Favorite Christmas Ornaments

Since my mom was here when we put up our Christmas Tree this year, I spent some time showing off and reflecting on a lot of the ornaments we’ve collected over the years. We’ve been married 20 years now, so there are SO MANY ornaments, many of them collected well before we had kids. We have lots of silly ones–a set of Lego ornaments, superheroes wearing Santa hats, and a set of Playmobil ornaments. But there’s also a bunch that are very sentimental. Here’s a little tour of my favorite Christmas ornaments:

Childhood Christmas Ornaments | MoneywiseMoms

Ornaments from Childhood
Back when my mom retired and downsized her home, my two sisters and I split up the most meaningful ornaments from our childhood to take to our own families. I imagine there was originally a set of twelve of these fake-fruit baskets, but they just say ’70’s to me and were so memorable as some of the ornaments that we brought out year after year, so I had to have one. We also had a set of Wizard of Oz ornaments, which was one of our favorite movies growing up, so we split them between us. These are so fragile, over 30 years old now!

Homemade Christmas Ornaments | MoneywiseMoms

Homemade Ornaments
Some ornaments are from the lean years when we first got married. I made a lot of crafty ornaments and sewed some from fabric scraps. I especially like these angels made from twist paper and a wooden bead. Since then, my kids have contributed a bunch of homemade ornaments during their preschool years.

Teacher Christmas Ornaments | MoneywiseMoms

Teacher Ornaments

Pre-kids, I was an elementary school teacher, and one of the gifts I received often were ornaments. I have only held onto a few as mementos of that part of my life, this adorable teddy bear flying a paper airplane, and a sparkly gingerbread man with my name on it. It still weirds out my kids that I was a school teacher. They don’t even believe me when I show them my scrapbook albums of those years!

Dad Photo Christmas Ornament | MoneywiseMoms

Photo Ornaments
I love the handful of photo ornaments we have on the tree, seeing my kids’ faces as toddlers and as they’ve grown. My absolute favorite is this pewter ornament from Shutterfly that shows the only photo I have of my dad with all three kids. It’s a wonderful way to capture his memory.

Niagara Falls Christmas Ornament | MoneywiseMoms

New Traditions
Not that we need (or have room!) for more ornaments, but this year on a family vacation to Niagara Falls, my kids suggested that a great souvenir of our special trip would be a tree ornament that would bring back those memories. Great idea! I loved spending our souvenir budget this way instead of little knick knacks.

What are some of your favorite Christmas ornaments?


Shared at Saturday Sharefest at SITS Girls

$550 in Prizes at #FastDrySaveTime Twitter Party 10/3

CBias Disclosure Sept 2014
#FastDrySaveTime Twitter Party 10-3 at 1pm EST for Suavitel Fabric Softener

Do you love a good Twitter Party?  You know I do and I’m excited to co-host a party about Suavitel® Fast Dry™, a new fabric softener that saves you time in the laundry room. On Friday, October 3rd, at 1:00 pm ET, please join us for the #FastDrySaveTime Twitter Party where we’ll be discussing turning laundry time into your favorite time and giving you a chance to win prizes.

How often do you do laundry? For our family of five, I do a little every day! Let’s make this laundry chore easier so you can do something more fun with your time. Introducing Suavitel® Fast Dry™ fabric softener, which can dry clothes 30% faster! At the #FastDrySaveTime Twitter Party, we’ll talk about ways to save time and energy, and you have a great chance to be one of the six gift card prize winners.

SoFabChats party guests who RSVP for the #FastDrySaveTime Twitter party can opt-in to receive an exclusive $1.00 off coupon on one bottle of Suavitel® Fast Dry™ Fabric Conditioner (50oz or larger) via postal service. You will not receive any brand emails or mail beyond this point. We only have 300 so it is first come, first serve and one per person.

Join me and RSVP for the #FastDrySaveTime Twitter Party on SoFabChats!


DATE:  Friday, October 3, 2014

TIME:  1:00 to 2:00 pm ET

PRIZES:  5 – (1) $100 Walmart Gift Cards

EARLY BIRD PRIZE:  1 – $50 Walmart Gift Card

HOSTS:  @Freebies4Mom, @LaughWithUsBlog, @MoneywiseMoms, @iamthemaven, @_Karen

RULES:  #FastDrySaveTime Twitter Party Official Rules

RSVP & PARTY GRID:  #FastDrySaveTime Twitter Party Page




How To Participate In A Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

TIP:  How to join a Twitter Party – sign in! Before party starts, click on the green “Sign In On Twitter” bar at the top of the page!

TIP: Who to follow at a Twitter Party? Follow the Party Team by clicking on the Twitter handle links on the RSVP page!

TIP: Want to win Twitter Party prizes? RSVP by clicking on RSVP button before you join the party, follow everyone on the Party Team, and tweet with the party hashtag during the party to be eligible!

TIP: How to win the Early Bird prize? Watch for chance to share a tweet when you RSVP for chance to win!

TIP: Special deals and brand coupons? Keep that options checked when you RSVP for the party!

TIP: New to Twitter parties? Watch your column and Party Team tweet columns – they are slower paced and easier to follow!

TIP: Where to find Twitter Parties? Check out the SoFabChats Twitter Party Calendar to find more fun parties to attend!

Find more helpful Twitter Party Tips on SoFabChats!

Kids Chore Chart with Finish Dishwasher Detergent

CBias Disclosure Sept 2014Kids Chore Chart with Finish Dishwasher Detergent #SparklySavings #shop

No one enjoys cleaning their house, but as my kids have gotten older, at least it’s gotten easier–because I have their help. I really don’t miss the days of having three kids under age three! We’ve kept our kids’ chores pretty simple, to make it easier for them (and mom and dad) to remember who does what. We have three kids so we brainstormed three types of chores: kitchen, laundry and bathrooms. Those are the tasks that need to be done every day, and my kids (ages 8, 8 and 11) are in charge of them. We have a simple chore chart to keep track, and at the beginning of each new week, we rotate the jobs. Each child keeps that chore for the week.

Chore Chart How-To | #SparklySavings #shop
It’s easy to make a chore chart to keep your kids on track:

1) Pick up a small wooden chalkboard and chalk pen ( found mine at Walmart for just $2.97 each).
2) Label your chalkboard with chores.
3) Decorate your chart (if desired). I used washi tape, but you could also have the kids paint or draw on the wood.
4) Use a stapler to attach a piece of ribbon to the back of your chart for hanging.

Kids Chore Chart with Finish Dishwasher Detergent #SparklySavings
With three kids, we came up with three jobs. If you have fewer or more kids, think about ways to “even out” the chores to make it fair. The other household chores (vacuuming, sweeping, etc.) are either done by Mom or Dad, or we tackle them as a family over the weekend. But these are the “big three” that get done daily:

#SparklySavings with Finish Tabs dishwasher detergent | MoneywiseMoms

  • sorts laundry into hot-medium-cold loads
  • carries baskets up and down the stairs
  • helps fold laundry
  • puts laundry away

One of my biggest pet peeves is how it seems everyone’s shirts, pants and socks are always inside out. With a laundry helper, it’s their job to right-side-out everything before we fold it and put it away.

#SparklySavings with Finish Tabs dishwasher detergent | MoneywiseMoms

  • change the hand towels daily
  • make sure there’s an extra roll of TP in every bathroom*
  • vacuum the floors of each bathroom twice per week
  • use wipes to clean the sinktop in each bathroom
  • restock tissue boxes around the house

*I’m so so glad I added this to the chore list. Seemed like it was always me who would get surprised by an empty roll! It hasn’t happened since.

#SparklySavings with Finish Tabs dishwasher detergent | MoneywiseMoms

  • empty the dishwasher each morning
  • help set and clear the table for dinner
  • help load the dishwasher in the evening and add dishwasher detergent
  • take out the kitchen trash on trash days

Our kitchen is a busy place! I truly appreciate all the help the kids give cleaning and doing chores for our family. Be sure and supervise kids when they’re handling dishwasher detergent; I like that Finish has single-use tabs so they get the amount just right.

#SparklySavings with Finish Tabs dishwasher detergent | MoneywiseMoms

We have tons of dishes each day, with a family of five and all the cooking I do. Ever since we got a new dishwasher a few years ago, I’ve been a loyal customer of Finish Dishwasher Detergent. It does the job at a price I like, and now I’m excited to try their newest product: Finish Quantum, which is great for family dishes because it uses hydrogen peroxide instead of harsh chemicals.

Finish Tabs at Walmart #SparklySavings #CollectiveBias

When you head to your local Walmart, you’ll easily find Finish products–like Quantum, All-in-One Powerball Tabs, All-in-One Gelpacs, Gel and Powder–in the Paper & Cleaning aisle. You’ll also find Rollback prices until October for clean dishes at a great discount. Remember that you can combine Rollback prices with a coupon, too!

Thanks to #CollectiveBias for this fun #SparklySavings campaign!

Getting Kids on a Morning Routine & Giveaway

Disclosure: I wrote this post as part of a paid campaign with El Monterey and Ruiz Foods. The opinions in this post are my own.

Back to school can be a really tough transition for both kids and their parents. Getting kids on a morning routine can help a lot. My kids (twins age 8, plus an 11-year-old) and I spent some time creating charts to help us all stay on track for this coming week as they head back to school.

Getting Kids on a Morning Routine | MoneywiseMoms

Let Kids Set the Routine
The girls brainstormed all the tasks that need to be done each morning, and they got to type up the routine and create the signs themselves. We used PowerPoint, and they had a great time trying out different fonts and choosing clip art. By doing it themselves (with a little coaching from me), they’re more likely to invest in the routine and be motivated to do it.

My son has early morning swim practice several times a week, so his morning routine is different on those days. He made a sign listing all the equipment he needs to pack–googles, fins, water bottle, etc.–and does a lot of the girls’ morning routine tasks the night before.


Make it Visual
We printed a sign for each child, slid it into a page protector, and put them in the dining room with a dry erase marker for checking off tasks as they’re done. Many kids do better with a visual reminder of what needs to get done (and many adults–like me!). With younger kids, you could use pictures or photos instead of words.

Morning Routine with El Monterey

Encourage Independence
Yes, it’s a lot faster if I pack their backpacks and do their hair, but kids of all ages need to learn to do their own self-care and grooming, be responsible for their items, and help around the house. Having a morning routine is a great way to encourage independence (and lighten your own load). My role in the mornings is encouraging them to to stay on task, manage their time, and get out the door to the bus on time. As for those 5:30 mornings, my son and I are quite bleary-eyed before practice, so I keep easy breakfasts like El Monterey Breakfast Burritos on hand for him to prep on his own. All he has to do is open one and microwave it, add a cup of milk and some fruit, and it’s a hearty, protein-rich breakfast to help him start the day.

El Monterey sent us all three varieties of Breakfast Burritos to try: Egg & Sausage, Egg & Bacon, and Jalapeno, Egg & Cheese. My kids and I found the Jalapeno a little too spicy, but my husband really likes them. They make a great afterschool snack as well.

El Monterey Breakfast Burritos | Morning Routine
Make it Doable
Most of the tasks on these charts are ones my kids can already do independently, with a few that are new skills for the new school year. I want my kids to get their own breakfasts this year, and as the year progresses, we’ll get to them making their own lunches as well. We can revise the charts to reflect these new responsibilities then.

We went ahead and make an Afterschool Routine as well. This includes unpacking the lunchbox, getting a snack and drink, and starting on homework. This is especially helpful since I have kids coming home at two different times in the afternoon, so after one is done with homework and heading outside to play, the others are just sitting down to eat a snack and start on homework.

Afterschool Routine | Getting Kids on a Morning Routine | MoneywiseMoms
Be Consistent
As a busy mom, it’s really hard to be consistent with my kids, whether it’s with discipline or routines. But if you expect the kids to take this seriously on the days that matter, you need to stick with it. The novelty of the first weeks of school will wear off soon enough, just in time for homework to be forgotten at home and for the whole crew to miss the bus (gee, how would I know?). Since I expect them to stick with the routine on weekdays, we can let it go on the weekends. On a Monday holiday or teacher workday, a “pajama day” is declared, and we all get to laze around, watching movies, reading and cuddling instead of sticking to the routine.


Giveaway Time!
El Monterey wants to help your family during the busy times before and after school. Four lucky MoneywiseMoms readers will each win 4 packages of El Monterey Burritos or Chimichangas (via coupon). If you’re reading this in an email subscription, click over to the blog to use the Rafflecopter and enter. There are lots of ways to enter–be sure and click on each option!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


El Monterey Breakfast Burritos with Fruit | Morning Routine | MoneywiseMoms

Treat Yourself with #AudioFest at Best Buy

Disclosure; I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Best Buy August #Audiofest

I love music. I really do. With everyone home for the summer, the kids have been amused watching me go through my daily routine hopping & bopping (did I just say that? how old am I?) to my favorite songs. I put music on whenever I’m doing a big cooking session in the kitchen. It’s just more fun. And house cleaning? Well, the few times that gets done, it’s done to music.

I’ve got a few playlists on my phone, and that’s also how I listen to music when I’m walking (which hasn’t been happening because it’s 90 and humid in the mornings, but I promise I’ll go back to it in the fall). I really get pepped up when I listen to music, and it puts me in a great mood. But what do I listen with? Whatever ratty earbuds I can find, when I can find them. And I hate how earbuds feel; I actually preferred the old-fashioned headphones from the old days’ Walkman (yes, old again).

When Best Buy asked me to check out JBL products and update my listening for August’s AudioFest, I jumped at the chance. When’s the last time you treated yourself to something new? I know I never do!

JBL Sport Reflect Headphones at Best Buy August #Audiofest
I’ve had a few weeks to try out the JBL Reflect Sport Headphones from Best Buy. Wow–what a difference! I am so in love with these headphones. The noise-canceling feature is perfect for drowning out the background noise at the dojang when I’m waiting for the kids, or even while I’m working on the computer at home. The headphones come with three different size “heads” for the earbuds–small, medium, and large–so you can find your perfect fit, and they’re so comfortable. I’ve worn them on the treadmill and had they stay put–not like regular earbuds (which would just pop right out). I also appreciate how the cord never gets tangled, there’s a magnetic feature that keeps it under control. Plus–I have not let my son or husband use or borrow them–they’re mine! They’re $59.99 and worth every penny.

JBL Products at Best Buy August #Audiofest
The other product they sent was the JBL Clip Portable Bluetooth Speaker. My first thought was–why would I need a speaker? But again–I was very impressed. My husband and I like to listen to podcasts together, and the audio quality is so much better through the speaker than coming out of my iPhone. The sound fills up the room, so it’s perfect for impromptu dance parties with the kids. The Clip Speaker is also great for the pool (or any trips to the beach). You can keep your phone safely away from water and listen via the bluetooth speaker. I actually clip it to my belt loop and wear it around the house when I’m cleaning and doing the stairs–I can listen to music no matter what floor I’m on, with the iPhone just sitting in the kitchen. The speaker will be a great way for our family to listen to audiobooks when we’re on our big roadtrip in a few weeks.

Best Buy August #Audiofest

Head to Best Buy stores between August 3-30 for AudioFest

  • Beginning today through August 30th, Best Buy is featuring one month of deals, audio specials, events & more!
  • Best Buy is gathering the best offers on the best audio products for the entire month of August.
  • Visit a Best Buy store to test & try the latest & greatest in audio – from portable Bluetooth speakers and headphones, to home theater solutions and car audio.

Best Buy has the best selection of audio products, so head there during AudioFest to treat yourself to upgraded sound and love the way you listen!

Busy Summer

Today marks 3 weeks since the last day of school, yet it feels like we’ve already done a million things. How does summer move so quickly?

Summer 2014 Instagram
Here are a few Instagram photos of what’s happening day-to-day. In between the swimming, the swim team, the many swim meets (do you sense a pattern?), we’re still trying to squeeze in down time (lots of reading and board games), playdates, working on multiplication for next year, and some cooking. Not a lot of cooking. My meal plan this week consists of “eat at meet” and “whatever is in fridge.” We’ll get back on a normal routine next week…I hope.

Hope your summer is going well!

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for BGCA. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating. #Sponsored #MC #CyberTribe #CyberSafe

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

Parenting comes with many challenges, but one that’s taken us a bit by surprise is how to keep up with our kids in regards to technology. We are kids of the ’80’s, for goodness sake! We grew up with computers, for the most part, and we always had the upper hand on our own parents. But now with every handheld device, tablet, etc. hooked up to the internet, kids having cellphones (with video cameras), and social media apps galore–we’re a little overwhelmed. With kids ages 10, 8, and 8, we’re thinking about how to keep the kids safe online. So far, we have a few rules:

  • Our family computer is in the living room, and the kids are only allowed to use it with permission.
  • No random searching/Googling is allowed; a parent needs to sit with you.
  • With games that connect online (on computer, XBox, etc.), we use the strictest settings, i.e. no “chat.”

I’m sure that very soon my son will be asking about an email account, so I’ve been watching what friends with older kids are doing, asking lots of questions, and learning from sites like the BGCA’s Cyber Safe Futures Initiative. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in a partnership with Sprint, are supporting parents and teens with this internet safety awareness campaign.

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

I took the “Are you a Cyber Smart Parent?” quiz, and I didn’t do very well! Partly, it’s because some of the topics they mentioned haven’t come up with my younger kids, but it alerted me to where we’re headed (Facebook, sharing photos, possibility of cyberbullying), etc.

Learn how to protect kids online with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #CyberSafe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

I really liked the Parent Resources section, where you’ll find specific tips for parents to help guide your kids to protect themselves. For example, our kids have asked about playing online versions of games with their friends, but we haven’t allowed it. We have talked a little about not using your real name online (even in a username) and not to share personal information. The “Online Privacy” guide has questions to help you determine limits and how to share them with your child(ren).

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

Last, there’s a section of Q & A with actual teens, called the CyberTribe. They take questions from kids and parents and answer them weekly. Since teens are often more savvy than their parents, this is a great opportunity for you to have your internet safety questions answered. Plus, when you submit a question, you have the option to enter for a chance to win an iPad mini and $500 to the Boys & Girls Club of your choice.

How are you keeping your kids cybersafe?

original image from John Watson at Flickr

Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday-FL, LA & VA

Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holidays - Florida, Louisiana & Virginia - May 2014 | MoneywiseMoms
Beginning this weekend, save some money with Sales Tax Holidays for Hurricane Preparedness in Florida, Louisiana and Virginia. Even if you do not need emergency equipment like a generator, this is a good time to update your home with some basic safety items like fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. You can also use this opportunity to stock up on batteries or bottled water for the rest of the year.

Get sales tax savings on items like:

  • Batteries
  • Bottled Water, both single and multi-packs
  • Cell Phone Batteries and Chargers
  • Coolers and Ice Chests
  • Duct Tape
  • Empty Gasoline or Propane Tanks under $60
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • First Aid Kits
  • Flashlights, Lanterns and Candles
  • Plastic Storage Bags (like Ziploc)
  • Smoke Detectors

Louisiana’s tax holiday is this weekend, May 24-25th. Virginia’s runs all week, May 25-31st, and Florida’s is coming up May 31-June 8th.

It’s a good idea to have some emergency supplies on hand, no matter where you live, even if they’re not specifically for hurricane preparedness. FEMA’s list of basic emergency kit supplies is a great place to start. I also like this Disaster Checklist for Parents.

If you like to bulk cook like I do, it also helps to know how to prepare your freezer for a power outage.

Poolside Prep {What’s in your Pool Bag?}

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and U by Kotex but all my opinions are my own. #PMedia #UbKKmart  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Poolside Prep with U by Kotex | #PMedia #UbKKmart #ad MoneywiseMoms
Gone are the days of wrangling three little ones at the pool–finally! I remember chasing my kids between the baby pool and regular pool and seeing other moms relaxing poolside with their friends, feet up on a lounge chair. Now that’s me! I never thought we’d get there, so I spent a little time reminiscing with these old photos of my twin toddlers. It was such a challenge when my son wanted to swim in the big pool but I couldn’t be in two places at once. Six years later, and we’re in a very different place.

Baby Pool Nostalgia | Poolside Prep with U by Kotex #PMedia #ad #UbKKmart MoneywiseMoms
Our neighborhood pool opens this Saturday, and my son plans on jumping in no matter what the temperature (forecast so far for Saturday? Only 72 degrees!). With all three of my kids on the swim team and me moving from swim team concessions to team rep, I’ll be spending 2-3 hours a day poolside on practice days, and a lot more than that for meets. I’ve been prepping for the past few weeks. I found a great pair of supportive flip flops for all the standing I’ll be doing, and I’ve got my pool bag all packed:

Pool Bag Prep with U by Kotex | #PMedia #UbKKmart #ad MoneywiseMoms
What’s in my pool bag?

1. Lots to read! I love stretching out on a chaise and flipping through a magazine while the kids practice. My family gave me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday, so I’m all set for my summer reading.

2. A great hat. I burn so easily that a hat is a necessity. This soft hat is easy to fold up and take with me, and it washes easily, too.

3. Snacks. I pack my own, so almonds & cranberries are an easy way to curb my hunger in between meals.

4. Extra sunscreen. We go through a lot of sunscreen with three kids swimming every day. I carry it in my bag, in the car, and have a bunch in a basket near the door. Got to be ready!

5. My phone. Of course! Need to stay on top of my email, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Are you following MoneywiseMoms there yet?

6. Sunglasses. I have an amazing ability to break or lose sunglasses, so I only buy cheap ones.

7. Tissues. Between my allergies and that gross thing that happens when the kids get out of the pool with runny noses (don’t you hate that?), we use quite a few.

8. The kids’ meds. All three of my kids have asthma, but only one has the exercise-induced kind. I’m ready with her inhaler just in case. And with my son’s peanut allergy, I always need his emergency med, just in case.

9. U by Kotex Pads and Tampons. Any time of the month, I like to be prepared with some U by Kotex liners. If I’m planning to swim, I like the U by Kotex tampons so I feel protected. I picked mine up at Kmart and saved $3 instantly at checkout with a coupon from Kmart’s Shop Your Way rewards program.

10. Quarters. Lots of hot days call for popsicles or ice cream sandwiches from the pool’s snack bar.


Poolside Prep with U by Kotex | #PMedia #UbKKmart #ad MoneywiseMoms
When you sign up with Kmart’s Shop Your Way rewards program, you’ll get $3 off at the register when you buy two U by Kotex products. Browse through the other coupons available there. You can add them to your account with just a click, then use your phone number or email at checkout to claim the coupons.

I like to be prepared–even at the pool! So what’s in your pool bag?

What are your poolside prep must-haves?