7 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

This last week we went hiking as part of our Memorial Day activities.  We live close to the mountains and there are a lot of canyons and hiking trails to choose from, so we are always finding fun new places to explore.  My kids especially love hiking and it is one of mine and my husband’s favorite activities as well so we do a lot of it.  With this being the case, I’ve learned a few tips along the way that have helped make hiking a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

This post is sponsored by Nuby.  All opinions are 100% my own.  This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on one and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

It’s Not A Race
As we were walking along the trail with our kids this last week, they inevitably got side-tracked by different things: climbing on rocks, a flower, a stick.  My initial reaction was along the lines of: “C’mon, let’s go!” but then I realized that the point of the hike wasn’t about making it to our destination as much as it was about spending time together doing something we enjoy.  So if you go into your hike expecting that it will take longer, you can cut down on frustration at the so-called interruptions that are going to happen.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Bring Backpacks
This one has been a lifesaver for us when we go hiking.  I bought each of my kids a small backpack that we pack whenever we go on a hike.  Included in their packs is water and a couple of snacks to eat along the way.  They love having their own backpacks and I think it also helps them feel big and gives them a little bit more autonomy.  Even if your child says they will just carry their water or snacks in their hands or pockets, have them bring the pack because almost without fail they will want you to carry it for them or it will be put down and forgotten.  Here are a few good backpack options I found: HERE, HERE and HERE.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Create Teaching Moments
At one point in our hike, we stopped for a little snack break and the thought occurred to me to talk to my kids about littering.  I asked my daughter what we should do if we are out somewhere and there isn’t a garbage can for us to put the wrappers or plastic bottles in.  She replied that we should put it back in our backpacks and then throw it away later.  Then we talked about why that was important (keep trails clean, showing respect, etc).  It was a really simple lesson and one of those things that makes a bigger impact when we are actually out in nature rather than trying to explain it at some other time.  A few other teaching moments you could incorporate into your hike could be talking about plants and animals in the area, how rivers/streams are made, bring a nature journal and collecting leaves/flowers.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Research the Hike
Anytime we go on a hike, I make sure to find some basic information about it: Does it have bathrooms at the trailhead or along the way?  How long is the hike?  Difficulty level?  Directions or landmarks for finding the trail?  Best time of year for hiking?  Stroller or wagon friendly?  The list goes on and what you want to know will obviously depend on your own family.  I recently found a really helpful website called AllTrails.com, where you can search by state and it will come up with a list of hikes and a helpful description of what you’ll find.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Sunscreen, Wipes, Hand Sanitizer
Even if you put sunscreen on before you start the hike, odds are that you’ll need it again at some point before you get back to your car.  There are plenty of travel size containers of sunscreen that there really isn’t an excuse not to bring some.  Also, nature is dirty and kids seem to gravitate towards dirt so having something to wipe their hands off with is a good idea.  Just grab a travel size package of baby wipes and throw them in your bag.  And lastly, grab a small bottle of hand sanitizer to disinfect everyone’s hands with before eating or after playing in the water (if your hiking to a waterfall or by a stream).

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Flip-Flops/Water Shoes/Extra Socks
I don’t know about you, but after a long hike, all I want to do is take my shoes and socks off and let my feet breathe.  A lot of times, we will go out and get some food or stop by a store after our hike and it’s nice to have the extra pair of shoes to change into.  Depending on the hike, we will bring water shoes so we can wade around in the water and cool off, plus they protect our feet from sharp rocks and give us traction.  Along with this, consider bringing an extra pair of socks.  The shoes I use when we go hiking double as water shoes, but I hate wearing them without socks, so I like to bring an extra pair that I can change into before we start back.  Same goes for your kids.  Throw the flip flops or water shoes or socks into their backpack and let them carry it.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
And last, but not least, bring lots and lots of WATER.  This is one of those things that you absolutely do not want to skimp on.  Who cares if you have to stop along the trail 10 times so your child can relieve themselves?  It’s much better than the alternative.  Whether you’re hiking when it’s cloudy and cooler or hot and sunny, you need to keep yourself and your family hydrated and cool.  Little kids can overheat pretty easily so stopping and reminding everyone to get a good drink is essential.  Throw some ice cubes into everyone’s bottle or cup or even freeze the whole water bottle for a refreshing and cool drink for your entire (or at least most) of your hike.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

We brought our kids’ Nuby Thirsty Kids Reflex water canteens with us on our hike and they were perfect.  The plastic is made of durable tritan from Eastman and the push top could be pushed down and covered by a plastic latch so it stayed clean.  The 12-oz size was perfect for our kids and how much they normally drink.  You can find these cups in store at Target and Babies R’ Us.  (Shop the water canteens online HERE.

(For my local Utah friends, the hike in these pictures is Battle Creek Falls in Pleasant Grove.)

What tips and tricks have you found helpful when you go hiking with your family?

And now, I’ve got a fun giveaway that you can enter to win four (4) of these Nuby Thirsty Kids Reflex water canteens for your kids!  See below to find out how to enter!

  • Visit Nuby USA on Facebook (required)
  • Visit Sunshine & Munchkins on Facebook (required)
  • Follow Nuby USA on Instagram (required)
  • Follow Sunshine & Munchkins on Instagram (required)
  • Leave a comment (optional, extra entry)
  • Subscribe to Sunshine & Munchkins newsletter (optional, extra entry) 

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What I’m Reading: 3 Books in 3 Weeks

What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks

I’ve always been a reader.  According to my mom, I learned to read before I went into kindergarten and before that I was memorizing books so I could read them to myself.  In 7th grade, I was reading at a 12th grade level.  But it wasn’t until I hit my junior and senior year of high school when I really started getting interested in books other than fantasy (like Harry Potter) or sweet and clean romance novels.  When I was in high school, I took an AP Literature and Composition class, which introduced me to different genres and I found that I actually liked a lot of them.  Since then, I’ve branched out and read YA fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, classic literature, sci-fi, distopic and others.  My brain gets bored if I read too much of any one genre so I try to pick up a variety of books when I stop by the library.  In the last three weeks, I’ve read three different books and all were about different topics.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on one and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for supporting me!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Rating: 5/5 stars
What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks (Heartless by Marissa Meyer)

The first book I read was Heartless by Marissa Meyer.  I took this book with me on my trip to Orlando and got about halfway through it.  If you’ve read the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter), and liked how the classic tales were retold, then Heartless will probably appeal to you.

Heartless is a prequel to Lewis Carrol’s Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.  It is the story of seventeen year old Catherine, or Cath, who is the daughter of a marquee in Wonderland.  Her greatest dream is to open a bakery with her friend, Maryann, where she can bake and sell her delicious pastries.  But Cath has caught the eye–and stomach–of the king and he intends to propose to her at a ball.  She is horrified, runs away and faints, only to find herself in the arms of the new, and very handsome, court jester, who she is instantly attracted to.  Cath knows her parents will never agree to a courtship with Jest so they enter into a secret courtship.  But in a land where magic thrives, can Cath escape her destiny?

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
 Rating: 4/5 stars
What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks (Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline)

I came upon this book when I was asking around for recommendations of what to take with me on my trip.  I would put this book into the historical fiction category, although about 1/3 of it takes place in modern day.  The reason I chose this book was because it talked about a part of US history that isn’t discussed often, coupled with foster care.  From 1854 to 1929, orphan trains used to run from the east coast into the mid west carrying children who had been orphaned or abandoned to be adopted by families who were looking for children.  (It was run by the Children’s Aid Society and was a precursor to today’s foster care program.)  Unfortunately, many of the children who were adopted were treated more as servants rather than part of the family and the system in place was underfunded and not very well run.

Orphan Train is told from two different perspectives: Vivian, a 91-year-old woman reflecting on her early life as a past-rider of the orphan train, and Molly, a seventeen year-old girl who is about to age out of the foster system.  As punishment for trying to steal a book, Molly is required to do community service hours to keep her out of juvie.  Vivian Daly has an attic full of trunks from her past that she’s asked Molly to help her sort through and as she does so, Molly finds that she and Vivian aren’t all that different from each other.

*Note: If you are interested in another book dealing with foster care, I highly recommend The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  So good!  You can read my review HERE.

Rating: 4/5 stars
What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks (The Week Before the Wedding by Beth Kendrick) 

Another author that was suggested to me by a friend was Beth Kendrick.  She writes chick lit and all her stories have dogs in them (but not as the main character).  Originally, I wanted to read The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service, but it wasn’t available at the library so I grabbed this one instead.

Emily McKellips grew up in a chaotic home environment.  As an adult, she’s worked hard to have a stable and successful career and her dreams of marrying the perfect man and living in a house with a white picket fence are about to come true.  But shortly after arriving in Valentine, Vermont at a little resort hotel, things start going wrong.  Her mother and future mother-in-law begin fighting with each other, her fiance is distracted and her ex-husband, Ryan, shows up unexpectedly.  Everything that Emily has fought for is about to collapse.  But the irresponsible and headstrong boy Emily left behind ten years ago is now a successful film producer who still has feelings for her.  She thought she had life all figured out, but the next seven days just might change her mind and her heart.

What I'm Reading: 3 books in 3 weeks (Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham) 

Next up on my list to read is Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham.  I’ve heard from a lot of people that they really enjoyed this book so I’m excited to dive in and see if I agree.

Also, I’m linking up for the first time with the ladies who host What I’m Reading Wednesday.  You can click on any of the links below to link up as well or just take a look at what everyone is reading.  Maybe you’ll find a new book!

What We're Reading Wednesday: 3 Books in 3 Weeks

Johannah  |  The Sirois Family
Whitney  |  Work it Mommy
Crystal  |  Hall Around Texas
Stephanie  |  Wife Mommy Me
Whitney  |  Polka-Dotty Place
Heather  |  My Glittery Heart
Justine  |  Little Dove Blog
Keri  |  Keri Lynn Snyder

What are you reading?  I’d love to hear!

Book Review: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows {Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

Book Review: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions) 

If you’ve been around my blog for long, you’ll notice that most of the books I do reviews on are young adult fiction.  Most recently, I finished The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (who also happens to be a co-author of one of my favorite books, My Lady Jane–read the review HERE.)  Books have always been one of my favorite ways to escape from the world.  My husband often teases me that when I’m reading a book that I can literally shut everything else out and not be aware of what’s going on around me.  I love a book that pulls you into its world and makes you feel like the characters are real people, leaving you wondering what happened to them after the book ends.  I love finding a book that I want to read over and over again, until the book is smudged with fingerprints and can’t stay all the way closed because the spine is so broken in.  These are the things I look for in a book.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on it and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

My Summary and Review: (5 stars)
The Orphan Queen is the first book in a two part series.  It is told from the point of view of Wilhelmina Korte–who goes by Wil–, a princess whose kingdom was destroyed 10 years before by the Indigo Kingdom during the One Night War.  She, along with other rescued orphan children of nobility, call themselves the Ospreys and their mission is to do one thing: restore Wilhelmina to her rightful place as Queen of Aecor.  As part of their plan, Wil and her best friend Melanie must infiltrate the castle, posing as nobility from a kingdom destroyed by Wraith–a byproduct of magic and the reason magic is forbidden.  But Wil has a secret that she’s managed to keep hidden: she has magic.  By day, she must pretend to be someone she’s not.  By night, she spends an increasing amount of time with a vigilante only known as Black Knife, helping the weak and poor in the streets of Skyvale, and struggling with her feelings for him.  But the Wraith is coming closer and Wil’s magic just might be the only thing strong enough to save them all and give her a chance at regaining the throne of Aecor.

The Orphan Queen kept me at the edge of my seat and I stayed up more nights than I should have reading it.  The book does end with a cliffhanger, but the copy I read had a couple of chapters from the second book, The Mirror King.

Book Review: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions)

Book Club Discussion Questions:

  • An osprey is a bird of prey.  Do you feel this name was well-chosen for Wil and her friends?
  • Why would Wil and her friends choose a bird to represent the name of their group?
  • What was the most surprising revelation/twist to you?
  • Do you agree with Patrick’s methods?  Would you consider him a good leader?

If you’d like to read the other book club reviews, discussions and questions, you can click on the links below:

*Reviews and/or discussion questions may contain spoilers*

Summer 2016 Reading List Reviews and Ratings
The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi

Happy reading!

    Book Review: Bucket of Awesome + A Giveaway

    Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

    For many years I’ve used writing as a way to help me work through and remember things.  I have poems written after a challenging break-up.  A stack of diaries and journals from elementary school all the way through today detailing whatever I was/am going through at the time.  Even this blog is a way for me to put my thoughts down and organize them in a way that makes sense.  Writing helps me unlock memories and remember details in a way that nothing else can.  I wonder, how often do we take the time to think back on the experiences in our life that shaped us and made us who we are today?  Are they positive or negative?  Which would you rather focus on?

    I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are 100% mine.  This post contains affiliate links, which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

    When I was presented with the opportunity to review the book Bucket of Awesome, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect.  As I opened it up to the introduction and started reading, I became excited.  Kathryn Thompson, the author of the book, explains that choosing to tell your life story from a perspective of joy, triumph, love, growth and overcoming will help you shift your focus.  This is not to say that we should only focus on the happy moments.  She suggests that we can find the good even in the bad experiences because many times those are the same things that help us become who we are today.  I love this quote: “You get to decide if your mistakes were dismal failures or learning opportunities.  You choose to focus on how you grew from your trials or how they hurt you.”

    Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

    There are many days when I feel like one day just melts into another.  I’m doing the same things, having the same conversations or arguments with my kids, taking the same routes as I run errands.  It all feels very boring and mundane and I wonder why I’d want to record that.  Who in the future is going to want to read about that?  Bucket of Awesome is laid out in a way that allows you to see things from a different perspective.  Kathryn points out that “your unique life has something worth sharing with the world, whether it’s a world of your thirty grandchildren or a neighbor or a friend who needs to hear what you have to say.”  Have you ever had someone come up to you and tell you about a time you said or did something that made a huge impact on them and you don’t remember it at all?  We all have the ability to influence others, whether we know it or not.  I would even say that we might even influence our future self with words that seem common at the time we write them, but come to mean something special later on in life.

    Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

    When I started working through the book, it felt a little awkward.  Some of the questions I didn’t have anything to write about.  Others I could have gone on for a couple of pages once the memories started flowing.  The book is designed for you to go through it at your own pace and to be flexible.  If you want to skip a question, skip it.  Come back later, or don’t.  Kathryn reminds the reader throughout the book that if writing about a certain question or topic added negativity, then don’t include it in your Bucket of Awesome.  Again, the purpose of the book is to shift focus to the positive.

    I haven’t made it all the way through the book yet.  I think that is something that is going to take a little bit of time.  But I believe that by sticking with it, I’ll get in a more positive mindset both about my life in the past, my present and also my future.  I don’t want that to sound cliche or that I’m trying to be deep.  I know from personal experience that the more I focus on the positive or things that are going right, the more I see of it and the less I see the negative. 

    If you’ve been feeling like you should write your life story down, but feel totally overwhelmed, Bucket of Awesome is for you.  It’s divided up into sections and takes the guesswork out of what to include.  This could also be a great gift for the journal writer in your life, or even something you could go through with a parent or grandparent to help them get their own life story written.

    The author finishes the introduction with these words: “You are about to embark on an amazing journey to uncover the best of what makes you who you are.  Your journey is unique.  Tell it with patience.  Tell it with love.  Tell it with Awesome.”

    Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

    Lastly, I have one copy of Bucket of Awesome up for grabs to one lucky winner!  To enter, you will need to do the following:

    • Visit Sunshine & Munchkins on Facebook (required)
    • Follow Sunshine & Munchkins on Pinterest (required)
    • Comment below on what interests you most about Bucket of Awesome (required)
    • Follow Sunshine & Munchkins on Instagram (optional, extra entry)

    The giveaway will run from today, March 8, 2017 thru Sunday, March 12, 2017 at midnight MST.  The winner will be announced on Facebook on March 13, 2017.

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    Please feel free to share this post with anyone you think would be interested in learning more about Bucket of Awesome or entering the giveaway.

    The Best App for Organizing Kids Artwork and Schoolwork

    Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

    When I was in 9th grade, my mom brought out a box of my old school papers, pictures I had drawn as a young child, lists of my first words and favorite foods to eat at different ages and so on.  She apologetically told me that she’d tried to keep as much as she could but couldn’t hold onto everything and hoped I was okay with what she’d held onto.  I opened a box and it was like a walk down memory lane, except I didn’t have memories of everything in the box.  I tried to organize everything by age and then school year but my mom couldn’t remember all the dates and could only give me approximate time frames.  If I was lucky, I found a year or even a full date written on the back.  All those pictures and school assignments are now in a scrapbook of mine that I started on shortly after receiving this box of memories and I continued to add to it as the years progressed.  Now I have kids of my own and I find myself wanting to keep every single picture they draw or art project they make, but let’s be real: there is no way I can physically hold onto everything.  So what’s the solution?  I’ll tell you: it’s called Keepy.

    I received a subscription from Keepy to try it out and share my experience with you.  As always, all opinions are 100% mine.  This post contains affiliate links.

    What is Keepy?

    Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

    Keepy is an app you can download onto your phone (or other iOS or Kindle device) that is basically a way to keep track of all your kids art projects, drawings and even schoolwork.  By creating an account for each child, you can easily organize each picture or video you take.  You can then invite family or friends to view the pictures/videos you save and they are the only ones who have access it to.  No more group texts every time you want to show off how creative or smart your child is–just save the picture and anyone on your list will get an email about the new Keepy you’ve saved and they can view it on their own time frame.  (You can also choose to send it to a specific person rather than everyone.)  Another awesome thing about Keepy is that you can add descriptions, crop, rotate and even add video of your child talking about the project, drawing, artwork or schoolwork.

    My Experience with Keepy

    I have to tell you that I was so excited to learn about this app.  I had already started taking pictures of my daughter’s preschool crafts that she brought home last year and tried to organize them into a folder in another app, but it was annoying and time consuming, plus I didn’t think everyone I was friends with would care about seeing them.  I continued taking pictures, hoping to find another solution.  When I was approached about trying out Keepy, my answer was a huge “YES!”  I actually had this pile of papers in my kitchen that I’d been meaning to take pictures of so I grabbed that and got started.

    Setting up the app was really easy.  I downloaded it from the Google Play Store and right off the bat, I received prompts on how to set everything up.  (I have an Android but it’s also available for iOS and Kindle.)  As part of my collaboration with Keepy, they provided me with an unlimited account which meant that I could download and save as many pictures as I want in a month for up to a year, at which point I would need to either renew or continue with a monthly or basic (free) account.  I set up accounts for both of my kids and started adding “fans” which are the people I want to share my Keepys with.  (If I want to add my husband to the account as a parent, he can also add photos or videos to the account!)

    Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

    Then I took pictures of each item I wanted to save, cropped and rotated them (if needed), wrote a description about the project and saved it under the right kid.  A few days after downloading the app, my daughter brought me a picture she’d drawn and started telling me a story about it.  After she was done I told her I wanted to record her telling the story again, so I grabbed my phone, took a picture of her drawing, and recorded a video of her talking about the picture.  (They have it set up so that it uses the forward facing camera and kids can see themselves talk.)  It was a really fun and cute way to save that little memory and there’s no way I could have captured that simply in words in a description of the picture.

    Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

    Each time I take pictures on my phone, I receive a prompt from the app asking if I want to organize the photos.  This is great because I have the best of intentions of saving pictures in the right place, but forget so the reminder is really helpful.  I can always go back and edit the description or add a video which means I have flexibility and don’t have to do everything right then.

    Another great feature of Keepy is that you can save videos as well as pictures.  You can organize everything into different folders, tag which child(ren) are in it and share it the same way you do with pictures!  Seriously, I’ve been blown away at how versatile and robust this app is!

    So far, I’ve loved using this app and it’s ease of use, flexibility and range of features have been a huge motivator for me to continue using it.  I did have a couple of questions as I started using the app and when I emailed their support, they got back to me really quickly which I greatly appreciated.  They were helpful and my issues were resolved quickly and efficiently.

    Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

    Now What?

    So you’ve decided you want to get a handle on managing and organizing your kids artwork and schoolwork.  Good for you! *wink*  Click on this link HERE to download it on your phone (or other iOS or Kindle device).  You can try out a basic account with no strings attached and see how you like it.  Each account has a password you can set up so you can access the app from different devices.

    With a basic account, you can upload up to 5 photos/videos per month.  If you want to do more than that, you can upgrade to a monthly account for $2.99/mo, or a yearly account for $9.99/yr.  Both will give you the ability to upload unlimited photos/videos.

    If you want to have something more tangible to give as a gift (Mother’s Day or Father’s day anyone?) or keep at home, you do have the option to print out an 8×8 photobook of your Keepys.

    I hope my experience with Keepy has motivated you to check it out, use it and feel like you can still keep your child’s memories without feeling like you have to keep every. single. paper. *wink*

    What feature of Keepy appeals most to you?

    4 Ways To Style A Floral Skirt

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!

    Before I had kids, I dressed up a lot more.  I wore heels and my skirts and dresses had less spandex in them.  There were days I’d wake up and think, “I’ll wear a skirt/dress today, just for fun!”  Fast forward to today and my daily wardrobe consists of jeans and a t-shirt with a cardigan thrown over the top with flats (nothing wrong with that).  Because when I’m chasing two kids around, running errands, playing on the ground or in the yard, I need to feel like what I’m wearing can keep up with my lifestyle.  At the same time, I want to look and feel put together and what I wear often affects how I feel.

    I received this skirt in exchange for my review and promotion but all thoughts and opinions are 100% mine.  This post also contains affiliate links.

    Think about it: you know you’re going to be spending a lazy day at home and what do you put on?  Comfy bottoms and a t-shirt.  Going out with your friends or spouse?  Clothes that you love and look good in.  Running errands?  Definitely some flats or tennis shoes.  I’ll be totally honest: most days I don’t feel like getting all the way put together with my make up on and hair done.  I’m happy if I got to take a shower before the kids start making messes or trying to fix their own breakfast (which usually results in the aforementioned messes).  But the days where I put on something that feels a little bit nicer also lifts my mood and makes me feel better about myself.  One of the those “somethings” that I put on? A floral skirt.

    I like to get the most use out of my clothes as possible which means that I love pieces that are transitional or that I can wear year round.  Floral skirts are one of those pieces and they are quickly becoming a favorite of mine.  With the variety of patterns and colors available, it’s just a matter of finding one that fits your style (and lifestyle).

    Today I want to share 4 ways you can style a floral skirt.  My hope is that you will be inspired to look in your closet and refresh your wardrobe as we move into a new season.  With the exception of this skirt, I had everything else already in my closet.  I didn’t buy any accessories, shoes or tops to go with it.  Each outfit is one I could easily wear and move around in while taking care of my children, which for me is key, since I have them with me most of the time.

    So scroll through the pictures below and see if anything jumps out at you.  I’ve included looks you can wear to the office, meetings, church, date night, running errands or even a day at the park with your kids.

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!
    Find the tutorial for my Mama Bear shirt HERE

    Floral skirts are a fun and versatile way to brighten up your wardrobe.  See 4 different ways to style a floral skirt by clicking the link!
    See the tutorial for my Mama Bear shirt HERE

    Did you find something you love?  The style of skirt I got is called the Ashlyn Floral Pencil Skirt in blue (also comes in black).  I love the way it fits because it allows me to move in it and it doesn’t ride up at all!  This particular skirt has a little bit of spandex in it and is made of a thicker scuba-like material.  I am 5’9″ and wear a size 5 so I got the Medium to give me a little more length.

    If you’ve been searching for the perfect floral skirt (or just love buying more of them), you have to check out the amazing sale that Cents of Style is running this weekend as part of their Fashion Friday!  They have over 10 patterns to choose from and each one is only $19.95 plus free shipping with the code: FLORALSTORY.  This deal runs from today, 2/17/17 thru 2/19/17.  To take advantage of this deal, click HERE to go straight to the Fashion Friday deal page and see all the skirts you can choose from.

    I also want to give a shout out to my friend Kendra from Kendra Leigh Photography and Video for the fun pictures in this post.  If you haven’t already, check out her guest post from Wednesday about using natural light in photography and enter the giveaway to win a spot in her Snap Happy photography class!

    What is your favorite way to style a floral skirt?

    Define Your Time: More Than Just A Time Management Course

    Define Your Time is more than just a time management course.  It's a new way to look at your life.

    Last November when I went to Pinners Conference, I attended a class about how to make the most of your time.  The speaker, Nicole Carpenter, founder of MOMentity, gave us 10 tips for getting more done and most of them were easy enough that you could implement them the next day if you wanted to.  If I had to guess one of the top 3 things most people say the don’t have enough of, it’s time.  It’s elusive.  It goes by too quickly.  It’s viewed as either your enemy or your friend.  It’s something we don’t have control over.  Or do we?

    After the class finished, I approached Nicole and asked her if she would be interested in a collaboration.  I loved her upbeat, positive attitude and her enthusiasm was contagious.  A week later, she emailed me and asked if I’d like to participate in her upcoming Define Your Time course: a four week workshop where you work through four different modules, attend training calls and complete homework assignments.  While I feel like I’m pretty good at managing my time and staying organized, I also recognized the opportunity to learn some new skills to help me manage my life even better.

    I received the Define Your Time course for free in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are 100% mine.

    Define Your Time is more than just a time management course.  It's a new way to look at your life.

    Nicole is a mom as well as a business owner, so she totally gets both aspects and how life can get crazy and out of control.  From her website:

    “I know you are overwhelmed and, on some days, losing your mind! I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to love your kids to pieces but be unhappy with yourself (and even your life). I know what it’s like to FAKE HAPPINESS and be TOTALLY DISCONNECTED from your kids.  I even know what it’s like to WISH FOR DIFFERENT even when others would say what you have is pretty great.  Do you feel this way? It’s OK, there is a way out! Out of disconnect and out of overwhelm. MOMentity is here to help moms lost in motherhood realize they can both love themselves and their family and teach them a process that can make it happen.”

    Doesn’t she sound like someone who “gets it”?

    The class started and it was a fairly small group of women.  Some had taken the course before and others, like me, were new.  Nicole does a great job leading the calls and making sure everyone is able to share their thoughts, questions or concerns.  Nicole is so sweet and completely genuine.  She is passionate about helping women and is motivating to listen to.  She really knows and believes and applies everything she teaches.  She is also super real and not afraid to share the times when she has trouble, even with her own program.  I really appreciated this because it made me feel like even if I were to get off track, that I could jump back on board and keep moving forward.

    For me, the most helpful part of the course was the first section where she lays the foundation for the following modules.  Define Your Time isn’t just about giving you a bunch of tools for time management, although that is part of it.  It is about figuring out your own values, where you currently spend your time and where you want to spend your time.  Once you’ve laid all that out, then you build on that newer, stronger foundation as you move forward with the other modules.  The reason I liked this portion of the course so much was because I realized that where I was spending my time and where I wanted to spend my time weren’t in alignment.  As a result, I was conflicted with how to best manage my time.  It was actually a very eye-opening experience and it’s something I’m still reflecting on a month after I finished the course.

    Overall, I thought the course was very well put together.  Nicole does everything she can to help you be successful and apply her methods and tools to your own life.  She makes everything very personal and applicable and helps you think about time in a different way.  After taking her course, I feel more in control of the time that I have available because I have the tools I need to make time work for me instead of the other way around.  Define Your Time is a great option for anyone looking to get control of their life and make some positive changes using proven tools.

    If you’d like more information about the Define Your Time course, click HERE to go to Nicole’s website.

    Do you feel like you’re good at managing your time?  What areas are hardest to manage?

    Winter 2017 Walmart Beauty Box Review

    Winter 2017 Walmart Beauty Box Review--Is it worth $5?

    *I am reviewing this box by choice and have not received it for free, nor have I received any other compensation from Walmart.  All opinions are my own.*

    Before I start today’s post, I just have to take a moment and say thank you for the overwhelming response I received to sharing my miscarriage story.  I received so many texts, Facebook messages, post comments and phone calls from people expressing their sadness at what I’ve been facing and their love for me and my family.  But in addition to this, I also heard from many women who have had miscarriages and said that reading my story gave them feelings of hope and encouragement.  At the risk of sounding cliche, knowing that I was able to help at least one person feel like they aren’t alone in their struggles makes it feel worth it.  I am hopeful for the future.

    Today I am doing a review of the Winter 2017 Walmart Beauty Box.  I actually received it a couple of weeks ago, but due to circumstances outside my control (see above), I haven’t had time to adequately review enough of the products until this week.  (I’ve also done reviews on the products in the Summer 2016 and Fall 2016 Beauty Boxes.)

    What is the Walmart Beauty Box?

    For $5, you receive one beauty box every three months filled with various beauty items ranging from full size to travel size to sample size.  You can cancel the subscription at any time.

    I’ve had my subscription for two years and I’ve enjoyed the items enough not to cancel.  Some boxes are better than others, but the items that I’ve received have been worth more than the $5 it costs for the box itself.  It’s fun to get a little surprise in the mail every few months and I can totally see the appeal of other monthly/quarterly subscription boxes.

    Here’s what I got this time around:

    Winter 2017 Walmart Beauty Box Review--Is it worth $5?
    • Tressemme Fresh Start Volumizing Dry Shampoo (travel size)
    • Curel Hydra Therapy Wet Skin Moisturizer (travel size)
    • Garnier Whole Blends Refreshing Shampoo/Conditioner (single use)
    • Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Cream (travel size)
    • L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal Day Cream (single use)
    • Burt’s Bees Naturally Nourishing Body Lotion (travel size)
    • Dove Morrocan Argan Body Wash (travel size)
    • AMLA Legend 10-in-1 Blow Out Elixer (single use)

    My Review:

    • Tressemme Fresh Start Volumizing Dry Shampoo–In the Fall 2016 beauty box, I received a travel size can of Batiste dry shampoo.  I really liked it and have used it over the last few months as needed.  I was a little surprised that they included another dry shampoo in this month’s box but it doesn’t hurt to have some on hand when the Batiste runs out.  I’ve used this one only once since I got it and it seemed to do a pretty good job of giving my hair volume and decreasing the greasy look.  I liked the smell too.
      • Would I recommend it: YES
    • Curel Hydra Therapy Wet Skin Moisturize–In the Summer 2016 beauty box, I received a single use sample of Nivea’s In-Shower body lotion.  There was only enough for one use, but it did seem to moisturize my skin really well which surprised me.  With it being winter, dry skin is a problem so I was curious to see how the Curel in shower body lotion would measure up.  I like that they gave me a travel size and I’ve used it a couple of times since receiving it.  One thing I like better about the Curel is that I didn’t have to rinse it off after applying where the Nivea I had to take the extra step of rinsing.  To see if it would moisturize my skin, I didn’t apply any lotion after my shower.  The next day, my skin didn’t feel dry or itchy so I think the lotion did it’s job.
      • Would I recommend it: YES, although I preferred the smell of the Nivea lotion
    • Garnier Whole Blends Refreshing Shampoo/Conditioner–I’ve purchased and used Garnier shampoo and conditioner before, but not this exact one.  Supposedly this formula helps your hair be more shiny, but unfortunately it’s only a single use sample so it would be hard to know if it helps with this in the long run unless you buy the full size.  I haven’t tried it out yet, but the Green Apple & Green Tea scent should smell pretty good.
      • Would I recommend it: UNDECIDED
    • Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Cream–All day long, I am washing my hands for one reason or another, so they tend to get really dry, especially in the winter.  The other night after washing the dishes, I put on a little Bath and Body Works lotion I had in the kitchen, but it did nothing for me.  I remembered the hand cream from the beauty box and put a little on my hands.  It absorbed really well without any residue and immediately my hands started feeling better.  The next day, my hands still felt moisturized.  I was pretty impressed.
      • Would I recommend it: YES
    • L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal Day Cream–As I get older, my skin just doesn’t quite recover the way it used to from the sun or wind or dry air so using something that would help renew my skin sounds great.  There are two sample size packets: Golden Serum and Day Cream.  There aren’t any instructions on the little card to tell me what order I should apply them or anything.  I’m guessing I could probably get a couple of uses out of each packet, but I doubt that will be enough to really tell a difference.  I will update once I’ve tried it out though.
      • Would I recommend it: UNDECIDED
    • Burt’s Bees Naturally Nourishing Body Lotion–I’ll be totally honest: I hate the smell of anything from Burt’s Bees that I’ve tried, so this sample is useless to me personally because I know I will never use it.  I will probably give it to my husband to keep in his car or at work so he has something for when his hands get dry and doesn’t smell girly.
      • Would I recommend it: NO
    • Dove Morrocan Argan Body Wash–Apparently Walmart likes to send out a Dove body wash with every beauty box because I’ve received one in the Summer 2016, Fall 2016 and now the Winter 2017 box.  I’ve used this body wash a couple of times and like the smell, but don’t think that it does anything special for my skin compared to what I’m currently using (Olay).
      • Would I recommend it: YES
    • AMLA Legend 10-in-1 Blow Out Elixer–I’ve never heard of this brand before so I have nothing to go off of besides what it says on the packet.  I’ve used other brands of heat protection hair lotions and I do think they help.  I haven’t tried this one out yet, but I’m hoping it will give my poor winter hair a little boost and seal in some moisture.
      • Would I recommend it: UNDECIDED

    Well there you have it!  I hope my little review was helpful to you.  If you want to find out more about the Walmart Beauty box, go HERE.  You can sign up and check out the FAQ.  Since the Winter Beauty Box has already shipped out, you would receive the Spring Beauty Box next if you choose to sign up.

    Have you signed up for other beauty boxes?  What is your favorite/least favorite? 

    Book Review: The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel {Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

    Book Review: The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel (plus book club discussion/questions)

    Earlier this week, my book club met together to discuss our most recent book choice: The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel.  Prior to the book being introduced at our last meeting, I hadn’t heard of it but a few of the people in our group had and the general feeling was positive.  The title definitely caught my attention because it seems like a contradiction.  I was able to read through it in a few days and it kept my attention throughout.

    This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on it and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

    My Summary and Review: (4 stars)
    *Contains spoilers*
    Olivia (Livvy) Dunne is the oldest of three daughters.  She is studious and has dreams of exploring the world and becoming an archeologist.  But her dreams get put on hold when her mother becomes sick shortly after the youngest daughter gets married and Livvy is left to take care of her.  When her mother passes away, she is consumed by grief and unable to work through it.  As a result, she makes a decision that unknowingly alters her future.  Livvy is sent to a small town in Colorado in the 1940s where she marries a shy farmer–a marriage that has been arranged by her father.  Overwhelmed by loneliness, she befriends two Japanese sisters who work on her husband’s farm and live at a nearby internment camp.  Slowly she begins to feel like she’s found a place and becomes more comfortable in her new life.  Meanwhile, her husband (Ray) tries patiently to show he cares about her, but Livvy is resistant based on her past.  When Olivia unknowingly become an accomplice to a crime, she finally learns how to confront her past and move forward into the future.

    The Magic of Ordinary Days was an enjoyable book with characters who feel very real.  Livvy is faced with learning how to recognize true love and how to trust others.  It is well written, however, I would have liked the ending not to wrap up so quickly.

    Book Club Discussion Questions:

    • Was Livvy’s father right to insist she marry before she gives birth?  What other options were available to her?  (Remember this is during the 1940s.)
    • It takes Livvy quite a while to warm up to Ray.  Do you think Livvy is too hard on Ray?  Are you surprised her feelings changed?
    • Why is it so easy for Livvy to become friends with Rose and Lorelei?  How are their situations similar?
    • What is the significance of Rose and Lorelei’s fascination with butterflies?
    • How does Livvy finally come to learn the difference between true love and what she thought was true love?
    • What characteristics of Ray’s helped him feel like a real person?
    • Discuss the importance of love and trust in relationships.  Can you have one without the other?

    If you’d like to read the other book club reviews, discussions and questions, you can click on the links below:

    *Reviews and/or discussion questions may contain spoilers*

    Summer 2016 Reading List Reviews and Ratings
    The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
    Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi

    Happy reading!

    Mommy Style Monday: Favorite Children’s Books

    Hello and happy Monday!  I have to tell you that while the fact that it’s Monday doesn’t necessarily excite me, the fact that last week is finally over does!  I had a super crazy busy week and about half way through it, my body forced me to slow down a bit by giving me a nice little cough.  Super annoying, but it’s felt nice to rest up a bit and get geared up for another week.

    Today, I’ve teamed up with 7 other mommy bloggers and we’re all sharing our favorite children’s books with you!  One of my earliest memories about books was when I was about 5 years old and I was towing my little red wagon home from the library with my mom stacked high with books.  We went back every week because I literally devoured every book multiple times and got bored with them and wanted new ones.  I know for a fact that my love of reading came from my mom.  She read me books all the time and always had them available for me.  I memorized them before I knew how to read and when I finally learned to read, I kept on reading.  I was always getting in trouble for staying up too late reading on school nights.  So many of my memories with my family revolve around books and reading.

    When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew that I wanted books to be a big part of her life as well.  I started collecting them before she was born and have continued to buy new ones.  What started as a little basket near her bed has turned into a bookcase crammed full of books.  I had to add more boy themed books when little brother was born but most of the books we have appeal to both of them.  We now go to the library every couple of weeks to get a new stack of books to read and it’s through this activity that I’ve found some of my favorites.

    Each night before we go to bed we read a book as well as before nap time, but it’s not uncommon for me to find my kids “reading” in their room together or hauling a stack of books out into the front room for me to read to them throughout the day.  I love that my kids love books.  My kids are (almost) 5 and (almost) 3 so their comprehension is pretty good.  I share a combination of books that teach something and ones that are silly.  Below I’m sharing some of my current favorites.

    This post contains affiliate links which if you click on and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

    Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
    I grabbed this book from the library’s board book section about six months back because the title caught my attention.  It’s about Little Miss who plants a kiss and watches it grow into something beautiful that she wants to share with others.  The book is so sweet and simple in the way that it makes love a tangible thing and begins to help kids understand that sharing love helps it to grow.  We’ve checked this book out multiple times since then and I finally decided to buy it for my daughter for Christmas because she loves it so much.

    How Do Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen
    The How Do Dinosaurs series is so fun!  I honestly wish we owned all the books in the series (there are over 20).  I actually did a review on it a while back because I loved it so much.  Each book answers a question, such as, How Do Dinosaurs Go To Sleep?, How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends?, How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room? and so on.  They all teach something different about manners or routines in a way that gets kids laughing.  If your kids love dinosaurs, these books are a must have.  The illustrator (Mark Teague) draws pictures of real dinosaurs with their names next to them which makes learning even more fun.

    Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer
    A while back my mom was going through some of her books and came across her collection of Little Critter books that we had as kids.  She divided them up between my sister and I and they have become some of my kids favorite books to read.  Each one is from the perspective of Little Critter and they all deal with something that kids struggle with, such as a babysitter, moving, feelings, etc.  We’ve picked up additional ones from the library and my kids love them.

    Sandra Boynton books
    The first book I bought by Sandra Boynton was the Belly Button Book.  The title made me laugh, especially because I know how intrigued kids can be by belly buttons.  Currently I own close to 15 of her books because they are just so darn cute!  Some of them teach simple things like colors, animal sounds and counting, while others are just silly.  One thing I really like is that they are all short so reading a couple before naps or bedtime isn’t a big deal.  I’ve read each of them so many times that I’ve got them memorized and my daughter even has a couple of them memorized as well.  They are all board books which makes them nice and durable for little hands.

    The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
    My daughter has started to grow out of this book, but my son still loves it.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar is fun and simple, with holes in each of the foods the caterpillar eats.  Both my kids love the last page where he “turns into a beautiful butterfly”.

    Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr and Eric Carle
    Our poor copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear has been taped back together more than any other children’s book we own.  The repetitiveness of Brown Bear is fun for the kids and it also helps them learn their colors.  My daughter learned how to “read” (aka memorize) this book when she was about two and she would sit in her room and read it to herself daily.  Now, she “reads” it to her brother.

    If you’d like to check out the some more children’s books, be sure to click on the link of each blog below.

    Kiana  |  Glitter & Donuts
    Madeline  |  CaseyLand
    Monica  |  It’s All About
    Rachel  |  Tutus and Heels
    Cayli  |  Nightchayde
    Chelsea  |  Naturally Chels