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secret life of pets 2, paton oswalt, harrison ford, kevin hart, tiffany haddish

Do you ever wonder what your pets really do when you leave the house? I do because I have a sneaking suspicion that our Lola is getting into all sorts of mischief. In fact, I got a Petcube camera just to find out for myself.  Surprisingly, at least in front of the Petcube cam, she’s as sweet and lovable as she is when we’re home with her.

Disclosure: My family was provided tickets to see The Secret Life of Pets but all opinions are our own.

Not the case with the gang of Secret Life of Pets 2. The Secret Life of Pets 2 follows 2016’s summer blockbuster hit about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work each day. This time it’s a little different.

secret life of pets 2, paton oswalt, harrison ford, kevin hart, tiffany haddish

The Secret Life of Pets continues the story of Max the terrier (Patton Oswalt) must cope with some major life changes when his owner gets married and has a baby. Max’s anxiety suddenly kicks in when he becomes preoccupied with keeping his owner’s toddler safe. He is the ultimate helicopter dog.

READ ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

When the family takes a trip to the countryside, anxiety-ridden Max has run-ins with dog-hating cows, aggressive foxes and a scary turkey. Luckily for Max, he soon meets Rooster (Harrison Ford), a gruff farm dog who tries to cure the lovable pooch of his neuroses. Rooster is more of a let-them-get-hurt-and-learn kind of canine.

A subplot has Snowball (Kevin Hart) and a new dog Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) working together to rescue an abused tiger from a Russian circus. Hot on their tails are scary wolves and a “cartoonishly villainous” lion tamer.

The dark humor and danger are toned down with more of slapstick violence that’s meant to be funny. Think Wylie Coyote and the Road Runner. Animals punch and throw knives at one another and a bad guy gets hit by a car, but no one is ever fatally injured.

READ ALSO: Why I Loved Disney’s Live Action Aladdin

For me, I saw a lot of myself in Max. I used to be a carefree, thrill seeker before I had children. The moment I had my girls and became a mom, it was no longer just my life. I was living for others. At the moment they were born, my life was irrevocably changed for the better, if not for the milder.

It was so overwhelming to love something, someone, so much that it felt like the thought of any ill ever befalling them would absolutely kill me. Our children are an extension of ourselves. They are the best of us walking around vulnerable in the world. Our children are our kryptonite but such amazing, beautiful gifts of kryptonite they are.

I went from being a “do what feels good” person to a “make good choices” person because it’s not just about me anymore. In the beginning of motherhood, I was a nervous wreck. I have never been able to be one of those parents who can go with the flow and just let things happen as they play out. I was never a “rub some dirt on it” type. I can’t overcome my instinct to protect them and to be honest, I’m okay with that.

READ ALSO: Cirque du Soleil Volta

My name is Debi and I am a recovering helicopter mom. I’m not saying that with any negativity. It was what worked for us. Maybe sometimes I was a bit neurotic in my overprotection but, in the end, as they grew older, I learned to let go little by little. I learned to trust in my own parenting.

I’ll probably never be a Rooster “let-them-get-hurt-and-learn” kind of a mom even though I know plenty of moms who are and it works too. It’s just not what’s comfortable for me. Honestly, my parenting technique was mostly about keeping my girls safe but a lot about preserving my own peace of mind.

Max gets the struggle of every parent everywhere and I loved watching him navigate his way through to the other side. I felt seen. The struggle of living with such immense love for a tiny little person is real.

Secret Life of Pets 2 is a winner for our family.

For kids, the moral of the story is to face and embrace the changes life inevitably throws at you and that’s such an important thing for our children to know. They have to know that change isn’t always bad and really, change is just an opportunity for growth.

Overall, my family loved the movie. My girls are 12 and 14-years-old and they laughed through the entire movie. In fact, the Big Guy said it’s one of the best animated movies he’s seen in a while and that’s saying something coming from him. I found it to be endearing and I absolutely loved Max.

Secret Life of Pets 2 is playing in theaters now, will you be seeing it?

 

 

 

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Nasim Pedrad, Marwan Kenzari,Navid Negahban, Mena Massoud, Jasmine, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Abu, Jafar, Aladdin, Disney's Aladdin, Live-action film, movie review, Guy Ritchie,

I’m not going to lie, I was expecting to be disappointed by Aladdin. I was very excited to see Disney’s Aladdin live-action movie since the moment I heard it was a thing but at the same time, the original Aladdin animated film is such an iconic film that I wasn’t sure anyone could live up to the hype of it. Below is my family friendly, no-spoiler Aladdin review.

In my mind, Robin Williams is the Genie. I couldn’t make myself believe that the Fresh Prince, Will Smith, was up to the task, no matter how much I love him. How can you fill those shoes? You can’t and I just felt like even trying was going to be a disservice to the original.

Nasim Pedrad, Marwan Kenzari,Navid Negahban, Mena Massoud, Jasmine, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Abu, Jafar, Aladdin, Disney's Aladdin, Live-action film, movie review, Guy Ritchie,

I also wasn’t sure if I was going to love Rajah and Abu in the live action films because sometimes live-action animals look cringey and so unrealistic that you feel like the producers are just assuming we are all stupid but this was not the case.at.all.

READ ALSO: New Aladdin Live-Action Film First Trailer Release

Nasim Pedrad, Marwan Kenzari,Navid Negahban, Mena Massoud, Jasmine, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Abu, Jafar, Aladdin, Disney's Aladdin, Live-action film, movie review, Guy Ritchie,

Then there was the matter of Aladdin and Jasmine. As many of you know, they are two of my daughters’ favorite characters. Animated, they were perfection but how would it all translate to live action? I’m sure that you have been asking yourself the same questions. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to worry about any of it. The Disney Aladdin live-action movie surpassed every expectation I had and made me fall in love with the story all over again. In fact, dare I say, I may even love it more than the animated version.

First off, the cinematography was stunning. I felt transported somewhere between Agrabah and Bollywood and it was absolutely magical. The rich vibrant colors were as upbeat and optimistic as most of the songs. Speaking of songs, “I can show you the world” is one of my favorites in the animated film and I loved it even more in the live-action film. It felt more real and tender and hopeful. I’ve been singing it ever since.

Then there was “Speechless” which left me without words in the best possible way. As an outspoken feminist and a mother of daughters, I loved this female empowerment aspect of the movie. We’ve always known Jasmine, Naomi Scott, was and independent, strong-willed and fierce woman. She wasn’t the kind of Disney princess who needed to be rescued.

Nasim Pedrad, Marwan Kenzari,Navid Negahban, Mena Massoud, Jasmine, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Abu, Jafar, Aladdin, Disney's Aladdin, Live-action film, movie review, Guy Ritchie,

READ ALSO: Aladdin on Broadway

Yet, in the animated film, it feels a lot like the street rat saves her. In the live-action movie, you can see that she doesn’t need saving. She can save herself and anyone else who needs to be rescued simply by following her own instincts. She loves and respects Aladdin, they are partners. Love is a beautiful surprise to them both.

As far as the casting for Aladdin goes, I felt the main characters were spot on. I love that they used real people of color rather than white-washing the characters. For me, as a woman of color, cultural authenticity is everything.  The fact that Guy Ritchie made the effort to cast, produce and maintain the authenticity and representation of a hybrid Middle Eastern-South Asian world in the movie is commendable. He did the right thing.

Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine was perfection. The perfect balance of beauty, grace, independence, strength and determination. I found myself, several times throughout the movie, wanting to stand up and applaud. It surprised me in the most pleasant ways.

Mena Massoud’s Aladdin was the living embodiment of the spirit of the animated film’s character. He played the part with a quiet, humble endearing demeanor even when he was being flip, he was lovable. There wasn’t one time I wasn’t rooting for him to succeed.

Nasim Pedrad, Marwan Kenzari,Navid Negahban, Mena Massoud, Jasmine, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Abu, Jafar, Aladdin, Disney's Aladdin, Live-action film, movie review, Guy Ritchie,

READ ALSO: How Disney’s Coco Got Mexican Culture Right

Will Smith’s Genie was not Robin Smith’s Genie, nor do I think it was supposed to be. That being said, it was a spectacular performance on its own. He made the genie his own. The genie was an unforgettable, witty and affable character who could sing, rap and dance with a side of hilarity. The story of friendship between Genie and Aladdin is a beautiful, tangental love story, as meaningful and important as the one between Jasmine and Aladdin.  I think Robin Williams himself would have been impressed by Will Smith’s performance.

The characters I would’ve loved to have seen be bolder were Marwan Kenzari’s, Jafar, and his sidekick, Lago. I felt that their performances were both a little underwhelming considering their potential. For me, their characters felt less menacing and more annoying. I wasn’t afraid of them so much as just aggravated. However, in our current political climate where xenophobia runs rampant, perhaps making a Middle Eastern villain seem less menacing than his animated counterpart was the better choice.

Nasim Pedrad, Marwan Kenzari,Navid Negahban, Mena Massoud, Jasmine, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Abu, Jafar, Aladdin, Disney's Aladdin, Live-action film, movie review, Guy Ritchie,

READ ALSO: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast a Family Review

I also loved the addition of Dalia, Nasim Pedrad, Jasmine’s loyal handmaiden and confidante. She brought a humanity to Jasmine and Genie. The addition of the character gave the characters a softer more relatable feel.

If you loved the original Aladdin animated film, you will love Aladdin the live-action film. You don’t have to feel guilty about betraying Robin William’s Genie legacy because Will Smith’s Genie is not the same. It is something completely different. As for the rest of the cast, they told the story of Jasmine and Aladdin with a quiet beauty and ethereal feel. Your children will find new heroes in Jasmine and Aladdin and you, parents, will love what they’ve done.

Mena Massoud, Jasmine, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Abu, Jafar, Aladdin, Disney's Aladdin, Live-action film, movie review, Guy Ritchie,

I actually love the new Aladdin, maybe even more than the original.

But we’re split as a family. Bella and I fell in love with the new movie, the feminist empowerment was just the cherry on top. However, the Big Guy and Gabs are Disney purists and they adore the original Aladdin while saying the live-action is great but they prefer the animated classic to the live-action film.

Marwan Kenzari,Navid Negahban, Mena Massoud, Jasmine, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Abu, Jafar, Aladdin, Disney's Aladdin, Live-action film, movie review, Guy Ritchie,

READ ALSO: Disney’s Nutcracker a Must See for Ballerinas

My advice to you, go and see Aladdin for yourself and decide. You won’t be disappointed. Even if in the end you prefer the classic, you will be glad to have seen Disney’s Aladdin the live-action movie. I promise. Then come back here and tell me which one you loved more. Really, it’s like trying to choose a favorite child. We love them all so much.

Disney’s Aladdin playing in theaters now starting May 24th. I’m ready to go see it again. I bet you’ll want to too. Also, the soundtrack is amazing.

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Norton Core, Cyber Security, Best Buy, Secure WiFi

Disclosure: I’ve been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the Norton Core™ at a reduced price or for free.

How much of your life is online?

For me living in the digital age means many of life’s most precious things are held online; the videos of my daughters being born, our wedding video, all the photos of our life and my work; all the stories and memories we’ve created  throughout our life so far, digitized and in living color.

And even the things that seem less important are still pretty vital to our existence, our financial records, our privacy, our history, a record of payments and earnings, home security; basically everything we do now is online from homework to dental records and everything in between.

What that means is that my online security is almost as important as my actual physical safety. What that means to me is that I need to take that security very seriously. I need to protect all that is precious and dear to me with the fierceness and ferociousness that I would protect my own children with. That’s why I take my cyber security seriously. I can’t let those memories, moments, pieces of our lives be compromised for one second.

Norton Core™ is a secure, high-performance WiFi router that helps protect your home network and an unlimited number of your connected devices, including computers, mobile and smart home devices against malware, viruses, hackers, and cybercriminals before they can infiltrate your home and compromise your personal information. Think of it as a personal bodyguard for your online existence.

Norton Core, Cyber Security, Best Buy, Secure WiFi

Norton Core™ is a high-performance and easy to set-up WiFi router that allows you to stream your favorite movies in 4K, play online games and download content with its powerful dual-core processor.

Norton Core™ offers multi-layer protection. Think of it as a bodyguard for your bodyguard. No one is getting past this thing without a serious fight on their hands. It’s comprehensive network security to protect your connected home from malware, viruses, phishing tactics and botnets.

Norton Core, Cyber Security, Best Buy, Secure WiFi

 

Bonus, Norton Core™ protects all of your connected devices. A 1-year subscription to Norton Core Security Plus is included to protect your Macs, PCs, tablets, Smartphones and smart devices.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Norton Core™ enables you to manage screen time by setting content filters or daily limits on usage. And if the situation calls for it, you can pause the Internet in your house. That’s what I call smart parental controls.

Norton Core, Cyber Security, Best Buy, Secure WiFi

I love Norton Core™ for all that it does to protect my favorite and most precious things that I entrust online and it’s hard to believe that all this protection comes in such a small, sleek piece machinery that looks more like a piece of art than my family’s bodyguard.

 

 

 

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gift guide, tech for parents, girl's gift guide, Christmas, tech, travel, fashion, chooze, xdoria, kid's fit, American Girl, MaryEllen Larkin

What is the perfect gift for a parent? If you ask me, it’s a day of relaxation and leisure but seeing as that is not the easiest thing to wrap up and give in a box, why not something that makes life easier, more efficient or more enjoyable for today’s parents?

Here is my list of must-have gifts for parents in 2017.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

 

Arlo Baby

Yes, we all need a good baby monitor because it provides us with peace of mind. This advanced smart baby monitor includes 1080p HD video, a lullaby player, night vision, rechargeable battery, air sensors, baby crying alerts and 2-way talking. Arlo Baby gives parents peace of mind by enabling them to monitor the nursery environment wherever they are and ensure they never miss any of baby’s big milestones (baby’s first steps!).

 

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

PogoCam

Ever worry about missing that “perfect shot”? I know when my girls were toddlers I had my hands full and they were always doing cute things that I missed catching on film because my hands were full of babies.

If I had the PogoCam, the world’s smallest and lightest attachable eyewear camera, I could have caught them all. Did you know that consumers take more than 3 billion pictures a day from smartphones? And with a phone, you need at least one hand. The PogoCam will result in more life experiences and memories being captured and shared.

It attaches magnetically to most glasses so you can maintain signature style. The small, light and easily removable camera lets users discover the world from their point of view and capture photos and HD videos. Images are easy to transfer and can be shared across all social sites when used with the PogoTec Smart Case. PogoCam connects to the Smart Case using a standard USB-C connector and can hold 16,000 photos or up to 90 minutes of video.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

Arlo Pro 2

Nothing gives a parent peace of mind more than knowing their precious little one is safe. As the newest generation of NETGEAR’s security camera line, Arlo Pro 2 supports 1080p video quality and also offers the ability to set alert zones, so that you can tell the camera to ping you when it detects any kind of motion in pre-specific areas. Its wire-free capability and rugged, weather-resistant design allow you to set it up from anywhere you travel, indoors or out, rain or shine.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

The smART sketcher Projector 

My youngest is a little artist. She wants to draw everything. Art keeps her busy, using her mind and off the computer. Art is a crucial for early childhood development. Not only does it help define and enhance motor skills, but also improve cognitive development, math skills and language skills! Imagine a product that promoted artistic ability, education and fun all in one?

The smART sketcher Projector is the first smart projector of its kind that combines both traditional art and technology in one! Kids can get sketching in 3 easy steps – take a photo of anything, filter and transfer to the smART sketcher Projector and begin sketching! Kids will learn to sketch their pets, the best friends and even their heroes.

iPhone X

The all-new iPhoneX features a gorgeous OLED Retina display without bezels and it’s waterproof. I’ve always loved my iPhones but the camera on this one makes it worth it just for the photos alone.

Apple TV 4K

This is the ultimate streaming entertainment system. You can stream 4K movies from iTunes, Netflix and Amazon prime. Apple won’t even charge you for renting and buying 4K movies. Plus what a great place to watch and share all of your family photos and home movies.

Beats Noise Canceling Head Phones

The all-new Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones help your favorite people tune out their surroundings at work or on the road. They feature high-quality noise canceling, excellent sound quality and Apple’s fantastic W1 chip.

What’s at the top of your tech list this holiday season?

Disclosure: Some of the products on this list were provided for review purposes but all opinions are my own.

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Kitchen appliances you need, 5 Kitchen Appliances You Need to Get Healthy, tips to live longer, tips to get healthy

Ever think you might want to live longer than the national average life expectancy? It’s 79 years old, by the way. That doesn’t work for me. I’m aiming for 103. Life goals people. I want to live longer, bolder and fiercer. I want every moment to be packed full of living.

There are very few things that can get me to change my entire life. My children are the reason I want to live longer but other than that, I’m a creature of habit and not all of those habits are good ones. I mean, I’m not smoking crack or anything but I’ve been known to say (on more than one occasion) that I’d rather work out for 3 hours than give up my carbs and I meant it, every single time.

The thing is sometimes those things are taken out of your hands and your only option is to give up the proverbial carbs, or in my case, the literal carbs. That’s what happened to me. Can you say morbidly obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetic and anemic? Yeah, that will make you change your, “I’d rather workout for 3 hours than give up my carbs” mantra really quick. I thought I was special.

It reminded me that time is fleeting and I want to live longer… a lot longer.

Well, not really special but I thought, it can wait. Like you, I’ve always been the kind of mom who puts my kids first sometimes to my own detriment. It’s just I want them to fondly remember me as the best.mom.ever.

I don’t pretend that we are friends. They hate my guts sometimes because I am “so mean” because I make them do things like eat vegetables and get their homework done. There will be plenty of time for bonding like friends when they are grown. Right now, my mission is to love them, keep them safe and raise good human beings so sometimes I have to be unpopular. Eye rolls be damned. Besides, I know they love me because they hug me while they are rolling their eyes.

Anyways, back to me, because I am embracing this new “selfish mom” era of motherhood. I had an incident recently, that I truly thought was a heart attack. Went to the doctor with 187/107 blood pressure. Was literally freaking out. Suddenly, no carbs in exchange for my not-quite midlife sounded pretty damn good. I was beyond bargaining and was begging the universe to let me have another chance.

Are you there God, it’s me Deborah and I’m going to need to live longer!

Well, after lots of tests, I found out that I did not have a heart attack. Thank Goodness. But everything else I’d feared was right there in my chart confirming my suspicions, I had been ignoring my own health for way too long.

Eating cold food on the run or late at night after everyone else is taken care of is not good for you. Never taking the time to work out to lose the baby weight (for 11 years) because you are too busy rushing kids to their sports, definitely not good for you. Never looking at labels because you know what’s good for you, surprisingly not good for you. Eating out…so terrible for you. But I live in the real world and I want to keep doing so. So, I’m changing all of my bad habits with the hope of being able to live longer.

Here’s how I am making little changes that will help me live longer and be healthier.

Shaking my bootie

I’ve started at the bare bones. I’m moving. No, not across the country to a weight loss commune. I’m moving my body, morbidly obese as it may be. I, like you, don’t have a lot of extra time in my day so I am designating 30-45 minutes a day where I dance all over my house with the music blaring. I know I dance like Sam Rockwell but I don’t care I am moving. It makes me happy and it feels good.

A couple other things, I’ve gotten myself a Lotus desk stand so that I will no longer be sitting all day. In fact, I’ll probably be dancing at my desk. I’m probably dancing right now.  The Lotus™ Sit-Stand Workstation features Smooth Lift Technology™ to keep your workstation stable and make changing positions from sitting to standing effortless. Lotus is an easy to use, adjustable and worry free setup engineered with the durability to transition working positions throughout the day. Numerous studies have confirmed that sitting for prolonged periods of time is harmful to your health.

Another thing, I’m walking. Why sit or stand when you can walk. Park further away, take the stairs, just do it.

Writing stuff down

Also, like I told my mother (who was not amused at all) thanks to my past history with eating disorders, I am a dynamite list maker and a pretty damn restrictor. I’ve channeled that into something good, I am logging all of my food into my phone and then I am keeping an actual list of all the calories, carbs, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and fiber that I am getting. Sounds daunting right? You know what’s even more daunting, being dead. Missing my girls grow up, so lists it is!

Making better choices

I am making informed decisions about what I put into my body. I have my guidelines and I am following them. I do believe everything in moderation so if I can fit what I am craving within the parameters of what I am allowed to have on that day, then I have it. I’m eating cleaner with lots more fresh fruits and veggies, no red meat, lots of lean meat and being very aware of the dairy I put into my body and only eating whole grains. Yes, it is an adjustment. My family is ready to murder me in my sleep for all the sneaky veggies that I’ve been feeding them. My daughter was not amused when she found out that her popcorn chicken was actually baked cauliflower with honey garlic sauce. She thought it was amazing until her sister ratted me out.

Letting it Go

Last but not least, I am letting stuff go. I am a long-time, Type-A perfectionist. I have doctor verified control issues but I am like a dog with a bone when it comes to issues that bother me. I can’t let anything go. I’m a fighter but with that comes stress and worry, which are two pointless emotions. They serve no purpose other than to make your situation worse so I’m stepping back, counting to 10 and recognizing my limits. If kids don’t get their homework done, I can’t stay up until 3 a.m. finishing. If the house can’t be perfect, so be it. I can’t make everyone happy. If you are someone who stresses me out, I’m probably not going to be answering the phone or interacting anytime soon.

I want to surround myself with positivity. That’s it. I want to live and I want to be healthy so I have to make it happen. I have to be selfish so that I can be around to be a good wife and mother. My dreams will never come true if I’m dead so I am embracing my new lifestyle.

It’s only been 11 days but I’ve lost 11 pounds and I feel better than I have in ages. This change is not only good for my mind and body, it’s good for my soul. I can see things more clearly when my mind is still and I can focus. So this is me becoming the best version of myself.

Since beginning this journey, I have found a lot of great family-friendly healthy recipes and discovered new and exciting ways to be active at home, with your family or by yourself and I will be sharing them all here along the way. It’s not as hard as I thought, with the right motivation.

What are you doing to live longer so that you can see your little ones grow up and you can grow old with your special someone?

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review, laundry, vacuum, Shark rotator, clean house, domestic abilities

Ever walk into a play date or a friend’s house and think to yourself, ” Damn, how does she keep this place so clean with kids?” Me, neither. Just kidding. It happens all the time. I immediately ask her for the name of her cleaning lady. If she denies having a cleaning lady one of two things happens 1) I am amazed by her domestic goddess abilities and ask her to teach me her ways or 2) I decide we can no longer be friends because she either neglects her children or is a liar, liar, clean, pressed pants on fire.

I thought that I had it all figured out, this home business. No, I don’t mean working from home or my blog, I mean keeping my house from looking like a cyclone hit it while working from home and parenting smallish children. It’s hard, people. I don’t know how they do it but my kids can really mess up a house. I feel like I’m constantly cleaning and I am going to be completely honest with you, I don’t like it. In fact, I pretty much despise domestic labor.

My girls are not toddlers. It’s not about Cheerio crumbs and Cheez-it dust anymore. I can’t blame it on tiny hands and squished up puffs. This is all the damage of two semi-sophisticated young ladies who simply cannot get the concept of food actually making it into their mouths and can’t (or won’t) be bothered by picking up toys and clothes which leaves my floor looking like the toy box and their closet exploded, add to the mix crumbs and dirty plates on tables and I am ready to burn the house down. I feel like I need to go through the house with a leaf blower just to clear a path sometimes. Did I mention I don’t like mess.at.all?

My husband says its because they live in excess and simply have no room to put it all away. He blames me. I say they are just the cutest little pigs around. I blame them. They blame the dog.

I do my best, in between deadlines, appointments, errands, cooking dinner and keeping little people alive, I clean the house but it never seems to be clean enough because as I clean one room, I swear, they are making it their single mission to destroy the rest of the house. It truly is maddening.

I want to hire a maid to come once a week but then I realized that I don’t have a schedule that permits me to scrub my house down once a week and how could I ever let a stranger see my house in such a state? It’s bad enough that my husband sees it. Who has time to do all that cleaning before the maid comes? And if I didn’t, she would surely double her prices and tell all of her other domestic engineer friends about how dirty my house was and the next thing you know, I’d be blackballed by all help…everywhere.

What’s worse than what I see…the mess, is the stuff that I can’t see. The things that I can’t even begin to consider like dust mites and such. The thought of it makes my skin crawl. I try to pretend that they don’t exist but I know that they do so I basically stay at a defcon 1 stress level about my house at all times. In fact, I am wondering just how many dust mites can live on a single dust bunny (like the one under my sofa) at this very moment. Oops, I may have just vomited in my mouth a little bit.

Then, I received an unexpected gift in the mail. Not something that I would normally get excited about but hey, I like it when the FedEx guy brings me goodies so I tore into it and I have to say, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite pieces in my house.

Behold the Shark® Rotator® Powered Lift-Away® . Yes, it’s a vacuum cleaner. I used to be the girl who swore I’d break my husbands kneecaps if he ever gave me a vacuum, iron or weight loss machine as a gift. In fact, I swore it. These are not gifts in my mind, these are necessities and commentary on the state of how I handle things. So thanks, no thanks.

But Shark sent me this and so there was no husband to be offended by. I have to be honest, I have a Dyson and after emptying container on the Shark, I can tell you that my Dyson has been doing a piss poor job. Maybe it wasn’t all the kids’ fault. Maybe the Dyson was failing to do its job and the kids weren’t habitual offenders…at least not where the floor was concerned. They are fully accountable for the toys and clothes on the floor but maybe not the crumbs and enough hair to create an entirely new dog or child.

Here are some of the features:
• Rotator® power nozzle with motorized brush that deep cleans and reaches further under furniture than any other vacuum (as evidenced by said hair and dust).
• Powerful LED headlights on the nozzle and handle to improve visibility under furniture or in dark, hard-to-see spaces (this is amazing but be warned vacuuming in the dark is scary).
• Fingertip Controls for easy transitions between hard floors, carpet and area rugs (I love not having to bend over to switch the height).
• Designed with a HEPA filter and Shark’s Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology™ to capture and hold 99.99 percent of dust and allergens (this is a must in our house because 4 out of 4 people who live here, suffer from allergies and fear of dust bunnies.)

laundry, vacuum, Shark rotator, clean house, domestic abilities, review

• Additional features include:
o Hard Floor Genie™ bare floor attachment picks up large debris and fine dust in one easy step (easy enough for a 7 and 9-year-old to use).
o Extra-long 30 foot power cord provides maximum range for cleaning large spaces.
o Specialized tools to offer versatility in cleaning include a premium pet power brush, upholstery tool, flexible crevice tool and canister caddy.

My Shark is awesome and that is saying something because up until now, I was a die hard Dyson fan but the dust don’t lie and now, maybe, I can get that maid I’ve always wanted and deserved without the shame of her judging my domestic abilities.

Disclosure: I was provided a Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away for review purposes but all opinions and clean rooms are mine, all mine.

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Go Math, Go Math!, Academy, tech, teach for children, tutoring

My family partnered with the Go Math! Academy program to review the program.

Go Math! Academy is an online, at-home learning program based on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s enormously successful GO Math! textbook curriculum, used by over 7 million kids worldwide. Go Math! Academy offers thousands of math practice problems, hundreds or help videos, and plenty of games and rewards to make learning fun! My daughters are in 2nd and 4th grade and they both love the program. Go Math! Academy is lively, and engaging online experience that lets children select a theme to launch their own personal math journey. My girls love it because it allows for independent learning, which empowers children to complete the grade-level curriculum in order to select the skill they wan to practice. Go Math, Go Math!, Academy, tech, teach for children, tutoring I love that Go Math! Academy allows for a skill-boosting approach that offers step-by-step math problems to support practice and entertaining help videos feature expert instructors (and loveable puppets to engage younger kids) who make math concepts clear and fun! My girls never lose interest because the program is not just a great practice program but it is fun and engaging.Go Math, Go Math!, Academy, tech, teach for childrenGo Math! Academy is available in your choice of three payment plans (access for up to 5 children):

  • Monthly: $9.99/month
  • 6-months: $49.99 ($8.33/month) – a 17% savings
  • 1-year: $79.99 ($6.67/month) – a 33% savings

My girls do very well in math and like math but using Go Math! Academy has made them excited about practicing because it has made it fun and animated.

Go Math! Academy has brought math to life for my girls.

I have been compensated by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to share my thoughts and opinions on this topic/product. My opinions are always my own and cannot be bought; no matter how much money they offer or how awesome they might believe the product or service to be, if I haven’t tried it myself or don’t truly believe in it, love it or would not use it in my own home with my family, I will not support it on my site. ~ Deborah

What is your child’s favorite educational site? Have you tried Go Math! Academy?

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Boston harbor, Faneuil hall, freedpm trail, historical Boston, Boston, family travel, fun, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts

I’ve made a short list of things to do in Boston when traveling with children.

When my family was in Boston,Massachusetts we saw and did a lot of wonderful things.Honestly, too many things to mention in one post but I would like to mention some of our favorites.

I won’t lie, I drug my kids all over Bean town. It was like Disney World to me. There was just so much to see and I only had 6 days to see it. This trip has made me realize that I like about 7 to immerse myself in a city and the key to any great trip is to talk to the locals. They live there and they know the best places to go, see, do and eat (Boston foodie post coming soon)

Things to do in Boston when traveling with kids

The Boston Children’s Museum located at 308 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

Boston Children's Museum, Boston, family travel, fun, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts

This was one of my children’s favorite places. It is enormous, we were lucky enough to be spending that day with friends and it was a welcome break from the hot June Day. Quick fact: The Boston Children’s Museum is the second oldest children’s museums in the world. It was founded in 1913 by a group of visionary educators. For over 100 years it has been engaging children in joyful discovery experiences that instill an appreciation of our world, develop foundational skills, and spark a lifelong love of learning.

Boston Children's Museum, Boston, family travel, fun, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts
It is huge and three floors of solid fun. If you want to tire your little ones out while stimulating their brains and hearing their non-stop giggles, you will love this place as much as we did. The Museum’s exhibits emphasize hands-on engagement and learning through experience, employing play as a tool to spark the inherent creativity, curiosity, and imagination of children. Designed for children and families, Museum exhibits focus on science, culture, environmental awareness, health & fitness, and the arts. My girls’ favorite exhibits were Arthur’s world and the art room. We could have stayed there for days but closing time was at 5 pm.

Boston Children's Museum, Boston, family travel, fun, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston Harbor Cruise New England Aquarium Whale Watch Cruise at 1 Long Wharf, Boston, MA 02110.

whale, Boston harbor cruises, whale watching, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts

I was so excited to do the whale watch, probably more so than the kids. It was the one thing, aside from walking the Freedom trail that had me acting all squee-like.
The BHC hi-speed catamaran provided a fast, comfortable way for about 400 passengers to see, what I consider to be, the ocean’s most magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, up close and personal. The “in their natural habitat” was the most important part to me because no matter how badly I’ve been wanting to see these amazing creatures, ethically, I refuse to see them in captivity.
In 3 hours (yes, believe me the Gilligan island song played non-stop in my mind), BHC gets you to and from your destination; Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, a rich feeding ground for whales and dolphins. There is a NEAQ-trained naturalist on board to point out which kind of whale you are seeing and give you some background on each one. This was very helpful to us and educational to the children, especially since we were on board with a large group of field trip children.

If you’ve never been on a whale watching tour, be prepared for breathtaking views all around. It’s like flying without all of that pesky altitude and seeing a whale beside your boat for the first time feels a little like seeing a baby be born. It will stop you in your tracks in amazement. While on our tour we spotted a finback, a humpback and a couple minke whales. It is something we will never forget. Also, if you go on the tour and don’t get to see any whales, no worries, BHC guarantees their whale watching tours and you will be issued a ticket to return for another cruise. For me, the BHC Whale watching cruise is something everyone should try, at least once, though I fully intend to go again on our next visit.

Faneuil Hall located at 1 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA 02109

Faneuil hall, freedpm trail, historical Boston, Boston, family travel, fun, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts
Faneiul Hall Marketplace is located in downtown Boston in walking distance from the harbor. In 1742 our nation’s fathers proclaimed it “The Cradle of Liberty” today, it is a buzzing marketplace with over 70 retailers and 160,000 square feet of space on Boston’s iconic festival marketplace. The kids loved it.
Faneuil Hall’s cobblestone streets are filled with music, laughter and people of all ages shopping and watching as street performers and musicians dazzled the crowds. Our girls thought the caricature and balloon artists located directly outside Faneuil hall were the best. There is definitely something for everyone.

Faneuil hall, freedpm trail, historical Boston, Boston, family travel, fun, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts
You can enjoy unique, locally loved, and nationally recognized shops while indulging in the a variety of cuisines at the many restaurants, pubs (Cheers was one of our favorites) and the world-famous Quincy Market.

Faneuil hall, freedom trail, historical Boston, Boston, family travel, fun, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts
You can also start walking the Freedom Trail, right from here!

What are your favorite things to do in Boston?

 

Disclosure: I was provided tickets to Boston’s Children Museum and the BHC Whale Watching Tour but every single one of my opinions about these two places were my own. Stay tuned for Part 2 of things to do in Boston coming next week.

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Seussical, Chicago, Shakespeare Theater, Dr.Suess, Review, arts, culture, kids

Chicago Shakespeare Theater Presents Seussical A whimsical adventure through the world of Dr. Seuss July 5–August 17, 2014.

Do your kids love Dr. Seuss? Do you? I grew up reading Dr. Seuss and now, I read Dr. Seuss to my girls. They love the Lorax, the Whos in Whoville and especially the Cat in the Hat! Well, guess what? The awesomeness that is Dr. Seuss has been made into a musical, perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy this summer.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater is bringing the humor and magic of Dr. Seuss to life onstage this summer for young audiences and their families in the Broadway musical comedy Seussical. I hear that it’s playful, energetic and full of whimsy and Seussical engages the imagination with clever lyrics and melodies, unforgettable characters and the colorful world of Dr. Seuss. I don’t know how they will top last year’s production of Shrek the Musical but I can’t wait to see them try.

Seussical will be performed July 5 through August 17 in CST’s Courtyard Theater with a run time of 75 minutes.

Every performance features special opportunities for audiences to interact with the actors for one-on-one conversations and photo opportunities. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, CST partners with the Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) to offer hands-on craft activities in CST’s Lobby. Tickets start at $18.

My girls can’t wait. They look forward to our annual family trip to The Shakespeare Theater. It’s become quite a tradition. We walk along Navy Pier, have lunch in the city, ride the merry-go-round, munch on some Garrett’s popcorn and just go where ever the day takes us. The best part of the entire weekend is that we make memories; just the four of us and that makes me look forward to it too.

Aside from getting to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Chicago with your family taking in the arts I get to giveaway a family 4-pack to the 2 pm shows this Saturday, July 12th, to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment naming your favorite Dr. Seuss book and/or quote below and 1 winner will be chosen randomly. But hurry. The contest ends on Wednesday July 9th at midnight. Good luck.

I can’t wait to tell you all about Seussical and our weekend in Chicago this weekend!

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Tacey Fedora, Juliette Sweater, Aventura Clothing, #AventuraLife, Fashion, Travel, Sponsored, Aventura, Eco-friendly clothing, green fashion

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had the chance to share some very important news. No, exhale, I am NOT pregnant. We’re not having that announcement ever again. My uterus has gone on holiday. I will just live vicariously through all my friends and family who keep having their own sweet, baby smell bundles that keep making my ovaries twitch. My announcement is that I am a brand, spanking new addition to the Aventura Clothing ambassador family and I am thrilled.

Aventura Clothing is an awesome family owned brand that’s been around since 1965 with a focus on environmental sustainability and high quality fashion for the modern woman on the move.  Aventura Clothing is a socially conscious and each piece is carefully crafted to be comfortable with a focus on an active lifestyle using materials like organic cotton, bamboo blends and recycled polyester. The eco-friendly styles prevent synthetic fertilizers and farm chemicals from polluting the soil. Aventura Clothing is the perfect marriage between comfort and style plus you can feel good about wearing it because no earth was harmed in the making of your fashion.

I received my first order right before we went on spring break and you better believe I took all of it to Disney World with me. Everything I ordered was lightweight and in bright, summery colors so it was perfect for the Florida heat and professional enough to wear to a conference. Bonus, it all traveled easily and most without wrinkling. Aventura is a traveler’s perfect choice in fashion.

I chose three different outfits with a few simple, classic pieces that could be easily swapped in and out to create several different outfits. I will highlight them individually as the summer goes on but today, I would like to highlight three of my favorite pieces.

The Tacey Fedora

The paper straw fedora has a unique geometric pattern and stylish black hat band. It fits like a glove and looks adorable with just about anything you wear it with. Bonus: It hides my bad hair days easily and no one’s the wiser. This may be my new favorite piece for all seasons.

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Tacey Fedora, Juliette Sweater, Aventura Clothing, #AventuraLife, Fashion, Travel, Sponsored, Aventura, Eco-friendly clothing, green fashion, Latina

Taken on a beautiful day, May 31, 2014.

The Juliette Sweater in Silver Sconce

The Juliette is the perfect lightweight sweater for spring, summer or fall. With a name like Juliette, how can your mind not conjure up images of feminine perfection.It’s comfortable and stylish looking with just the right amount of sass. I love the feminine cut and drape. It hugs my Latina girl curves but hangs in a way that doesn’t look like it’s too small. I’m embarrassed to admit it but since it’s arrival, it’s been worn more times than it probably should have been. I just love it.

The Mayfield Dress

It’s perfect for every occasion that calls for classic elegance from an afternoon networking at a conference to an evening spent enjoying drinks over casual conversation with your favorite guy, this dress is ready for all your summertime soirees. The rayon from bamboo and modal blend drapes beautifully and is as soft as silk without all the fuss. The Mayfield dress traveled for 18 hours in my suitcase on the road trip from ndiana to Florida and didn’t wrinkle, at all. I just pulled it out of my suitcase, hung it up, paired with a pair of cute sandals, the Redford jacket in white and the Presley scarf in sea blue and out the door I went; business cards in hand, dressed to impress.

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Mayfield Dress, Presley Scarf, Redford Jacket, Aventura Clothing, #AventuraLife, Fashion, Travel, Sponsored, Aventura, Eco-friendly clothing, green fashion

Taken March 28th, REALLY, REALLY early in the morning after a late night and 18 hours traveling in the car with my children:)

If you would like to try Aventura clothing for yourself, I have some discount codes to share with you. The codes are good for a one-time use up to $250 for 60% off retail pricing. That’s an awesome deal. Believe me I know because I am about to use one for myself to order the Waverly maxi dress which normally retails for $87 and with the discount code, I can get it for $34.80. Oh yes, it will be mine. I will give out 10 discount codes to the first 10 requests I receive.

If you had the 60% discount, what would you spend it on from Aventura Clothing?

 

Disclosure: I am a 2014 Aventura Clothing Ambassador and was provided product for review but all opinions and thoughts are my own.

 

 

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