How My Four-Year-Old Taught Me About Optimism With a Game of Chutes and Ladders

It always amazes me how different each of the boys are.  They really do have different personalities, likes, dislikes, and of course, funny sayings.  Lately, D (4.5 years) has been obsessed with the game – Chutes and Ladders.  He has played it with different people, but God bless Grammy for playing with him over and over and over again when she came to visit a few weeks ago.  Oh, to have a grandmother's patience!

Chutes and Ladders

D started half day pre-k yesterday.  He has stayed home with me all of his life, except the two times he went to Parents' Day Out (it was his idea to go so after he didn't want to go anymore, and since the rest of us minus Daddy were staying home, I let him quit.  Some may say that was bad, but I wasn’t going to force a three-year-old to go if he doesn't want to.)  He also went with his older brother three hours a week to "school" with a teacher friend from church, which was a very beneficial supplement to homeschool.  He learned so much and had fun, but he was also the only other student besides the Captain.

So, I NEVER thought he would actually enjoy pre-k.  Monday was the first day and he didn't shed a tear.  In fact, I was kind of hanging around his chair as he began coloring his paper and he turned to me and said "ok, you can go now."  I was SO proud of him, but yikes, rip my heart out, kid!  Yesterday there were near tears, but he ended up having a great day and even earned a certificate for good behavior!  He can't remember what he did to earn it, but hey, he's four.  

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It’s Back To (Public) School For Us! {25% off coupon at OshKosh B’gosh, too!}

I participated in a Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for OshKosh B’gosh. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.  #backtobgosh #BgoshJeanius

Osh Kosh B'GoshLast year, I homeschooled the boys.  It's what was right for our family at the time and given the opportunity, I'd do it all over again.  I'm so happy that I had extra time with my boys!  The Captain was in kindergarten and D followed right behind him, trying to do all that he did.  About mid-year, the Captain, who had major school anxiety in pre-k for months, started talking about maybe trying public school for first grade.  We talked about it a lot since then, and now he is fully on board and registered for first grade public school.  This mama is nervous, he's a bit apprehensive, (big word that his Grampy taught him!) and he convinced D (and us) that he needed to try pre-k, too.  They love being together and I think they will both do better knowing that Brother is there, too.

Well, now D is very apprehensive, so we are doing all that we can to encourage him and let him know that he will: A) have fun and B) be okay!  I hope to update you in a few weeks that things are going great.  Pray for us!!

The first step in back-to-school preparation is shopping, of course!  We went to OshKosh B'Gosh to get some great deals on clothing that we all can agree on.  The Captain loves his sporty clothes and D loves jeans and lucky for me, OshKosh is the perfect place for both!  They have great sales, coupons (check below for a great one,) clearance, and their clothes are great quality that will last.  

#backtobgosh #BgoshJeanius

D is my child that would rather run around in mismatched jammies and save all of his money that he earns.  The Captain is always talking him into spending his money on different things, most of the time, it's gum.  D would spend $20 on just gum if we let him.  I wanted him to be excited about going to school and wearing new clothes, but he was not so thrilled to go shopping for clothes.  When he laid eyes on this awesome shirt, though, he was sold.  Throw in some jeans and some sporty clothes, and he was done.  He quickly tried them on and then it was back to being silly 4 year-old.  

The Captain grabbed four times as many clothes as D and enjoyed every second of the whole clothes shopping process.  They are two totally different personalities!  Neither of them are crazy about trying clothes on, but when it involves a large dressing room with your family, then it's not so bad.

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Easy Summer Activity for Preschoolers and Toddlers: Painting with Water

Summer Activity for Preschoolers:  Painting with WaterI'm always looking for a great summer activity for preschoolers to keep the kids happy and engaged.  Kids love to get wet, especially in the 100+ degree summer heat.  When we lived with my parents for a few months in 2011, my mom suggested that the Captain paint with water.  He was 2 then and it just started a love of painting with water.  We pulled out the foam brushes for Baby Brother the other day and while the Captain and D are a bit more hyper with their painting, it's still pretty fun and provides a great summer day activity…and it's simple and cheap!

Materials Needed:

  • one or more paintbrushes, in all types and sizes!
  • cup or bowl of water

This is a great activitiy because water dries quickly and doesn't leave a mess.  This would be a fun thing to do alongside a parent who is using real paint, as long as the child knows they are to only use the water or their "special paint" to paint with!  (That could be bad if they dipped their paintbrush in the paint instead of water!)  Give your child(ren) a task of painting the door, porch, patio, toy playhouse, whatever!  This is so much fun, yet so simple.  The toddlers and preschoolers really enjoy this activity.

 

Summer Activity for Preschoolers:  Painting with Water

What summer activity do your toddlers and preschoolers enjoy?  Make sure to check out our DIY Splash Pad for added summer fun!

Five Simple Ways To Make Starting Preschool Easier

This starting preschool post has been brought to you by Bright Start Kids.  All opinions are 100% my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

Starting PreschoolThis year, D is 4 1/2 and really wants to go to pre-k like his older brother did two years ago.  He is going through a very clingy phase, however, and he is unsure about leaving his family for a few hours every day to attend pre-k.

1.  Read books about getting ready for preschool.  

The Night Before Preschool, The Kissing Hand, and Daniel Goes To School are just a few great books to read in the weeks before school starts to prepare your child for the things they will do and the emotions they will feel.

2. Practice opening and closing….everything!

In the months before school starts, work on things like shoe tying, zipping zippers, unbuckling tricky buckles (like on backpacks and lunchboxes,) any sandwich or snack containers, and more.  While preschoolers do not have to have these tasks mastered, it will help them feel less scared and more confident when they go to school and Mommy and Daddy are not available to help.

3.  Meet the teacher and classmates if possible.

Take advantage of back-to-school events and meet the teacher night.  It really helps children to get to know some of the people they will be spending the year with while Mommy or Daddy are around, to ensure that you trust them and so they will not be "strangers" on the first day!  

4. Let your child pick out a special t-shirt or shoes.

While a whole new wardrobe might not be necessary, a few new shirts or a new pair of shoes will get your child excited about back-to-school.  Letting him or her pick out a new shirt in their favorite color or with their favorite cartoon character makes the day more special.  You will want to wash and let your child wear the clothes for at least a half of an hour so they can tell you if something is uncomfortable.  Shoes might need to be broken in prior to the first day of school.

5. Personalize everything!

The best idea is to make your child feel special and have ownership over his or her things by using labels to personalize.  There will be no question of "is this mine?" when his or her name is on the backpack, lunchbox, nap mat, and any other school supplies that are not going to be used by all of the class.  (Check with the teacher before you label everything so the labels aren't wasted.) 

Bright Star Kids has lots of great labels and personalized products for back-to-school.  This company has a wide array of labels in all colors, shapes, sizes, and fonts for the name.  They have multiple, customizable label packages so you're sure to find the perfect fit for your child's needs. Just to name a few of the great labels you can customize:

  • shoe labels – round or foot shaped
  • pencil labels
  • clothing tag labels
  • iron-on labels
  • large stick-on labels
  • small stick-on labels
  • clear labels
  • round labels
  • subject labels
  • labels for allergies
  • learn to type labels
  • much, much more!

Bright Start KidsWe ordered the Preschool & Daycare Labels Kit, which is currently on sale for $29.95, down from $62.  You get 170 high quality labels for your child in this package.  Here are the adorable labels we ordered.  (The name has been marked out for privacy, but you can see how high quality and beautiful these labels are!)

preschool labels

How do you prepare your kids for the first day of school?

 

Raising Boys: Accidents Happen!

Accidents happen with all children and most times, there is nothing anyone could have done to prevent the accident from happening.  Covering your child in bubble wrap, knee and elbow pads, a helmet, and steel toed boots might help, but of course that's ridiculous!  Being the mom of three boys, accidents are an every day occurrence.  Most of the time it's just a fall or lately, Baby Brother throwing something and nailing someone in the head.  I don't know why he thinks this is so hilarious, but he's a toddler, and it happens.  Skinned knees, bruises, and scratches also happen more frequently than I would like with the boys, but that's part of being a kid.  What I absolutely hate to see, though, is blood.  It breaks my heart to see my any of my boys crying and scared at the sight of blood.  Thankfully I know how to be calm, but it is scary to me and to them!  

When the Captain was two, Baby D was born.  And when Baby D was about 4 days old, he was climbing a structure at the playground and fell and bit through his lip.  There was blood everywhere, it was super scary!  He wasn't crying, really, but he was scared.  We had never had an accident that bad before, and I made the decision to head to the ER.  His lip was cut open and it was just gross.  He was a big boy through it all, and luckily it only took a little medical glue at the ER to fix him up, but it was rough for this mommy!  He looked like he had a piece of chicken hanging out of his lip for about a week.  There's still a scar, but it's hiding under his lip.  It's a good story to tell, at least.  Now most of his injuries are sports injuries, but thankfully the cut lip has been his worst injury.

accident accidentD seems to be more accident prone of the three boys, for now at least.  He had quite a few tumbles when he was learning to walk and a new toddler.  He's had a few busted lips and seems to be the one who gets hurt more often.  Just yesterday, the Captain somehow pinched his arm between his hand and the card at Costco and you would have thought he was being beat by the way he was screaming.  I know it hurt, but the kid is very dramatic about his injuries, which for sure does not make it any easier for me and Daddy!  We feel for him and hate that he gets hurt so often.

Like I said earlier, Baby Brother is usually the cause of the tears around here.  He loves to throw, hit, and chase the older two boys!  It can be comical, but we always try hard not to laugh as not to encourage him.  Hopefully this phase will be over soon!  His biggest injuries are skinned knees and blood from scratching mosquito bites.  Baby Brother has proven to be pretty tough, and hopefully he will stay safe and avoid the injuries.

As the boys grow older and especially as they get into more serious sports, I know the accidents will happen.  It's important for us to stress safety at all times, but also to be prepared for those accidents.  Alfac accident insurance is perfect for sports loving and accident prone kids.  Injuries covered with accident insurance that may not be covered by regular health insurance include:  broken teeth, concussions, ER visits, lacerations, intensive care confinement, and more.  When your child (or you) has a covered accident, you'll receive cash benefits to help cover costs that insurance won't cover.

Accidents happen….are you prepared?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Raise A Hand For Teachers

This Raise A Hand  For Teachers post has been brought to you by ThredUp.  All opinions are mine.

Raise A Hand For Teachers with ThredUp

Teachers' jobs are getting increasingly harder by the day.  Things have changed so much since I was in school, but even since I was a kindergarten teacher seven years ago.  We all know that teachers work diligently to prepare for, educate, and care for kids of all ages, but teachers also have a daunting task to encourage, love, build character, and protect.  Teachers have more and more things to worry about while trying to get their job done, all with a small paycheck and trying to take care of their own families. 

I have known of teachers that have bought their students school supplies and had to purchase their own classroom supplies.  They need specific things to enrich their classroom that their school doesn't have the funds for, so they purchase it.  It's a labor of love.  He or she sees that a student doesn't have the right school supplies and the parents don't have enough money to buy them, so out of his or her own pocket, the school supplies are bought, all while salvaging the pride of the student and family.  Quietly, lovingly, teachers take care of their students and make their classroom an environment that is ready for learning, so all of the students can succeed.  

Beyond the basics, however, there are many teachers who are buying food for their hungry students and clothes for their students who need them.  According to AdoptAClassroom.com, teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money each year to make their classroom ready for learning.  70% of teachers have purchased apparel like jackets, socks, and shoes for their students that were in need.

Fashion resale site thredUP.com has partnered with AdoptAClassroom.org to recognize and thank teachers for their hard work and the positive impact they make each day on our children’s lives.  thredUP.com has popular kids brands including GapKids, Janie and Jack, Lilly Pulitzer, Mini Boden, Zara Kids, and many more.  We have used thredUP.com in the past and have always been pleased with the exceptional quality. It's the best of the best, at affordable resale prices, up to 90% off of retail.  thredUP is a one-stop shop, with all of the top brands in one place at thredUP.com/Back-To-School or on the mobile app.  It's so convenient and stress-free!

Raise A Hand for Teachers Program:

  • Nomination period is July 15 – August 23

  • Three teachers each win $2,500 for classroom supplies and $500 to thredUP. 50 runner-up winners receive $100 to thredUP.

  • Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 8 (following Labor Day weekend)

  • Visit Raise A Hand For Teachers to nominate your favorite teacher!

 

I'm nominating a teacher I know who brings home very little cash, because she spends so much on her students. Who will you nominate?

Raise A Hand For Teachers with ThredUp

Summer Sports and Dental Injuries

This dental injuries post was brought to you by Jefferson Dental Clinics.  All opinions are mine.

Summer Sports and Dental Injuries

We are taking a break from team sports this summer, but our kids are playing some sort of sport every day!  This helpful infographic from Jefferson Dental Clinics is very eye opening as to what dangers lie ahead for many kids' mouths and teeth this summer.  Sports injuries are common and we try to prepare for them, but how many parents plan for the best care of our children's teeth?  I am always scared that the boys are going to knock a tooth out, and yes, it would be traumatic if that happened, but there's also jaw dislocation, root fracture, or crown displacement.  Proper fitting of mouthguards and helmets is essential for the safety of your child's teeth!  Check with your child's dentist before they start practicing for any sport to make sure that their teeth are going to be protected during the season.  

Make Road Trips With Kids Safe and Fun with These Five Preparations {Plus A DIY Interactive Travel Map}

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FuelTheLove #CollectiveBias  Make road trips with kids safe and fun with these five preparations!

Make Road Trips with Kids Safe and Fun #FuelTheLove ad #CollectiveBias

Summer means road trips for a lot of families in America.  The roads are busy with families traveling to different destinations, family reunions, theme parks, and more.  Summer for us looks a little different, because this is Hubby's biggest time of the year.  He is a youth minister and spends a good amount of time traveling with his youth group, going to camps and service projects.  This also means that the boys and I are traveling a lot to spend time with Grammy and Grampy and our other family members while Daddy is away.

It's so important to have the van all ready to go before we leave.  Hubby and I work together to make sure these important tasks are done before we head out.

1.  Check tires, lights, and wipers to make sure they are road trip ready.  Doing this a few days before your trip makes your departure a lot less stressful!

2.  Buy or prepare a first aid kit in case of emergency.  Also, always have blankets handy in the cold weather, along with water, extra clothes, and plenty of snacks in case you are stranded on the side of the road for a while. 

3.  Check carseats, booster seats, and seat belts the day before you leave.  I always like to take the carseats out, clean them, have the kids sit in them and make sure the straps are adjusted properly, and reinstall them in the van.  Carseats should be comfortable for the kids, but the straps should be adjusted correctly and snug enough to actually protect the kids in case of an accident.

4.  Organize all DVDs, tablets, games, and any other suppies your child may need before you leave.  Make them easily accessible so they don't need help reaching things.  Pinterest has a lot of great ideas for this!  Keep in mind that it is good to have everything anchored down in case of a car accident.  Anything that isn't secured to the car will fly and become dangerous in an accident.  

Have LOTS of fun activities handy and available for kids to grab without unbuckling their carseats.  I created this quick DIY interactive travel map for the boys to be able to visualize our trip and see how much further we have to travel.  I just printed out a map of our trip and taped it to a cookie sheet.  Then, I printed out a picture of a van and the names of a few towns we would be going through.  I then attached all of the printouts to a magnet strip so the map can be interactive and the pieces can be movable.  You could do this with states, landmarks, directions, and more.

DIY Interactive Map for Kids #FuelTheLove ad

The Captain, 6, loves to read signs and ask about towns, cities, distances, directions, and more, so this project is perfect for him.  He can label the town when we get to it, or plan out the trip.  He can match the town name to the one on the map, too.  He loves moving the car to our current destination!

DIY Interactive Map for Kids #FuelTheLove ad

5.  Have your car's oil changed before you leave on your trip.  This is so important and so, so easy at Walmart.  They have a great Automotive Care Center that will do everything to prepare your car's engine for the road. Their trained employees will make sure your car is taken care of and will help you select the oil that is right for your engine.  And the best part is that you can drop your car off, shop for your road trip essentials, and pick up your car when you are done.  It's so easy and convenient!

When we drove up to the Auto Care Center, we saw a sign that helped us make our decision as to which Pennzoil oil to use.  

  • Conventional Motor Oil – Good (yellow bottle)
  • High Mileage Vehicle – Better (goldish/brown bottle – suggested when car milage is above 75,000)
  • Platinum (synthetic motor oil) – Best (silver bottle – Now made from natural gas)

Make Road Trips with Kids Safe and Fun #FuelTheLove ad

Since our van has over 75,000 miles, we went with "Better" for high mileage vehicles.  The Auto Care Center specialist quickly came to our car and asked a few questions, including what oil we would like.  She was very friendly and answered any questions we had about the oil change.  We left the keys in the van and unloaded the family to go inside and shop for our road trip.  When our van was finished, they called our name over the speaker and let us know it was ready.  When we were ready, we paid for our groceries and went back to the Auto Care Center to pick up the van.

Make Road Trips with Kids Safe and Fun #FuelTheLove ad All of the staff in the Auto Care Center were very knowledgeable and friendly.  The checkout was quick and easy and we didn't have unhappy kids waiting around while the van's oil was changed.  

Make Road Trips with Kids Safe and Fun #FuelTheLove ad

I know I can trust the Auto Care Center at Walmart for our road trip preparation.  And the best part is Pennzoil oil changes at Walmart are on Rollback through September 9th.  

  • High Mileage $35.88, compared to the regular Walmart price of $39.88. {Industry standard price is $46}
  • Platinum Full Synthetic $45.88, compared to the regular Walmart price of $49.88. {Industry standard price $66}

Pennzoil motor oil for high mileage vehicles is great because:

  • They help clean out sludge that other oils leave behind.
  • Designed for complete protection
  • Will allow you to drive an extra 550 miles per year vs. a dirty engine
  • Provides the best protection from friction
  • Helps to reduce leaks and oil consumption in worn or higher mileage vehicles
  • Pennzoil offers a free warranty that covers 15 engine parts that may fail due to engine wear or friction.

We are ready for our summer road trips with these five easy preparations!  

 

How do you make sure your road trips with kids are fun and safe?

Adventure + Education = The Wild Kratts! New DVD Out April 14th

This Wild Kratts post was brought to you by PBS Distribution.  All opinions are mine.

The Captain and D love anything and everything about animals. There are a lot of animal shows, but the one they both love and enjoy immensely is Wild Kratts.  The Captain has been a mega fan for about two years now, and still dresses up as Chris Kratt and D is Martin Kratt, of course!  They loved their Wild Kratts birthday party a couple of years ago, and still talk about how awesome it was!

Wild Kratts partyAlong with being loads of fun, the boys have learned so much from this awesome show!  I love TV shows that actually teach something instead of being silly the whole time.  The boys have learned about extinct animals like the Tasmanian tiger, cool birds like the Peregrine Falcon, and much more.

The Captain has seen just about every episode of the Wild Kratts, but having them grouped into thematic shows is awesome!  He flipped out when we received this new DVD in the mail.  Wild Kratts:  Shark-Tastic! is available April 14th and includes four episodes, two of which are bonus episodes.  The Wild Kratts talk about great white sharks, dolphins, and other sea creatures, like a hawksbill turtle, a tiger shark, a giant pacific octopus, a bowhead whale, a manta ray, and many more!

Shark-Tastic

In each episode of Wild Kratts, Chris and Martin Kratt take us on animal powered adventures.  In each episode, the Kratt Brothers are transformed into animated versions of themselves and the real life zoologists visit wild animals in their habitats and showcase key science concepts along the way.  Wild Kratts:  Shark-Tastic! contains these four episodes:  "Octopus Wildkratticus," "Tortuga Tune Up," "Speaking Dolphinese," and "Stuck on Sharks."

Wild Kratts airs weekdays on PBS KIDS.  Check your local listings and don't miss an episode!

Six Tips To Help Parents Get More Sleep

 Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Restonic and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own. #GoToBed  Six tips to help parents get more sleep

I frequently joke that I haven't gotten a full night's sleep for about 7 years now.  I used to be able to sleep through the night, but then around the second trimester with the Captain, I had to wake up multiple times a night.  I either had to use the restroom, or my hips or back were hurting.  Then, of course, he was born and my sleep was interrupted by a crying baby….often.  He did not sleep through the night until he was about 18 months old, and even then, it was not every night.  Through three pregnancies, three newborns, multiple moves, sicknesses, and more, I can honestly count on one hand the nights I have slept 6 consecutive hours.  Baby Brother, at 16 months old, is working on sleeping all night long, and does great sometimes, but other times, not so much.  I crave a 20 minute "siesta" after lunch on most days!  

People do not realize how your sleep takes a drastic hit once you have kids.  Now, if you are one of the lucky ones who has a baby that sleeps through the night consistently, do know that you ARE lucky!  I have heard stories of parents with six year olds who still wake up in the night.  

The Captain did not sleep through the night consistently until D moved in his room when the Captain was 4 1/2!  It seems he just needed to know someone was nearby and thankfully, his little brother sleeping in the same room helped.  Hallelujah!  But there have also been nights when everyone is sick and we are up multiple times a night.  When Baby Brother was a newborn, I made this meme to add humor to our situation because for awhile, this was all too true:

wake up our parentsWe are on the verge of it all being behind us (hopefully!) but it isn't quite funny yet.  Some kids just don't sleep well and unfortunately, 2/3 of our sons are like that.  That's okay…we have learned to make the most out of our son's sleep habits and are counting our blessings for our one good sleeper.

Six Tips To Help Parents Get More Sleep

We have spent six and a half years thinking about, craving, and not getting enough sleep.  So, I consider myself a professional of parenting while not getting adequate sleep, and I have compiled a list of five tips to help every parent get more sleep, no matter what kind of sleeper you were blessed with!

1. Reevaluate bedtimes.  We found that no matter what, the Captain would wake up at 7:15 on the dot, most days.  We discovered that he was sleepy by 8 PM and so I started aiming for 8 for their bedtime.  This gives us more time to catch up on chores, veg out in front of the TV for a few minutes, spend time together, and finally, get to bed at a decent hour.  Every parent needs a little downtime, and bedtimes don't have to be super early or super late, just do what works best for your family's sleep needs.

2.  Don't be afraid to train kids to help themselves in the morning.  I know, I know, this might sound horrible, but there comes a time when kids are old enough to be independent.  We told the Captain that if he couldn't help waking up at 7:15, that he didn't have to wake us up until 8.  Call us lazy, but those extra 45 minutes are blissful, especially after the baby has been up during the night!  I sat down with the Captain, who is 6, and wrote out a list of things he could do in the morning.  He isn't allowed to watch or use a "screen" until 7:30, to allow his body to wake up naturally and so he doesn't think he can get up at 6 AM and watch TV.  He can pour himself a bowl of cereal, read books, color, etc.  Now, it took some training and a lot of worrying on my part.  I checked on him a lot during those first few mornings, and coached him through it.  He loves this special time when he is the only one awake and he knows what he cannot do.  I trust him to be safe and he likes the independence.  And on the days when D wakes up before we do, the Captain loves taking care of him and helping him with his cereal.

3.  Go to bed!  Set a timer for the time you want to be in bed.  Get everything you need to get done before that time and if you're not done, save it for tomorrow.  And, either leave your phone in the other room, or set another timer so that you will only spend 5 minutes on your phone and then turn it off (or silence it.)  Smart phones are a great convenience, but really do mess with sleep!  Go to sleep!

4.  Use a sound machine and put the baby monitor in the other room.  I leave the monitor in our bathroom, close the door, and I still hear him when he gets up.  I don't need to hear every single sleep noise, only when he needs me.  And the sound machine drowns out the annoying noises like birds in the morning, kid's sleep talking and noises, and more, but isn't so loud that it drowns out crying and yelling "Mommy!" when someone has a nightmare.

5.  Don't be afraid to nap.  Naps save me, no lie.  I am both lucky and cursed that I can only sleep for about 15-20 minutes and then I'm up.  Naps are a great way to recharge midday.

6.  Most importantly, don't take your sleep for granted.  It's simply not true that you can ever "catch up" on your sleep, so sleep when it's time and don't sacrifice your sleep for things that just don't matter and can wait until tomorrow.  Because you never know when the kids will be up sick or having a nightmare in the middle of the night!

 Visit Restonic for more information about getting a good night's sleep!  And make sure to follow Restonic on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news.  And follow the #GoToBed hashtag on social media channels, as well.