Getting the Dirt on Germs at Lysol Germ School

 This is a sponsored post. Thank you for supporting The Next Kid Thing.

 

Before the kids go back to school, I went back to school—Lysol Germ School—to get a crash course on germs.

 

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Photo credit: Will Star


Hosted by my friends, Audrey and Vera, several of my blogger friends and I gathered together in a very chic classroom setting at Offsite in NYC.

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Photo credit: Will Star

 

 

 

After catching up with friends and grabbing breakfast, including a delicious smoothie from House of Juice, I settled in to my desk right in the front of the class. Audrey and Vera welcomed us and gave us a great overview of what to expect.

 

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 Photo credit: Will Star



Germ expert, Joe Rubino, led an informative discussion on the different types of germs. 

Key facts that I learned: bacteria can be reproduced inside or outside the body as they cause infections and viruses need to be inside living cells in order to grow and reproduce.

 

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Photo credit: Will Star

 

Another very memorable fact from Rubino’s slide show was that people with cold and flu infections can spread the virus to others up to about 6 ft. away.

As the R&D Director, Hygiene Personal Care & Surface at RB, Rubino is considered an expert in hygiene and hygiene-related fields. Needless to say, with two school-aged kids, I was all ears during the crash course on germs.

For a closer look at how to avoid and control the spread of germs, Rubino led an exercise where we spread a gel on our hands and were then asked to wash with soap.

We all scrubbed our hands, presumably how we’d do it at home and how we’d teach our kids to do. Upon our return, Rubino shined a black light on our hands to show spots that we missed or and any other dirty spots. It turns out, many of us missed washing the outer most part of our palms, right above the wrist. I washed my hands thoroughly two times and made sure to open the door with a paper towel. It turned out, I had very minimal spots that glowed in the black light. I confessed that we spent a lot of time in hospitals, so proper hand washing has ultimately become an ingrained part of our routine.

 

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Photo credit: Will Star

 

For the second part of our day at Lysol Germ School, I sat in on a roundtable discussion with pediatric consultant Dr. Jennifer Zubler. She answered many of our questions about health. She reinforced that hand washing with soap is the most effective way to avoid the spread of germs.

Sanitizers, such as the alcohol-based gels that are common in our mom bags, are the next best thing. Sanitizer is not as effective, but it works when you don’t have access to soap and water. Someone asked about how to clean electronic devices to avoid the spread of germs. Dr. Zubler recommended using Lysol Disinfecting Wipes when it comes to cleaning screens and keyboards.

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Photo credit: Will Star

 

According to the CDC, 38 million school days are missed due to the flu and tens of millions more are lost due to colds. Practicing healthy habits like hand washing and surface disinfection can help prevent the spread of germs, helping reduce the number of sick days.

At our school, multiple canisters of Lysol Disinfectant Wipes are at the top of the school supply list. I use Lysol around the house, in almost every room because I have two boys who gravitate to anything gross. I tend to pick up multiple packs from Harmon or Bed Bath and Beyond, where I can use our 20% off.

 

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Photo credit: Will Star

As a Box Tops collecting family, I loved learning that Lysol has partnered with Box Tops for Education as the exclusive household cleaning brand. You can help support your child’s school with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray, which are eligible for Box Tops redemption. And speaking of great partnerships: Lysol has partnered with the National Education Association (NEA) and National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to create the Healthy Habits Program. Healthy Habits Week will kick off on September 19, the peak back to school season. To learn more about the Healthy Habits Program and family activities on healthy habits, check out Lysol.com/HealthyHabits

 Start the new school year off with a fresh and healthy start by revisiting proper hand washing and sneezing techniques. Cover your mouth and wash your hands with soap is a constant refrain with my guys!

 

Full disclosure: I was compensated for participating in Lysol Germ School hosted by Audrey and Vera. As always, opinions on NKT are my own

Power Their Dreams: Racing with Heart and the 2016 Olympics

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/P&G. Thanks for supporting The Next Kid Thing

Having just finished up an exciting summer packed with sports and outdoor fun, staying active is what keeps my boys busy and content. It’s such a luxury to have so many different youth sports available within our town and community. You name it, my boys probably play it, but it’s track and field that truly challenges both of my boys.

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Last year, both of my boys gave track and field try, and it was an exciting change to the other organized sports that are offered in our area. At just 8 years old, Biggie, is my uber competitive athlete who thrives on the thrill of any sport. Littles is my dreamer and uncoordinated daredevil. Because of Little’s unique medical needs, his seizure disorder left scarring on his brain where coordination originates. Needless to say, his drive outpaces his physical speed. Because of this, I love that both of my boys are able to harness their different athletic abilities and shine in their own way during our community track season.

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We often celebrate Bigs for his many achievements, including his recent completion of a kids’ triathlon. He swam, biked and ran his way to 2nd in his age group. Though competition was fierce, I caught myself as we cheered and overdid the competition aspect at times. I was reminded to check myself when I noticed a mom running along side of her 5 year old who was struggling to finish the running part of the race. At this age, these activities are all about trying new things and having fun, despite what the super competitive kids (and their equally driven parents) might say. I strive to be that mom running alongside of her kid, regardless of where they come in the race.

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No matter the sport, Littles is always alongside of us cheering for big brother. If his athletic ambitions match his drive, I know he’s going to shine in his own unique way. He will be the kid that gets out there and races his heart out every single time. Even though he was a bit young to compete, last year, Littles participated in a timed run. The coaches called the race, and they were off! Many of the kids were 3-4 years older than him, but my guy ran as fast as he could and finished the race with a beaming smile.

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If there’s anything I learn from having two totally opposite kids: it takes a lot of courage to get out there, it takes even more heart to finish a race.

And speaking of racing, we will be all eyes when decathlete Ashton Eaton has his chance to shine on August 17 during the Olympic Games. These athletes not only have one concentration, but 10 different events to compete and champion.

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And with these accolades and achievements we’ve been watching during The Olympics, I constantly stress to my guys that these athletes have worked multiple years to get to where they are today. Many athletes forgo traditional jobs to focus on training for their sport. By purchasing products from sponsors such as P&G, we’re able to help athletes such as Ashton Eaton race to the finish line or leap even higher.

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The hus is currently using the Gillette Fusion ProShield Razor with FlexBall Technology, which is one of the many P&G products that can be found at Walmart http://bit.ly/2aDcGeR  and supports Team USA. This razor’s FlexBall Technology helps with full contact to keep my husband’s beard trimmed and groomed. 


Whether it’s running a triathlon for fun or racing for Gold in The Olympics, I hope my kids learn that hard work and heart go a long way. Let’s power their dreams. Buy brands that support Team USA, such as P&G products at Walmart.

Back to School with Hudson Jeans

Hudson just might be one of my new favorite denim brands for kids. According to Hudson, they’re favorites among the masses, too—Hudson is the #1 selling kids’ denim. Coincidentally, North West, as in Kim K.’s tot, has been spotted in these super stylish jeans.

 

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As a boy mom, I love the fact that Hudson has so many stylish options for boys. Hudson has a very cool french terry jeans that’s soft and offers a slight stretch. Boys will appreciate the soft feel to these jeans that offer both style and comfort. All boys’ Hudson jeans offer a 1% stretch; french terry is offered in sizes 0-20. Hudson also does cool novelty pieces such as denim jackets and bombers, with many more outerwear pieces to come.

 

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Hudson offers several stylish fits, such as the Parker (straight leg), the Jagger (slim straight) and the Jude (very slim.) Some Hudson detailing includes acid wash, shreds, patchwork and more. I’m excited that Hudson also offers joggers, which are super popular for my sporty guy.

 

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My older guy typically shys away from anything that has too much deconstructed detailing, yet he really digs the fraying and shreds on the Parker Five-Pocket French Terry. The texture of these jeans is incomparable.

 

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It’s super soft, but structured. We paired these jeans with one of his favorite Zara tees, and will definitely look into investing in a Hudson bomber for the fall.

 

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Full disclosure: we were provided with a sample to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Ice Age, AMNH and an Interview with Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Last week, we had the esteemed honor of participating in a fun preview of Ice Age: Collision Course and interviewing one of the voice actors and famed astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

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So, you’ve heard how I loved the latest quirky installment of Ice Age, but we were over the moon (and stars) about meeting Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. My work allows for so many incredible opportunities and interviews, but immersing the boys’ in Dr. Tyson’s brilliance via Ice Age was such a highlight.

In Ice Age, Neil deGrasse Tyson voiced his furry counterpart, Neil deBuck Weasel. DeBuck Weasel offered lots of scientific insight and hard facts throughout the film. And as he does in everything he voices, Dr. Tyson was engaging, authoritative and relevant.

Dr. Tyson helped the filmmakers with weaving scientific information in Ice Age. When asked if that was a fun part of the process, he said: 

“I seem fastidious, right?  If an artist says, ‘Here’s the science we want to include.  What do you think of it?’  I had first asked, ‘Well, what are you trying to do?  Where is the fun, you know, where do you want to put the fun in?  Where is it kind of zany?”  and because I don’t want to just be cold and hard about it, “No, this is wrong.  You have to get this right.’  That’s no fun.

 

Once I know where they’re coming from, then I can make suggestions that can improve the science without losing any of the comedic parts.  There are obviously some completely absurd aspects of this.  I am not here to say that you could never have the Scrat in a flying saucer, you know, hit planets like on a pool table. Obviously that’s for the fun of it, but even what they are showing are that any adjustments you can make to boost the accuracy of the science or–because sometimes the science you can put in that makes it funnier, okay?  If they didn’t know that, I would say that is some expectation they would have of me.

 

We loved listening to Dr. Tyson speak so candidly about science and how he’d love to pen a book on how parents can get kids interested in science. Though this book he’s imagining is years off, my takeaway from Dr. Tyson was this: 

When it comes to kids and science and learning about the world them, “as a parent get out of their way, get out of their way.” 

Speaking of curiosity, one of the kids asked Dr. Tyson about his path to becoming an astrophysicist. It was so fitting that he told this story to a crowd of parent bloggers with kids, including my own 8 year old.

It was a family trip to my local planetarium, the Hayden Planetarium.  In fact, that’s where you’re all visiting in a couple of hours.  You are leaving here, going to the American Museum of Natural History, where I went at age nine.  My parents brought me, my brother, and my sister, saw the dinosaurs, saw the animals, and we went to the planetarium.  And we sat in a room, it got dark, the stars came out, and I think the universe chose me.  It said, “You will be an astrophysicist one day.”  And I’ve been hooked ever since.  

 

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Before our event took us to the American Museum of Natural History, J made sure to corner Dr. Tyson to ask him whether Mars was once like Earth, in reference to the theory that Ice Age touched upon in Collision Course.

Dr. Tyson confirmed that scientists believe that Mars once looked like Earth because it has river deltas, river beds; we may never know what Mars looks like, he said. Mars is still an unknown frontier.

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At the American Museum of Natural History, we were given a very cool tour of the exhibit, Dinosaurs Among Us. A few of the scientists and curators of the exhibit spoke to us in detail about the exhibit, and of course the kids loved stamping their booklets and exploring the kid-friendly features.

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The kids loved their first time at the Hayden Planetarium, where we watched Dark Universe, voiced by none other than Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

 

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I loved getting a look at the Titanosaurous, which is so amazing and huge! When I asked J about his favorite parts of our trip to AMNH, he admitted the secret elevators and playing Pokemon Go (so many!) among all the dinosaurs rank pretty high on his list of summer fun.

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If you ask me, not much can top meeting Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Secret elevators at AMNH, though, are a close second.

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Ice Age: Collision Course is currently in theaters. 

The screening and event was hosted by 20th Century Fox and the American Museum of Natural History.

Back to School Style with True Religion

Since we’re talking about back to school trends, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of the hottest styles in kids’ clothes. A few weeks ago, we were invited to a special blogger preview of Five Star Apparel’s fall line hosted by my friend, Brianne of Stroller in the City.

 In specific, I had the chance to check out just a few of Five Star’s brands up close including, True Religion. 

 

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True Religion, known for their denim, has a strong boys’ line that features classic, yet modern pieces with an edge. They have a corduroy that’s lightweight and has a soft, velvety feel. These corduroy are so soft and stylish, the first thought that came to mind was: this lightweight corduroy would be ideal for kids who may not typically wear jeans because of the feel. The soft textured corduroy from True Religion is a great alternative to denim.

True Religion’s iconic horseshoe logo and signature stitching are among many of the details that make this brand stand out. Other core elements from their Fall line include: French Terry, Jogger in Indigo, camo and branded tees. One of my personal favorites was the letterman’s jack, which underscores the classic meets modern aesthetic of True Religion.

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We were sent samples to try out. Upon first impression, it’s clear why True Religion is popular. From the detailing to the textures, True Religion is comfortable and stylish without too much edge. We embrace modern classic with everything we wear, so this brand suits us perfectly.

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The Geno Single End and True Buddha Tee were a match for my spunky preschooler: cool, but fun. True Religion’s strengths are the stitching and signature pockets. The tee is soft, yet durable, with just enough branding to stay stylish and true to his rough and tumble character.

 

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Full disclosure: I was provided with samples to facilitate this review. As always, opinions on NKT are my own.

KidzVuz Back to School Bash

Heat wave aside, school lists and back to school bargains are starting to roll out! Thank goodness for our friends at KidzVuz, we had the chance to check out more back to school trends at their recent Back to School event.

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At KidzVuz’ events I love bringing along my bigger guy to help scope out all the cool stuff. This time around though, my guy was busy with summer sports, so I attended solo. Nevertheless, I met with so many great brands, two new brands had young spokespeople and entrepreneurs at the helm. 

 

LuckyBar

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LuckyBar protein bars was a product of a mom’s ingenuity. When one of her sons wasn’t eating much, she was elated when he ate a protein bar. Because of this, she wanted to share these bars with other families so that kids could enjoy a great tasting protein bar while placating a finicky palate. I absolutely enjoyed the Chocolate Campfire and it was no surprise that my own finicky eater devoured the LuckyBar sample I brought home. I had the chance to chat with the founder’s son, which I’ll share in another post.

Classroom Direct

 

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Back to school also means shopping for new supplies, not only for students, but for teachers, too! Classroom Direct is a one-stop online shop for teachers’ supplies, school supplies and other educational supplies. I loved learning that Classroom Direct has all kinds of learning resource supplies for teachers such as Common Core Curriculum kits and posters; classroom management tools such as, really cool timers, certificates and charts; and even gear and supplies for special needs students. I loved checking out the sensory animals stuffed with a beady-like material. They were a bit weighted, so toys like these double as tools for students with sensory issues. 

 

 

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Juicy Juice

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Never one to miss out on delicious snacks and treats, I loved that Juicy Juice was at the Kidz Vuz Back to School event. I loved having a chance to taste the Juicy Juice Splashers, which is a mix of filtered water and juice. Juicy Juice Splashers has 50% less sugar, no added sweeteners and definitely no high fructose corn syrup or unnecessary colors. Flavors in the Juicy Juice Splashers line up include: Berry Lemonade, Peach Mango and Tropical Twist. I had the Tropical Twist and couldn’t get enough.

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Zandra

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I have to say, meeting Zandra and testing out this young entrepreneur’s line of natural beauty products was probably the highlight of the KidzVuz Back to School event. I loved learning that she started her business after constantly asking her dad for new lip balm, and frustrated with buying her so many lip balms, he told her to research and make her own. And she did.

IMG 4383The fact that Zandra researched the benefits of natural ingredients and fragrances makes her products even better. Her big balms, sugar scrubs, soaps and lotions boast delicious scents such as: Almond Alfresco, Japanese Kumquat, Lavender Vanilla Chai, Lemon Tea Tree and For the Love of Mint. These products are currently available Be on the look out for Zandra’s Beauty Products at select retail locations and online because they are absolutely divine!

 

Philips 

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The Philips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush for kids is one of my all time favorite toothbrushes for my guys. The brush allows for personalization, as well as a powered, more efficient toothbrushing experience,  with upwards to 500 strokes per second. The built in timer is helpful, especially for those brushers who finish after 3 seconds of brushing. Need even more help to get the kids brushing their teeth with more care? There’s an app for that!

 

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Philips has an interactive app for kids to brush along with, to help them keep the task at hand while coaching and motivating them along the way. What’s even cooler? The Philips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush for kids has a super cool Ice Age themed brush to go hand in hand with the latest release of Collision Course. 

Mabel’s Labels

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As always, KidzVuz has such a fun swag bag filled with gear and gadgets to try out on our own to share on our sites. I love that Mabel’s Labels Write Away Labels found their way into the bags. These handy labels are durable labels that can be customized by you. These writeable, self-laminating labels are perfect for when you don’t necessarily need a singular name to label your belongings. I often use these for containers that my boys use interchangeably. 

Full Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am being compensated to share my experience at the KidzVuz BTS Event, however all opinions on NKT are my own. 

Back to School Must Haves from Momtrends’ Back to School Bash

 

We’re still very much in summer mode, however, when it comes to trend spotting and scouting the best kids’ products, we’re always looking ahead. Last week, together with many of my blogger friends, we descended upon Momtrends’ Back to School Bash to check out some of the coolest gear and gadgets for Back to School.

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Joules

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I had the chance to meet British clothing brand, Joules at the Momtrends’ Back to School Bash. This brand makes beautiful, classic yet modern clothes with bold prints. The girls’ styles were age-appropriate, yet super stylish. The boys’ looks were polished, classic and fun. I loved the boots and outerwear and the vibrant colors that make these pieces stand out!

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Aidan, my friend Alicia from Mommy Delicious’ son, modeling some looks from Joules.

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Paula’s Choice

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Always on the hunt for new skincare lines that work for me, it was great meeting Paula’s Choice. While Paula’s Choice makes a variety of products designed for different skin types, I particularly loved learning about their Clear line which is designed for oily and acne-prone skin. Paula’s Choice products are intended not to be irritating, so there are no fragrances or dyes or anything that could be harmful to your skin.

 

Vamousse

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photo credit: Momtrends

Having kids in school, there’s no doubt that at one point you’ll be faced with sick kids and possibly receiving a note from the school nurse that someone in your child’s class may be infected with lice. That dreaded letter has found its way to my son’s backpack this year more times than I could count. Lucky us, products like Vamousse are designed to be effective yet non-toxic. At any given time, I always have a Vamousse treatment kit in my arsenal, knowing that lice infestations can happen at any time with 2 boys in school. I also like that they have Lice Defense Daily Shampoo as well as Lice Elimination Powder. And, yay me! I won a cool Amazon gift card from Vamousse at the event. Thanks for being a sponsor!

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Thanks to Vamousse, we were treated to a braid bar from Glam Squad. I had a great time getting my hair braided and catching up with Julie Cole, one of the founders of Mabel’s Labels! 

Chewbeads

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Known for their teething-friendly accessories, Chewbeads were onhand at the Momtrends Back to School Bash to showcase their new line of JuniorBeads. Perfect as accessories for kids, these necklaces, bracelets and pendants are made with silicone and can double as sensory tools. My younger guy has special needs and low tone, and we often have to exercise his jaw muscles with chewing on things, so these pendants would be perfect for him. Have a kid who bites their nails or needs some sort of sensory tool? JuniorBeads would be ideal for them. I love the necklaces, shark tooth pendant and that military tag!

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Mabel’s Labels

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One of my family’s must-haves year-round, Mabel’s Labels showcased several new designs, combo pack and a cool new school years memory book. I’m eyeing the limited edition zombie design for my tween who has outgrown the cutesy designs. The School Years Memory book is a perfect solution for parents who want to collect special certificates, awards and occasional artwork. I love the oversized size that can actually fit the giant posters that the kids bring home. The price is right around $30, making this affordable and an absolute necessity when organizing for the school year. 

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Nalgene

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As a lunchbox enthusiast and gadget nerd, I absolutely loved learning about Nalgene’s new Lunchbox Buddy. This durable and versatile lunchbox is made with the same material that makes Nalgene so popular. I love that these lunch boxes are simple and rugged; the box itself can be thrown in the dishwasher and the outer case can be thrown in the washing machine—perfect my messy kids! And something that I never knew: all Nalgene products have a lifetime warranty. How’s that for awesome? I truly respect brands, especially ones that accommodate kids, that can stand behind their own reliability.

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Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen

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In between school, sports, volunteering and all of the other demands of life, some days, we need an easy dinner solution. (ok, most days) Thank goodness for Earth’s Best. Earth’s Best has an extensive line of frozen foods that are geared to families. These products are void of all the bad ingredients, but packed with flavor and portability to boot. I loved tasting the different flavors, with the mini meatballs and pepperoni stuffed bites as my favorites. I will be adding Organic Fruit Cups into our lunch box rotation for when cheap fruit is no longer an option!

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Sister brand, Ella’s Kitchen has been a mainstay in our pantry since Littles started eating solids. I love the delicious flavors they offer for baby foods, and their Nibbly Fingers are the best for babes and toddlers. I loved learning about their smoothies, which I’ve been including in my preschooler’s summer school lunch box. Those things are a hit!

 

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Keen

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Keen, known for their awesome sandals, was featuring highlights from their fall lineup. I’m eyeing several boots and hightops from my guy. I adored the sparkly hightops for girls, only wishing they came in my size. I appreciate that this brand is known for their casual and rugged look and feel, which is ideal for school-aged kids.

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Wall Pops

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Wall Pops offers a great selection of wall coverings that can be used as decor or as functional tools that are helpful for staying organized or informed. Always a fan of the oversized calendars, I love that they have maps and dry erase wall pops that make our school days seamless. We like using Wall Pops as calendars and as an unobtrusive way of reminding us what to do and when! My friends and I loved hanging out in the photo booth, thanks to Wall Pops!

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A big thank you to Momtrends for having me once again at the Back to School Bash. As always, I loved checking out the awesome trends for fall, as well as hanging out with my girls!

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Full disclosure: I received a generous swag bag and won a gift card at this event. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

 

 

Ice Age: Collision Course is a Fun Family Film

In the latest installment in the Ice Age franchise, Manny and crew are back for more fun in Ice Age: Collision Course. In the latest film, Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie’s (Queen Latifah) daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer) is approaching a new phase in life. Peaches, who is getting married, hopes to explore the world with her new husband, Julian—much to her parents’ chagrin. IceAgeCC Poster

Alongside of this new phase in life, the Earth is experiencing its own changes, where Manny and his friends must team up to make things right. Along the way, they meet eccentric characters, such as Shangri Llama, who follow a different path in life, making this adventure even more colorful.

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Several weeks ago, I had the chance to screen Ice Age: Collision Course and interview Keke Palmer, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, as well as the director Mike Thurmeier. This was such a fun junket at the Crosby Hotel, and an equally funny family film that I can’t wait for my kiddos to see.

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I asked Keke and Jesse about their experience with exploring and roaming, and I loved what they had to say.

Traveling and roaming, exploration was a key component in this story, and it’s obviously a right of passage in many peoples’ lives. Have any of you taken any significant trips in your life that were, you know, life changing?

Keke said, “Significant trips? Probably when I was living in New York for the four months doing Broadway. That was the most significant change I could tell in myself because I’m so thankful that I used that time wisely because it really left me the opportunity to learn so much about myself. I used the opportunity of the discipline I had to have for Broadway to take time from my phone and to really sit with myself and discover more ways to meditate and do yoga. And that was a really cool time for me. Even though my mom was there, she really gave me my space, and she and I were transitioning into, you know, her seeing me also as an adult and respecting my boundaries. And that was a really cool time where I was able to see, “Wow, okay, you’re making a jump, sister.”

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Jesse Tyler Ferguson had a wonderful anecdote about traveling too:

“I just got to go to Cuba, which was really, really interesting. And you sort of have to go with a purpose, which I love. It wasn’t a trip for the weak of heart. We went, and we brought Capezio dance shoes to a dance troupe out there, and they performed for us. And I was able to immerse myself in the artists that were in the culture there. And we weren’t just having mojitos and smoking cigars. You know, we really got to like experience and see the parts of the city that I think are, you know, not shown on Instagram and Yelp.”

Be sure to check out the brand new adventure in Ice Age: Collision Course, which is out in theaters on July 22.

Full disclosure: I was invited by 20th Century Fox to participate in this press junket. As always, all opinions are my own.

The Secret Life of Pets is a Fun Ride with Furry, Fluffy and Feathered Friends

Every now and then, a movie comes along that brings together a star-studded cast to deliver a funny and feel-good story while truly living up to its hype—and The Secret Life of Pets does just that!

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The Secret Life of Pets, from Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures, is an imaginative and hilarious portrayal of city pets that shows what happens when unlikely characters work together and find the value of friendship and loyalty in the process. Max, the terrier, is well-loved by his owner and embraces the life of a solo pet. That is, until his owner, Katie, introduces an oversized upheaval to the home: Duke the Newfoundland.

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The newly-minted frenemies, Max and Duke, as well as their fluffy, furry and feathered band of domesticated friends find themselves in quite a storied predicament that leads to them exploring the city streets and navigating the underbelly of the city where the “flushed” animals go to live. On their adventure, Max and Duke meet stray cats, a psychotic bunny, Tattoo the pig, among other colorful characters.

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The Secret Life of Pets is a great mix of silly antics and clever comedy, which appeals to both kids and parents. Surprisingly, the music complemented the story well, between the composed poodle headbanging to System of a Down, classic songs weaved throughout and Basement Jaxx’s Do Your Thing from the trailer. Semi-spoiler: my older son squealed when he realized the song during the sausage factory scene. Grease fans will appreciate it!

My kids, who are 4 and 8, both enjoyed the film from start to finish and continually quote it every time there’s a relevant reference.  While drinking milk: “Chug, chug, chug…” Their favorite parts of The Secret Life of Pets revolve around pooping and the dogs drinking (chugging) out of the toilet. Naturally.

 

 

A photo posted by Jen Rabulan-Bertram (@jenrab) onJun 23, 2016 at 8:04pm PDT

In line with the silliness, its the collective cast of characters and the voice actors who make this film an instant classic! My kids and I watched the screening before I read up on the voice actors, and I loved the surprise when I realized who voiced whom. With the big push for this film, it was hard to avoid that surprise, but it’s definitely cool for the adults to associate the actors to the characters they voice in the film.

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A few favorite voices from The Secret Life of Pets: Louis C.K.(Louie) is mild-mannered Max the Terrier, Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) is the fluffy Newf who uses his size to his advantage, Lake Bell’s Chloe the cat embodies the dissociation of felines in general and the crazy, but lovable Snowball the bunny was brought to life by Kevin Hart.

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview several of the actors who voiced these fun pets. It was, hands-down, one of the funniest interviews I’ve done yet.

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Before Hollywood, Eric Stonestreet, grew up at a farm in Kansas, so he has had animals his whole life. With respect to Duke he said: “ I think when you meet him at the beginning of the movie you think one thing about him, that he’s kind of a bully and kind of a tough guy, —mildly a tough guy because he is protecting something. We don’t know what that is. And I think we all do that as people; we put up a front in certain situations. So, I relate to him in that way, that you kind of protect yourself a little bit and hide what’s maybe sometimes going on behind the scenes. And he is fun and lovable. He’s a lap dog. I think I’m kind of a little bit of a lap dog.”

For a little fluffy bunny, Kevin Hart’s Snowball does an admirable job leading a revolution for his fellow flushed animals. Hart’s small but fierce mentality and self-deprecating humor is a perfect complement to his character. Well known for sharing his daily adventures as a parent, comedian and personality on social media, I used the opportunity as a fellow social media enthusiast to see what Snowball would do. That should be a thing, right? What Would Snowball DO? (WWSD) Ha!
Hart had us cracking up, but inspired at the same time: 

“Snowball is a leader.  And he is starting a revolution, so everything is about recruiting.  You know, if he was on there, I don’t think it would be in the realm of my Snapchats.  Snowball’s are strictly PSA messages of join the movement, join the revolution.  And it’s basically against people.  

He is basically fussing at people.  That’s why I love Snowball.  But, his anger is justified.  Snowball doesn’t like people just–it’s not like he just doesn’t like people just because they’re people.  He doesn’t like people because he was hurt.  He bought into the whole person and pet reality.  And when he was hurt by that because someone abandoned him, it really threw him off. That’s what I love about this character, you know.  

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I don’t just do things just to do them.  I have to put depth to it.  And that’s with any movie that I’ve done.  I think I’m very funny in every movie that I’ve done, and the movies have progressed, but the reason why the characters are always funny is because there is a foundation underneath the character.  And that’s what me and the director talked about.  I was like, “I don’t just want to play the guy because he’s funny.  What’s the foundation?”  

And being that Snowball was hurt is one thing, but then I made him insecure.  You notice he’s very insecure.  You know, he gives out these orders, but then he questions the orders that he gave out, you know.  “Everybody listen.  Raise your hand unless you’re tired.  Unless your arm is tired.  Put your arm down.  You don’t have to raise your hand.”  And it’s funny.  You laugh at it, but it shows you that he’s not really the guy that he’s being.  This is a manufactured version of himself, which justifies when he gets the hug at the end–he melts.”

It’s always fun chatting with talent to hear what makes them tick as actors, but also to get their perspective on the film and their contribution of their characters in the film. In the end, The Secret Life of Pets is a fiercely funny story, but it’s the underlying story of loyalty, kindness and staying true to yourself that makes this a feel-good film, and one that is absolutely our favorite family film this summer! 

The Secret Life of Pets is out in theaters July 8. You can purchase your tickets to The Secret Life of Pets on Fandango.

 

Marvel Cross Pens are the Write Gift for Father’s Day

This post is featured in partnership with CROSS Pens.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, gifts for my husband and our dads are up in the air as usual. What do you get a guy who has everything?

Gift cards almost too impersonal for my family. Ties? Meh. Grilling supplies? Got those last year. Books? Still sitting there from the year before.

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As a writer, I appreciate quality writing tools, especially pens. Cross Pens, synonymous with style and professionalism, has many different looks and patterns. I love that Cross has pens that can be paired with any personality or passion—even superheroes! 

With the recent release of Captain America: Civil War, it’s so fitting that there are Marvel Pens that showcase Captain America’s iconic emblem. Or if you’re Team Ironman, there’s a style that’s fit for the sleek Tony Stark Fan. 

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Having just watched Captain America: Civil War, and as major Mets fans (catcher David Wright is nicknamed Captain America) it’s safe to say our entire tribe is Team Cap! For Father’s Day, we’ll be gifting my boys’ true hero a very stylish Captain America Cross Pen. The pen, which comes with its own case, is a beautiful shade of blue with a subtle Captain symbol along the side. For us, this is a fun gift for the boys to give dad because we love Marvel, we’ve seen the movie together and our Mets love!

Perfect for the office or playing tic tac toe with the boys, the Marvel line of Cross Pens is an ideal gift for the guy who has it all and appreciates a quality writing tool.

 Check out Marvel Cross Pens and all of the other sleek styles if you’re on the hunt for a great gadget for dad or your grads.

Full Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Thank you for supporting NKT. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.