Kidde Smoke Alarm Giveaway!

This post is in partnership with Kidde, all opinions are my own.

When you renovate your home, it is easy to focus on the big things, like floors, paint, or appliances. But one important thing you should not overlook is the smoke alarm. Even if you’re not renovating it is important that your smoke alarm is always functional, including the batteries!

Did you that last year in Florida 43% of the homes that had fire related deaths either did not have a smoke alarm, or the alarm was not working properly?

On January 1, 2015 new smoke alarm regulations went into effect for the state of Florida. In accordance with the building code, homeowners whose homes are currently equipped with battery-powered smoke alarms must install 10-year, sealed-battery smoke alarms when replacing outdated alarms.

Personally, I love these sealed alarms, like the ones from Kidde. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been woken up by the sound of an alarm with a dying battery! I’ve actually pulled a smoke detector out of my ceiling because I couldn’t get it to stop chirping in the middle of the night and I didn’t want it to wake the baby.

Unfortunately many people do the same thing and wait a day or longer to replace the battery in the alarm, which is super risky.

A 10-year, sealed battery smoke alarm is great because you don’t have to worry about chirping batteries or frequent battery replacement, and it is tamper-resistant.

For Florida homeowners who are repairing or updating their homes (a “level 1” alteration as defined in the Florida Building Code), you can use a 10-year sealed-battery alarm instead of retrofitting the area with smoke alarms powered by the your home’s electrical system.

Any time I don’t have to mess with electricity I’m happy. After replacing almost every outlet and switch in our house I avoid electric work if I can!

Did you know that a ten-year sealed-battery smoke alarm costs around $25-50 at your local home improvement store or online? It is estimated that consumers will spend $40 replacing batteries in a smoke alarm, so not only are you safer, you are saving money too!

Every three hours someone dies in the U.S. from a home fire. Many of those deaths are preventable! I personally know two people who have lost their homes to a fire, thankfully their families were safe, but 114 people in Florida last year were not as fortunate and lost their lives in a home fire.

If your home was built before 2004, chances are your smoke alarm needs to be replaced. I recommend purchasing a 10-year, sealed-battery smoke alarm by Kidde.

Kidde has a wide range of products that will help keep your family safe and they are affordable too!

If you are a Florida homeowner you can learn more about this new legislation here.

For my Florida resident readers I have a great giveaway for you.


One Florida reader will win a Kidde 10-year, worry free smoke alarm. The features are below:

  • It’s Always On: 24 hr/day, 7 day/week protection from smoke and fire
  • Decade of protection: sealed lithium battery provides 10 years of continuous power
  • Maintenance-free, hassle-free: never replace a battery during the alarm’s operating life and no need to worry about the batteries being removed
  • Goodbye late night low battery chirps: an end-of-life chirp tells you when it’s time to replace the alarm
  • Location-based attributes make it simple to select the right alarm for the right location in your home
  • Money savings: no batteries to buy and replace every six months, save up to $40 over the life of the alarm
  • Quick and easy installation: simply twist the alarm onto the mounting bracket and it activates

To enter please leave a comment. Giveaway is to Florida residents only and ends February 27, 2015.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Family Movie Night

It’s family movie night time!

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My kids absolutely love family movie night! After watching Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on a flight last month I knew my kids would love to see it.

In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Alexander never has a good day. From getting gum in his hair to being made fun of online, nothing ever seems to go right for poor Alexander.  On the eve of his birthday he wishes his whole family could have a bad day.

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Throughout the rest of the movie the entire family experiences calamity after calamity, much of which is quite comedic. What I loved about this movie is that through these catastrophes the family learns that no matter what happens you can get through it if you have strong relationships. Alexander reminds everyone that the bad days help them appreciate the good ones, which is a great message, especially for kids who tend to focus on the bad instead of everything good.

As I suspected, my kids absolutely loved this movie and have been asking to watch it again and again!

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Ignore Cora’s strange smile- she was mad she didn’t get to hold the movie for the photo! 🙂

One fun way to “do” family movie night is to plan several activities, games, and/ or snacks that go along with the theme of the movie.

Alexander is based off the book that many of us probably read as kids, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Reading a related book is a great way to get movie night started!

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In the movie, Alexander’s parents throw him an Australian themed party, so we had fun with some Australian themed activities.

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Building a crocodile. (These 3-D puzzles are awesome for kids and make great gifts!)

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Sydney Opera House Lego build!

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My husband has actually been to the Opera House, so this was an especially cool lego set!

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Crocodile ring toss was the highlight of the afternoon, Cora wanted to take the croc swimming but it was a little too chilly for the pool!

And of course, don’t forget the snacks! My kids wanted kangaroo burgers, but had to settle for something a little less exotic!

And ice cream sundae station is a great themed snack to go along with the birthday party!

We really enjoyed this movie and I loved the positive message about family relationships! Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is available on DVD and Blu-Ray February 10th, so start planning your next family movie night today!


This post is in partnership with Click Communications, all opinions are my own.  


This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Be the Ball for Special Needs Kids

The following post is another installment in our Dash of Dad special needs parenting series by Bob Williams, father of three children including Kyle, a special needs teenager. When he’s not parenting his three kids, you can find him creating sweet treats at the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory in North Carolina.

Encouragement is something that as parents we think we do routinely. Sometimes we do, and it is one of those little things in parenting which means so much to a kid—any kid and every kid for that matter.

For the record, I am not one of those parents who thinks every kid should get a trophy for just showing up or that we should not keep score at a kids soccer game. If only real life was like that, but it is not. And we need to teach our kids the virtues of winning and picking themselves up after a loss.

Be the Ball for Special Needs Kids at The Happy Housewife

Because we all know that life tends to give us more days about picking up ourselves after losing than basking in the glory of winning, at least it does for me anyways. This is where encouragement comes in. Again, a huge disclaimer here, I am not a child psychologist, but I have stayed in a Holiday Inn Express, and almost as important, I have been a parent now for 18 years.

Also, I am one of those kids whose parents, my dad in particular, found it difficult to show encouragement and love in a way that I wanted and needed it growing up. One might say I am a recovering kid trying to get it right with my kids. You know, it is one of those breaking the cycle kind of things.

My dad truly struggled with this, and I recall him saying, “Robert if I did not have you, I would have a cleaner garage,” (or a nicer stereo or something like that). I would try to fix something or build a model airplane, and when I was finished, my dad would often point out the flaws in my work. He was, after all, a quality control engineer, and thus he would bring his work home with him.

So when it came time for me to step up to the plate of parenting, I vowed not to be that kind of dad to my kids. I would be better than that, and I have found in some ways I am. But I also found parenting has its own pitfalls, and I too have made my mistakes and perhaps unknowingly handed down some of my own sins to my kids. With that said, my kids know two things are absolute: I am proud of them when they try, even if they fail, and I love them through it all.

When Kyle was born, my world was rocked in tragic way. I was facing life with a disabled kid who, at the time, I was told would be not much more than a vegetable. His entire occipital lobe was destroyed by meningitis. He was blind, well mostly blind, and had cerebral palsy and later developed epilepsy. When I found out the news of what had happened to him, I was devastated. Honestly, until somebody lives through something like a doctor telling you that your son had a massive stroke and his brain was destroyed, words simply cannot describe the horror and pain of that news.

In the days after that, I had to face my upbringing. My dad, while not the best encourager of the little things, made it clear that going to college was everything. He had 6 kids, and all of us had to go to college. Education was key in our home, and I recall my dad more or less making fun of folks who only finished high school.

So there I was with my son who would never go to college, never dream big, never build a model airplane, never do much of anything, and I was faced with a billion unknowns of a future that seemed so bleak. My son’s brain damage and him as a person came crashing against everything I was raised to be and value. A man is only as good as the sheepskin hanging on the wall. So what value would Kyle be when he may never talk or walk, I thought.

In essence, my dad was an educational snob to be honest about it, and I had a son who, based on the value system I was raised with, had little value in this world. I say this even though I went to church and all. I truly did not see the value of Kyle even in the kingdom of God. Pain has a way of blurring the truth about the value of the soul of another.

Be the Ball for Special Needs Kids at The Happy Housewife

Life is amazing, and sometimes amazing things happen in the tiniest of ways. One of my friends came to visit Kyle and us in the hospital. My friend Rafael has a daughter two years older than Kyle with half of the right side of her brain damaged from a bleed shortly after birth. Rafael stepped up and encouraged me about Kyle’s future. He encouraged my faith and hope, and told me that I could do this, that I could be the dad Kyle needed.

I cannot begin to tell everyone how his coming alongside of me in that time impacted me in such a great way. I was down in the dumps, and I had every right to be, but Rafael helped me see the value and beauty of my son like no other person could. See, Rafael got me on the road where I needed to be for my son, and since he walked the path ahead of me already, he was somebody I could trust because he had already been there. He passed some wisdom on to me in his encouragement: “I used to complain about not having any shoes until I saw a man with no feet,” he would say to me.

I plan to write a piece on just this wisdom alone. Rafael and his wife Elaine showed Tonya and me the ropes of the Part C program and encouraged us to get Kyle therapy as soon as he was discharged from the hospital. They were there in the early days walking along with us and sharing stories of raising special needs kids. We miss them to this day for sure, as we moved away from central Florida going on nine years ago.

So with a little help from my friends, a lot of praying, and a lot of tears, we picked ourselves up and got Kyle into physical and occupational therapy when he was about eight weeks old. One day as I took Kyle to therapy, when he was around 3 or 4 months old, I said to him, “Kyle, I love you. Work hard. I am proud of you, and you need to be the ball. Just be the ball.”

This is a line from the movie Caddy Shack where Chevy Chase’s character is trying to encourage a caddy to compete in a golf game, and he has this kid trying to putt. He keeps saying, “Just be the ball Danny, be the ball.” It is a throwaway line, and I honestly don’t know what it means. But since Kyle was about 3 months old, I have told him and his sister and brother this almost daily for 16 years now, before they head off to school or whatever, “You just got to be the ball.”

We had a couple of really good doctors along the way in raising Kyle, and they have all said that with special needs kids like Kyle, one huge difference maker in their outcomes is the parents. Parents make the difference in these kid’s futures. I am here to say I believe that, and I have tried to be the ball with all my kids, but especially with Kyle.

So if you are struggling with your special needs kids or not so special needs kids not diagnosed with anything, I am here to say that a little encouragement goes a long way. Showing your kids a little hope, a little love, and pushing them a little, even when you don’t know if it matters, does make a difference.

I am also here to say that kids know, even those that are trapped in a body or mind that does not work right, that it matters that their parents believe in them. When Kyle was an infant, we were not even sure he could hear us, and we were pretty darn sure his cortical blindness meant he could not see us. Yet there we were encouraging him and telling him to work hard at therapy and be the best he could be.

Sometimes just being there is enough and other times it is a kind word or a simple phrase like “be the ball” that is enough to make that connection—a connection of love, hope and a future that will be brighter. Don’t give up on your kids and really don’t give up on your special needs kids. You are your kid’s best advocate in life and encourager. I can say Kyle has defied the entire prognosis the doctors gave him as an infant.

The credit goes to a lot of prayer, a lot of work on his mom’s part, trying our best to not treat him as a crippled little kid, and letting the kid inside of him out in ways where Kyle is just another guy. He is far from a vegetable that the doctors said he was going to be. The boy loves life, he loves the outdoors, and he has taught me so much about the importance of being the ball myself. Go out today and be the ball, just be the ball.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Special Needs Kids and Music

The following post is another installment in our Dash of Dad special needs parenting series by Bob Williams, father of three children including Kyle, a special needs teenager. When he’s not parenting his three kids, you can find him creating sweet treats at the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory in North Carolina.

Music. Music is the sound of the soul and human spirit put to math and rhythm. I would say it is uniquely human, but every animal that can sing does. Frogs, crickets, and birds all come together in nature’s symphony of wonderful sounds and songs, with birds being perhaps the choir of sky and trees. I love music, and it has been an integral part of my life during my grand times and low times.

Special Needs Kids and Music at The Happy Housewife

Back in 1976, my dad came home one day with a brand new Ford LTD station wagon. It was metallic blue and clear coat finished the long body of metal and glass. Inside, it had comfy velour cloth seats. Gone were the pleather seats, you know–fancy vinyl, of the AMC Ambassador wagon that our legs would stick to in the Florida heat.

My dad took that bad boy wagon down to Sears at the nearly new Altamonte Mall and had the auto center install the future of car audio, a Jensen 8 Track tape deck with Jensen 6 x 9 coaxial speakers, in the rear sides in the way back seat of the wagon.

That car took on us a nearly 3 week adventure from Florida to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and parts in between. It was 1976, and we made stops in Philly and took in places like Valley Forge and Independence Hall and took in an air show at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station. This was I think the first or second year the Blue Angels started flying the A-4 Skyhawk because of the recent energy crunch. They were flying the massive gas hog F-4 Phantom, but I digress.

Anyway, we had five, count them, five 8 track tapes with us for this summertime adventure. The tapes were Neil Diamond’s 12 Greatest Hits, Queen’s Night at the Opera, Gary Wright’s Dream Weaver, The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz, and John Denver’s record with Rocky Mountain High and Calypso.

I have three of the five on my iPod, and every time one of those songs pops up, the memories of that trip and growing up come flooding back to me. Memories of my five other brothers and sisters and my parents, especially my recently departed mother.

That is the power of song which can take us in a second from the here and now back to 1976. One of my few regrets has been never taking the time to master playing music. My kids play, and it is a joy to hear them. I just never have taken the time to learn.

When we started having kids, I made sure I exposed them to music from infancy. When Kyle was born and after the brain damage, we were not even sure Kyle could hear. Meningitis often causes lasting hearing loss to deafness in kids who get it. None the less, I had a CD player in his nursery. We would play music, and he would fall asleep to Mozart every night.

See, I read in my FSU alumni magazine that FSU did a study of kids from 1 to 4 years of age where they played various types of music over the course of 4 years, and they found that the kids who listened to Mozart in particular had increased brain wave activity in the areas of the brain which process math and science. They verified this with PEP scans of these kids’ brains.

Never the less, we played music for all of our kids. They heard it in our cars and in the home. Kyle was truly soothed by music. While the results of the hearing tests at Shands Hospital were often inconclusive as to what if anything young Kyle could hear at 3 or 4 months, we knew he could hear something because music played before bedtime or nap time or whatever would often calm him.

So we kept playing Mozart every night before bed on the CD player. Over time, it became clear that while the meningitis took most of his sight, it did leave his hearing intact. Slowly some words would come like “dad” and so forth, but not many. And that was okay, yet frustrating.

Special Needs Kids and Music at The Happy Housewife

But music, music seemed to always get his attention. His favorite toy is the Fisher Price school bus made in like 2001. It has a repertoire of the “Wheels on the Bus” song. Kyle loves this toy, and to this day, as I write this now, Kyle is playing with the
bus and humming along with the tune. It is very cool if you ask me.

Kyle loves music so much he gets mad at me when he is in the car and I want to listen to talk radio. He starts off in low and says, “music” and sometimes says, “music please,” and if I ignore him, he gives this emphatic sort of excited request for music to be played in the car. Ultimately he wins.

Kyle got an iPod touch for Christmas this year. I really wanted the 160 gig iPod classic, but alas, Apple in its infinite wisdom decided to no longer make it. So we settled for the 32 gig. As a side note, I have a goal to legally own over 5,000 songs in my iTunes library. I have the 160 gig classic, and I really wanted Kyle to have it too. For the record I am up to 3,600 songs from almost 190 artists.

The ipod is sort of like the cutting edge 8 track tape deck. As most know, we can now find the exact song we want on the iPod and even have it repeat if needed. Kyle wakes up every day wanting to take a shower, and in our bathroom, we have our iPod hooked up to a set of speakers. We put it on random and away we shower.

About 4 years ago, I noticed Kyle humming along and he would “sing” the words he knew. Sometimes it is right on time and other times it is delayed by a second or two. Either way he enjoys the music. One of my friends gave me some cool 80s remixed songs on CD, and it has that song, “What I like about you, you treat me right…la la la, hey it is what I like about you….” I don’t know the artist, but it was one of the first songs Kyle would sing along with in the shower.

Then I noticed Kyle really getting into “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen. He loves this song, and part of me wonders if it is because he is a raging teenage boy and they are singing about a particular part of a lady’s anatomy or if it is the beat. Maybe it is both. Either way, he enjoys it and sings with it, and the words he knows he sings.

He also loves “My City of Ruin” and “Land of Hope and Dreams” by Bruce Springsteen. In the song “My City of Ruin,” Bruce sings, “Come on Rise Up, Come on Rise up, Come on Rise up,” and Kyle sings along saying, “Come on, come on, come on.” He knows the first few notes to Jimmy Buffet’s “Grape Fruit Juicy Fruit,” and when he hears those notes, he starts saying the word suit. He loves the water, and his favorite suit is the one for the water and the boat coat.

Perhaps his favorite song of late is by the Royal Guardsmen, an English band from the late 1960s, which are yet another wanna-be Beatles kind of band, and they have the “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” song. The beat of that song Kyle just loves. He is now asking for the songs by the words he knows, and he is so excited when we find them on the iPod and play them.

Special Needs Kids and Music at The Happy Housewife

Skipping around on my brain’s iPod of sorts, I have two more music stories to share. When we were living in central Florida, Kyle was attending an elementary school which had an IB or international baccalaureate program. They had a talented music teacher who would teach the classics to the really smart kids. They had a 4th grade violin group who learned Mozart and Bach and maybe Charlie Daniels too, I don’t know.

Kyle, as I pointed out here, loves music. It is the one class perhaps besides PE in which the boy would engage adults as a little kid. One day I was walking in the hall and stopped to talk to the music teacher. She was older, maybe in her 50s, and very proper. She was professional and nice, but distant.

I said to her, “Mrs. Smith (her name is changed to protect her identity), Mrs. Smith, I noticed my son sitting in the back of your class enjoying the music, and I wonder. Do you directly engage him?” She said she really did not have time. I said to her, “Sad, because out of all the teachers here at this school, you, ma’am, have the greatest ability to reach my son. I appreciate you taking time for the really smart kids by teaching them violin, but my son is moved by music.” She did not know what to say.

She started to walk away, and I stopped her again. I said, “Did you know Kyle falls asleep every night to Mozart? Did you know he loves Mozart? Maybe you could consider developing a music education program for kids like Kyle. Maybe you could take your gift and reach all the students, not just the elite students.” She was speechless.

It was in that moment that I started thinking about moving to North Carolina. I realized she really wanted little to do with the special ed kids, and I realized maybe she was afraid, maybe she was a snob, or maybe she just wrote those kids off like so many other adults tend to do.

I want to contrast this story with another one from Cullowhee Valley School and Mrs. Johnson, a Stetson music ed grad at that. Cullowhee Valley School is the school for the special ed kids K-8 for our rural county. They have this 3rd Grade Wizard of Oz play they do. It involves ALL 3rd graders, including the special ed kids. Mrs. Johnson embraced my son. She saw what music did for him, and I saw a light in her eye when my son was in her class. She is one of the best people and teachers I have ever met.

When Kyle was in 3rd grade, he was still battling sensory issues with clothes. He rarely sat still and did not often follow directions in class. He would pay attention but not always do what the teachers asked. Either he just did not want to do or could not do it.

Special Needs Kids and Music at The Happy Housewife

So Kyle was in the 3rd Grade Wizard of Oz and they had this butterfly wizard dance as part of the play. They dressed my son up like a dwarf looking wizard. He was wearing silky pants (major sensory issues), a weird silky shirt (more sensory issues), and top hat (super sensory issues). They had Kyle seated, and before him were the percussion chimes.

His role in the play was to play the chimes in a melodic way. They gave him a chime mallet or stick or whatever it is called, and he held it in his right hand. I went to the practice during the day and heard the chimes during the butterfly dance, but because of where I was seated, I could not see him. I just thought the scene was pretty cool.

That night I went to the full play, and when his scene came up, I had my camera and a great seat. That was when I started to cry. Mrs. Johnson had my son seated in front of chimes wearing clothes he hated and a hat to boot, and he started his chime playing when he was supposed to and played them well through the entire scene and stopped appropriately. I was stunned. To Mrs. Johnson’s credit, Kyle’s assistant, Grace, did a lot of the work too. I was immensely proud of my son, and while others did not notice his role as I did, I can assure you it was every bit as much work for Kyle to do what he did as it was for the little girl playing Dorothy to memorize her lines. Music, my friends, made this happen for Kyle.

If you have a special needs kid or the Not Diagnosed With Anything (NDWA) kids, I cannot emphasize enough how important music is to our species regardless of ability. If you are reading this and are a new parent of a special needs kid, get an iPod or similar device, maybe even an 8 track tape player for that matter, and play Mozart to your babies.

Get your kids involved in music in school and after school, in church or wherever. I am willing to bet your child could be reached by music in ways few other things could reach him/her. It has touched Kyle in ways I never imagined; fat bottomed girls make the rocking world go round….

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.