A Lesson in Letter Writing (and FREE STUFF!)

This is my son at America's first post office in Philadelphia, this past weekend.
Maybe it is just because I have a love for reading and writing, but I refuse to accept that letter writing is a "lost art."  Sure, we have technology that allows us to send text messages and emails where we can use abbreviations and symbols but this should not mean that we stop writing real letters.  There are times that life will call for letters such as having to write to government officials, contacting schools, and for business.  There are many more instances where writing a letter will be necessary and where your ability to write the letter well may be extremely important.

Certainly, we send more of our messages electronically, but I still want my kids to know how to write a letter and how to send it the old fashioned way.  You never know when they may need to do this.

So, I taught my daughter to write a business letter.  We went over how to address the envelope, where the stamp goes, how the letter itself is to be setup, and how to properly word it.

A found this extremely boring and tedious until I told her we'd be writing to receive FREE STUFF in the mail!  Then I had to stop her from writing these letters so we could move on to the next task!

The first batch of letters we sent out were from a website that we were given along with our letter writing lesson on Time for Learning.  However, all of those letters came back to us "return to sender" because the lists were outdated.  We had to get creative.  We found companies that the kids like and we used their "Contact Us" link to get their physical address and send them a letter.  Since we were not writing specifically to get a product they were offering, A had to send a genuine letter expressing how she felt about their specific products or brand.  Almost all of the companies sent something back: coupons, magnets, stationary, all sorts of little goodies.

We also wrote to Disney characters and received autographed pictures (postcards) in the mail.  A thought she was too old for this so I had her do it on her brother's behalf (although the Cinderella picture is in her room).  Then, I realized she could write to her favorite celebrities like the pop stars and the Nickelodeon/ Disney actors she likes so much.  All we had to do was look up the celebrity on Google along with "mailing address" to find out where to send the correspondence.  We made sure to send a self addressed stamped envelope and she has received a lot of replies. This was very exciting to a ten year old girl!  (Hint: Send a BIG envelope.)

Sure, you can connect with celebrities and brands on Twitter and Facebook but there is still nothing like the excitement of getting something in the physical mail!

Here are some links!

How to Write a Business Letter Worksheet

Create a Letter Writing Kit to Help Kids Connect

How to Address an Envelope

Some Addresses:


Justice or Brothers Customer Relations
8323 Walton Parkway
New Albany, OH 43054

Hasbro, Inc. (My Little Pony,Transformers, Basically anything on The HUB)
Consumer Affairs
 P.O. Box 200
Dept. C-847
Pawtucket, RI, 02862-0200

Kellogg's Consumer Affairs
Battle Creek, MI 49016

Mondel─ôz International, Inc. (Nabisco, Teddy Grahams)
Consumer Relations
100 Deforest Avenue
East Hanover, NJ 07936

Turkey Hill
2601 River Road
Conestoga, PA 17516

Mott's LLP
Attn: Consumer Relations
P.O. Box 869077
Plano, TX 75086-9077


You can write to Disney Channel Stars by putting their name and then:
c/o Disney Channel
3800 West Alameda Ave
Burbank, CA 91505

Most Nickelodeon Stars can be written to at:
c/o Nickelodeon
2600 Colorado Ave
2nd floor
Santa Monica Ca, 90404

Cody Simpson
PO Box 1766
Studio City, LA 91614

Ariana Grande
265 S. Federal Hwy Suite 331
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441 USA

Taylor Swift
c/o Taylor Swift
242 West Main Street
PMB 412
Hendersonville, TN

Katy Perry
947 N La Cienaga Blvd
Suite G
Los Angeles Ca 90069

Disney Characters

Disney World:
Walt Disney World Communications
P.O. Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

Walt Disney Company
Attn: Fan Mail Department
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521

Pen Pals

Something we have not done yet but may try next year is hooking up with a pen pal!  I hesitated to do that this past year because I felt like having a pen pal was a commitment and we were so busy that I did not want her to possibly not meet her obligation and disappoint someone.

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Spellbinders Celebra'tions Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post from the Spellbinder's Celebra'tion Collection.  I was given a sampling of the products to try out and review.  I am not being compensated for this review and the opinions expressed are my own.

Who doesn't love getting mail?  The only thing better than getting mail is getting PACKAGES!  I got one today with tons of goodies from Richard Garay's Spellbinders Celebra'tions Collection.

So, what is the Spellbinders Celebra'tions Collection, you ask?  It is a complete collection of stamps, ink, embellishments, papers, and more! Basically, it's everything you need to create beautiful make and take papercrafts!

Being a dyspraxic I have never been great at crafting.  However, I like doing it.  Being creative and working with my hands relaxes me.  I had planned on having the kids help me with this review by working on some crafts together, but I just really felt like having some good "me" time and creating some paper art by myself!

Included in my kit was everything I needed to create two projects.  In fact, the only thing I needed to fetch was scissors.  They even included some adhesives which I was grateful for because have no clue where the glue sticks are! (Summer is anarchy around here.)


As much as I wanted to create something original, I decided to follow the enclosed instructions in order to create what they sent.  I knew I was going to be posting here so I wanted to give myself half a chance of doing a decent job.  Again, love crafts but they are not my strong suit!

The first project I decided to make was this treat bag.

Here is theirs:
And here is mine:

Not too shabby if I do say so myself.  I created the tag by cutting and pasting different pieces together.

Next, I decided to recreate their Celebrate Greeting Card:

And here is mine:

This is what I started with^

Lots of choices with two sided card stock

Folded this cone to make the party hat on the card

I really love these products and here is why:
  • They are beautiful.
  • They leave a lot of room for creativity but also supply you with instructions and inspiration.
  • There are tons of uses for these- birthdays, weddings, unique gifts...
  • Even the non crafty like myself can wind up with something they can be proud of.

Now for the FUN PART!!

Spellbinders has given me a set of stamps from their Celebra'tions Collections that I can share with you!  Enter to win below!  These can come in handy to dress up just about anything!

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Kids Academy Apps Review

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.  The Kids Academy Company has asked for honest reviews of their apps.  The opinions here are mine alone.

Some of us moms over at Sverve were asked to download and review a few of the education apps made by Kids Academy.  I was honored and excited to be chosen!

As you know, I am working with both of my kids academically over the summer.  Since my son is normally in public school, I want to do as much as I can with him over the break.  These apps were just right for him being that he is not yet reading.  Generally, I think they would be great for kids ages 2 through kindergarten.

The first app I reviewed was Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games.

Immediately we noticed the visually striking animation which is present in all the Kid's Academy apps.  My son also marveled at the cute animal characters.  There are games here that involve tracing letters, rhyming words, and more!    His favorite part of what we sampled here was the game where you bring a dog through a maze to the correct answer.

The next free app we downloaded was this one: Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games For Girls and Boys.

Here we found some number games along with other activities and puzzles.  By far, my son's favorite part was the tracing game with the fireflies.  The magical glow and the interactive insects really had him hooked!  This app was full of educational games that offer a lot of positive feedback. The music and voices that congratulated him on a job well done caused a huge smile to spread across my son's face each time he got a correct answer.

Finally, we downloaded Best Kids Songs.  This is a really cute app that sings songs with adorable animation.  We listened to Bingo and sang along.  This app does more than just entertain by giving the kids something to listen to and watch.  It is also interactive, responding to the kids and letting them engage with some of the characters.  It even has a karaoke feature so the children can sing along while parents record them!


I really enjoyed testing out these apps with my sweet boy.  We had a great time and I cannot wait to check out more of what Kid's Academy has to offer.
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Summer Reading and Picnic Hop Link Up!!

Remember my post entitled Summer Homeschool Whether They Like It or Not?  Well, the kids are winning.  We have not started anything formal yet this summer.  Part of this is because my sister is getting married next week and I have had the joy of seeing my sisters who all live very far away from us.  Another reason is that I have been fully taking advantage of not having to wake up early in the morning for school by working well into the wee hours and then either sleeping in or being a zombie the next day.  I figure after the wedding I will implement my plan unless the kids outsmart me.  They are really good at that.

One thing I have managed to do is keep them reading.  A wonderful motivator is Barnes and Noble's summer reading program.  I love Barnes and Noble.  Nothing is better than coffee and books to me and I can get lost in there for hours.  I love B&N even more now because when my kids read 8 books they will receive a free book from the store.  Not only this, but they also have a free kit available for download on their site that is full of lessons and activities!

Follow this link for the reading journal, kit, and more information!

Remember when I talked about Combating Consumerism in Kids?  I have been working hard on this but my kids still love getting *stuff.*  One way they can get stuff is at the library.  Granted, they are "borrowing" it but let's face it, most things you buy for kids they get bored of within a couple of weeks anyway.  At our library you can walk out with books, movies, CD's, and even video games and puppets!  My children feel like they went on a shopping spree.

Our library is awesome.  On Wednesdays they have a program for my son with story time and crafts or activities (last week they did science). On Thursdays they show a movie at 3pm (last week was The Lego Movie!) and later at 7pm they have a tween night for my daughter where again they have cool activities like board games, zumba, or science experiments.  All throughout the rest of the week are sprinkled in other activities here and there for families as well.  This keeps us going to the library and keeps my kids excited about getting more books!

Just like B&N the library will reward the kids who log a certain number of books this summer with a prize!

A will blow through two chapter books a day sometimes.  I don't know how she does it.  I used to be suspicious of her speed reading so I would open to random pages and quiz her but she retains every detail from every page.  Pretty amazing.

I got a Choose Your Own Adventure to read to my son C (remember those?) and some easy readers that we can use to work on his own reading.  Of course, he also got Minecraft for Xbox and was slightly more excited about that.

What fun summer reading programs does your library offer? 

***Now Time For Our Summer Linkup: The Picnic Hop!!***

Do you have a summer or picnic themed post to share?  Link it here!
1) Visit and Follow Your Hosts:
Use #‎PicnicHop and we'll follow back!

2) Tweet About This Linkup!
Tweet: I linked up at the #PicnicHop with @mryjhnsn @ShelbyIrwin11 @ayohblog @RSParenthood @midwesternmoms Come and join the #bloghop!

3) Link up and visit the other blogs in the picnic hop! Share some comment love!

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Can We Have Anything Other Than Our Parents' Marriages?

Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

I often wonder if we are doomed to repeat our parents.  I mean, yes, we literally repeat them sometimes when we say things like, “Because I said so,” but when it comes to our marriages, is there any way to do it differently than what we saw done as kids?

Both my husband and I have divorced parents.  Worse than that, is that both our parents stayed married for far too long.  We both lived in very dysfunctional homes and both our parents split up in very volatile ways when we were young adults.  Both of us wound up being supports for our wounded parents during this time.  Perhaps this is what drew us to one another.

When our relationship started it could not have been any more different than what we witnessed from our parents growing up, but as time flew by we were pushed into more traditional roles and I can sometimes see us slipping right into those old faulty patterns I had hoped to never see again.  At these times I do not recognize us at all.  It’s almost surreal, like an LSD trip.  My husband will say something and I literally have no idea who he is.  Worse, sometimes I have no idea who I am or how I got here.  I think, “Is this really me?  Is this really my house? Is this really my life? How in the world did this happen?”  Because all I see is a re-run.  We are just doing a play of our parents when they were at this stage in their lives.

Sometimes I think about this in terms of a journey.  My parents walked this path and their parents before them.  So many generations walked this same path that it has become very smooth and very deep.  So many couples have cried on this path that it has become muddy.  Now instead of walking we easily just slide right on down.

For a while my husband and I stayed off this road entirely but we had no choice but to stay close by because we didn’t know anything else.  We used all of our focus in the beginning to watch every step we took so that we did not accidentally step on that road.  But then life got busy and it got hard and one or the other of us tripped and fell and landed on that mud slide and dragged the other one right down with us.
It takes no effort whatsoever to slide down into this pit, but it takes every ounce of concentration we have to try and stop ourselves and pull ourselves out.  To make it even more complicated, it also takes cooperation.  We either both get out or nobody does so we have to work together.  We have to find some twig or rock to grab onto and use all the energy we have to go against this current and climb up and out of this very deep mud slide.  Then we have to have our machetes ready to cut our own path into the unknown and hopefully this new one will be a better path for our kids to take someday and their kids.  Then maybe the mudslide will dry out, fill up, and allow growth again.

Marriage is difficult even if you have every advantage going in.  It takes work, even when you feel like the work should be over.  After all, when you have jobs, kids, and house projects, who wants to have to add another thing to their to-do list?  But, if you don’t work on the marriage and make time for it you’ll shift into automatic pilot mode and if you come from a dysfunctional home your auto pilot is not pretty.  If you come from a great family, your autopilot will be lackluster, disingenuous, and boring and that’s the best you can hope for with autopilot.

I have devised some ways over the years to stop mudsliding and get out of the pit.  One is to remember that if my spouse or I do or say something hurtful it is only because we are hurting.  If someone were to wave a magic wand to show us the truth of what is happening we’d see each other as children and in pain.  We are simply reenacting something that hurt and confused us long ago in an attempt to finally heal, or to have the power we never had as children but desperately needed. Another way is through prayer or meditation.  Removing myself from what I see as something false and full of errors and connecting instead to something true and unchanging can literally become that branch I need to pull myself up.  I do NOT talk to people who will “validate” me by telling me that I am right and my spouse is wrong.  It might make me feel better in the short term but it only makes me slide faster down the slope.  I also try to steer clear from trying to be right.  Trying to be right means you are making someone else wrong and all this is is an argument.  An argument means there is no cooperation and no cooperation means you’re not getting out of this pit.  The same goes for getting revenge, being passive aggressive, or trying to smother one another in guilt.  All these things do is make the path that much deeper.

Marriage is not easy, but it is a commitment for better or for worse.  I truly believe that when you stick with it and give it your all that it can be a teacher and a healer for you.  I see my husband and my children as my gurus.  I think we are here together to teach one another lessons and those lessons do not always come easily or even without pain.  However, the love we have for one another is enough to get us through these times and the love we have is what gives me the faith to know that even if my husband and I slip into old childhood patterns we’ll make it out again, together.

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