Sandals Foundation Gives Back After Hurricane Irma

Beaches Turks and Caicos

Following the devastation of category 5 hurricane Irma, Sandals Foundation has jumped into action, helping to organize relief and give back. On September 7th, Irma barreled through Turks & Caicos, tearing down trees, flooding the streets and airport, and leaving the islands residents destitute. Working together, Beaches Resorts and Sandals Foundation have started to distribute food through a partnership with The Salvation Army.

“My team and I did an assessment of the island, it looks pretty depressing… our goal is to bring some sort of relief in any measurement.” says, Public Relations Director of the Sandals Foundation, Eleanor Kryzanowski.

Both the Beaches and Sandals Foundation Facebook pages have started publishing coil media posts, calling for the public to get involved and donate to the relief efforts. Beaches is largest private employer on the island, with a staff of over 1800 people. The goal of Sandals Foundation is to touch as many lives as possible and bring relief to the islands in the best way they can.

I’ve travelled to Beaches Turks & Caicos twice and my heart breaks for the people of the island. They’re such kind people and tourism is a major driver of their economy. We were supposed to take our third trip to the resort later in October, but the trip has been postponed due to the damage of the hurricane. I’m looking forward to hearing what the new dates will be, but for sure, my motivations for going are different now. I’m looking forward to hearing what we can bring in our suitcases to help with the relief efforts. We were already planning on bringing school supplies, but now I’m sure we could bring things like baby wipes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene items, and more.

If you’d like to donate to the hurricane relief efforts through Sandals Foundation, visit their website: https://sandalsfoundation.org

Have a Mermaid Party This Summer!

Mermaids are alive in well, right here in the desert!

Recently, we were given the opportunity to experience an AquaMermaid class and let me tell you… it was amazing! And it’s not just for little girls. Women are flocking to host a mermaid party as part of their girls night out events, bachelorette parties, and for general fitness too! I registered my two girls, ages 11 + 12, but after the class was over, I slipped on a mermaid tail too. :)

Mermaid Party

AquaMermaid began as an alternative to boring fitness classes. Inspired by her love for swimming, Marielle Chartier Henault, founded AquaMermaids. She now has 10 locations offering classes in Canada and the US (including Chicago and Phoenix). We took our class at The Phoenician Resort. These classes are also offered at Sandals Resort in Jamaica. Wouldn’t it be fun if they could bring the children’s program to Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos!? Stay tuned… our family will be traveling there again this fall as part of the #beachesmoms Social Media on the Sand conference. 

Mermaid Party

Want a mermaid body? Swimming like a mermaid is a total-body workout! It tones your booty, quads and abs. It’s also a great cardio exercise. Since swimming is a low-impact sport, it can be even enjoyed by people with joint pain. 

We learned from our mermaid instructors, that AquaMermaids does home parties too! All you need is a pool and a few of your closest friends! They offer equipment or you can buy your very own mermaid tail from them. Our instructors were so good with the kids. I really enjoyed watching them interact and gain confidence as mermaid swimmers! They didn’t even realize they were exercising!

Mermaid Party

If you’d like to plan your own mermaid party or find out more about AquaMermaid, check out the booking options on their website.

 

*Disclosure- I was not compensated for this post.

 

 

 

Pet Adoption and Volunteering

Pet adoption

Meet Tess! She’s the newest addition to our family. We came to know Tess through pet adoption, here in the Phoenix area. Our family has always adopted our pets, rather than shopped for them. There are so many pets that need loving homes, it’s hard not to get involved! You may not be ready to take on the responsibility of owning a pet, but there are other ways you can still help pets in need. Here are 4 ways you can get involved:

Donate or Foster

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control offers several options for helping out. They take donations, both financial and of supplies. They also have an amazing fostering program, if you can’t have a pet full time.

Participate in Youth Camp

Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA offers a youth camp, called “Ruffin It”. The camp allows kids to bond with animals and be a part of a great cause during their camp experience.

Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve 

Part of every “Give Love” charm from Chamilia, a Swarovski company, goes to Humane Society International. Many brands have a give back program for purchases. PetSmart gives a bag of food for every bag of food your purchase. Look for these types of programs and feel good about doing your part!

Pet Adoption 

Pet adoption isn’t for everyone, but if you’re thinking about getting a new pet, please consider adopting! We adopted Tess through one of the many smaller, local rescue groups in Phoenix. They often work through special adoption days at PetSmart. That’s where we found Tess, at an adoption day at the Tempe Marketplace PetSmart!

However you decide to get involved, the important part is to actually get involved! With so many pets in need in the Phoenix area and across the country, there are endless opportunities to help out. If you need advice on how to best help out, I’d be happy to point you in the right direction! xo

 

*Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post.

Traveling With Teens and Tweens

blended family vacation

Traveling with teens and Tweens can be the most amazing experience ever or the most dreaded. It depends on how you approach it. My best advice? Approach it together. This is a family vacation after all. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your family vacation with teens and tweens.

Choose the destination together.

When choosing your vacation destination, get the input from all family members. This will help to make everyone feel included in the process. As the parent, you know the budget, so give some options for your family to discuss. Narrow it down by listing out the pros and cons of each location. Soon enough, you’ll have come to a consensus on where the family should jet off to! If there’s contention? Consider solving it diplomatically or do what we do- draw from a hat!

Shop for necessities together.

Letting your teens and tweens pick out their travel shampoo and hairspray can make a huge difference in their outlook on the family vacation. When they’re feeling good and looking good while away from home, it’s amazing how attitudes can reflect that feeling! Bring along their favorite snacks, snag a new pair of earbuds, and load up tablets with entertainment. Knowing that you’ve gone the extra mile to make their trip comfortable will make their trip that much better. You might even hear- “Thanks, Mom (or Dad)!”

Plan Activities Just for Them.

Every waking moment of a family vacation doesn’t have to be spent together. If you choose a family resort, like Beaches, there are tons of activities that your teen or tween can do on their own. They may have grown out of Sesame Street, but how about snorkeling? There’s even a teen “night club”, where kids can mingle, dance, and let their hair down for a moment without the whole fam around.

HGTV Presents Santa HQ!

hgtv-santa-hq-2016-scottsdale-fashion-square

It isn’t too late to get that iconic photo of your kids and Santa! HGTV has once again outdone themselves with the Santa HQ display at locations across the country. My family was invited to walk through Santa HQ at Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale, AZ. Even though the kids are starting to feel like they’re a bit too old for this Santa business… they loved being scanned by the electronic “Naughty/Nice” meter upon their arrival. We also were able to create an adorable holiday family video where we “elfed” ourselves. The video was emailed right to me. How adorable is that? And finally- they were able to explore the secret wonders in Santa HQ by using a tablet as a viewer and discovering hidden elves, gifts, and starlight displays!

Our family took a few photos without Santa as we exited Santa HQ and then as we rounded the corner, the big guy was waiting with open arms for the children! And while Allison didn’t want to sit on his lap, it’s an adorable memory, just the same. HGTV paid close attention to every detail, making Santa HQ feel warm, homey, and full of magical mystery. Find a location near you and make photo reservations today, before Santa packs up and heads back to the North Pole!

*Note: We were invited as a guest of Scottsdale Fashion Square to tour the event. I was not compensated for this post.

2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Special Needs Kids

Byrds Fore A CureOn the podcast this week, I shared my frustration about how our kids with SMA intellectually outgrow babyish toys, but don’t gain the strength a typical child has in order to operate more age appropriate toys. This is never more a challenge than at the holidays, when friends and family–while thoughtful and generous–buy our kids toys they can’t play with very easily, because they don’t realize how complicated it can be to find just the right fit for our kids! I shared some gift ideas for kids with SMA as they grow up (or for almost any kiddo with a fine motor impairment), based on my experience with my nine-year-old twins.

I’ve collected this holiday gift guide for special needs kids onto my Maven board, to make viewing and shopping them super easy! Give the podcast a listen for the reasons why these items made my list!

Click through to my board to browse the list and even shop, or read here (in order of suggested age):
1. Xylophone
2. Disney Princess MagiClip dolls
3. Kinetic Sand
4. LeapFrog LeapPad
5. Hexbug Nano
6. Orbeez Hand Spa Kit
7. Pokémon trading cards
8. Nintendo 3DS (with two new Pokémon games)
9. Nintendo Wii U
10. Xbox One

If you have other ideas, I’ll include them in our next podcast! Comment here, or email me at cassandra@byrdsforeacure.org!