FREE Summer Reading Rewards Programs 2016 for Kids

*updated for 2016

School is out! Summer is officially here. I'm fortunate that I do not have to argue with my children about their school work. They know the importance of it and just get it done. Reading can sometimes be an argument though. My girls will read if I ask them, but they are not always keen about it as it takes away from "playing". My son, on the other hand, thinks reading is so boring, right now. It is always an argument to get him reading. So I needed a bit of an incentive to get him and the girls reading this coming summer without any excuses.

Tiaras & Tantrums FREE Summer Reading Rewards Programs 2016 for Kids

Look at these FREE national summer reading programs that are great incentives for your children to read over the summer. What better way to promote reading than by earning free books, money, gift cards, movies, and more. A perfect solution to help summer brain drain!

2016 Free Summer Reading Programs

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Triathlon

Image Courtesty of Barnes & Noble Summer Reading

Free book Barnes and Noble's Summer Reading Triathlon. This year they are celebrating 20 years of summer reading! From May 17 - September 6. Have your grade 1- 6 kids read any 8 books and record them in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Journal (download from their site). Once the journal is completed, simply take it back to any participating store to select a free book from the list at the back of the journal.

Pottery Barn Kids Summer Reading Challenge

Free book Pottery Barn Kids Summer Reading Challenge – June 7 - August 16, PBK invites children to take the challenge and attend reading store events. Children who attend five story times at a participating Pottery Barn Kids location will receive $10 coupon.

Chuck E. Cheese’s Reading Rewards

10 free game tokens Chuck E Cheese's Reading Rewards Calendar - Through December 31, 2016. Chuck E. Cheese will reward kids for good behavior and reading with their calendars. Download a Reading Rewards Calendar(or any other calendar) and your kiddo can mark off each day he/she reads. When the calendar is full, turn it into your local Chuck E. Cheese for 10 free game tokens. Bonus, this can be done again and again.

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

Image courtesy of Scholastic Summer Reading

Chance to win prizes Scholastic's Summer Challenge - May 9-September 9, kids can log summer reading minutes to earn digital prizes through ! Be a part of this!

Half Price Book: Feed Your Brain

Bookworm Bucks - Half Price Books Feed Your Brain - When kids read for15 minutes a day during both June and July, they'll get a free $5 gift card per month to Half Price Books. One lucky kid in each age group and store will Bookworm Bucks.

TD Bank

$10 cash From June 1 - August 31-- 10 books = $10! Once your child reads 10 books, they simply fill out a form, take it to the nearest TD Bank and TD Bank will deposit $10 into their Young Saver Account. (Note, you will need to either have or open a Young Saver Account for this program.)

Family Christian

Image courtesty of Family Christian

Children need to read any six Christian books and explain one of the faith messages
from each book in their Reading Adventures Diary. There are book suggestions on their site as well.  Simply bring the completed diary to a participating Family Christian store between June 3 and August 25.

Sylvan Book Adventure

Image coutesy of Sylvan Book Adventure

Redeem points for prizes - Sylvan Book Adventure - K-8 read books (7,000 titles to choose from), and then take a short quiz to earn points. The points can then be redeemed for prizes. Bonus, parents can monitor kids reading with online progress reports.

Pizza Hut Book It! Program

Book It - The summer Pizza Hut BookIt programs runs June – August during the summer your child can continue reading with BookIt printables. Plus parents will find summer reading list by grade.

Books-A-Million Summer Reading Program 2016

Free lunchbag- Books A Million - Read 4 of the 75+ books on the summer reading program by August 8, have your parents verify and sign the form and return to your local BAM for a free James Patterson lunch bag.

Sync - For your Teens (13+)

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. The 2016 season is May 5th - August 17th 2016. SYNC 2016 will give away 30 titles - two paired audiobook downloads a week!

Be sure to check your local areas as well. Grocery stores, local banks and public libraries often have summer reading programs as well. My local library already has their summer program in motion. Be sure to check with your local library to see what sort of summer reading program is offered.


Classic Summer Days Road Trippin’ #NoMoreFORO

Thank you to ReadyRefresh℠ by Nestlé ® for sponsoring this Classic Summer Days Road Trippin' post. All opinions are mine alone. #NoMoreFORO

There’s no doubt about it — summer is the perfect time for fun. I think the essence of summer is fun. What is it about summer that has such a magical place in our consciousness? Maybe it is the lack of schedules and really, that time holds no special meaning during the summer months. Swimming, playing sports, enjoying the sunshine and the great outdoors—all the things that make summer so awesome, are on our agendas this summer.

Classic Summer Days Road Trippin’ #NoMoreFORO

Summer is also the perfect time for road trips. We recently returned from a two week road trip out east. We packed up the SUV with our bags, gadgets and provisions and headed out the day after my son graduated from 8th grade. I also included some bags of snacks, treats and a case of water. My husband laughed at me and stated, "you think that will be enough?". I replied, "there are stores out east."

One case of water—for two weeks—for five people. Who was I kidding? The case of water lasted all of five days and that was after I was rationing everyone's water intake! Do you ever have The Fear of Running Out of water and ration your kiddos like I did on vacation? We are like most families (52% of families surveyed) who experience FORO (The Fear of Running Out ) at least once a week.

  • 69% of those surveyed experience feelings such as stress, anxiety and worry when household items start to run low.

My husband and I were carrying water in our bags during the day and leaving some water in our hotel for the evenings during our family vacation. But on morning five of our vacation, there were two bottles of water left. I hid them and told my husband we were out of water. This is a phenomenon referred to as The Fear of Running Out—I was denying myself and my family bottled water we wanted (and needed) because I didn't want to take the time out of our busy travel day to go to the store.

That day, we found a street vendor and purchased bottled water for the kids for the day. I selected soda and my husband purchased a couple of bottles of a sweet drink. My husband and I made some thirsty choices that were not smart choices. My husband and I forgot that replacing a single 12-ounce, 140 calorie sugar sweetened beverage with water each day for a year can cut more than 50,000 calories from our diets.

Did you also know that nearly half of all full-time working parents say they ration or replace everyday household items with a less desirable alternative at least once per week, in order to avoid running out completely? That is exactly what we did!

When I was prepping for our trip, I should have planned for more water. But I didn't want the hassle and inconvenience of another trip to the store to purchase an additional heavy case of water. We were out of water in five days on our vacation and needed to take time out of our sightseeing to locate a store and make the purchase. Like more than half of the surveyed full-time working parents (55%), we were running an errand that was keeping us from spending quality time with our family.

ReadyRefresh℠ by Nestlé®

There is a much easier process of getting water into my home. ReadyRefresh℠ by Nestlé® – A customizable beverage delivery service that provides my family with all our favorite bottled water brands like Ice Mountain, Nestlé Pure Life, Perrier and San Pellegrino. Ice Mountain bottled water can be ordered in five different case sizes and various flavors of water. Natural Spring, Sparkling Natural Spring, Sparkling Natural Mineral and Purified Water—water beverages for every taste and every occasion.

The ReadyRefresh mission is very simple: They make it easy for my family to live a healthier life. With just a few taps on my mobile device, while I was sitting in the passenger seat of our SUV driving through Pennsylvania, through the website; I was quickly able to customize my order for thirst-quenching beverages delivered right to my door. I set up a delivery date for the day after we returned home from vacation!

I'm never heading to a big-box store again to lug home cases of water.

Fear of Missing Out

ReadyRefresh believes that hydration should never hinge on the inconvenience of restocking water supply. Having our favorite bottled water on hand, without hassle, keeps us in control of what we drink, and when. Because when we're thirsty, we should get to drink the beverage of choice—not fall victim to Fear of Running Out. With ReadyRefresh we will never suffer from the Fear of Running Out again.

ReadyRefresh did an experiment with the Younger family of Chicago, IL to see if FORO existed and the results are fascinating-–check it out here:

You’ve heard of the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), right? Well, you might be suffering from the Fear of Running Out (FORO)—that nagging feeling you get when you're running low on everyday essentials like toilet paper, diapers, or pet food. When it comes to (the fear of running out)FORO of bottled water, you can keep your healthy hydration on track and put your distress to rest—ReadyRefresh℠ by Nestlé® to the rescue!

With customizable deliveries of thirst-quenching water–from sparkling to still, in the brands you love most–you’ll never experience FORO for bottled water again. I know my family is set as we will be receiving our regular ReadyRefresh deliveries all summer long. I ordered Ice Mountain bottled water in every bottle option available!

Visit #NoMoreFORO today to set up your summer deliveries!

I would love to hear about your Classic Summer Days of Road Trippin' and your Fear of Running Out (FORO) stories. Did you ration your water on vacation like I did? Be sure to use the hashtag #NoMoreFORO so I can read your stories. Follow ReadyRefresh℠ on Twitter and on Facebook to read more.

Classic Summer Days Road Trippin’ #NoMoreFORO

The best part about being on our vacation was the opportunity to spend dedicated time together. And the best thing we brought home from vacation was the memories we made together. Summer is all about relaxing, being outdoors, branching out, and breaking routine. We look out, we marvel at the horizon, we rediscover cities and find adventures. 

5 Places to Go This Summer

My family has been fortunate to travel to some really amazing locations on this great planet of ours. We have lived in China and presently live in one of the most fabulous cities in this nation - Chicago. Chicago has so much to offer us all year long.

But this summer we wanted to head out east in our nation and let the kiddos see some of these amazing cities. Most Americans take vacations in the summer and we wanted to leave as soon a the kids were out of school. Like 50 percent of our nation, we were headed out for an adventurous summer family vacation.

So we packed our bags, gassed up the SUV, unfolded our maps, (eh, input destinations into the GPS!), and we hit the road to visit some of best American sights.

Washington D.C.

Places to Go This Summer Washington D.C.

Our first stop was Washington D.C. This is one of the most-visited cities in the U.S., our nation's capital house. Literally this city is a trove of iconic monuments. We explored everything but the the White House(we were unable to secure a tour), the Lincoln Memorial, various memorials, Holocaust Museum and the Smithsonian Museums filled our five days. And the best part about D.C: Everything is free to visit(well, almost free)!

Places to Go This Summer Washington D.C.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Places to Go This Summer Philadelphia

Our second stop was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to see the Liberty Bell! Philadelphia’s downtown area is a 25-block center city and is so super easy to navigate. Give thanks to William Penn’s great idea of creating grid streets and all the helpful “Walk! Philadelphia” signs!

New York City

Places to Go This Summer New York City
Places to Go This Summer New York City

Our third stop on our summer vacation to the east of this nation was New York City. We stayed right in the heart of Manhattan in Soho. Robust, Vibrant and Fun, but oh, so crazy busy!!  We wandered through Central Park, ate in great restaurants, and the highlight was Lady Liberty!

Places to Go This Summer New York City
Places to Go This Summer New York City

Watkins Glen State Park

Places to Go This Summer Watkins Glen State Park
Places to Go This Summer Watkins Glen State Park

Our fourth stop was a short one, but one I didn't think we should miss. Watkins Glen State Park is a small state park that has 19 waterfalls and is quite lovely to walk through. We spent several hours here and it was a highlight for my nature-loving daughters. 

Places to Go This Summer Watkins Glen State Park
Places to Go This Summer Watkins Glen State Park

Niagara Falls

Places to Go This Summer Niagara Falls
Places to Go This Summer Niagara Falls

Our final driving destination was to see Niagara Falls - from both sides. This is American's ultimate aquatic spectacle. We spent two days at Niagara Falls, on on the USA side and o on the Canadian side.  We did all the activities that are available on both sides and had a fabulous time.

Places to Go This Summer Niagara Falls
Places to Go This Summer Niagara Falls

All summer vacations are awesome! We took our children to these fabulous American spots for some superb summery memories!. This is going to be one summer vacation they will remember forever!

Places to Go This Summer Niagara Falls

Where is your favorite family summer vacation spot?


Where have you done it?

In the bathroom? Under the covers? Where have you done it?

Now, now, get your head where it should be. Firmly planted on your neck!

Where have you done it? #Netflix #Streamteam

Where is the craziest place you’ve done it?  Where do you sneak off to catch up on your favorite Netflix shows? Me, I simply plop down in my favorite chair after everyone has gone to sleep. My son, he will sit in the bathroom for an hour watching an episode. (by the way - what is up with teenage boys in the bathroom for such a long time??)

There’s no shame in cashing in on a little me-time. Mine just happens when everyone is sleeping because I am an insomniac! Yeah - lucky me! I literally can sit up all night long and watch something I have never eve heard of prior. My brother and I compare shows and tell each other what to watch on Netflix. (we both are non-sleepers)

My family just returned from a two-week vacation and yes, we brought Netflix with us! As long as the hotels had a television with an hdmi connection, we were golden. We discovered a new show to watch whilst we were away. Survivors -- have you seen it. It's long since been canceled, but we were able to enjoy the two season that we streamed.

Where have you done it? #Netflix #Streamteam

Summer is here and we will be streaming new shows and movies we have not had the opportunity to watch during our busy school year.

What will you be streaming on Netflix this summer? Or where is the craziest place you have streamed?

Disclosure: This post is part of my involvement as a Netflix #StreamTeam Member. All opinions are my own. #NetflixKids #Netflix #NetflixMoms Want to learn more about Netflix Streaming? Subscriptions start at $7.99/month. 

Great Gifts For Men JORD Wood Watch

I gave my husband a watch for a wedding present when we eloped in Jamaica 15 years ago and to this day, he still loves to receive a wrist watch as a gift. To say my husband has a wrist watch obsession would be an understatement. Some men collect golf clubs, mine collects wrist watches.

My husband's job takes him away from home often to some amazing locations across the globe. While he is away, he tends to come home with a new watch from whatever location he is traveling at that time. He has been able to obtain some watches that he would otherwise not have here in the states.

In today's busy electronic world, some men may have opted to leave the watch behind in place of the smartphone, but not my husband. He loves wrist watches and wears one at all times (I do as well for that matter). There really is something about the perfect timepiece that ties a man together, don't you think.

Lately, I have been looking for cool watches for him because he has so many different styles. This year for Father's Day I really wanted to locate unique men's watches to surprise him. My children want to gift him the best Father's Day gifts every year and I always want to find the best gifts for men so he has some bragging rights at the office.

My husband works hard and is the sole provider for our family. so, we want to reward him and remind him of all the amazing things he does for our family with a unique watch. I found the perfect gift idea for men in JORD wood watches.

Regardless of whether my husband is in a full suit or in khakis and a polo, JORD watches for men complete any outfit, for any occasion, on any day. JORD wood watches are the perfect men's designer watches that look totally different than your standard timepiece.

My kids and I selected the men's JORD wood watch from the DELMAR series in Dark Sandalwood & Blue Carbon. It is gorgeous!

JORD WOOD WATCH DELMAR series Dark Sandalwood & Blue Carbon

Some of the features in include a 44mm width, which is great because my husband is a big dude! The clasp is a double locking fold-over clasp and the mineral glass is scratch resistant for the days he wants to wear it whilst bike riding. The display shows in hours, minutes and seconds and is battery operated. The band is a natural dark sandalwood and simply gorgeous! JORD recommends to not swim in your wood watch and to clean with lemon oil extract.

If you want to get your favorite man a JORD watch, I have an E-gift code to use on the JORD website you can use at checkout to receive a $25 discount! There are only a limited amount of these available and once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Here is the E-gift code you can use: DADtiarastantrums25. I recommend the JORD wood watch from DELMAR series in any shade! They are all gorgeous!

Disclosure: I received a Jord watch in exchange for this post. All opinions are mine alone. |#jordwatch #uniquewatch #guygift #giftidea #dadgift #woodwatch

10 Tips on Dealing with Sibling Rivalry #Netflix #StreamTeam

As a parent of three children, I deal with personality disputes, skill conflicts, attention getting schemes, and various mini-wars all day long. I have finally concluded that sibling rivalry is one of the inevitable annoyances of having children. Truly, it is exhausting.

Naturally, brothers and sisters fight. Their ages and personalities play a role, but my children sometimes see themselves as rivals. They compete for attention and for resources in our home.

Sibling rivalry is a normal part of growing up, but it literally drives me bonkers.  How to minimize disputes at home? Basically, ignore them! Really, I can't play referee all day long!

Ignore Most Of It: Practice ignoring non-life threatening situations for a week. Trust me, you will be happier.

Referee Squabbles: I know, I just said ignore it all. But, there is a time when you have to step in as a referee. This is always a round-by-round judgment call. And if my children are in danger of hurting the other or damaging property, I stop the fight in its tracks. Also, if they continue to quarrel as children - they will do this as adults and that will make for a very miserable life!

10 Tips on Dealing with Sibling Rivalry #Netflix #StreamTeam

Extend Grace: Trying to teach my children to pick their battles and give, extend and accept grace is an uphill battle sometimes. Not every situation warrants an argument and each child does not need to be "right" in every situation.

Stay Positive: If I have a smile plastered on my face - I can usually get all my kids to smile too! Easiest tool in my mom toolbox!

10 Tips on Dealing with Sibling Rivalry #Netflix #StreamTeam

Promote Team Spirit: We try to work through situations as they come up for the bet resolution for everyone. This may mean scheduling times on games, but if I can get my kids to do this on their own without my referee skills, I breathe a big sigh of relief that day.

Alternatives: They either work it out or I work it out for them. My alternative is not the first choice - ever. My alternative is either the get-along shirt (you know, when two kids have to wear the same shirt together) or completing a task together whilst holding hands.

10 Tips on Dealing with Sibling Rivalry #Netflix #StreamTeam

Children Are Not Equal: Children are like little lawyers arguing for their rights. But what my children quickly realize is that a 10 year old does not get 14 year old privileges! My children get different privileges and more responsibilities as they get older. They need to look forward to growing up instead of growing up too fast.

Everyone is My Favorite: All my kids are my favorites and they will all say they are my favorites. They may tell each other that so and so it the most favorite, but , basically, they all think they are the favorite and that works out well for me!

10 Tips on Dealing with Sibling Rivalry #Netflix #StreamTeam

Listen to Both Sides: investigate to determine who’s at fault. Simple as that. I never know who or what started a simple squabble and ask each to tell me their side.

Siblings Are Forever Friends: This is one I really try to hit home. My husband and his brother are not the least bit close and this makes me so sad for my husband. I am very close to my brothers and I keep telling my own children, you will want this important relationship when you are older. Your siblings are the ones who will always have your back. 

10 Tips on Dealing with Sibling Rivalry #Netflix #StreamTeam

As a parent, it is our role to promote sibling harmony. We act as a facilitator and we set conditions that foster a great relationship between all our children. My job is not to control how my children relate to each other, but rather to shape their relationship with each other.

Netflix has a number of family-friendly shows that have real-life issues. Chances are there is a show that can begin a dialogue with your kids just by watching it together. Quite possibly the best conversations with your children could be sparked by watching shows together.

Disclosure: This post is part of my involvement as a Netflix #StreamTeam Member. All opinions are my own. #NetflixKids #Netflix #NetflixMoms Want to learn more about Netflix Streaming? Subscriptions start at $7.99/month. 


Top 10 Summer Camp Packing Tips

Summer camp is a great time for children to focus on fun, foster friendships and enjoy nature.  My girls go away to summer camp every summer and are just as excited to spend some time in the sun and breathe some fresh air this year as they have been in previous summers.

My Top 10 Summer Camp Packing Tips For Summer Sleep-Away Camp

Summer camp gets my daughters outdoors, away from the media. The fresh air nourishes them and they have opportunities to foster lasting friendships. They are physically active for the entire week from the time they wake up until the plop in their bunk at night. They also develop emotionally as I am not there to solve any issues that may occur. There are so many benefits to summer camp for my daughters.

The biggest benefit to me is that I do not have to organize any of this fun they will be having!

But, I do need to organize what they bring to summer camp since they are gone one full week.  They will need to keep track of all their own belongings the entire time they are away as I won't be there picking up after them. I want to make this as easy as possible and Mabel's Labels 2016 Limited Edition Sleepaway Camp Labels Pack ensures just that.

Mabel’s Labels 2016 Limited Edition Sleepaway Camp Labels Pack consists of UV resistant water-proof personalized labels that are perfect for my both of my daughters' camp gear. We are packing swimwear, toothbrushes and toiletries, sleeping bags, towels, clothes, flash lights and everything else in between. There are nine new camp icons to select in the Mabel’s Labels 2016 Limited Edition Sleepaway Camp Labels Pack: sailboat, goggles, raccoon, chipmunk, tree, campfire, canoe, tent, and flip-flops AND so many different color options!

The Mabel’s Labels 2016 Limited Edition Sleepaway Camp Labels Pack are only available from APRIL 5th through July 31st!!

What to Pack for Summer Camp

A SMALL DAYPACK TO CARRY AROUND ALL DAY: So my daughters will not have to repeatedly ask to return to their cabin, they carry a small daypack(think small backpack) with them all day long. Inside they carry a small personal first aid kit, hat, bug spray, sunscreen, water bottle and their flash light. Last year, they carried their umbrellas because it rained on and off every day. But really, anything else that comes to mind your kiddos would need each day.

Top 10 Summer Camp Packing Tips

THE FLASHLIGHT: Nothing fancy here, just simple and one that works. You child will probably lose it anyway. The flashlight is for finding their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night and for annoying camp counselors and their friends.

Top 10 Summer Camp Packing Tips

THE CLOTHES: I think camp attire is pretty basic, shorts, t-shirt, socks, sturdy shoes, flip-flops for the shower. I put each day's outfit in their own ziploc bag and label it Monday, Tuesday etc and I put underwear and socks in their own ziplock bag. I also put pajamas in their own bag as well.  I send two swimming suits in case one is too wet or gets lost. Miraculously, last year, every sock came home with my daughters! Don't select clothing for fashion, select for comfort

Top 10 Summer Camp Packing Tips

TOILETRIES: Put all the toiletries into a small zipped bag or basket for your kids to just grab and head to the bathrooms.  Don't add additional that your child really doesn't need. I know some girls who showered and didn't even use soap for the entire week!

Top 10 Summer Camp Packing Tips

SLEEPING BAGS: I recommend a good nylon sleeping bag, a couple of flat sheets to cover the bunk bed and a pillow. An extra light blanket if there is room in the trunk.

TOWELS: Pack two towels, two wash clothes and one pool towel. Also include XXL ziploc bags for these wet items because they are not coming home dry.

Top 10 Summer Camp Packing Tips

WATER BOTTLE: This is important as your kids will be refilling this all day long at water stations. Get a really good water bottle for your kids. Here is a good tip as well, start your kids early on drinking water . . . before they go to camp. Get them drinking a lot of water so when they arrive at camp, they will drink water and not become dehydrated. Your kids are going to be outdoors all day long.

Top 10 Summer Camp Packing Tips

RAIN GEAR/HAT: It may rain. If your child is lucky, it will not rain. But, it might, send a rain jacket or poncho along just in case. Have a hat as well, because it will be hot most days.

SUNSCREEN / INSECT REPELLENT: Pack enough sun screen protection;  sunglasses, and sun block, lip balm with SPF, as well as insect repellent. An extra pair of prescription glasses may be a good idea if our child wears glasses. Tip: Leave retainers at home unless they are permanent.

LABELS: Label EVERYTHING! Simple as that. If you want it back, label it. Every sock. Each pair of underwear. The water bottle. The flashlight and batteries. Sunscreen, Clothes. EVERYTHING! Label EVERYTHING with Mabel's Labels.

Included in the Limited Edition Sleepaway Camp Labels Pack:

  • 10 Personalized Name Stickers
  • 24 Mini Custom Name Stickers
  • 8 Custom Shoe Stickers
  • 50 Tag Mates™ Stick On Clothing Labels
  • 2 Personalized Bag Tags

What to leave at home

TECH / PHONES / IPODS / NINTENDOS / EXPENSIVE DEVICES: Cell phones and electronic devices are not allowed at summer camp. The camp my girls attend will actually confiscate any of these items. Summer camp is a place where children get away from their normal lives and try something different. It's all camp, all day., all night, every day, for the entire week!

These are just a few tips that helped me survive summer camp packing the last couple of year last years. I'll be using these same tips this year as I send my girls off to summer camp in one short month.

My girls will be prepared. When I pick them up at the end of the week, they will be exhausted and smiling and saying goodbye to new friends.  Their bags will be filthy, everything will be a mess and wet. There might even be some items missing, but those lost items will all be identified with my daughter's names! I will have two girls who will be begging me to sign them up for camp next summer. That 's what they did last year!

What are some of your tips for summer camp?

Disclosure: We are compensated for our reviews. Click here for details. Images courtesy of myself and Mabels Labels.


Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck

We played hooky from school just like Ferris Bueller and his friends did in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and went to the Willis Tower last week. My tween girls thought I was the coolest mom ever for giving them a free day out on the Ledge. But, unlike Ferris Bueller, who didn't get to stand on the Ledge, we were able to go out on a ledge at the Willis Tower skydeck.

We are fortunate to live so close to an amazing city, Chicago. We hop on the tollway and zip down regularly to take in sights and exhibits. The Willis Tower is the first building we look for each and every time we drive into the city. My daughters are always craning their necks to catch the first glimpse of home. I have to admit that I myself still, after over 30 years of living here, do the exact same thing. It makes my heart beat a little faster just looking out for the Willis Tower.

The Willis Tower Skydeck

Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck

The Ledges were added to the Willis Tower’s Skydeck viewing floor in 2005 and have added to the appeal of this Chicago attraction.  The Ledges extend four feet out into the air and make a perfect spot for my tweens. They loved standing out there posing for me.

Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck
Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck
Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck

My daughters have been working hard to finish out the end of the school year. There were loads of tests to complete the end of the semester and even more tests for placement for next school year. They needed some down time. I thought it important to dedicate some time with my tween daughters to simply having fun together.

The Ledge Experience

At 1,353 feet up, the Ledge’s glass boxes extend out from the skyscraper’s Skydeck, on the 103rd floor. We visited on a super clear day and were able to see amazing views of the city. 
The tower is a Chicago icon and stands 1,450 feet and 110 stories tall. The Willis Tower is the 8th tallest building in the world and the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, how's that for living near history and culture!

Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck

Your tweens can step out onto the ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck any day of the week.  Open daily, the Skydeck offers spectacular views of the city and if it is spectacularly clear day you might ever see up to four different states(Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan). The Ledge is simply, a glass box, that let’s you step four feet outside the walls of the The Willis Tower.

Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck

When you step out on the ledge for the very first time, your first reaction is to look down and automatically your arms come out as if to balance yourself. I highly recommend you do not do this as it might make you dizzy or light-headed. Simply keep your eyes up and look forward and take in the city views. In your glass box, you are in your own little world.

After you have finished with the ledge, walk all around the entire skydeck and take in the city views from all directions. Even though we were taking a break from schooling that day, I still had my tweens look for historic Chicago attractions.

Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck
Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck
Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck
Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck
Tweens on the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck

Be sure to take the elevator down to the lower level. A new theater presentation, Reaching for the Sky, tells the story of how the the building and Chicago’s well-known landmarks set architectural standards after the Great Chicago Fire and beyond. Additionally, there are new museum-quality exhibits that highlight this iconic tower, and celebrate Chicago’s rich history and culture through captivating visuals. When you have out-of-town guests, these exhibits are perfect.

The Willis Tower Skydeck

The Skydeck is open 365 days a year. April through September from 9am-10pm and October through March from 10am-8pm. Admission is $22.00 for Adults(ages 12 and up) and $14.00 for children. Children three and under are free. Also available are express passes for $49.00. This allows you to bypass all the crowds, perfect for busy days when the lines tend to be very long.

The Skydeck also hosts special occasions such a breakfast, lunch OR dinner right on the ledge! Advance reservations are required for this treat and can be booked online.

Disclosure: Some photos are courtesy of Willis Tower and used with permission. I received entrance passes. As always, my opinions are my own. I was not compensated in any manner.

The King & I | Lyric Opera of Chicago #LyricKing

Music is a gift that is meant to be shared. It is unique in that it is an art form where thoughts and goals are brought together. The unity and peacefulness of music demonstrate that joining together in harmony brings forth a positive atmosphere in our community and in the world.

The King & I | Lyric Opera of Chicago #LyricKing

In my home, the arts are central and not forgotten. I passionately believe in introducing children to theatre and music. I adore musical theater and am pretty much enamored with seeing live plays. Thankfully we live in a city that offers a plethora of options for my children and I. I’m happy that my children love theatre and music as well. Frequent visits to theatres (may) bring out the budding thespians in my little people.

The King & I | Lyric Opera of Chicago #LyricKing

Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I at Lyric Opera Chicago Directed by Lee Blakeley runs April 29 – May 22 at the Civic Opera House

Your promotional code for 20% off Monday- Friday performances is MOMBLOG. 

Buy tickets now!

  • Music by Richard Rodgers
  • Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
  • Based on the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon
  • Directed by Lee Blakeley
  • Conductor David Chase
  • Choreographer Peggy Hickey
  • At the Lyric Opera of Chicago
The King & I | Lyric Opera of Chicago #LyricKing

The King and I opens April 29 and runs through May 22. Purchase tickets here!

  • Fri, May 6 7:00PM
  • Sat, May 7 1:30PM,  7:30PM
  • Sun, May 8 1:30PM,  6:30PM
  • Tue, May 10 7:00PM
  • Wed, May 11 1:30PM, 7:00PM
  • Thur, May 12 1:30PM,  7:00PM
  • Fri, May 13 7:00PM
  • Sat, May 14 1:30PM,  7:00PM
  • Sun, May 15 1:30PM
  • Tue, May 17 7:00PM
  • Wed, May 18 1:30PM, 7:00PM
  • Thur, May 19 7:00PM
  • Fri, May 20 7:00PM
  • Sat, May 21 1:30PM,  7:00PM
  • Sun, May 22 1:30PM
The King & I | Lyric Opera of Chicago #LyricKing

The King and I Lyric Opera of Chicago

Free pre-opera talks are offered before every performance of every opera in the mainstage season to enhance the opera-going experience. Doors open approximately 15 minutes before the start of the talks, which begin an hour before the performance begins.

Don’t miss the limited engagement of this hit Broadway musical!

The King & I | Lyric Opera of Chicago #LyricKing

The singing-dancing-acting-creative-stage management-musical-backstage forces include:

  • 12 principals
  • 14 royal children
  • 7 royal wives
  • 8 female dancers
  • 5 male dancers
  • 5 guards/priests/men in black
  • 37 orchestra musicians
  • 6 musical staff (conductor & cover, chorus master, rehearsal pianists)
  • 20 production team members (director; scenic, costume, lighting, sound designers, choreographer, fight, lighting, and wig/makeup directors; stage manager; assistants to all)
  • 43 stage crew
  • 20 dressers
  • 15 hair/makeup artists

We are attending a matinee next week and my daughters are so excited! We will be hearing their violin teacher's husband as he will be in the orchestra playing!

Your promotional code for 20% off Monday- Friday performances is MOMBLOG. 

Buy tickets now!

The King & I | Lyric Opera of Chicago #LyricKing

If you didn't know, the power of music is as plain as this: Music improves cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance.  Did you know that kids who take music lessons have better cognitive skills, better grades and are more open and ambitious? Music is pretty much mandatory in my home.

Obviously, creativity is difficult to measure. But I think we can all agree that music enhances creativity. Music also enhances communication between the right and left parts of the brain. And we can't wait for both parts of our brain to be delighted at The King and I!

The King & I | Lyric Opera of Chicago #LyricKing

Disclosure: The Kind and I Production Photos All photos are courtesy of Lyric Opera website and used with permission. I will receive tickets to a performance. As always, my opinions are my own. I was not compensated in any manner.

Your promotional code for 20% off Monday- Friday performances is MOMBLOG. 

Buy tickets now!

One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos

I happen to love Mexican food . . . like, love it. My husband and I could eat it every single day. Our children, on the other hand, are not too fond of anything the least bit spicy, and besides chips and salsa, would rather not eat anything related to Mexican food.

What does a momma do to change this? Well, I came up with a recipe they will eat that will satisfy my craving for Mexican! It took a bit of tinkering around with the recipe before I came up with the best tasting Mexican Chicken that everyone would eat. Down to the last little person in my house.

One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos #PersonalCreations

I love this recipe because I can make it hours or even days ahead of time. In addition to that, this recipe can be used for a plethora of other dishes. The chicken is the base for so many other lunches and dinners. And the best part, this can be made in ONE DISH! No need to dirty an entire sink full of dishes.

One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos #PersonalCreations

With Mother's Day FAST approaching this next weekend . . . this Mexican Chicken with Sofritos recipe is perfect for breakfast, for brunch, for lunch, for late lunch, for early dinner and for dinner! You can make it ahead of time if you are hosting or you can make it ahead of time and bring it along as your dish to share.

I am hosting this year and this dish is made and waiting in the freezer for me to bring out the night before. It will be ready Sunday afternoon when all my guests arrive for a delicious Mother's Day late lunch / early dinner.

One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos #PersonalCreations

I have this amazing 4qt Oval Casserole Dish from Personal Creations that is my go-to dish for my Mexican Chicken recipe. This stoneware dish is perfect in that I can dump all my ingredients inside and go about my day and literally forget that dinner is in the oven, simmering away to perfection.

Don't you love my casserole dish - you can get yours for Mother's Day too! You can even have it personalized like I did with mine! You can get one initial like I did - "T" for me because everyone literally calls me "T". OR you could get a 2 line message, up to 18 characters, for all your favorite mothers!

I have this amazing 4qt Oval Casserole Dish from Personal Creations that is my go-to dish for my Mexican Chicken recipe. This stoneware dish is perfect in that I can dump all my ingredients inside and go about my day and literally forget that dinner is in the oven, simmering away to perfection. Don't you love my casserole dish - you can get yours for Mother's Day too! You can even have it personalized like I did with mine! You can get one initial like I did - "T" for me because everyone literally calls me "T". OR you could get a 2 line message, up to 18 characters, for all your favorite mothers!

Mexican Chicken with Sofritos


  • 3 pounds chicken breasts tenders
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 can RO*TEL Original(completely optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar (if you prefer less spicy - use more)
  • 1 8 oz. jar salsa verde
  • 1 11 oz. can sweet corn
  • 2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3-4 tablespoon ground cumin(use less if you like, we love cumin)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • fresh homemade Sofrito (16 oz)*
  • 1-2 cups of chicken stock


One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos #PersonalCreations
  1. Place chicken breast tenders in the bottom of your 4 qt Oval Casserole Dish. Add all of the ingredients except 1 can of diced tomatoes, the can of corn, half of the sofrito and half of the chicken stock. Cover and cook in the oven on 275° to 300° for 6-7 hours or until the chicken is tender enough to shred. (depends on your oven)
  2. Remove your casserole dish and lower your oven to 200°. Take the lid off the dish and grab two forks and start shredding your chicken right in the casserole dish. Mix everything together. The mixture may seem a bit dry, but you will add the rest of the chicken stock, the other can of diced chicken and the remaining Sofrito. Also add the can of corn at this time. Put the lid back on the casserole dish and return to the oven and cook for approximately 20-30 minutes to absorb some of the liquid you have added. you do not want this to be dry. If it seems dry, just add more chicken stock.
One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos #PersonalCreations

* I have numerous, fantastic ethnic grocers in my area. If you do not and cannot locate homemade Sofritos, simply use a jar version.

One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos #PersonalCreations

This is a mild version, but super tasty. My kids do not like spicy food and with my acid reflux, I really am not supposed to be eating spicy food any longer. My husband grabs the bottle of hot sauce and adds as much as he likes to his bowl or plate for added heat. He also adds some hot pepper flakes sometimes. This is mild enough that everyone will love it. If you absolutely do not want any heat at all, eliminate the RO*TEL completely as this does add a tiny bit of heat to the mixture.

One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos #PersonalCreations

This recipe can now be the base for all your Mexican dishes! Tacos, soups, burritos, with cheese, without cheese, with beans, without beans. It makes a great topping for chips or burgers too! It is great for loads of different meals. Breakfast tacos, chili for lunch and Burritos for dinner. Quesadillas, enchiladas, baleadas, chili, soup . . . really the ideas are endless. Keep some of this in your freezer at all times.

One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos #PersonalCreations

Enjoy your Mother's Day this year!

Disclosure: I received the dish from Personal Creations for this One Pot Mexican Chicken with Sofritos post. No compensation was received. My opinions are 100% my own.

31 Activities to Keep Your Kids Active This Spring

I have a created a list for the month of May and on it are things that my kiddos and I can do to properly welcome Spring. These activities will keep learning alive when the spring weather is beckoning their attentions. .

31 Activities to Keep Your Kids Active This Spring

Here are a list of 31 Activities to Keep Your Kids Active this Spring

  • Search the variety of trees and look at the buds on them.
  • Hang the bird feeders and fill them up with birdseed
  • Bird watch
  • Draw with chalk all over the driveway
31 Activities to Keep Your Kids Active This Spring
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  • Have a playdate at the park
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  • Have a media free day
  • Go to the forest preserve and search for milkweeds
  • Plant flowers in the front yard pots
31 Activities to Keep Your Kids Active This Spring
  • Watch baby caterpillars and collect more milkweeds (they eat a lot)
  • Blow bubbles outdoors
  • Go on a nature walk and spot wildflowers
  • Get up really early and watch the sunrise
  • Have a family picnic at the park
31 Activities to Keep Your Kids Active This Spring
  • Plant a garden (after Mother’s Day in the midwest)
  • Watch the sunset
  • Have breakfast on the deck
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  • Have a nature scavenger hunt
  • Have a squirt gun battle
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  • Search for worms
  • Watch chrysalis form in the caterpillar housing
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And lastly,

Write a list with your kids of things they want to do this summer.

What are some of your favorite spring activities?

Planting A Indoor Garden With your Kids

Should you start your garden indoors due to colder climates? The answer is yes! Since we live in the Midwest, this is a bit of a requirement if we want a longer growing season. We like to get a head start on planting our veggies from seeds right in our home.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.  ~ Margaret Atwood

Since we do live in the Midwest, the weather is always unpredictable. But spring is here and it is the perfect time to begin our garden indoors. Even though it may still be quite chilly outdoors or we may even have the threat of winter storm, all our seeds will be safe indoors.

Seed packets may not even be on shelves yet, so the best solution for my family is the Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® 8ct Veggie and Herb Seed Pod® Kit. These little pods have the perfect amount of seeds that we will need all in its own little pod.

Growing veggies and herbs indoors can be extremely rewarding and a wonderful learning activity for your children. You might even be surprised at how many uses you will have for your own home grown herbs. My kiddos are super excited to get our garden started before school is even out this year!

Did you know that inside every seed is a tiny living thing? There is a baby plant inside the seed, fast asleep. Seeds are dormant until they gets what they needs to wake up. When the seed wakes up, it becomes a seedling. What do you think a seed needs to wake up? Well, there are only three things a seed needs: warmth, water and air. A seed really only needs these three things to wake up!

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

For our indoor garden this year we will not need to locate various containers for planting individual seeds or worry about having too many seeds or trying to save them for planting the next year. Everything we need is contained right in the Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® pod. The Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® pods are completely biodegradable, so we can place them right in the dirt. 

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

Preparing soil for an indoor garden is so much easier than preparing an entire garden outdoors. Using a bagged seed-starting or sterile potting mix is the best idea for prepping your indoor pots or containers. We were able to purchase potting mix that is specific to our needs. The potting mix is fully prepared for you and all you need is your container(s) to place the potting mix in and later your Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® pods.

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

The girls were easily able to complete our indoor garden with minimal supervision from me. We shopped for a large indoor garden container and potting mix, filled up the container with potting mixand simply pushed the Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® seed pods from our 8ct Veggie and Herb Seed Pod® Kit into the potting mix until the top of the pod were level with the potting mix's surface. Water and now we wait.

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

We located the perfect spot in our home for our indoor garden. When the pods are first planted, the only thing we need to worry about is heat. Thus the reason we are planting indoors because it is still chilly here in the Midwest. But once the seedlings break through, they need lots of light. The pods will do best in warmth.

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

What I love about the Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® pods is my kids won't be able to over water and wash away the seed. The seed is protected in the pod and has the perfect amount of growing material and plant food right inside the biodegradable pod shell.

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

Use plants to bring life. ~ Douglas Wilson

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

Did you know that once water gets inside the seed it wakes up!? This starts a process called germination. Remember, seeds only need warmth, air and water to germinate. All the nutrients the seeds need for the first several days are packed right inside the seed. Guess what that nutrient is? SUGAR! Plants love sugar! Plants cannot live without sugar because it is their food.

After the first few days of soaking up the water, the seed inside the Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® pod has the plant food right inside the Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® pod for the new seedling, so it will continue to grow right inside the biodegradable pod!

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

The girls selected a great indoor container this year and we won't need to transplant any seedlings to larger container or the garden. TIP: When the seedlings are 2-3 inches tall, you have the option of moving them into deeper containers or keeping them where they are.

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

After a few weeks, we expect our seedlings to be ready for some full sun outdoors. We just have to ensure that our windy Chicago days are well over 50 degrees, especially at night.  We can slowly acclimate our indoor garden to outdoors by bringing our pots outdoors during the day and back indoors on the cold evenings. Once we are in full summer, we can move our indoor garden outdoors.

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

We used the Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® 8ct Veggie and Herb Seed Pod® Kit this year and it included: Basil, Sweet Pepper, Zucchini, Globe Tomato, Cilantro, Cucumber, Cherry Tomato and Spinach. We can't wait for fresh veggies . . . well, not really veggies, but fruit.

Starting Your Garden Indoors

Did you know that anything that contains seeds is really considered a fruit?!This means that we are really growing a fruit and herb indoor garden! Many things that we would never think of as fruits, are, indeed, fruits! Just remember that everything that is a container for the seed is a fruit!

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty, or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. ~ David Hobson

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

What would you grow in your Indoor Garden? I would love to see your indoor garden. Post an image on Instagram and tag it #GroAblesProject!

How to Make an Indoor Garden

Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject


  • Raised Bed Garden Container
  • Organic Raised Bed Soil/Potting Mix
  • Miracle-Gro® Gro-ables® 8ct Veggie and Herb Seed Pod® Kit
Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject
Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject
Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject
Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject
Starting Your Garden Indoors #GroAblesProject

This Starting Your Garden Indoors post is sponsored Miracle-Gro Gro-ables All opinions are 100% mine.