Author - Erica

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» REVIEW: Hyatt Zilaria Rose Hill – Montego Bay Jamaica
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» Review: Himalaya Botanique Toothpaste
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» On attachment, blindness and the support we need
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» Review: Jarrow Probiotics
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» Conquer your days
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» Houston, Star Fish, and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra
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» On the other side of obedience
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» Review: Sun Basket
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» Year of Less: Birthday Update
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» 2017 Father’s Day Gift Guide

» REVIEW: Hyatt Zilaria Rose Hill – Montego Bay Jamaica

Calvin and I celebrated ELEVEN years of marriage this year. We have always desired to grab some special time away on a fabulous beach but the logistics just have not panned out until this year. After months of planning and researching we chose to spend our 11th anniversary at the Hyatt Zilaria Rose Hill, an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I was very nervous once we made the full commitment. What if it didn’t live up to my long-awaited expectations for a tropical getaway!? Fortunately it absolutely did and we enjoyed a perfect weeklong stay on our own slice of paradise. Here are the highlights in case you are looking for your own little getaway!

Arrival

Upon arrival we were ushered to a Hyatt waiting area in the airport. We received cold water and pineapple juice while they checked us into the resort. After approximately 15 minutes the staff gathered our luggage and we took a short bus ride to the Hyatt. The front desk was waiting for us and knew exactly who we were when we stepped on the bus. June is a slower season and we were immediately upgraded to a higher level suite upon arrival. Our room was not quite ready but the staff pointed out a great lunch spot and we enjoyed a meal while we waited the 30 minutes for our room to be ready.  From the second we stepped off the bus we were extremely impressed with the beauty of the resort and the friendliness of the staff. We knew we had made the right decision.

Room

We stayed in a Junior suite on the adult-only side of the Hyatt resort. The room was very spacious and decorated well with a modern, island feel. Lots of white, stone and metal tones. The bathroom was open and included a very large walk-in shower and a huge soaking tub. The king sized bed was cozy… not to firm or too soft. Perfect for several uninterrupted nights of sleep. The balcony, however, was the icing on the cake. It was large with a lovely lounging area and it faced the pool and the ocean. We spent many hours reading, writing and napping on that beautiful balcony with the sound of the ocean in the background. The resort was all-inclusive so our fridge was stocked with snacks and drinks daily. I drink a larger than normal amount of water and they quickly brought more when I ran out one day.

Dining

There were so many dining options that we were not able to eat through the entire list! It was so much fun trying different things everyday and not worrying about anything due to the all-inclusive nature of the resort. The food was always fresh and delicious at each place. Our favorite meals included the French fine dining experience at Petit PareZ, Di Roza Italian, and the Jamaican Jerk chicken shack by the pool. We also enjoyed long, lazy breakfasts with ocean views each morning at the buffet. We chose the buffet most morning because I enjoyed the unlimited papaya and other fun island fruits. Additionally I was able to have a fresh, green smoothie made each morning as well. Here’s the bottom line about the food, it wasn’t cruise ship food. That was our biggest fear when it came to all-inclusive. The food was fresh, creative and plentiful. We looked forward to our meals and enjoyed each one of them.

Activities

The all-inclusive nature of this resort carries over to activities as well! Ocean kayaking, sailboats, boogie boards and snorkeling are all available at no extra cost. We typically enjoyed an activity in the early afternoon before lounging around in the beautiful pools and clear, greenish/blue ocean. There is full drink service, also included, at the pools and oceanside. There was also plenty of entertainment available during the day and in the evenings. We stayed on the adults only side, but also ventured over to the family side at times to enjoy their restaurants and coffee shops. During these ventures we dreamed big about enjoying this resort with our family one day. The beach area and pools were perfectly set up for long, relaxing family days in the sun. The staff also seems to go over the top to care for and serve these families well. Truly cannot say enough about the kindness of the staff at this resort.

The Resort

The resort in general was beautiful and very, very clean. There were always plenty of lounge areas and chairs around the pool and beach. The towels were plentiful, the views were gorgeous, the staff was amazing and the resort was large. There was never a need to leave the resort to do other activities as we felt that there was plenty to occupy us right where we were.


Our Tips

Pack a float in your luggage! The pools and ocean area are wonderful and you will want to take advantage of that. A float from home will make your experience that much more relaxing. We also recommend bringing an umbrella and being prepared for a rainy afternoon or two. The rain comes and goes quickly, but expect to see it on occasion. Be sure to pack a mixture of nice clothing and things to relax in, a few of the restaurants are formal and require at least a collared shirt and don’t allow flip flops. Lastly, bring small bills. Although tip is included at the all inclusive, the staff is truly wonderful and you may want to tip them extra for their hard work and cheerful attitude.

» Review: Himalaya Botanique Toothpaste

Our family made the switch to “natural” toothpaste years ago. Many of the toothpastes on store shelves contain harsh chemicals and toxins that can do more damage to our systems than good. Additionally, many so called natural products still contain carrageenan, a known carcinogen, and fluoride, a neuro-toxin. It has always been a challenge to find a toothpaste that steers clear of those ingredients while still delivering a great taste, a smooth brushing experience and a really good clean.

Recently we were given the opportunity to try a natural toothpaste line from Himalaya. We thoroughly tested the waters with this sodium lauryl sulfate free, carrageenan free, fluoride free and gluten free toothpaste. Instead of filling their paste with the above harmful ingredients they add neem, pomegranate, triphala, xylitol from birch trees, papain and bromelain enzymes from papaya and pineapple. These lovelies clean teeth, act as astringents, detox the teeth and gums and remove surface stains. I jokingly call this Plant Power!

Thankfully Himalaya makes these great switches without compromising taste or quality. The paste thoroughly cleans the mouth without leaving a gritty or filmy taste behind. The cinnamon is especially amazing, leaving a fresh feeling for hours. The kids found the cinnamon to be too spicy but really liked the pomegranate and neem flavor. I even asked my parents to try out Himalaya with us when they recently visited. They liked it so much they snuck a tube out of our house and home with them! I’ll call that a win. With regular brushing this great tasting herbal formula will help remove plaque, maintain white teeth and support healthy gums.

Himalaya Botanique toothpastes get 12 thumbs up and six shiny smiles from the Goodbye household. We are thankful to have found a great choice to keep our teeth looking and feeling their best without the addition of toxic chemicals.

Use coupon code MF6FLSMP to receive 25% off one single tube of Himalaya on Amazon! Links and flavors listed below!

Whitening Peppermint

Neem and Pomegranate 

Cinnamon 

Whitening Simply Mint

Complete Care Spearmint

Complete Care Simply Mint

 

 

**I received Himalaya products as a Mom’s Meet blog ambassador, all opinions are my own.**

» On attachment, blindness and the support we need

This may be the hardest blog post I’ve ever written. It’s hard because it may offend people who had good intentions. And I’m thankful for those intentions. But at some point life must be lived and explanations must be given and teaching moments should take place.

My daughter is legally blind. She was also adopted at 5 1/2 years old. This creates a complex set of issues that we, as a family, deal with on a daily basis. The blindness/visual impairment… honestly not a big deal. The attachment issues and past trauma… really big deal.

This summer marks four years home for our daughter and we decided that it was time to let her fly a little bit. To go and do all the fun things that our other children were doing. We have NEVER restricted her from activities due to her vision condition. She has gone on the tallest water slides, rope climbing courses, swam in the ocean… you name it, she’s done it. However, we did restrict her from activities that involved adults and older teenagers because she has difficulty discerning who she can and cannot attach to. When an adult shows her attention she thrives on it and begins to seek an inappropriate amount of attention from that adult.

Here’s what we have learned in the past several years. People often do not know how to react to children with disabilities such as blindness. They are either intimidated, over-indulgent or hands-off. Fortunately we have met people who reacted appropriately, but honestly those people are few and far between. It seems incredibly difficult for kids and adults to treat her like a typical child. Rather we frequently get two extreme spectrums: the celebrity treatment or name-calling and excluding. Neither of these are healthy for our daughter, yet we can’t seem to convince people to treat her just like any other kid.

No child is more special than any other child. They are all created differently yet deserve equal treatment. Elevating a child and giving them extra attention because they have a disability can be incredibly crippling. Lola’s life is going to take a lot of extra work and she can be just as successful as any other person. BUT if she is surrounded with people elevating her beyond her peers and making life easier on her she will never learn to work as hard as she needs to. Lola needs the chance to be treated like every other child her age. 

Our difficulties in this area are compounded because our daughter is also struggling with attachment. When adults give her extra attention, more than other children, it causes a bigger rift in our relationship. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given adults guidelines such as: please don’t hug Lola, please don’t call her name with huge high-fives EVERY time you see her, please encourage her to play with other children when she tries to hang out with you… only to have these guidelines completely disregarded.

When she returns from a place or event where she has been showered with attention and allowed to do things her way without question our home becomes chaos. We are placed at square one again, no matter how much work we’ve done on the front end. All of our efforts are completely wiped out.

I am explaining all of these things because you may know our family or a family like ours. We desperately need your support to help our child grow emotionally. We need you to allow US to give the hugs and compliments and we need you to provide structure, boundaries and normalcy when you happen to be with our child.

» Review: Jarrow Probiotics

Jarrow Formulas was founded in 1977 in Los Angeles by Jarrow L. Rogovin. Jarrow’s early formulations earned the company a reputation for producing innovative and ef cacious supplements at a time when the health benefits of dietary supplements were just beginning to be recognized. Jarrow Formulas’ complete line of nutritional products includes vitamins, minerals, probiotics, standardized herbal concentrates, amino acids, enzymes, and enteral nutrition products. Both retailers and consumers are assured of purity, value, and potency when choosing these products. Jarrow Formulas’ mission is re ected in its motto “Superior Nutrition and Formulation”.

We recently had the opportunity to try a variety of Jarrow probiotics in our home through Mom’s Meet. We already knew the benefits of probiotics and did incorporate them into our lifestyle but we had never tried such a high-quality probiotic supplement with so much research to back it up.

The kids and I have both used the products for close to 3 weeks at this point. I had recently taken a break from probiotics and experienced a mildly uncomfortable 3 days while my body adjusted and produced a few side effects from the die off effect of all the bad bacteria in my system. Don’t read that as I was running to the bathroom, it was more like bloating and general stomach discomfort. I’m thrilled that I hung in there because things improved greatly after day three. I have suffered with inflammation in my joints and shoulders and that was just one of the things that eased as I continued to use the probiotic. I have no doubt that the benefits of this particular probiotic were even greater as it was carefully formulated specifically for women. After just 3 weeks I feel better in countless ways and no longer have the need to take Tums or other digestive aids.

Additionally, the cool ship was flawless. The items arrived in a cooler on ice and the temperature was not compromised whatsoever.

The kids have given me very little feedback on how they are feeling but I can say that the tummy ache complaints have been few and far between. I’ll take that as a win. In addition, the kids probiotic was tasty and easy to chew and swallow. There were no complaints about flavor, texture or taste. Another win.

The benefits of probiotics go well beyond a settled stomach and smooth digestion. You can read more about how “strains matter” on the Jarrow website and hopefully get started on your own gut health! Use code WOMEN to receive 30% off any women’s supplements and probiotics.

You can also find Jarrow products on Amazon. 

 

 

**I received Jarrow products as a Mom’s Meet blog ambassador, all opinions are my own.**

» Conquer your days

Summer is slipping by. We blinked and June is counting her last four days. We’ve had our fun but we’ve had our rough days too. I’ve already had many days of white flag waving and complaining. Too many. It’s not fun to feel defeated. To call your husband with the “I’m exhausted” S.O.S only moments after he walks out the door. But my goodness I’ve done it. I’ve heaped all my defeat and unhappiness all over someone who, at the moment, was powerless to help.

One day in the middle of this frustration and unloading I found myself being annoyed with myself. Not with my kids, not with my husband. I was annoyed by my own voice. I’m supposed to be the strong, do it all, working mom. And the best I can muster is a complaining, venting phone call to my husband. Don’t get me wrong, Dad needs to be filled in on the day and the various antics… but what in the world was I expecting to happen with these phone calls. If I didn’t like hearing myself, I can’t imagine what poor Calvin was thinking.

I pondered what a small change in perspective could accomplish during the intensity of summer and sibling rivalry. What if instead of lamenting the hardships of the day I conquered them? Instead of crawling to the finish line and complaining about the challenge I could simply crawl across the finish line and celebrate the fact that I made it.

I’ve run many races, and they have been hard. I’ve wanted to quit and walk. But I didn’t, I pushed through and at the end I was glowing, proud of myself, enjoying ice cold water and patting myself on the back. Why doesn’t that translate into motherhood? Well. It does. It’s perspective. We can either view the day as something to be conquered, lived and celebrated or something to be lived through so that we can vent and complain about how hard it was.

When I prepare for a 5k or 10k I don’t typically just get up that morning and start running. I would either fail, hurt myself or make terrible time. This concept applies to parenting as well. Without preparation we aren’t likely to knock it out of the park. For me, that preparation starts in my heart. A change of the mind is nothing without a change of the heart.

God’s word has so many heart-permeating messages:

Proverbs 14:1

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

Proverbs 31:26

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Luke 1:45

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

God’s word is full of promises and encouragement! Not only do we find instruction and encouragement for how to be strong women, but God implores us to seek Him because our strength isn’t enough! My heart’s cry is this: Let me never be found as the foolish woman tearing down her own house. Rather let me be found with my eyes lifted up, speaking words of encouragement to my family. Let me savor the days and conquer them rather than giving myself over to them.

I hope you find encouragement here today, from one tired mom to another. Go conquer your days.

» Houston, Star Fish, and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra

Special thanks to Hyundai USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Hyundai Elantra. As always, these opinions are my own.

Cherry Pie Hospitality is hard to keep up with. It seems that every time I’ve visited Houston in the past two years, Cherry Pie has opened a new restaurant. The latest being Star Fish which has a seafood-filled menu that can accommodate all appetites. This time around I hopped in a Scarlet Red Hyundai Elantra and headed down to Star Fish to see (and eat) what the fuss is all about.

Here are some of our favorite things about the car followed by my grand experience at Star Fish in Houston.

2017 Hyundai Elantra

My first impressions of the new Elantra Value Edition was it’s sleek design and roomy interior. Besides the interior trim, there didn’t seem to be many noticeable differences compared to the Sport Edition I drove last time around. The inside fits four comfortably (five technically) with decent sized trunk space. I know I’m always in for an adventure driving the streets of Houston so the sport mode was a necessity.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

Things we loved:

CarPlay – I’m looking forward to how CarPlay will improve over the years. Built-in car GPS systems are so inferior compared to maps on smart phones. CarPlay was able to mirror Apple Maps onto the car’s display along with Spotify. iMessage is also another major component of CarPlay which took more time getting used to. Nonetheless, having the car’s display look just like my phone, squashed the learning curve and I was ready to go right away.

Style – Hyundai has come a long way with their designs. I have to admit that in the past, I might’ve been embarrassed with driving a Hyundai but those days are now gone.

Power – The Value Edition still offers a sport mode for the demands of driving in a bustling city. I was not disappointed at all by the performance needed to keep up on the Interstate.

Conclusion

A car with CarPlay is a huge selling point for me. The car was perfect for our trip and would make a fun commuter for anyone. The additional horsepower (vs. some of the other vehicles in the same class) is a benefit in a city that gives little grace for those that can’t keep up. The lane assists is a natural extension of the car and keeps anyone safer on the road.

Star Fish
191 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Step in and see the 300-gallon freshwater aquarium, you’ll know you’ve made it into the right place. The back wall at Star Fish is busy with a raw bar, which cranks out freshly shucked oysters, seafood cocktails, and massive chilled platters. We sat down and had a little of everything, some of my personal favorites were the Sizzling Shrimp, Lobster Puff Tacos, Steak Taretare and of course the Raw Oysters (Gulf, Maryland, and Maine). You’ll also want to make sure you save room for the White Chocolate Bread Pudding. Click through these photos to see more.

 all photos © Goodbye Normal

» On the other side of obedience

I am an adoptive mom. I don’t use the term unless I’m trying to explain why things, especially parenting, are a little different for me. The normal parenting books and tips don’t typically work for me. Two of my kids function a little differently and try as I might I can’t change their past. I also don’t have to accept that their past defines what they will become. Each day is moving forward and stepping back at the same time, yet I believe the days ahead have much more hope than darkness.

I’ve spent the last week living a little bit of that darkness. You see, when a child suffers trauma at a young age you can’t be certain when and where that trauma will manifest or erupt. You might be at Target, you might be at church and you might even be in the middle of the most fun activity of the entire summer. But it will erupt. I’ve learned not to take it personally in the years that we’ve parented and I’ve begun to anticipate it as well. But man, does it hurt the heart at times.

I was feeling very low and very discouraged at work today. But thankfully God was faithful to put something in front of me that spoke to my depths and gave me the reminder that I needed. I was chosen, selected and called to walk a very specific path with my children. There is no one better or more equipped for this job. And my children? They are children. It may take heart-wrenching, back-breaking work to get to the essence of who they are at times… but the preservation of their childhood and the redemption of past hurts is worth it.

The quote I came across at work was written by another adoptive mom, and in her story of saying yes she says There is a child waiting on the other side of our obedience. (You can read more here) The wonderful thing about this statement is that it doesn’t just apply to my children who joined our family through adoption. This applies to all children. Each day we say yes to walking through the hard things. We are obedient to the call of motherhood. We are obedient to God’s calling on our lives. When we say yes to kindness, patience, love and self-control we show them how to live.

My very soul is weary from things I have walked with my child this week. Anyone else? I am so thankful that there is purpose in these trials. I am so thankful that their is a child and a life on the other side of my obedience. It makes it all so very worth it despite the very deep valleys.

1 John 2:5-6

But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him. This is how we know we are in Him:
Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

» Review: Sun Basket

We have tried several meal services over the past year but continue to look for fresher, organic and non-gmo options. We recently had the opportunity to try Sun Basket through the Moms Meet program and I’m excited to share our experience! Sun Basket has really fun design so we were especially excited to see the adorable box arrive at our doorstep. The farm fresh appeal carries into the packaging with sweet little images of sunshine and farm life.

As we began to unpack the box we appreciated the recycling directions and eco-friendly packaging. My husband is an avid recycler and quite the tree hugger so he was very impressed that Sun Basket went the extra mile in this department.

 

The contents were all labeled well and we quickly set out the ingredients to cook the first meal. A few of the ingredients were already chopped, carrots in this case, and this made the process even smoother.

The meals, in my opinion, were very straight forward and easy to put together in 30 minutes or less. They weren’t terribly fussy or overly complicated. We did run into this issue with other meal services. I need a meal service to make my life easier and don’t want to be in the kitchen preparing things for an hour. The kids were also able to join in as I cooked and that always makes for an enjoyable family experience. Sun basket recipes have suggestions for ways the kids can help out, I appreciated that they approached mealtime from a family perspective rather than assuming that mom would take the responsibility alone.

The meals were tasty and well thought out. Additionally the portion sizes were enough to feed two adults and four small children. We chose to order from the family meals section but there are definitely meals that would be catered toward couples or roommates if that is the preference.

If you are searching for a meal service that focuses on organic ingredients and simple prep this is definitely a great option. Click here to learn more about Sun Basket and try your first box at 50% off!

 

Disclaimer: Moms Meet and Sun Basket provided us with a meal service to sample. The opinions in this post are completely my own.

» Year of Less: Birthday Update

We are steadily continuing the year of less and it gets easier with each event. This week brought another opportunity to put our resolution into practice. Charlotte is turning 8 years old! She’s a bit of an old soul so while she still has the remainders of a baby face it seems completely probable and appropriate that she’s a full 8 years old. When my kids were very little I made a promise to soak in each day and stage and do my best to stay in the moment, this has made the passing years seem more realistic even if they do feel faster than I would like.


This year a few of our kids were at various camps during Charlotte’s birthday and Calvin had taken Liam to Houston with him. This gave Charlotte and I a golden opportunity to share some quality time. We started the birthday festivities with pedicures and talked about what event she might like to do for her birthday gift. She requested a surprise and I took that as a challenge. I discovered through a random Facebook ad that something called China Lights Nashville was currently set up at the fairgrounds. After viewing the press release and videos I knew this was just the event to celebrate my half-Chinese princess.


I’m a firm believer in dressing the part for celebrations. I told her to choose a favorite dress and chose one for myself as well. We put on lipstick and drove the 30 minute drive to the fairgrounds. I kept the surprise until we arrived and she began to see the lights. It was beautiful! If this event comes to a town near you I highly recommend a visit!


When we substitute events for presents we are in favor of going all out. This means dinner, dessert and specials drinks. This means that the gift recipient gets the royal treatment. It’s a full out attempt to create very fun, out of the ordinary moments and memories. It means saying yes to all the things that we often say no to. When you are one of four kids there aren’t as many moments like that so that makes days like this even more special!


During the evening I made sure to fill her head and heart with affirmation, I told her how wonderful she was and about all the ways she makes our home joyful.

The year of less has become less about reducing the stuff and more about amping up the intentional moments. The removal of things has caused us to focus more on what we do and say during celebrations. I hope that when we come to the end of this year our kids have unforgettable moments and a knowledge of their importance and place in our family.

» 2017 Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father’s day really crept up on us this year! We’ve had way too much fun kicking off Summer. Fortunately we were already thinking ahead and have compiled some interesting ideas for all the dads out there. Enjoy this list that doesn’t include ties OR socks!

1. Twelve South – Apple Accessories

If your household has been taken over by Apple, some accessories that match Apple’s design might be a nice addition to his desk or nightstand. We especially love the HiRise 2 stand for iPhone.

buy on Amazon
Twelve South website

2. EGO Mower and Lawn Equipment

Finally, a mower we can both agree on. The EGO Power+ mower is powerful with the torque of gas, but doesn’t require gas or a silly extension cord like the electric mower we used to own. The mower folds up nicely, runs at a low noise level, and starts up every time with a push of a button. EGO also has an array of outdoor equipment such as chainsaws, leaf blowers and edgers that all use the same battery. Read our full review here.

buy on Amazon
Ego Power+ website

3. Netatmo Smart Home

I’ve mentioned Netatmo and their beautiful smart home products in my Mother’s Day post. If you’re husband has (or wishes to have) a green thumb, the Personal Weather Station monitors outdoor environmental elements such as temperature, humidity, and pressure in real-time. If you’re husband is anything like mine when it comes to growing fruits and vegetables, he’ll need all the help he can get.

The Netatmo Presence is the first outdoor security camera with artificial intelligence to detect and report about people, cars and animals. When I get outdoor notifications about movement or activity, it includes the family member it sees. It’s also great to see if someone is loitering around the house, any cars that wait on the driveway for too long or in our case, a dog that gets loose. This camera is combined with a floodlight that needs to be hardwired so make sure you have a spot that will work along with 30 minutes to wire and properly mount everything.

Netatmo website

buy Netatmo on Amazon

4. Tablift iPad Stand

When this came in the mail, I have to admit, I laughed a little. But for the last eight years, we haven’t had a TV in our room. My iPad Pro now serves as our bedroom television that now sits comfortably right on our bed. The legs are designed in such a way that your legs can sit under the Tablift without knocking everything over.

buy on Amazon

5. MyQ Garage Door Opener

This has been one of Calvin’s favorite smart home devices. Chamberlain’s MyQ Garage works with most existing garage door openers and with a quick five-minute installation, your smart phone can open and close the garage door from anywhere! Now that our kids are older, they’re always opening the garage to get their bikes out but never remember to close them when they’re done. We had many mornings where we found the garage door open from the previous night. Now we can check from inside the house before bed and make sure things are shut without having to get up from the bed.

buy on Amazon
Chamberlain website

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal