The Rainbow Loom Project

Fact: Sweet is turning 7 on Tuesday, and I am not ready!

Probably a Fact: We are the only family in America who hasn’t joined in on the Rainbow Loom / rubber band bracelet phenomenon sweeping the country.

Well, that’s all about to change.

The Rainbow Loom Project - Make bracelets and send them to children in Africa!

Some friends asked me if I wanted to join in on their service project to send a bunch of these awesome bracelets to kids in Ethiopia who’ve never even heard of Rainbow Loom. It took about .024 seconds for me to jump right in feet first. I thought, what a great opportunity and fun way to celebrate Sweet’s birthday! The last thing we need around here now is more toys.

We’ll have friends and family stop by, a few Master Rainbow Loomers on hand to help us out, and several thousand colored bands to get us started. Since we’ve never used a loom before, we are reading up on the matter now and looking for fun tutorials we might want to use on Saturday.

I’ve linked to 14 of our favorite bracelets below, I love that there is something for everyone in here – girls, boys, older kids, beginners, shoot there’s probably one or two in here I can even make!

10 Rainbow Loom Bracelets You Must Try

Make Rainbow Loom bracelets for a birthday party

10 DIY Band Bracelets
Kaleidoscope Bracelet
Starburst Rainbow Bracelet
Circle of Hearts
XO Band Bracelet

Want to know more about the cause?

AHOPE – an organization that provides free assistance, housing, clothing, schooling, medical care, etc. to HIV+ orphans in Ethiopia.  

A Hope for Children - a center in Eithipia that raises orphans born HIV+

AHOPE is currently serving 213 orphans – kids and teens.  Many of them have lost their parents to AIDS.  All of them were born HIV+.  At first, AHOPE was a hospice to provide a nurturing, comfortable setting for the orphans to transition with dignity.  Thanks to medical advances in the last few decades, many of these children are thriving and living to become adults! 

Today, I’m joining Susan from Crafterhours, Ashley Ann from Under the Sycamore, Jenny from The Southern Institute and Jen from Upcycled Education in a Joint Rainbow Loom Project to collect bracelets for kids at AHOPE. Extra bracelets will be given to the community surrounding AHOPE.

Want to help? We hoped you might!

The Rainbow Loom Project - Make bracelets and send them to children in Africa!

1. Get your kids making bracelets and talk to them about what you will do with them and the kids they will be going to.

2. Raise money for a good cause – we’re asking for a monetary donation to be send along with your bracelets. It can be as large or small as you need it to be. I am donating $1 for every bracelet my kids make between now and drop off date, up to $200. Ask friends and family if they would be willing to match your donation. Get as many people involved as possible.

3. Mail your bracelets (and donations) by March 15th 2014.

All bracelets, creations, and checks (made out to AHOPE) should be sent directly to:
Jen Lara at Upcycled Education
P.O. Box 950
Savage, Maryland 20763
by March 15th.

If you prefer to make a donation using your credit card, you can do so directly on AHOPE’s website (http://www.ahopeforchildren.org/)

All bracelets will be hand delivered to the children of AHOPE in April.

Recycling is cool.

Green is good. Recycling is cool.

That’s not just something we say around here, we really believe it.

My kiddos buy in to it because they know how big I am on it … but they are really acting on blind faith. This year I have set out to not just tell them recycling is cool, but also SHOW them.

They understand a little, we compost and talk often about what happens to the food we put in the bin and the soil we take out. We have started making our own homemade broths each week (oh my gosh — YUM!) and the kids call it compost soup because the things we used to throw outside … we are now cooking and eating. It was a huge concept for them to grasp and I think it has really helped them tie together the food cycle and the role we play in it.

Leap forward a bit to the paper we collect to drop off at their schools, or the bottles and cans we recycle each week, the box tops we collect, the cardboard we either reuse or recycle, the batteries, the plastic bags — all of which have to be dropped off or picked up at different places, it’s enough to make a child’s head spin.

So when I partnered up with REPREVE I knew it would be an excellent way to address WHY we save and sort those materials and what becomes of them.

A company that turns plastic bottles into cool products

The kids LOVED the green beanies they sent us. Each beanie is made from 6 plastic bottles; they were designed to be a part of the X-Games this year and well bold, funky and fun just falls right in line around here. They’ve gotten a TON of use. And when I explained to the kids that the hats were actually made out of recycled plastic bottles, they flipped their lids — literally.

These beanies are made out of recycled plastic!

They’ve been collecting bottle caps (for school) and recycling as many plastic water bottles as they can get their hands on .. which isn’t easy because we don’t even drink water bottles at home – so the folks at REPREVE can make more recycled fiber and turn it into more cool stuff.

It’s incredible all the things they are creating.

Check out this short and sweet little video promo they did for REPREVE.

This post is sponsored by REPREVE, all thoughts and opinions are our own. Now that we know more about what happens to our plastic after it’s recycled, we’ll be seeking out more products made with REPREVE.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot … who wants $5,000!!!

Just do what we did and make a video or take a photo of yourself sharing how you #TurnItGreen and send it to @Repreve by the end of the month. Here’s some info on the contest straight from the horse’s mouth.

Tell Repreve how you #TurnItGreen for a chance to win $5,000! More details if you click the link

#TurnItGreen X Games contest:
Dates: Jan. 1-31
Grand Prize: $5,000 cash

To celebrate the X Games, REPREVE invites participants to share how they “turn it green”, or how they live a more sustainable life by recycling or reusing materials, by sharing an image or video on Twitter, Instagram or Vine with the hashtag #TurnItGreen.

Once you share the image or video with the hashtag, you will be entered into a sweepstakes where five entries will be randomly selected as the Top Five. Those five will be voted on by visitors to Repreve[dot]com where the image or video with the most votes will win a $5,000 cash prize. The other four video entries will receive a REPREVE Jacket and a Go-Pro camera (retail valued at over $350).

Awesome. Crossing my fingers one of us wins!

Recycling is cool. Wear what you believe. Repreve #TurnItGreen

Wear what you believe. REPREVE.

They made that out of what!? Recycled plastic wear

I have 4 very expensive pairs of socks in my closet.

I paid more than $10 a piece for them (which makes them pretty much priceless to me), so I only put them on when I really intend to use them.

I call them my magic running socks

Awesome clothes made with Repreve, fiber made from recycled plastic bottles #TurnItGreen

They fit tight and hug my feet like they know what’s coming next. When I slip them on I walk taller and prouder, and dare I say run faster and harder than without them.

I bought them while I was training for my first half marathon and they were worth every single penny I spent.

Last night, I was doing a bit of research for one of our new sponsors this month and found a reason to love these socks even more …

Now, they are made out of recycled plastic.

In fact, there are all sorts of cool things being made out of plastic these days: from bikinis, to jeans, to polar fleece, and everything in between. The more I read the more excited I get about where sustainable technology is headed and what great stuff can be made using recycled materials.

Cool colored jeans made from 8 recycled plastic bottles! #TurnItGreen

I’ll be sharing more about Repreve, the recycled fiber helping us become more sustainable this month and I think you’ll be just as impressed as I am. For today, I encourage you to take a quick peek at some of the amazing things being made out of plastic these days.

I’m making up a wish list of my own right now!

This post is part of partnership with Repreve I am proud to be a part of, look for more information about how these products are made and where you can find them coming soon.

Simple ways to improve air quality indoors

We’ve really enjoyed the planting a forest campaign this month, together we’ve planted almost 300 trees … but wanted something a little more hands-on.

Have you planted your tree yet?

If we are truly “planting a forest”, then there needs to be some actual planting going on, am I right! So when we spotted these living Christmas trees we knew they’d be the perfect thing! We’ll keep them indoors till spring, then plant them in the backyard.

Help this little guy plant a forest for his 8th birthday

The great thing about these little trees is the learning opportunity that came with them. I like to think we do a pretty good job teaching our children how to care for the environment – we recycle, we compost, we conserve water, and try not to waste energy. We talk to them about using scrap pieces of paper for all their “projects” and we discuss big issues like alternative energy and our carbon footprints.

One thing we’ve never done however, is bring the outdoors in. It’s such a simple thing to do, but one we had overlooked until now.

These little trees aren’t just pretty to look at or fun to have around for the holidays, they are actually serving a significant purpose right now for our family. They are improving air quality in our home.

Indoor air pollution is actually a big deal. The concentration of chemicals, toxins and pollutants is much stronger indoors than the air you breathe outside; it can be a huge health problem if you are sensitive, have allergies, asthma, or other respiratory problems.

The way all of the males in our home do.

The more we talked about the good the plants were doing in our home, the more questions they asked – what other ways can we make the air inside our house cleaner? Here’s the list I came up with for us and it’s easy enough I bet it could help your family too.

Simple ways to improve air quality indoors

1. Open a window, and let some fresh air in.

2. While you’re at it, bring in some living plants too!

3. Take your shoes off and keep them by the door.
You’d be surprised how many chemicals you track in on your feet!

4. Mop & Vacuum Weekly. Make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter

5. Dust often

6. Use non-toxic, natural cleaners and detergents with natural or no fragrances

7. Do not use aerosol products in your home

8. Ban smoking indoors

9. Stop using store-bought air fresheners
They are made from petroleum-based products and put off a significant amount of VOCs

10. Change you air filters every 30 days

If you have questions about any of these, want me to elaborate or have ideas of your own — I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

We’ve been working hard to raise awareness about New Leaf Energy’s plant a tree initiative on Facebook. We invite you to share your ideas on how to teach our children to go green on any social media platform with the hashtag #PlantingWithPablo.

Share your ideas on how to teach our children to go green #PlantingWithPablo

Spreading Joy and Goodwill in your Community

As my kids get older, I find myself thinking more and more about ways to imprint kindness, generosity, and goodwill on to their hearts. When I sat down to come up with a list of simple ways to spread joy and goodwill in your community, I realized we’re doing a good job already. I truly believe the more ingrained the actions are in our daily lives, the deeper the values I wish to teach my children will be instilled. Simply put, more than talking to them about charity and good deeds, I think showing them on a regular basis through actions will encourage them to grow up to be people with strong character and integrity, who do the right thing simple because it is the right thing to do.

Here are some ways we spread joy and goodwill in our community all year-long:

Be Active

One of my favorite ways to show my children the good in people is to take them on charity walks and fun runs. Not only is it great exercise for all of us, and a way we can spend positive time together on the weekends, but it also supports a great cause. The people who show up to these runs are amazing people and the energy from the group can be felt a mile away. I want my kids to see the hundreds of kind people who wake up early and gather with strangers to support a cause they care about. I want them to learn about those causes and care about them to.

Donate Life

This was our third year walking for Donate Life, in honor of our friend Kim and her family. In that time, we’ve become so close with them they feel like extended family, and I know my children really, truly understand why we’re out there and what we’re doing. There are people who need new organs in order to live, and the only way they will get them is if people donate their own when they don’t need them anymore.

If you haven’t already, please sign up to be an organ donor now.

Shop Local

One of the biggest things you can do to support your local community is to put money back into it. A simple way to do this is by shopping local and frequenting small business owners. Finding stores that also support great causes in your community doubles your efforts.

This year Big Brothers Big Sisters South Texas opened up a unique store, From Me To You, with a great concept. Children can shop with store elves to select presents for family members and wrap them on the spot. No more knowing what your kids got you for Christmas, great prices, and proceeds benefit Big Brothers, Big Sisters. We love it so much, we’ve shopped for the whole family there this year!

Goodwill and the Salvation Army are great examples of places your money can also do double duty. Can you think of any other places near you? Perhaps a thrift store supporting a women’s shelter, orphanage or ministry?

Get involved with your schools

Local support from the community is more important to public schools now more than ever. I urge you to find a way to help out that works for you whether that means donating your time helping in the lunch room or library, joining the PTA, providing financial assistance, or even donating school supplies, or helping out with after school programs. Teachers can’t do it alone and every lit bit helps.

Art Room Aid for Teachers is an incredible place to start looking, search your local community and see if teachers already have projects waiting to be funded.

Volunteer

There are so many ways you can lend a hand in your community. From volunteering at a local soup kitchen or food pantry, to visiting a nursing home, to being a mentor, to ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, to wrapping gifts for Elf Louise.

To find opportunities in your community, visit VolunteerMatch.org
There are 4,355 opportunities in my community — how many did you find in yours?

Do something out of the ordinary

Yes, most of these things are things we do everyday … but every now and then you have to shake things up a bit and remind yourself and your family why you do these things in the first place.

Last Saturday was the coldest day of the year. An abnormally cold day in Texas, I left my house while it was 29 degrees outside and headed to Sea World Aquatica to take the polar plunge for Special Olympics with my fellow Wildsiders.

It was amazing, incredible, invigorating, touching, and memorable. We raised more than $1,000 as a team and so much more as a whole. It bonded me for life with people I hardly knew, or had never met, and made me feel alive. It motivated the community and was seen on television several times during the weekend, meaning hopefully next year will be even bigger and better with lots more plungers willing to participate. It sparked a new tradition for me and one that my children are already excited to do with me … just in a few more years maybe!

If you’re in Texas, find a plunge near you.

Give Back

If you are in a position to do so, give back. Whenever you can, anyway you can. Let your children see you doing this, let them do it too. Whether it’s putting spare change into a donation can or giving food, water, or cash to a person in need, to donating gently used items, or non-perishable can goods. There is something you can give to others.

San Antonio Bloggers pay it forward at Big Brothers Big Sisters South Texas donation store From Me To You

This year, we gathered a group of local bloggers and adopted a few families in our community. We gathered together to shop for our families and give back to BBBST at the same time. We left with huge bags of presents, knowing we’d made a bigger impact as part of a group.


Help Me Plant A Forest


Let's plant a forest! New Leaf Energy will plant one tree for every new like of it's #PlantingWithPablo FB page. Imagine the difference we can make with just a simple click

Tree for a Like

I think by now most of you know I am sucker for a good cause and if the steps to get there are simple things anyone can do, than I am all about spreading the word.

I took the rest of December off from writing, consulting, and pretty much everything that doesn’t involve focusing on my family, but when the opportunity to promote New Leaf Energy came down the pipes and they told me they were planting a tree for every new like they received on Facebook from now till the 23rd of December … visions of fields of trees starting dancing in my head.

* Yes, New Leaf Energy hired me to share easy ways your family can go green, but the idea to plant this forest is mine all mine.
Our simple green story will come in a follow-up post next week.

I just REALLY, REALLY enjoy a fun challenge for a good cause.

So what do you say?
Help me plant 1,000 trees by Christmas?

It only takes 2 seconds of your time and one click of you finger — LET’S DO THIS!!

PLANT YOUR TREE NOW

We’ve planted 60 trees already, I’m betting we can exceed our goal, who’s with me?!

I’ll update this page each day to keep you posted on our progress

Update: We planted 148 trees yesterday! What a day, and an accomplishment we can all be proud of. Do you know 148 trees can provide enough oxygen each day for 592 people?! (source)

12/16: We’ve planted our first 200 trees!

12/23: We’re up to 330 trees – that’s great, but not nearly as much as we’d hoped for. Can you help us?

Share your ideas on how to teach our children to go green #PlantingWithPablo

Bloggers Going Orange for Hunger Action Month

Will you #GoOrange with us?

I can’t tell you how exciting I am to kick off our second annual Moms Fighting Hunger blog hop this September, Hunger Action Month. It began on a whim last year because Jenn & I thought it would be a great way to get bloggers involved and raise awareness for a great cause.

What happened next, has truly changed my life.

We started Moms Fighting Hunger.

Used our collective voice.

Partnered with No Kid Hungry,

Told our stories,

Toured food banks,

Hosted food drives(You can host your own too!)

Made Movies,

Made Lifelong friends

Lives were changed, and before the end of the year we helped raise several thousand dollars for our cause!

But we aren’t stopping there …

… 

Read More »

Pool Party Fun For A Cause

kids and candy pool party photoshoot back to school pool party bloggerbash bloggers collecting school supplies for teachers school supply drive for teachers organized by Kids Stuff World & SA Bloggers Huge thanks to Melissa & Doug, Twizzlers and Jolly Rancher for sponsoring our school supply fundraiser

I finally have a chance to show you a few of the pics from the back to school pool party / school supply fundraiser we threw last month. You know me, I’m always looking for a reason to gather friends together AND do a little good. When I heard about Twizzlers and Jolly Rancher‘s partnership with Gym Class Heroes to create the ultimate Summer Twist List, I immediately thought —

School Fundraiser for Teachers!!!

What? Sound like unobvious pairing? Not really.

Again, I’m applying some of those simple party planning principles I shared with you yesterday:

Planning A Fundraiser? Here's a guaranteed recipe for success

Things that don’t seem necessarily related become perfect partners in the right setting, all it takes is a little creativity.

So here it is, the last minute event we threw together that raised more than $650 for local teachers in our community! Once again San Antonio bloggers really pulled together to support something we so strongly believe in — a great education for our children and a community that lifts up the teachers who are making that happen.

Our teacher left will full hearts and car loads of supplies to take back to their schools. It’s things like this I really enjoy, and hope I get to do much more of in the future!

Thanks so much to our wonderful sponsors Twizzlers, Jolly Rancher, and Melissa And Doug who helped make this happen.

Summer Twist List: Free Download of summer classics covered by Gym Class Heroes <-- been listening to this all summer!

There are still a few more days left to download the FREE summer twist list or connect with it on Spotify. Grab it now before it’s gone.

Fabulous Photos by ARG Photographs

Life Lessons from my kids

bright side2You know that famous saying, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” ?

Well, today I am declaring a new famous saying, “All I really need to know I learned from a kindergartener”!

Seriously, I learn so much about life spending time with my children. They are like a gift I get to unwrap every morning, yet it is completely different and new each time I do.

Through them I am learning new lessons on life, love, compassion, friendship, and unbridled enthusiasm each and every day.

Sometimes, it can feel like too much. So much so, that I can hardly bear to process any more information … but then there are those other times — the moments when the clouds part ways and I am thunder struck with a beam of light so bright it leaves a mark on my soul telling me, “this is exactly why you are here and what you are meant to be doing.”

Those days, those awe-filled wondrous days remind me what it truly means to look on the bright side.

P.S. This one’s for you Carla, somewhere in the middle … now I am off to bed!

I’d like to buy the world a Nourishmat

Imagine if every house on the block grew their own fresh veggies and urban landscapes, once food deserts, were able to not just thrive, but flourish!

EarthStarter
That’s their dream.

I exchanged a few emails with Phil, the co-founder of Earth Starter, this week. I was so inspired I had to share his kickstarter campaign with you here.

You’re going to flip for the Nourishmat and Herbmat!

kale_nourishmat

“John and I are on a mission to empower consumers to become producers, by giving them easy tools to grow healthy fresh food.

We want people to be able to grow their own food, eat healthy, and not have to worry about GMOs, where their food came from, pesticides, and so on. Not to mention how gratifying it can be when you wait for a delicious veggie to grow and you can finally take a bite!

About Nourishmats and Herbmats:

parsley_herbmat

Our products are designed to help you grow your own fresh herbs without getting down and dirty in the weeds. Best thing, it pays you back in spice. Designed for people with no prior growing knowledge or years of gardening experience. Farm to table just became simpler and without adding an extra project or more costs to peoples lives. Instead of buying expensive tools and searching for plant varieties, just use the Herbmat.

Our mats are like paint by numbers for gardening. You roll the mat out on your garden soil, push in the seedballs (clay, seeds, chili-powder and all-natural nutrients), and hook it up to the hose.

The Nourishmat is a 4’ x 6’ all-in-one roll out garden that empowers people to become food producers. Included in each Nourishmat are seed balls to grow tomato, carrot, marigold, onions, basil, nasturtium, radish, chive, kale, rainbow chard, jalapeno, dill, eggplant, red pepper, and more .

The Herbmat Gardening Systems brings 8 of the most sought after culinary herbs (basil, chive, dill, parsley, mint, thyme, savory, and sage) right to your table – from your own yard.

We think of them as a great way to cultivate the next generation of food growers and our product is the first of its kind.
Every Nourishmat purchased for schools comes with its own curriculum
We also have a commitment to schools, so the next generation can begin learning about gardening and fresh food as soon as possible. Each Nourishmat provided to a school comes with it’s own curriculum. We’ve started working with the Mayor’s office and school district’s in San Francisco, to plant Nourishmat gardens in the school and educational community to commemorate our Kickstarter launch.

Finally, during the Kickstarter campaign (which is wrapping up soon), we’re offering a summer contest for bloggers. We will send you sample seedballs to grow, and if you post about the Kickstarter and what you’ll “nourish” with your plants, we’ll enter you to win a Nourishmat for a school or community organization of your choice so that kids can start learning about gardening and healthy food too!

Support-us-on-Kickstarter
They’ve got a long way to go to make this happen, when I published this post they still needed $32,000 to meet their goal and have just 11 days to make it happen. That’s a huge mountain to climb alone, so please share this post and consider donating to their cause. They have lots of fun bonuses, like seed balls and t-shirts, to make available if you contribute.

I think I’m going to have to try the $89 commitment … how could I not?