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Five Tips for Traveling with Your Pet


When you travel for the holidays, you might be bringing your furry, four-legged friend along for the ride. I’ve got five tips to consider before a road trip with your dog so you can have a smooth, safe trip for everyone. Here’s the first:

1.     Plan to stop regularly. Let your dog have a pit stop, take a drink, and most importantly, work off some energy. Sitting cooped up in a car can get old quickly for anyone, and dogs are no different. It’ll be good for you to get a little walk in, too.

For the rest of these tips, please visit my guest post over on the Holt Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership blog.


Partner with HEB & ConAgra to Make Sure Child Hunger Ends Here

Note: I am participating in a compensated campaign for ConAgra Foods and The Motherhood. All opinions are honest and are entirely my own; I truly believe this campaign is crucial and that we should all get involved to help end child hunger.

Children_Eating_Lunch Childhood is a time in life that you’re allowed to be carefree and responsibility-free (except for those few pesky chores mom & dad might make you do). It is not a time you’re supposed to be constantly hungry, wondering when your next meal might be. The sad fact is that more than 1 in 5 children in the U.S. may not know where their next meal is coming from – that’s nearly 16 million hungry children out there.

I know how hard it is for me as an adult to function when I even just have to skip lunch; I can’t imagine how hard it is for kids. Children who experience even intermittent struggles with hunger may suffer serious, long-term consequences to their health, well-being and educational achievement. What’s more, being hungry robs kids of the promise of childhood – the ability to play, grow and learn.


ConAgra Foods finds this unacceptable, and has partnered with P&G for the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign – they want to build a community of people to make a difference and help donate up to 7 million meals. There are several ways you can get involved in this important cause:

  • Enter Codes to Trigger Donations. It’s easy to make a difference: Look for the red pushpin on participating product packaging for a code found on these specially marked ConAgra Foods and P&G products. For each 8-digit code entered at www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com from March-August 2014, ConAgra Foods or P&G, respectively, will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to Feeding America.
  • Join the Community and Get Involved. One of the easiest ways to learn how to get involved is to join the Child Hunger Ends Here Facebook community or follow the news on Twitter and Instagram at @ChildHungerEnds.
  • Local Texas Donations. ConAgra Foods and P&G are donating an additional 100,000 meals to local Texas food banks on behalf of H-E-B, in appreciation for their partnership to end child hunger.

We have an H-E-B near us that we shop at every week, and one of our favorite parts of shopping there is the deals we can find. There’ve been so many times I’m shopping for something like shredded cheese, and I’ll find a coupon that gets me freebies for purchasing the cheese I was already planning to buy! What’s even better is that right now some of these great H-E-B deals can also work for code entries to trigger donations. If you live near an H-E-B, be sure and check out these deals for ConAgra Foods products & P&G products that are eligible for Child Hunger Ends Here code entries. Some of these end next week, so be sure to head to H-E-B soon:

Offers End Date
Marie Callender’s Mini Pies and Cakes: Buy 1, Save $0.75 5/27
Iams Woof Delights (8oz) Assorted Varieties: Buy 1, Save $0.30 6/10
Orville Redenbacher’s (6-Pack or Larger): Buy 1, Save $0.50 with Yellow Coupon at H-E-B 5/27
Hebrew National Hot Dogs (1 package): Buy 1, Get Gulden’s Mustard (12oz) and Snack Pack Pudding Cups (4pk) Free 5/27
Old Spice: Buy 1 for $1.00 5/27
Always Radiant/Infinity or Tampax Radiant/Pearl (24-50ct): Buy 1, Get 1 Secret Outlast, Secret Scent Expressions, or Secret Destinations (2.6-2.7oz) Deodorant Free (Houston, TX, ONLY) 5/27
Wolf Chili Combo Loco: Buy H-E-B Easy Melt Cheese and get Wolf Brand Chili (19oz Plain) and Ro*Tel (28oz) Free – Look for details in-store about the Combo Loco! 6/3


Reset Reality & Support Those Overcoming Opioid Addiction

Note: I participated in a campaign on behalf of  Mom Central Consulting for Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.



Opioid dependence, which can be opioid prescription painkiller addiction, or heroin addiction, is a chronic disease that affects more and more Americans every year. I believe people see painkillers as less dangerous, so their guard is down and it’s easier to gradually slip down the slope into addiction. After a while prescription painkillers can actually alter the brain chemistry by “resetting” the brain. They make a person feel (physically and psychologically) like they need the opioid prescription painkillers just to get through the day. I’d actually heard about how easy it is to get addicted to painkillers (Matthew Perry’s story was one that stood out to me) so when my kids were born I used ibuprofen for pain management rather than opting in to some heavier painkillers – I was probably being overcautious, but medicine has always really affected me and I didn’t want to take the risk.

Reset Reality is a public health initiative to help spread awareness about the prevalence of opioid painkiller addiction in the U.S. It shares the science and treatment of this addiction, and it encourages those living with prescription painkiller addiction to step back, reflect, and hit the “reset” button by working with a healthcare professional. This way they can work on finding a new “reality” without the need for the painkillers.

ResetReality.com is a valuable online resource that provides a lot of information and tools to learn about opioid dependence, including a symptom-screener and a way to find a doctor certified to treat the addiction. The site also shares “Words of Reality”  – stories of people who have been addicted and have overcome their addictions. I read Cheryl’s story about how she decided to be the mother her son needed and reset her reality – it was very touching to see how that broke through the wall and got her to take a step toward recovery.

While on the site I discovered a list of symptoms, which was really helpful for me. With some drugs you hear about people having bizarre, obvious symptoms, and the ones for painkiller addiction are slightly more subtle so it’s good know what to be on the lookout for.


I hope you’ll go take a look at the ResetReality site and keep an eye out for any loved ones who might be dealing with opioid painkiller addiction. Let’s spread the word that there IS help out there!

For All You Love

Paper flowers made by C for me this year

Paper flowers made by C for me this year

Note: I am participating in a compensated Johnson & Johnson campaign with The Motherhood.  All thoughts and opinions are honest and are my own.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. The kids (even baby E) have already started bringing home handmade cards and trinkets, and the boys are so proud of what they’ve made. Of course, with the holiday approaching I’ve been thinking about my role as a mother, and how much love I have for each of the kids. Before having C, I wondered how you could love more than one child as fiercely as you do your first. It’s an amazing thing how your love spreads, and how you love them each equally despite how different they can be from one another.

Johnson & Johnson just launched their “For All You Love” campaign, which celebrates the selfless and unconditional caring of caregivers, including moms, and all the ways they care for those they love, and I thought I’d write a little about that today.

I think about how much I love my kids every single day – I seriously get that warm, “my heart’s about to burst with love” feeling on a regular basis, because I’m absolutely in awe that I have been blessed with these three wonderful little people. Don’t get me wrong, they can drive me nuts, too… but at the end of the day, when I’m lying in bed, it’s the happiness of the day that I think about. And when 5:00 is nearing each week day, it’s the thought of their little faces that makes me realize the best part of the day is about to arrive.

As a mom, I’ve done things I never thought I would be strong enough to do. I’ve never handled the sight of blood well – my mom told me the story of her stubbing her toe when I was just a toddler, and the sight of her toe bleeding caused me to throw up. That’s been a running theme throughout my life – I can’t even handle watching people donate blood. Yet when J cut his chin open at a friend’s house, and there was blood everywhere, I wasn’t fazed one bit. His comfort and well-being were all I could think about. He was scared, and my focus was making him feel secure. I think it was that moment, three years in to being a parent, that I really understood how much power there is in my love for my children.

Of course, I wouldn’t be doing justice if I didn’t share a little about each of the kids – they each have their own distinct personalities and little things we love about them.


J, our 5-year-old, is our firstborn. He is hilarious, and he lights up when he realizes he’s making people laugh. His latest schtick is quoting his favorite TV shows and movies – gestures, intonations and all – and we can’t help but crack up. He is also fiercely protective of his younger siblings, yelling at C to stay away from the street without holding my hand, or running to give E her pacifier if she’s crying.


C just turned 4. He’s our sensitive soul, so we have to be a little bit gentler with him. He loves to be a helper, running ahead to beat J at opening the door for us, and he is snuggly. At night if I’m laying on the floor in their room, he is the one that wants to reach out and hold hands.


E is 8 months old and her personality is still expanding more and more each day. She wakes up in the morning smiling and blowing raspberries. She grins and squeals and babbles all the time, but she can still have very serious expressions that remind me a lot of her daddy. She is a perfect completion to our family.

What have you done for someone you love? How have you seen someone else show their love for you? Love can be seen in the grand gestures, of course, but it’s in the small, day-to-day moments that it builds and builds, shaping us into who we are.

J&J Campaign Manifesto


As a part of Johnson & Johnson’s “For All You Love” campaign, recognizing their commitment to the health and well-being of moms and kids worldwide, J&J is also planning to donate $25K this Mother’s Day to Save the Children®: http://www.savethechildren.org

Oh, and I adore this spot J&J put together:

Speaking of love, be sure and spread the love this Mother’s Day – and help support a great cause, too! In celebration of Mother’s Day this year, JOHNSON’S Baby has established JOHNSON’S Baby CARES Care Cards, a digital e-card platform encouraging moms to share positive messages of encouragement with other moms across the country, while simultaneously supporting Save the Children.

Simply pick and share a card filled with messages of reassurance for a Mom in your life on Facebook at http://www.johnsonsbabycares.com. For every card sent, shared or liked, JOHNSON’S Baby will donate $1.00 to Save the Children (up to $150,000) to benefit early childhood education programs that foster education and reassurance for new moms. These cards will not only spread encouragement to Moms throughout the country but will also provide Moms in need with the skills and knowledge to successfully support their child’s growth.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone. May this weekend, and beyond, be filled with love.

Scott Shared Values Campaign – Great Way to Get Free Coupons & Rewards!

I love coupons and bargains, as anyone who knows me can tell you. And I love reward programs because I’m already making purchases anyway, so earning rewards for those purchases is like icing on the cake for me!

Scott is a brand we’ve purchased for years, and I’m thrilled that they’re working to give back to consumers with this program. It’s simple to sign up, and you get a coupon right away (which you can increase the value of by sharing it with friends – great, right?).

You can also earn some great prizes such as free amusement park tickets, 3 free Blockbuster Total Access rentals, Hertz Rental Car discounts and more.

There will also be NEW coupons on the website each month so you can save on Scott products every month! For example, when you sign up you get a 75 cent coupon that you can easily change into a $1.25  coupon.

I hope you’ll sign up for this great program – start saving $ and earning rewards today! Signing up seriously takes maybe a minute and it’s SO easy to get started.To make it even easier here’s a widget to sign up right here and now:

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Scott. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating and am able to earn additional rewards throughout the campaign.

Who, Why, What, Where, When to Learning English

Most of you that read my blog probably speak English as your first language. There are quite a few readers that come from different parts of the world and might not be native English speakers. I know I went to graduate school with several people from other countries, including a good friend from China and one from India. I hope information in this guest post will be helpful for those who do need to learn English!

Who takes the PTE Academic test?
The Pearson Test of English Academic (also known as the PTE Academic exam) is a computer-based, advanced English language proficiency exam. Administered by Pearson Language Tests, it is most widely used as an admissions test for English-language higher education programs. The exam is, at its core, designed to evaluate and certify the ability of non-native English speakers to participate in an English language courses at the university level. As a result, the exam is primarily taken by non-native English language students who are about to enter an English-speaking academic program.

Why should you take the PTE Academic exam?
The PTE Academic test was created with higher education institutions and their non-native students in mind. As the exam is calibrated to such a high standard, it is also aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference (or CEFR) and can certify candidates with English speaking abilities ranging from B1 to C2. As a result, in addition to being widely accepted as an approved certification of English proficiency by colleges and universities around the world, it is used by the UK Border Agency for Tier 4 (student visa) applications and considered the preferred test of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Importantly, as a computer based-exam, candidates can take the test with as little as 24-48 hours of advance notice. Also, because it is a computer-based exam, applicants can take the exam at one of the many Pearson Language Test certified testing centers around the world.

What exactly is the PTE Academic test like and what can I expect to see on it?
The PTE Academic is a computer-based test comprised of 20 different question types over four sections. Which four distinct sections are listed below, tasks often measure two skills at the same time. For example, a question may involve both listening and reading or reading and speaking rather than each part individually. Moreover, although the length of each section can vary, the PTE Academic exam is always 3 hours long. Because the timing for each section can vary, when the time is up on one section, the test automatically proceed to the next section. One preliminary section, provided as a warm-up exercise, is always included. This untimed personal introduction section is recorded but not graded.

The remainder of the tasks are divided into 3 general sections:

  • Speaking and writing, which can last from 77 to 93 minutes;
  • Reading comprehension, which can last from 32 to 41 minutes; and
  • Listening, which can last 45 – 57 minutes.

Throughout the exam, the PTE Academic uses real-life, academic-oriented situations. For example, Reading passages may include excerpts from textbooks or other aspects of student life. Likewise, listening passages may be reproductions of lectures or even recordings of actual speech samples collected from working university classrooms.

As a computer-based exam, results are available by e-mail in as little as five days. Scores are provided on a scale from 10-90, with scores below 43 considered insufficient to certify English proficiency for an academic setting and score above 84 considered exceptional. Scores between 43 and 84 are recognized the UK Border Agency and also correspond to the following CEFR scores:

PTE Academic Score         CEFR Score
43-58                                           B1
59-75                                           B2
76-84                                           C1

Where and When can you take the PTE Academic exam?
The PTE Academic test is available at many of the Pearson test centers operated around the world. Registration for the test is available online up to 48 hours in advance but up to 24 hours in advance by phone (and all phone inquiries should be made to the Pearson directly). Times and dates vary by location.

Join me for the Pulled Pork Twitter Party!

I love to write about food and recipes, so I’m especially excited to announce that I am co-hosting a Twitter party with the National Pork Board and The Motherhood!  We’ll be talking about recipe ideas for pulled pork – a tasty and versatile summer staple for potlucks, picnics and group gatherings – and giving away great prizes!

When: Thursday, July 19, 7-8 p.m. ET

Where: The party will take place on Twitter, using the #PlatesofPork hashtag.

Who: The National Pork Board (@AllAboutPork) and The Motherhood (@theMotherhood) will be hosting. You must follow both Twitter handles to be eligible to win prizes.

Prizes: Five prize packs will be given away throughout the hour, based on responses to trivia questions.  Each prize pack will contain a $20 Walmart gift card, slow cooker, cutting board, three-piece BBQ tool set and sauce bucket/brush (total ARV $116).  Official Rules are here.

RSVP: Let us know if you’ll be there! Click this link and press the orange “count me in” button on the right-hand side.

I hope you’ll join us! It’ll be a lot of fun, and you might just win one of the great prize packs!

Note: Thank you to The National Pork Board and The Motherhood  for this opportunity.  I am being compensated for my time as a co-host.  All opinions stated in this post are honest and my own. 

My Blog Had a Special Visitor!

If you’re a blogger, it’s likely that by now you’ve heard of the Fairy Hobmother, who goes around sprinkling a little happiness on blogs when you least expect it. I’ve seen lots of bloggy friends who’ve had visits, and I kept hoping I’d get a visit soon. Well, with all the fun of my Pregnancy & Baby Extravaganza I guess it was too much to resist stopping by, because I was visited this weekend.

If you haven’t been visited by the Fairy Hobmother yet, be sure and leave a comment on this post (and include your URL so you’re easy to find)! This magical little guest comes all the way from the UK at Appliances Online, where they sell things like fridges and freezers but also find time to drop by a little gift to lucky bloggers in the way of an Amazon gift card. I am planning on using ours mostly toward baby stuff (surprise, surprise) but I may get a Kindle book for myself too. :)

Don’t forget, comment on this post and YOU just might get a visit too!

Note: Like I mentioned, I received an Amazon gift card, which does make this a compensated post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

RSV Awareness

When each of our boys were born, we were very germ-conscious from the start – we had hand sanitizer at the door of our hospital room for people to use before holding our fragile newborn! With C I was especially worried since swine flu was making headlines everywhere, and hormones only exacerbated my fear of him getting sick. Thankfully neither of the boys have ever experienced any serious illness, especially while they were still newborns. It’s definitely wise to be cautious with the spread of germs when small babies’ immune systems are still so immature.

Our third child is due this fall, and I’ve already thought about the fact that he or she will be SO little during the height of winter, when sickness seems to spread especially quickly. We will definitely be taking a lot of precautions, especially with having two preschool-aged children in the house too!

One of the biggest threats to new babies is a very common virus called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. This virus can be especially concerning because it’s extremely common and spreads very easily. RSV can live on surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, countertops, toys, bedding) for several hours and is often spread through touching, hugging and kissing. Because of this, almost 100% of children contract RSV by their second birthday. In most older children, RSV runs its course with mild symptoms similar to the cold or flu, and many parents may not even know their child has the virus. But in very young babies—and especially preemies and those with certain lung and heart diseases—it can lead to a serious respiratory infection.

A few facts about RSV that all parents, caregivers and loved ones should know:

  • Almost every baby will contract RSV by age 2, but only 1/3 of moms say they’ve heard of the virus.
  • Serious RSV infection is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, responsible for more than 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 infant deaths each year.
  • RSV occurs in epidemics each fall through spring. The CDC has defined “RSV season” as beginning in November and lasting through March for most parts of North America.
  • There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take preventive steps to help protect their child (e.g., wash hands, toys, bedding frequently; avoid crowds and cigarette smoke).
  • Certain babies are at an increased risk of developing serious RSV infection, so it’s important to speak with a pediatrician to determine if a baby may be at high risk for RSV, and discuss preventive measures.
  • Symptoms of serious RSV infection include: persistent coughing or wheezing; rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths; blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails; high fever; extreme fatigue; and difficulty feeding. Parents should contact a medical professional immediately upon signs of these symptoms.

If you’re a parent to a newborn, there are a few tips you can try to suggest for visitors:

  • Wash your hands frequently—upon entering the home and especially prior to holding the baby. Parents, and the new baby, will appreciate it.
  • Leave toddlers at home, especially during the winter months. Young children, especially if they attend day care or preschool, often carry germs and viruses, like RSV, that are easily spread.

If you’re a guest that can’t wait to meet a new baby, consider these suggestions:

  • Call before you visit. New parents need time to set up a routine and bond. By giving them time to do so before you visit, you are respecting the new family.
  • Postpone a visit if you feel that you may be getting sick, have recently been ill or exposed to illness.
  • Remember that parents know best. If you feel they are being overprotective or overly cautious, just consider that only they know what’s best for the health of their new son or daughter.
  • Offer to do something to ease their responsibilities as they spend time as a family, such as laundry, cooking or dishes. Sleep-deprived moms and dads will appreciate your help!

You can learn a lot more about RSV and prevention at www.rsvprotection.com, and check out this infographic for more details:

It’s easy to overworry about your child, especially your first. Instead of worrying, just be preventative and watch out for signs of RSV or other serious illness – then if your baby does get sick, you’ll be able to be proactive in getting them treatment as soon as possible.

Note: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Your Words Shape Your Child’s Life

I was going through some old files on my computer and found my design portfolio from college. While going through the images, I found two public service announcements I created. Although the OCD person in me would love to go back and redesign them, the message still resonates, so I wanted to share them with you.

I’m fortunate to have parents who encouraged me and praised me, and as a 30-year-old I can say I’m certain that helped guide my direction in life – I felt like I could do anything I put my mind to. And now, as a parent myself, I can see how great of an impact my words have on my children. Their faces light up when we commend them for being a good helper, or for being so smart to figure out that puzzle all on their own. Little words that, over time, build a foundation of self-worth that our children deserve.

That all children deserve.

How Do You Make Extra Money?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m trying to shop smarter and save more money, but the other side of that is figuring out ways to make extra money. What are some ways you do this for your family? Here are the top three that come to my mind:

Garage Sale: This one has a dual benefit for me – clearing out our clutter and making a little extra change! I’ve had some successful sales in the past. Here are a few tips I’ve discovered over years of sales:

  • Have a sale with your friends. It’s more fun, and shoppers love to go to “multi-family” sales. My friend Amanda and I have had many great sales together!
  • Clean/spruce up your items before you put them out. Dust, spots, or scratches will turn people off from making a purchase, or will provide immediate reason to offer a lower price.
  • Organize your items in categories. I felt a little OCD doing this the first time, although it rang true to my love of organization, which is why I tried it to begin with! But let me tell you – it works! There’s a reason why stores do it this way. If people are looking for CDs, don’t make them hunt through piles of your junk to find them. My friend and I used categories like electronics, games, movies, accessories, kitchen, etc.
  • Diversify your advertising – posters, signs on store bulletin boards, an ad in your local paper and in American Classifieds.
  • Ok, here’s one that sounds totally stupid but I swear it works! If you’ve got a lull in traffic and you see cars headed your way, take turns hopping up and pretending to be a customer. I mean, think about it – if you drive by an empty sale, your first thought will be that it must not be worth stopping by, right? But if people see others shopping, that makes them curious about what might be up there worth looking at. Amanda and I make great pretend shoppers. :)

• Sell online. One bad thing about garage sales is that you’re not going to find a targeted audience for unique or very specific items. Have a Coke bottle collection? The likelihood of finding a collector in your city that just so happens to swing by your garage sale is slim to none. But by going online to sell, you can easily connect people who are looking for what you have to sell.

  • Sell gift cards for cash. Have a card to a store you’ll never shop at? Don’t let it go to waste – go online and sell it. You can often end up with a pretty considerable percentage of the card’s value, which is way better than ending up with something you don’t want at all.
  • Sell your items on sites specifically tailored to audiences looking for what you’ve got. For example, you can sell your CDs, DVDs and games on a site like www.musicmagpie.com, where you know there will be people looking to buy those kinds of things!
  • Sell local, but online. Yup, you know what I’m talking about – Craigslist. This free service makes it easy to sell goods, especially those that are larger and that you wouldn’t want to try and ship.
  • Sell on eBay. Shocker, I know!  For collectibles or certain brand items, this is a great location to find a specialized buyer who will appreciate the value of what you have to offer.

• Make money by making something – use your talents! Love to make jewelry? Are you great at knitting? Take your skills and make money doing something you love. Etsy is filled with people who are successful doing just that, and more and more buyers appreciate buying handmade.

What methods do you use to make extra money? I’d love to get more ideas to add to my list!

Note: http://cmp.ly/3

Health Awareness

As I get older, it becomes more and more important to me to be health conscious. It seems like it’s more common to talk about various awareness campaigns for conditions – I see posts on Facebook all the time for things like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. I don’t know if I see it a lot because my friends are getting older too, or if there really is just a rise in health awareness overall.

We have a friend who started developing diabetes symptoms a while back – he has since taken control of his health, gotten in shape, and now he doesn’t have the symptoms any more! It was an inspiration to me that we can all take action to be healthier people.

Even for people living with diabetes or some other condition, there are so many things you can do to make yourself as healthy as possible and lessen the strength of symptoms. How “health aware” are you?

Disclosure: http://cmp.ly/3