the papaya: totally new for our family fruit

papaya new for us fruit

the papaya new for us fruit coverWe are always looking for new and exciting things to try over here, and this week, though it may seem boring, normal, average and everyday to your family, we tried a totally new-for-us fruit.

The papaya.

That’s right. The papaya is a totally new for our family fruit.

That oblong, greenish-yellowish, heavy, strange-looking fruit.

Maddy spotted it on a recent shopping trip, and said, Mommy! We have to get this. We have to try a papaya. It looks so. . . weird.

How could I argue her logic?

And so our family began 2013 by trying this tropical wonder, and it resulted in a wee bit of research, some reading, watching, trying, and reflecting.

Some serious, on-the-fly learning in our every day.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • The Papaya–Totally New-For-Our-Family Fruit: It was surprising to Maddy and me just how many people commented on the papaya in our cart:

What is that thing?

What are you going to do with that?

Wow! Looks like you two will be busy today!

papaya new for us fruit

The papaya: in all of its long, greenish, yellowish, squishiness.

Granted, Maddy stuck it in the spot where flowers are supposed to sit, so it did look a little strange–even to us. But the conversation-starter with strangers in the grocery store clued us into the fact that we did have a strange and unusual fruit on our hands!

It made the pricetag (gulp! A tropical fruit in the winter in Marland?) a little easier to take.

papaya new for us fruit

When we got home, she buzzed to the computer. We have to research how to cut the papaya! We can’t totally wreck it like we did with our mango!

So after we unloaded the groceries, ate lunch, and did a few other things, we did our research. It was actually very funny to have this crazy, new fruit on our countertop for a few hours.

It made the kids curious: What do you think it tastes like? Wonder if it’s sweet? Maybe crunchy like an apple? I bet it’s so juicy. . .

We hopped on google and talked about what key words we could use for our search.

I think let’s just do ‘how to cut a papaya’, said Maddy.

And that’s what we did.

papaya new for us fruit- seeds

Papayas have some serious seed action going on. . .

papaya new for us fruit  seeds

. . . and gosh they are strong-tasting! So peppery!

We landed on Jeannette’s Healthy Living How to Cut a Papaya into Chunks, and we also learned a little bit about papayas along the way:

  • Who knew the papaya was considered a power food?
  • That it was packed with vitamin C and A and E?
  • That it was high in folate, potassium, fiber and vitamin K?
  • That it contains several unique protein-digesting enzymes?

So exciting!  Now all it had to do was taste great, and we’d have a brand-new fruity bff!

We followed her lead by cutting the papaya half and scooping out the seeds.  Maddy, Owen, and Cora each held seeds, squished and squeezed the seeds, and tried the peppery seeds. (Good thing we had drinks on hand! They are really peppery!)

papaya new for us fruit slices

We cut the papaya in quarters. . .

papaya new for us fruit skin

. . . and then sliced off the skin.

papaya new for us fruit chunks

Then we cut into big chunks and dug in.

I cut the long slices into chunks, and the kids–and I!–couldn’t wait to try it.

And. . .

papaya new for us fruit chunks

Man, what a disappointment.

Not at all sweet. Not at all juicy and yum like we all hoped and imagined.

It. . . tastes like nothing, Maddy said. Or kind of like a– tomato?

Cora said, It’s squishy and tastes like water.  And then she spit it into the sink.

I want to like it, said Owen. But it is so strange in my mouth. Yeah, Maddy–like something with a taste of nothing.

And I whole-heartedly agreed. Our papaya had a grainy texture–kind of like a ripe tomato–but didn’t have the fresh, sweet, tropical taste we had hoped for.

Let’s try it with a little lime on top! I tried. Like on the website?

But the kids wouldn’t buy it. I think one kid gave it a go but spit the papaya chunk with lime into the sink.

It’s beautiful when cut–I love the color–but man. Not a winner.

papaya shakes -

The winner? Papaya in our breakfast smoothie.  With vanilla yogurt and other good stuff thrown in.

However, in smoothies the next day at breakfast, the papaya stole the show.  Though it was a really hard sell.

With a little vanilla yogurt, a banana, a splash of orange juice, and about 1 1/2 cups of our papaya chunks, the kids loved it. We all agreed that the papaya really seemed to lighten the smoothie–gave it a fresh taste and a smooth texture.

Want to know how you can get your kids to be excited to try new foods? Check out How to Get Your Kids to Try New Foods.  Happy eating!

And that’s it. new for us friday

Just some fun, sneaky learning to kick off the new year while trying a little something new for our family.

We are always, always, always looking for new and exciting things to try! In fact, our goal is weekly to try one new thing–whether it’s food, crafts, activities, events, toys, thinking, programming, you name it.

It’s our New For Us Friday tag, and if ever you have an idea for us, please give us a shout.

Or check out our pinterest board: neat-0, fun, NEW things for us to try board. Packed with our ideas for the year!

welcome, shoplocket: easy selling of anything, anywhere

shoplocket easy selling of anything, anywhere

shoplocket easy selling of anything, anywhereThis New For Us Friday, I’ve got a few things going on, and I’m betting that it will put a twinkle in the eye of many a crafty, creative reader.

I bet it will put a twinkle in the eye of many a frugal or thoughtful reader.

I bet, knowing that the holidays are around the corner, it will make just about anyone want to dance, sing, or at least sort through some of their stuff to find things to sell.

Welcome to my world, ShopLocket.

ShopLocket means easy selling of anything, anywhere.

The possibilities are endless–and I’m totally psyched.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • ShopLocket–Easy Selling of Anything, Anywhere: Okay, so maybe not anything, but just about anything can be sold on ShopLocket, and it’s pretty simple.

I’ve toyed with the idea of starting my own ‘store’ somewhere for my printables and such, but I haven’t found the right one.

I wanted something easy, quick, simple–and convenient.  And I am pretty sure I found my guy.

Essentially, with ShopLocket, you can:

  • simply go to the website, sign up, put in a few details about your product (name, description, pictures, etc.), and you’re ready to go!
  • embed your product on any website, including your blog or Facebook;
  • sell things even without having your own blog or website–you can send people straight to ShopLocket to buy the item!;
  • sell handmade items, printables, or even  resell used items;
  • do it all with ease, from the comfort of your own home–stress-free;
  • totally wrap your head around the pricing deal–there’s no up-front or monthly fees, you only pay when you sell. When you sell a product, you’re charged 2.5% plus any payment processing fees from PayPal or Stripe fees. So if you’re selling something that’s $20, you’d pocket $18.62. Sweet.

Please check out my very first, I’m-oh-so-proud product on ShopLocket above.  (I’ve had such an incredibly awesome response to the Parent Notes from this week, so I created a few extra pages of note-happy awesome for moms & dads who totally deserve these notes and much more. YAY.)

And if you think it’s all cool and great (which I do), then go ahead and sign your little crafty (or frugal or creative or holiday-shopping happy) self up.  ShopLocket will be choosing five new sign-ups through this Blueprint social campain to win a $100 gift card to Michael’s Craft Store. Awe-some.

Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to get in on the action.  Good luck, and catchya on ShopLocket!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

fyi: This post is part of a paid campaign for Blueprint Social.  All opinions, as always, are my own, influenced only by myself–a busy educator, writer, and parent who’s been on a quest for an easy way to sell stuff that didn’t involve stress or complications for a long, long time.

teach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause

teach your children giving this holiday: #blog4cause

Welcome to #blog4cause 2012!

* November & December 2012 *

Inspiring speakers and a little conversation between creative minds at EVO Conference this summer has led us to #blog4cause, and we are thrilled that you are on board!  We’re giddy with excitement at the prospect of the amazing things that we know you–as parents & educators–can do with this seed of an idea.

The concept is simple: choose your cause and run with it.  We know how important it is, in a season of getting, to teach our children about giving.  So here’s your starting point.

teach your children about giving: #blog4cause

  • Use our Resource Kit as a starting point to choose your cause—the one that speaks to you and your family.  If it’s not here, choose your own!
    • Is there a cause near and dear to your heart?
    • Do want to be a part of something larger than you this season?
    • Are you active locally? Love your MOMS group, book club, or church group? Work together!
    • Do you want to help close-up, in a local soup kitchen, or are you more comfortable helping from a distance?

    teach your children about giving: #blog4cause

  • Decide how you, as a family, want to support that cause.  Then blog about it, Instagram it, Facebook it, you get the idea!
    • Are you great at bake sales?  Use your talents to bake, bake, bake–and sell your goods!
    • Can your kids make fab barrettes, bookmarks, or t-shirts?  Sell them!
    • Is your family amazing at rallying others?  Organize a blood drive, a book sale, or a holiday block party!
    • Talk about what you want to do, what you can do, and what you wish you could do–then create a plan to make it happen.

    teach your children about giving: #blog4cause

  • Share what you’ve done in the linky below so that your giving can inspire others.
    • Take photos of your experience and share what you’ve learned.
    • Grab a #blog4cause button and post it on your site.
    • Tweet, Pinterest, or Instagram with #blog4cause so we can follow each other’s journey!
    • Share your specifics–your money raised, goods gathered, time spent–in our collaborative tally sheet.

We all know that every person—even little ones—can make a difference.  But we also know that together, we can make a really BIG difference.

Let’s teach our children now that their little hands can make a BIG difference, and let’s see where it takes teach your children about giving: #blog4causeus this holiday season.

We wish you all a safe, happy, and blessed holiday season,


Allison McDonald (@NoFlashCards)

Amanda Morgan (@NotJustCute),  &

me–Amy Mascott (@teachmama)



Our snapshots of the #blog4cause causes we choose are below.  More detailed information on each cause can be found in our #blog4cause Resource PageOr consider printing out the #blog4cause Resource Page so you can really take a good look at it!

If your cause is not here, please feel free to use your own! Our goal is to teach and model giving, so the cause can be anything that works for your family!


teach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause

Non-profit:    Crickett’s Answer for Cancer

Cause:           Services for women with breast cancer


Needs:          Awareness, donations


Non-profit:    Shot At Lifeteach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause

Cause:           A movement to protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are most needed.


Needs:          Awareness, donations







Non-profit:    Global Soap Projectteach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause

Cause:           The Global Soap Project recovers discarded soap from hotels, reprocesses it into new bars & distributes it to vulnerable populations throughout the world


Needs:          Awareness, donations





Non-profit:    ONEMomsteach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause

Cause:           ONE fights poverty and disease in Africa by working with our members around the world to press government leaders to support effective programs that are saving the lives of millions in poor countries.


Needs:          Awareness, advocacy


twitter:  #ONEMoms




Non-profit:    First Bookteach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause

Cause:           First Book is determined to see that all children, regardless of their economic conditions, can achieve more in school and in life through access to an ongoing supply of new books.


Needs:          Awareness, donations





Non-profit:    American Red Crossteach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause

Cause:           The American Red Cross exists to provide compassionate care to those in need. Our network of generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission of preventing and relieving suffering, here at home and around the world, through five key service areas: disaster relief, supporting military families, lifesaving blood, health & safety services, international services.


Needs:          Donations, blood donations and organize blood drives, volunteer






Non-profit:    K.I.D.S Relief Fund

Cause:           K.I.D.S. is a global charity of leading retailers, manufacturers, and licensees of children’s and youth products, in partnership with major foundations, committed to helping improve the lives of children and their families who are ill, living in poverty, or are victims of natural disasters.teach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause


Needs:          Donations, product drives






Non-profit:    Compassion International
Cause:           Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ nameteach your children about giving this holiday: #blog4cause
Needs:          Awareness, one time donations, child sponsorships






Remember to share a link to your blog post, your instagram photo, your facebook update, or your pinterest pin below, sharing how your family gave back this holiday season.  Your work will inspire others!

And please add your ‘giving’ to our collaborative tally sheet:

keeping families safe while driving: safely go

keep families safe while driving with safely go

keep families safe while driving with safelyThough our number one priority as parents is to keep our kids safe–all of the time–it boggles my mind the number of people I see looking at their phones while driving.

With kids in the car.

Two hands texting or searching or whatever.

Way back when Oprah was promoting her No Cell Phones While Driving campaign, you better believe I signed that baby.  It was, and is, still incredibly important that anyone driving my kids around does not even think about texting while behind the wheel.

It’s not legal. It’s not safe. And it’s insane to think that that is even an option for people anyway.

But with Bluetooth technology, I do chat while driving–as long as it’s hands-free.

Gulp. There. I said it. I know I am not alone.  And I try try try not to, but sometimes, it’s the only time I’m sitting down, and it’s the only time I have to chat with my sisters, parents, or girlfriends.

This New For Us Friday, I’m psyched to share something that a good friend of mine recently let me know about–an app that helps keep families safe while driving. It’s cool. It’s free.

I’ve been using it for weeks now.  And it’s helping me to stay focused on what’s important while driving.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Keeping Families Safe While Driving–Safely Go: Safely Go is a little app that does big things.

It keeps your family safe on the road.  And it’s free. (Who doesn’t love free? And how can you not want safe?)


keep families safe while driving with safely

The Safely Go app is right there under my clock. Ready to go, safely!

The concept behind Safely Go is simple: you put your phone in ‘driving mode’ when you get in the car, and you’re ready to drive safely, focusing on the road like we all should be, while you’re behind the wheel.

When you activate Safely Go, you put your phone in ‘lock mode’ so anyone who texts you gets an auto reply message, and your phone will only accept calls from three designated VIP Contacts.

I love it because it reminds me to stay focused on the road. And yes, I’m embarrassed to say it, but if I’m alone and stuck in traffic, yes, I grab for my phone.  And even then, it’s not a smart idea.


keeping familes safe while driving with safely go

my Safely Go driving mode screen: my VIP Contacts and two driving apps

While you’re in driving mode with Safely Go, you’ll only have access to your top 3 ‘driving apps’ on your screen, like your navigation or maps.  Of course, at any time, you can make an emergency call with the click of one button.

It’s more than cool. While you’re in the car, you move into driving mode. You’re focusing on the road and putting your phone aside.

This fancy little happy app is available for any android user–so everyone android wins here. It’s made by Location Labs who has a long history (more than a decade) of creating apps to promote families’ and kids’ safety and “digital wellness,” and these apps are available as subscription services, in partnership with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.  In fact, you may have been using these apps without knowing they were Safely products–AT&T FamilyMap, T-Mobile FamilyWhere, Sprint Mobile Controls, to name just a few.

So it’s a great company with a really great focus. I’ll take it.

That’s it–just a little New For Us Friday app that I think is totally worth sharing with parents, teachers, caregivers, any and every family out there.

fyi: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Safely Go. Though I was compensated for my time in reviewing and sharing the Safely Go love, as always, my thoughts are completely my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and the three crazy cool kids I try to keep safe. 

how to get your kids to try new foods (and like it!)

how to get kids to try new foods cover 1

how to get your kids to try new foodsIt’s hard to get kids to try anything new, especially when it comes to food.

A lot of parents, myself included, aren’t always sure how to get their kids to try new foods, save from forcing them, from dealing with a whole lot of whining or crying, or dealing with stubborn–sometimes even scared–kids.

My own Maddy, Owen, and Cora went through periods when they only wanted to eat buttered pasta dry Cheerios or to drink milk in their very own very own sippy cup and would take no substitutions whatsoever.

So a few years ago, when I noticed things were getting crazy, I decided to start New For Us Fridays.

I wanted a reason for our family to try new things–new activities, ideas, foods, and games.  And for the last three years, we’ve had a blast trying a ton of new and cool things.

And where it’s been especially helpful is with getting our family to try new foods.

I love it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Get Your Kids to Try New Foods: There’s no magic ‘food-trying pill’ so don’t get your hopes up.

Rather, getting kids to be excited to try new things can be a whole-family project.  And starting simple, with very inexpensive items that can be found at almost any grocery store, is a great place to begin.

And if families look at the idea of a New For Us Friday food as a game–something exciting, like a contest!–before you know it, the whole family will be sold.

Here are a few steps to introducing the idea to your family:how to get kids to try new foods cover 1

1.  Find something.  Start by taking kids to the grocery store.  Instead of speeding by the produce section and reaching for the usual apples, oranges, or bananas, really look at what’s there.

Say, Wow! I’ve never seen this fruit before (as you’re holding something new and unusual).  It’s called an [insert name] and it comes from [read the information card above the fruit].  I wonder what it tastes like.  One day I’d like to try it.

Then move on to your usual grocery shopping.

how to get kids to try new foods cover 2

2. Find it again.  The next time you’re at the store, swing by that same crazy new-for-you fruit and say, You know what? Today I’m feeling a little adventurous. I think I’ll take another look at this [strange and unusual fruit from the last trip] but this time I’d like to actually taste it. I wonder if it’s sweet or sour, juicy or crispy?

Then throw it in your cart or hand it to your child to hold while you shop.


how to get kids to try new foods cover 3

3.  Research.  At home, do a little research on that fruit.  Sit down with your child and google it.  Talk through the whole process: Hey sweetheart. Let’s do a little research on [insert new strange and unusual fruit].  I’m going to type the name of the fruit into the search box on the computer and see if it tells me anything about it.  I’m not sure exactly how to cut it, so I need to learn a bit.

Perhaps this ‘research’ can be done before you sit down with your child so you can check out the sites to make sure they are reliable and not crazy, scary spammy, but if you don’t have the prep time, no worries. Only click on sites you know to be valid or have checked out and deem ‘child safe’.

If there’s a YouTube video on how to cut the fruit, how to wash it, or how to prepare it, view it together.  If there’s a recipe you find to prepare the food, follow it together.   If there’s any way to involve your kids in the process, let. them. in.


how to get kids to try new foods cover 4

4. Try it! Make a really big deal of trying it together.  If everyone eats dinner together one or two nights a week, choose to try it on one of those nights.  If the whole family’s involved, then your kiddos will see first-hand how important it is for every family member to try something new–no matter the age.

(As long as you make sure the food is safe for everyone to eat and no one is allergic, of course!)

how to get kids to try new foods cover 5

5. Celebrate! Tell the kids that a ‘new try’ doesn’t count until each person has had three real bites and then high five when they’ve all had three bites.  And figure out a great way for your family to celebrate and keep track of your own New For Us Fridays–by adding your new foods to the chart below or by another way that works for your family.

Need some great New For Us Friday food ideas? Here are a few of ours:

But when we make it exciting, fun, and a regular part of you family’s life, kids may become more eager foodies and mealtime may become an extra-exciting part of your day.

Way back in May of 2009, when the whole New For Us Fridays started, I had no idea of how long we’d do it or of how much fun we’d have along the way.  Food is only one small part of this ‘movement’ for our family, and I look forward to a few other New For Us Friday round-ups in the next few weeks.  

For us, the basics hold true:

One of the things most parents strive for with their children is consistency–with daily routines, with enforcement of rules, and with just about everything. We’re all, by nature, creatures of habit, which isn’t always a bad thing. Except when our kids get sooo stuck in the norm that it’s hard to get them to try new things.

That’s where New For Us Fridays comes in–it’s my teeny-tiny attempt at getting this crew of mine to step out of the box and to try new things. It’s healthy, it’s fun, and it makes each week a little bit of an adventure, so that’s why I’m starting it now–summer’s around the corner, and there’s a ton of fun to be had.

Each week, I’m going to try to introduce something new to my family–new foods, new activities, new challenges–and I’ll share them here. I’m always on the lookout for ideas, so feel free to send them my way–and to share them with us!

Do you have any New For Us Friday suggestions? I’d love to hear ’em!

geocaching: what it is & why we’re hooked

geocaching: what it is and why we're hooked

geocaching: what it is and why we're hookedRight now, we’re 2 for 6.

That’s right–2/6. 2:6?

And today we totally thought we had one, but we didn’t.

We’ll masters by wintertime, after a fall of not worrying about poison ivy or scratched legs or sunburn.

We’ll move from ‘navigating to geocache’ to using the map or compass (on the phone, of course), and maybe the kids will even have their own Geomate.jr.

We’ll know every attribute symbol by heart.

Decrypting hints will become second-nature.  ROT13, anyone?

We’ll look for–and log–trackables or travel bugs and never alert the muggles.

Every logbook will have our initials, and we’ll know exactly how to read d/t (levels of difficulty and terrain, hello) like the back of our hand.

I’m talking ‘geocaching’ here if you haven’t already guessed, and after becoming geocachers this July, we’re hooked.  Seriously hooked.

Well, most of us are.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Geocaching–What it is & Why We’re Hooked:  So ‘geocaching’. What on earth is it, anyway?

Geocaching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online (straight from the Geocaching site, yo!).

what is geocaching?

Boys’ Life Series: Let’s Go Geocaching by John Mckinney got us interested in geocaching. . .

what is geocaching

but the search is what got us hooked!

What does ‘geocaching’ mean?

‘Geo’ refers to ‘geography’ and a ‘cache’ is a container (strange, I know, but pronounced ‘cash’), so ‘geocaching’ is simply the act of hiding–or seeking–a little container using geographical coordinates.  Or you can look at it as ‘geo’ meaning ‘earth’ and interpret ‘geocaching’ as finding a small container somewhere outdoors.  Either way works.

Before we got started, we did a little reading.

We found Boys’ Life Series: Let’s Go Geocaching by John Mckinney at the library.  We read it cover to cover and renewed it three times. No joke.  I found it extremely easy to understand and at a perfect level of difficulty for Maddy and Owen to read independently.

geocaching prep

We poked around on the geocaching site.

geocaching prep

We decoded a hint or two.  We were ready!

So what did we do next? How’d we go from reading about geocaching to becoming geocachers?

  • We visited the website: And we played around, watching the video, reading about the caches close to us, and registering on the site. It’s all free unless you want to upgrade to a premium membership, which (shhhhh!) we did after our first find.
  •  Then we downloaded the app: geocaching for smartphones.  (But you do not necessarily need a smartphone to geocache!! You do need to have a GPS device or a GPS-enabled phone to navigate to the cache, though.)
  • We found the cache closest to where we wanted to begin, we read the logs, decoded the hint, and we clicked ‘navigate to cache’.
  •  Finally, we jumped in the car and headed out for our first cache!

what is geocaching

Maddy navigates to our first geocache. . .

what is geocaching

. . . and we tried and tried. . .

what is geocaching

. . . and tried some more. . .

geocaching pool - spoiler

And we FOUND IT!!

what is geocaching

This one was a micro, so no treasures–just a teeny, tiny log that we signed.

And then we danced around.

It. Was. Awesome.

We were instantly hooked.

Geocaching is like a treasure hunt outdoors. It’s a secret club that makes us look at our surroundings a little differently.

For some reason, it makes this great, big world seem a little . . .  smaller.  Like the whole world’s really a big playground.

geocaching park

Near one of our most favorite parks. . .

geocaching park

. . . we geocached up to 7 meters away from the cache but just couldn’t find it!

Every time we get in the car now, Owen asks, Can I see your phone? I want to find a closeby geocache.

So he pokes around, reads a few logs, and gets us on track to find one–when we’re running errands, when we’re at the park, when we’re on our way home, when we just need a fun diversion.

Geocaches. Are. Everywhere.

And like I said, we’re 2 for 6. We’ve found two. We tried for six.

Our record’s not great.  But we’re still hooked, and that should tell you something.

geocaching butterfly

Owen unrolls our second find–

geocaching butterfly

which was hidden near our bank, grocery, gas station–right in the center of town!

We’re lucky with micros (super, small, teeny-tiny geocaches) but not so lucky with the bigger ones.   But since most of the bigger ones are in the woods–or a little deeper out of sight, we’re going for those this fall.

I’m sure I’m missing some big geocaching pieces here, but for the recreational geocacher–especially for the family with young children–we’re enjoying it. 

And this mama believes geocaching is the ultimate sneaky-fun learning:

  • we’re looking at distances as we navigate to caches and giving the kids a sense of how far x-amount of feet or meters is from us;
  • we’re figuring out our position in relation to the cache;
  • we’re using direction–north, south, east, west–as we decide which way to walk;
  • we’re employing our critical thinking skills as we decode the hint and interpret what it means;
  • we’re reading past logs and synthesizing responses;
  • we’re getting out in nature, exploring our parks, routes, walks, and world in a way we haven’t experienced;
  • we’re looking at our surroundings with closer eyes and careful steps;
  • we’re practicing the difficult skills of patience, endurance, and handling disappointment;
  • we’re learning–each time!–and are excited to become better at our geocaching skills.

And that’s it–we’ve been geocachin’ fools for a good two months now, so we’ll just catchya in the logbooks, okay? And any advice, ideas, suggestions, or resources YOU have, I’d love to see!  We’re newbies–and we want to learn!

Some geocaching resources for the newbies:


fyi: Affiliate links are included in this unsponsored post, written by totally new geocacher (me) and influenced only by my three little geocachers and my geocaching dog.

target supports education: grants & programs that ROCK (+ giveaway!)


givewithtarget-eventWe all love Target.

That’s nothing new, right?

The sales rock. The clothes for kids–and adults!–rock. The Dollar Bins rock. The grocery items rock. Those cute brown boots I got last year rock. The toy section rocks.  The household items rock. Their diapers rock. Their little cafe rocks.  Just about everything about Target rocks.

As an local influencer and a mama who’s all up in education, I was recently invited to spend a morning with some friends from Target to get a first-hand look at why another side of Target rocks–the giving, philanthropic side of Target that not everyone knows about.

I had a chance to chat with them about why Target really is all that when it comes to supporting everything reading, education, and our kids.

Target loves education so much that they’re throwing in a sweet $150 gift card for one lucky reader–and we all know that $150 at Target can come in handy, either as a donation to your school or as a way to make the holidays a bit easier for your family.

And yes, that IS Bridget Mendler of Good Luck Charlie and that IS the Target Bullseye Bus and that IS me standing with them both. Woot!

Here’s the skinny, and here’s why we should all totally heart Target. . .

  •  Target Supports Education: Grants & Programs that ROCK: Sure, do remember seeing Target at the National Book Festival last year, with a huge area set aside for families and reading.

And I did write about Target’s Read With Me program a few years back. But since then, I have to admit (gulp!) I don’t recall hearing much about Target, which is why it’s so exciting to share these cool programs with you:

  • Give With Target: $2.5 million to 100 in-need schools–$25,000 to each school.   $2.5 million to schools through a Facebook vote.  That’s $5 million to schools and students.  That’s a lot of cash. That’s a lot of hope.

That’s incredible. Unbelievable. Fabulous and fantastic.

And I was lucky enough to be there at one school in Baltimore on the morning the principal received her $25,000 check.  It was awesome–the children, the staff, the parents, everyone was alive with excitement for education and the promise of success in the year to come.

target supporst education

The morning of the Baltimore #GiveWithTarget event was electric!


Jill talks about this program in the video piece above, and it’s something I am really into. I had no idea that for every purchase you make on your Target REDcard, Target will donate 1% to the eligible school of your choice. That really adds up after time.

In fact, my kids’ school has already received over $6000 from Target, and I had no idea. It’s awesome. It’s like free money, so why wouldn’t you enroll in the program?  $324 million donated since 1997 and $26 million in the most recent payout.

Get. Your. School. Enrolled.

And if you don’t have a child in  school, register your local school, your grandchild’s school, or a school in a low-income area. Why not?

new to me: each Target store can award 3 field trip grants

  • Field Trip Grants: Since 2007, Target has donated $16 million in grants, sending 2 million students on 22,500 field trips.

Each Target store will award three Target Field Trip Grants to K—12 schools nationwide—enabling one in 25 schools throughout the U.S. to send a classroom on a field trip. Each grant is valued up to $700.

Each. Target. Store. Awards. THREE. Field. Trip. Grants.

All teachers have to do is apply.

There’s even a snazzy button, banner, poster, and email that can be used to promote a super field trip spot. Awesome.

Apply in March & April for a September grant notification, so you do need a bit of planning here, but it will be well worth it!

And I didn’t know that Target also supported local art & culture in a ton of cities around the country by providing discounted museum admission or free shows.  Find a free or reduced-price event near you!

  •  Early Childhood Reading Grants: Also $2000 with applications in March & April but with an August notification, these grants are geared toward schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations to support programs such as after-school reading events and weekend book clubs.

Target’s all about fostering a love of reading and encouraging children to read with their families, and I think it’s awesome.


  • Target School Library Makeovers: I had heard that Target was re-doing some school libraries in a major way, but I had no idea that the make0ver included 2,000 new books, new computers, furniture and other things.

I also didn’t know that each student was given a set of books to take home so the whole family can share in the experience. I love it.


Kids must be fed–and healthy–to learn!

  • Meals for Minds: This is totally new-to-me program, but it’s one that I think is so, so, so very important. It’s important because it really shows that we’re talking about the whole child.

It’s education at the most basic level, feeding a child’s physical well-being. In partnership with Feeding America, the Meals for Minds campaign is one that especially hits home this month, September, the Go Orange for Hunger Action Month.  Get involved!

jane o'connor national book festival

Jane O’Connor at last year’s National Book Festival (LOVE her!)

Want more photos from the event? Check out flickr & YouTube!

  • Book Festivals:  I spent a boatload of time last year in Target’s Family Storytelling Stage at the National Book Festival on the Mall here in DC, but I didn’t realize that they were book festival happy.Like happy in a way that they hit book festivals all overthe country kind of happy.Check out the stage lineup and materials for this year’s Family Storytelling Stage at the National Book Festival, and be sure to check out events local to you as well. And don’t despair if you’re not close to a festival; there are tons of materials for you to use and download from home.

Target really is a book festival happy company!

It doesn’t seem to stop with education, either; Target participates in social service programs, crisis relief programs, and military & veteran support programs, and you can also sign up to volunteer with Target as well.  It’s really enough to make me want to dance.

Thanks, Target, for all you do to support education, learning, and families!


this contest is closed, as of 9/21/12. . . many thanks to all who entered and congrats to Elisabeth for her win!

GIVEAWAY: $150 Target gift card

Do you want to win a $150 Target gift card?!  SURE you do!!


All you have to do is leave a comment here telling me which of Target’s programs you think is the most awesome!

For extra entries, get creative!!:

  • Tweet this: 
  • Win a $150 @Target gift card on @teachmama #GiveWithTarget #weteach #giveaway
  • Learn how @Target supports #education on @teachmama #GiveWithTarget
  • Celebrate #backtoschool  win $150 @Target giftcard for your school  #GiveWithTarget
  • Share this poston your Facebook page–very easy!
  • Share this post with a friend (just tell me who you shared it with!)
  • Pin this post on Pinterest! (Use ‘pin it!’ button below post!)
  • G+  this post on Google+  (Use the G+ button below post!)

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, September 21, 2012 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘And the Winner is. . .’ and will be notified on or around 9/21/12.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.


fyi: This is an unsponsored post.  As a member of Target’s Inner Circle Program, I was invited to participate in the #GiveWithTarget event and received four backpacks for my school along with a $150 Target gift card to give to one of my readers.  My opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent, educator, and longtime fan of Target.  Some affiliate links are included.

hot summer day fun: crayon melts!

crayon melt craft for kids

fun summer crafts for kidsIt’s been so incredibly hot here in Maryland, I’m sure you can fry an egg on the sidewalk.

At least I’m guessing you can because it’s been upwards of 100 degrees but it feels about a million.  And muggy.  And really sticky.  And buggy.

But because it’s been so hot, we’ve been taking it pretty easy—reading, doing some writing, and trying out a few (can’t wait to share them!) new-for-us things and a handful of throwback crafts.

There was one day, however, when we did get a little cra-zeee, and I used the day’s sweltering weather to teach the kids a little bit about how powerful our sun could really be—and to help them realize how lucky we really were.

All we needed were some crayons, a cookie sheet, cookie cutters, and the hot, hot sun for a crafty-science experiment that was totally easy and so much fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Hot Summer Day Crayon Melts:  We have always kept our crayon bits—all the way back when Owen was trying to master the ever-so-difficult tripod grip, up until now, we used them some way or another for learning or creating.

So after swim practice in the morning—after lunch and a whole lot of vegging out—and before we returned to the pool to meet up with friends and play, I said to Maddy, Owen, and Cora, It is seriously a scorcher.  It’s insanely hot today. Let’s do a quickie, crazy experiment before we head back to the pool. I think we’ll see first-hand how incredibly strong the sun is today.

fun summer craft for kids

Our crayon bit box came in handy today!

I grabbed a few things: the box of crayon bits, a cookie sheet, the aluminum foil, clear plastic wrap, and cookie cutters.

Then I said, Let’s start peeling! We’re going to melt these puppies!

All we did was peel the crayons. . .

crayon melt craft for kids

. . . then size them to the best cookie cutters.

We peeled and chatted and peeled and chatted, and as always, some crayons were easier to peel than others.  After we had a bunch peeled, we covered the tray with aluminum foil and each choose some cookie cutters to use.

Maddy said, You mean we can make cookie-shaped crayons?


We put the crayon bits inside cookie cutters. . .

crayon melt craft for kids

. . . and we were ready for melting!

I think so, I said.  It’s about 100 degrees outside. I am pretty sure that the sun will bake these crayon cookies.

We made sure to fill as many cookie cutters as we could with a variety of colors.  Some we tried to keep monochromatic—or all shades of one color, and others we tried to keep totally mixed and rainbow-beautiful.

Before we set out our tray to the driveway ‘oven’, I said, Let’s just make sure these will melt by giving it a plastic roof, like a greenhouse.   I bet if we cover it with plastic wrap, the heat will stay inside and really melt these guys.


crayon melt craft for kids

We wrapped the tray with plastic wrap,


crayon melt craft for kids

and BOY! was it hot!

We turned a plastic cup upside down on each corner of the tray, just to raise it a bit, and then we covered the tray with plastic wrap.   And then we placed the tray on the top of our black driveway, and we headed to the pool.

crayon melt craft for kids

A few hours later and a whole lot cooler, we pulled up to our house, and we checked on our ‘baked goods’.

OH MY GOSH!!! Mommy, the crayons are watery—they’re like soup!! Owen screamed.  He was the first to check out our work, and he was totally correct.

The crayons had melted to liquid in some spots while other parts of the crayons hadn’t melted at all.  It was so interesting.   We tried to figure out if the inconsistent melting was due to the location of the items on the tray or something else, but we couldn’t tell.

It did seem like some of the un-melted crayons may have been the cheaper ones—and that the good ole Crayolas were the more melty.

Because our crayons had melted too much, we had to wait to pop them out of their shapes.   We put the tray into the refrigerator to cool and had dinner.

A few hours later, the crayon cookies were cool and we could finally examine our work—and the crayon shapes were beautiful!!

Maddy, Owen, and Cora had a blast popping out the shapes and trying to color with their crayon works of art.

Crayons melted–

crayon melt craft for kids

–and after they cooled, they were awesome shapes!

We talked a bit about how hot the sun must have been to melt the crayons that quickly, and I really tried to emphasize how very lucky we were—how many people don’t have the luxuries that we have, like a cool house and a swimming pool.

And how absolutely necessary it was for us to water our plants every day and not waste water.

fun summer crayon craft for kids

 The different textures and colors were gorgeous. . .

fun summer crayon craft for kids

. . . and the super-fun part? The crayon melts worked–made coloring a bit more crazy!

If I could do it again—which I am sure we will—we’ll set up more of an experiment situation.  I’d love for the kids to see how the plastic wrap effects the melting as well as how where the tray is placed—driveway or grass—effects the melting.

Until then, we’ll do some serious coloring with our brand-new shape crayons!

Happy melting!  (And stay cool!)

new for us friday: pish posh mommy keeps the pool bag cool

pish posh products - 1

pish posh mommy pool bagThis year, I’m trying to give the kids a little bit more ownership over their pool items because quite frankly, I’m tired of lugging my huge pool bag, a cooler, and a hundred million other things to the pool.

I’m getting old.  And I’m getting tired.  And it’s due time that my (gulp!) 8, 6, and 5 year-olds take on a bit more responsibility when it comes to our pool days.

So Maddy, Owen, and Cora each have their own pool bag.

They are each to bring a towel, a pair of goggles, and a cover-up or sweatshirt to the pool each day.  And they are each to bring that very same towel, pair of goggles, cover-up or sweatshirt back home with us each day.

So far, it’s been a complete bust.  We’ve lost two pairs of goggles, and we’ve had three towels end up in the lost and found.  And we’ve left one water bottle (okay, it was mine).  And every day it’s been a mad scramble to get there and come home.

I’m hopeful that things can only get better.  Right?

But two things have helped me to stay organized and has turned my huge, enormo, black-hole pool bag into a more organized, happy place: the PishPosh Mommy Carry All Organizer and the PishPosh Mommy Wet Bag.  And I have a great discount for my fab teach mama readers so that everyone can make her pool bag as happy as mine.

For this summertime New For Us Friday, here’s the skinny. . .

pish posh mommy pool bag

I love the PishPosh Mommy Wet Bag and how snaps in half. . .

pish posh mommy pool bag

. . . and I love it when it’s un-snapped–it can fit all three wet bathing suits!

  • PishPosh Mommy Carry All Organizer and Wet Bag: PishPosh Mommy is a company founded by two moms who wanted to keep using their cool, before-kids, designer purses but stay organized in the mom-chaos that so many of us experience.  So they came up with the PishPosh Carryall, which I used to organize my monstrous pool bag.

I wish wish wish I had something like this before I had kids, but alas, I was a big and bulky diaper-bag carrying  mom.

Now, however, I’ve been using the PishPosh Mommy Carry All Organizer & PishPosh Mommy Wet Bag in my pool bag, and it’s been an absolute dream.  Because we all need organization–new moms or not!

pish posh mommy pool bag

Seriously love my PishPosh Carryall Organizer–totally cute and so functional I could cry.

I’ve kept my pool bag ‘cool’ with the Carryall Organizer which has pockets on the outside of the bag where I’ve stowed sunscreen, combs, lip balm, you name it. 

And on the inside–which zips shut–I’ve kept the items we don’t use as often: backup sunscreen (seriously), bug spray, teeny first aid kit, my ‘mom necessities’ like eye drops and lip gloss.

pish posh mommy pool bag

The Wet Bag has been awesome for holding onto the kids’ wet bathing suits at the endof the day.  It holds much more than it seems like it would, and it snaps in half to save space when it’s empty.  I love the cute print on the outside and the fact that it’s got a front pocket for dry items.

It’s cool. And they both make me really, really happy.

I love that I don’t have to lug my entire pool bag everywhere this summer–I can just pull out the super-cute Carryall Organizer, throw it in my purse if we are going to a picnic or cookout, and we’re good to go.  We’ll have everything we need, and I’ll still have my sanity.

And the great people at PishPosh Mommy have offered to provide you guys–my fabulous readers–with a special, 25% off discount code so that you can purchase one of these for yourself. (Yaaa-hooooo!)

Feel free to check out PishPosh Mommy and the other oh-so-helpful-for-every-busy-mom items. Then choose any one of the adorable, chic patterns to really make the products your own.  Please use TeachMama25 as your special discount code to receive 25% off of your order. 

Three cheers for super-cool, organized pool bags!

And let’s hope for a successful summer of my three kiddos learning how to get their things to and from the pool–now that Mom’s on top of her things!


fyi: Though PishPosh Mommy did send me the two mentioned products for review and I was compensated for my review time by PishPosh Mommy, my opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my three little swimmers and my experience as a mom who has lugged kids to the pool for the last 8 years.

new for us friday: fine motor FUN with stamp markers

disney social media moms:  - 011

fine motor FUN with stamp markersEver since Owen was teeny and couldn’t manage to figure out the tripod grip (the fancy name for the proper way to hold a pencil or pen), I’ve been on a perpetual search for ways to work on all of my kids’ fine motor skills.

We tried everything: hole punching, beading, nuts and bolts (oh yes we did!), pop beads, chopsticks, playdough, sewing,  you name it.

Painting, cutting, coloring, stringing snacks, pointing, playing, and wiggling.

I did a whole lot of reading on the subject of the tripod grip only to learn that it needs to be directly taught because to many children, it is not at all natural.  And children need to be corrected early so that mistakes don’t become bad habits.

And though I am fully aware of the fact that the writing that our kids will do in their lives will most likely be a fraction of what we have done–because of the technology at their fingertips–I do know that every child does need to be able to properly hold a writing utensil.  They must write their names on all of their papers and sign their works of art.  That will never change.

But I do know that every child’s abilities develop at different speeds.

Family and parenting expert Joanna Nesbit states, ‘. . . putting pencil to paper is a complicated developmental task for youngsters, and everyone progresses at her own rate based on a variety of factors, including the development of fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination and cognitive abilities’ “Handwriting Help for Kids“. 

So I’m all for trying to work on what I can, while I am able.

Here’s the skinny. . .

These are stamp sets-meet-markers-meet puzzles-meet-activity pads.

I love them. My kids love them.


Cora rocks her Stamp Markers on the plane on the way to Disney!

We’ve taken them on road trips, on plane rides (to Disney!), doctors’ offices.  Cora uses hers on the occasions when she’s had to sit through meetings with me or wait in the car pick-up line.  Simple fun.  With no mess. 

Blue Stamp Marker Set and Pink Stamp Marker Set, we have them both, and we love them both.  And at about 5 bucks a piece, it’s a great price if you ask me.

Again, from expert Joanna Nesbit, ‘Fine-motor skills — the ability to use fingers, hands and wrists for small, controlled movements — are essential for kids to be able to write letters and words legibly. Children typically develop their fine motor skills in a natural progression throughout early childhood, but these skills come easier for some than for others. Parents can help. . . ‘

Yes. Parents can help–and I’m betting they all would with the right bits of direction.  Happy fine-motor-skill tuning!


fyi: This blog post is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom. Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.

As a Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador, I did receive this product as part of the Blog Ambassador program; affiliate links are included in this post, so if you click on them and choose to buy the product, awesome–I’d appreciate it tremendously!

new for us friday: the red apple taste test

red apple taste test cover

red apple taste testThis New For Us Friday we’re sharing a simple—but fun!—experiment of sorts.

It’s a little ‘learning-in-the-kitchen’ meets ‘science experiment’ meets ‘problem-solver’, all in the name of those round and juicy (and in this case) red apples.

We all walk by them each week at the grocery store, but how many of us really know the difference between the Gala and the Braeburn?

Why do we habitually reach for the Red Delicious when the Pinata might actually be more delicious?

What about the Jazz? Is it really worth all the hype?

This week, we treated ourselves to an old-fashioned taste test, featuring none other than the red apple.

Which came out on top? Who is our favorite apple—and why?

Here’s the  skinny. . .

  • The Red Apple Taste Test:  Really, this New for Us Friday was born a long time ago, a cousin of our very first New For Us Friday evah: The Pear-Off.

That’s right. The end of May 2009 was the debut of our first NFUF, and we taste-tested pears. Love it.

Three years later, we’re finally getting around to apples. In a major way.

red apple taste test

We sliced a whole lot of apples. . .

red apple taste test

. . . and we voted on every one.

It started with our Grapple New For Us Friday and a conversation I had with my pal Jessica.  She told me that her family had taste-tested apples, and I wondered why we had never done the same.  She spoke highly of the Pinata. I had never. Tried. The Pinata.

(I had never even heard of the Pinata.)

What were we missing? We needed to find out.


red apple taste test

our taste-test in action

So Cora and I hit the grocery store while Maddy and Owen were at school, and we bought two of every red apple we could find.  We grabbed the Braeburn, the Fuji, the Jazz, and the Gala.  We bought the Red Delicious and the Pinata.

red apple taste test

As our after school snack on Friday, I said, Okay, my friends, today is a big day. We are having the taste-test of all taste-tests.  We are going to figure out which of the many red apples reigns as the absolute best red apple. 

We’re going to try six types of apples, and we’re going to vote on each.  Each apple has a card, and you all have stickers to vote for each.  The blue sticker with your initial on it is the one you will use to show you like the apple, and the orange sticker with your initial on it is the one you will use to show you dislike the apple.  I’ll write down what we think, and then we’ll figure out which apple has the most ‘likes’.  Who’s ready?  

They all were, so we got to the rough work of tasting.


  • washed all of the apples;
  • put the apple name sticker on an index card;
  • sliced one apple at a time;
  • passed the other apple (same kind) around so we could smell, feel, and hold it;
  • each tasted one slice of the apple;
  • waited a minute as we chewed and then called out what we thought;
  • wrote down descriptions on the index card;
  • voted, by putting either the ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ sticker on the card.

And in the end, we decided that overall, the Jazz and Pinata were our favorites for their crisp, sweet, and juicy flavors–which was interesting because we always bought Gala apples!

Move over, Gala. . . hell-O, Jazz and Pinata!

red apple taste test

We had a whole lot of feedback and bellies full o’ apples.

But the real fun was had later in the week when the kids asked for apples–unlabeled apples.

We used our index cards to figure out which apples they were actually eating.  We added to our feedback cards and tried to be the first to figure out the apple mystery, using our taste-test memories and voting cards.


red apple taste test

Maddy figures out which apple she was eating–it was the Jazz!

And that’s that–just a little afternoon of new-for-us taste-testing in the name of learning and fun!

Next up for us: the green apple taste-test! Happy apple tasting!