Power Rangers Super Megaforce Set to Save the World

In honor of the launch of Power Rangers Super Megaforce, Saban sent us a mega box filled with Power Rangers awesomeness.  

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On the new season, which launched on February 15 on Nickelodeon, the Power Rangers are tasked with defending the earth from the Prince Vekar who brought his alien Armada along.  The Rangers were given special Morphers with keys to allow them to morph into Super MegaForce Rangers.  The keys allow them to morph into any team of legendary Rangers from the past, and gain access to powers, weapons, Zords and Megazords.

 

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This month has been a rocky month for our family, where we’ve spent way too many days and nights in the hospital and doctors’ offices.  BUT, lucky us, we had our Morpher in tow, which gave us the power to overcome such hurdles.  Littles absolutely love pushing the keys on the Morpher, while Bigs gets a kick out of activating it with the different keys.

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Also included in the kit were emPower activity sheets which have been great in furthering our ongoing conversation on physical activity and healthy eating.  We totally loved the Power Ranger Valentines, which we gave to local friends.  But best of all? We are getting a kick out of the very cool Airwalkers mega balloon.

As if receiving this Power Rangers Super Megaforce-themed box wasn’t cool enough, I spotted the Rangers at Toy Fair just a few weeks ago!   Talk about legendary.

 

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 You can catch Power Ramgers Super Megaforce on Nickelodeon on Saturdays at 12pm/11c and an encore over on Nicktoons at 8pm/7c.

Full disclosure:  As a Saban Brandbassador, I received samples for review.  As always all opinions are my own.

Back to School with The Children’s Place: Mom Knows Best

Ready or not, here it comes!  As summer starts to wind down, the back to school frenzy begins…just like that.  All summer however, I’ve been checking out the latest and greatest in back to school trends.  I’ve seen a lot of looks ranging from retro, classic and edgy.  But of everything that’s new for the season, the best look we’ve found, ultimately, is the one that lets kids be kids.

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A brand that gets it right by offering a myriad of styles while remaining age-appropriate and affordable is The Children’s Place.  And so, when TCP, one of my favorite retailers, asked me to take part in a back to school promo that involved styling Biggie, it was a no-brainer.

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As I studied their back to school lookbook, I couldn’t help but get nostalgic about The Children’s Place.  I remember my mom perusing the racks when shopping for our back to school outfits.  And so, being tasked to style my soon-to-be school age son for a promo for TCP, I must admit, it was supremely surreal, considering I wore their clothes as a kid and a vast majority of my childrens’ basics are from this same brand.

Back to school looks for everyone

The back to school looks, as I mentioned, seem to assuage all tastes, shapes and kid sizes.  The girls’ pieces, though strikingly pink, retro and sparkly, also offer classic and more subdued styles as well.  As a mama of boys, I usually have tunnel vision for the more rugged and edgy styles. The Children’s Place tasked me with styling my boy for some back to school looks.  They gave me about a $150 price range to work with, which was more than enough to pick and create many looks.

I had a fun time picking out styles that I thought suited Biggie.  He’s an outspoken four-year old, and one who just happens to have a penchant for clothes.  It doesn’t matter what it is, this kid loves clothes.  He’s obsessed with cool pjs, wearing sporty clothes for playing outside and even, getting “fancy” when we go out.  This could be my doing, but hey, you can’t fault a boy who appreciates being well-dressed.

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The pieces I chose were a mix of preppy and classic, with navy blue as the dominant hue.  I try to buy timeless and durable clothes that would potentially be in style and in great shape four years later for baby bro.  I like to layer because the weather in northern Jersey is very unpredictable in the fall and because he’s a boy. Hello, ketchup on the top shirt.  Thank goodness for that undershirt! As for accessories, I went with items that Biggie loves: a skateboard bookbag since he loves skateboarding; a striped tie because they make him feel “fancy”; and classic navy sneakers.  The sneakers, by the way? They look like they’re regular laces, but they’re not! They’re actually elastic, which makes them easy to slip-on–perfect for kids who can’t tie their shoes yet!

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I love the way his looks came together!  Biggie was such a great sport, considering it was 80 degrees on the day I took these pictures, and according to Biggie, he had “too many clothes on,” yet he still managed to cheese it for every photo!  We shot these pictures at this tiny red school house in Florham Park, NJ, as suggested from a friend.
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Getting him all dressed for this mini photo shoot got me all excited and anxious for the first day of school!  Do you guys like this time of year as much as I do?  What sort of clothes do you buy?

Check it

As part of their Mom Knows Best back to school campaign, Biggie will be featured on TCP’s FB page!  If you feel so inclined be sure to vote for us and the styles I chose!  I’ll be sure to link when it goes up.

McD’s Launches the Nutrition Network

I’ll just go ahead and state the obvious here: McDonald’s is not the most nutritious option.  The most nutritious meal that you can serve your family is one that is well balanced, probably follows the tenets of USDA’s My Plate and it might involve Super Foods such as salmon, eggs, quinoa and the like. The ideal nutritious meal, if you’re lucky, is served at home and not at fast food joints.

So, what is the biggest fast food chain doing touting nutrition?  Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out. Today, along with some of my fellow NJ/NY bloggers, I’m attending a press event that is announcing McDonald’s New York Metro Nutrition Network Launch.

Last year, the company pledged their commitment to offer “improved nutrition choices.“  Their longterm plan involves menu evolution and nutrition awareness communication.

When I was invited to participate in this media event, what piqued my interest wasn’t the promise of a tray full of Shamrock Shakes, but instead, the opportunity to connect with representatives to get answers.  My journalism background has me itching to learn their side of the story, beyond a press release. I need to hear in-person their stance on Pink Slime, GMO and additives that may or may not be added to some of their “healthier” options. Why still offer sodas as an option for the Happy Meal?  And how about offer a salad on the Dollar Menu?  I often write about ideas on how to make healthier decisions, which includes food choices.  So, it probably seems hypocritical that I even agreed to participate in this media event that involves fast food.  Plain and simple: I need to find answers.

Never say never

Awhile back, a blogging friend once asked me why I didn’t attend a past McDonald’s event.  I guffawed and insisted that I’d probably never attend one of those events because I try to focus on healthier alternatives. Never say never…

I’ll admit, I love McDonald’s free wifi and the enclosed playground that kept the kid and me somewhat sane this winter.  We’d eat a homecooked lunch and then go to McDonald’s for a treat and play on the playground.  I’d usually have a coffee or one of their cafes; he’d have a milk and a sundae.  There are days though, where I just don’t have time to comb my hair, nevermind plan dinner or have the energy to make it.  We are a one-car family in the suburbs, and I’m no magician. I’m human.  And that’s where fast food saves the day.  It’s clearly not the healthiest option, but we indulge anyway. As I reinforce to my older kid, fake food is the processed stuff and real food is the stuff you get at home.

So many of us are lucky enough to have many options to eat healthy foods at home, and sometimes at school or work.  Sadly, as I’ve seen in neighboring towns, some families don’t have those options.  Author and TV personality, Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D. is expected to be onhand to share insight at today’s event, and I hope to share some info. that may help families with less options make better decisions.

While preparing for this McDonald’s assignment, I researched and read (and re-read) these helpful articles.
McDonald’s Stops Using Pink Slime Seattle PI, 2/1/12
McDonald’s Healthier Happy Meals Still Unhealthy, The Atlantic, 7/11 (this is a must-read)
McDonalds release on Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices 7/11
Happy Meal Makeover, NYT 7/11

Nutrition Network

Beyond burgers and Happy Meals, I’m most excited about the Nutrition Network, the community outreach initiative that McDonald’s New York is launching.  This new community outreach initiative will award grants to local organizations in the tri state area for grassroots nutrition programs.

I’ll be back with my findings.  Until then, be sure to follow our tweets on the Twitter, under #McDNN.

Crockpot Cooking for the Costco Pork Recipe Challenge

Despite being MIA lately due to a variety of reasons, the kid and I have found ourselves in the kitchen more often than not.  When we’re not enjoying the last few days of outdoor weather, I love that the kid is so adamant about being helpful in the kitchen. (Well, sometimes, anyway.)  I really do feel that it creates an ongoing dialogue about not only how to cook and what we eat, but also, it keeps him engaged in food in general.  Perhaps, one day, he’ll marry a lucky lady and he’ll be the cook of the house…
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Nevertheless, our latest adventure in the kitchen involves one of my favorite stores–Costco–, delicious meat and creating recipes.  In case you weren’t aware, October is National Pork Month, and of course, we’ll be cooking in honor of that. I’ll be taking part in the Costco Blogger Recipe Challenge this week.  Aside from the shopping for the challenge, I’m having a fun time dreaming up recipes for this challenge.

My group was assigned the Pork Sirloin Tip as our cut, and Crockpot cooking as our method.  I’ve never cooked with a pork sirloin tip, but I suspect it’ll be similar to a pork loin. (Here’s a helpful overview of types of cuts of meat.) As one of my mom’s frugal grocery shopping techniques, I’ve been known to buy the big pork loin when it goes on sale.  I cut it and stash in the freezer, and it makes for delicious lean chops or easy roasts and more.
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Cooking Fun: Lawry’s Summer of Flavor

Since retreating to the suburbs last year, our family has been enjoying the convenience of more space, the luxury of our own yard and even, the simplicity of having a dishwasher!  As awesome as city living is, enjoying life’s little luxuries within your own home, I have to say, is a little more than awesome.

For our first summer in the suburbs, one luxury that I’ve probably enjoyed the most has been grilling in our backyard.  After 10 years of city dwelling and not being able to grill out, I’ve made up for lost time and have been grilling, what seems like, morning noon and night…and even in the rain.

Ingredients for grilled steak quesadillas

Not only is grilling much more convenient in the summer, it keeps the house cooler.  And since I’ve become quite the grilling queen this summer, I’ve had a great time experimenting with recipes and techniques. So, when I was asked to participate in Lawry’s Fabulous Summer of Flavor, thanks to my friends at The Motherhood, I happily obliged!

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So, for this assignment, our NYC team was tasked with creating recipes that incorporate Lawry’s newest marinades–Balsamic Herb and Original Seasoned Salt– as well as Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.  My family has long considered Lawry’s Seasoned Salt an essential kitchen spice, for as long as I can remember.  And when I was first learning to cook back in my high school and college days, I became fast friends with the convenience of Lawry’s marinades.  You can’t beat the 30-minute marinades, not to mention the savory selection.

To go hand in hand with my grilling obsession, I came up with two summertime recipes that incorporate the grill, convenience and kid-friendliness.  For my Lawry’s Summer of Flavor recipes, I came up with Grilled Steak Quesadillas and an Easy Steak Salad.

Grilled Steak Quesadillas

For the quesadillas, I included steak cubes that were marinated in a mixture of Lawry’s Original Seasoned Salt marinade and the Chipotle marinade that I already had onhand.  I also made a super easy, super fresh pico de gallo to sprinkle within the quesadilla.  And, of course, cheese!

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What I love about quesadillas is that they’re filling enough to be served as an entree for lunch or dinner, or if you like, they can be served as apps.  Quesadillas are perfect kid-friendly meals because they’re finger foods and like my guy reminded me, Dora (as in Explorer) likes to make them.  Um, okay!

Finished products: Steak Quesadillas

As much as I love to cook, I refuse to cook more than one meal.  I don’t agree with special meals for kids, but I do believe in getting the kids involved during mealtime.  I thought getting the kid to help out with the quesadilla-making was great.  Even though he insisted he does not like tomatoes, he still spread some pico de gallo amongst the cheese and ate it too.  From my experience, getting kids to help out, not only curbs pickiness, but it gives kids a sense of achievement, in that they created what they are eating.

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This was the second or third time I’ve done this recipe, and it really is such a fun outdoorsy, grilling-type of food.  From the freshly made pico de gallo to slicing up the grilled steak, I love sitting out on the patio putting it all together.  And the flavors when all put together are so, so good.  Serve it all up with some guacamole, salsa, chips, and it’s a fiesta!  Only thing that would’ve made this meal better would’ve some Margaritas and Sangria! YUM!

Easy Steak Salad

This Easy Steak Salad is exactly what it sounds like!  I marinated some steak cubes with Lawry’s Balsamic Herb marinade. And I also marinated some veggies with the same marinade.  I grilled it all up and served the grilled steak and veggies on top of a fresh green salad.

Easy Steak Salad

For the salad, I incorporated a few different lettuces, cucumbers and shredded cheese.  I then served the grilled steak and veggies on top of the greens.  The marinade was so flavorful, that none of needed more dressing.  It was so good—perfect for a fresh summer lunch.

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See below for the recipes and a giveaway!

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Most Memorable S’mores Face

As I announced earlier this summer, we were asked to participate in a fun Say S’mores campaign. For this campaign, I was given the task for capturing the most memorable S’mores Face. With an “independent” 3-year old. making a memorable S’mores face wasn’t hard at all.

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Now that we have a yard, making S’mores together is a family favorite; we have 3 or 4 boxes of graham crackers and Hershey Bars and other supplies onhand at any given time. My husband made our firepit out of scrap bricks, so, making S’mores after dinner is our go-to summertime dessert. After a day of fun in the sun, there’s truly nothing like hanging out in your backyard with your family, listening to the crickets and other creatures, while eating S’mores together under the glow of a crackling bonfire.

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And believe me, after spending all of last summer homeless and displaced, we truly appreciate family rituals like making S’mores in our homemade firepit…and the messier, the better!

Here are a few photos from our most memorable S’mores faces from the other week!

Say S'mores

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And be sure to check out a quick video where I try to get my normally-loquacious son to share a cheesy grin. Apparently, S’mores is serious business for him!

And if you’d like to check out the Say S’mores photo contest and enter your own memorable photos, be sure to head over to Hershey’s Say S’mores Facebook page!

Giveaway

Interested in winning a S’mores kit?  Just send me an email to jen (at) nextkidthing dot com and tell me what your family’s favorite summertime activity is.  Please make sure the subject is Say S’mores!

Full disclosure: This post is part of my participation in the Hershey’s “Say S’mores” Promotion. As always, all opinions expressed are mine.

Stocking up on Staycation Goodies and Gear with Diapers.com

As everyone is anticipating the upcoming holiday weekend, I’m finally getting back into the groove of things after last week’s travel and then a bout with sickness.  I hope you guys have fun weekends planned.

At our house, summer is definitely in full swing, and we’ve got the bug bites and sunkissed faces to prove it.  It’s our first summer in the suburbs, and by the smiles the kid gives us, I think we made the right choice in neighborhood.

Our new neighborhood, though just 30 miles from NYC, is in a wooded area that surrounds a lake.  Families swarm to the lake for daily swimming and evening outings; it might not be the chaos of the city that I love so much, but this corner of the world is truly more than I could have ever envisioned for our family.

A patch of grass to call our own

Having spent the past few summers at public parks, running through water sprinklers to cool off, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to have our a patch of grass to call our own.  As much as I miss city living, one thing I don’t miss is the lack of space.  Once upon a time, we’d have to question ownership of one or two ride-on toys and where we’d put them, and now, we sort of have a fleet of them, next to the baseball bats, footballs, water balloons, water guns, floats…

Boredom is not an option

Outdoor play is a big part of our day-to-day routine, and making sure we have the goodies and gear onhand is crucial.  Boredom is not an option.  Because of our former space restraints, we didn’t have too many big outdoor toys to begin with and besides our usual brick and mortar shopping locales, I love knowing that my go-to online shop for all things baby/kid, Diapers.com, sells toys and other outdoor play paraphernalia.

Diapers.com fangirl

I’m a long-time fan of Diapers.com and their sister site, Soap.com.  In fact, I went to the launch event for Soap.com and regularly sing their praises on Twitter.  When I was asked to participate in this BabyCenter Blog Network campaign, I giddily obliged knowing that I’d get to write about Diapers.com, yet another service that I already love.  And because the suggested topic idea had to do with a staycation, I actually waited to write about this campaign so it would coincide with our actual staycation, which begins this weekend.

On this recent shopping trip on Diapers.com, I made a point to stock up on even more outdoor toys and gear for the boy to enjoy over the holiday weekend.

The staycation  goodies and the gear

So, for this staycation,  I spent right around $100 and I made sure to stock up goodies and gear that would get good use on our staycation.  For starters, we have enough sunblock in our arsenal, but we’re low on bug ointment that actually works and is safe for the kid.  Badger Balm, which gets great reviews on Diaper.com, was first on my list.  Can’t play outside if the bugs have their way with you!  And as for the good stuff, of course I ordered toys..lots of outdoor toys!  I ordered a kiddie pool for the back yard, a float for the lake and various other toys to play with in the yard or when we go to the beach.  So, here’s the main goodies I ended up buying:

I’m so impressed by how many great toy brands there are on Diapers.com, including brands that I’ve only seen at specialty boutiques.  I especially LOVE Spielstabil‘s beach and outdoor toys.  Spielstabil is a beloved German toy company that’s also under the Haba umbrella.  Their products, which are extremely durable, are bpa, pthalate and pvc-free.  I just love that Diapers.com puts a lot of thought into the products they sell. (Trust me, I’ve seen the buying team in action at Toy Fair.)  I ordered the sand and water mill from Spielstabil and can’t wait to see it in action!

Amidst the hundreds and hundreds of choices of toys, gear and baby and kid products, I finally made my purchase and the first shipment should be arriving tomorrow.  The main caveats of this shopping trip were my indecision and that the order is coming in three separate shipments, with one of them not coming until next week.  Nevertheless, I  can’t wait to share more AND to reveal a pretty fun giveaway to boot!  Stay tuned.

Full disclosure:  This post is sponsored by BabyCenter in conjunction with the BabyCenter Blog Network.

Say S’mores!

Thus far, our first summer in suburbia has been, without a doubt, as cliche as it gets.  We do yardwork, the boys talk about going fishing at the lake, we play outside, ride bikes and we grill…almost every day.  And after all of our yummy dinners of grilled meats and veggies, like clockwork, dessert is often on the grill too—S’mores on the grill, in fact.

Even before the suburbs, we have always found a way to indulge in S’mores, one of my most favorite treats ever.  Whether it was all wrapped in foil and “grilled” on the Foreman in our tiny apartment or by the campfire while drinking beers when we camped in our pre-kid days, or quite simply, cooked up in our backyard, S’mores are our family’s go-to after dinner treat.  Not surprisingly, we have the Costco-sized graham cracker supply, jumbo marshmallows and chocolate supply to prove it.

S'mores had a suite

And a little less pretty, but just a delicious S'mores made by yours truly.

And because we’re long-time S’mores junkies, I was so excited to be asked to participate in the fun Say S’mores campaign.  I will be posting later this summer about a surprise theme involving Hershey’s and S’mores and will be sharing more cool information along the way.

Check it

This summer, the Hershey Company is encouraging families to create their own S’mores memories with the Say S’mores campaign. Share your favorite S’mores moments on the Hershey’s brand Facebook page for a chance to win S’mores-themed prizes.  The grand-prize is a Canon Rebel Camera, slate marble outdoor firebowl, $250 SnapFish gift card, roasting skewers set and all of the ingredients needed to make S’mores, including Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars. Families who visit the Hershey’s brand Facebook page on or after June 15 can download the Say S’mores application to participate in monthly photo contests and receive a $1 coupon good toward the purchase of any two Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar 6-packs.

Disclosure: This post is part of my participation in the Hershey’s “Say S’mores” Promotion. All opinions expressed are mine.

Healthy Choice Meals Offer Convenience and Wholesome Options

Things have been non-stop around here for the past few weeks.  There have been a few days, actually, where making lunch for myself was near-impossible due to such a hectic schedule.  And as much as I’d try to avoid prepared foods because of all the unwanted added “extras”, I’m glad they’re there when you need them.

I recently had the chance to try some Healthy Choice meals.  And with the way things have been lately, I think I may have found a new go-to lunch that definitely beats fast food or take out.  I’ve always enjoyed the Healthy Choice brand, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had their frozen food. Apparently, I’ve been missing out.

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I picked up two Healthy Choice Cafe Steamer meals at my local Target. As a sidenote: I noticed that my grocery stores also had them, as did Costco.  I think I stood in the freezer aisle for 15 minutes trying to decide which meals to try.  I was so indecisive, because all the choices sounded so good.  I ended up grabbing two meals that sounded like a meal I’d make:  Chicken Pesto Classico and Balsamic Chicken.

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I was impressed by the ease, convenience and innovation of the Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers.  There are other types of meals, but I was drawn to the Steamer variety, since that’s typically how we cook our veggies on a regular basis.  After microwaving the meals, I found that the meals retained the flavor, shape and colors, unlike other frozen meals I’ve had in the past.  The ingredients, for the most part, were acceptable and met my expectations.  My main concerns were the plastic steamer used in the microwaving process and sodium levels.  But overall, I would certainly stock my freezer with a few of these meals for lunch at home or at the office, or even for dinner when I can’t cook.

And as my 3 year old said: “the noodles are so yummy, they make my dance feet.”  So, yeah, I think he enjoyed them too.

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Make Every Day Mother’s Day with ONE.org

With Mother’s Day just a few days away, I’m sure dads, kids and loved ones have some great ideas lined up for the mamas in their lives.  I love baubles, flowers and “stuff” as much as the next gal, but I’ve been mum on the whole Mother’s Day gift ideas for several reasons.

Reason one: I don’t really *NEED* anything—well, besides sleep, I can’t think of a single thing that I need.  Want?  I can give you a long list…but, need?  I’m so thankful to be in a position where my wants continually outweigh my needs.

Most importantly, in our constantly evolving world, so many families are really, truly in need right at this moment.  Moms can’t provide for their babies, and sadly, there are some moms who aren’t healthy enough, or in a position to be an advocate for their babies.

And then, there are those women who pick others up when we can’t stand on our own.  And right now, my friends, our world needs more of that.

Cooper Munroe, one of the co-founders of TheMotherhood said it best in her recent blog post on ONE.org:

Mothers make the world go around.

Read Cooper’s moving post about how Maria Mchele Mwasonge changed her community in Tanzania with her small potato farm.

Today at 1 PM ET, The Motherhood will be hosting a live, text-based talk with the ONE Campaign and Every Mother Counts to celebrate mothers everywhere. Please join us and share what inspires you about mothers and learn more about what we can do to help mothers and kids around the globe who need us.  Along with several amazing co-hosts, I’m honored to lend my voice to help spread this message.

In case you’re not familiar, ONE is a grassroots campaign of more than 2 million people committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases.

If you have a chance, check out Laura Bush’s video about Making Every Day a Mother’s Day with ONE.  Let’s all pitch in to use our voices and platforms to help more moms with their needs.

Please, join us!