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Low Cost Summer Fun Ideas for Single Parents

Summer is little more than a month away and no one is more excited than the children. Single parenting is no walk in the park for anyone, but summertime can be especially challenging. That being said, it isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t have to be a frustrating nightmare every step of the way, especially during the time of year kids are expecting the most fun. As a working parent or sole provider it can be difficult, to say the least to find the time or money to give your children the fun-filled summers they deserve, but here are a few low-cost ideas to ensure you are putting smiles on their faces.


Free or low cost summer programs


Summer camps, often a dream of every child who longs for adventure (as well as parent longing for freedom). They tend to be on the expensive side, and are rarely an option for single-parent low income households. However, there are many options that offer cheap or completely free summer camp options. The YMCA is probably the largest provider of low cost camping, both overnight and day camps, and offer financial assistance for low income families. They have camps for all ages from preschoolers to teenagers and various themes as well. The Salvation Army also offers similar camping programs for low-income families. The Boys and Girls club of America also offers summer camps and programs for kids of all ages and just like YMCA, offers scholarships to pay for needy families.


Parks and Recreation


No, not the TV show, the actual outdoors. It is worth noting that while many theme parks have absurd expenses for a single visit or paid in full season pass, many allow season pass purchases over time. Knott’s Berry Farm is a great example, 16 dollars per month for the season. It is worth checking out your nearby theme parks prices. As for other low cost adventures in the outdoors, try fishing. Fishing is extremely cheap source of recreation. Bait can be dug up or purchased for a few bucks and the purchase of poles will last several years. A fishing license is usually not required for anyone under 16, and even then it lasts the entire year. Mini golf, swimming, bowling are all low-cost options to keep a frugal summer from being a bummer. Beyond those options, work off of your child’s interests.
As a parent you of course aim to make every summer your child’s “best” summer ever. For 3 months a year they get to be carefree, silly and out of a stuffy classroom. There are more to smiles then doing things and going places. Kids pick up on everything so try to keep life’s frustrations, like arguments and messy divorce proceedings, at a minimum. If you’re in or around the Oakland area, Liaise Solutions can make the latter go much smoother. They specialize in divorce mediation and other dispute resolutions without the need for travel or expensive attorneys. Mediation can be performed online, including all document prep and transfer. It takes the headache out of otherwise costly litigation and can keep you from having to appear in court for contested cases. But I digress, regardless of your choice in summer fun for your children, it is never too early to prepare. On one final note, if low cost or free summer camp ends up being something you are interested in, research and book as soon as possible. The majority of them start early June and fill up quite quickly, as do the financial programs.

4 Simple Tips in Choosing the Right Course for Your Children



College life is a challenging yet exciting phase for most people. This is the time when students get to choose a course that will lead them to fulfill their dreams. Thus, they have to decide thoroughly on which course to take when they reach this point in their life.


As a parent, it is one of your responsibilities to help your children in choosing the best course that fits them. Make sure you help them in searching for a course they truly want. Remember, your assistance could mean a lot to your kids, but let them make their own choices when it comes to this matter. It is very important that you show your support and help them along the way.


Here are some tips that parents need to consider when your children finally enter college:


Talk to them

It is important to talk to your children about the possible careers they might be interested to pursue. Listen to why these careers appeal to them and ensure that you bring out some ideas as well. As someone who has more life experience, you also have to suggest courses that would benefit them in the future. If they are into health sciences, they can pursue health-related courses. On the other hand, they can get diploma of counselling or take liberal or fine arts courses if they are more interested in these fields.


Encourage them

One of the most important things your children need is encouragement from you. The support they need should come from their parents and family. Hence, encouraging them to do their best and go for what they really want is such a great confidence booster. With this, they can be more positive and have an assurance that you got their back at all times.


Support them

Financially speaking, your children still need your support when they reach college. As parents, you still have to provide for them and ensure that they will make the most out of their college lives. Moreover, you have to prepare for all the expenses they would need, from the university they will enroll at, course they are to take, to all other miscellaneous fees.


Explore with them

In case your children haven’t decided what course to take in college yet, you might want to explore things with them. You may research courses online. Take note of your kid’s advantages and weaknesses and compare them to the courses your child wants. This is also applicable when you are looking for the perfect university. All the possible choices should be listed down and from there you can select your options.
On the whole, your children’s future always matter. College is a crucial stage in their lives, so make it a point that you are always there to guide them. Furthermore, you have to give them the freedom to select the course they want to take, so they won’t feel pressured. If you dictate what they are going to take in college and it’s not what they want, then a big problem might happen in the long run. Therefore, let them decide on this matter. After all, it’s their life and future and you are simply there to support them.

Get Your Education Online with Concordia University #CUWinspire

Disclosure ~ This is a sponsored post brought to you by Markerly and Concordia University.  #CUWinspire

Do you remember the board game called Life? It was a favorite of mine. You pick your favorite color car and then put a little blue or pink driver in it. Advancing through the game, you add family members, earn money, and even have life “experiences” along the way. Looking back at the game though, one thing sticks out at me. Relatively early on you have to choose either to attend college or enter the work field. I think these days, it would be more up-to-date to allow people to choose college at various times throughout the game.


I know it used to be expected that people attend college right after high school. Those that opted to start a job or family instead were generally expected to forgo furthering their education. I’m happy to say that there are so many ways for people to start or continue their education, even being a non-traditional student. I’ve always maintained there should be no stigma to bettering yourself, whenever you’re able to! I strive to learn things as often as I can and luckily in this day and age there are many ways to accommodate that learning.

One such option is Concordia University Wisconsin Online. It’s designed for busy adults, people that delayed college for any reason or were unable to go the traditional university route, or anybody that wants to continue their education, especially Moms! They know how difficult it can be to juggle family, careers, and personal lives. They have specifically designed online programs relevant to the careers of tomorrow and made them accessible from home. With Concordia University Wisconsin, you can expect a personalized approach on every step of your educational journey. Their world-class Student Support Advisers take a genuine interest in your progress and aiding your education achievements.


Concordia University Wisconsin understands you have priorities and they feel there’s no reason to sacrifice your role as a mother, sister, wife, friend, neighbor, etc. in the pursuit of higher education. Whatever your career of choice, these study offerings have been tailored to help you keep life in balance. There are a variety of options including full degrees from bachelors to doctorate as well as free MOOCs or email courses. There are even low price Academies where you earn digital badges. With over 50 different degree programs, Certificates, and individual courses, you are sure to find the best fit for your goals.


Some people might be concerned that online education is different from other colleges. Concordia University Wisconsin is a member of The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Their instructors are currently working in their area of expertise and are required to hold a minimum of a Master’s degree or higher. They have experience and knowledge in their industry which is then taught to you through cutting edge theory and practice.


What I appreciate is how flexible the courses are. They have several options from self-paced, to those that are organized into groups and work together throughout the course of the program. There is also a collaborative program that turns in assignments weekly. The length of time it takes to complete a degree varies based on a few criteria. The program requirements as well as the transferable credits are taken into consideration when determining how long it takes to finish. Speaking of transferred credits, Concordia University Wisconsin accepts up to undergraduate credits from a 4 year school and up to 70 credits from a 2 year school. They even accepts military and work related credits as well.


Visit their website at Concordia University Wisconsin Online to sign up, explore their offers, or discuss the benefits of continuing your education through them.

Merry Christmas from Living Smart Girl


Sending a big Merry Christmas to all the Living Smart Girl friends and followers.  I am very thankful for every single one of you!

I wanted to share with you what the holiday’s mean to me.   Christmas for me is not something I only celebrate on December 25th.  That to me is just a date on a calendar.  Christmas to me is the day I get to gather with my family and friends and share food, drink, gifts, laughs, hugs, sometimes tears, and just the great conversation.  It is a day that we play catch up with what has been happening in our lives and take a moment to reflect on past holiday’s with loved ones that are no longer with us.

I am not a religious person, and don’t share my views about religion or politics on my blog due to the fact that it is always such a controversial thing.  I am who I am and happy with that, and my faith has nothing to do with the person I am or how I treat others.   I am kind, caring, passionate, forgiving, gentle, honest, respectful, and will always be here for my family and friends no matter what.   So, saying Merry Christmas on December 25th is something I do because it is a date on a calendar that many hold close to their heart.   But, to me my Christmas is whatever day my family and friends can all get together, which this year happened to be December 24th.

Those who know me know I am a spiritual person.  To many that might also mean religious, but to me there is a difference.   I know those who left us to soon are watching over us, from somewhere unknown.  I talk to my Mom, Grandma and Grandpa often, and listen when they talk back.   Regardless of your views, I respect every single person because everyone is unique in their own way and that is what makes the world a great place.

As our 2015 grows close to ending, I hope everyone accomplished what you set out to accomplish and that you are all safe, happy, and healthy.  2016 is around the corner, so let’s take it on with fire in our souls and make it an amazing year!!

Cheers to everyone :)

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Giving is the Ultimate Gift

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During the holiday season, the idea of gift giving is in plane sight of most people. However, it is more than just buying objects for friends and family members. It is possible to give happiness to yourself when you see a smile on the person’s face when they receive the gift. In this day in age it is seemingly difficult to really make someone smile and really take them away from a digital screen and into the here and now. It is a sign of the times and just the way the world is evolving. It is that smile though that every person on this planet shares and directly connects to the heart, mind and soul. It is that window that can’t be faked or distorted. Sure, there are fake smiles we have all put on for one reason or another. The instant smile though, the one that just can’t be helped and the one that remains on the face long after the gift is given, that is what it is all about, and it is the look on that person’s face that remains with you forever. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could give the gift of happiness and pure joy to more than just a handful of people? It would be pretty incredible. But what if you only know a handful of people? Well, how about helping out those people you don’t know? You don’t need to have a personal relationship with someone in order to make them happy. You just need a will and a way. Thankfully, it is possible to have both.

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

There are people in the world today who have a dream to experience something, yet they might not have the means to do it. Maybe someone wants to take a loved one to Disney World but just doesn’t have the money to do so. Perhaps there is a lasting memorial a person wants to create for a family member, but times are tough and there’s nothing they can do about it. What would you do if a stranger reached out and helped you out in your time of need? Maybe you had medical bills you couldn’t pay and didn’t know where else to turn, or you just wanted a small wedding for you and your significant other, but neither of you have any money to spend on daily activities, let alone for a wedding. Think of the pure level of joy you would feel if someone, a perfect stranger, reached out and offered a small token or a way to help. It just shows that there are good people, plenty of good people in this world today, and it really can restore your faith in humanity. Now, wouldn’t you want to help someone else out if you could, and be that shining beacon? It would be truly amazing, even if you never meet that person, just to know how much good you did in someone else’s life.


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Anything and Everything

You could just start randomly tapping people on the shoulder on the street and ask them  what they need help with, but that might not turn out so well. Instead, you can look through Community Grants listings and find someone or something that really touches you. Different things inspire us all, so something different might touch you. Just know, that behind a simple present to an individual you might not know, you are giving the gift of happiness. And in the world today, is there really anything else you can give that is better than happiness?

Who is up for a game of Quick Cups and a Giveaway?


Disclosure ~ Living Smart Girl received compensation for cooperation in sharing about this product/company.


Check out the amazing new Quick Cups video from Spin Master and enter that giveaway for a chance to win 1 of 3 grand games packages including Fibber, Moustache Smash, Boom Boom Balloon, Shark Mania, Rapidoodle, and Quick Cups! Also – 10 Fantastic Runner Up Prizes of the Quick Cups Board Game!” Quick Cups is a great game where kids can outperform their parents if they have a quicker eye and hands! It’s a game for everyone to play and ANYONE can be the winner!

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Cord Blood Banking with Lifebank USA


Disclosure ~ Living Smart Girl received compensation for cooperation in sharing about Cord Blood Banking.

When children are born, it’s common for parents to start a bank account. They might make weekly deposits into savings or even purchase stocks and bonds. I remember how fascinated I was when I would look at my bank book and how responsible I felt when I got a little older and took over the account. I appreciate that they took the time and effort to help provide some financial security for me as I grew. I think most parents feel the same, they want to provide for their child every aspect possible. One other way to do that is called cord blood banking. It’s a little different in that it collects and stores stem cells rather than dollars and cents, but it can be every bit as important to your child’s future.

Cord blood banking as a source for stem cells in pediatric patients has steadily increased over the last fifteen years. As a result, cord blood transplants are on the rise. Whether this is your first child or the newest addition, choosing to bank their cord blood could very well save their life in the future. Cord blood stem cells help replace and rebuild diseased blood cells and are used in the treatment of more than 80 diseases including blood disorders and cancers such as leukemia.

LifebankUSA is the premiere cord blood bank, with a portfolio of options that allows parents to preserve the most cells possible for their child’s future. Immediately after birth, your child’s cord blood is collected during a simple and safe procedure by their healthcare provider. It is then packaged and shipped to the LifebankUSA state-of-the-art facility in New Jersey. From that point on, the stem cells are handled with the utmost care. Technicians use highly-controlled, sterile labs to process the stem cells. They are separated and collected from the plasma and then vigorously tested. The cord blood bank then cryopreserves the stem cells within a transplant cartridge. The temperature is maintained continuously to ensure preservation. The entire processing procedure ensures that your collection is ready for transplant.

As much as a traditional bank offers some financial peace of mind, this option provides an extra level of health security. With such an easy process, it seems to be a no-brainer to bank your child’s cord blood and have it available should they ever need a transplant. And as far as choosing the right cord blood bank, LifebankUSA has always made providing the best possible service to parents their first commitment.



Saying Goodbye Is Never Easy: How to Grieve and Go On

Saying Goodbye Is Never Easy image 1

Last year, my mom passed away, and two weeks later, my brother followed her. It was a time of confusion and soul-deep sadness, and everyone in my family was utterly, hopelessly lost. However, like most people who mourn, we were able to come out of our grief and return to our everyday lives — but I did learn a few things while I tried to say goodbye. Anyone who has experienced loss or sorrow might sympathize with these lessons and pass them along to those currently undergoing grief.

The Myth of the Five Stages

Everyone knows the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes that these stages are rarely so clearly defined. Plenty of people, psychologists included, believe so fervently in the five stages theory that to them, any type of grieving that is not patterned in such a way is inherently wrong. As a result, many grievers are made to feel that they are failing to grieve properly, and oftentimes they are forced to prolong their mourning period until they can get the five stages just right. I was a victim of this type of thinking, and I suffered for it.

The truth is that grief is as chaotic and nebulous as love; no two experiences of grief (or love) are alike, and no single experience of grief (or love) can be considered solely correct. While the five stages of grief might have meant to normalize the process of mourning, all they have done is forced more heartache and shame on an already suffering individual. Instead of using the five stages to inform your understanding of grief, you might do better to learn more about different types of mourning that various people undergo.

Different Types of Mourning

Psychologists who disagree with the five stages theory have studied those who have experienced loss and discovered that there are at least 10 different types of grief. While all of these types of grief may be expressed in different ways, it may be useful to understand where a person’s grief is coming from in order to address it properly.


  • Abbreviated
  • Absent
  • Ambiguous Loss


    • Anticipatory


  • Chronic
  • Collective


    • Complicated


  • Cumulative
  • Delayed
  • Disenfranchised
  • Distorted
  • Exaggerated
  • Inhibited
  • Masked


    • Normal


  • Prolonged
  • Secondary Loss
  • Traumatic



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Estate Planning Advice

One aspect of the grieving process that so few people discuss is the organization of the deceased’s estate. Administrative duties are the absolute last activity desired by anyone in mourning, but due to a rampant disinterest in considering death, too many survivors are forced to sift through a loved one’s finances and belongings to ensure that his or her estate is handled properly. Though arranging your own after-death might not be appropriate during your period of mourning, when you feel capable of sorting through your records and devising an estate plan, you absolutely should. I cannot express my gratitude to my mother and brother for being responsible and organizing their living trust, life insurance, and other estate matters while they had the chance.

Going Back to Normal

The most hurtful step in the entire grieving process isn’t the first knowledge of the loss; it isn’t the funeral or cremation service, and it isn’t the long hours of commiseration with family. The absolute most painful experience of mourning is moving on. Realizing that the world continues to exist even after your earth-shattering loss and attempting to resume life as normal can feel impossible at first. You may watch fellow grievers seem to pull together and go back to work, baffled by their seeming ambivalence.

It may help to talk to bosses and teachers about your loss, so they can sympathize with any trouble you may have during your return. If your grief is especially intense, you may also want to seek professional help — though it is wise to seek out a therapist or psychiatrist you can trust. Eventually, you will start to feel normal, too. And believe me, you will feel stronger for it.

Eventually, everyone experiences death. That’s not to say that everyone dies, but rather that everyone will have a close loved one pass away. Despite its inevitability, death is never expected; despite its necessity, death is never welcome. Grief isn’t a single emotion — it is several, perhaps even all of them. Yet, all survivors must be allowed to experience and express their grief fully until they are able to return to everyday life.

Boats for Charity: A Simple Solution Where Everyone Wins

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It leaked, it smelled, and we never used it — of course, I’m talking about our old boat. My husband and I bought a boat for recreational family fun about 20 years ago, expecting the vessel would give us all the benefits the boat salesman told us: relaxing vacations, tighter family relationships, and an excellent financial investment. While the boat was fun for a few years, it wasn’t long before the adults got busy with work and the kids got interested in other, non-parent-supervised activities. This year, during the summer, we finally vowed to get rid of the rusty eyesore hogging our driveway once and for all — and we even did it in a way that benefits our community.

What It Is

There are dozens of organizations that willingly accept large items like furniture, appliances, and vehicles to benefit the community. What happens to these large items depends on a few things, including what they are, what condition they are in, and what organization you choose to donate to.

Many organizations gladly accept any type of working, high-quality item for placement directly in a needy family’s home. However, organizations that do this typically only accept specific large items, like home appliances: refrigerators, ovens, washers and driers, and the like. Sometimes these organizations will provide you with a receipt of your donation for tax deduction purposes — but often they will not.

Conversely, organizations that accept large donations in any condition often invest money to refurbish the items, and then, they sell those donations to new buyers at a profit. Generally, cars, boats, RVs, and other expensive (though often salvageable) items are the most prized. Any money these organizations make through their efforts directly fund specific good works. Because items like boats and cars are so costly, nearly any organization that takes donations such as these is more than willing to provide a tax deduction receipt. Then all you need is the right tax tools and you’re all set!

How It Works

To be honest, when we decided to donate our boat, we didn’t have especially high expectations for quality of service. However, what we experienced was much easier than we ever could have hoped for.

To start the process, we submitted some basic information to our organization of choice — Boat Angel — including our names, address, and details on the boat. Within minutes, we received an email confirming our submission, and a day or two later, a package came requesting further information about our boat. Using a provided disposable camera, we snapped a handful of images and promptly returned their request. After the organization expressed interest in our boat, we scheduled a pickup in less than a week.

On the precise date at the scheduled time, some exceedingly kind gentlemen came to our house and hitched up our boat. They drove away leaving us with smiles on our faces, a sizeable tax deduction in our hands, and absolutely nothing old and rotten to hog the driveway. The entire ordeal took no longer than two weeks and required little more from us than some pen ink.

Though the exact process may vary from organization to organization, most donors will likely enjoy a similar pattern of events, if not the same high quality of service.

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Where to Go

When we decided to get rid of our old boat, we did some research to decide which charity was right for us. Eventually, we landed on Boat Angel because they seemed to boast the most experienced and efficient process. What’s more, Boat Angel accepts cars, homes, and monetary gifts as well, so basically anyone with a large donation (and a large heart) can help them better the world. Boat Angel operates in most states — especially those with high boating populations — which means most boat owners can have the exact same quick-and-easy experience we had.

In case Boat Angel can’t reach you, you might survey your local charitable organizations to uncover a group willing to accept your boat. Unfortunately, small groups are often ill-equipped to handle such large donations, which require knowledge and experience to refurbish and sell. Larger organizations that are more capable of accepting large donations often use the profits to improve local communities, so boat owners shouldn’t avoid national charities out of local bias.

If I had a second boat, I would donate it to charity in a heartbeat. There is simply no better feeling than doing something you want and helping other people at the same time.


How Do You Enjoy Girls Night?

Illustration depicting an illuminated neon sign with a girls night concept.

Remember the days when you and your girl friends would get all dolled up and head out on the town.  Do a little bar hopping, laughing, grab dinner or a late night snack.  Talk about the boys, work, shopping, hair, nails, clothes, etc.  Man, how those days seem like just yesterday, but yet are so far away.  As one gets older, and we all become mom’s, wives, home owners, career women and more, we just forget that once in a while we need a good old girls night in or out.

Now that I am older (44 “gulp”), I prefer a girls night in.  There are a few reasons for this.  One, it’s cheaper.  Two, no worries about driving after a couple drinks. Three, there are a lot of idiots in bars these days – LOL!  I get tired of drama, drunk guys, and girls who think they are all that.  So, planning a girls night in is perfect!   Grabbing snacks, beverages, movies or even telling everyone to bring their laptops so we can play some games online.  Top Mobile Casino has some fun and exciting games that will get the girls all revved up for a fun night in.  What can be more fun than playing casino games, in a non smoky atmosphere without all the noise and distractions.  All of us playing can get a casino online bonus and we can even make our own wagers to see who will win big!  Have you ever played online games?   I play them all the time.  In fact me and some friends keep an ongoing game of words with friends, and we are always sending those pesky invites for other games like candy crush and stuff.  Yeah.. we are crazy, but we like to enjoy some down time and playing online games is relaxing downtime.

I think it is way past time for me to set up a girls night in, how about you?  Tell me how you like to have fun with your girl friends.   Maybe a night of painting nails and doing hair?  Or a pj party?  Cocktails and appetizers? Or even a good movie with a sad plot to cry your eyes out.  All great ideas!!   So, what is yours?

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