10 FREE educational apps for little kids

When you need to entertain your kids but don't want to have them sit in front of a screen with their brains seemingly turning to mush, educational apps are a major lifesaver.

But there's nothing worse than paying for an app, only to find that your kid is totally not into it and your money has gone down the drain.

Hence, we've come up with a list of free educational apps for you to download just in time for holiday travel season. Test them out with your kids, and if they don't love them — no sweat! Delete them and try some others on our list:

1. First Words Sampler: An awesome app that engages kids in flashcards to learn to spell words and associate them with cute coordinating images.
2. Tiny Tiger and Friends: The cute graphics on this game haven stolen our hearts. Kids learn about getting dressed with this fun little app.
3. PBS Kids Video: If kids are going to watch TV shows, PBS is your best bet. All of the shows teach lessons and minimally annoying.
4. LEGO DUPLO Trains: For your train-obsessed tots, this app teaches about logistics and will keep them entertained for about as long as you'll allow!
5. LEGO DUPLO Food: Another fun one from LEGO that is great for either gender. We love how it teaches kids about business basics and emphasizes cleaning up at the end of the fun.
6. Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Letter Sounds: Who needs immersion schools when you have this fun app? (Kidding, kind of!) This app teaches foreign language skills through fun games and images.
7. Little Stars Toddler Games: Parents and teachers love this app that covers 10 different educational topics like numbers, shapes, colors and more. Bonus points for being super easy to customize!
8. Animal Memory Match: With three levels of difficulty, this classic game is perfect for toddlers and older kids alike.
9. Toca Kitchen Monster: Toca has tons of great apps for kids, but this is the only free version and it provides lots of fun for kids as they learn about cooking and cause/effect.
10. Breathe, Think and Do with Sesame: We love that this one covers a unique topic for kids and teaches complex principles of self-control, planning and persistence in social settings.

Dollar store toys your toddler will love

If there's one thing Christmas and birthdays with kids has taught us, it is this: No matter how many toys you buy, 90% of the time, they are going to lose the magic fast.

We have spent all too much time mourning the forgotten, hand-carved, wooden blocks we spent a fortune on. And though we've seen some success in putting toys away for a season and then reintroducing them, we really love this budget-friendly, #lazymom idea.

Next time you go to The Dollar Tree (a.k.a the place we always wonder how the heck our receipt total racked up so high) spend $5 or less on a few new toys for your kids. They will be thrilled. Ecstatic. Entertained...for about three days.

And when the excitement wears off? No problem! Toss or donate the toys, then pick up some new ones a few weeks later. They're so inexpensive, they're pretty much disposable. The ingenuity still amazes us!! Here are some of our toddler-approved favorites:

  • Party balloons. Blow up the whole bag and throw them in the air, practice tossing them, stomp on them and let them pop, etc)
  • Playdough. Our Dollar Tree has a 3-pack for $1. Perfect for a one-time Playdough sesh...then throw it away before it gets in the carpet!
  • Bubbles. Bubbles are super fun for an afternoon when your lungs are feeling strong. They are not fun when your toddler requests that you blow them every single day until you want to pass out. Enjoy them for awhile and then be done with it!
  • Halloween costumes. Stock the dress up box with cheap costume accessories during Halloween season and pull them out for rainy day fun.
  • Stickers. Stickers are perfect around the 5 o'clock hour when your kids are pestering you and you need to get dinner on the table. Let them stick the whole pack on a dollar store coloring book and you're golden!
  • Coloring book and crayons. We all know how fast a toddler can destroy a pack of Crayons. Hence, we like to stock up on several boxes and toss them as soon as the majority are broken.
  • Sidewalk chalk. There's nothing more blissful than some peaceful time on the porch while your kids quietly play. Sidewalk chalk can save a long afternoon in a snap! (Use it to draw states, shapes and hopscotch for extra fun!)
  • Paper goods. Pinterest is an endless source of inspiration for the easy crafts that can be made with paper plates, cups and bags. Search for a few minutes and head to the dollar store to load up on supplies! 
  • Candy (for bribing). Even the best of moms must do it. Spend $1 on a bag of lollipops and pull them out in a moment of desperation. You'll never regret the forethought!
  • Whatever other random crap they want. If you really want to make your kids' day, take them to the dollar store and tell them they can pick out whatever they want! After the shock wears off, they'll be the happiest kid in all the land — for at least one afternoon.

Top 10 costumes for Halloween 2016

According to our highly unscientific survey, hot costumes this year are all about current events, i.e. Trump, Clinton, Pokemon Go, David Bowie and Prince. But there are more official releases about costumes, so we'll turn to them for the facts.

What are the takeaways from the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey? For one, princesses are taking a (tiny) step down. For the first time in 11 years, action and superheroes nudge princess costumes out of the top spot for kids! Hashtag girlpower! (But Frozen characters are still in the top 10!)

Actually, superheroes score many top spots for Halloween costumes of all age groups — not that it's a huge surprise! Movies like Star Wars are guaranteed to be some of the other most-seen costumes on the streets. And for adults over the age of 35, classics like witches and pirates reign, along with political costumes. Read on for the official list for all ages (and pets!)

1. Action/Superhero
2. Princess
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Lion, Monkey, etc.)
4. Batman Character
5. Star Wars Character
6. Tie: Witch and DC Superhero (excluding Batman)
7. Frozen Character (Anna, Elsa, Olaf)
8. Marvel Superhero (excluding Spiderman)
9. Zombie
10. Spiderman

MOST POPULAR ADULT COSTUMES (18 to 34 years old):
1. Batman Character (Batman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, etc.)
2. Witch
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
4. Tie: Marvel Superhero (Deadpool, Spiderman, etc.) and DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman, excluding Batman)
5. Vampire
6. Video Game Character
7. Slasher Movie Villain (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc.)
8. Pirate
9. Star Wars Character
10. Zombie

1. Witch
2. Pirate
3. Political (Trump, Clinton, etc.)
4. Vampire
5. Batman Character (Batman, Catwoman, etc.)
6. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
7. Tie: DC Superhero (Superman, Wonder Woman, excluding Batman) and Star Wars Character
8. Tie: Ghost and Zombie
9. Scary Costume/Mask
10. Marvel Superhero (Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, etc.)

1. Pumpkin
2. Hot Dog
3. Bumble Bee
4. Tie: Lion and Star Wars Character
5. Devil
6. Batman Character
7. Witch
8. Superman
9. Action/Superhero
10. Cat

10 Trader Joe's items for busy moms

We know we don't have to convince you of the magic of Trader Joe's. The chocolate-covered anything, the gourmet cheese, the irresistible snacks...they've had us at "hello." But as we've become busy moms, Trader Joe's has taken on even greater meaning for us. The amount of convenience health foods they have is simply unmatched. Here are our favorites!

1. Balsamic glaze. Add it to salads, pizza, sandwiches or pasta to take things to the next level!
2. Butternut squash zig zags. Fun enough to convince your kids to eat their veggies.
3. Chicken apple sausage. For nights when you have no idea what you're going to cook.
4. Tomato basil marinara. Because boiling a little pasta and topping it with this stuff is the easiest meal of the week.
5. Chile lime chicken burgers. These burgers are amazingly delicious, made of totally clean ingredients and so much easier than making your own.
6. Spinach and kale Greek yogurt dip. How else will you get your kids gobbling spinach and kale?
7. Organic brown rice. It's in the frozen section and ready to save you in the times when you forget to turn on the rice cooker (ie, every time)
8. Instant oatmeal. Yummy and ready to be heated in the microwave, without the sugar of Quaker packets.
9. Mirepoix mix. A life-saver for soups and pastas. So worth the money when you can save a solid 10 minutes of chopping time!
10. Chicken cilantro mini wontons. Another easy meal when paired with rice — or the mirepoix mix for the fastest wonton soup of your life!

How much do you pay a babysitter?

Before we became parents, we never knew how much debate could be caused over the question of how much to pay a babysitter. But now we know better. It seems everyone has a strong opinion about how much a babysitter should be paid, and those opinions range from $2 to $25 an hour.

Enter, the babysitting conundrum: if babysitters are in high demand and you would rather pay on the low end of the scale, you risk having the competition take away your go-to, trusted sitter. But if you're paying on the high end while your neighbors are paying much less, you'll feel frustrated every time you for out the cash for date night/girls lunch/momma alone time/dentist appointments.

What's a parent to do with a quandary like this? The absolute best advice we've heard is to consider these questions, set a rate and then communicate that rate to your sitter before they accept the job. That way, expectations are matched for both parties, no one leaves disappointed, and you'll know if really need to be paying more (if the babysitter doesn't accept the job.)

Another great theory we've heard is to pay an hourly rate equivalent to the price of a movie ticket in your area. And if you're stumped on what to pay when you have only one child...or maybe a LOT of kids, try the $5 per child, per hour rule. (So if you have two kids you'll be paying $10 per hour, three kids and you'll pay $15, etc.)

Still thinking through how much you should pay? Here are some other points to consider when setting your rate:

  • Will your babysitter be driving to you or are you picking them up? Pay more for the convenience of a sitter who can drive.
  • Will your babysitter be expected to tidy the house, bathe your kids, make dinner or do any other jobs that can be tough to tackle? Pay more if so, and tip them if they go above and beyond.
  • Will your babysitter simply be keeping the kids alive — a.k.a. sitting with them while they watch a movie? Or do you want them to engage in more meaningful activities? Consider this when setting your rate.
  • How old is your babysitter? Pay less for younger, less experienced sitters and more for older, more experienced ones.
Luckily, the babysitting dilemma seems to get easier the more experience you have with it. You'll learn what babysitters expect, what other parents are paying and what you think is fair. Still, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below! 

7 new trends to try this fall

Perusing fashion blogs, pinning away on Pinterest, managing a billion online returns and trying on clothes at the mall — all while wrangling kiddos — can be a real buzz kill to our inner fashionista spirits. We need somebody to give us a report on the hottest trends in a simple, digestible list so we can get to tackling our wardrobe shopping for fall.

Hence, we've done all the research for you and now present the best of fall trends! These trends are new, fresh and ready to revive your closet. Read on for our favorites of 2016!

1. Bell sleeve tops. Like you're living in the movie "Ever After" — but it's real life! We are obsessing over the flowy, romantic tops we're seeing this fall. Give us all the voluminous sleeves and peplums!

2. Oversized vests. Vests are a unique layering option for fall and a great way to add interest to an outfit. We've seen some amazing long vests in black, camel and olive that will really pump up your maxi dresses or simple jeans and tee look.

3. Adidas fashion sneakers. Lifestyle tennies have been a trend for a few years now, but Adidas is the latest brand to take the fashion blogger land by storm. Stock up on your favorite pair in fall colors, and praise the heavens that footwear trends are so darn practical!

4. Wide-leg, cropped jeans. After a decade of skin-tight skinnies, denim is naturally reverting to the opposite end of the spectrum with wide-leg silhouettes for fall. We love this funky nod to the 70s and are scurrying to find the perfect pair!

5. Jumpsuits. Like denim, jumpsuits have taken a turn in the wide-leg direction. We love that jumpsuits make getting ready super simple (one piece to put on!) but aren't as fussy as a dress.

6. Statement calf booties. We've seen super short ankle booties around for the past few years. While those are still in style, the hottest new bootie is calf length, and comes in crazy patterns perfect for adding a dash of fun to your outfit.

7. Culottes. One more item to add to the wide-leg pants trend: culottes! They may remind you of your grandma in the 50s, and that's precisely what makes them so glorious. They're retro, fun and funky all at once. 

September Mighty Hero Cohen

Meet Cohen our Mighty hero for September. Did you know that September is Childhood cancer awareness month? Did you know that worldwide a child is diagnosed with cancer every 2 minutes? Childhood cancer is the NUMBER1 cause of death by disease for children under the age of 15 in the United States. Lets come together and GO GOLD for this handsome fighter Cohen and all others fighting this! You can donate to Cohen and his family here www.psiadoreyou.com Every penny of your donation will go to Cohen. Stay Stong buddy. We love you!

Cohen was born on March 2, 2015.  He has an older sister and an older brother who adore him! Cohen has a smile that can light up a room! He is a happy baby who is adored by everyone he meets! 

On Monday,  February 1, 2016 Cohen's parents rushed him to Primary Children's Hospital due to a terrible tummy ache. After some tests, Cohen was sent home with the thought of maybe it was just a bad case of gas. On Friday, February 5, 2016  Cohen was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma. 

Cohen has a huge road to recovery ahead of him. He will be in and out of the hospital He has many test and procedures ahead of him. Countless amounts of medicines. Time off of  work plus driving back and forth to the hospital. 

Let's all pull together and show Cohen and his family how much we love them! Financial burdens should be the last of their thoughts at this time.