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July 10, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes

Friday Flash Blog No. 76 {Plus Features}

Friday Flash Blog is a flash mob of blogs, highlighting the best of bloggers from the week. Be sure to check them out (and the ones I’ve featured) as well as link up your own.

Weekly Thoughts: We celebrated the 4th of July last week… and it has to be one of my favorite holidays. Second only to Christmas. While the 4th is a celebration of America, it is also a celebration of summer for many of us. How did you celebrate?

20 Lemon Desserts to Celebrate Summer! Compiled by Dizzy Busy & Hungry

20 Lemon Desserts to Celebrate Summer! Compiled by Dizzy Busy & Hungry

Didn't these old buckets turn out adorable! DIY from Little Brags

Didn’t these old buckets turn out adorable! DIY from Little Brags

Easy Jam Tarts to Make With the Kids. What fun! Recipe by Into the Playroom

Easy Jam Tarts to Make With the Kids. What fun! Recipe by Into the Playroom

I want one! Expanding Nautical Tote Bag Pattern from So Sew Easy

I want one! Expanding Nautical Tote Bag Pattern from So Sew Easy

30 Minute Strawberry Rolls with Sweet Glaze Recipe by Annie's Noms

30 Minute Strawberry Rolls with Sweet Glaze Recipe by Annie’s Noms

Nature Scavenger Hunt FREE Printable

Get outside already! Nature Scavenger Hunt FREE Printable from The Jenny Evolution

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July 10, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
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Activities for Exploring and Learning Colors

As adults, we often take for granted the importance of color exploration for kids. It’s much more than just learning the names of each color. These activities can be a wonderful visual sensory experience for your kids. It’s about learning how those colors shape the world around us!

Every week you can find amazing projects, crafts and activities to do with your kids with the Kids Co-Op, and The Jenny Evolution will highlight some of them with a common theme.  This week’s theme is activities for exploring and learning colors.

Activities for Exploring & Learning Colors | The Jenny Evolution

Color Sorting with Trains | Craftulate

Little Blue and Little Yellow- color mixing | Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

Color Explorations: Painting | Crafty Moms Share

Coloring Water | Tutus and Tea Parties

Color Sorting | An Idea on Tuesday

Colored Ice Play | Excite and Explore

C is for Colors | Big Energy – Little Learners

Color Grading Experiment With Food Coloring | Mom, Teach Me to Read

Color Matching Printables for Toddlers | Totschooling

Exploring Color and Light | Suzie’s Home Education Ideas


July 9, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes

Celebrate Summer! Fend Off Funsuckers with Cutter®

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cutter® Insect Repellent. All opinions are strictly my own.

With two extremely active boys, there’s nothing worse than being trapped indoors. After the Polar Vortex of this winter, we couldn’t wait to get outdoors. Do you know what else couldn’t wait? Mosquitoes!

The moment the snow melted on our lawn and the rains came down, those darn mosquitoes started showing up. Talk about some serious funsuckers.

Some people don’t attract bugs, but I am just the opposite. We can go outside to enjoy dinner. No one will get a single bite except for me. And often it’s rarely only just one! I’m waiting for scientists to figure out just exactly what it is those bloodsuckers are attracted to. But until then, I’m just going to believe that I smell particularly good.

Think I’m over exaggerating? One outing to the beach I made the mistake of not using insect repellent and was completely attacked. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t get a single bite. I woke up in the middle of the night scratching my legs for days.

This is what happens when people as delectable as me go out without bug repellent. I won't be making that mistake again.

This is what happens when people as delectable as me go out without bug repellent. I won’t be making that mistake again.

So I was excited when I heard about Cutter®‘s Fend Off Funsuckers campaign. I was even more excited to get to sample some of the products I hadn’t tried yet. In particular, I had no idea they made mosquito wipes. What a fabulous idea to use on the kids! We all know how wriggly our kids can be, so spraying them isn’t always the best option. Now you have another way to repel mosquitoes and keep those kiddos protected.

Fend off Funsuckers with Cutter

We’ve been huge fans of Cutter for years. But I was really excited to learn about their mosquito wipes.

We have a heavily wooded backyard, where mosquitoes love to live. Check it out.

In the spirit of the Funsuckers campaign, I thought it would be fun to tell you what my top 5 Funsuckers of Summer are. I’d love to hear yours!

My Top 5 Funsuckers of the Summer!

Mosquitoes. But you already knew that.

Sunburn. I remember getting horrible sunburns as a kid, blisters and all. That was the pits.

Sand. Love the beach. Hate the sand that comes home with the kids and takes over the house. Maybe I should just start hosing them off outside. ;-)

Rain. Last year it rained so much that we didn’t have to water our lawn once. Not once! I’m sure my water company was very disappointed. Hee hee.

Melting Ice. Sometimes a girl just wants to kick back in the backyard and keep her drink cool without having to get up for new ice. It’s a tough life we’re living here!


This 4th of July we experienced absolutely no funsuckers. Of course, we were wearing our Cutter® Inspect Repellent. I can’t say the same thing for all of the “suckers” behind us.


Enter to Win

Heads up, friends. Cutter® hosts a weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) promotion in their news feed. Just like the Cutter® Facebook page and you can easily enter to win!

To learn more about Cutter® Insect Repellent, visit their website.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cutter® Insect Repellent. All opinions are strictly my own.


July 9, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
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Did You Know? Girls More Likely to Have ADHD Symptoms

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for Shire. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Raising a child at any age is challenging, and when it comes to mothers and daughters, the dynamic can be even more complex. What some may dismiss as “typical tween girl behavior” can sometimes be symptoms of something more serious. Research suggests that girls are more likely than boys to report having mostly inattentive Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Since inattentive symptoms can be less noticeable than hyperactive and impulsive symptoms, it is important that moms know what to look for.

That’s why I’m pleased to be joining Shire, CHADD and Holly Robinson Peete to announce the launch of keep momming, a new public service initiative geared towards the moms of tween girls to raise awareness of ADHD.

The campaign is anchored within a new digital hub,, where you’ll find tips, tools and other go-to resources for moms, including a checklist to help recognize the symptoms of ADHD – inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity – and then encourages moms to talk to their daughter’s doctor. The keep momming initiative can help moms learn about ADHD and provide ideas on how to spark a conversation and stay connected with their tween.

Check out Holly’s message about how she keeps momming, and don’t forget to visit

July 8, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes

June Instagram Wordless Wednesday

JuneInstagram1 JuneInstagram2 Have you joined me on Instagram yet? You’re missing a whole other world if you haven’t. In June, we happened across a life size version of Macaroni & Cheese, my son tried to talk me into getting him a snake and my husband begged for Fondue for dinner.


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July 8, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes

Major Developmental Milestones for Children Aged 3-5

Every child develops differently, but it is still a good idea to make sure that they are hitting their developmental milestones. If a child is not able to do some or most of the skills listed below, it may be a good idea to talk to your health care professional. Listed below you will find the major developmental milestones for children aged 3 to 5.

Developmental Milestones for Children 3-5

Photo Credit – Photo Modified

Three Year Olds

Children who are three years old should understand general routines and basic personal care. This means that they should know that in the morning you wake up and eat breakfast, during the day you have lunch, bedtime is at night, etc. He or she should be able to dress themselves for the most part and copy things that they see adults doing, like pretending to drive or talk on the phone. By this age they should also be able to pedal a trike and walk up and down stairs one foot at a time.

Four Year Olds

Kids who are four really start to develop their imagination and will take on “real” roles while playing, like cops and robber, mother and daughter, etc. They should be able to count, even if they get a few numbers wrong here and there, as well as draw basic human figures. For major motor skills, he or she should be able to hop on one foot. For fine motor skills, they should be able to feed themselves without issues and use a spoon or fork to “cut” their food into smaller pieces.

Five Year Olds

By this age, most kids are in preschool or kindergarten. They like to make friends and play with other children and can also retell stories they have heard or even invent their own. Five year olds should be fully potty trained, able to dress themselves, speak clearly enough so other adults can understand them and know that there are differences between boys and girls. If you child cannot feed themselves, do a somersault or understand past, present and future tenses, you might want to discuss this with your doctor.

To find other milestones for children under age three or over age five, the CDC offers printable check lists online or you can also get them from your family doctor. Keep in mind that multiple births and premature babies do not follow the same guidelines a single and full term births.

July 8, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes

When a Wedding Spells (Sensory) Trouble

Weddings are joyous occasions, right? My niece is getting married next month, and my husband and I couldn’t be happier for her.

Hubby and I were talking about the upcoming wedding and the things we needed to think about for the date when it hit me like a ton of bricks. My seven year old was going to have to wear dress-up clothes. In some families, they may not give having to wear dress-up clothes a second thought. But in our family, it spells serious sensory trouble.

When a Wedding Spells Sensory Trouble | The Jenny Evolution

Vman has Sensory Processing Disorder and is extremely tactile sensitive. This means that clothing has always been a particular problem for him. We try to find the most comfortable clothes (with absolutely no tags, of course) but even some t-shirts can feel horrible for him. How on earth is he going to manage having to wear something other than athletic shorts and jersey shirts?

I’ve learned over the years the best way to handle a sensory-explosive situation is to discuss it multiple times before it actually happens. It raises the chances that Vman will be able to talk through his anxiety and discomfort and lowers the chances of a complete meltdown.

One night last week, I mentioned that we had been invited to his cousin’s wedding. I expected Vman to ask me when the wedding would be or if the rest of the family would be there. Instead, a concerned look flashed across his face as he slowly asked, “Does this mean I have to wear fancy clothes?” Yep. He knew exactly what it meant.

As I told him it would mean that he would have to dress up, crocodile tears started pouring down his face. I quickly explained that we would work together to find the most comfortable clothing for him. But I also explained that it was an evening wedding and wearing shorts just wasn’t an option. Instead, he would need to wear cotton pants and a button up shirt. (I don’t think a shirt with a tuxedo printed on it will pass the mustard, do you?)

Having sensory kids is a delicate balance. On one hand, I need to pay attention to and honor the specific sensory needs my kids have. On the other hand, I also need to teach them how to manage their sensory challenges to fit into real world situations. And this wedding is going to be one of those times.

I am absolutely dreading taking him clothes shopping. I know it will be an absolute cry fest on both of our parts. I also know that I will do my best to find a good compromise.

My hope is the day of the wedding he has one final cry out and then manages the clothing for the night. Otherwise, it could prove for a very “interesting” evening.


Read my other posts about Sensory Processing Disorder here.


The Sensory Spectrum - Sensory Blog Hop

July 7, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes

Mystery Books for Middle Schoolers

20 Exciting Mystery Books for Middle Schoolers: Find these books at your local library or purchase through the affiliated links provided for your convenience. All opinions are mine.

Getting kids excited about reading can sometimes be tough. But get your middle school kid hooked on these exciting mystery chapter books, and you’ll help develop a reader for life.

And be sure to check out these other book lists for Middle Schoolers:


Mystery Chapter Books for Middle Schoolers | The Jenny Evolution

The Postcard: When Jason’s grandmother dies, he’s sent down to her home in Florida to help his father clean out her things. At first he gripes about spending his summer miles away from his best friend, doing chores, and sweating in the Florida heat, but he soon discovers a mystery surrounding his grandmother’s murky past.

Into the Dark: An idyllic day of snowshoeing on Grampy’s land with Joey Strade turns out to be less than idyllic when thirteen-year-old super sleuth Ingrid Levin-Hill stumbles upon a body lying in the snow. This discovery sends the town of Echo Falls into a tailspin in which secrets long hidden are revealed and Grampy gets sent to jail. While Ingrid works to clear Grampy’s name and uncover what really happened to the man in the snow, she discovers even more secrets she wishes she never knew.

Gilda Joyce: The Dead Drop: When Gilda lands a summer internship at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., she finds herself caught up in both a museum haunting and a real case of espionage. While investigating a cemetery where Abraham Lincoln?s son was once buried, Gilda stumbles upon a spy’s dead drop of classified information.

Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale): It is a land of wonders. It is a land of mystery. It is a land that time forgot (or chose specifically not to remember). Cut off from the civilized world for untold years by prohibitive interstate tolls at the New Jersey border, this land is called: Delaware. It is into the mist-shrouded heart of this forbidden mountainous realm that our plucky and intrepid heroes Jasper Dash: Boy Technonaut, and his friends Lily Gefelty and Katie Mulligan, must journey to unravel a terrible mystery.

Murder at Midnight: A plot to overthrow King Claudio is brewing in the Kingdom of Pergamontio. Scholarly Mangus the magician-along with his street–smart and faithful new servant boy, Fabrizio–have been marked as easy scapegoats for the traitor lurking within the king’s court. Together, these two unlikely partners must gather clues to solve the mystery and prove their innocence before the stroke of midnight…or face death.

The Traitors’ Gate (Richard Jackson Books (Atheneum Paperback): It’s 1849, the year John Huffman’s father is sentenced to London’s Whitecross Street Prison. He’s been put away for gambling debt—leaving fourteen-year-old John and his family out on the street. But it seems gambling is the least of their problems: Father Huffman is accused of treason. Surrounded by a cast of sinister and suspicious characters, John’s not sure what to believe…or whom.

The Red Blazer Girls: The Secret Cellar: Mysteries seem to find the Red Blazer Girls: when Sophie finds a secret message in the antique fountain pen she bought for her father, the girls are on a case. Soon, they’re at the home of the pen’s original owner, a secretive man who kept to himself. His house is full of puzzles, all of which protect a hidden treasure, and the Blazers will do anything to get to the bottom of things.

The Potato Chip Puzzles: The Puzzling World of Winston Breen (Puzzling World Winston Breen): When a local potato chip tycoon invites area kids to an all-day puzzle hunt, Winston Breen is psyched. But it turns out the day is not all fun and games. Their teacher is being overly competitive, the puzzles are hard (even for Winston), and someone in the contest is playing dirty in order to win the fifty-thousand-dollar grand prize! Trying to stop the mystery cheater before it’s too late takes an already tough challenge to a whole new level…

The Secret Series Complete Collection: Not only is the name of this series a secret, but the story is, too. For it concerns a secret–a big secret–that has been tormenting people like you for over . . . oh no! Did I just mention the secret? Then it’s too late. I’m afraid nothing will stop you now. Read this series if you must. But please, tell no one.

Masterpiece: Masterpiece is a 2009 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Kaleidoscope Eyes: In Gramps’s dusty attic, Lyza discovers three maps, carefully folded and stacked, bound by a single rubber band. On top, an envelope says “For Lyza ONLY.” What could this possibly be? It takes the help of her two best friends, Malcolm and Carolann, to figure out that the maps reveal three possible spots in their own New Jersey town where Captain Kidd (the Captain Kidd, seventeenth-century pirate) may have buried a treasure.

A Very Grimm Guide (Sisters Grimm): Since 2005, Michael Buckley’s bestselling Sisters Grimm series has delighted fans with the story of the Grimm family, guardians of the world’s fairy-tale characters. There’s only one book left in the series, and this comprehensive guide provides the perfect refresher for fans looking to brush up before the dramatic final installment and is the perfect introduction for new readers.

Island of the Unknowns: A Mystery: This gripping mystery, spiked with math clues, follows quirky outcasts Lady Di and Tom Jones as they try to save their woebegone island community. In their trailer park next to the Folsom Energy Plant, people have started to vanish, and no one seems to care. At first the kids barely notice the disappearances themselves—until their beloved math tutor, Mrs. Clarke, is abducted too.

Powerless (Supers of Noble’s Green): Twelve-year-old Daniel, the new kid in town, soon learns the truth about his nice—but odd—new friends: one can fly, another can turn invisible, yet another controls electricity. Incredible. The superkids use their powers to secretly do good in the town, but they’re haunted by the fact that the moment they turn thirteen, their abilities will disappear—along with any memory that they ever had them. Is a memory-stealing supervillain sapping their powers?

The London Eye Mystery: Ted and Kat watched their cousin Salim board the London Eye, but after half an hour it landed and everyone trooped off—except Salim. Where could he have gone? How on earth could he have disappeared into thin air? Ted and his older sister, Kat, become sleuthing partners, since the police are having no luck. Despite their prickly relationship, they overcome their differences to follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin. And ultimately it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery.

Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl: The Super Bowl. America’s biggest sports spectacle. Over 95 million fans will be watching. But teen sportswriters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson know that what they’ll be watching is a lie. They know that the entire offensive line of the California Dreams have failed their doping tests. They know the owner is trying to cover up the results. The only thing they don’t know is how to prove it.

The Big Splash: Nominated for an Edgar Award in 2009, The Big Splash revitalizes the noir novel while delivering a terrific, addictive mystery that crackles with wit and excitement.

The Bloodwater Mysteries: Doppelganger: Featuring the strong plotting and offbeat humor that won the Bloodwater Mysteries a prestigious Edgar nomination, Doppelganger is full of twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very end.

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen (Puzzling World Winston Breen): Winston Breen says the only thing better than discovering a puzzle is stumping someone else with it. But when his sister uncovers mysterious strips of wood with words and letters on them, even Winston himself is stumped. Soon the whole family (and some friends) are caught up in the mystery and off on a scavenger hunt that just may lead to a ring worth thousands of dollars! Chock-full of puzzles to solve, some tied to the mystery and some not, this treasure hunt will keep readers’ brains teased right up to the exciting ending!

Gilda Joyce: The Ghost Sonata: Gilda Joyce’s best friend, Wendy Choy, is chosen to participate in a piano competition in Oxford, England, so of course super-sleuth Gilda finds a way to go too. Once there, the grueling practice schedule takes a backseat to strange and spooky occurrences. There are foreboding tarot cards that keep appearing to the participants and ominous numbers etched in frosty windowpanes. But even more chilling are Wendy’s ghostly nightmares of a young boy and the haunting melody she can’t shake out of her mind.

July 6, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes

Tek Nek “Lucky” Plush Spring Horse Review


Since medieval times, the wooden rocking horse has enthralled young children. That same, simple rocking motion is the basis for the Tek Nek “Lucky” Plush Spring Horse. Far from a basic wooden rocker, this Tek Nek toy sings and emits horse-like sound effects, and has a plush, soft feel. Durably constructed and sporting an attractive price tag, the Tek Nek “Lucky” Plush Spring Horse deserves a closer inspection if you have little rocking horse lovers in your home.

Key Aspects of the Tek Nek “Lucky” Plush Spring Horse

  • 3 position stirrups mean years of use, perfectly fitting children as they grow
  • Special motion activated technology produces a galloping sound effect when your little one gets on top and starts moving
  • Spring covers add safety
  • Lucky sings “I’m a Little Pony,” and also delivers multiple speaking phrases and horse sounds
  • Saddle is colorfully detailed

Is the Tek Nek “Lucky” Plush Spring Horse a Smart Buy?

What young child doesn’t want a talking and singing horse? Recommended for children from 2 to 4 years of age, with a maximum weight limit of 65 pounds, this soft-to-the-touch spring powered rocking horse sings, whinnies and neighs. Lucky knows six speaking phrases and sounds, and when your child slips into the saddle and starts rocking, galloping sounds automatically begin.

Three AA batteries are required to power the intelligent motion activation technology and sound effects. Overall dimensions run 39 inches long x 24 inches wide x 37.5 inches high after assembly. The height from ground to saddle is 26 inches.

The saddle is detailed and colorful, and bears Lucky’s name on a soft, faux leather fabric. Durably constructed but lightweight, an adult can easily move the Tek Nek “Lucky” Plush Spring Horse, but solid foot caps keep it firmly in place when it is being used.

Tek Nek has been specializing in multifunctional toys which stimulate creativity and encourage your child’s interaction since 1997, and Lucky certainly fits that description.

The detail of the horse itself is very well done. Black hooves, white “socks”, white nose, tail and mane contrast a soft, brown, plush body that is very huggable. Parents will enjoy that the battery pack comes equipped with an on/off switch and a “try me” mode, so batteries last as long as possible.

With easy grip handles and three separate stirrup positions, the safe and long-lasting Tek Nek “Lucky” Plush Spring Horse is perfect children of all sizes. Growing with your child over the years, and attractively priced, Lucky makes a smart purchase for any little horse lover.