A Shape Mag-nificent Summer!

Listen closely–do you hear that? It’s the sound of a quiet house! You know what that means? The kids are back in school! Obviously, I love my kids and appreciate their cherubic charm at all times, but I also appreciate a peaceful cup of coffee with Kathy & Hoda and it’s been three months since I’ve enjoyed either of those two things.

My oldest is in 7th grade–which suddenly makes me feel old–and the twins are now in 4th grade. The school year is off to a great and healthy start for all of us, thank goodness!

back-to-school-parents-celebrate-moms-jump

 

Shape Mags 1Over the summer, the kids received a care package from the kind folks at Shape Mags, and it has been the only thing to draw them away from their screens for the last month. As you may recall, one effect of the twins’ SMA is weakness of their voluntary muscles, including their hands. Traditional Legos and other snap-on types of building blocks require more dexterity and strength than they’ve ever had, so when I heard that this product uses magnets I was intrigued. You can see from Lauren’s video that she can easily pull them apart and put them back together as she builds things. The kids’ occupational therapist thinks they’re a great activity to keep their hands (and minds) busy, and I agree. We only have two sets so far, but there’s a wide selection of over a dozen different sets here, ranging from $10-$99. I think it’s a fun alternative to Legos for children who can’t “do” Legos–or even for those who can, because what kid doesn’t like to play with magnets? The kids can even combine their Little People pieces, Hot Wheels, or small stuffed animals with Shape Mags to create even more imaginative play! Plus, I don’t see Shape Mags as a choking hazard for small children like I see with Legos. The Starter Set even comes with idea books (also sold on Amazon for $10 each)!
Shape MagsLauren also reminded me that “Shape Mags are good for age three to eighty-three!”, as the box says, so we brought them to my dad to see if he would use them. My father has advanced Parkinson’s and is in a rehab center right now, so I also got to show off the Shape Mags to his therapists. They hadn’t heard of Shape Mags, but they all agreed that the gentle magnetic feature make it an unusual and fun way to keep his hand strength and dexterity. His speech therapist also pointed out that with some “rules”, it could be a cognitive exercise, also–use only the red shapes, or see how many types of round shapes he can make, for example.

 

 

 

Lauren, in particular, is also a big fan of toy reviews by kids on YouTube, so I let her record one–hopefully, this will jump start her career as a young YouTuber, and will jump start that college fund!

Shape Mags have been a fun addition to our toybox, and now they may temporarily relocate to my parents’ house when my dad comes home! Santa may have some ideas already…

Shape Mag

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shape Mags provided the toy starter sets, but we were not otherwise compensated for this posts. Opinions here are my own.

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why she has hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforeacure.org.

How to Get a US Passport for Your Child

family vacation

We recently had the opportunity to take our family to the all-inclusive resort, Beaches, in Turks & Caicos. Neither of my girls had passports, so I set out on a quest to figure out how to get them. It’s a pretty straightforward process, but I’m divorced from their father, so that added another layer of complexity. In this post, I’ll guide you through the passport process. Happy Travels!

Before You Get Started:

Every child, regardless of age, needs a passport to travel out of the USPassports for children under 16, are valid for 5 years. If your child has never had a passport before, you must apply in person. The child must be present and BOTH parents/guardians must be present. If one parent is unable to be present, there is a consent form.  My ex-husband was present and I had a consent form, just in case, because we were going overseas and it made me more comfortable. The consent form must be notarized.

What You’ll Need to Apply For Your Child’s Passport:

  1. Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
  2. Evidence of Parental Relationship
  3. Photo Identification
  4. Parental Consent
  5. Passport Photo
  6. Application Forms
  7. Passport Fees

US Passport Application Forms:

Complete by Hand

Complete Online and Print

What Type of Passport Does My Child Need?

You can obtain a passport card or a passport book for you child. The passport card is not valid for International air travel. So, if you’re planning on traveling by air for your vacation, you will need to have a passport book for your child. The passport book is the only passport valid for International air travel. 

Fees:

Here’s a list of passport fees and how to properly pay for them.

 

Traveling with your children is one of the most amazing gifts you can give them. We took our first trip as a blended family in October of 2015. You can read all about here + some tips for traveling as a blended family. I’ve also shared some tips on how to pack for a beach vacation for adults and children.

Happy Travels!

xo

Kelly

*Note- This was not a sponsored post. I wrote this post in order to be a help to traveling families.

 

Springtime Updates for Your Child’s Living Space!

We recently had the pleasure of talking Spring DIY with the good folks at Trulia, your home for real estate! As we noted last week Spring Break is almost upon us–what about using some of this time to collaborate with your children to refresh their bedrooms (and maybe even, coughcough, some spring cleaning)? We are pleased to feature a guest post by Hannah Goodman of  Trulia with some tips and the latest trends in kid-friendly design!

 

Spring is a time for new beginnings. As the days get longer and the heat of the Arizona desert begins to rise again, many homeowners in the Phoenix metropolitan area are struck by the inspiration to take on home improvement projects that they have been putting off. For some, spring projects may be as simple as cleaning and redecorating for the summer months, while others will choose to take on a larger remodel or upgrade project. If you are a parent and thinking about taking on a larger scale project, spring is the perfect time to upgrade your child’s living space. With your kids still in school most of the day, you will have time and space to execute your remodel before the summer months begin. The following are some trends and factors to consider when remodeling your child’s living space.

Springtime Updates For Your Child's Living Space!Choose a Design Aesthetic that will stand the Test of Time

Perhaps the most important thing to take into account when conceptualizing your child’s room is the adaptability of the design. Will the color scheme and theme you choose outlast the inevitable changes that adolescence bring? Choosing a neutral color palette for your remodel in Chandler can give you a great base to build upon throughout your child’s formative years. That hot pink or bright green color scheme may seem like a good idea in the moment, but it may end up costing you more time and money down the road. While this upgrade is typically a simple one, repainting can be a daunting and sometimes costly task. so try using wallpaper or wall decals as time and cost-effective method to satisfy the decorative wants and needs of your children. Another way to navigate your child’s change in style is to choose a theme for the whole room. Travel and adventure motifs, in particular, lend themselves to growth and change while also inspiring imagination and creativity.

Springtime Updates for Your Child’s Living Space!Purchase or Upgrade Built-In Furniture

This trend has been around for a few years and seems to be here to stay. Built-ins not only offer great space saving techniques for smaller spaces, they are also easy to modify as your child grows. For instance, built-in shelves that hold toys for young children can be repainted or redecorated and used later on to hold books, schoolwork and picture frames for teenagers. Currently, some of the most popular built-ins are beds with storage drawers. Not only do these furniture pieces help cut down on clutter, they add a classy touch to any design scheme. However, we know that your child will outgrow his or her childhood bed, and that the installation of built-ins can be more complex than a simple paint job. So, as an alternative to purchasing a costly new bed frame with built-in storage every few years, pick up an under-bed storage bag or box which can be reused with each new bedframe.

 

Springtime Updates for Your Child’s Living Space!Add a Loft or a Decorative Partition

Does your home in Fountain Hills have high ceilings? Consider adding a loft to your child’s room. Although this project is perhaps the largest undertaking, the benefits are immense. Lofts can serve many different purposes and hold everything from beds to desks to reading areas stuffed with pillows. For children sharing a room, lofts can also make each individual child feel as though they have their own space to escape to. Lofts also create more storage and living space in a smaller room. For a more temporary solution, try setting up a reading nook with pillows in a window seat or create some divisions in your child’s room with decorative partitions.

There are many different ways to update your home this spring. While it may be tempting to go for the typical kitchen or living room remodel, consider an improvement to your child’s space, as it can save you time cleaning and repainting for years to come. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out Trulia’s Life at Home blog for more tips and tricks!

Brace Yourselves–Spring Break is Coming!

Spring Break: It’s like summer break, but only lasts one week and we parents still want to pull our hair out three days into it.

Do you remember when we were kids, and Spring Break was a glorious week of no school, of sleeping in while Mom & Dad went to work and left us with the house to ourselves and our pesky siblings? The only house rules we had back then were 1) Do not open the door for anyone, including and especially the Ice Cream Man and people giving away puppies, and 2) Do not use the stove until Mom gets home.

Well, it’s 2016. I wish my kids would run outside to chase down the ice cream man. Or try to cook. Anything to get them to forget about the Xbox for a few minutes and overpay for a cold, creamy-yet-crunchy, and sugar-laden facsimile of a taco (Choco Tacos are the best!).

Brace Yourselves--Spring Break is Coming!
Type 2 Diabetes Not Included (but coming soon)

Other rules we have at our house here in 2016 include the children playing only educational games on their $500 electronic tablets (I could have bought three Nintendo 64 consoles in 1984 with that kind of money), which for the most part has simply resulted in the children arguing the educational virtues of Minecraft. You know what, just turn the volume off when playing that game and we’ll call it a deal.

Another rule is if the kids don’t get their chores done, we change the house wi-fi password and they won’t get the new password until their work is done. Kids entirely dependent on wi-fi? This is in stark contrast to 1981, when the only “fi” in the house was the hi-fi speaker on my pink record player.

Brace Yourselves--Spring Break is Coming!
The only password this needs is TOTALLY BITCHIN

 

Aside from growing weary of enforcing house rules, I have some other, more serious ideas on how to spend Spring Break with your kids. Many of these are specific to the Phoenix area, but you should be able to adapt my suggestions to Looneyville, Texas (that’s a real place) or Normal, Illinois (again, real), or wherever it is you may call home–You know your town better than I do!

Brace Yourselves--Spring Break is Coming!

My daughter and me outside the tattoo parlor

You could take your kids to:

Visit the public library
Make “art” at a pottery painting shop (i.e. As You Wish)
Spend the kids’ college funds at Dave & Busters
Enjoy the Phoenix Zoo, Wildlife World Zoo (Litchfield Park), or Sea Life Aquarium (Tempe)
Venture down one of Phoenix’s 40 hiking trails
Not catch butterflies at Butterfly Wonderland (Scottsdale)
Get concussions at a trampoline park
Get calloused with indoor rock climbing
Hold a dance off with tortoises at the Herpetological Society (Scottsdale) (the tortoises are terrible dancers, so you may win)
Get matching emoji tattoos

 

 

 

Spring Break only lasts a week. Your kids won’t even get bored of hanging around the house until at least two hours after they get home from school on the Friday that leads into Spring Break. Wouldn’t it be fun if this led to a lively dinnertime discussion about how you enjoyed Lake Havasu every Spring Break of your college career? Pro tip: Describe yourself as wearing twice as many clothes as you really did in the version of the story you tell your kids. They’ll figure it out when they get to college.

Brace Yourselves--Spring Break is Coming!

Same.

Hot Wheels, STEM, and Social Good

hot wheels speedometry

I got a call the other day, from someone that I admire greatly for their work in the digital space, particularly as it relates to social good campaigns. He asked if I would help spread the word about a new educational resource, developed by Hot Wheels, to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Imagine a lesson in which the tools for success were Hot Wheels cars and racetracks!?

According to their website, Hot Wheels® Speedometry  encourages inquiry and real-world, problem-based learning through play, hands-on activities and in-depth lesson plans (for home use too!) mapped to state and national standards. This education curriculum, co-created with researchers at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, combines Hot Wheels® fun, imagination, and action, as well as toys and track to accelerate learning.

Do Some Social Good!

This isn’t just for the classroom! Hot Wheels has developed an “at home” program full of family activities that encourage STEM education to encourage parents to get involved too. Here’sthe best part… by simply downloading this exciting (not to mention fun) PDF… Mattel will donate $5 to Champions For Kids! This amazing organization makes sure that kids have the supplies they need to thrive in school.

Download the Family Engagement Packet *free* from Hot Wheels and do something good for children in need! It’s a win/win! This free packet is full of fun educational activities you can do at home!

For more information on Hot Wheels Speedometry… they’ve created a short informational video:

*Note- I was willing to write this post for free, but was graciously compensated after the fact. It does not change my views on working with your child at home on crucial learning skills.

A Comprehensive Review of Hypoxi (Part 2)

If you caught Part 1 of this 2 part series… then you read about how in 2 sessions of Hypoxi, I was able to go from a size Large Vacunaut neoprene suit, to a size Medium. What does that mean? It means that I lost some inches! Pretty much immediately. By the time I finished my 3rd session- I was able to slip on the Medium suit with no struggle at all! It felt pretty incredible.

I’ve now finished 6 sessions with the Hypoxi team at Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix and the results are really amazing! After two weeks, I lost a total of 6 inches over my body. The most astounding loss was 2 inches around my tummy area and 1.5 inches around my hips! What does this loss mean in my life? It means I can button a pair of jeans that were too tight just two weeks before. That’s a really big deal! And because I promised… I’m going to share with you my 3D image- before and after.

Hypoxi

I can’t even believe it when I look at it…

Notice the *mom gut* on the left? It’s much less jiggly on the right. And the back rolls? They’re all but gone! Even my booty appears to have gotten a slight lift :)

How did I accomplish these results? I followed a simple set of rules for each session:

  • Eat a meal with complex carbohydrates 1-2 hours prior to your session. (I ate oatmeal)
  • No eating 2 hours after your session. (This was a little hard, but I busied myself with work and drank more water)
  • No eating carbs 4-6 hours after your session. (This was pretty easy. I’ve already been cutting back on carbs.)
  • No alcohol on Hypoxi session days. (I confess. I didn’t abide by this one particular day.)
  • No exercise on Hypoxi days. (Ok!)

By following this simple set of rules, drinking plenty of water, eating clean and healthy, and attending all 6 of my sessions, 3 times a week, for two weeks… I lost somewhere around 4-6 pounds, 6+ inches, and fit into a tight pair of jeans! Yay!

Q + A

Is it expensive?

It depends on your definition of expensive, I suppose. It’s a little pricey for me, but they do allow you to make payments along the way. These payments are what will allow me to finish another set of sessions before my upcoming wedding!

Is it worth it?

Heck Yeah!

Is it hard?

No! It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done to lose inches, smooth cellulite, and lose a few pounds too!

I really hope you give Hypoxi a try. They have a variety of locations. I’m real proof that it works and I wasn’t compensated for this post. I’m just a huge fan.

*Note- no money exchanged hands for this post. I did receive a trial period of Hypoxi to give you this review.