Love Yourself First-Now Teen Self-Esteem Subscription Unboxing & Review: December 2015

Crunchy Parent December 2015 Unboxing & Review Love Yourself First-Now

Love Yourself First Now is a subscription service targeted for young women ages 14 and up. LYF-Now was developed by a school psychologist/mother of two, and is aimed at promoting self-esteem and developing a sense of self through appreciating one’s self rather than looking to others for validation. Each month’s box features a theme and includes 4-6 functional products like jewelry, makeup, accessories,  and inspiration to LOVE YOURSELF FIRST-now. Boxes cost $29.00/month, shipping included. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions.

Love Yourself First-Now graciously sent me this box to review. I received no additional compensation, and all opinions are my own. To see my previous LYF-Now reviews, look here.

We’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties around here as of late. WordPress is being very temperamental about uploading my photos. My hard drive is rapidly filling with video and has stopped uploading any more for now. I’m at a bit of a standstill. I wanted to get to unboxing and reviews in a timely fashion so that you could see all of the goodies. That’s a long way of saying that video is on hold at the moment and I’m going to cross my fingers that the photos will upload correctly. On with the show….Eva, my almost teen helped me with the unboxing as always. Her eyes light up when the LYF-Now box arrives.

The box came with cute colorful trim and an LYF-Now sticker. Everything was received safely and intact.

LYF-Now enclosures December 2015

LYF-Now included an enclosure card describing the box contents as well as providing valuing information and some usage suggestions. We set the card aside during the unboxing so that we could enjoy opening it all on our own, but did reference it to learn that this month’s theme is “Gift of Giving.” When we reviewed the card following the unboxing, we thought that the box’s theme was well captured by the enclosed Nelson Mandela quote, “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy without expecting anything in return.”

The first item at the top of the box was a smaller card listing ten ideas for ways to give to others. Ideas ranged from giving validation, joy, and support to others, to giving spare change and volunteer hours. I liked that the card focused on what a tween/teen child can give and do that makes a real difference for others. At times, requests for giving are outside of the domain of a child’s ability to give; unless a child is working giving canned goods, money, etc. is really encouraging parents or other adults to give. The suggestions on the card really focused on giving that a child can begin to do independently and take full ownership for, as well as develop life skills, e.g., “Ask someone in need what you can do for them.”

LYF-Now December 2015 unboxing & review ornament & earrings

Up next in the box was a small silver snowflake ornament in its own little gift box (value, $5.00). LYF-Now explained that snowflakes give beauty, softness, and freshness to the season and represent a uniqueness just as every girl is unique and special. We do not celebrate Christmas, and I especially appreciated the seasonal/secular nature of the ornament, as well as LYF-Now’s suggestion that it could be hung on a tree, a window, or used as a bookmark.

After admiring the snowflake we found another wrapped item, perfect for gifting. Eva pulled out a small gold organza bag that held two pairs of festive earrings (value: $12.00). The earrings came in both silver and gold and looked like holiday ornaments int heir own right. The card explained that the earrings were great for adding a little holiday sparkle to one’s wardrobe and that there was a pair to keep and a pair to gift to someone else. Once again, I appreciated that LYF-Now not only sent something fun and festive to keep, but gave the girl a gift that she could give. Eva does not have pierced ears so she will have the opportunity to give two gifts with these earrings.

LYF-Now Teen Esteem subscription unboxing & review December 2015

I loved the next item that we discovered; a heart-shaped glass “Gift of Giving Jar” (value, $5.00). The jar is designed to hold spare change that is then donated to a favorite cause. We have little jars like this around the house, and I think that it is a great way of reinforcing the idea that small kindnesses add up over time to make a powerful difference.

Always ones to notice yummy treats, our next find was a Goodness Knows Very Cranberry snack bar (value, bonus gift) LYF-Now tied the bar into the theme by including this bonus gift to subscribers and highlighting that goodness is a trait that drives giving to others. The bar included some ingredients that Eva is sensitive to, but she enjoyed being able to pass the gift along to Rich to serve as a sweet reminder of her when he needed a little snack at work.

LYF-Now Dec 2015 unboxing

The final item was a hit with Eva. She loved the faux leather clutch wallet (value, $20.00). The wallet was sturdy and roomy. She liked that it included a chain to convert it to a wristlet, although she wished that the color had been something more vibrant and youthful. LYF-Now tucked a small note into one of the inside pockets reminding girls to use their spare change to help others in need.

Love Yourself First-Now December 2015 Unboxing & Review

This may have been my favorite LYF-Now box to date. It can be difficult to balance the focus on receiving and giving during the holiday season, especially for children. I appreciated that the box focused on ways that children can give to others by doing things large and small; both of which make a difference. I thought that the items in the box were age-appropriate and represented a nice mix of accessories, snacks, and decor. The neutral color palette gave a serene, seasonal air to the box that I really liked. Most importantly, Eva loved the items included, although she would have preferred a more colorful clutch.

To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you are interested in finding “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes to enhance the way you live, eat, craft, play, care for you home and body, etc. you can find them on my ULTIMATE list. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent!

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Barganic Alert: Holistic Black Friday Through Cyber Monday Deals Continue

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday. I had a great afternoon and evening with family and good friends. It was particularly special to see all of the little friends and cousins running around and playing together. It brings me great joy to start to make happy memories in our new home.

The deluge of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals is in full force. I will try to post deals that I think are significant and may be of interest for those looking to make healthier and more natural choices this holiday season and into the new year. Please share any deals that you may find in the comments.

Subscription Box Deals:

You all must know by now that I love crunchy-friendly subscription boxes, and I think that they make great gifts or gifts-to-self. The following subscriptions are all featured on my Ultimate Guide to Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. You can find out more about each one there.

1. Beauty Heroes green beauty subscription is offering 10% off all gift subscriptions with the code CELEBRATE. Deal ends 11/30. See my Beauty Heroes reviews here.

2. La Ritzy vegan green beauty subscription service is offering 40% off your first box for any new subscription using the code BF40 . Deal ends 1/1/2016. I just received my first La Ritzy box this month (review to come) and have been enjoying the mix of skincare and cosmetic items included.

3. Love Goodly green lifestyle subscription box offering 20% off sitewide with code CYBERLOVE.

4. Yogi Surprise yoga lifestyle subscription box offering 25% off regular or jewelry subscriptions with code BLACKFRIDAY today only.

5. Causebox socially conscious lifestyle box offering 10% off subscriptions with code BLACKBOX valid 11/27 only through 11:59pm PST.

6. The Honest Company offering 50% off first subscription bundle with code BUNDLE50

7. Cuisine Cube is offering $10 off your first artisan, vegan, or gluten-free cube with code THANKSCUBE10.

8. Glowing Beets green beauty box is offering 50% off first box to new subscribers with code NEW50 and 30% off all shop purchases of $35+ with code GB30 through 11/30

9. Farm to People offering 20% off sitewide on their small-batch, non-GMO, humanely-raised food products with code blackfriday. Can be used on gift subscriptions (including gifts to self).

10. Healthy Surprise offering 20% off sitewide with code blackfriday25. Includes their gluten-free, GMO-free, and Paleo snack boxes.

Green Beauty:

1. Kahina Giving Beauty offering 20% off entire luxe skincare purchase with code KAHINA20 through 11/30.

2. 100% Pure is offering 40%-65% off on their Black Friday mystery bags. New customers may also qualify for $30 off $60 purchase through link provided. Ends today at 11:59pm PST.

3. W3ll People offering 20% off sitewide and free shipping on their green beauty cosmetic items. Deal runs through 11/30 at 11:59pm PST.

4. S. W. Basics green, natural skincare and body care items are all on sale up to 30% off today only. Use code VIP10 for an additional 10% off your purchase.

5. Birchbox is offering 25% off purchases with code BIGDEAL and 30% off for Aces members with code ACESONLY . Although Birchbox carries conventional beauty brands as well, they have great products from many green beauty brands including One Love Organics, Kahina Giving Beauty, Alima Pure, Inika, 21 Drops, and more.

6. Pharmaca is offering 30% off their health and wellness brands today only with code FRIDAY . Some exclusions apply, but includes great brands like Acure, Eminence Organic, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Motherlove, Pangea Organics, Suki, S. W. Basics, Zhena Gypsy Tea, Plan Toys, and Melissa & Doug.

Toys, Goodies, and Kid Things:

1. Natural Candy Store is offering candy specials on many holiday favorites. Some deals include 15% off gluten free, vegan, organic peppermint bark and 25% off organic English Toffee. As always, all candies are free of food dyes and artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, and they come highly recommended by the Halloween Fairy.

2. hanna Andersson offering all of their organic cotton longjohns (pajamas) for $20 through cyber weekend (regularly priced at $40-$46). All other items are an additional 15% off online and 25% off in stores.

3. CP Toys is offering 20% off your entire purchase today only with code CPT15TF. Although they carry a range of toys from more natural to more conventional, some of my favorite items include Tree Blocks and child-size tools, perfect for little learning hands to gain skills.

4. Magic Cabin, a popular natural toy resource for Waldorf, Montessori, and open-ended natural toys is offering up to 50% off on a selection of items in their Black Friday collection. Click through the link to see the complete range of items included.

I hope that you find some great deals that allow you to uphold your values without blowing your budget.

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services (and here’s why). They are not endorsements. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure that you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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Thrift Store Fall Haul: Adventures With My Tween

Crunchy Parent Thrift Store haul for tween or tween girl

Last weekend I finally admitted that the cold weather was here to stay for the season. It was not moment too soon as yesterday the Chicagoland area was blanketed with several inches of snow. Along with the plummeting temperatures came the cold, hard fact that twelve year-old Eva really needed warm clothing that would fit her. I think that she has fully outgrown her wardrobe at least four times in the past year, which is making it a challenge to keep her clothed.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have shopped for the kids’ clothes at children’s consignment sales for many years. I love consignment sales and thrift stores as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and to conserve our family’s financial resources. For us, spending money on healthy food and other wellness choices trumps fashion. I have also found that there are a lot of great clothes to be purchased through resale routes. Kids’ consignment sales are still a great resource for me to find clothes for Alina and Asher, but in the past year Eva has shot up to almost 5’6″ and has really grown beyond the sizes featured at most children’s sales. It is also difficult to buy clothes for her that she cannot try on for fit, and that cannot be returned if they don’t work for her. Clothing resales generally do not allow try-ons or returns.

To solve this lack-of-wardrobe challenge, Eva and I set out last weekend for our old neighborhood to hit the racks at a couple of my favorite thrift stores. The thrift stores that I have found by our new home have been very hit or miss, and I knew that making a day out driving to visit these stores would be a good use of our time. Eva balked a bit at the idea of a long drive to spend hours at thrift stores, but she too was getting tired of trying to get dressed for school each morning without clothing that fit properly.

Our first stop was a privately-owned thrift store that was featuring 50% off of two of their four tag colors on that day. Mind you, three days earlier I had received a text that everything in the store was 50% off, but pulling Eva out of school for a sale seemed irresponsible. I settled for my more modest sale and remaining in good parental standing. I was able to hold Eva’s attention at the jeans racks for a short while before I lost her to the books. I played the role of her personal shopper and loaded up the cart with jeans and tops that I thought that she would like, and then listened to her refrain of “are we almost done?” as I made her try everything on in the dressing room. In the end we left with several pairs of jeans, and a handful of sweaters, as well as a pair of pumps and a few books. I have a shopper card at the store, and although I completely do not understand their rewards program, I apparently had earned a $10 coupon previously which I applied to my purchase. After making this purchase, I earned another $10 coupon for a future visit.

Thrifted tween jeans: Aeropostale, Express, Guess, 7 For All Mankind

Thrifted tween jeans: Aeropostale, Express, Guess, 7 For All Mankind

Our second stop was to a large Goodwill store. Once again, I knew that my timing was not ideal because we were missing their % off tag days, but I was more concerned about getting the errand done than about getting the best deal for this trip. If we lived closer, I might have tried to capitalize on sales. As it turned out, it was student discount day and Eva was offered 10% off at checkout with her student ID (I knew that kid would pay off someday). Goodwill was a layering tee and sweater goldmine. We found another pair of jeans here too, and more books of course, but overall the tops won the day at Goodwill.

By the time we were done we were tired, thirsty, and hungry. The reward for our efforts was a new wardrobe to carry Eva through fall and winter, assuming that she doesn’t grow more by then (which I am not really assuming at all). It was interesting to see her style leanings. She is clearly straddling the worlds of girl and young woman. Her choices ranged from the cute and whimsical, to hipster.

Tween clothes: quirky and bright

Tween clothes: quirky and bright

I must admit that it is fun watching her grow up, and to spend the better part of a day shopping and laughing with her. Eva and I don’t get a lot of one-on-one time together. Even if the time was spent shopping, we still had fun.

Hipster chic: Gap, Halogen, Land's End, and LOFT (aka, "the one with the bacon sleeves.")

Hipster chic: Gap, Halogen, Land’s End, and LOFT (aka, “the one with the bacon sleeves.”)

It total we came home with a lot of great clothes at a fantastic price. There are a few items that I did not include in the photos (books, the pumps, a few new-with-tags camisoles, etc.) but by my count the pictured piles include 5 pairs of jeans, 16 long-sleeve and layering tees, and 16 sweaters, hoodies, and cardigans. Our total for these items, including our discounts and tax was $168 and change, or just over $4.50 per item.

thrift store haul-tops & jeans for tweens and teens

Eva has loved wearing her new-to-her clothes this week. I love that we were able to pull together a whole new wardrobe in a day filled with cute clothes to reflect different aspects of Eva’s personality. I like that we were able to buy it all at prices that don’t put us in debt. I also understand that Eva is at a stage in her life when she could wake up tomorrow having outgrown all of her clothes again, and that spills, stains, and accidents happen. Buying thrifted clothes means that I won’t be upset if these clothes end up being handed down, given away, or if they reach the end of their useful life in our home.

I think that buying previously-worn clothing still carries a stigma in our society where abundance is the norm, and “new” and “expensive” hold status. I also think that unless you are in a trendy-Boho area, the notion of a thrift store often conjures up images tantamount to indigent individuals dumpster-diving for any rags that they can find.

With a family of five, including three growing children who need new clothes every season if not sooner, buying the bulk of our wardrobe through thrift and resales is a lifestyle choice that has a big impact on our budget. These clothes will make up the bulk of what Eva will wear over the next six months. Our total expense for the thirty-seven items was close to the full retail price of one of the single higher-end items in the bunch. In addition, I feel much better from an ecological and social perspective getting more wear out of clothing items that are no longer useful to someone else, and easing the burden on other countries (and their children) to produce clothing for us to buy new, wear, and toss. The items purchased at Goodwill give the organization funds to train people for jobs. Moreover, even with a tween focused on how she looks, and wanting cute, trendy clothes, we were able to pull together great clothes from quality brands, and in very good previously worn condition.

What is your experience with thrift store shopping? Any great finds or tips to share?

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Barganic Alert! Wildcraft Cooperative Board Game for Kids on Sale through Saturday

Once each spring, LearningHerbs, the online herbal learning resource, opens up its Herb Fairies book series and learning program. The children and I signed up this past April and have been thoroughly enjoying reading the story of each month’s herb fairy. Asher in particular loves the books and I marvel at how well he remembers the names, stories, and herbal benefits associated with each herb fairy.

Asher's coloring sheet of Arc, the Burdock Fairy. We completed reading the story yesterday.

Asher’s coloring sheet of Arc, the Burdock Fairy. We completed reading the story yesterday.

The kids delight in being able to identify herbs growing wild all around us as we walk through our neighborhood, play in the back yard, or look around at their school. It has been such a nice way to instill an awareness, appreciation, and reverence for plant medicine that is abundant in our environment.

Wildcraft cooperative board game from LearningHerbs

Although the Herb Fairies program will not be available again until next spring, LearningHerbs is currently offering a limited time sale on Wildcraft, their Herbal Adventure cooperative board game for kids. Like the Herb Fairies books, the board game focuses on herbs and combines fun, cooperation, and education to teach children about herbs and their medicinal uses as well as ethical wildcrating, all while working together to achieve a goal (in this case, gathering huckleberries and returning to grandmother’s house before nightfall so that she can bake a pie).

Our family has always preferred cooperative games to competitive “winner” and “loser” games, especially for young children so this is a great fit for us. The artwork on the game looks beautiful and the game had great reviews on Amazon as well. I know that the kids will love playing it. I actually purchased it back in July when LearningHerbs was promoting a similar sale on the game. I have been keeping it tucked away for the fast-approaching holidays. I imagine that the kids will be excited to receive a game that will continue to expand their understanding and appreciation of herbs, and it will be nice for them to have a cooperative game to play during the break when we all have more time at home together.

The current promotion runs through Friday November 20th. The game price is reduced to $19.99 plus shipping and adds a bunch of fantastic bonuses to sweeten the deal, including a webinar with Aviva Romm, How to Make Rootbeer video (which Alina is super excited about), Herbal Roots Zine Kids Activity Magazine, Mentoring Kids & Nature Connection with Jon Young (mp3), and the Herb Fairies Activity Pack, and an e-book from herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt to support children’s health during cold & flu season

So, are you going to grab one? I can’t wait for ours to open ours and start playing.

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services (and here’s why). They are not endorsements, nor am I compensated in any way. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure that you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 6 (The One Where Radiation Tries to Ruin the Valentine’s Day party)

Crunchy Parent- Alina's preschool valentine's party & my last week of radiation

If you want to read earlier posts from the Cancer Series or learn more about why I am posting these personal blog posts years later, you can do that here. This particular excerpt comes from the private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org at the time surrounding my cancer diagnosis and treatment. It highlights the emotional and logistical struggles that I was moving through at the time as I tried to be present as a mom to my three young children while fighting cancer in my spare time.

This entry was originally published on February 16, 2011 following my 24th round of radiation.

Tomorrow (Thursday) will be my final day of radiation. It was supposed to be today but that whole blizzard snow thing a couple weeks ago pushed it back a day. I can’t say that it’s coming too soon. I’ve been exhausted once again this week. From what I understand the radiation, or at least the way they’re doing the radiation for me, builds up over time so that the largest doses of radiation are reserved for the end. I’d have to say that it feels that way. On Valentine’s Day, my beloved valentine put the kids to bed and took care of all of the other nighttime tasks while I crawled into bed at 7:00 pm and slept clear through to 6:00 the next morning. I still woke up feeling like someone had filled my body with sand.

Actually, Valentine’s Day was it’s own little comedy of errors, although in the end it was delightful. Alina had a party in her classroom at 10:30, which is of course not too compatible with my 10:15 radiation time. Knowing this, several weeks back I changed this one and only treatment to 9:30 so that I could make the party. I even anticipated the whole “Monday meet with doctor day thing” and asked about pushing my sit down with Dr. Radiation to Tuesday this week. Sadly no change could be made because she was not going to be in this Tuesday. She promised instead that we would make it a quick meeting. In truth, our check-ins usually are pretty quick, but last week she was running crazy late and I sat around waiting for almost an hour before they told me to just go home and try back the next day. I was a bit anxious tacking the appointment on to what was already going to be a day when I was tight on time.

Anyway, I got to the Cancer Center at 9:30 on Monday, only to be told that my radiation machine was down and was being repaired. Now, it’s not exactly my machine or I assure you that I would have already received the bill for seven million dollars, but radiation is a pretty exacting process. I do need to have my treatment done using the same machine every day. I also have five little permanent black tattoos scattered across my legs and a custom mold to navigate my lower half into on the radiation machine so that they can position my body in the absolute same way every time. There is no “close enough” when it comes to this whole radiation game, so when I heard that the machine was down, my heart sunk. It was not helped much when the tech said, “We thought for sure that they’d be ready by the time that you arrived, but we were wrong.” (evidently).

I hung out in my hospital gown for a bit and then the tech ran in and said that they were going to use a different machine. She said that it used different films but that the doctor had approved it, so I was good to go. I did not really feel good to go on the different machine with the different films (I want to do cancer just right, thank you very much). The Universe must have sensed my hesitation because as the tech was walking me to the different machine all the other techs started shouting, “No No No! He’s done. She can get on the other machine!” So the tech leads me back to my machine and I jump on. She starts to get me all positioned and another tech comes over the intercom and says that they haven’t calibrated the machine for the day yet so I need to jump off, and it will be about ten more minutes. I am crying inside. On any other day I could roll with this, but all I can think of right now is sweet, little Alina excited for her mama to come to her party, and I can’t get there because, cancer.

At this point the tech takes me to see Dr. Radiation so that I can at least get the appointment part out of the way while they ready the machine. As I’m waiting to be seen by her I borrow the phone (because I’m in a hospital gown this whole time with my phone locked up in the Women’s Changing Room). I make a quick call to school to relay the message to Alina’s teacher that I will be late, I just don’t know how late. I’m having visions of a very disappointed Alina when all of the parents file into the classroom and her mommy just isn’t there.

I meet with Dr. Radiation who is aware of my tight party schedule. I’m trying to figure out some way that I might be able to run over to the 10:30-12:30 party, drop Alina off at home with Rich and Asher after school, scoot back to radiation, and then back home to get the kids to hightail it back to school by Eva’s class party at 2pm. I really don’t think that there’s any way for me to make the pieces fit. Dr. Radiation suggests that if I can’t make it work they can just skip my treatment today and add another day on at the end of my run. I don’t even want to wrap my brain around moving this much-anticipated radiation finish line back another day, but it’s really a non-issue. I am scheduled to be done with my radiation treatments on Thursday and I already have my follow-up MRI and CT scan scheduled for Friday morning so that I can have the results in time to meet with my surgical oncologist next week (sigh).

Dr. Radiation gives me the once over. This is our last official weekly appointment. From here, we just cross our fingers and hope that it did what it was supposed to do. Dr. Radiation says that she wants to see me again 4-6 weeks post-op, and gives me a farewell hug. The tech scoops me up and runs me back to the machine while telling me that they have only done my “energies” on the machine but that at least it’s ready for me. I have no idea what the first part means, but I understand the “ready” part and so I hop on. They do what they do and I’m changed and running out to my car in a flash, which is no easy task because my leg really hurts these days. In all, I left the Cancer Center approximately five minutes earlier than I would have on any other day when I hadn’t moved my appointment up 45 minutes (best laid plans…).

The running was worth it. Despite my racing heart and knotted stomach, my sweet girl was sitting in a circle with her friends as the teacher ushered them through a singing game. I made it to school in time to see Alina skip around the circle of her peers as a little pink blur with her braided pigtails bouncing and her smile beaming as everyone sang “A Tisket, A Tasket.”

A Tisket, A Tasket.....Alina skips around the circle to put a valentine in a friend's basket

A Tisket, A Tasket…..Alina skips around the circle to deliver a valentine to a friend’s basket

After the song we ate fruit salad from the shared party goodies and some gluten free banana bread that I had baked and brought to the party to share. I got to spend time with her while she played outside, watching her run and seeing her smile framed by rosy, wind-kissed cheeks. We came home for a quick lunch, and then were back at school again to enjoy more fun and games at Eva’s party before returning home for the remainder of the day, which I can now scarcely remember due to the exhausted stupor.

Party #2 with Eva's class

Party #2 with Eva’s class

All things being equal, it was a pretty successful Valentine’s Day. Last year the girls and I spent the entirety of Valentine’s Day in bed. They were both home from school with whooping cough, and I was on week 19 of my bed rest stint with Asher’s pregnancy. They missed their class parties and valentines from friends, and I couldn’t have come to school for their parties even if they had been there. By comparison, this year was a step up, I guess. Next year I’m aiming for total health and well-being for us all, and maybe five conscious minutes with my husband to wish him a happy day too.

My sweet boy's first Valentine's Day outside the womb.

My sweet boy’s first Valentine’s Day outside the womb.

So in summary: Radiation=tired. Almost done. MRI and CT on Friday to see how things look following the radiation. Meet with my surgeon next Wed (the 23rd).

Anticipated needs for assistance in the near future: 1. if anyone is coming up this way from the St. Louis area and can bring a cooler of milk from our donor, that would save us a really long drive; 2. our school carpool partners are going to be out of the country for the first half of March, which will also encompass my surgery date. If any of our school friends wouldn’t mind dropping Eva off at our house at the end of the school day at any point from 3/1-3/15, that would be a big help to cut down on multiple trips to/from school. All the driving and coming and going with Asher and Alina in tow really saps my energy (see above) and also requires me to wake Asher up from his naps every day.

Thanks all!

So today’s video is a flash mob, because I have a bizarre fascination with them. I know that it’s a bit late on the notice, but if someone wants to organize the doctors, techs, and other patients at the Cancer Center to bust out into a flash mob tomorrow when I finish treatment, it might just make the whole five weeks worth it….After surgery, I’ll be tumor free. No cancer for me…….

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Love Yourself First-Now Teen Self-Esteem Subscription Unboxing & Review: November 2015

Crunchy Parent Love Yourself First-Now Teen Self-Esteem Subscription Unboxing & Review November 2015

Love Yourself First Now is a relatively new subscription service targeted for young women ages 14 and up. LYFN was developed by a school psychologist/mother of two, and is aimed at promoting self-esteem and developing a sense of self through appreciating one’s self rather than looking to others for validation. Each month’s box features a theme and includes 4-6 functional products like jewelry, makeup, accessories, and inspiration to LOVE YOURSELF FIRST-now.

Boxes cost $29/month, shipping included. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Use code CRUNCHY for 10% off your Love Yourself First-Now subscription order.

Love Yourself First-Now graciously sent me this box to review. I received no additional compensation, and all opinions are my own.

Given that this is a subscription box aimed at girls in their younger teen years, I invited my own in-house, almost-teen to join me for the unboxing this month as well. Eva was very excited to see the LYFN box on the counter when she came home from school, and couldn’t wait to see what LYFN had in store for this month. You can watch us unbox and discover, or if you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came with cute chevron trim and an LYFN sticker. Unfortunately I did experience some breakage with this box (more on this below).

Love Yourself First-Now November subscription unboxing & review

LYFN included an enclosure card describing the box contents as well as providing valuing information and some usage suggestions. We set the card aside during the unboxing so that we could enjoy opening it all on our own, but did reference it to learn that this month’s theme is “Thankfulness.”

The first items that Eva grabbed out out of the box were two bags of herbal tea; Tazo Passion tea and Stash Cinnamon, Apple, Chamomile tea (value $0.50). All of my children are big tea drinkers, especially in the colder weather. We do appreciate herbal and other naturally caffeine free teas, so these are right up our alley. These look like they will be perfect to provide warmth on a cool fall day.

Next Eva saw a small envelope with a tiny “thankful” clothespin and four “I’m thankful for you because __________” cards (value “priceless”). LYFN suggests using these cards to reflect on what you are thankful for in others and leave the cards as a way to brighten their day. I think that cultivating a practice of gratitude is an important and rewarding habit for everyone. Building this skill at a younger age will pay dividends across a lifetime. I also think that adolescents can be surrounded by temptation to point out what they wish was different about the people around them (especially parents and siblings). Being thankful for the people in their lives gives perspective and appreciation that can lead to stronger relationships and to greater overall happiness.

LYF-N teen tween subscription box review November 2015

Eva really liked the cute owl “Thankful” mug that she saw in the box next (value $10.00). As she said, it was a perfect match for the enclosed teas, and was really cute with the purple owls and the polka dots. I think that Eva will welcome having her own special mug. From a very practical standpoint, I always like having distinct and different glassware for all family members. It makes it easy to know whose glass is whose on a given day so that we don’t mix them up and drink out of the wrong one, especially during cold and flu season. This mug is super cute and age-appropriate. I also like how it ties into the thankful theme. You can never have too many reminders to be grateful.

LYF-N thankful mug closeup

Both the thankful clothespin and the mug were customized with the word “thankful” handwritten on them. To some, this handmade touch may seem like the perfect personalization; to others the handwritten embellishments may lack a certain level of polish. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. That said, when taking photos for the review, I did notice that the “Thankful” on one side of the mug was already starting to rub off. I’m not sure what type of product was used to embellish the mug, but I expect that with washing the words will probably wear off pretty quickly. Hopefully the sentiment will still be remembered anyway, and the owl mug is really cute even without the embellishments.

Love Yourself First-Now subscription unboxing & review Damaged picture frame

I am glad that I went to take the next item out of the box because unfortunately it had broken during shipment and there were many glass shards as a result. LYFN sent a cute custom picture frame (value $10.00). The 4×6 frame is a cheery turquoise color and is embellished with a bright pink flower and a dry erase marker attached to the frame with velcro. Inside the frame is the the prompt, “Today I am thankful for.” The girl is encouraged to write on the frame who or what she is thankful for on that day.

I thought that this was such a cute idea and I could see Eva having a lot of fun with it. Obviously with the broken glass we couldn’t give it a try, but I wondered if it might have been tricky to write on the frame with the limited blank space available. I think that I might have reprinted the prompt in a smaller font to leave more space for Eva’s thoughts. I contacted LYFN to make them aware of the shipping problem, so I hope that boxes not yet sent may have had extra cushioning added around the frames to avoid breakage. LYFN offered to send a replacement frame. I imagine that if anyone receives a broken frame they can contact LYFN and they will take care of the problem.

LYF-N Thankful necklace

The last item in the box was a pretty gold-toned necklace with three charms; a small round “be thankful” disc, a turquoise-colored bead, and a metallic tassel (value 15.00). I can see this versatile necklace being dressed up or down, and I think that Eva will really enjoy wearing it. Once again, I think that it will serve as a reminder to be thankful for all the things that are good, and right, and helpful when she begins to feel overwhelmed by all that seems wrong, and missing, and difficult in life. During adolescence, life can hand you some big situations, and yet the brain development still makes emotion regulation a challenge. A concrete reminder hanging around your neck to encourage you to focus on the good can be grounding, and helpful in keeping emotions from becoming overwhelming.

Love Yourself First Now thankful necklace closeup

I am still a big fan of the concept of the Love Yourself First-Now box. Eva really likes receiving the boxes. She responds well to the types of items that have been included, and the color and style choices made. She commented that she thought that this month’s box had a more mature overall feel than last month’s box. She attributed this in part to the color choices but also to items like tea and a necklace that was stylish.

Love Yourself First-now complete November unboxing & review Thankfulness theme

According to LYFN, the value of this month’s box is $35.50 plus they thankful notes, which are priceless. I find it difficult to assess the objective value of the items included in the LYFN boxes since they generally seem to be non-branded items without tags or packaging, as well as handmade or customized items that are exclusive to LYFN. I try instead to look at the overall box as a gift and consider whether I would end up paying $29 or more for something similar if I was to put it together myself with comparable items. I absolutely think that this month’s box value justifies the price, and all of the curation, acquisition, customization, and packaging has been done for me. I loved the chevrons, polkadots, and colors throughout the box. I thought that the overall appearance of the package was very appealing for the demographic; cute without being over-the-top.

I really liked the thankfulness theme and thought that it was carried through the box items very well. Gratitude is a skill that Rich and I try to practice regularly for ourselves, as well as cultivate in the children. I appreciate that LYFN is highlighting an attitude of appreciation through this box. I thought that the items included this month were on-target for the age demographic. I know that Eva will use all of the things in this month’s box. Her new room and her collection of wardrobe accessories is shaping up to be quite cute with the items that LYFN has been sending.

I think that LYFN is still a newer subscription that has been evolving since its inception with some growing pains along the way. I like that there appears to be a commitment to staying true to the intention of helping teen girls to nurture a sense of appreciation for themselves and for their lives. As a small indie company I think that a few of the items reflect a handmade “imperfect” quality that some will find endearing and others may not enjoy as much. My guess is that most of the girls receiving the boxes won’t mind the less refined touches.

I would love to hear what other parents think about the Love Yourself First-now boxes. Do you think that this would be a good box for your daughter? What do you think about the overall LYFN concept and execution?

To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you are interested in finding “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes to enhance the way you live, eat, craft, play, care for you home and body, etc. you can find them on my ULTIMATE list. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent!

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The Halloween Fairy Talks: 50+ Ideas for Non-Edible Halloween Treats and Gifts

Photo credit: anathea / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: anathea / Foter / CC BY

As I mentioned earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to secure an exclusive interview with the Halloween Fairy. For those unfamiliar with her, the Halloween Fairy works in cooperation with volunteer children to collect candy on Halloween and deliver it to kids who were unable to participate in Trick or Treating. Volunteer children leave some or all of their candy for the Fairy on Halloween night. In the morning the kids can find what the Halloween Fairy has left them; often a mix of small gifts and different candies, better suited for the volunteer child.

With our combination of food allergies and sensitivities, as well as a penchant for preferring more natural candies than those typically offered on Halloween, our kids are perfect candidates for Halloween Fairy volunteers. We have been exchanging with the Halloween Fairy since Eva was in preschool. Recently, I wrote about some of the Halloween Fairy’s favorite resources for finding natural, GMO-free, food-allergy sensitive, and other “healthier” treats for her Halloween exchanges. I also wanted to take time to share some of the Halloween Fairy’s suggestions for non-edible treats that the she has left for our kids and for other children to discover after Halloween.

There are 50+ suggestions below that are often a good fit for a lot of kids. The Halloween Fairy tends to emphasize items that will help the children transition into fall and winter and to appreciate nature and the changes that they see around them at this time of year. She usually brings each child a few small gifts to enjoy. Some links have been provided as examples. They are not meant to be endorsements, and neither the Halloween Fairy nor I are affiliated with any of the vendors linked. In fact, the Halloween Fairy often crafts items herself when she can.


cheekycrows3 / Foter / CC BY-ND

1. Colored chalk
2. Colored pencils or Halloween-themed pencils
3. Crayons (a few new fall colors, perhaps)
4. Crayon roll or Stand
5. Coloring book
6. “Sticks” of modeling beeswax in fall shades (sometimes Waldorf school stores will sell individual sticks)
7. Watercolor paper and paints
8. Small tubs of natural craft “dough” (can be scented with essential oils if homemade)
9. Journal
10. Small vehicles such as die-cast or wood cars, trucks, or trains
11. Bracelet
12. Necklace
13. Barrettes
14. Playsilk or silk handkerchief in an autumn color
15. Wooden figure such as a squirrel or owl
16. Peg dolls, especially fun in “costumes” or other autumn themes
17. Autumn fairies or gnomes
18. Toy pumpkins: knitted, felted, or wood
19. Felting kit
20. Wool ball with an autumn theme (tutorial)
21. Playfood-knitted and wood examples
22. A little pocket friend (e.g., mouse, dragon baby, mole)
23. Silk streamer
24. Ribbon rings/hand kite
25. Jacob’s ladder
26. Wood brain teaser puzzles
27. Finger puppets
28. Bean bags
29. Kazoo
30. Whistle
31. Yo-yo
32. Wool acorns (tutorial)
33. Natural treasures (acorns, stones, pine cones, sea glass, pods, seeds, etc.)
34. Day pass to a children’s museum, zoo, arboretum, botanic garden, etc.
35. Ticket to a local children’s theater performance
36. Ticket to a movie
37. Age-appropriate book with an autumn or Halloween theme
38. Stickers, maybe Halloween or autumn-themed
39. Fancy bandages
40. Fun or fancy toothbrush
41. Non-toxic nail polish
42. All-natural lip balm
43. Travel size natural hand lotion
44. Travel size natural bath products in yummy fall scent
45. Cute knit wool hat
46. Adorable mittens or these
47. Scarf
48. Suncatcher
49. Dreamcatcher
50. Flower press or leaf press
51. Herbal tea (technically edible, but great for fall and certainly not candy)

The Halloween Fairy and I hope that these ideas will inspire a happier Halloween for your child should he or she choose to partner with the Halloween Fairy this year. Has the Halloween Fairy blessed your child with a special gift or treat that was especially appreciated?

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The Halloween Fairy Spills the Beans: Resources for Natural Halloween Candies & Food Allergy Safe Treats

Crunchy Parent-Where to easily find treats for a natural, food allergy safe Halloween

As I recently mentioned, our children work in partnership with the Halloween Fairy every year. The kids go Trick-or-Treating and gather candy throughout the neighborhood. At the end of the evening they each get to keep any non-edible Halloween goodies as well as select 5-10 pieces of their Halloween loot to enjoy over the days ahead. They have to avoid their specific allergens, but we allow them to save candies even if they contain food dyes or artificial flavors, genetically modified sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc., which of course is in basically all conventional candy. I cringe a bit inside, but it’s about finding balance so that is the route that we take right now.

When the selections are complete, the kids gather up the remaining candy and leave it in their collection buckets for the Halloween Fairy. During the night, the fairy comes and takes the candy, to be distributed later to children who did not get to go Trick or Treating on Halloween. In exchange for the candies left, the Halloween Fairy always delights our kids with very special sweets and treats that are free of artificial dyes and flavors, and do not contain the allergens that each child avoids. She also gives them small gifts that are non-edible.

The children are always so excited to wake up in the morning on November 1st and see what treasures await them. The Halloween Fairy seems to know some really esoteric and amazing Halloween treats. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to interview the Halloween Fairy and she gave me the exclusive scoop as to where to find some of her favorite natural and food allergy-friendly Halloween treats. I went and toured some of the local spots myself, and am excited to share my finds with you. The Halloween Fairy even told me about some online resources for those who prefer to shop online.

We also talked about a lot of great non-edible gifts that she brings to delight children too. I will post a second interview recap in a couple of days with those ideas. For today, we’ll consider this a celebration of the edible abundance that is Halloween to many children, with gratitude that the Halloween Fairy makes that aspect healthier and safer for many children.

Just before we get to that, she asked me to mention that she takes care to consider our children’s food needs which include sensitivities and allergies of varying degrees to gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame depending on the child. What she brings my children may not meet the needs of your children in terms of ingredients or manufacturing purity. Always read labels and consider the needs of your child before adding it to your approved list for the Halloween Fairy. Now, on with the show….

Probably the most widely accessible natural candy resource that the Halloween Fairy mentioned is the local drugstore. On a recent trip to Walgreens, I spotted one of our longtime-favorites, natural candy brand YumEarth (formerly Yummy Earth). We fell in love with their products back when all they made were delicious lollipops. They have since expanded the line to include gummy candies, jelly beans, sour gummies, hard candies, and licorice. All of their candies are free from most common allergens, organic, and GMO-free. They do not use any artificial colors or flavors. Moreover, their flavors are a blend of the more unique (e.g., tangerine/mango, blueberry, pomegranate) and the classics (e.g., grape, cherry, strawberry). All are delicious. My local Walgreens carried a selection of their line that I know would be a happy find on Halloween morning.

YumEarth sighting at Walgreens.

YumEarth sighting at Walgreens.

If the drugstore selection leaves you wanting for more, the local Target store also carries YumEarth products. They are even 10% off in my Target Cartwheel app right now, and Target had some really cute Halloween-themed YE products. In addition, Target carries other natural candy options including Surf Sweets (see below).

Depending on the dietary needs of the children in your home, Target offers many choices. Our local Super Target carries Unreal chocolate products. The brand started as a response to the artificial ingredients found in common candies like M&Ms. They tweaked the concept, making their candies fair trade and free of GMOs and gluten. They also only use natural color in their candies, and leave out any artificial flavors. Their signature “chocolate drops” contain dairy, but a number of their candies, such as their dark chocolate peanut butter cups are both gluten and dairy free. Check their website for store locations. Not all Target stores carry their line.

Justin's organic peanut butter cups and nut butters at Target.

Justin’s organic peanut butter cups and nut butters at Target.

If nuts are okay for your child, Target also carries a selection of organic, GMO-free, products from Justin’s, including their dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and single-serve sized squeeze packs of sweet nut butters like maple or vanilla almond butter or chocolate hazelnut butter. Justin’s even makes snack packs of their nut butters with gluten free pretzels for dipping.

BarkThins at Target. Yum!

BarkThins at Target. Yum!

Another win for the chocolate lovers, Target has a selection of snacking chocolates from BarkThins. We absolutely adore their blueberry quinoa variety which does not contain any gluten, dairy, or nut ingredients. BarkThin’s products are also Fair Trade and free from GMOs.

Gluten free granola bars at Target. Some contain nuts, some do not.

Gluten free granola bars at Target. Some contain nuts, some do not.

Of course, not all sweet treats need to be candy to be enjoyed for Halloween. Target has a host of dye free and food allergy friendly granola bars and cookies, as well as dried organic fruits, and delicious toasted coconut chips free from GMOs.

Organic banana chips and coconut chips at Target. Puts some natural sweetness into Halloween.

Organic banana chips and coconut chips at Target. Puts some natural sweetness into Halloween.

Another favorite shopping destination for us, that the Halloween Fairy seems to favor as well is Trader Joe’s. There you can find a host of more natural sweet treat options. They do a very nice job of highlighting items that are vegan, as well as those that are gluten-free or free from gluten-containing ingredients.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are great for a more natural or food allergy safe  Halloween with only three ingredients.

Made with only three ingredients, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are great for a more natural or food allergy safe Halloween.

I am a huge fan of the Trader Joe’s three-ingredient, dark chocolate honey mints. They are a much purer, healthier, and creamier version of York Peppermint Patties. Other family favorites include TJ’s vanilla meringues, gluten free ginger snaps, and naturally colored and flavored fruit jellies, among so many other great options.

Trader Joe's natural Fruit Jellies.

Trader Joe’s natural Fruit Jellies.

It came as no surprise to me that the Halloween Fairy mentioned Whole Foods as a great place to find Halloween treats that could be enjoyed by children with differing food needs. On a recent trip to Whole Foods, Alina and I quickly stumbled upon an entire food-allergy friendly, dye-free Halloween display with brands like YumEarth, Justin’s, Annie’s Homegrown, Surf Sweets, and TruJoy.

Whole Foods Halloween display of natural and food-allergy safe candy treats.

Whole Foods Halloween display of natural and food-allergy safe candy treats.

Alina was especially captivated by a bag of Surf Sweets gummy spiders and Truejoy’s organic fruit chews, which are comparable to Starbursts. The aisles of Whole Foods were packed with myriad candy, non-candy sweets, and less sweet options that would be very well-received by my kids come November 1st morning.

Food Allergy safe chocolate candies at Fresh Thyme market.

Food Allergy safe chocolate candies at Fresh Thyme market.

My talk with the Halloween Fairy even inspired me to check out my local specialty grocer, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. They are a small healthy, fresh, grocery chain in the Midwest. Fresh Thyme had wonderful food allergy-friendly chocolate candy options; a host of raw, organic, vegan, and gluten free macaroons and granolas, and even raw, sprouted cookies. I also saw micro-brewed, natural, sodas that would be a huge treat for my girls; some of which were even stevia sweetened to temper the sugar rush that is Halloween.

All natural and stevia-sweetened sodas.

All natural and stevia-sweetened sodas.

If you follow me on Twitter you know that I even walked out with my own bag of Hail Merry macaroons that were somewhat alarming in their deliciousness. I am sure that other smaller grocery chains that cater to a “healthier” demographic would have similar offerings. You may want to direct the Halloween Fairy to them if she is less familiar with the smaller markets in your neighborhood.

Delicious Hail Merry macaroons offer another natural, gluten-free, vegan treat option from the Halloween Fairy.

Delicious Hail Merry macaroons offer another natural, gluten-free, vegan treat option from the Halloween Fairy.

The Halloween Fairy is as busy as the rest of us this time of year, if not busier. Sometimes online ordering can simplify or ease the process of getting all of the goodies that will be “just right” for the children that she will be visiting. She shared with me that one of her very favorite online resources is Natural Candy Store. Everything that they sell is free of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and dyes; as well as being free of preservatives and hydrogenated oils. They also have an amazing special diets search option that allows the buyer to select the exact allergens that they need to avoid, as well as the level of stringency for each ingredient (e.g., “no milk ingredients” vs. “strict milk free”).

I recognized many of our favorites from the Halloween Fairy at this site, including some absolutely delicious stand-ins for Snickers, Butterfinger, Milky Way, or Three Muskateers bars. I cannot express how special it is for my children to receive those “real” candy bars once a year. They look forward to it so much, and always hope that the Halloween Fairy remembers these favorites.

Other candies that the kids often see but don’t get to enjoy due to allergies included versions that they could eat of candies such as taffy, Tootsie Rolls, and candy corn. I also loved these fun Halloween lollipops. They reminded me of a year that the Halloween Fairy got especially ambitious. She ordered lollipop molds in Halloween shapes and made her own lollipops for my kids-oh Halloween Fairy, bless your heart.

Actually, the Halloween Fairy has surprised the children with many successful homemade goodies over the years. This can be a great option to ensure that she knows exactly what ingredients were used and to save money versus purchasing all of her specialty treats. She has left small bags of popcorn or vegan caramel corn, vegan pumpkin seed brittle, maple candy, crisped rice marshmallow treats, and homemade marshmallows. We really think that the Halloween Fairy rocks.

Of course, some years the Halloween Fairy likes to let her Amazon Prime account do the heavy lifting for her. She can order and have everything delivered right to her door in a snap. Sunkist Fruit Gems are a great Amazon option because they seem almost impossible to find in stores. Perhaps it’s because they are gluten free, colored and flavored naturally, and are made in a peanut free factory. They also have a satisfying gummy texture that doesn’t make the crowns on my teeth twitch, so that’s a win. YumEarth and Surf Sweets can also be found on Amazon. For the gum chewers, Amazon carries Spry, Glee, and Pur, all of which are free of artificial flavors and dyes, and are sweetened with xylitol.

With so many options, the Halloween Fairy could easily shower your child or children with Halloween abundance to rival that of any conventional candy-eating kid. Of course, not every family is looking to place so much emphasis on the candy that surrounds the holiday. As mentioned earlier, the Halloween Fairy also talked with me about some of her favorite non-edible gift ideas. She mentioned many of the things that she has left for my kids and many others over the years that have been well-received, and have helped to carry on the memory of Halloween longer than an overindulged-Halloween-induced stomachache might ever last. In fact, they are so delightful that you may just decide to go candy-free for Halloween altogether.

I will be recapping the non-edible suggestions from the second part of our interview in the days ahead. Please be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com so that you don’t miss out on this, and other exclusive magical interviews. Happy (almost) Halloween!

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The Halloween Fairy: Bringing Balance and Food Allergy Safety to Our Holiday

Photo credit: tinyfroglet / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: tinyfroglet / Foter / CC BY

I have very fond memories of Halloween from my childhood. There was just something so exciting about going around the neighborhood dressed up as a magical character of some sort. I loved seeing all of the other costumed children running through the streets, excited to receive delightful treats at every house. I remember my sister’s utter despair one year when she could not come with us because she had chicken pox on Halloween. I carried a sign and collected candy on her behalf so that she would not be left out of all of the fun (and since she had caught the chicken pox from me, it seemed to be the least that I could do).

My siblings and I would end each Halloween night sorting through our bags of goodies and counting up the pennies that we had collected in our UNICEF boxes. After enjoying a few sweet treats, and participating in some intense candy-trade negotiations, our bags of candy were stored on top of the refrigerator where we could not easily reach them. A piece or two of candy would be dispensed to us each day to enjoy, unless of course we pulled a kitchen chair over to the fridge when our parents weren’t looking. Then it was all “Lord of the Flies” as we stuffed candy into our mouths and pockets. Eventually, the favorites from our bags were all gone (mom and dad may have helped, but I have no official confirmation of this). The less desired candies languished at the bottom of the bag, growing stale. Ultimately they were abandoned and thrown in the trash.

The reality is, a lot of the excitement of Halloween for many children is the sheer kid-anarchy of it all; you wear fantasy clothes outside, approach unknown houses, and come away from the night with as much candy as you can carry. It’s madness, I tell you. The feeling of abundance and wildly increased access to candy are often part of the magic of the holiday. In truth, it’s more than children need to make special Halloween memories. Having a large enough haul to be eating candy bars every day for weeks on end seems like an unnecessarily long, sugar-fueled, holiday celebration.

Like many parents, when I had children I looked forward to sharing experiences with them that would create memories like the fond ones from my childhood. When I had my first baby, Halloween took on a refreshed sense of fun. I loved dressing Eva up for her first Halloween, creating a costume from clothes and objects from around the house like we used to do as kids (she was a basketball player). Candy was unnecessary, and I wouldn’t have fed it to her anyway. For her first few Halloweens, candy and going Trick-or-Treating really played little part in the holiday for us; it was about the pumpkin patch, carving Jack-o-Lanterns, roasting pumpkin seeds, and dressing up. Eva also really enjoyed greeting other children who came to the door, and handing out candy to them. It was like an endless play date of generosity.

Somewhere around Eva’s third Halloween, the idea of going Trick-or-Treating with a friend from the Waldorf school was presented and planned. One day in the parent-child class at school, the adults were doing handwork and chatting about autumn festivities while the children played. The teacher overheard our Halloween discussion and asked us if our homes had ever been visited by the Halloween Fairy. This was a new idea to me, so I was all ears. The teacher went on to explain that the Halloween Fairy provides a service for children who have not been able to go Trick-or-Treating for some reason or other, perhaps because their sister gave them a communicable illness. She visits homes on the night of Halloween, gathering candy that has been left for these children by generous Trick-or-Treaters. In exchange for the candy, she leaves a gift or gifts for the children who shared with her.

I thought that this was brilliant! Eva could participate in Trick-or-Treating, but we would not be negotiating candy distribution and consumption all through winter. The practice would also reinforce the idea of “enough” versus excess, quality over quantity; in addition to the concept of sharing good fortune with others. We talked with Eva about the Halloween Fairy, and left the fairy a note to let her know that we were happy to share with her that year.


sdixclifford / Foter / CC BY

That year and every year since, we have had a new ritual for our post Trick-or-Treating rounds. The kids dump, sort, and marvel over their candy stash. They then select 5-10 pieces of candy to keep and enjoy. The rest of the candy we leave out in the children’s collection buckets for the Halloween Fairy. In the morning, the kids are thrilled to find what has been left for them, and the trading and negotiations among siblings commences, just as it did when I was a kid.

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to have been visited by the Halloween Fairy many times. She even followed us to another state when we had an event on Halloween and our kids were the ones who could not go Trick-or-Treating. There was far less protesting and panic when they remembered that the Halloween Fairy wouldn’t leave them out of the holiday. Other children would collect and share on their behalf, just as they had done in past years. Likewise, if Trick-or-Treating is ever cut short by bad weather, scheduling challenges, tired siblings, or whatnot, there is less pressure to make it to a certain number of houses to get “enough” candy. The kids know that whether they collect ten pieces of candy or one hundred, they will have the same amount of candy to enjoy by the next morning.

The Halloween Fairy respects the choices that we make to generally avoid ingredients like artificial flavors and food dyes. She has always left the children with fun, but healthier candies and snacks. When we discovered that the children had various food allergies and sensitivities, the Halloween Fairy adjusted her gifts to include candies that were safe for our kids and all of their dietary needs. They were beyond thrilled to get special treats that they looked forward to every year (I’m talking to you gluten free, vegan, non-GMO Milky Way bar). Long before The Teal Pumpkin Project and Halloween food allergy awareness was “a thing”, it made receiving Trick-or-Treating candy on Halloween that they could not eat less frustrating. They knew that the Halloween Fairy would bring that candy to another child who could eat it, and they would get allergy-safe candies in exchange.

I have been pleased to see that each year the Halloween Fairy has left the children a combination of sweets and candy alternatives such as small gifts. I’m excited that the children get to experience a part of the magical abundance of the holiday. I like to think however that when moderation is the norm, this occasional abundance is more memorable, and doesn’t require an “anything goes” quality to feel really special. They can relate to peers who are telling captivating stories about their Trick-o-Treating spoils and snacking on their booty, but they are not in an endless sugar coma for the month of November, or ingesting foods that make them feel sick. They also have lasting, useful items that help them remember the fun of Halloween and the magic of the Halloween Fairy long after all of the candy wrappers have been thrown away.

I am excited to announce that I was able to secure an exclusive interview with the Halloween Fairy. She shared her secret resources for the best places to find healthier and food allergy-friendly treats and snacks, as well as ideas for non-edible Halloween treats.

I hope that if the Halloween Fairy sounds like a good match for your family, she will find her way to your home this year. How do you balance abundance with healthy moderation in your home for Halloween?

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Love Yourself First Now Teen Esteem Subscription Unboxing & Review-October 2015

Crunchy Parent Love Yourself First Now october subscription unboxing & review

Love Yourself First Now is a new subscription service targeted for young women ages 14 and up. LYFN is aimed at promoting self-esteem and developing a sense of self through self-appreciation rather than looking to others for validation. LYFN was developed by a mother of two and school psychologist. Each month’s box features a theme and includes 4-6 functional products like jewelry, makeup, accessories, and inspiration to LOVE YOURSELF FIRST-now. Boxes cost $29/month, shipping included. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Use code CRUNCHY for 10% off your LYF-Now purchase.

Love Yourself First-Now graciously sent me this box to review. I received no additional compensation, and all opinions are my own.

Given that this is a subscription box aimed at girls in their younger teen years, I invited my own in-house, almost-teen to join me for the unboxing. Eva was very excited to hear that there was a subscription box just for girls around her age. She loved LYFN’s mission to increase self-esteem by encouraging girls to pump themselves up. She was more than happy to join me in seeing what LYFN had in store for this month. You can watch us unbox and discover, or if you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came with cute trim and an LYFN sticker. I think that Eva liked the presentation, and she was excited to dig in.

LYF-Now October unboxing & review teen tween self-esteem box

LYFN included an enclosure card describing the box contents as well as providing valuing information and some usage suggestions. We set the card aside during the unboxing so that we could enjoy opening it all on our own, but did reference it to learn that this month’s theme is “Fall into You.”

The first item that Eva picked up was a paper scroll tied with festive purple tulle. When Eva unrolled the scroll, we saw a brightly-colored activity page featuring an image of a mirror and questions to guide the girl through an exercise focusing on her accomplishments, skills, and features about which she feels proud. As a mom (and as a psychologist), I appreciated that the activity also encouraged the child to seek adult help if she got stumped filling in the responses.

Sometimes young teens can become so overwhelmed by what they see as their personal shortcomings that they have difficulty identifying their own strengths. I really liked that the activity had a built-in “phone a friend” option to give a girl help if she got stuck, rather than leave her feeling incomplete. I think that this exercise could be a great independent or supported activity that would leave the child feeling good about herself and her abilities. When Alina saw this activity, she too wanted to participate. I made her a copy and both girls spent some time working on their sheets independently. I was able to help remind them of various skills and triumphs when they forgot how amazing they truly are, which I imagine is the primary purpose of the exercise.

The next treat that Eva saw was a pair of gold-toned, dangly earrings in a delicate leaf design. They were displayed on a “leaf” card printed with the phrase, “You are as beautiful and unique as a fall leaf.” Eva loved the earrings and the message. I think that they are a great length for the age-group; something to noticeably accessorize an outfit and look cute, but not outrageous or too heavy.

The box enclosure card did not give any information about the content of the metal, and the earrings did not come with any original packaging, so I do not know if they would work for those with sensitive ears. Likewise, I could not really find them online for valuing purposes. LYFN listed their value at $12.00. I would say that the quality appeared relatively comparable to earrings from Claire’s Boutique or similar. Unfortunately, none of us have pierced ears so this item was a miss for us, but I am sure that we will easily find a girl who will love them.

LYFN october subscription box infinity scarf, nail polish, mirror

Eva was eager to get to the next item in the box; a cute, lightweight infinity scarf in a colorful mixed print. The colors reminded me more of spring than of autumn, but in the same vein I think that the colors are probably more appropriate and useful for this age group than dark, autumnal colors would have been.

Scarves are such a popular fashion accessory for girls and women of all ages. Eva has been asking for scarves for years to add personality to her outfits. She was excited to have this one to add to her collection. I expect that she will wear it often. Once again, there were no identifying tags or labels on the scarf that I could find to help assess value, but LYFN listed a value of $15.00, which seems in line with what appear to be comparable scarves at stores like Justice or Aeropostale.

Eva was also a big fan of her next find, which was a bottle of Nabi Gel Nail Polish (value $3.00). The polish was in a very appealing “baby teal” color that went well with the colors in the scarf. I liked the idea of a polish for this age group. I know that a lot of tweens and teens like painting their nails to let their personal style and creative expression extend to their fingertips. That said, if you think that this crunchy parent is dogmatic about green beauty for her own health and well-being, there is no room for compromise when it comes to my children. I ceased wearing nail polish completely when I read this research that was published when I was in my first trimester with Eva’s pregnancy. In short, it linked exposure to some of the chemicals in traditional nail polish during pregnancy to fertility problems in male offspring later in life. I didn’t wear nail polish for about ten years, at which point I warmed up to the greener, healthier options now available.

I could not find any information about Nabi’s ingredients online, and the print on the bottle was way too small for these old eyes to read. Since Nabi does not market themselves as a green brand, I assume that the ingredients in their gel polish are among those that I would not be comfortable having the girls use. The polish represented a small percentage of the box’s value, so I really didn’t mind it being a miss for us, although Eva would have liked to have been able to use it.

The next item was a hit; a blinged-out compact mirror packaged in a pink, organza drawstring bag. Eva appreciated the presentation of the mirror. I think that it felt special and sophisticated to her. The mirror was a cute tie-in to the activity sheet. I really responded well to the message that when a girl looks at herself in a mirror, she should practice asking herself what she likes about what she sees rather than what she wishes was different. The enclosure card did not mention the mirror. Michelle of LYFN reached out to me to share the mirror’s intended function relative to the box, and that it has a value of $3.00.

LYF now subscription unboxing & review October Tea light owl candle holder and candy tin

It did not take Eva long to notice a cute heart-shaped tin that was filled with tiny chocolates (listed value: $1.50). I thought that the colors of the candies were very appealing for this age group. As a family we’ve always tried to communicate a healthy relationship with food to the kids, which for us includes enjoying sweet treats in moderation. We were happy to see a little something sweet included in the box. These particular chocolates contain dairy, so they weren’t something that we could eat, but we know that they will sweeten someone else’s day.

The last item in the box was a hit. Eva liked unwrapping the individually boxed item to reveal an adorable owl tea light holder in an ivory metal. The enclosure card explained that owls have integrity and an air of mystery and difference about them. LYFN encouraged girls to let the candle shine bright when they soared like owls this month. I think that Eva will enjoy using the candle holder as a decorative item in her room, and I hope that it can serve as a symbolic reminder to her that she is unique and special. I think that I might remove the candle portion before adding it to her room. I’m not sure that she’s ready to take responsibility for a lit candle in her room just yet. LYFN listed a value for this item of $3.00.

love yourself first now subscription box to build self-esteem in teen and tween girls October 2015 review

I like the concept of Love Yourself First-Now a great deal. The idea of a lifestyle box for girls that caters to their interests while also enchancing their self-esteem during a vulnerable time in their growth and development is admirable. I am not the target demographic of the box, and I don’t have a lot of 14+ year-old girls in my life at this time, so I can only use Eva’s 12 year-old reaction as a guide to evaluate the appeal of the box for girls.

She loved the box from start to finish. She thought that the presentation was cute and colorful and made the box feel like a special gift just for her. Eva mentioned that she would have preferred that LYFN have included a more universally-accessible jewelry item such as an ear cuff, toe ring, necklace, or cartilage ring as opposed to pierced earrings, but she also knows that most girls her age have pierced ears even though she herself does not.

If Eva had the keys to the castle, she would have been thrilled to use every item in the box. In reality, some of the box contents were not consistent with the way that we are raising the kids to care for their bodies. It is really important that they love themselves in healthy ways, which for us includes an emphasis on non-toxic beauty and personal care items, and food that doesn’t make their GI systems freak out. LYFN doesn’t market themselves as a green beauty or food allergy-friendly box, so I only mention this with respect to the goodness of fit for us in those areas, and not with the expectation that they should be catering to those needs. For what they strive to be; a box to help young teens feel good about who they are, I think that they did a great job. This spirit was woven through the box and punctuated by the affirmation activity. The seasonal fall theme was perfect, and the box had a nice mix of lifestyle items. I think that the quality of the items included is on par for products marketed to this age group.

The total box value using LYFN’s stated prices is $37.50, plus the activity sheet whose value could not be quantified. I think that this is a solid value relative to the box price. I would assert that the curation and presentation of the items also enhance the overall box value. Moreover, I think that weaving reminders into a teen girl’s every day that she is special and has many admirable strengths and qualities is priceless.

I don’t feel entirely qualified to comment on the fit of this box for girls who are in their mid to late teens. It was very attractive to Eva as a 12 year-old, and even 9 year-old Alina was interested in most of the items included. I found myself wondering if the 14 year-old mark might be closer to the upper limit of the box as opposed to the target starting age, but I may be off base. I hope that the parents of older girls will chime in. Do you think that this would be a good box for your daughter? What do you think about the overall LYFN concept and execution?

To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you are interested in finding “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes to enhance the way you live, eat, craft, play, care for you home and body, etc. you can find them on my ULTIMATE list, newly updated for fall. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent!

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