Back to School with a2 Milk®

This post was sponsored by a2 Milk® as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

The long, lazy days of summer are almost over and soon we'll be getting back to our crazy busy school time schedule. Kids really do expend a lot of energy during the school day -- they're using their brains and bodies from 8am till 3pm! It's no wonder they are starving when they get home. That's why an after school snack is an essential part of their day.  Here are 10 of my kids' favorite after school snacks that fill them up and replenish some of the energy they've burned:

PBJ sandwich
Cheese and crackers
Salami and cheese
Waffles with chocolate spread or jam
Granola bar
Cereal and milk
Cookies and milk

Yes, I let them have cookies, or brownies, or cupcakes, now and then. They are just occasional treats, and real star of that combo is the milk, of course. It's got protein, calcium, and a host of other vitamins and minerals! In fact, I like to offer milk to drink with all their after school snacks! My son 3Po especially needs to drink lots of milk, because he has lost a bit of weight this past year and needs to gain it back. Increasing his milk intake will allow him to gain weight back in a healthy way.

Of course, your child may be one of the many people who don't like milk because it doesn't agree with their tummies. An independent study showed 1 in 4 Americans have discomfort after drinking milk; yet only 5-7% of the population has been clinically diagnosed with a lactose intolerance medical condition. 
But if your child falls into that category, you can still offer them the goodness of milk after school. Just offer them a2 Milk®. a2 Milk® is real milk that is naturally free from the A1 protein, which is the culprit behind many people's dairy discomfort (I'm an a2 Milk® Ambassador, so see my previous a2 Milk® post for an explanation!).  It's real milk, so you don't get any of the weird taste that you might get with overly processed lactose-free milk, or milk substitutes like soy milk or almond milk or rice milk.

Here's some more good news: a2 Milk® is now available at Trader Joe's! Now I can get a2 Milk® at the 3 places I shop most:  Whole Foods Market, Safeway, and Trader Joe's. I don't have to make a special trip to a specialty grocery store, so I can pick up a2 Milk® as part of my normal grocery run!
Do you or any member of your family experience discomfort when drinking milk? Have you tried a2 Milk®? It's easier than ever to find, so it's easier than every to try!

For more information about a2 Milk®, visit these sites:
a2 Milk® website:
a2 Milk® Microsite:
a2 Milk® Store Locator:
a2 Milk® Facebook:
a2 Milk® Twitter:

Disclosure:This post was sponsored by a2 Milk® as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Make a Better Sandwich with Oroweat® {giveaway}


Who doesn't love a good grilled cheese sandwich? A grilled cheese sandwich is supposed to be a childhood favorite, but I'm pretty sure I'll be enjoying it well into old age. Of course, if I eat nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches, I probably won't live to see old age, but I can still enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich now and then, especially if I swap out some of the cheese for veggies, and if I swap out the white bread for whole grain bread like Oroweat® Whole Grain Sliced Bread. Oroweat® is my favorite sandwich bread brand because it's sturdy enough to pack a lot of sandwich filling in between, and it's so delicious my family will eat it on its own!

Here are 3 ways to jazz up an ordinary grilled cheese sandwich. Just take 2 slices of  Oroweat® Whole Grain Sliced Bread, pile in the fillings listed below, and press in a panini maker. Actually, you don't even have to grill these sandwiches; they taste wonderful even when cold!
  • Brie
  • Tomatoes
  • Baby spinach leaves
  • Pesto
  • Mayo
  • Aged cheddar
  • Balsamic-glazed red onions
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Mixed greens
  • Honey mustard
  • Mayo
  • Mozarella
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil leaves
  • Fig balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil

What are your favorite ways to jazz up a cheese sandwich -- or any sandwich, for that matter? Oroweat® wants to know! Share your favorite sandwich recipe by August 21, 2016 to win up to $25k in their “2016 America’s Better Sandwich” Contest.

About the 2016 America's Better Sandwich Contest

Oroweat® Bread wants to hear what healthful ingredients their fans use to make the perfect sandwich with their delicious, made with whole grain bread, so Oroweat® Bread is hosting the“2016 America’s Better Sandwich” Contest! To enter, fans can submit their recipes at for the opportunity to win a grand prize of $25,000 – now, that’s a lot of dough! Additionally, the sandwich in each of the five categories with the highest overall score will receive a $5,000 Category Prize.

Making sure no grain gets left behind, this year, Oroweat® Bread will donate one (1) loaf of bread to Feeding America for each entry and or vote submitted, with a minimum of 75,000 and up to 100,000 loaves donated!


Win an Oroweat® sandwich prize pack

One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will receive an Oroweat® prize pack which includes:
  • Six coupons, each valid for $5.00 off the purchase of any Oroweat® Whole Grain Sliced Bread of choice
  • Six coupons, each valid for $4.00 off the purchase of any Oroweat® Sandwich Thins® Rolls of choice
  • $25 Visa gift card to use towards ingredients for their favorite sandwiches

Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below by midnight PST on August 1, 2016. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received product coupons and a gift card from Oroweat to help me create this post. Contest information (in italics) is provided by Oroweat.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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CROSS introduces Marvel themed pens for Dads and Grads

CROSS Marvel series pens

Father's Day is coming up in less than 3 weeks! Usually I let the kids figure out which presents they want to give their dad for Father's Day (hey, Alfie's their dad, not mine), but this year I've got a little extra surprise for him -- a CROSS ballpoint stylus pen. And not just any CROSS pen -- a CROSS Iron Man pen!  CROSS has launched a new series of fine writing instruments featuring Captain America, Iron Man and Spider Man. Since Father’s Day is approaching, we feel there is no better time than to honor the dads in the family, the real life Superheros. How super is that? Alfie loves the elegance and quality of CROSS pens, so this is the perfect Father's Day present for him.

CROSS's new Marvel pens come in 2 styles: the roller ball Century 2 series ($45), and the ballpoint/stylus Tech2 series ($45). Each series has 3 available characters: Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider Man. CROSS sent me my choice of Tech2 pens, so I chose Iron Man since I'm #TeamIronMan all the way.
CROSS Marvel series pens

Here's a closer look at the pen. I'm not the biggest fan of Iron Man's color scheme (red and gold), but CROSS manages to make it look stylish and classy. The brushed metal is not too shiny, and the character logos are discreet (but not so discreet that fellow Marvel fans won't notice!).
CROSS Marvel series pens

The pen writes like all CROSS pens -- smooth and easy, without any skipping or blotting. The stylus tip at the opposite end is perfect for writing and drawing on tablets.
CROSS Marvel series pens

This also makes a great graduation present for incoming college freshmen and graduating college seniors about to enter the workplace. Having a CROSS pen is one of those coming-of-age things that everyone should have, along with a good suit, dress watch, and leather purse or briefcase. Thanks to the Marvel branding, it comes across as a hip and edgy present instead of an old and stuffy one.

About CROSS Fine Writing Instruments

ROSS has always championed the pursuit of greatness. From the spark that inspires a passion, to the hard work and creativity needed to make it happen. It takes courage and a lot of heart, but those who take this path are the ones who make their mark on this world.

CROSS was established in 1846 and to this day, receiving a CROSS fine writing instrument is a symbol of achievement, accomplishments, and human potential, all while being a luxury fine writing instrument. CROSS seeks to provide those possessing extraordinary vision and a strong entrepreneurial spirit with the tools needed to make their mark. CROSS will always continue to be the #WriteGift for recognizing the deserving moments in anyone's life from a job promotion, to marriage, to graduation… Who is deserving in your life?

About the CROSS Marvel Series

CROSS fine writing instruments teamed up with Marvel to launch a series of Super Pens featuring the most prominent icons in the Marvel universe, Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider Man.

The pens are available in two styles. First the brand’s evolutionary Century II series finished in a high-gloss lacquer and includes a collectible, character-specific romance card (MSRP $150 USD.) And the second is the Tech2 series, which transforms from a ballpoint pen to a stylus in a flash (MSRP $45 USD.) Both styles endow users with the “superpower” of expression via a fine writing instrument.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post. Product information (in italics) was provided by Cross Writing Instruments via Xomad. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Mabels Labels introduces Summer Camp Label Packs for 2016

Mabels Labels Summer Camp Label Packs

Summer is almost here! This is my kids' last week of school, and starting next week they'll be off on their summer adventures. We have a few trips planned, as well as soccer, cooking, and dance camps. They'll be putting away their school backpacks, and taking out their suitcases, sleeping bags. Of course, they'll be keeping their lunch boxes and water bottles! That's a lot of equipment!

If your kids are anything like mine, they tend to lose a lot of stuff. They drop jackets, caps, water bottles and other things by the wayside, and once they're out of sight, they're out of mind. My kids move on to the next thing, and their stuff is forgotten. And if you're anything like I am, it drives you mad!!  I'm constantly reminding my kids that I paid tons of money for their gear and threatening to make them pay for it out of their allowance. Of course, they couldn't afford it, so the next best thing for my sanity is to label everything to lessen the chance that my kids' stuff stays lost forever. I label everything -- not just clothing, but also pencils, scissors, reusable containers (and their lids!), etc..

Which brings me to Mabels Labels. I've been a fan of their labels for a long time -- which is exactly how long their labels last. I can't think of a time when I've had to peel off a fading or cracked Mabels Labels label and replaced it with a new one. This summer, Mabels Labels is offering 2 new combo packs specifically designed for kids' summer camp needs:

Day Camp Label Pack
Contains 16 Mini Custom Name Stickers, 21 Tag Mates Stick On Clothing Labels, 2 Custom Shoe Stickers, and 2 Personalized Bag Tags (41 labels for $19.99). Perfect for kids heading to day camp! The labels are UV resistant and waterproof.

Sleepaway Camp Label Pack
Sleepaway camp requires a lot more stuff, so this pack has larger quantities of the labels you will need to make sure you kids' stuff comes back home. Contains 10 Personalized Name Stickers, 24 Mini Custom Name Stickers,  50 Tag Mates Stick On Clothing Labels, 8 Custom Shoe Stickers, and 2 Personalized Bag Tags (102 labels for $39.99).

Mabels Labels also makes customized disposable emergency bracelets (pack of 30 for $21) so that kids with allergies or other conditions will always have contact information and medical information on hand. These are also great for days out at theme parks or the beach (whether they are with a camp group or with the family!).

Mabels Labels let me pick out and personalize a Day Camp Label Pack and a Sleepaway Camp Label Pack, and I can't wait for them to arrive! It takes less than a minute to order and personalize labels -- just type in your name (you can personalize a second line on your labels with a phone number, camp cabin number, etc...), choose your label colors and designs, and choose your font.
Mabels Labels Summer Camp Label Packs

There are a ton of designs (make sure you check out their limited-time summer camp themed designs!) and colors, so your child gets a label that matches their interests and personality.
Mabels Labels Summer Camp Label Packs

Stay tuned, I'll post photos of our new labels when they arrive!

Order your Mabels Labels Summer Camp Label packs ASAP, because they're only here for a limited time!

Disclosure:I received complimentary camp label packs to facilitate my review. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Win a trip to Australia from a2 Milk®

Sydney Australia

This post was sponsored by a2 Milk® as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

Have you ever been to Australia? My husband Alfie lived in Australia for five years, and he loved every minute of his time there. He says the weather is great and the people are so nice.  I know he misses sailing around Sydney Harbour, eating lunch near the Opera House, relaxing by Bondi Beach. He keeps telling me that we need to visit! I'm a total travel hound, so I couldn't agree more, but the reality is that tickets to Australia are expensive, and with five of us in the family, we're going to have to move Sydney back a couple of places on our bucket list until the kids are in college and we can go off on our own. But a girl can dream, can't she?

Speaking of Australia, I'm excited to share with you an exciting sweepstakes from the folks at the a2 Milk Company™! I was named an a2 Milk® Ambassador a couple of months ago, and it has been great because not only did we get to try their milk (which tastes great and is great for sensitive tummies), I got the scoop on the prize: they are giving away a vacation for 2 to Australia! The winner will receive a five (5) night trip for two (2) with round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, and $750 towards food and other expenses. The grand prize winner will be selected on or about Thursday, August 11, 2016.

a2 Milk

So why Australia?  a2 Milk® uses cows based in the USA, but originated in Australia. I guess the destination is kind of a nod to the original herd! And why are these cows so special? Because unlike most other herds of cows, they produce milk that is naturally free from the A1 protein, which is the culprit behind "Post-Dairy Digestive Discomfort". What this all means is that a2 Milk® is perfect for people who experience tummy troubles or Post-Dairy Digestive Discomfort, but still want to enjoy real cows' milk, not some milk substitute! You can read more about it in my original a2 Milk® post or on the a2 Milk® Microsite at

Obviously only one very lucky person is going to win that trip to Down Under, but you're still in luck, because the a2 Milk Company™ is giving you the chance to try a2 Milk® for free! They're offering the first 1000 respondents to redeem their receipts for the full purchase price of a2 Milk®.  To find out how, go to the a2 Milk® Microsite at

Disclosure: This is a compensated post.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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A Prom Drinking Guide for Parents

Don't worry, dear reader; that's sparkling apple juice in the kids'  champagne flutes!

One of the most wonderful things about seeing kids grow is seeing how they change their minds. That ability to adapt is how they end up discovering favorite new foods, taking up new hobbies, and making new friends.  Of course, that ability to adapt can also be challenging for parents as they are exposed to ideas and habits that clash with the values that we as parents are trying to instill in our kids.

Take drinking, for instance. The Pea is 15, and she tells me, "Mom, I hate the taste of alcohol! You don't ever have to worry about me drinking!".  That could well be true, but given her recent turnarounds, I'm not going to take that as gospel truth:

Two years ago: I hate jeans. I can't move in them and I can't breathe in them.
Two days ago: I need more jeans. They're all I wear!

Two years ago: I can't drive an Autopia car without crashing into the rails! I'm a terrible driver and I'm never driving, ever.
Two weeks ago: I'll be old enough to get my driver's permit in 6 months! I can't wait!

Two weeks ago: Mom, I hate the taste of alcohol! You don't ever have to worry about me drinking!
Two years from now: ????

She's a freshman, and already some of the parties that her friends have been invited to have featured alcohol. What's it going to be like when she goes to prom in just a few years?  I think it's never too early to start talking to your kids about topics like alcohol, underage drinking, or drinking and driving.  Want some tips to get your conversation started? Check out the Prom Drinking Guide that I wrote in partnership with SheKnows and Anheuser-Busch, and check out Anheuser-Busch's Family Talk About Drinking initiative on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Sick Just Got Real

When you've got little ones running and screaming all over the house, sometimes it feels as if there's nothing more you want in the world than for them to stop.... until they get sick, and they actually do stop.  Sickness is probably the only thing that would get your perpetual bundles of motion to stop, and then you're so worried about them, you'll do anything to get them back to their normal, loud, crazy selves.

As part of their new Sick just got real.™ campaign, the pediatric brands of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare asked me to share some of my stories about parenting a sick child. Boy, do I have stories! With three kids, how could I not?  Kid delirious with fever? Check. Kid coughing up blood? Check. Kid vomiting into mom's hands? Check. Kid projectile vomiting like a demon from The Exorcist?  Check.

If you're a parent, I'm sure you've been there and you have similar (or worse) horror stories to share about taking care of a sick child. Instead, I'm going to share a story about a child taking care of a sick parent.

One of my sweetest memories of Jammy's babyhood is the time I came down with strep throat, along with 3Po and The Pea. Alfie was at work, and the three of us were burning up with fever. Jammy was the only one who was well enough to play. Actually, he was the only person who was well enough to get out of bed! He spent the day watching tv and playing quietly at my bedside. I felt terrible, both physically and emotionally; I was wracked with guilt that I couldn't take care of my kids.

At one point during the day, The Pea began crying weakly for something to eat. I could barely lift my head, let alone crawl downstairs to prepare anything.  Wouldn't you know it, Jammy took it upon himself to go downstairs and get some cereal for his big sister. He couldn't have been more than two or three years old, and there he was, taking care of us. He carried a box of cereal and a plastic bowl upstairs (he wasn't old enough to open the fridge and pour milk). My heart swelled up with love and pride for my little trooper. He was the best little nursemaid ever!
Is your child coming down with something? Is your heart breaking to see them suffer?  You are not alone! Visit the Sick just got real.™ website to check out virus outbreaks in your location, get tips for dealing with sickness, and learn which of Pfizer's products -- Infants’ and Children’s Advil®, Children’s Robitussin®, and Children’s Dimetapp®. -- can give your child some relief from their symptoms.

Gift Card Giveaway

One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will receive a $25 gift card! Share a story about parenting when your child is sick for a chance to win. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below by April 30, 2016. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a gift card from Pfizer Consumer Healthcare for my participation in this campaign. The giftcard for the giveaway was also provided by Pfizer. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Rainy Day Monster Jam: a completely new and awesome experience

The photo below was taken the very first time the kids went to Monster Jam. It was crazy to see how tiny they were compared to the gigantic Monster trucks!  That was seven years ago, and all three kids have grown a lot since then, but they continue to be dwarfed by Monster Jam trucks. For our family, Monster Jam has become something of a family tradition, and when February or March rolls around, you can bet at least one of our kids is going to ask, "When is Monster Jam coming back to town?".
Monster Jam

Fortunately, the Bay Area has a huge Monster Jam fan base, so they usually visit the area at least once a year.  Last weekend we went to Monster Jam at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, we had the time of our lives. The kids were bitterly disappointed when we couldn't attend the last Monster Jam in Oakland, so getting this second chance to attend was such a gift. In fact, it turned out for the best because Levi's Stadium is much nearer our home, and in our opinion, a much nicer stadium (it was the home of Superbowl 50!).

We've been to Monster Jam several times, but amazingly, there always seems to be something new to experience. This time, it rained heavily for almost the entire show, which added a completely new dimension. We got to see the importance of traction for these trucks to do their amazing stunts. With so much rain pouring into the stadium, the field quickly turned into a huge mud pit, making it way more difficult for the trucks to do their high flying leaps and somersaults.

Many of the trucks must have burned their clutches out, trying to get enough speed and power to do their tricks, because they ended up in a smoking heap!

The trucks may not have jumped as far or as high, but getting to see trucks covered in mud, splattering mud everywhere as they revved their engines and turned corners, kind of made up for it. The whole thing turned into a cross between mud wrestling, an off-road race, and a freestyle competition. You can barely see the motorcross riders in the photo below because they are so completely covered in mud!

Also new this year was a donut competition. Trucks would go round and round in circles to see who would make the craziest donuts. One truck did half of his donuts on two wheels!

One of the highlights of the show was a truck who leaped the length of three whole monster trucks! Fireworks went off as the truck flew through the air, and the crowd went crazy.

Levi's Stadium seats 70,000 people, and I was surprised to see people in every single section of the stadium! The place was at least half full. I couldn't believe that Monster Jam could manage to pull so many people on such a miserably rainy day! It just goes to show you that Monster Jam really does have a huge fan base with broad appeal. I saw families, couples, adults of all ages. It really is a show that everyone will love!

Disclosure: As a Feld Family Activator, I received 4 complimentary tickets to the event. All other costs associated with attending the event were incurred at my expense. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Earn Free Nights Quicker with the New and Improved Choice Privileges

Summer is almost here! I can't wait for school to end so we can get to my all-time favorite thing to do: travel. Whether it's a weekend road trip or a month abroad, I love visiting other cities and countries and experiencing new things.

When you travel a lot, loyalty rewards programs can really help you see more new places for less. But some programs take forever to earn the points to get free flights, hotel stays, or cars! It's not always easy to stick to one brand of airline or hotel because there may not be one near the place you want to stay, or one in your budget. That's why programs like Choice Privileges are so great. The Choice Hotels group has over 6,300 hotels around the world, with 11 brands to meet every budget. And now, with their newly revised Choice Privileges Rewards program, earning free nights is quicker and easier than ever!
Here's a rundown on some of the best changes made to the Choice Privileges program:


Earning a free night's stay with the Choice Privileges program is easier and quicker than ever. There are no more blackout dates -- instead, the number of points you need to book a night will vary with the season. Reward nights at Choice Hotels around the world will cost between 6,000-35,000 points per night (except Australasia where you may need up to 75,000 points), and over 1,500 Choice Hotels only require 8,000 points or less!  Finally, you can even use Points Plus Cash (6,000 points plus cash) to book a night!

Earn 10 Points per Dollar

All Choice Hotels now earn 10 points per dollar spent -- including economy and extended stay hotels! Also, members staying at Choice Hotels' economy brands no longer need to stay two consecutive nights to earn points for their stay.

Keep Your Points

As long as members stay active by completing a qualifying activity at least once every 18 months, they get to keep their points.

Extra Rewards

Weekday travelers can earn a special reward — a little something 'extra' — right when they check in. For each qualifying stay that includes at least 1 weekday night (any night Sun. through Thurs.), the member can earn a special reward of their choice.

Members who are residents of the U.S.  can choose from:

  • 500 Choice Privileges points
  • 100 airline miles with participating carriers
  • $0.20 per gallon in Fuel Rewards® savings at Shell or other select fuel stations
  • $2.50 credit
  • $5 coffee card

Non-U.S.-based members can choose from::

  • 500 Choice Privileges points
  • 100 airline miles with participating carriers
That's a lot of incentive to stay at a Choice Hotel whenever you travel!  For full information about the new Choice Privileges rewards program, visit

Disclosure: I was awarded bonus Choice Privileges points as a thank you for blogging about the program. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Ways to nurture your child's interest in STEM

photo source: Wikipedia

When it comes to interest in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), my kids are lucky to have had a supportive environment. Both their parents are engineers (Although I don't work in STEM right now, I have a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering and a master's degree in systems engineering. Alfie has a bachelor's degree in computer engineering and has worked in the field for almost 30 years), so numbers come easily to all of us. Being a "math nerd" is not a bad thing, and at this point, all 3 kids show interest and aptitude in science and math.

But if you are a parent who considers themselves "bad" at math, you might be at a loss as to how to nurture your child's interest in STEM fields. You might feel like you can't really help them with their homework (especially starting in middle school) because the math is just too intimidating. You want to encourage them to pursue their interests but don't really know how. If your child is a girl, it might be even more challenging, because you might not know of any role models you can point out (According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs). I've written several posts about ways to get girls more interested in STEM careers,  Here are four things that any parent can do to nurture their child's interest and abilities in science and math:

Invest in toys that encourage open-ended exploration

I can't say enough about building toys like Lego and KNEX. Kids learn how to follow instructions and analyze diagrams. They learn to recognize patterns. They learn how to build things up and break them down. They learn how to figure out solutions when they're stuck. All of these are valuable STEM skills! The benefits add up even more when kids throw away the instruction manual and start to build on their own. They learn how to problem solve -- they learn how to figure out what works and what doesn't, and how to build things to meet their needs.

Get involved in your child's science and math education

If you have the time to volunteer for a science project, seize the opportunity! Show your child that you are interested in math and science. If you can't make it during school hours, don't worry. There are lots of other ways to show your child that you think science and math are cool. Show an interest in their math and science homework. Help him or her brainstorm a project for the science fair. Attend your school's math and/or science night.
cow eye dissection

Make science fun at home

There are so many activities kids and parents can do at home that help build science and math skills. Even something as simple as baking can get kids working on fractions, multiplication, and measuring! One of the most entertaining birthday party activities I ever devised was a building contest. Kids were given toothpicks and marshmallows and told to build the tallest tower possible in a set amount of time. Everyone had a great time! They quickly figured out some of the basics of structural engineering while engaging in friendly competition with their friends.

Encourage your child to join a science club or a competition

A great way to nurture kids' interests in STEM is to sign them up for an afterschool club, a summer camp, or (for older kids) a conference dedicated to STEM, or even a competition. The word "competition" can sound really scary to a kid, and no parent wants to be the pushy parent who forces their kid to compete -- but competitions can be fun, and they don't have to be showstopper events to teach kids valuable lessons. Case in point: I'm the noontime activities coordinator at our local elementary school, and one of our most popular activities is the annual Building Challenge. I pretty much took the marshmallow tower building concept and turned it into a multi-week competition, with different building materials every week. Kids work in teams, so they're learning teamwork as well as the laws of physics! If your school has something like this, by all means encourage your child to join. If your school doesn't, ask your local PTA to help you organize one!

Small school challenges like these are the first step to more serious competitions, and if your child shows like he or she wants to pursue STEM projects on a more serious level, there are many competitions out there. Many grade schools and middle schools have science clubs or robotics clubs that field teams to local competitions. Do you have a budding scientist on your hands? Encourage them to enter the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge!

About the Young Scientist Challenge

The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is the nation’s premier science competition for grades 5-8. Through the program, young inventors have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work closely with a 3M Scientist Mentor, compete for $25,000, and earn the title of “America's Top Young Scientist.”

The mission of the Young Scientist Challenge is to foster a new generation of American scientists at an age when interest in science generally declines. In 2008, Discovery Education teamed up with 3M, one of the world’s most notable innovators – to cultivate the next generation of problem solvers and give students an opportunity to receive mentorship from 3M scientists.

 How the Challenge Works

•Call for entries is currently open through April, 20, 2016. To enter, participants must submit a one-to-two-minute video describing the science behind a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem.

•Judges evaluate the entries through April and May based on creativity, scientific knowledge, persuasiveness and overall presentation. Videos will not be judged on production skills and may be recorded on cell phones or basic digital cameras.

•Ten finalists are announced in the summer. These participants will be challenged to develop their innovations that positively impacts lives (including them, their family, their community or the global population). The students will participate in a mentorship program during which they will get the opportunity to work one-on-one with renowned 3M scientists as their mentors.

•Each finalist will also receive a trip to the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn., to compete at the final event in October 2016

For more information on the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, including submission guidelines, tips from previous winners and complete rules, please visit Submissions will be accepted through April 13, 2016

Disclosure: This is a compensated post.  Information about the Young Scientist Challenge (in italics) was provided by The MOMS. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Color Me Rad 5K -- the perfect family fun run!

I've been on many fun runs over the years, but it's hard to imagine any run more fun than the one we enjoyed last week: the Color Me Rad 5k in San Jose. It was the first fun for everyone else in the family -- Alfie, The Pea, 3Po and Jammy -- but there is no better run to do for your first run, and there is no better run for the whole family to enjoy!

About Color Me Rad

Color Me Rad is loosely based on the Hindu Festival of Colors, otherwise known as Holi. The festive colors used are a sign of winter's end and spring's new beginnings. Or in the case of RAD; the color represents the end of lame runs and the beginning of fun runs.

Start out as clean as a newborn babe, and throughout the run, our volunteers will coat you with liquids, powders, and gels of blue, green, pink, purple, and yellow until your face, shirt, and body come out silkscreened like a tie-dyed hippie on the other side. Each section of the run adds a new explosion of color to your clean, painter's palate until you cross the finish line into a final blitzkrieg of color.

Our family's Color Me Rad experience

We all got up bright and early on Saturday morning and donned our white shirts (because they show the color better!) and race numbers. I had picked up our race packets the day before; each registered runner gets a race number, a waterproof phone case, a tattoo, and a pair of color packets to throw around before or after the race. Each of us brought sunglasses to protect our eyes as well as a cap or bandana to protect our hair. The Pea didn't want to wear anything on her head because she wanted her hair to get colored!
Color Me Rad San Jose 2016

The "fun" part begins even before the "run" part begins! About 10 minutes before start time, everyone gathered in front of a sound stage and did some warm up exercises to some catchy tunes and a DJ announcer. We had a great time following the Zumba instructors on stage, and afterwards, we were rewarded with some color bombs tossed out onto the audience! We got color on ourselves even before the run began!
Color Me Rad San Jose 2016

The run started about 15 minutes late, but other than that, the start was very well organized. Runners started the run in "waves", spaced about 5 minutes apart so that the start wouldn't be too crowded and no one would get trampled. I think they did a great job controlling the start waves.

The course made its way around the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. It was a pretty easy course, on a flat asphalt path with gravel or dirt on each side so runners could go off-road if their knees were giving them trouble. It had rained every day the week before, so in some areas the path was a complete and total mud pit -- so we had the added bonus of enjoying a mud run as well as a color run! We had to run through one area that got our shoes and socks completely soaked, and in some parts of the run, it got difficult to run because of all the mud caked on our shoes, but everyone was in high spirits and it was all in good fun. Time wasn't a big issue since we didn't have timing chips anyway; we weren't there to set any personal records, we were just there to have fun.

As promised, runners/walkers passed through 4 (or was it 5?) color stations where volunteered doused everyone in color. Some stations doused you in powdered color (it's non-toxic, dyed cornstarch and it's safe to inhale in small amounts, but I recommend you hold your breath as you run or walk through!). Everyone absolutely loved it, and my boys actually stopped running and slowed down to a walk in order to make sure that they were completely covered in color!
Color Me Rad San Jose 2016

Two stations used liquid color instead of powdered color, which actually stayed on our shirts better than the powdered color. It was a cold, windy day, so we were freezing for a few moments after the volunteers sprayed us, but we were running, so we quickly warmed back up again.
Color Me Rad San Jose 2016

By the time you reach the finish line, you will be absolutely saturated in color! Not only that, after you cross the finish line, you are given two free color packets (they were generous that day and actually gave every 3 packets each) to add to your shirts, or to douse your friends in as they cross the finish line.
Color Me Rad

Our "after" photo looked quite a bit different from our "before" photo!  We all had a wonderful time. Color Me Rad really is the perfect family run, because it's just a short distance so it's easy to run, and if you don't want to run, you can walk, and with all that color, you have fun every step of the way.
Color Me Rad

Disclosure: I received 4 complimentary entries to Color Me Rad San Jose. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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