Hickies Never Tie Laces

hickiesbHate tying your kids’ shoes everyday before they step out of the house? Hate stopping to tie your own shoes mid-run? HICKIES products turn any pair of sneakers into convenient, comfortable, and stylish slip-ons that are perfect for any activity from recess play to Mom and Dad’s triathlons. https://www.hickies.com/


Works in any shoe with eyelets.

One size fits all.

Elastic material keeps shoes secure and comfortable.

Never tie again! Play uninterrupted.

Fun look, without messy knots and bows.

Adjustable tightness.

Quick and easy – simply slip on and off.

Never tie, never worry. @Hickies Never Tie Laces on hickies.com 25% off w/ code USFAM now thru Sept. 20th! http://usfamilyguide.com/coupon.php?bid=13107&dealid=3026 .@

ASCENDERS by C.L. Gaber: perfect summer reading for moms or young adults


“Paranormal romance” isn’t usually my thing, but this one sounded appealing, so I dove right in.


Walker Callaghan doesn’t know what happened to her. One minute she was living her teenage life in suburban Chicago.Ascenders Updated..and the next minute, she was in a strange place and in a brand new school with absolutely no homework, no rules, and no consequences.

Walker Callaghan, 16, is dead.

She doesn’t go to Heaven or Hell. She lands at The Academy, a middle realm where teenagers have one thing in common: They were that morning announcement at their high schools because they died young.

These high school kids are now caught in a strange “in-between” zone where life hasn’t changed very much. In fact, this special teen limbo looks a lot like life in a quaint Michigan town complete with jocks, popular girls and cliques. “There are even cheerleaders in death,” Walker observes. It’s not a coincidence that the music

teacher is a guy named Kurt who “used to have this band.” The drama teacher, Heath, is crush worthy because back in his life, he starred in some superhero movie as the Joker.

Principal King explains the rules — there are none. Why? You can’t die twice.

There is no homework.

No tests.


You’re just there to learn because the human brain isn’t fully formed until you’re 24. By the way, you can’t get hurt physically, so race your Harley off that hillside. But falling in love is the most dangerous thing you can do …because no one knows how long you’ll stay in this realm or what’s next. Walker falls hard for tat-covered, bad boy Daniel Reid who is about to break the only sacred rule of this place. He’s looking for a portal to return back to the living realm.

Ascenders….An epic adventure of an after-life time.

Ascenders: High School for the Recently Deceased (Ascenders Saga) (Volume 1) was a very enjoyable, quick, light read, and I had a great time with it. As someone who remembers the 90s very well, I felt a few of the hints dropped were glaring and heavy, and I found myself wondering how our hero, Walker, could POSSIBLY have failed to realize that her new town is populated entirely by the dead… but then I remembered that this is aimed at an audience that thinks of the 90s as the “olden days,” as far removed from them as the Vietnam War or the discovery of the Americas, and I realized that the text cues are probably dead on for the genre.

I hesitate to describe a story about life after death as “believable,” since I have absolutely no personal experience against which to compare it- and I sincerely hope that you don’t, either- but the interactions between characters in Ascenders felt natural. The descriptive passages are vivid and set the stage for the action perfectly, and CL Gaber does a particularly good job, I think, with portraying the relationship between Walker and her mother. I won’t tell you exactly what happens that makes me say so (spoilers, sweetie!) but as a mom, I frequently find it glaringly obvious when an author trying to get into the workings of that relationship is not a mom. (Nothing against people who aren’t moms. But the intensity of being a mom is something that it’s hard to write, I think, if you haven’t lived it.)

I would not hesitate to allow a teen- even a young teen- to read this book. It touches on subjects like sex, hormones, smoking, and drugs, but not in a way that I don’t think is appropriate for a YA novel. I don’t think anything in this book (again, without spoiling it for you) would advance a teen’s knowledge beyond their years, or handled in a way that should make a sensitive teen uncomfortable. Unlike many of the things our kids adore that make us want to poke out our eyes (Not to name any names, but say, anything that rhymes with SignRaft), reading this book, either to check its appropriateness for your particular child, or so you’ll be able to discuss it with them after they’ve read it, is no punishment at all. It will be right at home next to your deck chair or in the hammock, or even waiting for the action at spring sports practice.

ASCENDERS (Ascenders 1) by CL Gaber

YA Paranormal Romance/Fantasy

Goodreads | Amazon | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

Is this Hell or is this High School?

THE ASCENDERS Takes You To the In-between Where Teens Who Died Young Go On the Epic Adventure of an After-Lifetime.

For more information check out the ASCENDERS website HERE!

 “A unique twist on the paranormal that will keep you up all night reading.”-USA Today best selling author Tiffany KingAscenders---RT-Banner


a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author:


C.L. Gaber is the co-author of the bestselling YA novel “Jex Malone.”

She is also an entertainment journalist, syndicated worldwide through the New York Times Syndicate. She interviews A-lister movie, TV and music stars for the Chicago Sun-Times. A movie-loving kid in Chicago, she grew up to earn a degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. Now she lives Nevada with her husband Ron, once her high school boyfriend; her stepdaughter, Sabrina; and their dogs, Colt and Georgie.

Website http://www.clgaber.com/ | Facebook

Rainy Day Game Fun Giveaway ends 5/6

Rainy Day Game Fun Giveaway

Hosted by: Savory Savings

Co-hosted by: Michigan Saving & More  and Joy Makin’ Mamas

Sponsored by:  Winning Moves USA

Winning Moves Rainy Day Game Giveaway April 22 - May 6

They say April showers bring May flowers, but what does it do for stir crazy kiddos (and their parents!)?  Well end the chorus of “I’m BORED!” by handing your kiddos this fun pack of games from Winning Moves and end the rainy day boredom blues!  Krista over at Savory Savings and her family loves to play board games no matter the weather and think you will love these games for sure!

Continue reading Rainy Day Game Fun Giveaway ends 5/6

Smile Brilliant Review & #Giveaway ends 4/29

This is a stock image. I photographed mine when it came, but I didn’t turn all the jars so the letters were the right way up, and I love you guys too much to subject you to that. This is the product, showing the tray-making kit you’ll receive, the trays themselves, and the syringes of gel as well.

Ah, tax time. For some reason, every year around now I start really scrutinizing our household’s financial health and asking myself if I’m really making smart decisions. I don’t know about your insurance plan, but my dental insurance covers routine cleanings and most of any necessary dental work like fillings. For anything that is deemed “cosmetic,” we are on our own. Which is fine, except that a white smile really changes your whole appearance. If your teeth are stained, it can make you look dull and feel unhappy with yourself. My dentist recommends whitening treatments as a matter of course, and I completely understand why. It makes a HUGE difference in people’s smiles. But the price tag is… let’s just say YIKES.

I’m probably not alone when I say, “going to the dentist is not my favorite thing.” I don’t see any improvement in that feeling coming if I also have to leave all of our disposable income there, so when I was contacted by Smile Brilliant and asked if I’d like to review their whitening system- which uses the same process and ingredients as the one my dentist recommends, but at less than half the price, I was happy to say “yes.”

Making my Smile Brilliant trays Joy Makin' Mamas review
My impressions, right before I hid them from those meddling kids.

The process of ordering your kit and creating your trays is very easy and painless. I didn’t have to find a sitter, even. I was able to just follow the directions and mix up the putty while my kids were occupied with homework and toys. It didn’t take long to make the impression. The hardest part was keeping them away from the kids while they set up so I could send them back in the provided, postage paid envelope. My trays came back very quickly and they fit perfectly.

My trays have arrived with a friend Smile Brilliant Joy Makin' Mamas reivew
My contact at Smile Brilliant had them send me my plaster teeth. He promises they’ll keep yours. I’m thinking of naming mine, and using them in our Halloween Decor.

I know the SOP* for a review of a teeth whitening product would be for me to show you some close up photos of my teeth, but… remember when I said just now that the whole “dentist” thing is something that doesn’t exactly thrill me? Yeah. I don’t want to look at photos of my teeth, and I don’t really think you want to either. I’ve compared what I received with the samples displayed at my dentist office. I tried out the product and I tested the ordering process, and I feel I can say without qualification that Smile Brilliant offers the same product my dentist does at a fraction of the time, trouble, and cost. I’ll save the sitter for my regular cleanings. Or better yet, for doing something FUN.

*Standard Operating Procedure. AKA, the things I rarely do.

Visit Smile Brilliant and save 5% on your purchase using the coupon code joytroupe, or enter below to win a starter set.

smile brilliant giveaway ends 4/30 Joy Makin' Mamas

Enter to win your own Smile Brilliant Starter kit!

One winner will receive a $139.95 credit to the Smile Brilliant store to apply toward their purchase of a teeth whitening system. (That’s enough to get you a set of custom fitted trays and six syringes of gel. In other words, plenty to get you started!) Be prepared to pay your own international shipping or for any additional products you select before checkout, and you’re on your way to a nicer smile without leaving the comfort of your home! I hate that I have to mention this, but all entries will be moderated. Deliberate attempts to add false entries will disqualify you from winning. Good luck, and have fun!

***This giveaway is not in any way affiliated with any social media network, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Joy Makin’ Mamas received a copy of this set to facilitate the review. No other compensation has been offered or accepted for the running of this giveaway. Neither Joy Makin’ Mamas nor any other promoting blog is responsible for prize fulfillment. Prize fulfillment is the sole responsibility of our sponsor. Be sure to subscribe to Joy Makin’ Mamas and never miss any of our great giveaways! This post may contain affiliate links that will not increase your cost to order, but will pay me a small commission as a thank you for referring your purchase. Thank you for supporting this blog by using our affiliate links!

Introducing preschool? Plans at your fingertips! Enter by 4/21 @CHALKPreschool

CHALK online preschool landing screen Joy Makin' Mamas Review
CHALK startup page

Nothing makes a little sib feel grown up like big brother or big sister like going to school. My kiddo loves, loves, loves his preschool, but right now he only goes two days a week. Some families find that their kiddo who will start next fall is really ready for a little bit of preschool programming right now, and some families skip formal preschool altogether. Whatever the reason you are looking for educational content for your preschool child, there are a load of options. One of the newest is CHALK Preschool Online. Based on the curriculum they use in their classrooms, the CHALK online classroom has videos (daily lessons and entertainment you can browse) as well as hands on activities and printables that go along with the lessons.

FYI, CHALK has their very own YouTube channel where you can view sample videos like the one below. The video content is professional, upbeat, and free of annoying voices and the nerve wracking, rage inducing, practically tuneless songs that some kids’ videos seem to think are required. (You all know the ones I’m talking about. The ones you want to kill with fire.)

The custom playlist tool allows you to organize videos for your child by topic or to make a playlist for each child based on their skill level within the curriculum. There were too many videos to pick from for me to preview them all. My only criticism here is I wish the playlist function was more user friendly for the child. Switching between playlists is accomplished using a pulldown to select from the names. They are also color coded, once you click the pull down, but I think this method of navigation is very challenging for a pre-reader. A screen with clickable icons would be better. (It’s very intuitive for the parent, however.)
CHALK Preschool Online Custom Playlist Tool

I test drove the CHALK Preschool Online site on my desktop computer (Windows), iPhone, and an Android tablet. My thoughts are:

In the Android web browser, you can use the site fine, but I hope they will release a standalone app soon. Kindle in particular seems to be positioning themselves to have massive market share in educational apps, and they are becoming pretty standard. My preschooler can work more independently in a stand alone app than he can through the web browser, which means less frustration for him, and by extension, for me.

The mobile version of the site is formatted a little better for the iPhone, so it’s a little more user friendly there than it is on the tablet. I, like many people, am not fortunate enough to own an iPad, so I wasn’t able to test it on that device. Basically, aside from a few minor things that make this not a 100% seamless experience in the hands of a preschool aged operator (the one pulldown menu, lack of any way to disable the web browser’s controls to keep him from accidentally exiting the app to the web) this is an excellent tool with very nice educational content.

CHALK preschool online parent dashboard Joy Makin' Mamas Review
The parent dashboard

Some educational programs only offer the kids’ content on mobile and you have to access the parent dashboard on a desktop. CHALK’s parent dashboard is accessible both places. It’s a little easier to use on the desktop, but not too much. My only wish is that the “daily lessons” button on the parent page didn’t go to the same page as the one for the child- I wish it went to an overview page where it explained what the daily lesson is and which activities go alongside it, for instance, instead of just linking directly to the lesson.

Overall, I think this curriculum is a good value for the money, is engaging and attractive to the target age group, and has a deep bench of tie in activities. I would recommend it as a great starter curriculum for at home preschool, or as a supplement to traditional preschool outside the home.

Right now, you can get a two week free trial of CHALK and try it out for yourself. What could be better than that? Well, a chance to win a full year! Enter below. Good luck, I hope you win!CHALK preschool giveaway ends 4/21 by Joy Makin' Mamas

***This giveaway is not in any way affiliated with any social media network, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Joy Makin’ Mamas received a copy of this gift set to facilitate the review. No other compensation has been offered or accepted for the running of this giveaway. Neither Joy Makin’ Mamas nor any other promoting blog is responsible for prize fulfillment. Prize fulfillment is the sole responsibility of our sponsor. Be sure to subscribe to Joy Makin’ Mamas and never miss any of our great giveaways!

Teeth Fairies by Ingrid Bencosme Review & Giveaway ends 4/12

Teeth Fairies by Ingrid Bencosme horizontal

Teeth Fairies A Baby Teeth Tradition Hardcover – Box set, 2015 by Ingrid Bencosme {Aff Link}
Teeth Fairies A Baby Teeth Tradition Hardcover – Box set, 2015 by Ingrid Bencosme {Aff Link}

Part game, part family tradition, part incentive to brush their teeth, your kiddo is sure to love their teeth fairies doll and story no matter how and when you introduce her. (Both of my boys, 7.5 and 3.5, tried to make off with her while I was reading the story book to see what it’s all about! She really is that adorable.)

If you love Dinovember and the Elf on the Shelf or any other whimsical tradition where you get to surprise your child by setting up something cute for them to find, then the Teeth Fairies gift set is DEFINITELY for you. Your child is encouraged to name their very own, special “fairy in training” who will get to be a full fledged fairy at last when she has taken all your child’s baby teeth back to the head Tooth Fairy. (Apparently, they sort them and keep them in jars at the Teeth Fairy headquarters. For what purpose, we humans are not allowed to know.)

Each Teeth Fairy comes with a story book that includes a tooth journal (to keep track of when each tooth was lost and what was left in return.) So while you may be able to re-purpose the box and the doll for subsequent kids, you will need a new copy of the book, unless you enforce the “no writing in a book” rule and copy the two pages that are intended for your child to personalize. (That’s my own plan. I want them to understand that books are special, and need to be cared for, so this will fit right in.)

Every aspect of this set is very attractive and thought out. The inside of the box- including the part hidden by the doll and the book- is covered in a full color illustration. The box is a sturdy cardboard with a wipeable surface and a magnetic closure that is clearly meant to last. The doll and her clothing are well constructed, with embroidered features and firmly attached limbs and durable fabrics. I personally find dolls easily cross over into “creepy” territory- not necessarily a bad thing, by the way- but this one is endearing and sweet.

Whether you want a happy way to discuss losing baby teeth with a nervous kiddo or a way for a grandparent to be involved in the excitement of the tooth fairy tradition, I think this box set is going to make a fine addition to your special occasion collection. The doll and her box are of heirloom quality, so passing her down to family members or friends will be another opportunity to use this box set to build connections between people. Enter to win one of your very own, below!

Teeth Fairies are available on Amazon.com or at the Teeth Fairies Website. Be sure to visit them on Pinterest for lots of fun and whimsical ideas to remind your kids to brush and floss! I think some of these are great fun even if there is no one in your family with a wiggly tooth… in fact I think all future new tooth brushes around here may be delivered by Fairy Express.

Teeth Fairies Box Set Giveaway Ends 4/12

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Co-Hosted by Michigan Savings and More
Teeth Fairies Box Set Joy Makin' Mamas giveaway

***This giveaway is not in any way affiliated with any social media network, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Joy Makin’ Mamas received a copy of this gift set to facilitate the review. No other compensation has been offered or accepted for the running of this giveaway. Neither Joy Makin’ Mamas nor any other promoting blog is responsible for prize fulfillment. Prize fulfillment is the sole responsibility of our sponsor. Be sure to subscribe to Joy Makin’ Mamas and never miss any of our great giveaways!

Teeth Fairies by Ingrid Bencosme A family tradition: #review by Joy Makin' Mamas