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This is a sponsored post in partnership with Merrell shoes. All opinions are my own.

Maybe you need a change of scenery or maybe you just need to prevent your kids from destroying the house again. Every parent gets the feeling once in awhile that you need to get out of town. You want to get away, but there is no way you can take that extra long trip. It's too much time and too much money. But you still have the motivation to gather up your kids, pack up the car, and go on a day trip. One of the easiest, and most cost effective, adventures you can take with your family is a day trip to a small town near you. This might sound cheesy, boring, or cliche, but believe me when I say that your kids will love it! When you promote it to them as a time to explore mysterious places, discover fun food, and climb over new obstacles, you can usually get them excited to go.

The thing about day trips is that you need to be a little bit prepared. You don't have to spend hours doing homework about the town you are traveling to, but it does help to spend a few minutes looking up local eatery ratings, getting some good shoes on your kids' feet, and making sure you have an extra hoodie in the trunk. Here are three more tips that will make your time together a huge success!


1. Research the best local places to eat and play.
Most small towns have local favorites. So grab your smartphone and just do a search for favorite family restaurants in (insert town name here) or best parks for kids in (insert town name here). Sometimes it even helps to look up the interesting history of the town on Wikipedia. Chances are you'll get plenty of options for places to see. Is your trip spur of the moment, or you are a normal parent who didn't have a spare minute before you left the house? No problem, just have someone look it up on the phone while you drive and you can all vote on where to stop in the town you are traveling to. This is how we found one of our all-time favorite donut shops!



2. Be ready for any terrain.
If you have never been to a particular small town before, you never know what to expect or what you will encounter. This could be a children's park, some climbable trees, an interesting lake, or even just some mysterious shops to visit. In all these cases it helps to be prepared and have some sunscreen and some really comfortable, but durable, shoes. For us this means we make sure our kids are wearing their Merrells. Not only do these shoes have a fun design that my kids love, but they are perfect for walking, climbing, and jumping off of whatever my kids can find. This especially came in handy when we went exploring in a little hidden park on our last day trip. My youngest child likes his Moabs and my oldest son prefers the Trail Chasers. You can find the best shoes for your kids at merrell.com.



3. Be flexible and look for unplanned stops.
Leave some time to check out shops and little hidden roadside stands that you didn't plan for. Sometimes these provide some of the best memories. One of the trips that we took last year took an unexpected turn. We found a small farmers market with the biggest watermelons we had ever seen! I am not even exaggerating, we bought one that was half the size of my daughter. The watermelon was eaten later but we are still talking about it to this day. Just remember to bring a stroller to carry those extra souvenirs back to the car!


As you can see day trips to a small town can build lifelong memories with your family and also be tons of fun. Just make sure to take my tips, and do a little prep, like picking up some Merrell shoes for your kids. Mostly make it a day that your family will talk about until the next time you take that surprise day trip together!
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It's October which means that it's time for... no not candy! It also doesn't mean it's time for costumes. October means that it is time to once again hold screenings for the incredible family cinematic adventure The Nightmare Before Christmas! Ok, maybe it's only our family that calls it that but I can say that there is no other Halloween/Christmas mashup movie that comes close to beating it. We are already singing the soundtrack together as a family. So in honor of October, I had to make my kids this Jack Skellington lunch to celebrate!

If you have been around my blog at all, you know this isn't the first time I've gone with this theme. I have a few other Nightmare lunches that you can find HERE. This particular lunch was made in an Easy Lunch Boxes container and is complete with a Jack Skellington bean burrito and Oogie Boogie yogurt! See the instructions below.


Ingredients: Flour tortilla, black beans, sliced cheddar cheese, black olives, orange sweet pepper, greek yogurt, green food coloring, black sprinkles.

Directions:
1. Lay slices of cheese on the bottom of main compartment. Spoon black beans on top. Cut flour tortilla in the shape of Jack Skellington's face and place on black beans. This can be made into a burrito or the Jack tortilla can just be dipped in and the beans eaten with a spoon.
2. Dye yogurt green and place in side compartment. Drop black sprinkles on top to make an Oogie Boogie themed yogurt.
3. Cut a Jack O' Lantern face out of an orange sweet pepper. Fill holes with pieces of black olives. Place olives and pepper in other side compartment.
4. Enjoy The Nightmare Before Christmas over, and over again!
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Lunchbox Dad by Lunchbox Dad - 5M ago

If you have kids, you probably have Lego. It's entirely possible that you have stepped on a few in the dark and seriously thought you might need to go to the emergency room. Regardless, Lego are some of my kids favorite toys, and if I'm honest, I have a ton of fun building with them alongside my kids as well. This is why we are so excited for the new Lego Ninjago movie. It is one of my son's favorite series as he can barely contain himself now that the movie is out. This is why I had to make him a Ninjago movie school lunch complete with Lego bread. Of course Lloyd was the star of the lunch. Read on to find out how to make it!



Ingredients: Sliced bread, sliced cheddar cheese, turkey, snap peas, parchment paper, black, green, and white fondant, dried cranberries, honey, yogurt, green food coloring, green sprinkles,

Directions:
1.  Cut slices of bread in head shapes. Do the same with cheddar cheese. Place turkey in the middle of the slices of bread. Place in main compartment and surround with snap peas.
2. Cut parchment paper in the shape of ninja mask. Form ninja mask out of fondant and place on top of parchment paper. Put on top of cheese. Parchment paper will keep the fondant from mixing with the cheese. Use the same technique for Lloyd's eyes.
3. Cut two rectangular Lego bricks out bread. Use a straw to punch out the pegs that go on top. You can dab a little honey on to keep them in place. Drop dried cranberries in side compartment and place Lego bricks on top.
4. Mix plan greek yogurt with green food coloring. Spoon into other side compartment. Top with green sprinkles. Lloyd's color is green after all!
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This is a sponsored post in partnership with Walmart. All opinions are my own.

You know it's that time when you break out in a cold sweat, your blood pressure goes up, and the fight or flight syndrome kicks in. Yep, you've run out of excuses and the cupboards are bare. It's time to go grocery shopping with your kids. I mean, your family can't just keep living on those packets of instant oatmeal right? Or can they. Nope, it really is time to psych yourself up, take some headache medicine, get mentally prepared, and hit that grocery store. But what if you didn't have to?




They can put a man on the moon but they can't make grocery shopping with kids easier, right? But Walmart just did. We recently discovered Walmart Grocery with free curbside pickup. Too good to be true? Not so fast, we did it and so can you. You don't even have to leave your car. You actually never have to take your kids grocery shopping again. You just order on the app from your couch, choose a pick up time, check in when you're on your way, park in a designated spot, and get your groceries loaded in your car for you. Feel free to keep your kids strapped in and just scroll through Instagram while a trained shopper loads your car.


It must be more expensive, right? Wrong! There are no markups and I even have a promo code for you down below. You can save $10 off your first order of $50 or more. I want to tell you more about it, but first spend one minute and watch our video that shows you our experience with Walmart Grocery. I also included an exclusive Fun Fall Lunch recipe that I created with the groceries we bought!

How to Never Take Your Kids Grocery Shopping Again + Fun Fall Lunch Recipe! - YouTube

Fun Fall Lunch Recipe Ingredients: Plain bagel, pizza sauce, pepperoni, cheddar cheese slice, snap peas, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, red apple.


I guess the point is that you can play the "Can I get this?" game with your kids every trip to the grocery store, or you could just order ahead with Walmart Grocery and keep your kids strapped into their seats while you enjoy your Pumpkin Spice Latte and someone else loads your groceries. The choice is really yours. But I know what I will choose from now on. I choose freedom. I choose sanity. I choose someone else loading my milk into the trunk.

So try Walmart Grocery today with this $10 off $50 order promo code: MOMHACKS

Also remember that there is a money back guarantee so if you aren't happy with anything that was picked out for you, just return it no questions asked.

Walmart Grocery free same-day pickup locations near you: CLICK HERE

BONUS family guide to the best school year ever: CLICK HERE
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This is a sponsored post in partnership with Staples. All opinions are my own. 

It's the time of year where you get to enjoy the smell of new crayons, the excitement of first day of school outfits, and the exhilaration of having all of your back to school shopping done. The problem is that this is the beginning of a long school year and it might be possible that your kids will lose something, break something, or use an entire bottle of something before the year–or the first week–is over. That is why us as parents need to be prepared. School supplies aren't just something useful that you buy at the beginning of the year, they are survival tools that you need on hand at all times. Here are my top choices for the gear you will need to make your parenting life easier.



1. Backup Lunchbox and Ice Packs
Sometimes I feel like my kid's school could probably open up their own store featuring gently used lunchboxes and kids jackets. Seriously though where do all of those things go? Do they have a large storage room behind the gymnasium just to house lunchboxes and sweatshirts that kids leave behind? You will need a backup lunchbox at some point in the school year. Of course with backup lunchboxes come backup ice packs. Just buy them now so that you have them in a cupboard ready to go when needed.

2. Ruler, Protractor, and Compass
Why are teachers always wanting our kids to measure things when they're at home? Isn't there enough stuff to measure in the classroom? How come there is always a ruler around when you don't need one and you can never find it when your child needs to measure the length of a banana for their homework? Trust me, during the school year it's best to just have all of these types of supplies handy at all times.

3. Binder Paper and Construction Paper
The problem with those special projects that your kids need to create is that they always need to be done by tomorrow morning. It's not that the teacher just gave out the assignment late. It's the fact that your kid conveniently had other vitally important stuff to think about until just now. At 8pm. The night before the big project is due. You can pretty much create anything with binder paper and construction paper. Ok, you might need a little tape and glue. Or paste. Remember paste from elementary school? Paste was amazing. This brings us to our next topic.



4. Glue Sticks and Kids' Scissors
You know why you need glue sticks. If you forgot, just see point three above. But honestly I'm still longing for paste sticks. We can put a man on the moon but we can't produce paste in stick form? Come on science! As far as scissors are concerned you probably don't want to set your third grader loose with a cutting tool made for adults that is basically two knives screwed together. It is much more convenient (and safe) to have kid-friendly scissors in storage for exactly when you need them.

5. Pencils and a Quality Electric Pencil Sharpener 
Every time I need to quickly find a pencil in my house, do you know what I grab out of the drawer? A pencil with a broken tip. Every. Single. Time. Do you know why? Because I have kids. This is why every parent needs a great electric pencil sharpener. Because no parent has the time in their day to spend with one of those tiny manual sharpeners. Plus grinding a wooden stick to a fine point can be extremely therapeutic. Trust me on this one.



6. Hand Sanitizer and Tissue Paper
This is strictly to bring to school when your kids' teacher needs to replenish the supply. Classrooms always seem to run out of these. But you're a parent...you know how gross your own kids can be. Now imagine thirty of those germ machines running around. You can't really blame the teachers for needing more of these two items every month or so.

As you can see, these school supplies are essential to a successful year. My family and I love to go to Staples for all of these things, whether it's during back to school time, or any other time of the year. We can get everything on our list at just this one store. As we all know when it comes to shopping, if you can get all of it done in one place, you're pretty much winning at parenting.
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This is a sponsored post in partnership with Dave's Killer Bread. All opinions are my own.

It was the 80's and I remember being in elementary school and walking home from the bus stop in my Airwalk high tops and pegged, acid-washed jeans. Each day I would come home, throw open the front door, and head straight to the kitchen. I couldn't wait to gorge myself on an after school snack. If it was a good day, there might even be some of those cheap mini pizza bagels that were so chewy that they tasted like a wet sponge covered with those tiny specks of fake sausage. Apparently in the 80's my taste in snack food was a level below my taste in fashion. I'm pretty happy that my kids have much better taste in after school snacks and in their pants. Those tennis shoes were pretty amazing though!



Since I not only want to feed my kids snacks with high quality ingredients, but also with a high level of fun, I created these Teddy Bear Pizza snacks using bagels from Dave's Killer Bread! They were surprisingly easy to make and my kids devoured them. I mean, if your kids prefer the taste of wet sponge then those other microwave bagels will work I guess. However, I'm pretty convinced that they'll choose the bagel with the bear on top. So it's your choice. Follow my directions below to make the perfect after school snack or feed your kids pizza that's probably better suited to be packing material. I think you'll make the right decision.


Ingredients: Dave's Killer Bread Bagels, pizza sauce, sliced cheddar cheese, sliced provolone cheese, large slices of pepperoni, black olives.

Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Slice Dave's Killer Bread bagel in half. I used plain but you could use whatever flavor your kids would enjoy most.
2. Spread pizza sauce on both slices. Use round cookie cutter to create a circle of cheddar cheese. Place on top of pizza sauce.
3. Put one slice of pepperoni in the middle of cheddar cheese. Cut ears from another slice of pepperoni and put on bear where shown.
4. Cut two small circles from a slice of provolone cheese and place on pepperoni for eyes. Cut sliced olive in half. Also cut triangle piece and two round pieces from olives. Place on bear face where shown to create the eyes, nose, and mouth.
5. Slice both bagel pieces onto a cookie sheet and bake for 8-11 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve to your kids after school and watch them smile. Until they have to do their homework. Maybe serve these after homework. Yeah, that's probably a better idea.


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I was pretty excited to make this lunch for my daughter, do you want to know why? There were actually two reasons. The first one is that this is the first time I've had the chance to make a special school lunch for a more mature child. The second reason is that I wanted to give my daughter flowers for her birthday. She just started intermediate school and I didn't want to get her regular flowers, I wanted to do something a little more special. So I researched and found out some tricks for making flowers out of fruit and vegetables.



For each flower I will link you to a good tutorial on how to make it. I also included hummus and pita chips as side dishes. My daughter loves hummus and it is a great tasting, healthy dip for the vegetables in this lunch as well. I pretty much just squeezed this flowers tight in the main compartment of the lunchbox and filled in the empty space with cut snap peas as "stems." I hope your older child, or even your spouse, enjoys this bouquet of flowers for lunch!


Strawberry Rose
All you need are a few strawberries - Tutorial



Carrot Flower
You will need a couple large carrots, vegetable peeler, water - Tutorial



Grape Tomato Tulip
Make sure you have grape tomatoes and cream cheese - Tutorial



Cucumber Flower
Cucumber slices, green grape, toothpicks. One change I made was that I used two toothpicks instead of one and I used a half a grape instead of a piece of the end of the cucumber. - Tutorial

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This is a sponsored post in partnership with Staples. All opinions are my own.

It's that time of year when summer is cruising along, you're having a great time, and then you realize that all of a sudden it's August. You look at your list of family goals for the summer and you've crossed out exactly two of them. Those happened the first week when you were extremely motivated. You then scroll to the bottom of the list and you realize that you had committed this year to start planning for back-to-school by the third week of July. This planning included school supply shopping, searching Pinterest for how to build the most efficient homework stations, and also stocking up on creative bento box school lunch recipes.

So that didn't happen. If you are like my family, back to school normally involves scrambling around attempting to piece together a first day of school outfit, trying to make sense of emails from the school district, and going shopping for school lunches—all in the span of about eight hours. However, this year the stars aligned and we were able to get ourselves pretty organized. We found five key tips that have helped tremendously, so I thought I would pass them on to you. Parents have to stick together and if we find something that works let's share it with everyone else, right? Besides the tips below, I also partnered with Staples on the video below to highlight some bonus ideas that we love to put into practice every year. Here's to surviving summer and sending your kids back to their teachers learn new life skills!





1. Get in the habit of prepping food for school lunches at the beginning of the week.
If you love rushing around to miraculously pull together a healthy and tasty lunch when you're exhausted at night, go ahead and skip to this tip. If you would rather not spend your nighttime hours during the school week prepping food like a sous chef on those television shows, then you will appreciate this. Many of the healthy fruits and vegetables that your kids love can be washed and cut up on Sunday. Items like melon, pineapple, grapes, carrots, and broccoli can all be put in a large resealable plastic container and will last all week. Each night, just grab a little of the already prepped food and put it in a single serving container for the next day!




2. Create a Surplus School Supply Bin for your family.
When you hit those amazing back to school sales at stores like Staples, make sure to buy extra pencils, glue, poster board, and more. When your kids need more supplies throughout the school year, you won't have to rush out to buy them the night before their project is due. You just open a plastic bin full of supplies that is stored in your office or garage. You then become the brilliant parent who thought ahead, bought extra when the best sales were happening, and can now binge on your favorite show while your kid stresses out because they waited until the last possible minute to do their homework.



3. Organize your school activities in a planner or on a calendar and meet as a family to discuss them before school starts.
We all know that trying to arrange your family's extracurricular schedule can be more complicated than trying to recall how to do the geometry that your high schooler now needs help with. Honestly, your scheduling wizardry should get you a PhD in educational organization skills. The one thing that could help with this is to pick up a new calendar or planner. Write down every school and extra curricular activity that your kids are involved with and display it prominently. Meet as a family at the beginning of school, as well as every couple months after that, so that everyone is on the same page, understands the schedule, and knows what's expected of them. This can also help your life not to become overloaded with too many activities. It sounds difficult, but I would bet that geometry is actually much harder.



4. Start sending your kids to bed at the normal school year time a week before school actually starts.
Summer is a perfect time for your kids to stay up late, devour S'mores, and for you to wonder how you became convinced that your kids going without sleep and indulging in too much sugar was a brilliant plan. When summer is over nothing can get kids into the school year schedule, and bring sanity back to parents, like children finally getting to sleep at a normal hour. Start doing this a week early and it will make the sleep transition so much easier. Besides that, it will give you a week more of not having to share the ice cream that you break out after the kids go to bed.



5. Get first day of school signs ready early and let your kids decorate them.
You know all of those pictures posted on social media from the parents who got their act together and took photos of their kids on the first day of school? You know how you always say that you took some of your kids, but forgot to post them until the second week, when in actuality you really took them the second week and posted them immediately after you shot the photos? This year, get a jump start and let the kids decorate their own signs. Pick up some supplies at the back-to-school sales and then let your children go to work. You can always clean up their mistakes after they go to bed just like you do at Christmastime when they decorate the tree. Don't even pretend like you don't move some of those ornaments! These signs will do more than give you social media cred, they will help you build stockpiles of photos to share when your kids get older and bring their dates home.


So with a few tips, and a quick trip to Staples, back-to-school doesn't have to be stressful. It can be a time to celebrate what your kids have done and where they are going. It can be a time to get the whole family back into a routine. It can also be a time to set the groundwork for an amazing year. So whether you are getting ready for the new season to start, or your children have already started back to school, these tips can help you begin a fantastic year!
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I can't believe that I'm about to say this but the lunch today is the second emoji lunch I have made. I hate emojis, but I love my kids. In fact, I firmly believe that every time I have to use an emoji on social media, a piece of my soul dies. Is this a little overdramatic? Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm just Meh about the whole thing.

So a little while back we took our kids to go see The Emoji Movie. My kids were begging to see it and it was pretty much the only kids movie in the theatre at the time. They thought it was hilarious, so now that school is back in session, I thought I would make this lunch to help them smile during their lunch break. This should be proof that the lunches I make them are for their enjoyment! Anyway, if your kids are into The Emoji Movie, then this would be fun to make for them!



Ingredients: Cheddar Cheese, whole wheat bread slice, provolone cheese, snap peas, black olive, lunch meat, pretzels, blackberries, tortilla, yogurt covered raisins, black, brown, and white fondant.

Directions:
1. Cut bread slices and cheddar cheese into a circular shape. I used a cookie cutter to make it easy. Cut the other facial features from cheddar and provolone cheese. Cut the green and black parts of the eyes from a snap pea and olive. Use bread crust for the mouth and eyebrows. Put your child's favorite lunchmeat in the middle of the bread and the cheese face on top.
2. Drop emoji shaped pretzels in the main compartment and put sandwich on top.
3. In side compartment place blackberries. Cut "Meh" out of tortilla and put it on top.
4. Form poop emoji out of brown, black, and white fondant. It works just like clay. Drop yogurt covered raisins in second side compartment and place poop emoji on top.

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This is a sponsored post in partnership with Pampers. All opinions are my own.

As a parent, I am always looking for tips and hacks to help make my life easier. If you are the same way, I have an awesome new hack for you. This is especially important if you have a child who is still in diapers. My youngest is in Pampers Easy Ups and has also already has seen his share of Pampers Splashers this summer. Did you know that Pampers has had a rewards program for quite awhile? Yeah, that's what I thought, many people didn't even know it existed!


With the new rewards app, you no longer have to manually enter codes in order to get points. What parent has time for that anyway? You just use the app to easily scan the code from Pampers diapers and wipes (the app shows you where to find the code) and you are on your way to free stuff. It literally takes seconds. As parents I know we are short on time, but I am convinced that each of us has seconds in order to build up points for free stuff. I even got 100 points just for signing up!


So if you are looking for ways to get free Pampers diapers, just by buying diapers, this top parenting hack of the season will do just that! If you start building up points when your kids are small, you will go through so many diapers that you will be picking out free rewards in no time. I just wish this app was around when my oldest was a baby. Just trust me, download the free Pampers Rewards app today, you'll thank me later.

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