how to move from little kid to big kid bedrooms (with tips from sabrina soto & target giveaway)

little kid to big kid room re-do

move from little kid to big kid roomFor a while now we have talked about making the change from little kid bedrooms to big kid bedrooms, and we finally did it.

With tips from Target Style expert home decorator, Sabrina Soto, we planned, prepped, painted, and prettied Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s bedrooms.   Now each room is perfect for a 9, 7, and 6 year old.

Good-bye, baby rooms.  (Boo-hoo.)

But wooo-hoooo! because thanks to Target, one lucky reader will have the chance to win a $250 Target gift card to assist with his or her own child’s room re-do! Fabulous, right?

The last time we made color changes to the kids’ bedrooms was when we moved into this house, close to eight years ago. Sure, we switched out cribs for toddler beds and then bigger beds once the tiny ones became too small, but really, each room was well overdue for a new coat of paint, updated decorations, and special touches unique to each child’s style.

I was surprised and excited about the options available for kids as far as room décor goes, and I’m thrilled to share what we did so that others can make simple changes that pack a big punch.

It’s a big transition from baby room to bigger kid room, so let’s make it as fun as possible.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Move From Little Kid to Big Kid Bedrooms (With Tips from Sabrina Soto):  We did three rooms simultaneously, which is a bit more labor intensive, but was an easier way for us.

room re-do painting - little kid to big kid room

The paint crystals added a little extra ‘wow!’ to one wall in Maddy’s room. . .

room re-do painting - 07

. . . which was great because we didn’t want to spend a fortune on room re-do’s.

We wanted our rooms all done at about the same time.

We started by talking about color.  We asked the kids what color they wanted their rooms, and we gave them a few choices from that point. We narrowed their paint choices down for them because otherwise, taking young children into a paint store is more than overwhelming.  It’s overwhelming for adults.

Paint is a great, low-cost way of re-doing rooms, so we thought we’d begin there.


room re-do prep - 06

It takes a LOT of work to paint, but we had help (thanks, Aunt Mary!). . .

room re-do prep - little kid to big kid room

. . . and who knew that our Sunny Patch spray bottle would come in handy?

(Mix of vinegar, water, and small bit of dishwashing soap to pull off these tough baby room borders!)

Maddy wanted a teal color, Owen wanted blue, and Cora wanted purple.  After colors were chosen, we focused on the paint job.

In each room, we painted two accent walls and two white walls to keep it visually appealing and to give the rooms more of an ‘open’ feel.


room re-do painting -big kid room

room re-do painting -big kid room

room re-do painting -big kid room

Half nutty after two days of painting rooms. . .

room re-do painting -big kid room


room re-do painting -big kid room

. . . and boy does the blue painter’s tape help!

Like I said, we added Valcor sparkle to Maddy’s teal, adding the entire pack of sparkle into her one quart of teal paint.  It. Looked. Awesome. 

But there are tons of other glitter paint options for walls, too: Martha Stewart has a line of glitter paint for walls, as does Vesalux.

We had some extra paint and decided to do some stripes on one of her walls.  Adding stripes is a cool way of bringing together walls of different colors and upping the cool factor of any ‘big kid’ room!


wall stripes for room redo

wall stripes final 2


After paint we made some furniture and decorating choices, using Sabrina Soto’s recommendations.  I wrote a quick note to her about each child and I sent along pictures of their rooms as ‘little kid’ bedrooms.


My note to Sabrina:

Maddy, age 9, needs a room that will take her through her “tween” years. She has aqua sparkle paint on one wall, and white and purple on other. Her favorite colors are green and blue. She has cousins and friends over for sleepovers so she enjoys her bunk beds. She’s also athletic and does gymnastics and swim team.

maddy room before

Sabrina’s tips:

The tween years are about growing up and finding oneself. Choose pieces that show personality, yet can evolve with the child. It’s about making the room feel like their own private “grown-up” space and still infusing a fun and youthful vibe.

  • Table Lamp – incorporate modern shapes for a more “grown-up” look. Themes tend to look a bit childlike
  • Memo Board – memo boards are especially essential in the tween years with keeping track of activities, notes, etc. Group in 2 or 4 for larger coverage.
  • Funky Décor – a chic new nightstand is a perfect addition to transition this space

room re-do maddy final

room re-do maddy final

room re-do maddy final

Here’s what we did:


My note to Sabrina:

Owen, age 7, is also making a transition from a “babyish” room. He loves soccer and almost any sport. He takes a lot of pride in his trophies! His favorite teams are University of Maryland (team colors are red, white, black and yellow) and the Washington Redskins (team colors are maroon and gold).

owen room before

Sabrina’s tips:

Incorporate a punch of color through accessories! A red rug or fun yellow throw pillows make his passion for the Redskins really stand out!

Tips for Owen’s Room:

  • Chalkboard Bank – a great way to get a little creative while teaching your kids about spending.  Also consider a chalkboard wall, it’s fun for all ages and design schemes!
  • Floating Shelves – perfect for displaying memorabilia while keeping clutter off floors!
  • Themed Wall Décor – themes can be both whimsical and fun. Shows off personality and interests!
  • Keep it fun and personal!

room re-do owen final

room re-do owen final

room re-do owen final

owen's room -final

room re-do owen final

Here’s what we did:

  • New bedding: Owen didn’t need new comforters or sheets, but we added a little zing with a new Skylanders throw blanket
  • Picked sports-themed canvases:  Both baseball-related (though we have a soccer boy on hand!) one baseball stadium canvas but with our local team–Washington Nationals–and the other with baseballs from the entire Major League.
  • Fun accessories: We updated his shadow boxes by taking out his monogrammed bibs (they were so cute!) and replaced with his swimming awards and ribbons.
  • Wall Cubicles: We went with the 6-cube cubicles –similar to these–and they were so inexpensive and perfect for trophies!


My note to Sabrina:

Cora, age 5, is making the transition from a “babyish” room to a “big girl room”. She is a girlie girl who loves pink, flowers, butterflies, and everything pretty. She also loves dancing and singing, keeping her room super-neat and seeking a place for everything.

cora room before

Sabrina’s tips:

Tips for Cora’s Room:  Use pieces that are “transitional” and can be used in multiple styles and ways. Girls especially change their minds about everything so it’s important to choose staple pieces that fit into multiple design schemes.

  • Pink Window Panels – the ruffled accents are a perfect touch of girliness, simple and clean lines are great for those “transition” years, simple yet chic!
  • Storage – girls love their accessories and trinkets! Keep everything neat and tidy in a comfy storage bench, upholstered in pink and white, perfect as extra seating for friends!
  • Wall Decals – a great way to add a little surprise to the walls! Super easy to apply and remove (helpful if she grows tired of butterflies after a while)!
  • Big Girl Chair – perfect little “adult” accent on a smaller scale!

room re-do cora final

room re-do cora final
room re-do cora final

room re-do cora final

room re-do cora final

Here’s what we did:

  • New bedding: Chose a comforter from the Buds and Blossoms set
  • Rocked some Wall Decals:  Love, love, love these.  We chose the  [x] decals from the same set, and they are absolutely adorable.
  • Table lamp: green table lamp for her night stand
  • Fun accessories: color changing alarm clock, small oval rug, similar to the dyed rug
  • Wall Cubicles: We went with the 6-cube cubicles –similar to these–and they were so inexpensive and perfect for trophies!
  • New photos: Gone are her babyish pictures; we flipped the print around and glued in some fancy paper–that’s it!–from her butterfly birthday bash!


It was an incredible experience, from start to finish, especially because Maddy, Owen, and Cora were a part of every decision along the way.

For everyone, it was an absolute blast–and it certainly made this rite of passage, the move from little kid to bigger kid room, a whole lot more fun.

owen's room -making shelves

owen's room -making shelves

owen's room -making shelves

Let’s get to how YOU can bring all of this fun home to your kiddos!


GIVEAWAY: $250 gift card to Target

Do you want to win your OWN $250 gift card to Target for your OWN kid bedroom re-do?! Ummm. . . of COURSE you do!

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

This giveaway ends Friday, April 26, 2013 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 4/26/13.  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.


target inner circle


fyi: I wrote this post as part of the Target Inner Circle program.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little room-re-decorators.

Affiliate links are included in this post.

teach kids the days of the week (a super-easy way!)

teach kids the days of the week

teach kids the days of the weekTeaching kids the days of the week doesn’t need to be a huge event.

Parents don’t need printables, charts, diagrams, or huge posters.

Sure, a calendar hanging on the wall helps.  But parents can help their children learn the days of the week in less than a minute each day. Really.

It’s about creating a daily rhythm, especially at home and especially when kids are young. And that’s it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Teach Kids the Days of the Week (in a Super-Easy Way!):  Starting the day by talking about what day it is is something we’ve been doing for years and years.

And though it might not seem like rocket science, I firmly believe it has helped Maddy, Owen, and Cora understand the concept of weeks vs weekends and learn the days of the week.

Plus, it’s given us a schedule and a routine–and we all know that children, especially little guys, thrive on routine. Let’s face it–we all do.

Take a look at our latest vlog to really get the down-low on what we do over here to help our kids learn those seven important guys whom they’ll know from here on out–Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, (and our faves!) Saturday and Sunday.



Really simple, right?

teach kids the days of the week

Owen’s vitamin case. . .

teach kids the days of the week

. . . complete with his ‘C’ for wintertime and his daily.

Start now–head over to a nearby pharmacy, shell out a buck or two for a plastic pill case, and start tomorrow.

Here’s to a happy, more organized and totally amazing 2013.

It doesn’t have to be difficult–parenting is hard enough! But every parent is capable of sneaking in a little bit of meaningful learning into their children’s every day.  We can do it!

fab ideas for new year’s, organization and winter family fun

new year's ideas for tradition, organization and family

Happy New Year, my friends!fab ideas for new year's, organization and winter family fun

Let’s do what we can to get 2013 started in a fun, organized, and fresh way by checking out what the experts are doing–and you know those experts are other parents and teachers out there, right?

I’ve been all about Pinterest lately, and I invite you to join me.

Though it may be intimidating at first, it’s easy and fun once you get the hang of it. And you’ll find a boatload of cool ideas over there.

Pinterest is essentially a virtual pinboard–you can ‘pin’ your favorite ideas and photos with the click of a button. It’s super for storing ideas, finding ideas, and sharing ideas.

A quick shout out to some of my fave Pinterest pals landed all of these cool ideas for ringing in New Year’s, organizing home and family, and celebrating winter with activities and crafts for kids.

Check out the boards, follow them, and let’s make 2013 a year to remember!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Fab Ideas for New Year’s, Organization, & Winter Family Fun:

new year's ideas for tradition, organization and family

Here are some great boards for New Year’s Ideas:


pinterest organizing home

Let’s start the New Year organized! Check out these amazing boards:


pinterest post organized home

Some more amazing organization boards:


Take a look at these fab boards filled with wintertime activities and ideas:


pinterest post winter 2

More winter-pinterest board awesomeness: 

pinterest fun activities for kids

And if the winter pinterest boards aren’t enough, check out these boards for any time of the year, cool kid-fun:

Remember, though it’s important for families to enjoy time together, doing fun activities and cool things together, down time is an absolute must. And I admit that I often fall into the Pinterest trap of getting caught up in all of these crafts, printables, ideas, and games, thinking that 100% of our family time must be spent engaged in absolutely awesome, incredible, and memorable activities.  But it doesn’t.

I do have to remind myself that especially with school-aged kids, down-time–totally unstructured, free-bird, open play time–is a necessity.snowy day

The Joys of Doing Nothing, by Margery D. Rosen, really spoke to me.   It’s true: Leading a frenetic life is not inevitable or enviable. And parenting is not a competitive sport.

But most importantly, to me, was the part about being a role model:

You are your child’s best teacher. If she sees that you value unstructured time, she will, too. “The world is a rich learning environment, without all the frills,” says Hirsh-Pasek. Carve out time to turn off your cell phone, stop checking your e-mail, and just hang out, without lamenting that you “should” be doing something instead of “wasting time.”

I love it.  Let’s go.


Please leave the url below for your favorite boards–ringing in the New Year, organizing house and family, or wintertime activities. I’d love to find more awesome boards to follow!

I plan to do a round-up of the best boards for unstructured, free play, down-time, and free play spaces in January. Please leave the url of those boards, and I’ll add them to the post!


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.

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.

results of our family’s 3-week oral care challenge

results of our family's 3-week oral care challenge

oral care challengeOkay, so the results are in for our family’s 3-week oral care challenge.

And our findings are both good–and bad.

I have to say that our Oral Care Challenge couldn’t have come at a better time–October kicks off a sweet, candy-filled holiday season for us–and having a new oral care regime was exciting. And fun.

For some of us.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Results of Our Family’s 3-Week Oral Care Challenge: I wish wish wish I could say that we all knocked the socks off of our new floss and brushes.

I wish wish wish I could say that we are now brushing after every single meal.

I wish wish wish I could say that my husband and I were leading the oral care charge over here, modeling supreme oral care habits, flossing fabulously, and dancing while we rinsed.

I wish wish wish I could say that I eagerly anticipated the next time I could enjoy the slow and comforting ritual of the brush, floss, and rinse routine instead of rushing through (gulp) only the brushing as I barely washed my face and fell into bed.

But I cannot.

We were not A+ Oral Care students–we just weren’t.  Aren’t.

oral care challenge

my kids loved the markers and the chart. . .

But we have tried something new and we have begun to take tiny steps to incorporate a few new things into our oral care regime.

Here are the awesome parts of our 3-week oral care challenge:results of our family's 3-week oral care challenge

  • My kids used Smart Rinse for the first time–ever. And they liked it. (Well, one kiddo, more than others. . . )
  • We flossed more times in one 3-week period than ever in our whole lives combined.
  • We learned that it’s okay for the kids to brush without toothpaste (if they so choose) as long as they floss and rinse afterward.
  • My husband and I will continue to purchase Smart Rinse for our family–and we liked the idea of one bottle per person so we can keep track of who’s using it and who is not.
  • The chart with the kids’ initials was a huge hit–they loved using the dry erase marker in the bathroom.

We may never be a floss-happy family. But one thing we learned was the importance of making time for this part of our day, this part of our routine.

And certainly, during this candy-filled month, we’ll take all the help we can get.


fyi: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Listerine Smart Rinse and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own, influenced only by my three little happy rinsers and my lazy, non-flossing self.

my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bag (with giveaway)

epiphanie bag love

my favorite laptop bag ever epiphanie bagI’ve coveted these fancy-schmancy laptop and camera bags for a long, long time, and after having tried one for the past few months, I can finally say it: I’ve found my absolute favorite laptop bag ever–the epiphanie bag.

Camera bags, laptop bags, oversized purses. . . call ’em what you want.

And I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful–and functional–it was in real life.

As a huge fan of anything that helps to keep me more organized and on top of my game, the epiphanie bags by Maile Wilson do just that–they help me stay organized bigtime, adjusting to whatever I need.

I am thrilled beyond belief to be able to give away one bag–any bag of the winner’s choice–right before the holidays. So one lucky gal–or guy–can treat herself (or himself) to a fatty-fat gorgeous bag right before she buys a million things for everyone else.

Or, okay–it could also absolutely be a great gift for a loved one, too.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • My Favorite Laptop Bag Ever– Epiphanie Bags: Though I am not a photographer (a real one with a big fancy amazing camera) I am a blogger and writer, so I needed a bag to lug the ole laptop around town and around the country when I’m traveling.

my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bags

Even the box made me want to dance. . .

my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bags

. . . and every woman knows that a bag inside a bag is what we really want.

my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bags

 Yay. My Clover bag in teal makes me want to sing.

And really, this bag did the trick.

It kept me organized in a big way–and feeling great about what I was carrying.

Though there are tons of different styles on the website, I chose the Clover Teal bag for several reasons:

  • I wanted a bag large enough for my 15″ MacBook Pro;
  • I wanted something that was stylish and feminine;
  • I needed something that would hold my wallet, camera (Canon Powershot SX230);
  • I wanted something that was not a backpack;
  • I wanted something casual enough for everyday but formal enough for meetings;
  • I wanted something that made me smile every time I saw it.

my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bags

Room for my 15″ laptop, folders. . .

my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bags

. . . iPad, notebook, water bottle, make-up bag, cords . . .

my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bags

. . . and of course, my phone.

And the Clover Teal bag did it for me.

It is my absolute favorite laptop bag ever.

I love that the compartments are adjustable in the inside, so I can make the bag fit my own personal needs. My camera’s not all that big. It’s my laptop that takes up the most space, so I adjust accordingly.  I usually create three spots for items alongside my laptop–my iPad, camera, wallet, make-up bag, and notebook.  And there’s still room for gum, candy, and business card holder. I love, love, love it.

It has managed to carry me through six different trips in the span of four months, each time I’m thrilled to bring it along, knowing that it will hold up through my rough handling and keep the items I need protected–safe along the way.


my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bags

Me, Whitney from Rookie Moms, and Christy of Quirky Fusion rockin’ our Clover bags

Huge and happy thanks to Maile Wilson for creating a bag that makes a mama feel good about lugging her laptop around town.

Now, to the really great stuff–a bag for YOU. . .


GIVEAWAY: Epiphanie laptop or camera bag (your choice, as long as it’s in stock!)  

Comments closed. Giveaway over: congrats to Tanya from PA for winning and thank you to EVERYONE who read and entered!

my absolute favorite laptop bag ever: epiphanie bagsDo you want your very own super awesome incredible gorgeous totally stylish Epiphanie laptop or camera bag?  Seriously? Who wouldn’t!?

All you have to do is check out the Epiphanie website, find your absolute favorite bag and leave a comment here telling me which bag YOU dream about.

For extra entries, get creative!!:

  • Tweet this: 
  • Win a @EpiphanieBags of YOUR choice on @teachmama #weteach #giveaway
  • Share this post on your Facebook page–very easy!
  • Share this postwith 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!)

Be sure to check out Epiphanie on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ !


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

This giveaway ends Friday, November 16, 2012 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘And the Winner is. . .’ and will be notified on or around 11/16/12.  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.  All opinions are my own, influenced only by desperate need to be organized, my love of all things beautiful and stylish, and my adoration of my laptop, who is so very happy resting inside this Clover epiphanie bag.  I am grateful to have received my own Clover Teal bag along with one bag to give to one of my readers.

Some affiliate links are included, and as always I would be eternally grateful if you chose to use them because as we all know, every little bit counts. 

how to prepare your family for a weather emergency (especially in the dc metro area)

prepare family for weather emergency

Something’s coming our way.prepare your family for weather emergency

Something big. Something named Sandy who is bringing with her high winds, ‘astronomical’ tides, and rain like we’ve not seen in decades.

I’m trying hard–hard!–not to get swept up in the hype.  I’m trying hard to maintain my calm, find my zen, and be that calm, cool, and collected mom I strive to be. But I am having a really hard time.

I’m nervous.

I’m way nervous.

My husband and I failed miserably a few snowstorms ago with our immature lack of preparedness.  We really did.

But we’re older now, and a wee bit wiser.

And though my husband is playing Joe-Cool now, I, too, am slowly finding my calm–only as we seriously prepare our family for this impending weather emergency. This collision of fifteen storms, the ideal situation–the Perfect Storm–which will be arriving shortly over my very own home and making her way up the coast to my extended family, my sisters, parents, Nana, and friends.


Here’s the skinny. . .

  •  How to Prepare Your Family for a Weather Emergency (especially in the DC Metro area): I say, ‘especially in the DC Metro area because we have a tendency to totally freak out over here.

I mean, like totally freak out.

Like here’s the water aisle in my grocery store at 6:30pm on the Friday before the Sunday middle-of-the-night storm kind of freak out:

prepare family for weather emergency

So it’s easy to fall into the hype.  Plus, we almost always lose power–for anywhere between hours to days. And way back when–before we had kids–and we had fewer cares in the world–no power was fun. It was cool. It was . . . romantic, even.

But now? It’s so not fun, it’s not even a little bit funny.

So here are 10 things we’ve done–and we usually do now–to prepare for any type of weather emergency, be it hurricane, blizzard, tornado, Perfect Storm, whatever:

prepare family for weather emergency

1.  Store water.  We buy water–about 2-3 cases, and we fill our water bottles, our pitchers, small sports coolers. And sometimes–if the tub’s clean, we’ll fill it, too.

2.  Find ice & gather coolers.  I’ll bag up the ice from our ice-maker, filling a few gallon ziploc bags.  And (thanks to my smart sister, Mary) today is the first day I’ve filled quart bags of water, flattened them out, and froze them. That way, they’ll fit nicely into a cooler if need be.  Because we don’t have a generator, if we lose power, we’ll have coolers close to save what food we have in the fridge–our house fridge and our garage one.

3.  Gather towels and rags.  In a big basket on our lower-level floor, we keep these guys close because, well, you never know.  And buckets. We grab buckets, too.

prepare family for weather emergency


4. Charge devices. This should be numero uno, I know, but sure–everything’s charged. Our battery packs.  Our rechargable radio (we quite frankly love and want to marry the one my parents got us last year–an Eton Self-Powered Digital Flashlight Radio that is an all-in-one-dream. Solar powered, flashlight and cell phone charger).  We fill our gas tanks because we can always charge our phones in cars if need be. We make sure our extra gas can is filled.  My pal Leticia covers just about everything you need to ‘digitally’ prepare for a weather emergency–it’s totally worth reading.

5. Cook food. Any meats in the freezer, I cook. Eggs in the fridge, I boil.  We bake cupcakes and cookies–if we have time–because why not?  Might as well have sweets if we have no power.  And we gather matches because our gas stove can still be used if we can light it.  I grab plastic forks and knives, napkins, paper plates, and garbage bags.  I make coffee and keep a container of it in the fridge.


prepare family for weather emergency

Baking helps–in any situation–

prepare family for weather emergency

and having protein to grab if need be makes me feel more prepared.

6. Prepare house. We try to do the wash (who knows when we’ll be able to do it again?).  We try to pick up toys & tidy things (who wants to be stuck in a dirty house?).  We gather games, playing cards, craft supplies (who knows when we’ll see other people again?).  We gather blankets, socks, sweatshirts, pillows, flipflops or boots–whatever we may need.  We turn up the refrigerator to the highest setting to keep it cooler.

7. Prepare yard. Obvious, I know.  But pulling in the yard furniture, placing it all either in the garage or under a tarp and against our house helps. We keep the area under our windows free and try to keep things low and flat.  We cover our wood pile and clean gutters–my husband’s most favorite job in the world. He’ll go up on the roof and get all of the junk out of the gutters so that the rain will flow freely. Out of our gutters and down the drains properly.

prepare family for weather emergency sky 2b8.Prepare kids.  We try to keep it cool.  We talk frankly and honestly about the situation, telling them the information they need to know and we do not–I repeat, do not–leave the news on the television.  Not in this situation or ever.  We think our kids are way too young for it, and though we read the newspaper with them every day, we really pick and choose what we cover.  The hype of the storm on tv will do nothing but freak them out.

9.Prepare self.  Mostly prepare me–I should say.  If a storm’s a comin’, vain me will shower and do my hair because I know it will make me totally cranky to go without for several days.  I’ll get myself into the ‘game’–I’ll finish up on my work so that I’m a little bit ahead instead of feeling behind and totally stressed out (even though I can’t control it).  I’ll let all of our ‘game time‘ tickets fall to the wayside so the kids can fill up on electronics while I catch up.

 10. Pray. Really. For sanity. For safety. For strength in any situation that may arise. For clarity and for thanks for all we have.

11. Relax. And try to have a little fun with it.

And that’s it. I’m sure I forgot a ton, but I’ve got some brownies in the oven and a load of wash to fold. And then the fun begins. . .

Need more?

Do you have a family tradition that helps you get through events like this, weather emergencies or something similar? Please do share them with me! I’m always up for learning more.  Wishing everyone a safe trek through this weather emergency. . .


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. 

Some affiliate links are included in this post. If you’re cool with it, please consider using them  so your friend over here at will score an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie cut of your purchase.

t-mobile for families: (and phone giveaway)

tmobile for families

tmobile for familiesMy kids are not yet ready for cell phones, though they ask almost every day if they can please please please  pretty please have one.

And as often as I explain to them that no, no, no they cannot have their own cell phone (. . . or television or computer or tablet or iPad in their bedroom), I often hand them my phone to play games or find the nearest geocache or to chat with their grandparents or aunts or uncles or cousins.

The fact is that my kids don’t need a phone at their tender ages–8, 7, and 5.

(And the fact is that cell phones aren’t really just cell phones anymore, right? They’re mobile devices. So that our little worlds can mobilize and everyone on our lives can reach us at any time, any where.)

But, I–their mama–need a good mobile device.   The fact is that a lot of the work I do is online, so I really want—and need— a device that is reliable and fast and gets me to where I need to go quickly–and consistently.

And I need a phone that helps me stay organized, connected, and on top of what our family needs.

I am pretty sure I found everything I want in both a mobile device–and a carrier–and I’m thrilled to share it today because part of what I love doing here is sharing what works for us in the hopes that it helps another little familia.

Not only do I have a fab T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G to give away to one awesome and incredible (and lucky) teach mama reader, but I also want to share why I really like what this company has goin’ on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • T-Mobile for Families (and Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G Giveaway!): I had a chance to chat with some folks from T-Mobile this past spring and summer, and quite frankly, I’m surprised at the options T-Mobile has for families.

Having never really looked into their family resources–having not really needed them–I was floored.

tmobile for families

The Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G is a perfect fit for my hand. I totally heart this phone.

My husband and I are longtime T-Mobile customers (over 12 years now!), so knowing that we’ve invested our time and money into a company who has lined up a ton of resources for families makes me. . . well, just pretty darn happy.  Because it means we can get nice and comfy here where we are and not have to worry about finding new mobile carriers when we decide to get phones for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

Some of the ways T-Mobile helps families stay organized include a bundle of really awesome apps and services, like:

  • MobileLife Family Organizer — T-Mobile has partnered with Cozi (a company I totally heart) to create resources and apps that help families stay organized.  With this free organizer, you can not only create calendars, to-do lists, shopping lists that sync with your Microsoft Outlook calendar, but you can also create a family journal, photo collages, and more.  It’s crazy. So easy, and everything you do on your desktop can sync with your mobile device.

And the super-insanely cool thing is that the app is available for download in four marketplaces: Google Play, Amazon Appstore for Android, Blackberry App World™ and the Apple App Store, anyone in the fam can use it, regardless of the type of device they are using.

  • Family Allowances — Keeps costs under control by setting upfront limits on minutes, messages, and downloads.
  • Price and Plans — I think they’re more than reasonable, especially for the reliability and quality of service.  And though at this point my husband and I are on the Family Plan–plain and simple–we’ve found it makes for easy upgrades and a plan that works for us.

t-mobile for families

My happy little organized phone makes me so very happy.

And some ways T-Mobile helps families stay safe (which I think is muy importante once kids get their own cell phones. . . ):

  • Lookout Security — T-Mobile has also partnered with Lookout Inc. to hook up their phones with some serious security.  Lookout has antivirus, malware protection as well as services that help you find your phone when it’s lost, even when the phone’s ringer is off.
  • FamilyWhere — A service that lets parents know where kids are by the location of their children’s phones.  Family members ‘check-in’ when they arrive at different locations, and parents can set up notifications and alerts for when children are supposed to arrive, be picked up, you name it.
  • WebGuard — Allows parents to monitor their kids’ time on the web. Parents can activate this to restrict adult content on the web, with settings for Child, Teen, and Young Adult, which I think is super-awesome and smart.
  • Message Blocking — Parents can activate this feature to prevent children from downloading unwanted messages and content.
  • T-Mobile Mobile Backup — A feature that does just that: backs up the photos, videos, and information on the device because. . . goodness knows sometimes we need it.

It’s just a stepping stone, but I’m happy to share–and though every family is not the same, it’s what works for us now and what I believe will work for us down the road!

Some photos from some recent T-Mobile events




GIVEAWAY: T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Blaze 4G

Do you want your very own super awesome incredible T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Blaze 4G?  Seriously? Who wouldn’t!?

All you have to do is leave a comment here telling me what YOU look for in a cell phone.

For extra entries, get creative!!:

  • Tweet this: 
  • Win a @TMobile Samsung Galaxy Blaze 4G on @teachmama #weteach #giveaway
  • Share this post on 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 poston 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, October 19, 2012 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘And the Winner is. . .’ and will be notified on or around 10/19/12.  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.  All opinions are my own, influenced only by my three little cell-phone coveters, my husband, and I, as longtime T-Mobile customers.  I am grateful to have received my own cell phone along with one to give to one of my readers.

keeping kids’ teeth clean during a candy-filled month

oral care challenge

oral care challengeI am admittedly not a flosser.

I rarely floss my own teeth, and I rarely floss my kids’ teeth.

There. I said it.

And though I am past the point of lying about it to our dentists, I still do feel really guilty about it.

It’s just that there are so many things to do and remember as a parent, that I just. Can’t. Do. It. All.

None of us can.

So when I was invited to take my little familia on a 3-week Oral Care Challenge, I thought that maybe it would assuage my feelings of guilt for being a loser mom on the oral care front. And being that it’s a candy-filled month I thought I absolutely had to jump on board—especially with all the candy we put away over here.

The very cool thing is that I agreed to do this only because every other family who reads can also jump on board from their very own homes. All it takes is a few oral care items found at almost any grocery store and a concerted effort on the whole family’s part to make this work.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3-Week Oral Care Challenge: We’re rockin’ the Listerine Smart Rinse Sweet Smart Challenge, and so far, we’re only on day four.

But so far, Maddy, Owen, and Cora are totally digging it.

The Oral Care Challenge is not that involved. All we’re required to do is brush, floss and rinse every day, twice a day for three weeks.

Floss (gah!) twice a day for three weeks? Could we do it? I wasn’t sure, but I accepted the challenge.

I added ‘Floss & Rinse’ to Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s Morning and Evening Schedule, and I set us up for the challenge. Each child was able to pick a brand new toothbrush and his or her very own bottle of Smart Rinse. Woot! We never used this before—so it was totally exciting for us all.

I pulled out our flossing friends—the little helper guys that our dentist gives us that usually just sat abandoned in the medicine cabinet. I set them up, and we were rockin’ and rollin’.


oral care challenge

As part of the Challenge, we had access to a chat with Fern Ingber, Founding President and CEO of America’s ToothFairy and picked up a few important—and scary facts on oral care and children:

  • Oral disease has become the #1 chronic childhood disease.
  • 44% of American kids will suffer from pediatric dental disease before they reach Kindergarten.
  • 43% of all Americans lack dental insurance.

America’s ToothFairy is a nonprofit focusing on the elimination of preventable childhood dental disease, and with the help of Johnson & Johnson, helped over 50,000 kids receive oral health services.

Teachmama Morning Evening Questions 2.0 — updated!
Pediatric dentist Dr. Keneta Lott also shared some new-for-me information on oral care:

  • Parent should brush their kids’ teeth until the age of 8 years old.
  • Brushing should last 2 minutes and rinsing should last 60 seconds.
  • Even brushing without toothpaste is something—and kids need to do it every day, twice a day. Dr. Lott’s kids brushed with water but flossed and rinsed with fluoridated mouthwash and never had cavities.
  • If teeth are touching, then kids need to floss.
  • Gummy bears, raisins, taffy, and potato chips stick to teeth and are the worst for good oral care.
  • Dark chocolate candies contain tannins which help protect teeth so they’re better for you.
  • Sugar-free gum is okay to chew and actually may help keep teeth cleaner if chewed after meals.

I learned a whole lot that I never knew before, and though I’m totally out of my comfort zone here with the rinsing and flossing, I’m ready to try it.

Consider joining our family in the Oral Care challenge along with us–and we’ll all move into a candy-filled month together!

Fyi: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Listerine Smart Rinse and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own, influenced only by my three little non-flossers and my non-flossing self. 

2 tricks to an organized school year

3 hands on math games pinterest cover

tricks to an organized school year cover

How do you stay organized during the school year?

What do you do to not get lost in the sea of papers your kids bring home from school each day?

Where do important papers go?

What ‘tricks’ have kept your family organized during this busy back-to-school time?

The very funny thing about this ‘2 Tricks to an Organized School Year’ is that I started the video for it right after I sent How Every Family Can Start the School Year Off Right live.

And I was all proud of the video piece, and I was all smilin’ from the great feedback and emails I received from readers about the blog post, and I was all feelin’ good about how organized our life was.  Everything was well and good.

Then I walked up to school and picked up Maddy, Owen, Cora, and two of their friends.

They played at the park for a while, ate some snacks, played some more, and we then came on home.  I did not–and I repeat–did not follow my own advice that I share in today’s video because, well, it was Friday.

And it was a double playdate.

And it was a long weekend.

And we were planning on heading out for one last hurrah at the pool.

And, well, it was Friday.

And what we realized–on Sunday!–was that we didn’t have Owen’s backpack with us.

Backpack. Gone. Missing. Nada. Zip. Zero on the O-Man’s backpack.

We were so totally organized, and we were so totally starting the school year off right that we lost our kid’s backpack the first week of school.

Somehow, I managed to bring home five lunchboxes, a few extra bags, a few water bottles, five kids, and four backpacks.  Four.

The good news was that on Monday, we packed Owen’s soccer backback, we all walked up to school, and we all hit the good ole Lost and Found.  And lo an behold, sitting right there, in the center of the stage in the All Purpose Room (because it was, after all, day six of school so the Lost and Found box wasn’t even out yet), was Owen’s backpack.

Sitting there, all lonely through the long weekend, waiting for us to find it.

Owen and his backpack were reunited. Woot!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 2 Tricks to an Organized School Year: Take ’em or leave ’em, but know that even as hard as I try, I’m totally far from perfect.  I’m just doing what I can to get by with a smile on my face, keeping the family smiling and sneaking in a little learning–for all of us–along the way.


Hopefully you can find the humor in the lost backpack experience, considering the fact that in this video I’m all about staying organized, and I mention more than once that organization is an every day, every hour, all-the-time job.

Maybe I should stay more on top of things, huh?

What are YOUR tricks for staying organized through the school year? Is there something you’ve done that’s really worked? Do tell!

how every family can start the school year off right

successful school year know teachers

how to start the school year off right

Several years ago, I wrote about how to make the school year a smashing success, or. . . actually how to make the school year as successful as humanly possible.

It included 10 easy steps that any family could follow in order to start the school year off on the right foot. 

I just looked back at it, and I decided it’s totally worth sharing again, because, well, with a little prep and a little thought, every family can start the school year off on a positive note.

Every one of us wants the school year to be successful for our children–and us–so here’s a few simple ‘tricks of the trade’ coming from not only a parent of three elementary schoolers but also an educator who has been ‘on the other side’.

And sure, my husband–also an educator and school administrator–added his two cents’ so we’ve really got it covered here.  Now we just have to make sure we’re doing these 10 simple things–

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How Every Family Can Start the School Year Off Right: Here they are–successful new-school-year survival tips, in no particular order, so that we all start the school year off in the best way (humanly) possible:


1. Make early and frequent contact with your child’s teacher. Don’t be afraid to send an email if you have a question or concern, or just send a note to say ‘hi’ and introduce yourself. Ask how you can support classroom learning at home, and ask how you can help the teacher–by classroom volunteering or doing what you can at home.

Have your child write a Hello Teacher Note before school starts or even during the first week or month of school so that she feels a special connection with her teacher. It helps!

successful school year know friends


2. Know your child’s friends. Plan a weekend play date, even if it’s only for an hour or two, and don’t let the kids hide away downstairs or up in your kiddo’s room. Make a snack together, play a game together, or pull out a craft to do together.

Get to know these little friends now, and listen to how everyone interacts. If necessary, jump in if you don’t like what you’re hearing and talk about how kind friends speak to each other, how to share. or how to take turns. Ignoring behavior we’re not comfortable with is just like saying it’s okay.


successful school year know friends


3. Eat at least two dinners together each week. It’s hard. Verrrry hard, I know, with soccer practices, lessons, and late work days. But sitting down to dinner as a family has been proven to lead to healthier kids, happier families, and stronger family relationships.

It’s a great time to talk about the day, make sure your kids are chewing with their mouths closed (really!), and to actually sit down and look at your cute kids before they run off and turn into 20-year-olds tomorrow night. And the meal? Doesn’t have to be fancy. Just has to be something on the table that you eat together.

successful school year home for everything


4. Make a home for everything. When your kiddo walks in the door, shoes make a beeline for the shoe shelf, lunchbox gets emptied then heads to his landing pad on the counter, backpack drops in the box. No questions asked.

Then when you get a second, unload the take-home folder and recycle (yes–recycle immediately!) the papers you know you won’t need, hang up one ‘super-star’ assignment on the fridge, file the important papers in your file folder, and put the night’s homework on the table where your child does homework. Done. Check. Move onto the next thing.

successful school year homework


5. Create a structured time and place for homework. For some, it works to get homework completed immediately after walking in the door and finishing snack; for others, homework’s best saved for after dinner. It doesn’t matter when you choose–just make a choice and stick with it. Everyone fares better with routine, so start one for homework asap.


successful school year school

6. Become a familiar face at school. If you walk to school, introduce yourself to the administrators (and don’t be afraid!) while they’re out on bus duty and say hello each time you see him or her. Say hello to the secretaries and be extra nice to them because their job is not easy, either. Don’t expect these busy people to remember your name right away, but use their names when addressing them if you can.

If you are able, join the PTA or PTO, but don’t sweat it if you can’t–you can still help in other ways. Consider asking the PTO President or School Director how you can help–from home. I’m sure she’ll come up with something.


successful school year ask and listen

7. Ask your child questions and listen to the answers.

Yes:Hi, Honey, so happy to see you! What did you do in P.E. today? OR What book did you read in Reading Group? OR What was your favorite part of your lunch? OR Did you like about the assembly today?

No:Hi, Honey! Did you have a good day?

Shoot for specific, open-ended questions and go with whatever he wants to talk about. Close-ended questions (that result in a yes or no answer) stop conversation before it begins. And rapid-fire questions about what you want to know but what he’s not ready to share are enough to make a kid want to turn around and run back to the bus for safety.

So make sure you breathe–and let your child breathe, too. And what isn’t covered on the walk home can be covered during dinner or at bedtime.


successful school year extra curricular

8. Get your kids involved in at least one extra-curricular activity. Even if it’s one little thing that gives them a chance to interact with other kids and burn some steam, it counts.

Whether it’s a community sport, a craft club, a scouting group, or a youth group, it doesn’t matter. Kiddos need some little something to call their own when they’re young. And even if an extra-curricular is not in the budget, make it a goal to attend a free event at the library, church, or in the community several times a month.


successful school year meet parents

9. Meet parents. Respond to the Room Parent’s plea for help, and remember her name when you see her at Back-to-School night or at the class party.

Get to know the moms, dads, grandparents, and sitters who walk their kids to school or the bus stop. Ask parents–especially the seasoned ones–questions, and learn a little from them if you can. Learn which kids belong to which parents. Exchange contact information so that you can text someone to give you a hand if you’re running late one afternoon, or meet up at the playground after school.

successful school year thankful

10. Be thankful. Be supportive. Be grateful. Teachers’ jobs are seriously more difficult than most people can imagine. The amount of work that they do–during the week and on the weekends–to prepare lessons, ready their classroom, research best practices, work with specialists, grade schoolwork, respond to parents, attend meetings, and (for many) continue their own education–is insane.

So we need to be thankful for their hard work–today and every day–not just Teacher Appreciation Week or at the end of the year. Sign your emails with a sincere, ‘thank you for all you do‘ and mean it. Ask what you can do to support them, and follow through.

Say ‘thanks’ to the administration, the para-educators, the specialists, the custodians, and the lunchroom workers because they’re all working towards creating a safe environment for your child to meet with success and have the best year possible. So why wouldn’t you want to be thankful for, supportive of, and grateful for this school community?

And there you have it-just 10 quickie ways that you can start the school year off on the right foot. 



Want all of these reminders in a happy little printable?

how to start the school year right |

how every family can start the school year right _



We can do this–I know it!

Want a little more back-to-school fun? A few more rockstar resources?


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amy @teachmama