Family

My oldest daughter is a builder. She loves to take things apart and put them back together, or build things with pipe cleaners and tape, including huge elaborate blanket forts with multiple rooms, and doors and windows. I’m not exaggerating.

So when Walmart offered to send me a GoldieBlox play set, I knew she’d be overjoyed to play with a toy designed to encourage the part of her brain that loves to build. Plus, this feminist mama was only too happy to have her play with toys that were invented to empower girls.

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She chose the GoldieBlox Girl Inventor Zipline Action Figure, because zipline.

It took Ja’Naya all of 15 minutes to put the zipline carriage together, and another 5 to memorize the process so she could do it again (and again) without the help of the instructions. That can be explained by the fact that it is designed for kids ages 4 and up, so at 10, she was able to grasp it quickly and retain the information.

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The best part, of course, was letting the Goldie fly. And a week in, baby Juliza’s new favorite phrase is “Want dolly fly!”

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My two girls have been having so much finding different places to anchor the zipline at different levels of slackness and different inclines, and they’ve even tried to make Goldie land in baskets and bags when she reaches the end of the line. The line has suction cups at the ends, and they’ll stick to glass and metal, but it can also be tied off to an anchor point if necessary.

It’s hard to capture a photo of the action, so here’s a very quick video of Goldie doing her thing:

Ja’Naya has grown a little bored with the build process because it is relatively simple, but she has asked for more GoldieBlox toys so she can build her collection of parts, allowing her to use her imagination to create whatever she wants. She tried making other stuff from the parts included in this set, but there aren’t very many, so there wasn’t much she could make.

Thankfully, Walmart does have other GoldieBlox sets, including a Builder’s Survival Kit with a ton of parts that can be mixed and matched. So on Christmas morning, Ja’Naya will find another GoldieBlox set from Santa under the tree, and we’ll add to it throughout the year.

And because I’d be remiss if I didn’t say: The age recommendations on these sets are there for a reason. Many of the parts are really small, and while Juliza didn’t attempt to put any in her mouth, she could’ve easily swallowed some of them if she had tried. She did, however, manage to scatter the parts all over the house, and it took us 30 minutes of hunting to find all the little pieces. The next thing we need to find is a box to contain all the pieces.

But we are now huge fans of GoldieBlox, and any kid who is a maker will love them too.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

I have a minor panic attack every time I see a story on the news about a baby dying after being left in a hot or cold car. Really, wrapping my mind around the whole situation is enough to bring me to tears. Why? Because it really could happen to anyone. Many kids who die this way are left in the car as a result of absent-mindedness. A mom breaking routine to drop the baby at day care when dad usually does it. A grandparent watching the baby one afternoon who needed to run a quick errand. A rushed day full of errands and pickups and dropoffs. It really only takes one horrible moment of not being mindful to ruin lives.

So when Walmart asked me to review a new car seat from Evenflo designed to prevent exactly this type of tragedy, I couldn’t wait to try it.

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The Evenflo Embrace DLX car seat with Advanced SensorSafe technology, available only at Walmart, is a sturdy option with removable padding and leg cover, designed for babies up to 35 pounds. But the most important feature is that it also comes equipped with a sensor built into the chest buckle that will alert the driver that baby is still in the car.

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I installed the seat in my mom’s car to try it with baby Juliza. The base was really simple to install using the car’s seat belt, but it could also be installed for a more permanent setup using the vehicle’s LATCH system. With the base installed, the car seat snapped right in with ease, and could be removed with a simple squeeze of the release bar on the back of the seat.

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The seat can accommodate a child up to 35 pounds, so technically, Juliza could still use this seat at 30 pounds. However, she is really tall, so it wouldn’t be a comfortable ride for her, and I’m sure she’d max out the height limit. I had to remove all the infant head and shoulder padding to get her in the seat at almost 2 years old, but this would’ve been a great seat to use when she was an infant.

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Still, I strapped her in for a quick ride around the neighborhood to see how the SensorSafe system would work.

The seat comes with a sensor that has to be plugged into the vehicle’s 16-pin OBDII port. In my mom’s car, it was far under the steering wheel on the left side, but you can consult your vehicle’s owner manual to find yours.

The first time you plug it in and start the car, there will be a long beep. That lets you know the sensor is properly installed and communicating with the seat.

Once you drive the car for at least 30 seconds up to at least 5 miles per hour, the sensor activates. The magic happens when you stop and turn off the ignition. Within 2 seconds, the sensor begins beeping to let you know that baby is still strapped into the car seat. And it is a distinctive, musical tone that you cannot miss. Here’s a quick video so you can hear it for yourself:

I honestly love the SensorSafe technology, and it will put so many parents’ minds at ease. I’m hoping Evenflo decides to expand the technology to all their other car seats as a standard feature, including the convertible and toddler seats. Juliza is too big to use this one regularly, but I plan to find a parent with a baby to give this gift of peace of mind.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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Anyone who knows me knows that I highly value my personal space. My home is my sanctuary, and I’m not a fan of anything interfering with that. Not even having company. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy having folks stay with me once they’re here. I inevitably have fun once we all get together and start talking and laughing. But the preparation is where I struggle. I overthink things, and wonder if everyone will be comfortable, and how long it will take before I have to go hide in a closet for some alone time. Still, my overthinking generally leads me to consider things I normally may not have. When Walmart challenged me to share how I get ready for guests in the fall, I wanted to share an extra comfort corner I decided to create for our guests.

Here’s the thing: We technically do have an “extra” bedroom. But by extra, we means that it’s my stepsons’ room. Since they don’t live with us for most of the year, the room is usually empty, but for their bunk bed and dresser. A bunk bed works for them, but let’s just say it’s not the best situation for adult guests who prefer not to hit their heads every time they sit up or fall whenever they roll on a twin bed. So we usually set up a queen airbed in the room to solve those problems. Of course, the airbed isn’t perfect. Sit on the edge of one and you’ll learn that in a hurry. The edges and corners usually sink under weight, even when the bed is at peak air pressure. So I decided to set up a cozy chair in a corner for those moments when climbing onto the bed isn’t my guests’ first choice.

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We have a great black chair that we found at a consignment store years ago that was the perfect starter piece. But the chair alone was just the start. I headed to Walmart and picked up this cozy Better Homes & Gardens throw blanket in a fun colorful print.

Being cold in someone else’s house always sucks, because you never want to impose by having to ask them to turn the heat up. So this is an easy way to avoid that issue.

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Next, I added a small side table with a fragrant soy candle by Burt’s Bees (yay for soy wax!), and a lamp to make reading easy and convenient.

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I hope our guests will appreciate this small gesture to help them feel at home away from home. The only thing missing is a good book and a hot cup of tea. We can provide both of those too :)

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

By some miracle, Juliza and I have made it 22 — almost 23 — months strong on our breastfeeding adventure. And though I had all these grand plans to be done with nursing by the time she turned 2, it seems my little one has other plans. I’ve decided to practice child-led weaning with her, so it may be a while yet before we’re done. As eager as I am to get back to “regular” clothes and undergarments, it seems that I will be stuck with nursing bras for the foreseeable future. So when Walmart offered me the opportunity to try some nursing bras and clothes from their Nuture by Lamaze brand, I was only too eager to add to my collection.

Let’s be real for a second: Nursing breasts are unique. They change in size throughout the days as they go from full to empty and back again. So quite literally, a bra that fit me well when I left the house may be overflowing by the time I’m a few hours into that outing. As a result, I’ve found that soft cup bras are much more comfortable than their more rigid underwire counterparts. The Nurture by Lamaze seamless sleep bras and seamless nursing bras were appealing to me because of the comfort factor.

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Of course, there needs to be a balance between comfort and support, especially when you’re a DD-DDD cup like me. And to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from either, because I haven’t had much luck with this style of bra. I’m usually either spilling out of them, or they’re so unsupportive that I may as well not wear a bra. I have to say though, the sleep bras really provided more support than I expected. They are comfortable for sleeping, but I actually wear them around the house during the day while I’m working. They’re not quite supportive enough for — say — a grocery shopping trip, but they weren’t designed for that. At $12.50 for a pack of 2 bras, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

The seamless nursing bra provided a bit of a challenge for me in that they size out at XL. While the band fit me fine, the cups just weren’t large enough. They had padding, which is great in a nursing bra, because leaks. But I’d probably need an XXL or 2X for large enough cups. Still, I appreciate the no-seam approach, and the fabric was super soft and pliable.

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Walmart has other great nursing and maternity basics, like their Labor of Love seamless maternity leggings, tanks and belly bands. I gave up long ago on wearing nursing tops, because finding cute ones that are also affordable feels like an impossible task, but I LOVE a good tank top that I can pull down nurse without exposing all my parts. And this one is my new favorite. The seamless style and soft fabric feel like wearing nothing at all. Plus, it is really, really stretchy, which makes it easy to maneuver when I have a toddler begging for “titi please” in my lap. I can say the same for the leggings. I feel naked in them, and that is the highest possible compliment I can pay to any piece of clothing. The Labor of Love Belly Bangle belly band, for which I really thought I had no use this far postpartum, has also proven useful for being able to lift my top to nurse without showing my belly and back.

The best part of all these items is the amazing pricing. Each item costs $10 or less. And in a world where pretty much everything with the words “nursing” or “maternity” in front of the name comes with a high price, that is a refreshing concept. Juliza agrees. Mostly because they all make it that much easier for her to get her beloved titi. Which she’s requesting in this photo.

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Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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A few weeks ago, we bought a potty for my 18-month-old. And she promptly refused to sit on it. Unless she’s wearing clothes, of course. She has a great time lounging in the bathroom when she’s fully dressed, but when we take off her diaper and try to get her to sit on it, she’s not having it. At all. She’d prefer to stand 2 inches away from it and pee on the floor — which she has done on quite a few occasions. Toddlers.

All this to say, it looks like we’ll have to continue using diapers for a while, so when Walmart offered to send me a few boxes of my favorite brand, along with a couple of baby snacks, I couldn’t say no.

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Huggies Little Movers

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We tried Huggies Little Movers diapers a few months ago, courtesy of Walmart, and we’ve been buying them ever since. Seriously, they’re the best among a bunch of diaper brands we’ve tried, and every time we decide to buy a different (often less expensive) brand, we regret it.

Juliza tends to pee a lot all at one time, which can lead to leaks in the wrong diaper. Huggies Little Movers are really absorbent, and the waistband and leg holes are both flexible and secure, which means that she can run and jump and climb and do all the things she does without worrying about an uncomfortable fit.

Plus, come on. How cute is she toddling around in these?

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Honestly though, we’ll continue using these until she finally gets comfortable with the idea of sitting on the potty. Wish us luck in that department.

Gerber Graduates Yogurt Melts

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We also received Gerber Graduates Yogurt Melts to try. Juliza is definitely a snacker. She won’t eat much all at once, but she likes to graze from everyone else’s plate or grab something she can eat on the run. Every now and then, I need a break from chasing her with an arrowroot cookie in her hand (and all over her face and clothes and hair and…you get the picture). I like to sit her down in her high chair and dump some snacks on the tray. These yogurt melts are just the right size for her little hands, though I will say she’s gotten really great at picking up the tiniest things — like random crumbs from the carpet that I’d need a magnifying glass to identify.

I like the fact that they contain fruit and yogurt, though I wish they were organic. She likes feeding herself. I call that a win-win.

PediaSure Shakes

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The last product we received was PediaSure shakes. They’re designed to act as a nutritional supplement for kids ages 2+ who may be picky eaters and therefore not getting all the nutrition they need from the things they will eat.

My goal for the PediaSure is a little different. The thing is, I’m still nursing Juliza. I’m proud of myself for sticking it out with her this long, but I’m also wondering when she’ll wean, because some days, I really just need a break. I’m hoping PediaSure will help with that. At the moment, she’ll drink water and juice from a cup like a champ, but she flat-out refuses to drink anything that even closely resembles milk unless it comes directly from the source. The child knows what’s up. She wouldn’t drink the PediaSure from her own cup, but mama’s smarter than that. I put it in a cup for myself, and then she was only too eager to taste it. She seems to like it, so I’m hoping that when she’s old enough, I can get her to drink it in her own cup, and we can cut back our daily nursing sessions to first thing in the morning and bedtime. That would work for me. I love our special bond, but at some point, I’d like to be able to be away from her without worrying about her screaming for “titi.” I’m not in a huge rush, but I admit that I’m hoping that by the time she’s 2, we’ll be done. God, help us all.

Nursing mamas, how did you help your little one wean? Or did you let them completely self-wean? I’d love to get your advice in the comments!

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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I can’t believe that summer is already coming to a close. Seriously. Where did the days go? Working from home means that my kids are with me all day every day, so usually at this point, I’m counting the days until my daughter goes back to school. This year is different, though. I’m actually going to miss having her here. Probably because she’s an awesome big sister and helps me out a lot. Anyway, when Walmart asked me to share a cool summer story, I decided to have a mini bubble party for my little ones, who both love blowing bubbles. Yes. Even the 9-year-old.

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We blow bubbles often, usually with the little wands or the long, skinny bubble containers. This time though, we wanted something a little bit fancier. We headed to Walmart and picked a couple of really cool bubble blowers. Essentially, they’re battery-operated fans that are a lot more effective at blowing bubbles than we could ever be on our own. Coupled with some snacks, we had a great time picnicking in the back yard.

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The only thing missing was a cooler full of ice cold drinks. But at least we had bubbles. Lots and lots of bubbles.

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The larger blower actually creates huge bubbles with smaller bubbles inside. You can pop the larger bubble and the smaller ones will float away. It’s kind of awesome.

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I genuinely wish I’d made video of how happy Juliza was to play with the huge bubbles, and how happy Ja’Naya was to humor her. It may have been the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. This week :)

But bubbles and snacks weren’t the only things we brought to the party. To celebrate the end of summer, we’re also planning to go see the new Minions movie. In honor of that, we picked up a bit of Minions merchandise. For Ja’Naya, how could we NOT love this “Perfect is Boring” Minions t-shirt? Isn’t it amazing?

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And because we couldn’t find any Minions tees for toddlers, we grabbed a pair of sunglasses, so baby Juliza could be styling too.

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I can’t help but think the Minions would enjoy a bit of silly fun blowing bubbles in the back yard, so it seems fitting.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

We’ve reached the point in the summer when the days feel really long and I’m struggling a bit to keep the kids occupied. All day. Pretty much every day. So sometimes all I want to do is sit everyone down and find something funny to watch. We pop popcorn and laugh until our sides hurt — also known as Movie Night.

We’ve been a little short on new material, so when Walmart sent me Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 on DVD, I knew that my daughter — who absolutely loved the first movie — would have no objections at all. 

 

The second time around, Paul Blart is back at it again — taking his low-level security job waaaaay too seriously, and having that somehow lead to him stumbling his way through saving the day. This time, the action takes Blart and his daughter to Las Vegas. And by action, I mean Blart running into, falling off of and rolling over things. That’s honestly the best part of these movies: Seeing just how much punishment he can take. That, and how oblivious he is to the fact that everyone else thinks he’s a joke. Also, #nospoilers, but it’s SO worth waiting for the last few seconds of the movie.

Anyway, to celebrate the hilarity that is Mall Cop 2, we all took #Blartstache photos with the fake moustaches we received with the movie. How ridiculous do we look?

Juliza may or may not have had to be coerced to make this happen.

Those photos will forever make me giggle. We also received a couple of fanny packs, but I don’t think I’m quite enough of a good sport to be caught in a photo wearing one of those O__o

You can actually get both Mall Cop movies in an exclusive 2-pack at Walmart for just $24.87, starting tomorrow.

You can also participate in a Q&A with Kevin James at the official Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 Facebook page tomorrow at 7pm ET. I can just imagine the questions he’s going to get, but it promises to be hilarious!

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Every year, my family and I say that we’re going to take a vacation. Away from home. Preferably somewhere warm with white sandy beaches and clear blue water. And every year, we don’t. Time, money, circumstances, and a bunch of other variables usually leave us finding ways to have fun at — or near — home. Not much has changed this year — except that we’ll have company for our staycation. So last weekend, before to the Fourth of July, we’ve been getting our home ready for company. Here are some great tips:

A comfy place to sleep

We’re fortunate enough to have an extra bedroom. What we do not have, however, is a comfortable sleeping situation for adults — much less two. We have a twin-twin bunkbed that works when kids are coming over, but notsomuch for anyone older than 16. The first thing we did was invest in a raised queen sized air mattress.

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It’s 18 inches high, which is a lot better than the smaller camping-sized air mattresses that basically amount to sleeping on the ground. Outfitted with some nice sheets, pillows and a comforter, it will work great for our guests, and it rung it at just under $50.

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New towels, anyone?

The next thing on our shopping list is new towels. What is it about having guests that makes you realize how — ummmm — well-loved every towel in your linen closet looks? Seriously, we’re going to do our guests a favor and deliver new towels and washcloths, pre-washed, of course, to get rid of any pesky towel lint.

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These inexpensive towels by Mainstays from Walmart look great, but won’t cost a fortune. A 6-piece set costs less than $18.

Make outside comfortable, too

Who wants to spend the Fourth of July sitting inside the house, right? Luckily for us, we invested in a great popup canopy from Walmart before Memorial Day, so we have the shade situation in our backyard covered. Literally (haha!).

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But if you’re in the market for something that you can take with you when you head out to the lake or park, or something temporary for your back yard, Walmart has a great Ozark Trails canopy for right around $50. I know that in Georgia, when that afternoon sun hits, shade is an absolute must, so $50 sounds relatively inexpensive if it means you can spend more time outside during our staycation.

So what about you? What are your summer essentials for a staycation or having guests?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.