Its activated macromolecules are gradually released through the wash, dissolving dried-in stains by generating ions which activate the water molecules.  This increase in the pH enables the activated molecules to penetrate deep into the fabrics and attach themselves to the stains. As the motion of the drum agitates the clothes, the stains come away easily from the fabric and dissolve in the water.  Of all the systems on the market, Robby Wash's effectiveness is tested, proven and guaranteed.

Third, Why use Robby Wash?

Why not? Seriously, these laundry washing balls will save you oodles (is that a word?) of money.  Standard laundry detergents can cost you up to $1 per load whereas the highly efficient Robby laundry ball is less than $0.25 per load.  One package of Robby Wash includes a washing ball, a stain stick and three extra packets of macro-molecule pellets and cost ONLY $32.95.  (Use 2 balls for over-sized washing machines.)  PLUS!  A  24 months refill package is only $49. Simply open the tab on the ball to refill with the macro molecule pellets when they are less than 75% full.  This keeps you from having to throw away the ball.  Each ball should last for 2-3 years.

Robby Wash is hypoallergenic.
Robby Wash is baby safe. It has been formulated to be gentle on your child's clothes but strong enough to remove the stains.
Robby Wash is good for the environment. Just look at what you are not dumping down the pipes (10 ounce ball = 75+ pounds of laundry detergent)!



One 10 ounce ball = 75+ pounds of laundry detergent!


Lastly, Robby Wash Laundry Balls were designed in France to meet the strict compliance requirements of the Europe and contains no phosphates or chlorine.  The Robby Wash ball has received safety certifications from REACH, RoHS.  Each ball is made of durable ABS materials.


My thoughts:
When I received the sample to test out, I admit I was skeptical. Very skeptical. I did not think think those little pellets would really clean my laundry. I mean, I have " two little-boys- dirty" kind of laundry !


But, when I took out the clothes from my washing machine...they were clean. Very clean. And I was so happy and relieved (I really thought I would be re-washing clothes that day!)


But....would this little ball keep cleaning my laundry, day after day?


The answer...yes! So far so good, Lots of clean clothes, no buying detergent boxes and jugs, and one happy mommy! I love tossing in the laundry and not worrying about grabbing, pouring and measuring detergent every time!


WIN Your Own Robby Wash Laundry Pack!


A Robby Wash Laundry Ball Pack (includes wash ball loaded with macro-molecule pellets, a stain stick, 3 extra packets of macro-molecule pellets and retails for $32.95)

To Enter:

Visit the Robby Wash site. Read more about the benefits of using Robby Wash, then leave me a comment telling me which benefit you would love the most.


More Entries:

1. Follow Happy Healthy Families on Google Friend Connect. 5 entries
2. Subscribe to HHF. 5 entries
3. Twitter this giveaway and get a separate entry for each daily tweet
4. Follow Happy Healthy Families on Twitter 3 entries
5. Become a fan of Happy Healthy Families on Facebook 3 entries
6. Leave a comment on another HHF post. 2 entries
7. Blog about this giveaway, linking to HHF, and leave the URL in your comment. 5 entries
8. Share this giveaway on Facebook. 5 entries

Please leave a valid email in your comments, and leave a separate comment for each entry.
Giveaway will end July 26th at 11:59 EST.
Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to confirm or new winner will be drawn.
Open to U.S. addresses only.

Thanks to Robby Wash for sending me a sample to try out to facilitate this review/giveaway. No compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Big Brother 12 Has Started......I am in Trouble!!


My name is Irene and I am a Big Brother addict.

It started last night (did you watch?)

I am ashamed (but not enough to give up my addiction mind you) to say that I become consumed with this show every summer. If it were just the TV episodes that I watched every week, it wouldn't be so bad. My daily life could pretty much continue as normal.

But it is not that easy. CBS knows what they are doing with addicts like me.

There are message boards, forums, live feeds to subscribe to, and on and on. One can easily watch, read and debate Big Brother all day and night long.

All Day. All Night.

Right now I am fighting the urge to run to my favorite Big Brother site and find out what I have missed while typing  this post.  It's been at least 5 minutes since I last checked in.

Things are going to get messy around here. Seriously messy. It's hard to wash dishes, clothes or kids when glued to a computer screen.

And it's even harder to cook or vacuum, or make beds (gee, am I sounding like Donna Reed here or what?)

The hubby and the kids thought things were already tough here what with with me and my computer and blogs and all.

Poor things. They have no idea what tough really is.

Make-Up For Men....Would You Buy It?

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of The Men Pen. All opinions are 100% mine.

Have you heard about the "Men Pen?" It is a cosmetic concealer that is just for men (but why just men I do not know.) Just like the female counterparts, this concealer supposedly will help cover up blemishes, pimples, acne, moles, scars, dark circles, blemishes, or just rough spots. This is the same mens cosmetics  that male actors, models, and businessmen use in their everyday life. The Men Pen™ comes in 17 colors so there's a match for everyone.

Adsc08299-sm

Somewhat irritating to me is the fact that my hubby has beautiful skin. No acne, dark circles, scars or even a darn wrinkle (or two. or three) to cover up. I have a love/hate relationship with his skin. So --maybe more love than hate, but still, it just seems so unfair at times. But  if he did need some mens makeup, I would have no problem buying this "men pen" for him. But would he use it--that I do not know.I think he probably would if we were going out somewhere nice, and he happened to have an unsightly blemish. On an everyday basis, probably not so much.


Mm. Maybe I will get him one and put it in his Christmas Stocking this year. 


Visit my sponsor: The Men Pen - Men's cosmetic concealer stick

Did You Watch Jake and Vienna's Interview Last Night?


Did you watch the interview with The Bachelor's Jake and his now ex-fiance, Vienna? OMG. What a mess that was. I am so upset with a) Jake and b) Chris Harrison! Vienna, well..I was never a fan of hers when she was vying for Jake's love (in the form of a rose) on The Bachelor, but I am on Team Vienna today.

Jake. Hm., was I the only one completely fooled by this guy? He came across as a nice guy looking for love on The Bachelor, didn't he? After watching his smug prissy smiling face last night, I figure that this guy used the show (as everyone seems to be doing now) just to get his little pilot foot in the door of Hollywood.

Vienna called Jake a "Media-Whore" last night. I agree.

The guy showed zero emotion. He was cold as a fish towards Vienna (who maybe tried crying a bit too much, and talked maybe a bit too much, but still...a little compassion Jake?)

No, I am wrong. Jake did show emotion last night. Some scary emotion, actually. This guy has some anger in him, and he certainly let us get a glimpse of it when he demanded Vienna be quiet. I almost thought we would see a fist hit something. Or someone. (Run Vienna. And do not look back.)

And what was Chris Harrison's problem? Seriously, Chris acted like he knew Vienna was wrong, Jake was holier than thou, and he would graciously and gently call Vienna on the grand errors of her ways.

Was that the sole purpose of the interview? Did ABC want to get Bachelor viewers to feel bad for Jake while portraying Vienna as a money hungry unfaithful bad fiance who hurt little Jakey's feelings by using a GPS?

Chris Harrison, you so disappoint me. Jake you simply disgust me. Vienna, you confuse me, but make me feel sorry for you.

And that final scene between Jake and Chris---- (after an emotional Vienna ran off stage in tears) what the H** was that?

Jake smiling that ridiculous little tight superior smile. Chris gently prodding up his ego while asking Jake "What was that?" (referring to Vienna's emotional exit), and having to listen to Jake sigh and smugly say "Unfortunately, that is what one of our arguments looks like,"  "It's kind of embarrassing."

Gag.

I believe Vienna. I am sure Jake was as cold and hurtful towards Vienna behind closed doors during their relationship as he was on TV last night. Jake, you came across to me as a narcissistic ego-maniacal controlling jerk  who thinks he is perfect and God's gift to women, and to Hollywood.

Go fly a plane Jake. And take Chris, your 'bestest friend,' with you. Make it a one way trip if you can.

Image: Vienna Girardi and Jake Pavelka from ABC's "The Bachelor" (ABC)

Review: Backyard Safari Outfitters

What can two little boys possibly love more than cars, dirt, and climbing? Bugs! All kinds of bugs are fascinating to my munchkin boys, and exploring the backyard on a daily basis for new unsuspecting bugs is just a part of my boys' lives.

So look what these very happy adventurers received recently--

and this.....

and this.....


These totally cool toys came from Backyard Safari Outfitters! My boys could not wait until they could take their new equipment and go exploring in the backyard.

Right away they caught a beetle and got a close-up look at the little guy in their new bug vacuum. Both boys were fascinated with the bug vacuum, and spent a good part of the time catching, examining and releasing bugs.

The Land and Water Mega Periscope is my favorite -- it is so much fun (yes, for moms too, LOL) to look through and capture sights from afar. This by far makes the kids feel like they are truly on an adventure and stealthily spying on unsuspecting prey!

And the awesome Field Gear Cargo Vest.....sigh....this is something that both boys immediately wanted to wear (and who would not want to sport this cool item??) and was the one item that caused turmoil. But I managed to work out a negotiation between my little explorers, and all went well after that. (And I made a mental note to quickly go buy a second vest! After all, even the best negotiations last so long when both parties are stubborn min-men!)

Thanks to Team Mom and Backyard Safari Outfitters, we had a great time exploring the backyard that day, and many days since the package arrived!

The Safari Collection includes over 30 different items, and you can check them all out at http://summittoy.com. Backyard Safari Outfitters is also available at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and Target. These toys will definitely get kids outside, playing and exploring all that nature like never before. And they are fun for the whole family, might I add!

You can find Backyard Safari Outfitters on Twitter and Facebook.

We received this Backyard Safari Outfitters Set to facilitate this review on behalf of Team Mom and Backyard Safari Outfitters. All opinions expressed here are my own and my"little explorers". No monetary compensation was received.

Pool and Play Set Safety Tips From Underwriter Laboratories


Summer means lots of backyard playtime for kids. And it also means making sure outdoor playtime is a safe time for our kids. Here are a couple of sobering facts:
Each year, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger go to the emergency room for play set-related injuries. 
And each year,  approximately 4,200 people go to the emergency room  due to pool or spa-related injuries.  
That’s why Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a leading product safety testing organization, is providing easy-to-follow safety tips to help families “play it safe” this summer. And as a part of this blog tour with Mom Central and Underwriter Laboratories, I am happy to share these summer pool and play set safety tips from UL.

BEFORE INSTALLING A BACKYARD PLAY SET…
  • ·        Make sure your backyard is large enough for playground equipment. The site must also provide good visibility and security. Before setting up equipment, look out for obstacles, such as the garage, tree branches, utility poles and wires.
  • ·        Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions when setting up play set equipment. Be sure your child's weight and age fall within the manufacturer's recommended limits for the equipment.
  • ·        Install protective surfacing, such as rubber tiles or mulch under the play set, at least six feed in all directions, to prevent serious injuries should a child fall.
  • BEFORE HEADING OUT TO PLAY…
  • ·         Carefully inspect backyard playground equipment. Make sure equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed and bolts are not protruding.
  • ·        Check for spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs. These spaces should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
  • ·        Always supervise children on play set equipment to make sure they are playing safely.
  • ·        Never attach ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, pet leashes or cords of any kind to play set equipment. If used improperly, they can be potential strangulation hazards.
  • ·        Watch for potential trip hazards, such as rocks, tree stumps and concrete footings. Make sure you’re children are aware of them as well.
  • ·        Do a sandbox check. Before letting your child dig in, rake through the sand to check for debris or sharp objects. Also, inspect for any animal contamination or insect problems. 


POOL SAFETY AT HOME
  • If you have a pool at home, install a fence. The fence should be at least four feet high and have a self-closing, self-latching gate that has a locking mechanism beyond a child's reach.
  • Cut overhanging tree limbs and remove chairs or ladders from the pool area to prevent children from climbing over the fence that surrounds the pool.
  • Keep grates and drain covers in good repair and secured in place. Alert your family and guests to stay away from these devices, as the suction from drain outlets can be strong enough to cause entrapment of hair or body parts, which can potentially cause a person to drown.
  • Make sure you know infant and child CPR if you own a pool.

BE SAFETY SMART WHILE SWIMMING

  • Supervision is a must. Follow the 10/20 rule when you’re at the pool. The 10/20 rule states the supervising adult needs to position themselves to be able to scan the pool every 10 seconds, and reach the water within 20 seconds.

  • Always have rescue devices, such as UL-LISTED life preservers, nearby.
  • Flotation devices, toys and inflatable swimming aids are not safety devices. They are toys and can easily puncture and deflate.
  • Always drain wading pools after children are done playing. Infants can drown in just a few inches of water.
  • Have a telephone nearby and appropriate emergency numbers posted.
  • Remove all toys when you leave the pool. Toys may attract children to the unattended pool.

 And be sure to check out this video on Pool Safety Tips from Disney to get important information on keeping our kids safe while enjoying pool time!


Here is to a fun, relaxing and SAFE summer for parents and kids everywhere (and don't forget the sunscreen!!)


“I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Underwriters Laboratories. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.”