Kudo Banz: Helping Our Kids SOAR

Kudo Banz provided me with product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

This fall, The Bigs went back to school and learned about their new rewards program – SOAR. Instead of moving from green to yellow to red [on a behavior chart], they now have to earn four levels of getting caught being good.

I was surprised when the kids came home complaining about this. “It’s going to be too hard” and “It’s not fair” rang from their throats. I shook my head. Did our time giving Kudo Banz a try this summer not teach them anything? I reminded them of earning their Kudos and they quickly quieted down. And in the three weeks since school’s started? I haven’t heard another word. I think it has worked – Kudo Banz set my kids up for success with this new program!


What Are Kudo Banz

Since we haven’t talked much about the Kudo Banz, you might be wondering what I mean by this. A “parenting game changer”, these are wrist bands that kids wear then earn charms (Kudos) throughout the day for doing good things. Think of it as a sticker chart but constantly there as a reminder.

When the child earns three Kudos, they scan the QR code into an app (on a parent’s device) that then allows them to spin a reward wheel. These aren’t necessarily toys or treats, they are extra things that you and your child plan to add to the wheel together. (Our kids asked us to customize the wheel with things like “family dance party”, “make a YouTube video”, and “one on one time with the twins”. Your child can add whatever they want and even include a photo!)

Kudo Banz Starter Kit

There is a starter kit that has two Banz and a few star Kudos, but then you can also order additional Kudo collections to add to their fun and motivation. My kids opted for the Pirate and Princess sets (but of course) to motivate them.

Background: Kudo Banz

Amanda and Hamza, whom I got to meet in person at Blogger Bash, know that parenting is a challenging but important job. They created this reward system to combat all of the negative messages children receive (like time outs and being yelled out). The Kudo Banz became a tool they could use on the go and for reinforcing positive behaviors. It worked with their three children, and they’re hopeful other parents will find them helpful!

How Did Kudo Banz Work for The Bigs?

Our experience was pretty positive. The first few days were a bit of a growing pain, but the starter kit we got came with a book that we read a few times as a reminder. This book chronicles the story of two boys who get a visit from their grandma and learn that they need to be good and helpful to earn Kudos…then good things happen. We’d pull it out and read when Evan would get upset that Arianna earned her reward wheel first. But you do not remove a Kudo! No matter how upset he’d get, he got to keep his kudos. We’d just remind him to BE GOOD.

Admittedly, Evan broke his Banz. It was a bit tight to get around his hand, which stumped me because Kudo Banz are made for kids ages 3 and up. The sizing definitely looked like it would have been better suited for the twins, but they aren’t 3 yet. (I agree with this age range for not only size but understanding!)

Because Evan’s broke, Arianna sort of lost interest, but when things start getting tough, I mention them and they both remember the basic concepts. We’ll definitely want to start these early with the twins!

If you are interested in learning more, check out kudobanz.com or get started by adding them to your Amazon cart here.  

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Friday Favorites: Playing Catch-up

*articles may contain affiliate links* This round of Friday Favorites is brought to you thanks to some product collaborations with some of our favorite brands. Things have been super busy in the ‘lil Burghers house this summer and we have a lot to share with you!

The Milkshake Factory: Pittsburgh, this summer The Milkshake Factory celebrated the one-year anniversary of their downtown chocolate and milkshake bar. I got to take a friend from work with me for a quick afternoon treat – red velvet (GLUTEN FREE) milkshakes! The celebration was in full swing and proceeds from the day were donated to Beverly’s Birthdays. This delicious store has been in Pittsburgh almost 100 years – so if you haven’t been, you need to get yourself there! Definitely a must visit for out-of-town guests, too.

Snuggle-Pedic Pillow

Watch my pillow unfold!

Snuggle-Pedic Pillow: Ever since coming home from Blogger Bash, I’ve been sleeping better thanks to a bamboo memory foam pillow with cooling features. Snuggle-Pedic has created a pillow that is adjustable for whatever comfort you need – like a lot of support? Ask Customer Service for more fluff (or do like I did and pop it in the dryer for 20 minutes!). If it’s too much, you can adjust by removing some of the filling. As someone who gets warm in my sleep, a bamboo cooling pillow has been on my list and this one is definitely worth it. RUN over to Amazon and get yourself one today!

Gelli Baff

Evan enjoying Gelli Baff

Gelli Baff: The Bigs LOVED taking a bath in something out of the ordinary – gel! With this product, the bath water turned into gel then back to water when it was time to head to bed. We also have a Slime Baff from Zimpli Kids, but we haven’t  given it a test yet. While the Gelli Baff washed right out of the tub, this mama was a bit overwhelmed by the whole process and left it for daddy to clean up the next day.  (Both the Gelli Baff and Slime Baff can be found on Amazon.)

VONDA Sonic Toothbrush: Yinz guys. As much as I drink coffee, my teeth deserve a good treatment. I’ve been getting that from this VONDA Sonic Toothbrush that is rechargable via USB and has 5 different brushing modes. Whitening is my favorite! But honestly, as I told my dental hygenist, two minutes is a LONG time to brush your teeth. With this, you don’t have to wonder. You’re likely under brushing if you aren’t timing it because I LOVE that the timer feature on this (it turns off after two minutes) let me know I needed more attention to my teeth. Another great feature? This sonic toothbrush is SUPER affordable and available with Amazon Prime. Your dentist will thank you (mine did).


Thanks for stopping by to see some of our favorite items of late! What was your favorite? What is something you are loving right now?

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How to Get Kids to Enjoy Their Lunch

This post is a partnership between myself and UnitedHealthcare talking about kids’ lunch. All opinions are 100% my own. 


Is mealtime a struggle in your house? It is in ours, mainly because we have six different appetites to please. As much as we want to say we don’t, the truth is that we are often making four different meals. There is the adult meal (Keto or Whole30), Arianna’s mostly grownup meal (but considerations need to be made for her expander), Evan’s “scoop of peanut butter and apple slices”, then whatever the twins eat. I’m exhausted typing it, can you imagine the scene while making these? Torture, indeed.

peanut butter sandwich kid

Evan and his Peanut Butter

We’re all about healthy choices, but truth is, we parents do need to give our kids something they’ll eat. Having a meal plan and routine will help avoid our efforts going to waste – studies show “that children are throwing away roughly 25-45 percent of food, with vegetable waste up to 90 percent” (source: United Healthcare). That’s alarming to a mama who pinches pennies and tries to push the veggies!

Arianna working on dinner

How to Get Kids to Enjoy Their Lunch

My tried and true mom tips are to have the kids pick out what they want to eat, and hope for the best; however, that’s lead to plenty of wasted food in our house. I know. It pains me. That’s why I was excited that UnitedHealthcare was willing to share some tips to make fun, healthy lunches without spending too much time or getting stressed out.

Dr. Craig Butler, Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania and Delaware, shares some tips for parents and caregivers on how to make school lunches that are both nutritional and appealing to kids.

  • Pack school lunches with your kids. When kids are engaged in the process, they are more likely to help pack a meal they will eat and it’s a great teaching opportunity for parents.
  • Include at least three food groups: Lunches should include at least three food groups to provide nourishment and energy boosting nutrients to help get your child through the day.
    • Whole grains (popcorn, wraps, bread, rolls, crackers, pitas, cereal, pasta, quinoa, brown rice)
    • Lean- or low-fat protein (low-fat milk, cheese, nuts, cottage cheese, yogurt, hummus, turkey, chicken, roast beef, ham, nut butters, eggs, edamame, beans, tuna fish and salmon)
    • Fruits and veggies (100% fruit juice box, any fresh fruits or veggies, dried fruit, fruit cups in juice, natural applesauce cups)
  • Make it colorful. Adding colorful fruits and vegetables can make a lunch look more appetizing. Spice up vegetables with a little bit of guacamole, hummus, salsa, or low-fat ranch dressing on the side to add flavor and fun.
  • Don’t forget a drink: Hydration is particularly important for children because they have higher water requirements than adults. Besides water, more fun options include smoothies and low-fat milk. Skip sugary juices and sodas.
  • Pick the right sweet treat: It’s okay to add something small to their lunches because it gives them something to look forward to, but aim for less than eight to 10 grams of sugar per serving. Examples include chocolates that are at least 70 percent pure cocoa chocolate and natural fruit smoothies with plain Greek yogurt and almond milk.

Our favorites are to include colors – guacamole is a win in our house, allow for a small sweet treat, and to make it a family activity. Letting Evan loose on the peanut butter has made for some fun looking sandwiches, but when he helps, he eats!

Lunch Ideas

It’s great to have tips, but maybe you don’t know what to serve that is fun and matches the tips above. That’s ok, we get that. These lunch ideas are sure to please:

  • Grilled cheese a’la’ waffle – Use a waffle iron to create a whimsical version of the standard sandwich that can be enjoyed at room temperature. Serve with grapes, carrot sticks and 100% fruit juice.
  • Veggie quesadilla – Use whatever veggies you have on hand layered between a whole grain tortilla with cheese and cook quickly to melt the cheese. Serve with apple slices and lowfat milk.
  • Hard boiled egg-on-a-stick – Pair with popcorn, fruit slices to dip in a container of Greek yogurt along with a few cherry tomatoes and bottle of water.
  • Roll it up! – Roll up string cheese, a slice of lean ham, red bell pepper slices and baby spinach in a whole grain wrap. Serve with 100% fruit juice and a few strawberries.

Arianna’s vote is for the “hard boiled egg-on-a-stick”, but we’ll be working with Evan on breaking out of his “peanut butter only” mood to revolutionize our kids’ lunch. Which one(s) do you think your kids would like best? Tweet it out! 

For more healthy recipe ideas, parents can visit www.uhc.com/wellness.

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Office Organization Tips

*articles may contain affiliate links* With back-to-school season fully upon us, I decided to do some office organization. Thanks to StemsFX Supplies, this was super easy!

Some days my life is absolutely crazy, so I have to have a system to keep my office organized. I decided to file my paperwork for each area of my life using folders.

Because I have six main areas that I’m currently focused on, this six-pack of folders made sense to organize my Thirty-One business, Monat business (psst, this is BRAND NEW to me!), the Blog, work, fitness, and our family finances. Phew. I’m exhausted and the papers aren’t even organized yet!

These folders are sturdy and include a business card slot. The colors are brilliant, so I highly doubt that I will lose track of them – am I right?

There are a few other ways I’m using STEMSFX products in my office organization right now. I have created a folder for each month and will file receipts and bills (unrelated to my six pack of folders) in this set (and of course keep them in my Fold n’ File!). My eyes are on these envelopes for the bits of memories I want to hang on to – sadly I think my scrapbooking days are over. 🙁

My Tips for Office Organization

When it comes to office organization, here’s what I recommend:

  • Use color coding. The bolder the brighter! You’ll notice I used green for finances and yellow for the blog. These make sense as money is green and our city colors are black and (gold) yellow.
  • Have an inbox and outbox. I have an “incoming” and “bills” pocket hanging inside our front door. Greg sorts the mail into the appropriate pocket then I take action as needed. We have a “to do” clip that reminds what needs to hit the mailbox.
  • File early and often. Just like you’d save an office document on your computer, file your paperwork early and often. Trust me. I have a box of 2016 paperwork I can’t even look at. Thank goodness I also have a “Tax Time” zipper pouch where I kept our tax info because my tax accountant would not have been happy with my lack of office organization from last year!

If you’d like to organize paperwork like I did, I highly suggest you head to Amazon and get started now with the six-pack of folders. You’ll be so glad!

What are your biggest office organization challenges? How could these supplies help? 


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Review of The Freeloader Child Carrier

This post is a review of the Freeloader Child Carrier. I received product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

A few weeks back, I hinted that I’d be getting a child carrier that would be useful not just for the twins but for The Bigs, too. Do you remember me telling you about the Freeloader? Well, it arrived and we’ve been using it to test our backs out for when the twins are big enough to use it by taking Evan up to the Rails to Trails right off our backyard.

Note – The Freeloader Child Carrier should only be used with children ages 2 and a half and up (the twins are just a few weeks shy of that) and when they weigh between 25 and 80 pounds. They should also be between 33-50 inches tall. (That means Ava is going to be carriable again soon! Isla has some height to gain, but the way she’s been eating lately, that’s going to be soon, too!)

Like anything new, The Freeloader takes some getting used to. “You’re not going to run with him on here, that’s for sure,” said Greg when he tried it out with Evan.

It’s true. I got pretty sweaty while wearing it and even though I know I’m strong, it still was a core workout. We’re not going to be signing up for any 10-mile hikes while wearing it anytime soon.

While I was carrying Evan on the trail, I wondered what people thought. The three girls were walking around and I was carrying Evan, the sportiest of them all. But then I didn’t care. It’s pretty cool to have a carrier that supports a bigger child – and my mind went to friends who have kids with special needs, how it would allow them to go on adventures, too! Great news, Freeloader has a community for parents of kids with special needs! They’re steps ahead of me.

Preparing for our adventure

The girls can’t wait to be worn again, and we’ll work up to bigger adventures than just our trail. The Freeloader Child Carrier is slim enough we could take it to amusement parks or festivals (it only weighs 5.8 pounds).

Wearing in Prep for our Walk

What We Liked: The Freeloader Child Carrier

  • It is lightweight but sturdy.
  • The straps around the hips and around the shoulders distribute the weight evenly.
  • I ordered a medium Freeloader, and it is just the right size for me and for Greg, even with our height difference.
  • The foot straps for the kiddo!
  • As our kids grow, they’ll still be able to use it, up to 80 pounds. Arianna’s even taken a ride!

What We Didn’t Like: The Freeloader Child Carrier

  • The padding, while super comfy for both parent and kiddo, got me sweaty. Either that or it was our September Summer, but I still think it would be warm on a normal day, too.
  • While I agree the carrier is well worth it, the price is a bit out of our range as twin parents. If we wanted two, we’d be shelling out almost $600 (they are $299 a piece). Also, if you and your partner are different heights, you want to consider this in your purchase.

All-in-all, The Freeloader will be a go-to for our times exploring the world around us. Greg’s excited to have it as an option for next summer’s Wildlife Wednesday adventures. I’m excited to have Ava close by without her pinching and tugging at me to “Up! Up!” without support. Definitely a series of wins.

If you’d like to get a Freeloader Child Carrier of your own, you can save 10% when you use the code freeloaderfun when you use this coupon. See more at myfreeloader.com and find Freeloader on Facebook.


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Ispirare Coffee: Local and Inspirational

*articles may contain affiliate links* I received product from Ispirare Coffee in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

When we first moved to Kittanning, I wasn’t necessarily a coffee snob; however, after experiencing gourmet beans brewed in small batches at my work, I quickly realized just how limiting my local coffee shops where. We have one “big name” coffee shop, some gas stations, and of course local diners. But nothing gourmet like I have been spoiled with.

Thankfully, that’s changing because of local bean roasters like Ispirare Coffee. They get it, people deserve good coffee that inspires but isn’t ridiculously priced or hard to find.

Their story includes this gem:

As a company we want to be as inspirational as our coffees. We both grew up in economically depressed Western Pennsylvanian towns, and believe that success is not measured by what you get, by what you give. We’re committed to using our resources to help create inspirational moments in the communities we operate.

That’s pretty much my life goal – to give and inspire. Love this thought! Even better, their Inspire coffee blend has a hint of chocolate. Between this alignment of values and one of my favorite things, I was eager to give it a try.

The Inspire blend takes beans from Sumatra and Peru to create a savory, smooth drink. I could taste the chocolate, but also got a hint of acidity. This was a good thing, it made for a great finish and unique flavor. The chocolate doesn’t overwhelm – if you aren’t as used to cacao and are more the milk chocolate fan, you might sip past this taste. Sip it slowly, mindfully, and then you’ll get it. This coffee is to inspire, not to gulp!

I recommend getting the whole beans and brewing at home. If you do that, you’re going to need to get yourself an automatic grinder. This one from Cuisinart is what I recommend (and what we use at the office). 

If you are in the Kittanning area, you can get freshly brewed cups at KICK and A Mano Pasta Shop or pick up your own pack of these beans at Dizzy Lizzies. If you live in Pittsburgh and want to give this a try, I suggest coming up for a visit; however, you can also get beans at Fort Pitt Coffee or a fresh cup at Mercurio’s.

For more information on where to buy, check out their coffee info page. Keep up with Ispirare Coffee on Instagram and Facebook, too!

Ispirare currently has two blends – Inspire (reviewed above) and Italian (described as “bright, juicy, crisp”). Which one piques your interest? 

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La Dimora degli Angeli

This post is brought to you by La Dimora degli Angeli. All opinions are 100% my own. Do you have a travel bucket list? Up until I found out about how easy it is to get gluten free foods in Italy, I thought I didn’t really have a telling reason to add it to mine. Pair that fact with finding out about this adorably peaceful B&B, La Dimora degli Angeli, and Italy is now on my list!

Whether you are traveling for a romantic getaway or a girls’ weekend, I think that a stay in Italy should be on everyone’s bucket list. There is so much to take in, and not just the religion, history, food, and wine. Why not take it in while staying in style by being spoiled at a bed and breakfast? Here’s one I found that intrigued me:

La Dimora degli Angeli

Located in the heart of Florence, Italy with direct views of the Florence Cathedral and Brunelleschi’s dome, La Dimora degli Angeli offers guests comfort and class. As I was browsing their website, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the charm.

There are twelve rooms in this bed and breakfast, each with unique charm and features. Each is intricately yet modernly decorated, paired with comforts of home like private bathrooms, air conditioning, free WiFi, and flat screen television. There are single, double, and triple rooms, all looking like they would best suit 1-2 adults. (One of the single rooms is only 108 square feet – I’ve stayed in a room that size and told my husband I was so glad he wasn’t there with me because I am claustrophobic!) When you stay at La Dimora degli Angeli, you get your room, 24-hour access to a tea room, and an enchanting experience!

Travel Bucket List

If you don’t have a dream to work toward, what are you working for? I’m one who is motivated by working toward goals. Once we pay off our debt and get money put away for the kids’ college, we’ll be living like no one else – checking things off our bucket list! Small rewards for living life with intensity, I say. What is on YOUR travel bucket list?

#DimoraDegliAngeli To find out more, check out their website: http://www.dimoredeicherubini.it/la-dimora-degli-angeli-florence/


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Brick Loot

*articles may contain affiliate links* This post is brought to you by Brick Loot, a monthly subscription box for ages 6-99.

Remember a few months ago we went to Brick Fest? At the time, I had no idea how much the Bigs loved their bricks. Good thing we found out about Brick Loot! Arianna and Evan got to check out August’s box (late on our part because, well, life). Here’s what they have to say:

Arianna: It was good! We really liked the bricks and emoji in the box!

Evan: It was really fun and I liked what I got. I really like that we could get it every month if we wanted to!

But even better, check out their thoughts as they unboxed the August Brick Loot box:

Well then. Guess we have some subscribing to do?!?! The August box brought us these items:

Here are the details on this box, invented by a 9-year-old!

This surprise box is delivered monthly to customers of all ages (40% of our subscribers are adults) and is filled to the brim with the latest and greatest brick sets and accessories, including the fan favorite, LEGO. The contents include custom LEGO kits, LEGO Minifigures, accessories, lights, Brick Loot exclusives and more. The best part of the box is it keeps kids creative and engaged. You can not find these products at your local toy store making them very collectable. The box subscription starts as low as $24.99 a month and varies depending on your subscription selection.

Each box has a theme, with is pretty neat. August was Emojis and September will be Titanic. Wonder what is in store for future months?

You can sign up to subscribe to Brick Loot for as little as $24.95 + shipping per month. (Check out the options here.)

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Magic Sketch by Boogie Board

*articles may contain affiliate links* Have a long car trip coming up? The Magic Sketch by Boogie Board might just be the perfect toy to accompany your kids. We’re talking drawing, sketching, doodling, math, and more. My creative kiddos are all about their newest toy!

Your ‘lil ones can draw until their heart is content, then with the touch of a button erase the crystal screen! The features are sheer magic – I’ve tried to figure out how it works and I just have to accept that it’s magic!

The kit we checked out had different tools for writing, stamps, and games to slide behind the clear screen. How about we let Arianna explain what she loves about the Magic Sketch by Boogie Board?

As a mom of creative kids, the Magic Sketch is a win in my book. The pen that clips and the button that erases are my favorite features. Arianna’s loving the see-through screen and many different tools she can use on it. What we didn’t realize when we did the video is that the screen is also water resistant!

Another perk of the Magic Sketch’s transparent screen is that you can slide a coloring book page under it and trace over and over. I’ll let you decide if Arianna did a trace or freestyle drawing here:

This is a must-have toy (listed on Amazon’s Top 100 Toys currently), so head over to Amazon and get your kiddos one before they sell out this holiday season! (MSRP is $29.99 | Ages 3+) What are your favorite features of the Magic Sketch? 

You can find out more about this toy on their website. Find Magic Sketch on Facebook and Twitter, too!

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Ava Reads a Bedtime Story

Tonight, Ava read us a bedtime story. After a difficult week with her being clingy, a little sick, and losing her favorite cup, this sure was a good way to end it. Enjoy her “reading” of one of her favorite stories.

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