Category Archives: Smile

family reading story book

Check out these great children’s books that make perfect holiday gifts

Books make wonderful gifts, and unlike many of the toys we buy them that sit collecting dust after being played with for maybe ten minutes, they tend to be enjoyed long after the holidays have ended. If you’re looking for some ideas for books to get your children this holiday season, read on for my recommendations.

With two children who enjoy reading, books have long been a part of my Hanukkah gift list, and I love how my children’s tastes have evolved from board books, to picture books, to graphic novels, to chapter books.

As a blogger, I get many requests for book reviews, and I have included some that I believe both kids and their guardians will enjoy, along with some of my personal favorites. I note the requested review books with an asterisk, and, all views expressed are my own.

You may notice the absence of a recommended age range for each title, this is because I understand children’s reading ability and preference can vary greatly. I hope with each description you can get a better sense of the books’ appropriateness for your child(ren). If you would like to see age guides, they are provided within the Amazon listing for each book.

Note: I will update this list on occasion. Check back to see new additions.

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20 Reasons why I am a terrible parent (according to the Internet)

Being a parent today means having access to a wealth of information to guide you toward raising your kids in the best possible way. In the “old” days our parents and grandparents maybe had a handful of books and an occasional newspaper advice column to turn to for help. Most of the time, people with kids were just making it up as they go, and didn’t live under constant fear of shame and ridicule. Or, at the very least, any shame they felt was limited to a close circle of friends and family.

Now, we have a whole Internet full of ideas on how to raise kids, and, more often than not, a contradictory list of all the ways you’re doing parenting wrong. You would be right to think we shouldn’t let our worth be determined by randos online, but, what can I say, those keyboard warriors have a weird power about them.

As much as I share about my motherhood experience, I do hold back, because I know many of the things I do as a parent would be met with ridicule and shame. My style is a mishmash of attachment, tiger, free-range and anything else you may think of. My parenting often changes with my mood or based on what I feel my kids’ need. I consider outside input, then do what I feel is best for my family.

No matter how I hard I try, I still feel shamed by parenting “advice” online, whether it is coming from an expert or just a bunch of moms in a Facebook group. I acknowledge that as a writer who focuses on parenting, I also contribute to this mess. I hope anyone who reads my stuff takes it with a very large grain of salt.

I think we need to laugh at how varied and disconnected parenting advice can be, so I made I list of all the things I have done or am doing wrong as a parent.

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5 Trick-or-treating etiquette tips to embrace this Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching, and kids everywhere are counting down the days until they can go trick-or-treating. Stocking up on candy and other goodies is a joyous time for lots of children, however, unfortunately that fun can be spoiled by bad behavior from kids AND adults.

I won’t say my own kids are perfect by any means, and I certainly have observed them engage in some of these problematic actions. Parenting, after all, is an ongoing learning experience. As someone whose family has participated in a massive town trick-or-treating event since my kids’ were little, I have observed a few things which I want to pass on to you.

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Smelly Proof Is A Sustainable Alternative To Single-Use Plastic Bags

I have two kids in school who bring their snacks and lunch to school with them every day. While I do my best to pack their food in sustainable containers, I sometimes find them lacking. Like many “green” products, they are too bulky, too hard to clean or flimsy. I end up giving up and reverting back to unsustainable sandwich bags and other wasteful products.

I wanted a product that got mimic the convenience and ease of the food storage I was accustomed to, while still giving me a eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic.

Enter Smelly Proof, a brand of storage bags that function better than typical plastic storage bags and are durable, reusable, and FDA approved. The bags are also free of BPA and other harmful materials often found in plastic storage items, and are 100% American made.

Since receiving my samples of Smelly Proof products, I have used them to store everything from produce to cheese, and have found they keep these items fresh for a reasonable amount of time. And unlike traditional plastic bags, the Smelly Proof bags are easily cleaned by hand are even dishwasher safe!

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Parents share tips to help kids transition to new schools

The summer is winding down, and many kids are already back in the classroom or will be in a matter of weeks. While every school year has its challenges, starting kindergarten, heading off to college, or moving to a new school bring unique worries for both students and parents.

I asked my followers on Facebook to share their insights and tips on making those transitions easier for families. I was amazed by their responses, and am pleased to share some of them here with you. If you have more suggestions on making school transitions easier, please share them in the comments.

Many parents agreed checking out the school before classes began was crucial for easing new-student anxiety. Many schools offer official orientation days where teachers and sometimes older students walk the incoming students around the building and answer questions. Other schools will offer individual tours of the school if arranged in advance.

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Should you replace your petroleum jelly with Waxelene?

Like many Americans, petroleum jelly, or as you may know it by its most popular brand name, Vaseline, was a staple in my childhood home. The gooey, greasy, slippery product was a sought-after tool for curing everything from an irritated nose during a cold to healing chapped lips.

As an adult, I continued to use petroleum jelly, finding it helped me with a number of beauty and personal care needs. However, I always felt a bit disturbed by how petroleum jelly gets made, and wondered if this was really the best option for mine and my family’s health.

I was intrigued when I was offered a chance to try out Waxelene, an all-natural, organic alternative to petroleum jelly.

9oz jar of Waxelene


Before I continue, I will note that I have never personally experienced any adverse affects from using petroleum jelly, nor I can I offer any substantiated claims to suggest anyone would be harmed by continuing to use it. This post is meant to give readers insight into an alternative product, which may align more with their needs and preferences. I encourage you to do your own research and make choices that are best for you.

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flat lay photography of variety of vegetables

Simple tips to encourage plant-based eating in your home

I began limiting animal-based foods from my diet when I was in college, mainly because I never loved the texture of most meat, and I was drawn to the idea that cutting back on such food could be beneficial to the environment. I went back and forth on what exactly I included in my diet, eventually settling in my comfort zone, which is as a technical pescatarian (though my fish intake is limited), who is currently limiting dairy.

For me, cutting back on meat is simple, as I enjoy many fruits, vegetables, nuts and other plant-based products. I am perfectly happy with a salad filled with colorful ingredients, and can put together a full meal entirely of sides at even the most meat-centric restaurant. My kids, however, do not share my love of veggies, and getting them to think of greens, whole grains, legumes and other plant-based foods as tasty parts of a healthy diet has been a futile effort. Like many parents, meat-eaters or not, I stress about whether my kids are eating enough nutritious foods (spoiler: mine probably are not).

Social media makes me believe every other family has kids who happily eat platefuls of raw spinach, while I am happy with mine eating a few pieces of lettuce at dinner. What I am learning, however, is no family is perfect, and that we need to take a deep breath and realize we are all probably doing much better than we realize. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak with Brooke Brimm, a mom, advocate and champion of plant-based eating. Brooke, who has been vegan for many years, believes adding plant-based foods shouldn’t be a negative or stressful experience. In our chat on Instagram, Brooke shares how eating more vegan foods is not about shaming meat or meat eaters, nor is it about projecting our own needs onto our family. She urges her followers to make food a positive experience and to embrace the myriad of ways many of us (our kids especially) enjoy eating.

Keep reading to see more great tips from Brooke.

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Moving? Here are 5 things to look for in a potential community library

When my husband and I were considering areas for our growing family, we wanted to be sure we would settle in a place our kids could thrive and be fulfilled. Though this meant looking into a number of factors, such as schools and overall quality of life, I made a point to place one particular community element at the top of my list: the local library.

Whether the town or city we visited was large or small, I took stock of how regarded the library was in the community. I took special care to observe the children’s section, as I knew that would be where my family would spend most of our time, yet also made note of the overall condition and atmosphere of the building as a whole.

To me, a library that is active, clean, well-staffed and highly regarded reflects a community that is engaged, involved and invested in the happiness and well-being of its members. This does not mean the library needs to be huge or filled with all the latest technology. I am well aware of how underfunded libraries are, and how unfortunately many communities lack the resources to improve old buildings, pay staff and keep shelves stocked. If you are able, please consider donating to your local library and other programs that support libraries across the country.

When you are exploring potential neighborhoods, here are some things to look for in the local library.

A library that is active, clean, well-staffed and highly regarded reflects a community that is engaged, involved and invested in the happiness and well-being of its members. Click To Tweet Continue reading
photo of empty class room

My oldest is “moving up” to middle school, and I have all the feelings

My oldest son entered kindergarten in September 2017, at the age of four. With a mid November birthday, he was one of the youngest students in the class.

Many around me questioned our family’s choice to put him in kindergarten — after all, the overwhelming trend was/is to let kids with late birthdays wait another year. I certainly wondered, at times, if we made the right call. Yet, in my heart, I knew he belonged there.

Sure enough, my oldest continued to thrive. His academic and social skills kept improving, and, by second grade, I couldn’t imagine him being in a grade below, even if some of those kids were in fact older than him.

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Review: Sunnies brand sunglasses offer style and protection kids and parents will love

Though the school year has yet to end here in New York state, my kids are already in full on summer mode. They are ready for sun, sun, sun, and, did I mention? sun!

The weather is warming up, which means lots more time spent outdoors enjoying those sunny days.

I am lucky to have parents who live close to several beaches on Long Island, and late last month, I took the kids out so they could spend a couple of days out in the sand and surf.

During our visit, my kids had the opportunity to try out Sunnies, a sunglasses brand I was sent for review.

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