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!


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!

I Made a Gift Guide for Preschoolers, So You Don’t Have To!

As you may remember from this post, my sister and I both have an older singleton and then a set of twins. My twins are nine years old now (when did that happen??), but hers are just 2, and the sad fact is that’s a challenging age to shop for unless your kids are currently in that age bracket.


Melissa & Doug Pizza SetAs I brainstorm ideas for them, I’m also jogging my memory by sifting through photos of my twins at that age in an effort to see what kinds of gifts they opened back then: there was a lot of Elmo + Sesame Street, Caillou, tea sets + pretend food, and puzzle boards! I specificallyMelissa & Doug Wooden Latches Board remember the Melissa & Doug pizza set being a hit with both of my twins, and they, and their O.T., loved the latches board! They’re of such high quality, we still have them today (somewhere, in the dark corners of the play room I still need to sort through…).


Now that I’ve done the research for myself, I’ve curated some of the best gift ideas from the PBS Kids Shop and Melissa & Doug, which is a toy company with some of the most high quality products I’ve seen. You can’t go wrong with these brands, and the upcoming holiday season is the best time to shop for them–just in time for Black Friday!

Click through to view, or visit my newest Pinterest board!


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!



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







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


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

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. 


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!



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