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Friday, December 12, 2014

Mara Art: She's SOOOO Proud of Zach

One of Amara's (my 9 year old) loves is to make art.  Recently her 13 year old brother Zach asked a girl to be his girlfriend.  For some reason this made lil' sis so happy and excited for him that she just had to stop everything she was doing and draw him a picture.  

She proudly placed it in front of him, he ignored it and she didn't care because she was so thrilled for her big brother. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Boys Get (and Hate) Breakouts Too- A Clearasil Review ‪#‎ClearasilMom‬ ‪#‎MC‬

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Clearasil. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”

My oldest child is a grungy 13 year old boy.  He is taller than me, has had long blond hair like me and unlike me, appears to hate showers and being clean.  Add in the hormones of teens and he's in breakout city.  
Before we knew he could use more than soap to clean his face.

Growing up with only a much older sister and a niece that could have been a younger sister, I wasn't exposed to boys much so every experience with them is totally new and different for me.  I don't understand so many of their quirks and habits.  Most of the time they are crazy, weird things smelling up my house.  I kind of thought I had a few years- until my daughter became a teen- to worry about pimples and other puberty-related issues.  I guess I just never thought that boys cared, or if they did that there was nothing they could do about breakouts.  Parent fail.  Apparently they care enough that they are sort of willing to work with their moms and Clearasil and Influence Central for two weeks to test out two new facial cleansing products to help himself and share his experience with others!  That's actually a big deal because he even agreed knowing that I needed picture proof of this event.     

Zachary got my unfortunate breakout genes.  I had it bad starting when I was 12 and it didn't stop until my 20s.  Now I break out monthly and not nearly as bad as when I was a teen.  So, he needed some major help asap and started off with the Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Daily Gel Wash.  I have more of an issue with blackheads and keeping my pores clear and have even more of an issue finding a product that helps, so I gave this one a shot too.  
The Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Daily Gel Wash is part of the Clearasil Ultra line, with stronger products designed to work quickly.  Our tested product is meant to unblock pores and clear blemishes in as little as 12 hours.

The above photo and the following photo are "before" pictures, when he was using only soap and water.  It's insanely hard for me to get him to shower every other day.  While I'd prefer daily, he would prefer never.  He isn't into sports so that's a relief.  Most of his activities are low energy and he only has gym for half of the year so I don't have to require daily showers for another month or so.  

 It's hard to tell in the photos but he has a glaring red splotchy face with a few large angry breakouts and many small pimples across his forehead and around his nose.
Love him, blemishes and all.  But we could use a few less breakouts!

It's been really cold and dry outside here in South Central PA, and that combo makes for some really dry and painful skin.  Because this product is maximum strength, I decided that using this with his every-other-day shower routine would be the safest.  By the 4th day, or 2nd usage, all of his large pimples and zits were gone, though the smaller ones were still there.  All of the redness was GONE.  All gone!  That was an attractive side-effect!  He now has an even skin tone that looks so much better than before.  What I considered his normal "shiny" face is gone.  And we all know that a shiny face (as opposed to the artwork of a glowing face) isn't all that attractive.  
Since the time period that he was using this was cut short due to my decision to use each product separately for better analysis of each one, he used this one 5 times over 10 days.  His skin didn't experience any over-drying which is actually kind of amazing to me.  The smaller blemishes remained but the redness and oiliness stayed away even after we switched product.  

A word from Zach: It's fine.  It works.  
Me: I need more than that.  
Zach: Oh my gosh, Mommy, I'm trying to talk to someone!  It's FIIIINE!
After the first time I used the Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Daily Gel Wash, I noticed an instant change in my face.  It was smoother, clearer and it definitely helped my pores.  Though if I skipped a day it was definitely, noticeably back to normal.  It didn't dry out my face too much using it daily, but I did need to moisturize a bit after using it.  I'm really interested in checking out a few other products after trying this one.

Pros of Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Daily Gel Wash:
-Low-fragrance.  It isn't strong which is great for the headache-prone.  
-Clears redness large blemishes fast.
-A good deep cleaner for pores.
- Doesn't over-dry.
-Low-fragrance.  It won't make me sick as I inhale the scent!  And the fragrance it does have is pleasant.  
-Doesn't get rid of all breakouts, but it's a very small con considering what it does do.

Here is a picture of Zach getting his haircut, after our first 8 days, before beginning the second product. 

It isn't easy to see much, but you can definitely see his face isn't red.

And here he is after 10 days, also before beginning the second product.

This was on an "other" day so his face isn't quite as clear but still looks much better.

For the last few days of our two week experiment I had Zachary use the Hydra-Blast Oil Free Face Wash twice a day.  The Hydra-Blast cleanser is part of the Clearasil Daily Clear  This creamy face wash helps reduce breakouts up to 85% in as few as 4 weeks and includes a moisturizing complex to keep your face hydrated.  It's a cream cleanser and you really only need a tiny amount to clean your face.  The first day, Zach used a ton.  You seriously only need about a pea-sized drop.  I didn't really notice a huge difference in his before and after face with this one, but I did notice that it's great at maintaining what the first product achieved.  And maintenance is VERY important!  Zach, again, didn't have much to say but he's happy that his face is clearer, with little effort.  That's the most important thing.  If something can be accomplished with little effort, he'll continue with the maintenance!       

I tried the Hydra-Blast along with him.  It definitely didn't clear my pores like the Rapid Action Gel but felt nice on my skin- tingly and smelled good.  Like fresh and aloe.  It's something we could use every day without over-drying or damaging sensitive skin.  

Pros of Clearasil Hydra-Blast Oil Free Face Wash:
-The scent.
-You only need a tiny bit.  This still will go far, which stretches my dollar.
-Great for daily, clean skin maintenance.  
-A little more drying than I expected, but not overly.  
-It might take a while to help really problematic skin.  Not to worry though- just start with an Ultra product then move on to Daily Clear for every day maintenance and clear skin! 
Here's his "after" photo:
That shine is all just photo glare from the bright lamp!  Doesn't he look so much better?

There are some other really great products that are part of both lines we reviewed and I can't wait to explore them more.  We want to be #acnefree and will accomplish it with Clearasil!  You can get some great info from the Clearasil website, including information about your biggest breakout and care concerns, expert advice and special offers (a FREE product mail-in rebate and a $1 off coupon!!!!!)

You can also connect with Clearasil on Facebook and Twitter for more great information (and some fun comics on Facebook). 

 #‎ClearasilMom‬ ‪#‎MC‬

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Seriously Awesome Gift Guide for Minecraft and/or Lego Freaks and Wildebeest Children

*****In case you couldn't tell, this post contains affiliate links, though I'm still so in love with these gifts that affiliate links wouldn't matter!*****

It's The Seriously Awesome Gift Guide for Minecraft and/or Lego Freaks and Wildebeest Children that doesn't include popular toys that no one can find, for those that haven't found THE gift from all of the other seriously awesome gift guides out there and who have wild and crazy children that need ridiculously cool and entertaining gifts that are not video games but might be related to video games.  

I've perused so many gift guides and haven't found the right stuff for my family, so I decided to create my own gift guide, based on what our family loves.  I hope this helps some families that are sick of the same old things and want or need something new and fun in their lives.  If this list does help you, please let me know!  I hate wasting my time as much as the next person.

To start, every wild and crazy family NEEDS one of these:
This thing is okay on its own, but add in these accessories to make it a killer present, especially when it's too cold or rainy to go outside:


To be fair, that one wasn't my first choice, but my first choice was sold out. For less $, you can get the Gorilla Gym complete set with everything the stuck-inside child might want to entertain themselves with (like swings and a ladder!), AND you can get add-on items that are adult-friendly too!   It also has great reviews.  Once I figure out if it will fit our weird doors, I might start with just the bar, which is close to $100 less.  Also, most of my kids might be too big for the accessories.  If so, we might go with an equally rated but cheaper bar.  Either way, something is going in my daughter's doorway this year.  After all, she's only been asking for about 4 years!

Next up, a gift for the roughhousing kids in your house (of the adult variety and real children).  It's cheap, it makes noise and you can beat each other with them.  I bought two. 

If you have a Lego lover in your house, you NEED at least one of the next item on the list.  They come in all sorts of official Lego colors and sizes.  We will have 2 this season and will work toward more in the future.  They aren't cheap, but they are oh-so worth it.  Plus, I'm pretty sure you can stack them like the real deal!  What a catch! 

The parents of Minecraft lovers rejoice. There are BOOKS! Have a book-loving, Minecraft-crazed kid already? It's a win! Have a book-hating, Minecraft-crazed kid? Maybe they'll like books with one of these! There are more, but this will get you started.  We bought the Construction handbook for my 6 year old Minecraft-crazed book lover:

Oh, and this appears to be awesome too (I bought one for Christmas and it looks nice):

Someone in my house is getting one of these and she's going to be shooting the crap out of a target soon.  Who needs Nerf?  Well, we need that too, but this is going to be AWESOME.

Back to readers, these books are necessary for wild and crazy kids that have brave, awesome parents.  One for girls and one for boys.   While I believe either could be helpful for both genders, these were written a long time ago and specifically for scouts.  P.S. There are Kindle versions of these too. 
I really wanted the American Boy's Handy Book but it was sold out (and I didn't see a second version until later) and I purchased this instead:

Now, if you're a REALLY brave and awesome parent, this fits in with the above books.  We aren't getting one for any of the kids this year, but are keeping it on the wishlist for the future, when we've decided that another child is old enough and responsible enough to have one.  Our oldest cherished his pocket knife for many years, and now it holds a proud spot on his shelf.  This one is for serious kiddos only and we've decided that it's appropriate for no one this year, but hopefully in the next few it will be:
On to clothing (sort of). Do you have any caped crusaders? We have two caped crusaders missing their capes, getting these beauties:

If you have any wild and crazy board game players in your family, this looks like a super fun family game:

That's all, folks!  What's your favorite item from this gift guide?  What are you getting your kids this year?  What's your family's must-have gift?  Do you procrastinate as badly as I do?  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Celebrating My Favorite Season with Starbucks® Fall Blend

 You forgot Fall coffee, pumpkins, pumpkin creamer and fall festivals...

It's September in South Central Pennsylvania, which means cooler weather is here.  Sometimes.  Then it gets really hot, then freezing, then we don't know if we should put away the summer clothes and pull out the jackets or if we should keep the shorts, stash the swimsuits and grab the hoodies from the attic.  We never know, and that's what I love about this season and this state. 

Fall is:
Back to school (woohoo!).  This year I have an 8th grader (last year of middle school), a 4th grader (big school district changes mean a new school for her), a 1st grader (and a walker- YES!) and my little baby boy is in his last year of preschool.  Where would I be without coffee when I have to wake up EARLY for school?  I miss them like crazy but I've been working hard to live in and enjoy the moment.  So I'm enjoying my coffee in peace!

The York Fair: 
Image source:

My town is host to the oldest fair in America!  It''s a short walk from my house and therefore the best spot to park if you're family or friend.  If I go to the end of my block, I can see the Ferris Wheel, at night in its flashing, spinning lighted glory.  It's one of the only lighted rides that doesn't make me feel like I'm about to have a seizure.  If the wind is blowing right (or at all) I can hear and smell the fair.  Talk about a tease!  True to its roots, The York Fair is still a big agricultural fair, with contests for homemade foods, homegrown produce and plenty of stinky and beautiful farm animals shown by local farmers and 4-H.  Of course, what fair wouldn't be complete without a circus, carnival rides and pig races.  Every year (I think this was only recently) some amazing person creates a BUTTER SCULPTURE.  For real!  
This is BUTTER.  Butter! 
 I swear I don't live in the middle of nowhere.  
Check out their Facebook page for some neat pictures.   

Fall is FUNDRAISER TIME:  I am the "fundraising lady" at our elementary schools.  This job just became twice as big, so that I can love it twice as much.  It's chaotic but so worth the end result.  You can't put a price on a smiling kid.  During the fundraisers I typically drink an extra cup or two of coffee to get me through long days of checking and rechecking orders.  Thankfully this is a super easy fundraiser! 

This is just my first cup.

Fall is: Busting out my favorite hoodies, campfires, pants, warm blankets, fall festivals (there are dozens here in York and it's awesome!), pumpkin everything, changing leaves, raking (yes, I like to rake, then have my kids jump in the piles), warm drinks (coffee for me, hot chocolate for the kids) and perfect weather.  
Not a Starbucks cup, but it says coffee.

Fall is: Starbucks® Fall Blend.  When this arrived I was hoping for something pumpkin-like.  What I got was so much more.  I have tried a few delicious Starbucks seasonal blends but this was by far my favorite.  This is literally autumn in a coffee drink.  It's a medium roast, called "a cozy coffee for the early days of autumn" and the description is perfect.

To quote the bag: Welcome the season with a harvest of flavors.  Layered and full-bodied, this three-region blend offers the best of all worlds.  Sumatran beans lend the warmth of fresh spice notes while coffees from Kenya add citrusy brightness, and beans from Peru provide balance and a subtle nuttiness.

I highly recommend adding Starbucks® Fall Blend to your list of fall must-haves this season.  Stop at your local grocery store to see if they have my newest favorite coffee then head to your local Starbucks to find out if they are one of many offering this awesome deal: Buy Any Fall Drink and Get One Free from 2-6pmValid until 9/21.  And if you find an awesome seasonal mug while you're there, please let me know!  I'm on the hunt for a new one and haven't found THE ONE.

What's your favorite fall activity and fall drink?

Modernmom and Starbucks supplied me with the products to facilitate this review.  All opinions are expressly my own. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Moral of the Story

The other day my first grader Jonas and I read The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  It's the one where the three goats cross the bridge, from the smallest to the largest.  As each one crosses, the mean, ugly troll under the bridge tries to eat them, and each time the goats say something along the lines of "wait for my bigger brother because he's bigger and tastier".  Spoiler alert.  The biggest goat kicks the troll's butt when the troll wants to eat him.

After we read we discuss.  I asked Jo what the moral of the story was and his response was, "Don't trust ugly people." 
I'm sitting there thinking, at least he didn't say something this awful to someone this time
Out loud, I said, "Try again". 
So he says, "Ohhh!  Don't trust ugly trolls."

I'm not really sure we could have come out of that discussion without offending someone.  So I just suggested that one never trust a troll that lives under a bridge.  They're always up to no good.  #parentingwin      

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Get a #FlawlessFinish with Sheer Cover Studio Makeup (Review)

I was so excited to get to try out Sheer Cover Studio makeup.  I'm a makeup klutz and always afraid to try new products that might not be right for me.  The only thing I have to say is this: You have to try this stuff!  Pictures or it didn't happen?  I'm working on them.  I'm a digital dummy sometimes.  But I have them!

Here's my face history:
I don't wear a lot of makeup.  Every few months I'll go on a binge of wearing it a few times a week but mostly I wear it once a week-3 times a month.    
My skin is splotchy and my tone is uneven. 
I suffer from breakouts even at 32.  My 32 year old face isn't nearly as bad as my teenage face, but it still happens.  
I have combo skin- dry and flaky in some spots, oily in others.  
I have large pores.  They are the purest form of evil.  They don't even help me look youthful like I've heard some people say about large pores.  They just make me look gross.  In other words, I need help of the makeup variety.  ASAP.  Thanks to ModernMom and Sheer Cover Studio for providing me with some great products to test! 

Here's what came in the box: 
1.  Base Perfector Primer.  This smooths imperfections (yep) and minimizes the appearance of pores and fine lines (yep).  
2.  Conceal and Brighten Trip in Light/Medium.  This conceals, brightens and has a mirror.  The concealer comes in two shades that you can mix to get the right color for you.  It works well as long as I get the right color.  Absolutely worked better with my finger than with a brush!  But that might just be my problem!  The brightener, when applied to the corners of your eyes and your brow bone helps brighten your face.  
3.  Perfect Shade Mineral Foundation in Medium.  Loose powder foundation. 
4.  Sun-kissed Bronzing Mineral Powder.  Hard powder in three shades that you brush over your face in areas you want to highlight.  I'm not sure I was doing this one correctly.  
5.  Numerous brushes in different sizes to apply various makeups.  They did the job well.  
6.  Lash Extending Fibers.  Applied to eyelashes prior to mascara, this extends your lashes.  Might have worked a little.  I wasn't too sure I was doing a good job of applying this!  
7.  Lengthening Mascara in Black.  It's wider on the ends and narrow in the middle.  It does a nice job, my eyes looked much better with than without. 

Confession: I have no clue how to properly apply makeup.  Lipstick is pretty self-explanatory but don't ask me about lip liner.  I know what it is but I look like I'm wearing Sharpie around my lips.  And foundation?  Not a clue.  Even watching makeup tutorials online I'm thinking..."I've never heard of a whatsit" and "Why did she put foundation on her face 3 times?  Oh...that's not foundation?  Then, what is it??"  I'm just so lost and super good at doing all the wrong things.  Guess what else came with the Sheer Cover Studio products?  Instructions- yes!!     

 I was a little overwhelmed at the large group of product sitting before me when I opened the package.  What was I supposed to do with all of this?  Good thing this stuff is for dummies and makeup connoisseurs alike, or I would have been in trouble.  Those instructions were a lifesaver and really helped me get a look I've always wanted but could never achieve.   

My before and after face were definitely different.  After was much better!  I took some (terrible) selfie photos but cannot for the life of me figure out how to get them to STAY on the blog after I upload them from the phone (iphone we use as an ipod.  I'm still learning all that fancy stuff).  
My biggest triumph of this review was when I dropped off my daughter at a rehearsal, went home, put on the makeup then picked her up.  She came out and looked right past me.  Then there was a double-take and she came running over.  "Mommy, you look sooooo different!  I didn't even realize it was you.  You look...younger, you're so pretty!  What did you do?  Are you wearing makeup?"  She went nuts!  Another happy moment was when one of the kids' friends came over and said, "Ohmygosh Miss Alex, you look so pretty!".  Apparently my normal face is nothing to go gaga over.  I was lovin' the positive affirmations. 

My favorite products:
The primer is amazing.  It did what it promised and gave me the dewy look I love when I wear makeup.  It smooths and minimizes and actually works better the more you use it.  If you go days without it, this effect doesn't continue, but I looked better on day three using the makeup than I did on day one. 
The brightener does wonders.  
The powder foundation was one of the best I've tried.  It goes on smooth and you don't need to use much.  

That I didn't need the lightest shades.  Normally I buy the lightest or second lightest product but I went with the medium (recommended for many tones) and it was just right.       

Try it, try it, try it!  And check back for my terrible selfies.  They are laughable, but you can see the difference. 

Modern Mom provided me with Sheer Cover Studio products to facilitate my review.  No other compensation was provided.   

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Day of School

Ack!  Where did my pictures go?  Working on this...

First day of the 2014-2015 school year was August 21, 2014.  I'm getting this done on the 27th...not too shabby!  I'm usually a few months behind.

Up first is 8th grader, Zach.  This is his last year of middle school.  I'm going to have a high school child soon, then he'll be driving, moving out, going to college and starting his own family and I'm just not ready!    
Too cool for photos.


4th grader, Amara is starting a new school due to a huge change in the district.  She's adjusting quite well and loves her teacher!  

My smiley, photogenic little girl.

Henry is missing all of his big siblings already.  Henry won't be starting school until next week.

1st grader Jonas was very excited about starting 1st grade.  We didn't have the best Kindergarten year but he was really looking forward to lunch and recess.  Lunch and recess at school can make a world of difference! 
This was how Jonas prepared the night before.
And here he is, showing how excited he is to be heading into the building.

Happy school year!