Category: Time savers

How to Plan a Virtual Birthday Party this Winter

Planning a birthday party for your winter baby is hard enough when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic. But now with social distancing a must and sometimes mask wearing is mandated, it’s even harder to plan a party in the same way we did only a year ago.

My twins celebrated a double-digit birthday back in November and we made the choice to host a very small, all-masked, back yard party. The girls could invite just one friend each to make s’mores in our back yard. All kids and parents wore a mask, and all our snacks and beverages were prepackaged or prepared with gloves. It was different, but everyone was so happy to spend time together that the extra safety protocols didn’t even feel inconvenient.

Now that we are in the dead of winter in the North East with plummeting temperatures and most indoor places closed off for gatherings, birthday party ideas are running short. That’s why I created a virtual party planner to help you get creative and keep the details organized.

RELATED READ: How to Host a Socially Distant Party with Friends

As a mom, I am always looking for easy solutions to the most common problems we all face and right now, we are all facing some tough choices for the safety of our kids. Indoor gatherings are not advised, and not everyone is feeling comfortable having people in their home. Last year drive-by birthday parades were a hit, this year virtual parties are taking over. But, creating a party through a screen is all new. If 2020 taught me anything, it is to embrace what we’ve got to work with. I hope this helps other moms embrace fun in a new way and makes kids feel celebrated!

I asked other moms to test this planner before I share it and one mom said, “I used this for their “virtual party” on Friday. And honestly it gave me ideas I didn’t even think of. I was able to organize who I wanted to join, sent out links and plan games (I didn’t even know this was a thing)! Your planner helped me get everything together and I really appreciate it. The kids had a great time!”

This planner is free when you sign up for my e-newsletter (which only arrives once a month). I send out mom hacks and simple solutions to the most common struggles like picky eating, self-care, meal planning and more. As a thank you for signing up to follow along, I will email you this easy-to-use party planner right away!

Grab your copy here! —-> here <—-

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and blog owner. She is helping other moms feel less alone and creating the community support she wants as a mom.

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11 Secret Sister Gifts $10 or Less

  • This post contains affiliate links where I make a small commission on qualified purchases at no cost to you. For full disclosure, read here.

A few years ago, a friend invited me to participate in a secret sister gift exchange. That’s where you sign up to send one gift to one other woman and you are supposed to receive 36 in return. Almost everyone worried it was a scam and backed out, but before that I received a couple of great gifts, not the intended 36 that the gift exchange boasts. Which if you do the math, it does not equal 36 gifts. But it is fun to send off (and receive) some good cheer!

This year I have been invited to at least a dozen of these secret sister gift exchanges. No one is worried it’s a scam anymore and it is pretty safe to do among friends and friends of friends on Facebook.

So, if you are wondering what to include in your gifting, I created list of affordable gift ideas for $10 or less. You can ship directly to your secret sister today!

100 Inspirational quote Cards | A fun wine glass | Bath bombs or shower soothers | Cozy Christmas socks | Christmas ornament | Holiday kitchen towels | Hand sanitizer | Stationary with a really nice pen | Amazon gift card | Warm gloves | Gratitude Sticky Notes

These are all easy, allergy friendly ideas. You won’t have to worry about personal diets, food sensitivities, alcohol/coffee preferences. They are super cute and easy to pair with other embellishments. The best part of this gift exchange is how much fun it is! So, keep spreading the joy!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, writer and owner of the The Whatever Mom. Her mission is to help other parents let go of perfection and embrace the messier parts of parenting.

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The Coffee Cleanse I’d Rather Forget

This post contains affiliate links. If you use to make a purchase, I make a small commission.

Let me tell you about that time I tried to replace my morning coffee with a hot lemon water cleanse. Not only did it make me dizzy and exhausted, but I literally forgot I have children. (Disclaimer: No children were harmed during this cleansing process).

Several weeks ago, I was feeling tired and run down and I thought my coffee addiction might be the culprit of my insomnia. I read article after article with cures and tinctures when I landed on an article written by an “expert,” that suggested coffee was messing with my blood sugar and cortisol levels (that’s a stress hormone). This expert also suggested removing coffee and replacing it with hot lemon water every morning for “increased energy and vitality.”  

It was all lies.

The first day I was tired, but I made it through my day convinced this little coffee detox might just work.

The second day, I was so tired I fell asleep around 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon. I woke up two hours later completely unaware that I had dozed off.

The third day, I was yawning so much, tears were streaming down my face. It looked like I was crying for help and I could barely keep my head up. I finally took a nap.

The fourth day, I was driving along minding my own business and enjoying some tunes when I heard my kid from the backseat yell out how much she LOVES this song! I freaked out! I completely forgot I had a child in the car with me. I forgot I was the parent on duty! That’s how foggy my brain had become after just 4 days without coffee!

The fifth day, I gave up. I brewed a pot of coffee first thing in the morning and drank it fat. My energy returned and the brain fog lifted. I could remember words and I knew where my kids were the whole day.

Click photo to be redirected to Reverie Coffee

I had no idea how much my brain function depends on caffeine.  My morning coffee is literally the fluid holding my mind and body connection together. A mom who runs on coffee. Shocking right? I was supposed to replace my morning coffee with hot lemon water for 14 days. I bailed on day 5 and I jumped back on the coffee wagon.

Right when I jumped back on that wagon, I discovered a small coffee roasting company and sampled some of their flavored coffees. I tried three flavors, Dark Chocolate Cherry, French Toast and Maple Bacon. MAPLE. BACON. (Do I even need to tell you how good this is?). You could say, this is the coffee that saved me.

Maple Bacon colab w/ Soukup Farms

I have tried A LOT of fancy syrups and creamers in my coffee, but I am always disappointed because I end up with a chemical after taste, or a bad reaction to the amount of sugar or additives. All three of these delicious flavors are gluten and dairy free, vegan and no sugar added, yet very flavorful. Even my 9-year-old was sipping off my morning brew and telling me how good it is.

After poking around the website, I find that Reverie Coffee is a woman owned business, the coffee is roasted in small batches and they partner with local charities each moth to give back. It is 100% arabica beans that are sustainably grown. It checks off the boxes that make me feel better about a product. And did I mention it tastes really good?

In fact, I love it so much I asked for a reader discount for all of you to give it a try! Go to Take Me to Reverie fill your cart and use code WHATEVERMOM for 20% off your order! If you love the coffee you ordered, there is a subscription service available. That means the magic beans just show up at your door without you having to remember to order them!

If you love (and depend on) coffee as much as I do, you are going to LOVE Reverie coffee!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and certified coffee addict. She will stop at nothing to find the perfect soothing cup of coffee to start her morning.

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Get Ready for the Tooth Fairy with These Easy DIY Tooth Fairy Giving Bags

diytooth-fairy-bags
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Would you believe me if I told you that I used to work as a craft blogger? True story! Someone paid me to share the really lazy crafts I made each week with my kids. Turns out moms want easy crafts, preferably without glitter. And there are some moms who can’t resist a cute DIY.

I shared in my moms only group this week that I use these simple little DIY baggies to automate our tooth fairy giving. I made six at once and I keep 4 of the baggies pre-filled at all times so the tooth fairy never misses a stop! The other 2 bags I leave empty, one for each kiddo to collect their fallen teeth and leave under the pillow. Once they are asleep, I just swap out for the pre-filled baggie.

This system has worked for me for several years. It especially came in handy during the COVID quarantine when businesses closed. I couldn’t get the usual chocolate coins, or the gold dollar coin our tooth fairy traditionally leaves behind. Thankfully, I was already ahead of myself with this easy system. You can read my original post here, or scroll below for the step by step directions.

tooth-fairy-bags

Here’s what you’ll need: (Makes 4 bags)

6 Medium organza gift bags (you can find at the dollar store)

1 Piece of white felt

Download a tooth shape to trace

12 Googly eyes

School glue

8 inches of string or yarn

Wax paper

*Optional pink paint for rosy cheeks

I found the tooth shape online and printed it out to trace and cut the felt shapes for all six bags.

To make the face, I cut the string into two inch pieces and glued to the felt, next I glued on the eyes. If you’d like cute little pink cheeks, dip a pencil eraser, small dowel, or the end of a round paint brush  (whatever you have on hand) into the pink paint and apply at the ends of the smile. Allow time for the glue to dry before attaching the tooth shape to the bag.

Since you are working with an organza bag the glue will seep through and make a mess. If you cut a small square of wax paper to fit inside the bag it will keep the glue from sealing the bag closed.

Begin by inserting the wax paper into the bag before applying the felt shaped tooth. Once the tooth is on the baggie, wait a few minutes before removing the wax paper. Then, hang the open bag to dry. You can leave it at the end of a chopstick, a pencil or paint brush to keep the bag open while it dries. Allow the glue to dry overnight and before filling with treats.

We fill our bags with one gold dollar coin and five chocolate coins. Nothing fancy. I have heard of parents giving their kids $5 per tooth, or $20 for the first tooth and some parents put together an entire basket of gifts. Whatever works. I just know that having twins means double the magic and double the tooth fairy money. So keeping some pre-filled bags between payouts means I won’t be caught off guard the night a tooth falls out.

Do you go all out for the tooth fairy, or do you keep it simple?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She likes to keep expectations low by avoiding craft projects that involve any real crafting. Follow along with her daily posts on Facebook.

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Prep These Easy French Toast Rolls for the Week Ahead!

My kids have fought me on eating any kind of veggies since their toddlerhood. Now, they are almost ten. These picky eaters dominate our meal time choices, but they aren’t always winning the war. I sneak veggies inside of their favorite foods undetected all the time. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have no clue.

I typically meal prep our breakfast for the week ahead on Sunday. I like stuff I can freeze for a quick reheat in the morning. Now that my kids are older, this method makes it easier for them to make their own breakfast. This is a huge time saver for us all!

So… this weekend I made sausage stuffed French toast with some hidden sweet potato in there. I tried to make it two ways, the traditional frying method vs. baking in the oven. Even though making one big batch in the oven at once is convenient, frying the rolls individually made for a better texture. And it hid the miniscule pieces of orange potato better.

Here is what you need:

12 of your favorite sausage links

12 slices of your favorite bread

3 eggs

2 TBSP of sweet potato puree

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp maple syrup

Dash of cinnamon

2-4TBSP coconut oil

Rolling pin

* If you do not have sweet potato puree on hand, you’ll need to start by peeling and dicing a sweet potato and boiling until soft enough to mash before adding to the egg mixture. I made the sweet potato puree while I pre-cooked the sausage links in the oven. You can also use summer squash puree which you can find in the freezer section of your grocery store.*

Once you have your puree and cooked sausage you are ready to begin!

EGG MIXTURE

Crack open 3 eggs and dump into a shallow dish. Add sweet potato, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Whisk together until well mixed and no large clumps.

ASSEMBLING ROLL UPS

Use the rolling pin to roll flat each slice of bread (I did four at a time because it’s an easier amount to work with and it is faster than just one at a time). Place a fully cooked sausage on one edge of the flattened bread and roll together. Next, dip the stuffed bread roll into the egg mixture and lay seam side down on a plate.

COOKING

I fried in batches of four to make assembling easier and to leave enough room in the pan. Heat 2 TBSP coconut oil in frying pan. Place each roll up seam side down into the pan. Let cook 2-3 minutes before turning. Be sure to cook all sides.

I stored the rolls in a flat layer in a freezer bag for the family to grab what they need and make for their breakfast. This made one dozen rolls which my family gladly enjoyed with a favorite fruit and glass of milk.

What do you think? Would you hide veggies in your kids favorite foods?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer, also known as The Whatever Mom. She is on a mission to connect struggling moms with little ones with her community to laugh, grow and embrace the messy parts of parenting so that they feel empowered and confident in their mom choices.

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Prep These Easy Chicken Dinners Ahead This Week!

Now that back to school is here and life is a little chaotic with a new schedule to work with, I find meal prepping a giant life saver. I actually get a little excited to see my hard work stacked up neatly in the freezer. Knowing that most of my meal prep work is done takes a lot of stress off of my plate, especially on those crazy days where everything else seems to be going wrong, or I am running behind.

As I was prepping I stopped quickly to take a few pics of what I was making to show you how easy it is to make two different chicken dinners ahead of time to stash in the freezer for later in the week. I made Honey Mustard Chicken to serve with rice pilaf and I made Thai Chicken Soup. One package of chicken split between two different recipes and I was done in minutes.

HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN

1 lb. chicken breast (I use thighs because it’s usually cheaper and tastier)

1 bottle of your favorite honey mustard dressing or marinade

1 package of French cut green beans

Salt and pepper

1 gallon zip seal freezer bag

Place chicken pieces into bottom of the bag, pour one half of the bottle of honey mustard dressing over the chicken and then dump the frozen veggies on top. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Press all of the air out of the bag before you seal it and stack in the freezer. That’s it for prep!

When you are ready to cook, remove the prepped meal from the freezer and place in the fridge overnight to thaw out. Empty contents into the crock-pot and be sure to arrange with green beans on the bottom and chicken on top. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. *Every crock-pot heats differently. Mine cooks really fast, so I only need 3 hours for this meal.* Serve with rice, pasta or roasted potatoes (you can get prechopped potatoes in the produce section or in the freezer section to save more time).

THAI CHICKEN SOUP

1 lb. chicken breast (thigh definitely is best for this recipe, but either works)

1 jar of salsa

1/4 cup peanut butter

1 lime

1 TBSP soy sauce (or coconut aminos)

1 can coconut milk

1 gallon zip seal freezer bag

*optional serve over cooked rice, or rice noodles.

Place chicken pieces in the bottom of the bag. In a separate bowl add peanut butter, juice of one lime, soy sauce and the jar of salsa. Mix until it is all combined and pour over chicken in the bag. Seal and freeze.

When you are ready to cook, remove from the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight. Put the mixture into the crockpot and allow it to cook on high 3-4 hours. *Crock-pots may vary in cooking times. Mine will cook this meal in 2.5 hours.* The last half an hour of cook time, shred the chicken and add in can of coconut milk. Allow to simmer for remaining 30 minutes. If you chose to serve over rice, you can get those really quick 90 second microwave rice packs that will bring this meal together quick. You can even delegate that small part of dinner to a helper.

That’s it! Two recipes to prep this week that will take you as much time as it takes to read this post. Enjoy! Oh and don’t forget to prep those breakfast smoothies too! If you try any of these feel free to comment below, or stop by The Whatever Mom Facebook page to share, or find me on Insta.

Roxanne Ferber is twin mom and freelance writer doing whatever it takes to find extra sanity in the day.

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Is it Time to Hire Professional Help?

After nearly six months at home with my family here around the clock, I might be ready to lose my mind. I cannot tell you how many messes I have cleaned up, nor how often I’ve heard myself yelling, “pick that up” or “put that back where you got it!” or “don’t even think about stepping over that one more time!”

I am officially burned out from all of the cleaning and sanitizing. I don’t know about you, but I like a good deep clean right after summer to clean up all the mess we dragged in through the season. Since I am so tired of it all, I am seriously considering hiring a cleaning service to do the heavy lifting for me.

4 Reasons You Can and You Will Get a Cleaning Lady

We aren’t ready to have a weekly cleaning person come into our home, but we could definitely use some help with a deeper cleaning. The folks at E&J Cleaning and Floors have provided deep cleaning and sanitizing services for businesses and residents throughout the Capital District. They have perfected their sanitation levels and protocols throughout this Pandemic, and they are ready to help you too! Their team will arrive to your home with masks and gloves and stay at a safe distance while they work.

Not only can they sanitize high touch surfaces by hand, but they also offer an Electrostatic Disinfection Technique to apply an EPA approved sanitizing solution to surfaces that lasts for months. A great way to protect your home as we head into flu-season.

Visit their Facebook and Instagram pages to see before and after photos of their residential, furniture and floor cleanings and what a great job they can do! Having someone else shampoo the couches and carpets will save me a ton of time and energy that I just don’t have right now, while planning our return to remote learning for two kids, working from home, meal planning and wiping down all the door knobs.

If you are worn out by all the extra cleaning, or trying to balance all the extra messes with working and cooking and everything else that comes along with this Pandemic life, do yourself a favor and hire someone who can help. Treat yourself to a little extra time in your week, or month and let someone else do the heavy lifting. You can use that time to relax in the back yard reading a book, or taking the kids for a drive for ice cream. If you hire someone for a weekly cleaning, count that time as self care and head to your local drive through to pick up lunch or dinner. Hiring extra help definitely leaves room for sanity in our day.

A clean and sanitized home is one less thing to stress about as we head into back to school season, holiday planning and worries about keeping our family safe. Call / Text For Your Free Estimate Today (518) 419-4683

(This is a paid post, but all opinions expressed are my own).

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Gluten Free Pizza Pasta Dish – Great for lunch boxes!

Yes, it’s another deconstructed pizza recipe from me! I can’t help it, my family loves pizza! You may have enjoyed our Easy Pizza Rolls for family pizza night or even our Pizza Cookie for dessert. But, this gluten free pizza pasta casserole is just for me because I can’t have gluten or (most) dairy. So, finding anything resembling a real pizza is near impossible. I am from New York, home of the best pizza and there is no substitute. However, this easy recipe brings the same flavors and makes me feel like I am not missing out entirely.

This whips together in under 30 minutes and FYI, it is a great recipe for school lunch boxes! Make it on a Sunday, reheat to put into a thermos and pack in a lunch box.

Pizza is simply crust (base carb), cheese, sauce and favorite toppings.

Our deconstructed pizza uses gluten free pasta as the base carb, mixed with sauce and favorite toppings like pepperoni, sausage or favorite veggies and of course cheese. We use a gluten free pasta from the grocery store that everyone in my family likes and suddenly we are all eating one meal! Since I can’t have most dairy, I use grated parmesan cheese, affectionately known in my house as “shaker cheese.” It isn’t the hot gooey mess of melted Mozzarella, but it still tastes so darn good!

Directions:

Cook 1 pound of pasta according to directions on package.

Add in one jar of your favorite sauce.

Stir in favorite pizza toppings (I sliced up pepperoni, black olives, green pepper and red onion).

Sprinkle with grated parmesan, or add in shredded mozzarella. (The mozzarella will melt into the hot pasta and sauce, so no need to bake to melt).

Give it a good mix before serving! This goes great with a salad or a side of wings. Anything you’d normally eat with your pizza!

It’s a super easy meal to make on a week night when the kids are hungry and you need something fast, or as a quick side dish for your picky eater who only eats pasta, pizza and cheese.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and wannabe foodie. Food tastes better when other people cook it, or when kids aren’t complaining about it, but she doesn’t have a lot of time to cook it fancy. If you have a recipe to share email it to [email protected] or share it over on The Whatever Mom Facebook page.

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My Daily Smoothie Hack

I have to confess, I am addicted to drinking smoothies. Not only are they easy to make, but I can just toss a bunch of stuff in a cup without measuring and it still tastes good. The one thing I don’t like, is the clean up. Plus, rummaging around for ingredients and pulling them all out of different locations in the kitchen while I am barely awake, is a pain.

It is so tempting to sign up for a smoothie subscription and have premade smoothies delivered to my door step. I even found a local company to source them, but then I saw the price. It will cost me around $100 for one dozen premade smoothies. I can’t justify spending that much just for my personal breakfast each morning. I’d save time on the prep, but I’d still have to dispose of all the packaging and shipping materials after I transfer all the cups to the freezer. That still takes up time. But man, I’d sure love the convenience and simplicity of dumping a cup of ingredients into a blender.

So….

Click photo to activate code.

That’s what I do!

I found some left over disposable coffee cups with lids stashed away on a shelf in my basement and realize they make the perfect DIY grab and go smoothie cups. I make seven smoothies ahead of time, stash in the freezer and grab one each day. My kids have caught on to this and will grab one for themselves occasionally. They won’t make their own smoothies if they have to lug out all the individual bags of produce. Now that mom has done all the prep work it’s suddenly fair game. At least they are eating healthy and feeding themselves, right? In the future, I’d like to switch out the coffee cups for glass jars with lids to minimize waste, but since my kids are young and clumsy, paper cups do the trick.

Ready to see how easy it is to make a weeks worth of smoothies in about 10 minutes?

Line up seven freezer friendly cups.

Pull out all your favorite fruits and veggies to divide between containers. You can add nut butters or protein powders, seeds or any extras you like in your smoothie.

Just layer in each ingredient, attach the lids and put in the freezer.

When you are ready for a smoothie, remove one from the fridge and fill container with your favorite milk or water (are you a creamy smoothie drinker or a watery smoothie drinker?), dump the entire cup into the smoothie blender and give it a whirl. Then you can dump the mixture right back into the cup to take along with you. If you need something fancier to transport, I’ve attached a couple of options here in this post.

I topped each cup with a piece of waxed paper before adding the lid. This provides an extra “seal” against ice crystals and it keeps the fruit from absorbing any funky flavors from the freezer. Now I have breakfast already made for the entire week (as long as neither of my kiddos takes one for themselves).

Now you have a full week of breakfast (or snacks) for significantly less money and with less wasteful packaging to have to cart to the curb. I love a good hack that gives me more for less!

Our favorite combination so far is bananas, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, kale, spinach, pumpkin seeds and peanut butter. What do you put in your smoothie?

Click photo to activate code.

Contains affiliate links. I make a small commission from the sales made through this site.

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Summer Hydration Tips for Kids

Do you have a kid that just will not drink water, no matter how much you remind them? I have two kiddos that I have to constantly remind to drink water on the daily. It is frustrating. I barely remember to drink my own ounces and somehow I have to remember to get them to drink enough too?

Water is essential for so many things, but most importantly, it is essential for our mood and energy levels. So, if you want the kids to have enough energy to log off of their video games without an attitude make sure they are properly hydrated. OK the attitude part is not a guarantee, but at least they should have enough energy to log off the screens for a little bit.

Thankfully, water isn’t the only way to hydrate. If you have a kid that is not a water drinker, there are still plenty of ways for your kids to get their ounces each day, including water dense fruits and veggies and icy cold treats.

Go nuts – coconuts! Coconut water is a fantastic way to hydrate and replenish electrolytes without artificial dyes or added sugar. You can purchase coconut water in a variety of flavors, or as a powder to mix into your bottled water.

Just add ice – puree your favorite berries, or fruits and pour into ice cube trays to freeze. Then just add to a glass and add water. It will keep things cold while slowly adding flavor to your water.

Skip the mix – fresh squeezed lemonade is a tasty way to get those ounces with the added benefit of vitamin c. As my kids say, homemade lemonade is easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Harness the power of the sun – Sun tea requires very little effort and brews while you are playing in the yard. Add 2-3 caffeine free herbal tea bags to a gallon pitcher of water and place it in the sun. Pour over ice to cool down while you rehydrate.

Go Natural – fill up a gallon pitcher of water and add slices of your child’s favorite fruit, or frozen berries. It will add flavor and antioxidants to your next drink.

Solid advice – freeze herbal teas or fruit infused coconut water in popsicle molds. Your kids will be more than happy to eat an icy treat on a hot day. Or offer your kids fresh fruits and veggies with high water content like apples, oranges, watermelon, blueberries and raspberries. Snacking on fresh foods through the day goes a lot further for hydration than eating salty processed snacks. Plus there will be more salty snacks left over for you to enjoy once those little cherubs go to sleep. 🙂

Water can taste bland and seem like a chore for kids to finish. But if you keep a few of the flavorful options listed above, on hand, they may be more willing to sip through out the day.

How do you make sure you and your kiddos get enough hydrating ounces each day?

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