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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Celebrate Mother's Day with eCreamery and an Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich Bar!

 

Celebrate Mother's Day with eCreamery and an Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich Bar! 

If you follow regularly, you may already know that we love eCreamery!  We aren't alone. They've been featured in Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and more. You may have also learned about this brand on one of my favorite shows - Shark Tank!  This trendsetting company ships fabulous ice cream and cookies to your gift recipient's door step. eCreamery focuses on perfection for everything from ingredients to recipes to customer service. As a mom, flowers are nice, but my husband children know that I'd much rather have an eCreamery gift.  The hands-on treats are not only delicious, but also provide a fun bonding opportunity.

The way that it works is that you select special occasion gifts, personalize any of their best selling pints, or create your own custom flavors from 40 flavors and 30 mix-ins.  If you choose to personalize any of the pints, they will even let you customize the labels.  They also have the best cookies, hot fudge, caramel sauce, and sprinkles to go with your ice cream. It's easy to order through their website. You may also call them for assistance and one of their friendly employees will help you to order the perfect gift.

My recent package arrived in perfect condition on my doorstep. I think that living in Texas, my address is a stress test for shipping. I've received a few packages from them at different times of the year and everything has always arrived in perfect condition. They place the items in a foam cooler and add a generous amount of dry ice to keep the ice cream frozen.  It's pretty amazing that the ice cream is completely frozen even on my doorstep in Texas! This makes me confident to order to any of my family or friends across the country.


I recently received a Mother's Day collection of ice cream. The package included festive flavors such as Mom's Tub of Hugs, Best Mom Ever, Mint to be My Mom, and Mom's Scoops of Love! The cookies were similarly named with phrases that made me feel special, including Love You, For Mom, #1 Mom, You Rock, Hugs & Kisses, and Best Mom Eva! I felt touched to see the love that shines through with this Mother's Day themed gift!  The team at eCreamery truly knows how to make moms happy on Mother's Day!  


As I mentioned earlier, their ice cream and cookies are amazing!  The ice cream is real ice cream. They have spent years perfecting their recipes.  Each one is incredibly creamy and flavorful. The real ingredients make a big difference. They also offer mix-ins and are generous with the chunks. The cookies add another dimension.  They have the best cookies. I could eat them on their own, but they are even better with ice cream!  We enjoyed setting up an Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich Bar! It was fun, easy, and delicious. My family members chose their favorite cookies, scooped ice cream onto a cookie, and then added a second cookie on top.

Here is an example of my favorite with the creamy Vanilla Ice Cream with Toffee Crunch on the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies.

Here is another example. My son loves eCreamery's Strawberry Ice Cream because it is made with real strawberries. You'll notice that even though my children are young, they were able to successfully make their own ice cream cookie sandwiches.  That's one of my favorite things about this gift - it's fun to share and provides hands-on fun!

While I am focusing on Mother's Day gifts here, eCreamery is also great for graduation celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, and more. For instance, my family loved the delicious treats and bonding experience that we had with an eCreamery package for Valentine's Day!

We each made an ice cream cookie sandwich with our favorite ice creams and cookies. Here are a couple of examples.

We also enjoyed eCreamery ice creams at Thanksgiving as shown below. It was fun to try both classic and seasonal flavors.


As I mentioned earlier, they also offer delicious toppings. For instance, the Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge is my absolute favorite! It's incredibly thick and rich.  We warm it up in the microwave and then drizzle it on ice cream.


I hope that my post inspires you to try eCreamery's special ice creams, cookies, and toppings for Mother's Day. The Mother's Day gift that I highlighted provides both delicious treats and a fun bonding experience!  Visit eCreamery here.


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How to Create a Rainy Day Bookshelf for Children Who are Afraid of Thunder and Lightening + Some of our Favorite Books and Craft Kits!

How to Create a Rainy Day Bookshelf for Children Who are Afraid of Thunder and Lightening + Some of our Favorite Books and Craft Kits

Tornado season is approaching for north Texas which means that it's a tough time of year for young children who are afraid of thunder and lightening.  If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro, you probably woke up early this morning thanks to the morning thunderstorm. We have more of these storms on the horizon, so I thought that I would share something fun that my children do on rainy days -- they pick a book or craft kit from our Rainy Day Bookshelf. 

Let me share some tips for curating your own Rainy Day Bookshelf

1. Let your children know about it!

I have found that the Rainy Day Bookshelf provides a much needed distraction from scary tornado weather. My children eye the Rainy Day Bookshelf on sunny days, but I promise them that they will be able to pick anything that they want on the next rainy day. Personally, my children are like many others that the Texas thunder and lightening scares them. The Rainy Day Bookshelf helps to distract them from their fears during storms (especially when we have to hide in my closet during tornado watches).

2. Keep soft blankets and other storm supplies on the bottom shelf.

We keep blankets and flashlights on the bottom shelf so that our children are able to have something soft to comfort them and flashlights that help them to feel safer if the electricity goes out.

3. Choose popular books that are true page turners.

Your child may be in a mood to read a book after hanging out in a closet for hours. It's important to have popular books that will keep them engaged. Here are some of our favorites:

Owly #3: Flying Lessons by Andy RuttonIn Flying Lessons, Owly figures out why he can't fly, and helps another forest creature with his own flying problems. Relying on a mixture of symbols, icons, and expressions to tell his silent stories, Runton's clean, animated, and heartwarming style makes it a perfect read for anyone who's a fan of Jeff Smith's Bone or Mike Kunkel's Herobear and the Kid. Already winning fans around the world, Owly is not to be missed.

Peppa Pig: Happy Easter! by Reika ChanPeppa is ready to celebrate in this egg-shaped board book perfect for Easter! Peppa knows the Easter Bunny will only come to hide eggs if children aren't looking, but she is just so curious! What will happen?

Bunbun & Bonbon #1: Fancy Friends by Jess KeatingBunbun has it all: a delightful Bunbun nose, a winning Bunbun smile, a ridiculously cute Bunbun tail, and not one, but two adorable Bunbun ears. But Bunbun doesn't have a friend—until Bunbun meets Bonbon. Together they learn how to be fancy, eat donuts for lunch, and more. Hop hop hooray! This series is part of Scholastic's graphic-novel line, Graphix. These books are ideal for reluctant readers of all ages. with funny, simple text and unforgettable characters, graphic novels help motivate struggling students. The interplay of text and illustrations helps build reading comprehension, and the approachable story lengths give newly independent

Bunbun & Bonbon #2: Hoppy Go Lucky by Jess KeatingA bad-luck day turns into a quest to find a unicorn in the second book in this graphic novel series starring a chipper young bunny and a fancy talking candy. Featuring zany text and adorable drawings from acclaimed author-illustrator Jess Keating, Bunbun & Bonbon: Hoppy Go Lucky will appeal to beginning readers who are eager to dive in to graphic novels. Graphix series are ideal books for even the youngest readers. With funny, simple text, unforgettable characters, illustrations that support comprehension, and approachable story lengths, these books grow newly independent readers' confidence and turn them into life-long book lovers!


4. Stock up on craft kits that help to distract their attention from the storm.

Hands-on projects are a great way to help distract little ones from a storm.  Scholastic is our go-to store when it comes to craft kits. I love how their kits are educational and and fun. The creators pay meticulous attention to detail from beginning to end. Many of their kits help children with fine motor skills while inspiring creativity. Here are some of our favorites:

Klutz: Light Up Rocks & Gems Collection: Get the stone-cold facts on rocks! Packed with 29 unique rocks, gems, and minerals, this is the perfect kit to start or expand a rock collection. Build a color-changing light-up display with an agate slice: use it as a lamp, or study the stones up close with the included magnifying glass. Learn fun facts about each rock in the fully colored 32-page book including 6 experiments and activities with easy-to-find ingredients from home.

Klutz Jr: My First Rock & Gem Collection: Junior gemologists will "dig" learning about rocks and minerals with this beginner's collection. The kit includes 8 polished rock samples, such as turquoise, amethyst, rose quartz, lemon jade, and more PLUS a surprise rock that they will unearth in the dig kit. The field guide introduces easy-to-follow STEM content, including fun facts and jokes. Then go exploring to find rocks from home that you can decorate with the included paint and googly eyes.



Klutz: Tropical Tie-Dye Soap: Make four custom decorative soaps, right in your kitchen! The kit includes a sudsy soap base that melts easily in a microwave or double boiler. Add the custom scent, then pour the soap into the molds of your choice. You'll also find for using the included materials in creative ways and whipping up spa recipes with ingredients you can find in your kitchen.

Klutz: Rainbow Daydream Soap: Make four custom decorative soaps right in your kitchen! The kit includes a sudsy soap base that melts easily in a microwave or double boiler. Add the custom scent, then pour the soap into the molds of your choice. You'll also find projects for using the included materials in creative ways and whipping up spa recipes with ingredients you can find in your kitchen.


Klutz: Sew Mini GardenWe're digging these four gardens full of felt friends! Watch your sewing skills bloom as you stitch 18 different plants and garden friends. You'll learn how to make cuddly cacti, sweet succulents, cute carnivorous plants, a variety of bugs, and even a little garden gnome.

Klutz: Sun Catchers: Color your room with sunshine! Using the colorful, translucent sheets, create no-glass stained glass from over 60 trendy designs with shapes like unicorns, UFOs, whales, and more! Kids will get to mimic the real process of making stained glass: create a mosaic with the translucent sheets, and "soder" them together with black puffy paint to fill in the gaps. Turn your creations into mesmerizing mobiles with the included beads, cord, metallic paper straw, and suction cups.


I hope that you enjoyed this glimpse into our Rainy Day Bookshelf! Texas tornado season is coming up, so it's nice to have books and crafts to keep little ones busy when the weather is bad.


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Saturday, April 10, 2021

An Easy DIY Macaroni & Cheese Bar + The Best Toppings for Macaroni and Cheese!


An Easy DIY Macaroni & Cheese Bar featuring Best Macaroni & Cheese Recipe with Cabot Cheese!
In today's post, I'll feature a family-friendly dinner idea that my children love -- a Macaroni & Cheese Bar!  Plus, I will share my favorite Macaroni & Cheese recipe. 

Let's start with my favorite recipe.

Recipe: The Best Macaroni & Cheese Recipe with Cabot Cheeses! Ingredients

  • 4 cups dried pasta
  • 1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (We use 2% milk)
  • 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 16 ounces of cheddar cheese (shredded)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Shred the cheeses and set aside.

3. Cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside in a lightly greased baking dish that you plan to use for baking. You may also split the past into multiple baking dishes if you prefer. (You'll notice that I splurged on generously sized noodles. I did this because these large noodles soak up the cheese mixture. Large Cavatappi noodles or medium size shell noodles are also great.)



4. Over low/medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour for approximately two minutes. You'll want to whisk the entire time to prevent burning. 

5. Add the milk, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth and then reduce the heat to low, cooking for 5 minutes and whisking periodically until thick.



6. Beat the egg and then whisk it into the mixture until smooth.

7. Stir in the shredded cheeses until the mixture is smooth.

8. Pour the mixture over the pasta that you had set aside in the lightly greased baking dish(es).

9. Add the 2 ounces of cheddar cheese on the top of the pasta.



10. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.




Now that I shared my recipe, let me show you how we set up our Mac & Cheese Bar. We set up the best toppings for macaroni and cheese! 

The best vegetarian toppings for macaroni and cheese include colorful veggies. I use a veggie platter and fill the center with shredded Cheddar cheese. I fill the remaining compartments with crushed cheese crackers, sliced sweet peppers, peas, and broccoli. 




The best meat toppings for macaroni and cheese include bacon, ground beef, shredded chicken, and ham. I'm not a fan of bacon, but the rest of my family loves it, so I create a separate container of bacon.  They swear that chopped pieces of bacon make their Mac & Cheese better.



Of course, you may substitute the toppings that we featured. Other ideas include diced sweet potatoes, blue cheese, ground beef, shredded chicken, and more!  This is a fun project because you are able to customize it to your family's preferences. Plus, I found that this project allows my children to be participate in prepping the Mac & Cheese toppings. My oldest son grated the cheese while my youngest crushed cheese crackers in a ziploc bag.  



They both helped to wash the veggies so that I only had to chop them.  We had fun while we prepared our Mac & Cheese Bar together!


I hope that you enjoy this fun dinner idea!

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

5 Bedtime Activities for Preschoolers this Summer


5 Bedtime Activities for Preschoolers this Summer

If you have an energetic preschooler like me, your bedtime routine may take hours. In today's post, I'll share some tips for bedtime activities that make my son giggle and that provide a routine for him to eventually fall asleep for a good night of rest.

1. Tire them out!

We go on a run to the park in the evenings. he doesn't run the entire time, but he puts in a lot of effort. He walks and runs for almost 2 miles.  I think that exercise helps with his sleep cycle.

2. Eat a healthy dinner and avoid sugar.

We give our son dinner, but follow his lead on how hungry he is. If he eats too much, it may be hard to sleep. If he doesn't eat enough, it may be difficult to sleep. We let our little Goldilocks tells us whet it's just right.  We don't give dessert or sugar in the evening because our particular little preschooler sleeps better without sugar.

3. Make bath time part of the routine.

My husband and I take turns helping our little one with his evening bath. It's great to add bubbles and to have toys to make bath time more fun.

4. Use cozy pajamas.

Cozy pajamas are a must-have for bedtime. There is a brand that we liked since our son was a baby - ergopouch. They have really nice pajamas for preschoolers. In particular, we love the 2-piece Pajamas 0.2 TOG (ergopouch.com) The ergoPouch 0.2 TOG Shortie Pajamas are the ideal next stage once your little one grows out of their Layers (onesies). Designed to support toddlers who have started toilet training and self-dressing, who need a simpler solution than our zip-up Layers. The 0.2 TOG rating in a shorts and t-shirt set makes these Pajamas a light layer for warmer nights, and are slim fit to ensure comfort when wearing underneath a sleeping bag, or on their own in a big bed with blankets. A drop-hem at the back of the top helps keep backs warm and prevent riding-up. These organic pajamas are amazing! (Visit www.ergopouch.com for where to buy.)

5. Read books.

We allocate almost an hour each evening to reading books together.  Early childhood literacy is tied to increased exposure to reading. Evenings are a great time of day to make reading fun and engaging. Our son usually wants to continue reading after the hour, so he's allowed to quietly flip through books in his bed until he falls asleep. I quietly sit next to him and work on my laptop until he falls asleep.

I hope that you enjoyed these fun bed time tips for preschoolers!

 

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Tips for PE During Virtual School Days

Many parents are stretched thin as they work from home and simultaneously help their children with virtual school. It's not an easy task. In today's post, I hope to help in a small way by sharing fun ideas for at-home PE during the virtual school year. Many of these activities will cover a PE class period. They may also be scaled to shorter or longer sessions. In addition to PE, we try to take short breaks to move around throughout the day. I recently read that a sedentary lifestyle is the new smoking. That is, smoking used to be a leading cause of cancer, but now a sedentary lifestyle is contributing to many cancers. It's so important to practice healthy habits while we are working from home. The list of ideas below will help you and your children to keep moving!

Before I share the list of ideas, let me start by sharing that good shoes are a foundation of our active lifestyle. My husband and I need good quality running shoes. Our 40-something year old bodies feel the difference. We both prefer ASICS brand shoes. In particular, we love the ASICS Gel-Nimbus 22 line of shoes that provide the support that we need. My husband has worn shoes from the ASICS Gel-Nimbus 22 line for years.  I remember the first time that he bought a pair of ASICS Gel-Nimbus 22 shoes because he told me that he would never buy any other brand of running shoes again. Sure enough, he has stayed true to his preference. He currently wears the Gel-Nimbus 22 Knit Men’s Running Shoes in Magnetic Blue/Black. 

The ASICS Gel-Nimbus 22 shoes are the ultimate high mileage shoes for neutral runners. You'll notice in the photo above that they are crafted with knit fabric that helps to provide comfort and airflow. This show uses proprietary FLYTEFOAM & FLYTEFOAM Propel technology in the midsole for a more comfortable bounce. Special foam in the midsole helps to reduce the severity of harsh impacts. The TRUSSTIC technology under the arch of the shoes provides lightweight support and stability. These high performance runnings shoes provide soft cushioning. They are meant for high mileage runners and are very durable.

I wear the Gel-Nimbus 22 Women’s Running Shoes in Black/Bio Mint. Similar to my husband, I love the ASICS Gel-Nimbus 22 line of shoes. Nothing is better than running in a good quality pair of shoes that absorb impact. 


My oldest son just received his first pair of ASICS shoes.  He is a tween and recently showed an interest in running. We wanted to set him up for success, so good quality shoes were a high priority.  He wears the GT-2000 9 Men’s Running Shoes in Grey/Black. The GT-2000 series has been around for 30 years. This line is popular for everyone from casual weekend runners to serious marathon runners. We chose this style because our son is just getting into running and is known for a good fit and support. The upper material is reinforced in key areas for added support as the foot rolls through the gait cycle. The FLYTEFOAM technology and GEL technology cushioning in the midsole help to reduce the overall shock from impact. They are also lightweight.   My son loves them and raves that they are comfortable. I appreciate that the shoes boost his self esteem and make him feel like a runner. 

Now that I've told you about our favorite shoes for running and PE activities, let me share 10 Tips for PE during virtual school days!

Tips for PE During Virtual School Days

1. Take morning walks.

My preschooler wakes up between 5 and 6am.  He hops into his jogging stroller and we run to the park with him. He loves taking a flashlight on our walks and spending special time with us. The park is empty in the mornings, so he is able to have it to himself while my husband and I stretch. It's a great way to start the day together.

2. Speed clean together.

This is exercise that every parent will get behind! Play some music and set a timer for everyone to clean as quickly as possible. We race to put toys and other items away. We clean baseboards, vacuum, start laundry, and more. You'll be amazed at how different your home looks after only 10 to 15 minutes of speed cleaning! It's a win-win to exercise and clean.

3. Play outdoor bingo.

Have your children create bingo cards that contain different items around your neighborhood so that your family is able to go on a walk and mark squares on their bingo cards when they see different items.  Example items to put on bingo cards include trees, benches, neighbor's wind chimes, dogs, birds, and more!


4. Play the Toss the Trash game.

Place a line down the middle of a room with masking tape. Have your children gather stuffed animals and place them on the line.  Set a timer for both of them to simultaneously try to throw all of the stuffed animals to the other player's side. They must each stay on their own side of the line, but are welcome to throw anything to the other side at any time. The goal is to achieve putting all of the stuffed animals on the other player's side without any stuffed animals remaining on your own side.   While they play, my children giggle and yell, "Tossing the Trash!"  It's a fast moving game that gets everyone's heart racing as the stuffed animals fly back and forth! 

5. Have your children create an obstacle course.

Obstacle courses are a fun way to exercise! My children create obstacle courses by drawing hopscotch challenges with chalk, setting up tents to crawl through, setting up limbo challenges,  and more! 

6. Combine art and PE with kindness rocks and maps.

My preschooler is our little artist. He loves crafts. We painted a batch of kindness rocks to hide. His older brother created a map of our neighborhood. They worked together to identify hiding places for the rocks. On one of our evening walks, we placed the rocks according to the map.  In subsequent walks, my children kept a fast paced walk because they couldn't wait to track which rocks were found.


7. Combine math and PE.

As I mentioned earlier, my tween has taken an interest in running.  We have him record his distance and time for each run. He practices math by computing averages. He also creates bar graphs. It's fun for him to visualize his progress while also getting ahead of the curve in his math class. He hasn't learned to compute averages at school yet, so this is advanced knowledge for him. Not only is he learning the topic at home before it is covered, but he is also experiencing a real world application of the value of computing averages.

8. Give them balloons to keep in the air.

Blow up a few balloons and tell them to keep the balloons in the air. The floor is lava, so they have to race around to keep them in the air! 

9. Have a dance party.

Both of my children love our dance parties. We move the furniture around in our living so that there is plenty of space to dance. We then play our favorite pop music and dance around the room with silly dance moves. 

10. Play the Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure game.

The Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure combines video games and exercise. It's a new generation technology that our family loves. For instance, explore plains by jogging in place and attack enemies with overhead shoulder presses. You may refill your health meter by striking yoga poses.  This game is a lot of fun!


It's important to find fun ways to incorporate physical activity into our daily routines during this pandemic. I hope that these ideas help you and your children to stay active!

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10 Tips to Help Parents and Children to Exercise During the COVID-19 Closures


We recently changed our editorial calendar to work on self improvement posts that may possibly help us to come out of the quarantine with better habits.  Today is one of those posts!


I know that many of us are working from home while homeschooling our children. It's tough, but we have to find ways to boost our spirits and come out stronger.  My children recently found a butterfly at the park.  They giggled as it flew around them. They tried to memorize the design and colors on its wings so that they could try to google and learn about it when we got home.  




Something interesting happened while they were researching it.  My older son reflected on how caterpillars isolate and come out as something completely different - as butterflies! He realized that even though he complains about isolating during the quarantine that it's an opportunity to come out as a butterfly.  Sometimes my children remind me about the good things in life. I have definitely been guilty of feeling sad about being quarantined, but his enthusiastic view of the world reminds me that we have an opportunity of exciting things on the other side. Indeed, imagine viewing the world as a caterpillar and then flying as a butterfly.  This is a great time to encourage healthy habits to evolve to be better versions of ourselves.   In today's post, I'll focus on ways to incorporate physical fitness into daily lives. I will also tell you about my husband's new 
Brilliant L Train Bicycle from Priority Bicycles that makes our family bicycle rides more fun!


1. Create daily P.E. time as part of homeschool. (Outcome: Exercise is a part of daily life!)

Our district provides academic assignments for our son, but does not provide guidance on P.E.  Not only is he missing out on exercise from P.E. class, but he also misses two recess periods where he exercises.  We added a rule that our son needs to exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes daily. He may split it into three 20-minute sessions, two 30-minute sessions, or one 60-minute session. It's his choice. We are easy going about the exercise as long as it is something that gets his heart rate up.

2. Play movement games. (Outcome: Exercise is fun and there are many different ways to keep moving!)

Play fun movement games at home. For instance, my children love the Garbage Collector game that burns serious calories!  They place pillows in a line in the center of our playroom. They then place all of their stuffed animals on the pillow.  Each child stays on one side. They then have to throw the stuffed animals onto the other person's side. They keep throwing them back and forth until the timer is up. The person with the fewest number of stuffed animals on their side is the winner.  My children love this game! It gets their heart rate up and they are sweaty after a 20 minute session.

3. Go on bike rides (Outcome: Exercise is fun, plus this is an eco-friendly activity that may prepare them to ride their bikes to school in the future so that you are able to skip the car pickup line! Depending on your location, you may even be able to bike to local stores or the library!)

My husband and son invested in good bicycles when my son entered kindergarten. They biked to school almost daily  throughout all of elementary school.  When my son was in kindergarten, they used a bike trailer.  



Toward the end of kindergarten, my son rode his own bicycle next to my husband.  The school was 1.5 miles away from our home. Our son rode 3 miles/day round trip. My husband took him in the morning and then went back in the afternoon to pick him up for a total of 6 miles/day round trip.  There were three major benefits that we reflect on:

  • Our son learned healthy habits: Our son viewed physical fitness as a practical part of life and still enjoys riding a bicycle and being active outside
  • We skipped the nightmare known as the car pickup line: The walkers/bikers were released at 2:55pm. The students in the car pickup line were released at 3:10pm.  My son was always happy that he didn't have to wait in the cafeteria for the car pickup line since kids had to sit quietly and got in trouble if they talked. My husband and I appreciated that we didn't have to wait in the seemingly never ending car line.
  • We were eco-friendly: If you add up 5 years worth of trips to/from school, my husband and son rode a couple of thousand miles of bicycles instead of driving. The eco-friendly effort adds up over time!
Our oldest son now attends a school that is across a highway without sidewalks, so we now drive him to school. However, he still enjoys bicycle rides for fun and exercise.   If you follow regularly, there is a large age gap between our children. Our youngest son is a preschooler who is learning to ride a bike now. We hope to have him ready to bike to kindergarten and hope for many happy years to come of riding bicycles to school.  In preparation for this, we have a little 12" bicycle for him to practice.  My husband also got a new bicycle that is meant to last for many years - the Brilliant L Train from Priority Bicycles. I have to tell you about this bicycle because it is so amazing!

Here is a quick overview from their website:

"Designed by Priority's founder Dave Weiner, in collaboration with Brilliant Bicycle Co, the new L Train commuter bicycle will take you anywhere you need to go, with ease. Its chromoly frame is light and agile, and the grease and rust free Gates Carbon belt drive paired with an internal 7 gear hub rides for thousands of miles without ever needing a tune up.
  • Gates Carbon Belt Drive
  • Shimano 7-Speed Internal Hub
  • Lightweight Chromoly Frame
  • Freewheel with Front and Rear Shimano V-brakes
  • Commuter Style Handlebars
  • Puncture Resistant 32mm tires
The Brilliant L Train is an ideal fit for that rider looking for a nimble, quicker bicycle with larger gear range to tackle any commute or leisure riding."

This bicycle is easy to order online here.  They ship it to your doorstep and provide the tools that you need to assemble it. We assembled it rather quickly and found the process to be easy.



They produced helpful instructional videos to watch online and help assemble the bicycles. We were so excited for our bicycle to arrive that we watched the instructional videos before it arrived. When it arrived, we were able to quickly and easily assemble it.  For instance, here is a quick collage that shows my husband assembling a tire, pedals, seat, and reflectors.




We also ordered the optional fenders and assembled those quickly. 



This Brilliant L Train Bicycle from Priority Bicycles is amazing! We will quickly able to figure out why it has such excellent reviews.  We especially liked the Gates Carbon Belt Drive, which is both quiet and smooth.  The gear selector is quick and the available gears provide a range of speeds ideal for a commuter bike.  


Priority Bicycles offers a wide array of accessories for their bikes and we chose to add fenders.  We bike in all but severe weather and the fenders come in handy.  They also offer a kickstand, basket, and lights.  As our needs change, we are confident that Priority Bicycles has us covered, from purchase to installation.




The Brilliant L Train Bicycle from Priority Bicycles is not only great for commuting, but also cruising through the park.  My husband had a great time on his first ride through nearby trails.  The lightweight construction and choice of gears made the ride almost effortless. 



4. Take daily walks together. (Outcome: Practice healthy habits and bond together as a family.)
It's so easy to feel like you see each other all day long during the quarantine. However, it's not really quality time if you are busy working and doing other tasks. We find that going out for a walk together is a great way to give each other our undivided attention.  We usually walk 2 to 3 miles with our youngest in our jogging stroller.  We let him out of the stroller at a grassy park area so that he's able to run around. Our family has bonded a lot with our daily walks.  It's something that we plan to continue even after the quarantine is over.

5. Invest in indoor exercise equipment for rainy days or when the sun is too strong during the day. (Outcome: Practice healthy habits, ease anxiety through exercise even on rainy days, and possibly let your children virtually explore the world.)
We bought a treadmill that allows us to virtually run through different areas around the world.  For my me, I actually don't use the feature because I like having the treadmill to run during the day when the Texas sun is strong.  I'm able to fit a few extra miles into my day by running inside when the sun is strong or it is raining.

My son loves the virtual travel feature to run through destinations that he studies at school.  The treadmill allows him to combine P.E. and social studies in a fun way.

6. Go on local hikes together. (Outcome: Practice healthy habits and bond together as a family.)
Similar to our daily walks, we also enjoy going on short hikes together. We have a local park with trails.  So far, we've found that other hikers have been respectful of social distancing on the trails that we visited. Similar to our walks, the local hikes are a fun way to exercise and bond. 

7. Speed cleaning.  (Outcome: Clean your house quickly while burning calories.)
We've always cleaned our own house, but I know that many friends who hire part-time cleaning help have been out of luck during the quarantine. Everyone has to clean their own house.  One way to make it fun is to have large speed cleaning drills. We play music to dance and sing while we clean as quickly as possible for 10 to 20 minute speed cleaning drills.  If you are familiar with the meme, "It's gonna be May!", this is one of our favorite songs for speed cleaning. We also love, "Old Town Road." 

8. Do a strength training exercise challenge together. (Outcome: Bond while strengthening muscles.)
Spend a few minutes a day on a challenge such as a plank challenge. This make only take <3 minutes/day, but it's fun to increase your time over a month to see results! We love that large challenges like this are quick, fun, and encourage our children to always pursue self improvement even if it's in a large way.

9. Meditate with an app. (Outcome: Possibly reduce anxiety, especially during this challenging COVID-19 crisis.)
I didn't meditate until I was in my 40's. I found yoga to be boring. I thought that it wasn't for me. However, my oldest son likes to meditate and found the Headspace app that he recommended to me. I was more open minded than usual about meditation since I wanted to support my son's interest. It turns out that the Headspace app made meditation more accessible to me. I really like it. We use it for <5 or 10 minutes a day and it helps to ease our anxiety.

10. Get up and move throughout the day. (Outcome: Improve your health and possibly reduce anxiety, especially during this challenging COVID-19 crisis.)
It's so tempting to sit at a computer for hours at a time. Work builds up quickly and it feels good to push through checklists and tasks. Children also sometimes want to finish school work as quickly as possible. However, set a timer to periodically get up to move around, stretch, and drink water. It's not healthy to sit for extensive periods of time.  

I hope that these tips help you to find ways to exercise with your children during the quarantine.  As I mentioned earlier, my son pointed out that caterpillars go about their daily lives without even realizing that they will get a time of isolation in which they eventually come out as butterflies that get to fly through the world. It's pretty cool!  Let's all find ways to use this time of isolation with our families to come out better on the other side!  Physical fitness is an excellent goal in itself, but also helps us to have more energy to be successful in other areas of life as well. 
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Follow Me Around My House as I Use the new Dyson V11 Outsize Cordless Stick Vacuum


The Dyson V11 Outsize is the most recent model in the iconic line of Dyson cordless stick vacuums. If you follow regularly, you may already know that we are big Dyson fans. As a boy mom, I have to tell you that our Dyson vacuum was a game changer for our family thanks to the lightweight and powerful design that made it easy to clean up after our energetic little boys and visitors. We used it on hardwood flooring throughout the majority of our home, tile floors in the bathrooms, and carpeting in our children's bedrooms. The vacuum was incredibly versatile and effective against any challenges that our children threw at it. It never slowed down despite the massive amount of stuff that our boys tracked into our house or dropped on the floor. When I received the opportunity to try out the Dyson V11 Outsize, I was thrilled because it provides 25% more floor coverage per pass, is more powerful with twice the suction power of competing cordless vacuums, comes with a larger bin, includes more attachments, has a longer battery life, and even comes with an extra charger.


Due to the quarantine, we spend a lot more time at home. It's natural that my children drop more crumbs and make more messes since they spend the majority of their time at home. It's also natural for them to track in more dirt and debris since they go outside more often to play or swim. My boys work on a lot of art projects that involve cutting cardboard, sewing, stuffing, stickers, and more. These projects are often messy. The messes drive my husband crazy, but we remind him that it's better to have a messy child who is smart and active than a clean child who doesn't do anything. It's a running joke that my children use to excuse their messes. 

The Dyson V11 Outsize exceeded our expectations! We typically use the High Torque XL cleaner head to take a quick pass over our entire house. Our house is approximately 3,000 square feet minus space occupied by furniture. The battery lasts the entire time without a need to recharge it. (The battery lasts up to 120 minutes of fade-free run time.) The unit is relatively lightweight so that it isn't a struggle to move around while we quickly vacuum. 


In the remainder of the post, my husband and I spent a couple of weeks following each other while we vacuumed and took photos. We thought that it would be helpful to see photos of how the Dyson V11 Outsize fits into our routines. Spoiler alert - you will noticed that we use it to literally clean our house from top to bottom!

Let's start with our weeknight routine. My entire family joins me for 15 minute cleaning sprees. Everyone speed cleans whatever they want for 15 minutes while we play music. My children often pick things up such as shoes and put them away. My husband usually heads for the kitchen counter to put dishes in the dishwasher and to take out the trash. My oldest son puts everything that he needs into his backpack for the next day. My youngest cleans up his toys. I have the best job -- I usually zoom around with our Dyson Outsize V11 to vacuum the high traffic areas. This mainly includes vacuuming our dark hand scraped hardwood flooring and area rugs.



As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I followed each other around for a few weeks while we logged our experience with the Dyson V11 Outsize. We literally used it to clean our house from top to bottom. Let's start from the top! The vacuum is relatively lightweight and includes a nice extender so that we are able to reach most of the cobwebs. For instance, here is a photo in our bedroom. We have crown moulding that attracts cobwebs. I'm not sure why this area is particularly prone to cobwebs but the Dyson V11 Outsize makes it easy to remove them. It's not very strenuous thanks to the clever design of the vacuum.


As I shared earlier, we truly clean our home from top to bottom. We use a soft brush attachment (combination tool) to clean above our door frames, plantation shutters, and window sills. It's very quick and easy. A trick on the plantation shutters is to close them in one direction, vacuum with a soft brush, flip them the other direction, and then vacuum the opposite side. You'll want to go from top to bottom so that you knock dust downward. We also quickly vacuum the window sills. I vacuum them approximately 2 to 3 times a month and they look great.


I know that some families do not allow children to eat in the living room, but we allow our children to do this because it's not very difficult to clean our furniture with our lightweight and cordless Dyson V11 Outsize. (We may have changed our minds about food in the living room if we had to suffer through cleaning furniture using a heavy corded vacuum. I know that it's not easy to clean furniture with some of the vacuums out there. However, it really is a breeze with the Dyson vacuums that we have used.) We clean our furniture with the stubborn dirt brush tool and crevice tool attachments. For instance, my children somehow manage to make crumbs behind the cushion on this chair. The Dyson V11 crevice tool attachment makes it very easy to clean this problem spot.


Moving further down, we use a combination tool on the long extender to dust baseboards. Personally, I am not a fan of Texas spiders, so I appreciate that the long extender allows me to keep my distance if a spider decides to create a web on baseboards.


Moving down to floors, this vacuum is incredibly versatile on a variety of flooring types. I already mentioned that I use it daily on our hardwood floors. It is worth mentioning that the flexible design allows me to lower the angle of the vacuum to clean pretty far under our furniture too.


Not only does it work well on our hardwood flooring, but I also use it on the tile in our bathroom.


We have a small area rug in our bathroom and the vacuum seamlessly transitions from tile to carpet.


My children have carpeting in their rooms. It's amazing how nice their rooms look after I use this vacuum. 


Our treadmill is another dust magnet.  One of the top causes of wear on treadmills is dust, so you really want to make sure that you clean your treadmill and the area around it. We use the combination tool attachment to clean the display, cup holders, and edges of the treadmill.



You may not realize it, but dust accumulates under treadmills.  We typically use our treadmill daily during the summer, but a significant amount of dust still accumulates under it. The Dyson V11 Outside is the perfect vacuum for this task. We use the extender with a mini motorized tool and combination tool to quickly clean under the treadmill. It's quick and easy! We set the treadmill to a high elevation so that there is room to clean under it.  You may think that there isn't much dust under a treadmill, but as I mentioned earlier, this is actually a big dust magnet at our house. I wanted you to show you that there really is a significant amount of dust under our treadmill and  that the Dyson V11 Ousize is very effective here. The photo below shows a small area that I vacuumed.  A few seconds with this vacuum makes a big difference!  It doesn't take long to vacuum the entire mat.


We also use a combination tool attachment to get closer to the edges. You may use the crevice tool attachment too, but I have a slight preference toward the combination tool attachment since it is helpful when the bristles rub along the edges.


We use the High Torque XL cleaner head attachment on the deck. We take a pass on the visible surface, move it forward slightly, and repeat this process four times.  It's amazing how much debris lifts from it.  I never knew that it was so dirty until I used the new Dyson V11 Outsize vacuum on it. I notice a big difference after I finish by looking at the treadmill and the vacuum canister. We run on the treadmill with running shoes, so I guess that dirt must transfer from our shoes to the deck surface. 


I can't imagine using any other vacuum to clean our treadmill. The powerful Dyson V11 Outsize makes it so easy thanks to a lightweight design and the perfect attachments.


We also use the vacuum outside of our house. Since the vacuum is cordless, it's easy to use it to clean our cars. My husband calls our backseat a Cheerio and snack crumb graveyard. The Dyson V11 Outsize gobbles the loose snack crumbs quickly with very little effort. We use the mini motorized tool attachment for a first pass on the floor mats.



We then use the crevice tool attachment to clean the border of the car and the inside edge of the seats where our children drop crumbs.



In summary, the Dyson V11 Outsize is versatile and easy to use for many jobs around our house. We literally use it to clean our house from top to bottom. We use it on every type of flooring - hardwood, tile, carpet, and area rugs. We use it on crown molding, door frames, plantation shutters, window panes, baseboards, furniture, and exercise equipment. We often use it to vacuum our vehicles. The design team truly deserves credit for their innovative vacuum technology and meticulous attention to detail. I'm convinced that the Dyson team must include perfectionists who think of the vacuum design from every possible angle. I also suspect that they probably have children that have introduced them to every messy situation possible in their homes and vehicles. There is a perfect attachment for everything that I could possibly imagine. The powerful technology combined with a lightweight and cordless design makes vacuuming a breeze. This is a must-have product for families! Learn more about Dyson here.
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