Tuesday, November 21, 2017

10 Gifts For Kids That Give Back


10 Gifts For Kids That Give Back

1. St. Jude Cupcake Ornament $10.50 - For every St. Jude Ornament purchased, Pottery Barn Kids donates 50% of the price directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® to help support research and treatment for childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. I love that. This cute cupcake makes the perfect stocking stuffer.

2. Navy Light Bursts Tiny TOMS Kids Shoes $36 - With every pair of shoes your purchase, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. These are my current favorites for kids. I think I'll get Essley a pair for Christmas, and a pair of these for Emmett.

3. Tegu Magbot Magnetic Wooden Block Set $30 - The magnetic wooden blocks that make up this set are crafted from sustainably harvested wood - and for every one tree Tegu harvests, they plant hundreds more! Tegu is also bringing world-class employment standards to Central America by paying their employees a living wage and prioritizing long-term career growth and development.  Emmett is getting this super cool robot under the tree this year.

4. Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set $30-$110 - See # 3 directly above to read about how this amazing company helps the world. Kids love these super cool block sets, which help support all sorts of brain and motor skill development.

5. Cloud b TwilightTurtle Night Light $33 - Since 2011, Cloud b has worked with the MaxLove Project to distribute approximately $250,000 worth of Twilight Turtles to kids fighting cancer and diseases around the world. This would be perfect for any baby, toddler, or child's room. And the projected stars are the coolest! It also comes in 3 colors.

6. Green Toys Recycling Truck $19 - Made from 100% recycled plastic. I am a huge fan of this brand and everything they do to remain eco-conscious. Emmett actually already has this but I'm thinking of getting one for a friend's daughter.

7. One World Play Project Soccer Ball $39-$74 - For every ball purchased, One World donates a second ball to an organization that enables play for youth living in disadvantaged communities. These balls are also nearly indestructible, never need a pump, never go flat even when punctured.

8. Green Toys Tea Set $19 - Made from 100% recycled plastic. Again, I just love this brand and their commitment to the environment. (Plus you can throw them in the dishwasher to clean!). And this tea set is absolutely adorable. I'm getting one for Essley.

9. Yoobi Look On The Bright Side Mini Highlighter Markers $11 - For every Yoobi item purchased, they donate one Yoobi school supply item to support kids in need across the U.S. Both my kids love coloring with markers, so they'll each be a getting a set of these.

10. Cuddle & Kind Hudson the Polar Bear $48/$68 - For every doll sold, Cuddle & Kind give 10 meals to children in need. Every single one of their dolls and animals are both adorable and incredibly well made, but this one is my current favorite.


I mentioned in Friday's post how my kids and I have a yearly tradition of going through their toys and choosing some to donate to children in need. But I want to take things a step further this year and make more conscious decisions about the gifts I'm buying for them as well. I started thinking about the companies that make kids' products that "give back" in some way - whether they donate to charities, make toys/clothing with the environment in mind, promote social justice, or make a difference on some level - and decided that is where I want to give my dollars when holiday shopping for my little ones this year. I ended up finding so many wonderful options, so I thought I'd share them with you. I hope you find something you love from this list for your kids (or yourself!) too.


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Monday, November 20, 2017

Our Family Dance Parties (& Why Music Is Important To Us)


Our Family Dance Parties (& Why Music Is Important To Us)
This post is in partnership with Sonos and CJ Affiliate's VIP Content Service. All opinions are my own.

As those of you who read here regularly or follow me on social media know, music is way of life for my family. My husband works in the music industry as the Stage Manager for a touring band, he and I met at a concert, and we've collectively attended many hundreds of shows and festivals for fun over the years. My former career as a clothing designer also involved vending and producing fashion shows at major music festivals throughout the country, for well over a decade.

It's probably no surprise that both of our little ones love music as much as we do (and have been going to listen to live music since the womb!). This makes me happy not just because all of us have a common affinity for music, but also because there are legitimate studies that show incredible benefits that music (and dance!) provide for growing brains. In fact, everything from overall cognitive development to memory to ability to learn new information can be improved by enjoying music.


Needless to say, there is always music playing at our house, and spontaneous family dance parties are a regular part of our daily lives. Essley will literally call out the words "dance party!" if she senses any sort of stress from us (man do I love that kid's sensitive heart). At that point we all stop what we're doing, and one of us (again, usually Essley) says to our Sonos One smart speaker, "Alexa, play _______." (Admittedly this is most often a song from Frozen or Trolls, but hey, we'll take it.) Just like that the room is filled with music - that has a surprisingly exuberant, layered sound quality - from the tiny black speaker (that this design-obsessed lady also happens to find very attractive) sitting on an end table (or wherever we happen to have it on that particular day). Instantly, we are connected as a family, our moods are improved, and we're all doing something we genuinely love. When Robbie is on the road and it's just the kids and me, the dance parties continue. They're a simple way for me to take breaks from work or home/kid stuff and hit the reset button, along with my little ones.


The new Sonos One smart speaker has legitimately been a game changer for this family of music lovers. First of all, it has Amazon Alexa built in, which allows us to do everything from request specific songs (or entire albums) to stream music to access our personal music libraries and more. If the music is too quiet, we just say "Alexa, turn it up!" If we don't recognize a song, we ask Alexa what's playing. If we want to a skip a song, we just tell her to skip it. Sonos One syncs voice, app, and touch commands, which makes it so we can manage our music just by saying a word, or tapping the app, or swiping the speaker - we choose how we want to control it. (We can also use our Sonos One Alexa to check the news or traffic, manage our smart phones, and a do a whole lot more, but that's a whole different post.) And it connects wirelessly to other Sonos speakers in other rooms, so you can have music playing throughout your entire home. It's amazing you guys. And it makes it so our family dance party sessions can be truly spontaneous, because there aren't any interruptions. We don't need to stop what we're doing and put on an album or go get a phone, find a song, plug it into a speaker and wait. In just a few seconds, we are dancing. Together.


And just because it's so adorable, here is a photo of the kids having a dance party, in the exact same spot, almost a year ago. It blows my mind how tiny they look! It also warms my heart to look through old pictures and be reminded of the fact that music has always been (and will hopefully always be) such an integral part of their lives.


Fellow music lovers, who else has family dance parties? And do any of you have the Sonos One yet? (If not, I highly recommend it! We love ours so much that I'm giving a couple for holiday gifts as well. Woohoo!)

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Friday, November 17, 2017

8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids


8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids
This post is sponsored by Carter's; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

I'm on a roll with these holidays posts, I know. But one thing I've noticed since becoming a parent is that the holiday season, despite the fact that it seems to start earlier and earlier every year, goes by in a flash - so I want to savor every moment of holiday goodness that I can. I told you guys in a post last week that I made a conscious decision to stay in the present and enjoy even the simplest of holiday pleasures this year, rather than fall into my usual routine of setting unrealistic expectations and then feeling stressed and disappointed. I'm including the kids in this plan as well. Rather than go overboard with extravagant holiday plans for them like I've done in the past, we're enjoying the small, low-key things that make the holiday season so special. And while the season has just begun, so far, we're doing pretty well. Today I thought I'd share some of the ways we're savoring the small things that celebrate spirit of the holidays this year.

8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids
8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids

1. Have holiday story time. We put on holiday music, cuddle, and read holiday books that the kids choose. This is something we all look forward to, include the parents! (It's also a great way to ease into bedtime. True story.)

2. Bake holiday cookies. I'm not too proud to admit that there are plenty of times baking holiday cookies means placing the ready-to-break, printed Christmas tree variety on a cookie sheet and calling it good. Essley and Emmett enjoy this process just as much as the much more time consuming made-from-scratch kind anyway. Low-key, delicious, and quintessentially holiday.

3. Watch holiday movies. It's a long time tradition in my family to watch holiday movies starting around Thanksgiving, with a grand finale of It's a Wonderful Life (my personal favorite) on Christmas Eve. A few times a week, we all snuggle up on the couch with popcorn or cookies and watch a holiday movie or show. It's a wonderfully laid back way to celebrate the season. (Essley's favorite is Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Emmett's is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Robbie's is Christmas Vacation. I love all of them!)

8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids
8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids

4. Write letters to Santa. Essley thinks this is one of the most magical parts of the season. And even Emmett, who knows little more about Santa than the fact that he brings presents and says "Ho Ho Ho" (which Emmett likes to say himself, loudly and often), likes to pretend he's writing letters to Santa all by himself.

5. Wear holiday pajamas. Every year, we get super adorable matching holiday pajamas for the kids from Carter's. It's a fun, festive, simple way to instantly feel in the holiday spirit. The kids wear them throughout the season, on Christmas morning, and usually for months afterward. We love Carter's PJs because they're affordable, comfortable (Essley always calls them her "comfy jammies") and stylish, and they always have the best variety of holiday designs. This year Essley even got a matching nightgown for her dolls that came with her fleece holiday gown. (I wish I had a picture of the moment she first saw them.) Emmett got this Two Piece Fleece Set (two words: Santa pockets) to go with Essley's gown, and they each got a set of Santa Snug Fit Cotton PJs.

8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids
8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids

6. Visit Santa at a smaller or low traffic venue. When Essley was a baby, I think we went to three different "Pictures With Santa!" type places before giving up on the multi-hour lines and overpriced photos. Lucky for us, we discovered that on Sundays at one of our favorite local malls, kids can visit Santa in the (beautifully decorated) mall office and parents could take their own photos, for free. There is a never a long line, and cell phone shots work for us, so now we go every year. It takes the pressure off, saves money and time, and the kids absolutely love it.

7. Do something for those in need. This is another holiday tradition for us. We put on holiday music, and (usually in our holiday PJs) go through the kids' toys and let them each pick some to donate to a few different organizations that collect them. Emmett doesn't get this yet, but Essley does, and she genuinely enjoys getting into the giving spirit. This year, buying Carter's children's pajamas can do something good for others as well. From November 1st - December 31st, Carter's is partnering with Pajama Program, an organization that provides children new pajamas. Customers can donate a pair of new pajamas in store, or make a monetary donation at check out either in store or online. Carter's will also match up to 100,000 pairs of pajamas. It's a really great way to directly support your local community, and something we are happy to be a part of!

8. Just be together. Even if you only have 20 minutes a night, we just spend time together as a family. We talk about holiday memories. We sing Christmas carols. We have holiday dance parties. We have tickle fests on the floor. We just hang out. I don't care if it sounds cliche - being together is the most important part of the holiday season, hands down. These are the moments we'll remember.

8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids
8 Low-Key Ways to Enjoy the Holidays With Your Kids

I'm a sucker for holiday dressing while doing holiday activities (even the low-key ones!), so my kids are pretty much always wearing their holiday-themed PJs and clothes from Carter's - which are equally cute and comfy, high quality, and genuinely affordable. And I love that Carter's has such a huge variety of styles perfect for the holiday season. Starting today (11/17), they also have some seriously amazing Black Friday deals happening. Carter's and OshKosh B'gosh are giving away over $700,000 in Dash Cash to the first 100 people to visit their local stores for the Dash In to Win Sweepstake on Black Friday. (Check here to find your local store and confirm what date - either 11/23 or 11/24) the sweepstakes will be held at your nearest location.) Customer will also receive a gift from Shutterfly on their $40+ purchase that day. So yeah, there's lots of goodness happening! (Visit carters.com/dashintowin for official rules.)

And here's one more bit of Carter's awesomeness before I go. They're giving you 20% off your purchase of $40 or more in store or online through 12/31/17. (Some exclusions apply: www.carters.com/couponpolicy.) In store, just use code 070716. Online, use CART4198. Woooot!


After last week's post where I talked about my plans to savor the simple pleasures of the season this year, many of you said you hoped to do the same. I'd love to hear any other ideas those of you with kids might have for low-keys ways to enjoy the holidays together!


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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Our 2017 Family Holiday Cards


Stylish Family Holiday Cards

While I do share some pieces of my family's life here when it is relevant to stories I'm sharing and/or when I feel like it would be helpful to other people, I keep the more personal details and intimate moments (especially when they involve my kids) offline. Sharing our family holiday cards here is an exception for me. Our cards do (at least in my opinion) represent a more personal part of our lives since they are sent to our closest friends and family members, but it's a part I am willing (and eager!) to share. I genuinely feel that exchanging cards is one of the most endearing, special parts of the holiday season, and giving a glimpse into our experience with it is something I'm happy to do. I've actually really come to love doing this post, which is now in its third year.

A few years ago, I made the decision that after only sending cards from the Bubby and Bean Art shop that I designed myself, I wanted to start ordering them from somewhere that wasn't part of my job. I mean, I'd admittedly sent out pretty much every design from my shop already, so there was a practical aspect. But the main reason was that it was Essley's first Christmas, and I really wanted to include a photo of her on our card. I was also at the end of my pregnancy with Emmett, and that in addition to the fact that it was my busiest time of year with work and Robbie was about to leave the country for his job made the task of stuffing, sealing, addressing, stamping, and sending holiday cards seem unreasonably difficult. I had been doing some research into different card companies that offered personalization, and I stumbled upon one that not only had the hippest, most stylish cards I'd ever seen, they also offered a service that would do all of the sending work for me. I was sold. And I loved it so much that I used it again last year, and this year too. Smitten, guys. Smitten.

Stylish Family Holiday Cards
Stylish Family Holiday Cards

The name of the company (just in case you don't remember me gushing about them thet past two years) is Postable. In addition to the other epically awesome things I mentioned above, they also have a huge selection of designs to personalize. (This year I had so much trouble choosing just one that I ended up ordering three to send to myself so I could choose one in person. You can check out all three of them in the image directly below this paragraph.) What sets them apart, however, is the fact that they print, stuff, stamp, address, and mail all of your cards directly to everyone in your address book - which, in their words, saves you thousands of hours of agony and a life of carpel tunnel. True story. I'm also a big fan of the fact that they use 100% post-consumer recycled or tree-free 100% cotton in all their cards and envelopes. And the quality is stellar. I mean, the cards are incredibly beautiful in person.


The process of personalizing the cards with our photos, greetings, and names (we chose to print on both the front and backs) on Postable took less than five minutes. And everything is customizable. You even have a choice for the writing on the envelopes. I went with one of their "smart fonts" that actually looks exactly like Robbie's handwriting, which kind of makes me feel like I'm being sneaky because I can guarantee the recipients will think we hand wrote them all. (Insert evil laughter.) Then you choose which addresses you'll use from the address book (which is super easy to fill; when I first started using Postable I uploaded a spreadsheet and voila), check out, and you're done. In just a couple of days, your cards are on their way to all of your people.

As for the design we chose this year, it just seemed appropriate to go with one that featured "Peace on Earth." (I'm not going to get political in a holiday card post, but I think spreading peace is pretty freaking important right now, just sayin'.) The photo of Essley and Emmett we used for the front was admittedly like the 27th take, but I'm stoked with how it turned out. Essley is laughing, and Emmett is, well, not diving off the chair or destroying something. We couldn't ask for more than that. For the back, we went with a grainy cell phone shot of our family outside of Robbie's tour bus when we joined him for a night in Indianapolis last summer. It was spontaneous and real and very us. The card is perfect, and I'm so excited to get them sent out to our family and friends. (Without any work aside from a couple of minutes online. Wooooot!)


Honestly, I can't imagine a time that I won't use Postable for our holiday cards. And no, they did not pay me to say any of this. Really, they didn't. While I do partner with them for these projects, they are not paid sponsorships. This is all my honest opinion, free of monetization y'all. They seem to be really nice people who make dope cards and have a very innovative service. Oh, and they're also offering all Bubby and Bean readers 15% off their entire order. See what I mean about their level of awesomeness? Just use code BUBBYANDBEAN.


Please tell me I'm not the only one who experiences a genuine emotional response during the process of sending out holiday cards each year. I mean, it's a sentimental experience right? Either way, thank you for letting me share. (I'd love to see yours as well!)

This post is in collaboration with Postable.

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