A Modern Day Fairy Tale

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thank the Troops with a Simple Tweet with #TreesforTroops {+ a Holiday Giveaway!}

Thanks to FedEx for sponsoring today's post! All thoughts are my own.

When my husband and I were first married, we had absolutely nothing. No savings, no furniture, again nothing. We went out and bought the bare essentials but for the most part our house was pretty sparse. Of course that included Christmas decorations. That first Christmas we were married, we had nothing, and it wasn't really in our budget to go out and buy a tree.

Thankfully, Trees for Troops came to the rescue. This fantastic program provides trees to military families like ours on bases across the US at no cost. Without this program, we would not have had a tree that year at all I'm sure...and when you are far from loved ones over the holiday seasons, those little things are even more important in bringing in the holiday spirit. We have since built up a collection of holiday decor (to include a Christmas tree), but I will forever be grateful to Trees for Troops for helping our family celebrate that first year!

So, what exactly is Trees for Troops? 

FedEx and the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation are once again joining together to make the holidays a little brighter for America’s service members and their families with the Trees for Troops program. www.christmasspiritfoundation.org

o   This year marks the 10th anniversary of the program, which brings together FedEx, the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and tree farmers across America to deliver real Christmas trees to service members stationed across the U.S. and overseas.

o   During the busy weeks leading up to Christmas, FedEx will deliver more than 17,000 live Christmas trees to more than 60 military bases across the U.S. and overseas (Middle East and South Pacific)

o   Trees for Troops is part of FedEx Special Delivery, a nationwide program that supports local organizations by donating transportation services and other assistance to help them fulfill their missions. Since the Trees for Troops program launched in 2005, FedEx has shipped more than 139,000 real Christmas trees to service members and their families

Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? I certainly think so. And this year, FedEx and the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation are asking for your help to spread the holiday cheer.

How can you help?

It's as easy as saying 'thank you' and sending a special holiday greeting as part of the Tag-A-Tree Campaign. Tweet your message from November 18th—November 24th using the hashtag #TreesforTroops, and FedEx will print out your message and place it on one of the 17,000 Christmas trees going to a military family. It's such a simple act and is truly appreciated by those military families receiving the trees!

To celebrate this wonderful program, FedEx is offering one lucky reader a wonderful holiday gift basket valued at $100!!! What's inside? The exact contents will be a surprise, but I can tell you it will be filled with several popular holiday gifts for you to put under your tree! Exciting!! Enter using the Rafflecopter form below!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will be contacted via e-mail after giveaway ends, and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. One entry per household, winning entry will be verified. Odds of winning depend on valid entries received. A Modern Day Fairy Tale is not responsible for prize delivery.

Tunes That Teach {A Rivanna Music CD Review}

**Product received for review. All thoughts are my own.

Our minds are funny things aren't they? For many, things like names and dates, math equations and grammar rules never cease to not stick...but that song you haven't heard in years and years and years? You still know every word! Interesting isn't it? Our brains are better able to remember something set to music than just plain ol' facts. Just take a look at how we learn the alphabet for an example. Music is wonderful for ALL kids, but can be especially great for children like my son with autism and other developmental needs.

Cathy Bollinger and Elly Tucker, the incredible minds behind Rivanna Music saw what a powerful role music played in helping little one's of all abilities learn and have created numerous CDs that do just that. Here is a look at the goals they hoped to accomplish:

  • Songs and rhymes are written in a friendly upbeat way,
  • That they use repetition of sounds (alliteration) and words for supporting maximum reinforcement of concepts
  • Use Multisensory Interactivites for learning in variety of ways.
  • Utilize variety of styles and instrumentation for student with learning disabilities and for traditional learners.
  • They provide clear images of concepts.
  • That we make available written lyrics to visually reinforce key points.
  • That the songs ask questions in a way that helps the child gain confidence.
  • Repeat or re-word concepts and issues.
  • Frequently offer variety of examples from real-life situations.
  • Use music to teach and reinforce important ideas.
  • Have practice exercises available for lessons, in case the student has problems with cerain concepts.
  • Have students with learning disabilities vary their approach to learning using music
  • Pace instruction carefully to ensure clarity, using variety of rhythms and instrumentation
  • Provides and teaches memory associations (mnemonic strategies).
  • Supports one modality of presentation by following it with instruction and then use another modality.
  • Sings and speaks distinctly and at rates that a student with learning and processing difficulties can follow.
  • Uses plenty of examples, musical and movement, in order to make topics more applicable.
  • Presents concepts logically, one at a time
  • Encourages students to work with others , if possible to increase social reinforcement
  • Incorporates cross-age presentations and voices for modeling purposes
For this review, I received two of their fun CDs, 'Toddlin' Tunes' and 'My Turn, Your Turn'.

First up, Toddlin' Tunes: A Singalong with Cathy Bollinger. I absolutely adored this! Have you ever noticed that in some children's CDs the singers are well...a little annoying? Absolutely not true here! Cathy's voice is absolutely beautiful. The songs may be for kids, but I still enjoyed listening myself. This CD featured some great classics as we all know and love them like The Muffin Man or Hickory Dickory Dock, along with some modified versions of the classics like Happy and You Know It. I particularly loved the adapted version of Patty Cake- already a favorite in our home, but made even more fun!! In addition to the classics were some great originals from Cathy. We pparticularlyloved Uh-Oh! There were so many great songs- from those that were fun for play to those that iincorporatedfun lessons like cleaning up, sharing and saying please and thank you. It was truly no wonder that it was named as a A 2005 Parents Choice Silver Award Winner! This is a great CD for every toddler!

Next up, My Turn Your Turn...and I loved this one even more! Teaching a child with autism can be a little more complicated than teaching typically developing children. Skills that come naturally to most of us are a challenge. Skills like eye contact and making conversation are skills that naturally just come as we develop. For those with Autism, it's not quite that easy. Kids like my son actually have to be taught these skills through modelling and repetition. He had to be taught how he was expected to answer a simple question like, 'What color shirt are you wearing?' or 'Do you like pizza?' Even now at 7 years old, though he has come very far, Shaun struggles with these interactions. He often forgets that not everyone shares his interests or wants to hear about them nonstop. The songs on this CD perfectly address all of these issues. They serve as a reminder on how to respond to questions, to remember good eye contact, to have mutual two-sided conversations...and they do so beautifully. The songs are fun and catchy so I know my son will remember them easily too! He can and will still benefit from these even now, but I would have LOVED to have had the CD a few years ago too! There's now even an available companion book as well!

Perhaps my absolute favorite song on the CD is 'Everyone Has Strengths To Be Proud Of'. More than anything, this is a lesson I have tried to teach Shaun. Though he struggles with communication and social skills, he has many great skills working in his favor. He has an incredible memory, is a great reader and is just amazing at science and math. I love that he has this little song to help remind him just how truly great he is and that he should always be proud of himself.

If you have a little one with Autism, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Rivanna Music and seeing everything they have to offer. These are truly great songs that can make teaching our little ones these important social skills so much easier. And when you're raising a child with autism, anything that makes things a little bit easier is a great thing! And these aren't just great for home, but school too!!

These are just two of the great albums available from Cathy Bollinger and Rivanna Music. You can see more fun selections and find useful resources at their website.

Which CD from Rivanna Music would you love for the little one in your life?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Treetopia's 'We've Got A Tree For That' Pinterest Contest

Thanks to Treetopia for sponsoring today's post! All thoughts are my own.

I absolutely, positively LOVE decorating for the holidays! Beautiful wreaths, shimmering lights, and of course the tree!! There is something about a Christmas tree that can turn any room into a magic wintry wonderland.

Growing up, our family always had a themed tree...From Santa to patriotic, it was always something fresh and interesting. Now as a grown up, I STILL love a great themed tree...and no matter what look you decide to go for, Treetopia has the ideal tree to fit your vision. Seriously, from classic green to white to bright pink...there is something to match every style, throughout the year! To celebrate the variety of trees available, Treetopia has something special in store: the We've Got A Tree For That Pinterest Contest!!

Ready to enter? Here's how:

1. Follow Treetopia on Pinterest by clicking “Follow All.”

2. Choose from our list of popular seasons, holidays, and celebrations: New Year Valentine’s Day  Easter  St. Patrick’s Day Summer Christmas in July Independence Day/Memorial Day/Veteran’s Day  Halloween Fall/Thanksgiving Christmas

3. Create a Pinterest board entitled “[Name of Chosen Holiday] Decorating Ideas” (i.e. Thanksgiving Decorating Ideas).

4. Pin your favorite colored tree from the Treetopia website, and include your ideas on how to decorate it for your chosen holiday.

5. Include the hashtag #TreetopiaHolidays on your board and pins.

6. Fill in the form on the Treetopia Facebook page to complete your entry.

Only one (1) entry is allowed per person and per Pinterest account. Voting is limited to one person or email address per day. Votes will be cast on the Treetopia Facebook Page through a Third Party Contest Poll Application.

Winner Selection

1. After the submission period, Treetopia shall determine the 25 best entries based upon the following criteria: (a) board aesthetics, (b) creativity in using Treetopia trees for holiday decorating, and (c) overall board concept. These 25 entries will be the finalists.

2. The top 10 Pinterest boards with the most number of votes by the end of the voting period will enter a final judging by Treetopia. The top three (3) best overall entries will be declared the winners.

And of course I know you're all wondering about the prizes!! The first prize winner will receive a $300 Treetopia Gift Card, second place receives $200 gift card and third place receives a $100 gift card!! That will certainly help in making those pinworthy ideas a reality, right?

You can find the full contest rules here.

How will YOU decorate your perfect Treetopia tree?

Helping Kids Understand Jesus with the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook {A Family Christian Review & Giveaway}

**Product received for review.

It should come as no surprise by now that my son Shaun absolutely loves his Bibles. He has acquired quite the little collection of Bible storybooks by now...6-7 at my last count. To be honest,in my eyes many of them are pretty much the same- different illustrations perhaps but the stories are pretty well the same. Still for whatever reason he loves them all for different reasons. But now, as I look at Bible storybooks for him, I'm looking for something that will set it apart from the rest. So, when I saw the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook, I knew it fit the bill. Let's take a look:

In the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook, parents and children will love reading through the Bible and seeing God's exciting plan unfold. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die for our sins and made a plan for us to live forever with Him.

From creation to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to the apostles and the early church, Jesus has always been present with those who trust Him. This book by Jesus Calling author Sarah Young helps children understand Jesus' role throughout the Old Testament, the New Testament and their lives today. The stories will teach little ones about the Bible and the devotions will lead them to an early and close walk with Jesus.

First and foremost, I was drawn in by the beautiful artwork. Seriously...stunning! Next, the stories. They too were beautifully written. They told those great Bible stories we all know and love in a way that was both easy to read and easier for little ones to understand. Each story was broke down into a short 4-5 page section (sometimes shorter). This is great for kids who might not have a great attention span like my son (or most young kids) and also made it an ideal selection for bedtime stories...just the right length- even when they ask for 'just one more'. There was even a built in bookmark to make it easy to pick up on the next story too! All this on its own would have been enough to make it a pretty awesome storybook all on its own, but its certainly not what set it apart. What REALLY sets this one apart from all the rest are the devotionals. These devotionals are written from the perspective of Jesus, speaking directly to the reader. There is something really powerful about that isn't it?

As you all know, my son has a diagnosis of autism. Like many with autism, he is quite the literal thinker. Though we've talked about prayer and talking to God/Jesus, I'm honestly not quite sure how much of that he really understands about it. God can be a bit of a hard concept to grasp in general for some kids, but I think particular so for those whose minds work like my sons. He does much better with a visual representation. For him, I thought these devotionals were a wonderful tool. Here was a visual of Jesus talking to him..something more concrete and easier for him to grasp...and isn't that something all kids need? Something to make understanding such huge things like the Bible and Jesus just a little easier? For us, Jesus Calling Bible Storybook was ideal.

Want to pick up a copy for a little one in your life? Great news! It is currently available at Family Christian for 50% off! (And be sure to check out the great deal on ALL Jesus Calling books.) You can see more of what Family Christian has to offer and connect at the links below:

Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FamilyChristian 
Follow on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/familychristian/ 
Like on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FamilyChristian?ref=bookmarks 
Follow on Tumblr: http://family-christian.tumblr.com 
Follow on Instagram: http://instagram.com/familychristian

And one very lucky reader is going to win a $25 Appreciation Certificate from Family Christian! Enter using the Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will be contacted via e-mail after giveaway ends, and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. One entry per household, winning entry will be verified. Odds of winning depend on valid entries received. A Modern Day Fairy Tale is not responsible for prize delivery.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christmas Shopping on Budget

Christmas time is quickly approaching, and I could not be more excited! I absolutely love everything about the holidays! The music, the decorations, the shopping...but my budget? Not so open to taking such a holiday hit! Thankfully, I have found many ways to help save during the holidays! Are you looking to shop on a budget? Here are a few quick tips that have helped me out:

Start Early.
Once the holiday shopping season starts, the stores are more crowded and the deals go a lot faster! Beat the holiday rush by shopping throughout the year. Many toys actually go on clearance right after the holidays...and again towards the end of summer to clear out for new toys for the holidays!! I personally start checking for sales come January. I shop for birthdays first (my kids' birthdays are in August), and once I've finished shopping for that, I immediately move on to Christmas. By looking throughout the year, not only are you able to find great deals, but you are also spacing out your spending so your budget it taking less of a hit at one time.

Enter Giveaways.
Giveaways can be a great way to have the chance to win some amazing holiday gifts. I personally love gift card giveaways for this, as they allow me to purchase whatever we need, but have found many great toy/dvd/book giveaways that make amazing gifts as well. It's not guaranteed, of course, but if you're lucky enough to win, this can be a great way to stretch your holiday budget further!

Black Friday.
I like to try to have the bulk of my holiday shopping done BEFORE Black Friday, but let's be honest...the sales are WONDERFUL! If you're brave enough to fight the crowds, it's certainly a great way to get great gifts and a great price! Don't want to brave the stores? Some stores offer Black Friday prices online as well!

Price Match.
Find a great deal, but your store is out of stock? Price matching at a different store can be a great option! Walmart and Best Buy are both great for this, and can reduce your gas usage by allowing you to shop in one store as well. Personally, when possible, I love price matching at Best Buy...we get great prices AND earn points as reward members! Which leads us to...

Rewards Programs.
Best Buy, Sears, KMart, Toys R Us...these are just a few great stores that offer great rewards programs that allow you to earn money back for the purchases you make! Thanks to a wonderful Kmart/Sears promotion last year, I was able to get back nearly what I spent as a Shop Your Way Rewards member! This made for great FREE gifts!!

Coupons/Coupon Apps.
We mostly think of coupons for food, but there are great toy coupons available as well. Target is my favorite when it comes to coupons! Their holiday toy add included some wonderful coupons that allowed me to get the most for my money AND their Cartwheel app has been amazing this holiday season. Each day they offer one toy for a whopping 50% off!! Awesome! If there is a store you shop at frequently, be sure to get on their mailing list. Gymboree and Osh Kosh B'Gosh send out great coupons often which are good not only for holiday shopping but throughout the year as well (we all know how quickly kids grow!). Some stores like Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works even send out coupons for FREE products (with or without purchase!).

The rest of these tips focus on getting the best deals in store, but making your own gifts can be another great money saver- and a great way to show someone how much you care! Not crafty? That's okay! Bake cookies, buy an inexpensive mug and add a hot cocoa mix, take a photo of your little ones and frame it for the grandparents! The possibilities are endless!

What tips do YOU have for Christmas shopping on a budget?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Giving Thanks When It's Not Easy

Had you told me one year ago today that in one year, my husband would be out of the military and living the civilian life, I would never believed it. That was never the plan. The plan had always been for my husband to stay in 20 years then retire. At 11 years, he was already over half there. Being so close to that goal, I never imagined that he wouldn't be given the chance to see that through. And yet, here we are today...one of many families who found themselves changing plans thanks to downsizing in the military.

To say that these past few months have been a little rough have been an understatement. Military life was by no means ever easy, but it was a life that we had grown accustomed to and enjoyed. It may not have made us millionaires, but it provided everything our family needed- a paycheck, a roof over our heads and health insurance too. The idea of losing that? Very scary. Being a person who has always struggled with severe anxiety anyway, this time has truly tested my strength.

And now we've reached November, the time of year when everyone stops to remember what they are thankful for. To be honest, it would be very easy to feel less than thankful this year, wouldn't it? I mean we literally had our entire life plan turned upside down. And honestly, even now as I've had time to deal with it, it still stinks.

But its not the end of the world. As stressful and uncertain as things have been lately, we are still beyond blessed. So rather than focus on what could have been, this year (and always) I try to focus more on those good things. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

  • I am thankful that my husband was given a substantial separations bonus that helped us pay off our vehicles and help keep us on our feet for awhile.
  • I am thankful to be living in a place we love, just a short distance from our friends and family.
  • I am thankful that my husband has been given the opportunity to follow another dream of his- and is currently studying to be an automotive technician.
  • I am thankful that his schooling is not only completely payed for, but that it also gives him a housing allowance to help with our bills.
  • I am thankful for the new job he found-in the automotive field- that he begins on Monday- a job that he is excited about and that will work around his school schedule!
  • I am thankful for this blog and all of the opportunities it has brought me in the past year.
  • I am thankful that it's almost Christmas- my most favorite time of the year. I cannot help but be filled with joy at Christmas!
  • I am thankful for the chance to stop renting and buy a home- something we could not do while in the military!
  • I am thankful that my daughter will never know the difficulty of deployments.
  • I am thankful that we will no longer have to worry about frequent moves, something that is hard on everyone- but especially hard for a child like my son with autism.
  • I am thankful to have a family I love, who can make it through anything.

I know, it's much easier to be thankful when things are going our way, but isn't it more important to take the time to be thankful when they're NOT? Wherever you are this Thanksgiving season...whether life is peachy or you're barely getting by, remember there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. It may be small, and it may be hard to see, but it's always there.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like #Fluffmas {A Charlie Banana Giveaway!}

Welcome to the FluffMas Giveaway Hop hosted by the Blogging Mamas Network! Each blogger in this hop has a fabulously festive and fluffy prize for you, so be sure to hop around to them all and don't miss the fantastic Grand Prize featuring Buttons DiapersBalm Baby, and SprayPal! You can enter to win the FluffMas Grand Prize here.

A huge thanks to Charlie Banana for sponsoring today's giveaway!

When we think Christmas, we so often think toys...toys, toys, TOYS! But who says Christmas has to be just about the toys- why not consider some more practical, eco-friendly options? Like Cloth Diapers!! I know, I know...diapers for Christmas? But I can tell you as a cloth diapering mom, I certainly would have appreciated it...my kids get soooo many toys for the holidays that quite honestly, it gets a little overwhelming...and as infants, it seems many get played with only very briefly. Cloth diapers are a great option- they're reusable from birth to potty training, save mom and dad a ton of money, and well, they're absolutely positively ADORABLE!

Throughout this year, I have had the opportunity to share many wonderful cloth diaper companies with all of you. We've seen all in ones, all in twos and of course pockets...and you all have seemed to love each and every one of them. There was however one company that seemed to stick out above the rest: Charlie Banana!

When I posted my review of their fantastic One Size Diapers, the response was crazy! In fact, the accompanying giveaway was by far the most popular giveaway I've shared so far! Honestly though I can't blame you, they were wonderful...and adorable diapers! You can find out all the wonderful features we loved in my original review right here.

And after several months of use, I have to say I am still in love with them. After many, many uses and washes, they still look like new! The fit is still great, elastics still tight and absorbency still absorbing. They have remained one of our top choices in our stash. They truly have one of the best designs of all the cloth diaper options available, in our opinion! Of course the adorable patterns don't hurt either...even after the patriotic summer months have passed, they still look adorable!

But as much as I loved the Project Save Child and Americano diapers featured in that post, there was perhaps another set I loved even more. The Fluffy Love 3-Pack. This adorable set is all about sharing our love of cloth. I'm certainly not the only one who loved this set...it was the overwhelmingly top pick when asked your favorites!! I mean seriously, how could you NOT love it?

So, I was thrilled when Charlie Banana offered to allow one VERY lucky reader the chance to win this super amazing cloth diaper 3-pack in the Fluffmas Giveaway Event! I'll admit, I'm going to be a little jealous of the winner!!

You can find out more and see all the cloth diapers available from Charlie Banana at the links below:

Visit the Website.
Like on Facebook.

Follow on Twitter.

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will be contacted via e-mail after giveaway ends, and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. One entry per household, winning entry will be verified. Odds of winning depend on valid entries received. A Modern Day Fairy Tale is not responsible for prize delivery. So Easy Being Green, Viva Veltoro, the Blogging Mamas Network, and the FluffMas participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations.