20 Holiday Gift Ideas for Tween Girls

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Time to put together those Christmas shopping lists! Tween girls (ages 8-12) can be so much fun to shop for, but sometimes it’s a challenge to find the perfect gift. They are not yet teenagers, but they’re also no longer circling everything in the toy book. Tween girls are fun and trendy and they love the latest in fashion, tech, and, accessories. I compiled a list of 20 Holiday Gift Ideas for Tween Girls that will be sure to please. Click on each item to buy. (And they are all under 60 bucks! Score!)

SingStand 2 Home Karaoke System

Let your tween follow her pop star dreams with this karaoke machine featuring a microphone stand. My daughter loves to belt out the latest tunes from her iPad mini. This system has a secure stand for any media device and the volume control works separately for her voice and the music. Rock on!

Heart-Shaped Mermaid Pillow with Reversible Sequins

The flipping sequin trend is here to stay and your tween will adore this sweet heart pillow. It’s perfect for decorating her bedroom or hangout. The pillow changes colors when she moves the sequins and it’s very calming for study time or travel.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera in Flamingo Pink

These fun little cameras take instant photos that develop in seconds. It’s perfect for party photo booths or for sharing with besties. The cameras come in lots of fun colors including this pink as well as turquoise blue and lime green.

Lip Smacker Original Flavors Party Pack

This 8-piece lip balm set features sweet flavors like cotton candy, watermelon, and vanilla.  This classic lip balm is so soft and yummy. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer.

Initial Marquee Light from Justice

Your tween will feel like a pop star with this sparkling light in the shape of her initial. It’s glitter white with bright pink lights and will be sure to add some glitz and glam to any room.  I’ll be grabbing this “A” one for my “Annabel” for Christmas.


Just Between Us: Mother & Daughter Journal

I just ordered this for my daughter and I’m so excited to get started. It’s a neat way to share thoughts and feelings and to create a lasting bond with your tween, especially during those frustrating times. There are prompts and quizzes that will help you both express yourself.


Project Mc2 Pixel Purse

You will need to download the app to program the colorful LED lights on this super stylish purse. Your tween can customize the image with fun fonts, words, or designs.  They’ll have a blast programming their cool, new fashion statement.

Gradient Happy Face Stickers from StickerBeans

These awesome rhinestone stickers can decorate your tween’s locker, laptop, smart phone, and more! She can express her style and sparkle on!

JoJo’s Guide to the Sweet Life: #PeaceOutHaterz

This book is all about girl power and is from the mind of the popular tween social media sensation, JoJo Siwa. Her playful book will encourage your tweens to stay strong, be themselves, follow their dreams, and have fun along the way.

Sunshine Pin-it Pinboard from PBteen

The colorful sunny print of this canvas-covered pinboard will bring a daily smile to your tween’s face as she organizes photos, schedules, memories, and more!

Mystic Emoji Ball

This is the trendy version of the retro Magic 8-Ball we all had as kids. It will provide lots of fun for your tween as she asks the emoji questions and then shakes and turns it over for the answer. It’s the modern fortune teller and it’s just as much fun as the original.

Acylic Name Necklace from My Name Necklace

Your tween can place their full name, nickname, or any inspiring word on this custom necklace that comes in tons of colors including this pretty turquoise. It’s a fun way to show off their unique personal style.

Harry Potter Golden Snitch Clock

This is perfect for your Harry Potter fan! This golden sparkling clock, based on the golden snitch from the Harry Potter books, will add a magical touch to any tween’s bedroom.

Light-Up Cat Headphones from Justice

These pink and blue cat headphones have color LEDs that light up when your tween is listening to her favorite songs. And with a cute carrying case, it’s the purrrfect gift!

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Rose Quartz Metallic Sneaks

The classic converse sneaker has been popular with kids for so many years and now it’s been updated with trendy metallic material. We are in love with this rose quartz color and we think your tween will love it too.

SmartLab Toys All-Natural Lip Balm Boutique

Your tween will create her own line of lip balm using all natural and safe ingredients.  This kit even has a STEM focus so she’ll be learning while she’s creating. The candy-colored lip pods are perfect for gifting or maybe she’ll just keep them all for herself.

Unicorn Pom Keychain

This fun and soft accessory is perfect for your tween’s purse or school backpack. The unicorn detail is too adorable and comes in lots of different colors to match her style.

Sushi Go Party! Card Game

We love this delicious sushi-themed card game. My girl is obsessed with sushi and she adores this fun pick-and-pass card game. Warning: It will make everyone crave spicy sashimi and tuna rolls!


Galaxy Pullover Hoodie

Not only is this fleece sweatshirt over-the-top comfy, it’s super stylish. Taylor Swift was seen rocking a similar sparkly sweatshirt during her Reputation album release performance. Enough said, right?


GirlZone Hair Chalk Studio

This hair color chalk has an easy application that works on all hair types. Your tween will have a blast expressing herself with a splash of color or shiny metallic. It’s safe and temporary, so she’ll have fun experimenting without the commitment.
























































How to Raise Kind Kids in this Crazy World

When I had my babies, my plan was to make them use their manners. Say please and thank you. Share. Don’t eat with your mouth full. You know, the basic stuff. That led to a discipline plan. I read tons of books about time-outs, counting to three, and sticking to a plan, even when the last thing you wanted to do was give your screaming child a time-out in the Target toy aisle.

Once my babies grew older, we entered the world of school and socialization. I started experiencing other kids whose parents maybe didn’t read from the same book of etiquette that I did. Kids were not disciplined. Kids were crazy. In fact, kids were MEAN. I realized at that moment that I needed to focus on raising KIND kids, not kids who simply knew how to raise their hand, lend a pencil, or clean up their desk at the end of class.

It’s a tough job to raise a kind child. It needed to be a priority in my parenting. It was a shift in focus. It needed to be up there with good grades and sports medals. I needed my kids to win first place in “kindness.”

My husband and I were already on the same page with discipline and that definitely helped. We had rules and the kids were expected to follow them. They knew not to talk back or be “sassy.” They learned to respect themselves and others. But the key ingredient was this: using the word “kind” to describe their behavior whenever we witnessed it:

“That was kind of you to sit next to the new girl on the playground.”

“That was so kind that you held the door open for Grandma.”

“That was really kind that you remembered your friend’s birthday and made her a card.”

They learned that kindness was just as important as getting a star on their spelling test. And now that we’re living in a world filled with cyber bullies, political mayhem, and extremism, I realize kindness is the most important life lesson I can teach my children. It’s something I consciously have to work on every single day. And I have to say, my two kids (now ages 9 and 11) are getting pretty good at it. Here are some of my tips on how to raise a kind kid:

Start now.
Whether your child is 3 or 13, it’s never too late to put kindness at the forefront. Start by using the word “kind” in place of “nice” to describe them or their friends. Stress the importance of being kind by starting a chore chart at home that helps out Mom and Dad. Have them write thank you notes whenever they receive a gift (one of my personal favs.) If you make kindness a part of their routine, it will start to become second nature.

Manners and discipline are the base.
It all starts at home with teaching your children good manners and discipline.Your children need to know you have high expectations of them and that they are more than capable of handling it. My kids know they have to respect the rules, respect others but, most importantly, they need to respect us, as their parents, and themselves. Once you have all this as their base, teaching them to be kind will fall into place.

You have to be kind too.
Even though it’s hard sometimes, you have to be the bigger person in front of your children. You need to show them what it’s like to be a kind, loving adult. Your children will mirror your speech and your actions. This means being respectful to wait staff, teachers, and other workers you come in contact with at home or when you are out. Even if the waiter messes up your order, you need to teach your children kindness by not overreacting and keeping your cool. You can even have a discussion with your kids about how everyone makes mistakes and we need to learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.

Open up their world whenever you can so they learn it’s not all about them.
For us, this involves travel and charity work. It also means reading books and watching documentaries about how other people live. They need to understand they are a part of a bigger world and being kind to others will carry them through life. Show them that everyone lives in different ways and looks different, but everyone should be treated with the same kindness and respect. Make an effort to expose your children to people who are different from them at a very young age (race, religion, special needs, etc.) so they are comfortable celebrating those differences and learning about others.

Put kindness at the forefront of every day.
We have a tradition at our dinner table where we ask the kids to tell us something they did each day that was kind or helpful. They love to share their stories and we praise them for their hard work. Kindness takes effort and the end results are worth it when you raise a kind, caring, compassionate citizen of the world. It’s not only worth it, it’s so incredibly important. Now more than ever.

Family Bucket List Ideas

It was cloudy here in North Florida on Monday afternoon August 21st, but that didn’t stop my family from enjoying a humbling moment: the Solar Eclipse. We headed to the beach to sit on the sand and look up at history in the making. (Our exact time was 2:49 pm EST.)  We wore our official protective eye glasses and, even though it was short and sweet, it was a family moment I will cherish forever. I love to spend time with my family and create memories. I decided to create a “Family Bucket List” so I can plan and get excited about our future experiences and adventures.

Below is a list of items on my Family Bucket List. This will be a work in progress for sure. There is so much we want to do! I keep adding to the list! Let me know what you have on YOUR Family Bucket List. I’d love to get new ideas. And feel free to grab some of mine. Comment below!

  • Visit Tokyo, Japan and eat all the sushi
  • Go on an African Safari
  • Attend at least one game of all the major pro sports leagues: Football ? Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey (Bonus points for championship games!)
  • Witness a Solar Eclipse ?
  • See a Broadway Show in New York
  • Eat a cheesesteak in Philadelphia ?
  • Go to all four Walt Disney World Parks ?
  • Surf in Hawaii
  • Spend Christmas in a northeastern town that resembles a Hallmark Movie
  • See the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and Niagara Falls
  • Visit my and my husband’s hometowns and schools
  • Swim with the dolphins
  • Take a photo at the Hollywood Sign
  • Eat gelato in Venice, Italy and ride a gondola
  • Climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower and eat a baguette with cheese in Paris
  • See the Mona Lisa
  • Tour Buckingham Palace
  • New Year’s Eve in Time Square
  • Experience a real, working farm or dude ranch
  • Start a family charity ?
  • Sleep in a castle
  • and more!


My Top 10 “Back to School” Must-Haves

My two kids went back to school this week (insert sad face emoji) so we are working on a new routine.

Gone are the lazy summer mornings, trips to the beach, Chick-fil-A for lunch twice a week, and ice cream in front of the TV almost every night. I need to keep the kids organized, healthy, and well-rested. Here are 10 of my “back to school” must-haves that help me handle all of that and more!

1. Backpack

I know a “back to school” backpack is a no-brainer, but it took me awhile to find the perfect one for my tweens. We love the Lands’ End backpacks with custom monogramming. My kids were also able to add a fun design to show personal style. These backpacks are extremely durable and there are lots of color choices.

Lands’ End Classmate Large Backpack

2. Lunch Box

I love these simple insulated lunch bags from EasyLunchBoxes. They are inexpensive and hold up the entire school year. They are the perfect size to fit a lunch container, thermos, and more.


EasyLunchboxes Insulated Lunch Box Cooler Bag in Blue

3. Snack Bag

My daughter still takes a morning snack to school and this sweet pouch is perfect for a granola bar, grapes, banana, or pretzel bag. I love that she can use it everyday and I just wipe down the inside.

Itzy Ritzy Happens Reusable Snack and Everything Bag in Donut Shop

4. Water Bottle

My kids need clear water bottles for school and this brand fit the bill. These bottles do not leak and they slide nicely into the side pockets of their backpacks.

Aladdin 1-Hand Water Bottle, 24 oz in Marina Blue

5. Lunch Notes

I still love to put little notes inside my kids’ lunchboxes. I asked Daniel if he felt he was getting too old for Mama’s notes and he said, “No way!” That made me smile. These tear-out lunchbox jokes are PG-rated fun and I can add my own personal message on the blank side.

Lunchbox Jokes: 100 Fun Tear-Out Notes for Kids

6. Lice Hair Spray and Tree Tea Oil

Fun fact about me: I’m a complete germophobe! And my biggest fear is getting that call from the school office saying my kids have lice. I have been lucky so far (KNOCK ON WOOD!) and it’s probably because I put tea tree oil in their shampoo and spritz them with mint spray every morning before they walk out the door.

Tea Tree Oil with Glass Dropper

Ladibugs Pesticide-Free Mint Spray


7. Wall Calendar

I need to keep our school year organized, so I put all the kids’ activities on a monthly dry erase wall calendar that is stationed by their desks. They can look at it anytime. We update it every month and also include their birthday parties and social events.

DesignOvation Framed Magnetic Dry Erase Monthly Calendar



8. Cozi App

The Cozi Family Organizer app is a complete lifesaver! My husband has it on his phone too, so we can coordinate his work obligations with all the school activities and appointments. It’s our entire family’s schedule all in one place. I love it so.

Cozi Family Organizer


9. Labels

I need to label all my kids’ clothes because they change for gym twice a week. These labels are also perfect for their shoes, lunchboxes, water bottles, and anything else they need to carry to and from school.

Mabel’s Labels Self-Laminating Write On

10. Smoothie Recipes for Breakfast

We have a small window of time in the morning for a healthy breakfast. One of our all-time favs is a breakfast smoothie. I found easy, nutritious breakfast smoothie recipes on Weelicious, Rachael Ray, and Super Healthy Kids. My two kids also love the banana bread smoothie bowl from Real Housemoms. You will need a good smoothie blender and I highly recommend the Ninja. And on those mornings we need to run out super early, we’ll stop by our local Smoothie King drive-thru to grab a strawberry banana to go. Yum!

Ninja Professional Blender


Is there a “back to school” essential that you can’t live without? Comment below!


One Day in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! And Happy Birthday to my son Daniel who turns 11 next month. (He’s ready to receive his invite to Hogwarts!)

To celebrate, we surprised him and his sister with a trip to Universal Studios Orlando to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was our first time at Universal. Daniel is a HUGE Harry Potter fan, so we knew he’d be excited. We bought “Park-to-Park” tickets to experience all of Harry Potter in both Universal Studios (Diagon Alley) and the Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade and Hogwarts). If you are planning on visiting, you’ll need to keep your tickets handy to ride the Hogwarts Express between both parks.

We booked a one night stay at a Universal resort and woke up ready for a full day of magical fun, rides, and butter beer. Here’s how it all went down:

7:45 am

We arrived at the entrance to Universal Studios so we’d be ready to run when they opened the gates. I highly recommend you stay at a Universal Studios resort so you can have the perk of entering the park an hour early. This is key for hitting all those Harry Potter attractions without long lines and blistering summer heat. When the gates opened, we went straight to the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride in Diagon Alley.

8:10 am

The Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride had a short five minute wait. Score! Since this was our first ever ride in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we were awestruck at every turn. The waiting area alone is Harry Potter immersive. It’s the famous Gringotts bank from the second “Deathly Hollows” movie. The goblins writing checks are awesome to watch. And the actual 3D ride is fantastic! You strap into a thrilling runaway car where you will be greeted by villains Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange and attacked by snakes, statues, and one really scary dragon. It might be a bit spooky for little ones, but my tweens loved it. Before you walk away, be sure to look up and wait for the giant dragon on top of Gringotts to breath fire. I was able to capture the moment!

8:45 am

As soon as we were done with the Gringotts ride, we went straight to Ollivander’s Wand Shop across the way. This was my favorite moment of the day. You are split into groups and led into a small, dimly lit room inside the wand shop. One lucky “wizard” is picked from each group to have their wand specifically chosen for them. Daniel was picked from our group! It was seriously the coolest thing ever. The wandmaker, Ollivander, gave Daniel three tries before he was presented him with his chosen wand. There were neat special effects and lot of magical touches along the way. Daniel ended up with a 16 inch oak wand with dragon heart string, the exact one he wanted. How magical is that? Then, we were all led into the shop to purchase the wands. Annabel picked out an ivy one. They were fifty bucks each, but it’s the best souvenir from our trip. Be sure to pick at least one “interactive wand” so you can have fun with the magic throughout the park. The interactive wands cause water to shoot from fountains and make the window displays come to life all throughout Diagon Alley.

9:30 am

Now it was time for Butter Beer! We could not wait any longer to try the signature Harry Potter drink. It’s a cool mix of butterscotch and cream soda with a sugary cream foam on top. You can order the iced, frozen, or even hot version! We indulged in the traditional iced version and we all gave it two thumbs up. (Daniel ordered a second one for lunch!) I also tried the Fishy Green Ale which is a minty cinnamon boba tea with blueberry bubbles. It was delicious, but I would pick the butter beer if I had to choose only one.

10:00 am

We were off to Kings Cross Station near the entrance to Diagon Alley to finally take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade. This was my favorite ride by far. It was not crowded, so we had time to watch each other walk through the brick wall to Platform 9 3/4. The special effects are super cool, so be on the look out for this when you’re in line. We boarded the train and sat in our own family car. The train ride feels very real as we “traveled” from London to Hogsmeade. You’ll want to look out the window and into the hallway to capture every moment.

10:30 am

We arrived in Hogsmeade and ventured uphill toward the Hogwarts Castle for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. After reading all the reviews about motion sickness, I decided to take a pass. But my husband and kids loved it. The stomach-turning ride takes you through Hogwarts Castle where you feel like you’re flying on a broomstick. You’ll see Dumbledore’s office, dementors, spiders, and a Quidditch match. The ride uses realistic holographic images and 4D elements like water and smoke. Even though I passed on the ride, I was still able to do the “Castle Tour” to see all the fantastic features and that iconic Sorting Hat.

11:15 am

Since the Flight of the Hippogriff was right next door, we took a quick spin on this kid-friendly roller coaster. It reminded me of Goofy’s Barnstormer from Disney’s Magic Kingdom. It’s bumpy and fast with milder hills, so it’s perfect for younger ones. The line was a little long, but we were entertained by Hagrid’s hut, pumpkin patch, and the interactive hippogriff.

11:45 am

Daniel and my husband were the only two brave enough to try the Dragon Challenge roller coaster* which is based on the dragon challenge in the “Goblet of Fire.” You can pick the coaster you want to ride: the Hungarian Horntail or the Chinese Fireball. They rode the Hungarian Horntail and Daniel said he loved the big drop and upside down loops. You can get back in line and compare both coasters, but my boys decided once was enough, so off we went to search for sweet treats.

*Note: Dragon Challenge is closing September 2017 to make way for a new ride coming soon.

12:15 pm

There were fun Harry Potter-inspired singing and dancing shows on a stage near the coasters. Be sure to stop and watch one or two between rides. We caught one of the Hogwarts Frog Choirs as we were walked to Honeydukes. Honeydukes is the famous candy shop featuring the Chocolate Frog, Pumpkin Pastry, and “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.” We got one of each and they were all yummy. Well, except when Daniel tried a bunch of the beans and “accidentally” ate a “vomit” and “dirt” one. Ewww. We then stopped in the Owl Post to see where all the letters get mailed.

12:45 pm

We decided it was time for lunch and we all agreed to eat at the Leaky Cauldron back in Diagon Alley. You can also choose to eat at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Both locations serve classic English fare. The Leaky Cauldron is a bit larger and the kids thought it looked just like the movie, so we jumped on the Hogwarts Express and headed back to Diagon Alley. The train ride back was just as special as the first time with the scenic views and magical effects.

1:15 pm

The line at the Leaky Cauldron was not that bad and we were ready for some cooling off time indoors. The restaurant is a traditional British tavern and it completely resembles the spot where the wizards enter Diagon Alley for the first time. You will want to walk around and check out all the cool details. The menu features fish and chips, smoked turkey legs, fish pie, and bangers and mash. They also have kids menus with mac and cheese and chicken fingers.

2:00 pm

After lunch, we let the kids run wild with their interactive wands and test them out on all the special sensory areas in Diagon Alley. They had a great time exploring all the shops and magical spots including Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. I loved window shopping and taking photos of the kids in the colorful scarves and robes. Afterwards, the kids had a chat with the conductor of the three-story purple Knight Bus, the bus featured in the “Prisoner of Azkaban.” The shrunken head in the driver’s seat had a conversation with Daniel about his birthday! Then, they checked out the English red phone booth right outside Kings Cross Station. If you dial the word “MAGIC,” you’ll get a special message from the Ministry.

3:00 pm

Seven hours later, we had covered all of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and even had extra time to explore some of the other rides in Universal Studios. We had an awesome first time experience and can’t wait to go back and visit the magical Harry Potter world again.

Happy Birthday, Harry!

Fun Emoji Birthday Party Ideas

My daughter celebrated her 9th birthday with an Emoji-themed slumber party. We had a blast putting together all the details and decorations. The Emoji Movie is opening later this month, so I thought it was the perfect time to write about some of our favorite emoji party ideas! Starting with…

The Emoji Cake!

You can head to your local bakery and order an Emoji-style cake or you can DIY! My husband is our master chef and he created this amazing rainbow layer masterpiece for Annabel’s big day. He used three boxes of white angel food cake mix to create six cake layers. He added food coloring to each layer for the rainbow effect. After baking, carefully place the layers on top of one another using icing to seal together. Then, cover the entire cake with bright yellow icing and add red sparkle heart eyes and a cookie crumb smile. The cake was so tall that each girl received a gigantic slice of rainbow goodness. It barely fit on the plate!

Emoji Pizza!

We gave each girl their own personal-sized pizza crust on a plate. They added pizza sauce and lots of yummy mozzarella cheese. Then…the fun part! They designed an emoji face using the toppings: pepperoni, olives, onions, pineapple, and peppers. We pre-cut the pepperoni circles into heart shapes. The pizzas baked in the oven while the girls played some games. Everyone was excited when they could finally eat their emoji!

Pin the Poop Emoji Game!

I downloaded this awesome Poop Emoji game from Etsy store, Trinkets and Things. You will need to cut out and number the poop emojis for each girl. They will be blindfolded as they try to pin their poop inside the toilet. It sounds a little gross, but the girls had a blast and could not stop laughing. The winner is the one closest to the center of the toilet! Each girl received a poop emoji pen just for playing. You can find the poop emoji pens HERE.

Emoji Bingo!

Another easy emoji party game is Bingo! I found this cute emoji Bingo set from Etsy store, PishPesh2. (I heart my Etsy stores!) You will print out a card for each girl and then play traditional bingo using pieces of candy or emoji buttons as the markers. The winner receives a prize and then you can continue to play as many rounds as the girls want. We played until every girl won at least once.

Emoji Picture Frames!

I picked up white wood picture frames at my local craft store for the girls to create a DIY emoji photo frame. You can use any unfinished wood frame, but I personally love the white. The girls decorated their frames with emoji stickers, colorful craft gems, pom poms, and paint pens. I let the frames sit and dry while we went to snap pics in our custom photo booth!

Emoji Photo Booth!

I bought a pink sequin tablecloth on Amazon and used it as the backdrop. I attached it to our family room curtains with clips and, Voila!, an instant Emoji photo booth! The hashtag “Bday” sign was from the party section at Target. I put out a basket of fluffy boas, costume jewelry, and sunglasses so the girls could dress up. They each held an emoji photo booth prop when it was time to take the pictures. I printed out copies of the best group photo to put in their Emoji picture frame. It was the perfect party keepsake for these BFFs!

Emoji Decor!

I loved the pink princess poop “Annabel” birthday banner I ordered from Etsy store, Poky Dots.  I created emojis for the dinner table using yellow party lanterns. I pasted faces on each one using colored construction paper. I cut off the bottom of the pink sequin tablecloth to use as my runner. I picked up “LOL” wooden craft letters as the centerpiece. Then, I decorated the room with emoji mylar balloons as well as bright yellow and pink mylar balloons.

Emoji Goody Bags!

My goody bags had cute Emoji items from the Justice store which is tween girl heaven! Justice has adorable emoji items for under five bucks like the pink emoji nail polish, glitter emoji necklace, and emoji snap bracelet. They even have trendy emoji fidget spinners if you want to go above the $5.  I ordered Emoji hair ties from Etsy store, Murrers’ Monograms and More and downloaded custom emoji candy stickers from Etsy store, Ann’s Craft House. I put the stickers on the bottom of pink Hershey kisses and tied them in a small plastic bag so each girl had a sweet treat to take home too. Since we had a sleepover party, each girl also received an emoji pillow!

I highly recommend an emoji party for your tween. It was so much fun and so easy to do! I don’t think this emoji trend is leaving anytime soon, do you?

My Halfway Through 2017 *Updated* New Year’s Resolutions

Back in January, I was motivated.

I love a new year! It’s filled with hope and renewal and promise. I made a list of things I wanted to do and accomplish. Some of the goals were lofty (lose 15 pounds!) and some were even loftier (organize my entire house from top to bottom!)

Now that we are halfway through this year (Hello, JULY?!), things have changed. I need to adjust some of these resolutions. Why? I’m a MOM.

So here are my updated resolutions for the rest of 2017:

1. Lose Weight. Forget losing weight. I’m trying to not GAIN any more weight at this point. Curse you, holidays. And summer vacation. And weekends. And Tuesdays.

2. Organize My House. All that house organizing? My new goal is to move all the darn Lego bricks, golf balls, and scraps of craft paper from my floors before my family comes to visit next month. Oh, and wash the guest room bedding.

3. Read More. Does reading the “Reality Steve” Bachelorette spoilers count? No? Okay, then I’m changing this to “GET THE KIDS TO Read More” so I have time to watch The Bachelorette.

4. Stop Drinking Wine on Weekdays.  Hahahahahahaha.

5. Cut Down on Spending and Save More. This one might have worked if #4 had worked. Oh, well.

6. More Date Nights. My plan was for the hubby and I to have a date night every other weekend. It would be a time for the two of us to talk and bond. This has changed to picking a Netflix series we can watch in bed together while the kids are watching Disney Channel in the other room. We have to turn the volume down really low because of curse words and sex scenes. It’s super romantic.

7. Spend Quality Time with the Kids Separately. I simply need to add “running errands” into the middle of this one. I brought Daniel with me to gas up the mini van last week. Annabel and I ran to Walgreens to pick up more printer paper. Check and Check.

8. Cut Down on Caffeine. Hahahahahahahahaha.

Okay, Moms. What are some resolutions that you need to “adjust?” Comment below!

Summertime as a Kid: Then and Now

Then: My mom told me to go outside and find someone to play with.

Now: I text other moms to orchestrate weekly playdates which include detailed lunch plans and an activity or craft.

Then: I learned to swim with 20 other kids and one instructor at the local Y.

Now: I enroll my kids in one-on-one infant survival swim lessons when they’re nine months old.

Then: A cool treat was a five cent freeze pop that I opened with my teeth.

Now: A cool treat is a five dollar unicorn frappuccino from Starbucks.

Then: My day camp was a CAMP. We made necklaces out of sticks and collected rocks.

Now: Their day camp is an EXPERIENCE. They develop skill sets and complain if they spend too much time outdoors.

Then: My vacation was one week at the beach. The same beach. Every year.

Now: It takes six months of pre-planning to take my family on a summer adventure that is way too expensive and then I realize I should have just gone to the beach.

Then: Catching lightning bugs and placing them in a jelly jar was as “high tech” as I got.

Now: My kids spend hours mastering the next level of some new battle game on their iPad.

Then: I knew to come home from playing kick-the-can when the sun went down and the streets lights came on.

Now: Whose kids are wandering around outside at dusk??

Then: My bike was my freedom and my only mode of transportation during the day.

Now: I live in my car as I cart the kiddos to and from the aforementioned camps and playdates.

Then: The only summer television I watched was morning cartoons and Miami Vice on Friday nights.

Now: My kids have already “season passed” AGT, World of Dance, Big Brother, and everything on the Disney Channel.

Then: My mom wanted to protect our skin so she slathered us with the new Coppertone SPF 4. That lasted us all day.

Now: I cover my kids with SPF 50 every hour on the hour. Even on rainy days.

10 Movies To Watch With Your Tweens This Summer

It has been raining for weeks here in Florida! WEEKS! We miss the sun. So I thought this was the perfect time to write about movies since I’m spending a bunch of time indoors with my kiddos.

I sat down with my son and daughter (ages 9 and 10) to compile this list. These are movies that parents won’t mind watching either. There are fun classics (I love my 80s!) mixed with some contemporary favs.

The one rule I had: No Animated Movies. Happy Watching!

1. School of Rock (2003, PG-13)

My favorite Jack Black movie of all time! It totally ROCKS! Jack’s character mistakenly becomes an elementary school teacher and starts a band with the kids in his class. There are a few bad words here and there, but overall it’s a lot of fun with some seriously catchy music. (Not sure why there’s the PG-13 rating.) This movie also has important lessons for tweens like opening yourself up to trying new things and accepting others for who they are.

2. E.T. : The Extra Terrestrial (1982, PG)

I could not wait to show my kids this one. This Steven Spielberg classic truly stands the test of time. It has humor, mystery, and suspense. It also has messages about loyalty and trust: Between Elliott and E.T. as well as the three siblings. Drew Barrymore, who plays baby sis Gertie, is the cutest thing ever. Even though E.T. lacks today’s advanced special effects, my tweens were still mesmerized by it all.

3. The Karate Kid (1984, PG)

This classic taught my kids the very important lesson of standing up for yourself. It’s also about creating a goal and then working hard (I mean, REALLY hard) so you can achieve it. You remember the “wax on, wax off and painting the fence” scenes, right? The innocent love story between Daniel and Ali is adorable. There are a few bloody noses and bruised eyes, but it’s all worth it to witness the central relationship between Daniel and Mr Miyagi. “You’re my best friend” makes me choke up every time.

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001, PG)

My son has read the first five Harry Potter books so we started watching the movies after he finished each one. You should start with this first, but we also highly recommend continuing on with the rest. The entire series is great and the movies make the books come to life. The movies do change into PG-13 ratings, but your tweens will be able to handle all those scarier moments if they are big fans of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

5. Back to the Future (1985, PG)

I adore Michael J. Fox and this movie is a great way to introduce your tweens to one of the coolest actors of the 80s. It’s about time travel and family relationships. My kids loved Doc and all the weird science. There are some awkward moments with the mom liking her son from the future and some bully violence, but the rest is classic 80s fun. Side note: Unlike Harry Potter, all the other Back to the Future movies are terrible. Check out old episodes of Family Ties instead.

6. Holes (2003, PG)

This movie grew on me. My kids loved it from start to finish, but be warned: it’s a little…strange. Holes is about a bunch of teen boys who are sent to dig holes at a detention camp. It’s based on the book of the same name. The visuals are pretty amazing. The young actors (including Shia LaBeouf before he hated acting) are the center of the story and they are all terrific. There are also some great lessons about racial tolerance, determination, and the power of friendship.

7. Freaky Friday (2003, PG)

I love this 2003 remake of the 1976 classic. It stars Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis as mom and daughter who switch identities after a crazy spell is placed upon them. They are both so entertaining and charming. You can tell they are having fun. This movie also sheds a nice light on the complexity of parent and tween relationships. You will also understand how we all fell in love with Lindsay Lohan. She’s so great in this.

8. Night at the Museum (2006, PG)

I love any movie that mixes a history lesson with lots of laughs. Ben Stiller stars in this high adventure flick. He’s the night watchman at New York’s American Museum of Natural History and magically interacts with all the exhibits when the museum is closed at night. This movie is great for your tween’s imagination and I bet they will beg you to take them to a museum this summer. Not a bad thing at all.

9. Rudy (1993, PG)

There is some salty language in this one, but the bigger message made it worth watching with my kids. It’s about Rudy, a young college student who’s one goal in life is to play football for Notre Dame. He is the underdog who never gives up on his dream. Rudy will remind you and your tweens that anything is possible with hard work and determination. Love!

10. Little Manhattan (2005, PG)

I had to add this sweet little gem that I’m sure many of you have never heard of. My daughter loved it more than my son because it does deal with a “whole lot of feelings.” (My son’s words.) It’s the story of two school friends living in Near York City and what happens when the boy develops a big crush on the girl. It’s a bit like When Harry met Sally for tweens. It’s full of heart and a great way to open up the conversation about love and those “feelings.” (But I could do without the opening vomiting number – you’ve been warned.)

Are there other movies for tweens that you recommend? Comment below!

Teen Movies

Tween Movies

The Evolution of Mom Worry

A couple of my friends had babies recently and that always takes me back to when I had a baby. To that newborn stage. That glorious, overwhelming, heart-outside-of-your-chest time when everything was about sleep and poop and boobies. Did I mention SLEEP?


It also made me realize how far I’ve come as a Mom. I feel so far removed from breast pumps and Boppy pillows. I don’t miss all that worry about sleeping patterns, high fevers, constipation, weird rashes, and every other medical question I would look up in my giant American Academy of Pediatrics manual. How am I supposed to go to bed if he might accidentally roll over on his stomach and DIE? The newborn worry is big and magnified because everything is just so,well, NEW, including this human that someone just took out of my belly.

Then, there’s the general baby worry. He’s going to choke on this rice cereal. She has a clogged tear duct and the surgery is “no big deal” except that it’s a REALLY BIG DEAL. And forget about “baby proofing.” There are entire websites dedicated to baby proofing your home, but even if I buy those socket covers, plastic door knobs, and toilet closure thingies, my baby will still manage to face plant into their Playskool Ball Popper. Yep, that happened.

Next, the worry turns into all those annoying milestones. Why isn’t she walking? Why isn’t he talking? I had a piece of paper on my refrigerator to write down every word my son said because one book proclaimed “25 words by age two.” This is also the era of comparisons. You’re told not to compare your darling child to anyone else’s darling child, but YOU DO. Why is Cooper walking when my kid is still crawling? Why does Maddie have FOUR TEETH already? That kid over there is climbing the stairs ONE FOOT AT A TIME. What?! This worry is more intellectual and researched, so it’s less about keeping your kid alive and more about keeping them upright on life’s fast-moving conveyor belt.

Then, it happens. Your kid enters SCHOOL. Now the worry is about their safety and their classmates, which is sometimes one in the same. In preschool, there’s biting and separation anxiety.  In elementary school, there are reading levels and navigating the social stuff. Are they making friends and being kind to people? Are they HAPPY? There are weird viruses, new allergies, sports injuries, and academic competition. This worry is more intense, but has settled into me like a new layer of skin. I’ve accepted it as part of being a Mom. I’ve also loaded up on the wine.

And when I think about the future? With teenagers? Well, that worry is loaded with cyber bullies, peer pressure, SAT scores, and two driver’s licenses. Yikes. I hope my layer of skin will have turned into protective armor by then and I’ll be poised and ready for anything. But you know what? I think I’ll stay here, with today’s worry and a nice glass of red, for a little while longer. Cheers, Moms!