The Expanding, Ever-Changing Industry of Personal Computer & Networking

I graduated high school in 1998 and remember sitting at my computer many nights, attempting to connect via dial-up modem. Back then, even though dial-up was slow, I was utterly amazed at the internet. It's really mind-blowing to see just how much computers have changed over the years. Take a look at the infographic below, which shows the amazing evolution of computer technology over the past 25 years.

Infographic: An Ever Expanding Network - The Evolution of the Personal Computer and the Networking Industry

Presented By CSI Now

What do you think the future will bring for the personal computer and networking industry? Seeing how far we've come in 25 years makes it seem like just about anything is possible over the next 25!


Disney On Ice Celebrates 100 Years Of Magic In Atlanta #AtlDOI @DisneyOnIce #review

Wednesday night we attended our very first Disney On Ice event at the Gwinnett Center! As huge Disney fans, my boys have been so excited, talking about the event for weeks now. We made it to the arena just in time for the show to begin. Mickey Mouse came out on the ice and the show began with a bang!

The theme of the show was Disney On Ice Celebrates 100 Years of Magic, which featured a huge variety of Disney characters from the past and present. From the classics like Cinderella, Pinocchio and Beauty and the Beast to newer movies, such as The Incredibles, Mulan, and Lilo & Stitch, Disney On Ice was a non-stop thrilling experience for the entire family. My boys were captivated by the characters as they jumped, twirled and skated around the rink. My Liam was seriously on the edge of his seat, clapping the entire way through the show. Usually, he is the one asking when the show will be over, but not this time! He didn't want to leave and I couldn't blame him one bit!
We were starving when we arrived at the event, so we were able to purchase dinner and eat as we watched the show, too. Our hamburgers and hot dogs were delicious. Of course, we had to top it all off with some cotton candy, which came with a Mickey Mouse crown complete with mouse ears.
At the intermission, we found out we were sitting beside the family who won our ticket giveaway! Their little boys were also having a great time.
All the boys having a great time at the show!
Liam said his favorite part was when all of the princesses came out on stage, dancing together with their princes. Josiah's favorite part was the battling during Mulan and the Chinese dragon that came out on the rink. I'm a fan of Pinocchio, so I loved seeing Geppetto and Jiminy Cricket.

The entire show was just amazing and the kids are already asking when we can go back. After going to our very first show, I am in agreement with the boys. This is an event you definitely do not want to miss with your family. It really is enjoyable for everyone.

Disney On Ice Celebrates 100 Years of Magic will be at The Arena At Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia through May 18th, so there is still time to get tickets and attend the show. You can receive $5 off by using the code M100 on the Gwinnett Center website after clicking "Buy Offer" under Promotions & Special Offers.

Did you go to the show or have you been in the past? We'd love to hear about your experience!


Disney Is Bringing Back The Magic With a Live-Action Cinderella Film March 2015 #Cinderella

I could not be more excited to announce Disney is releasing a new live-action Cinderella movie next March 13th, just in time for my birthday! I know it is a long wait, but I know it will be well worth it. Cinderella just happens to be our favorite of all Disney princesses and Liam was most excited about seeing her castle when we visited Disney World last year. He loves her so much!
The new film is a live-action feature inspired by the classic fairy tail and brings to live the beautiful images from the original 1950s animated Cinderella film. Be sure to take a look at the first Cinderella trailer and get geared up for this movie that is sure I know will be a hit with all Disney fans. There are so many great actors and actresses in the movie, including one of my favorites, Helena Bonham-Carter. You can find more info about the movie below.

Stay tuned for more info as the film release date nears! We will keep everyone updated on all the news! Plus, you can also "like" Cinderella on Facebook and follow Disney Pictures on Twitter & Instagram.

More About The Movie
The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden). Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham-Carter) steps forward and – armed with a pumpkin and a few mice – changes Cinderella’s life forever.


Summer Fun Family Travel Guide 2014 Begins Soon #summertravelguide

Hi all! School will be out soon and the kiddos will be home all day, every day. I'm excited to have both my boys home, but I know after a week or so, we'll be going insane and looking for things to do. That's why I decided to put together a list of fun travel ideas for the entire family. I'm putting it all together now and we'll have some great reviews, giveaways and other travel features for our readers all summer long.

Our Summer Family Travel Guide will officially kick-off at the end of the month and I'm so excited to not only share our adventures with readers, but give you a chance to visit the same places and have some fun, too.

Stay tuned! Summer will be here before you know it!

Sponsors Still Needed
We are still seeking sponsors to add to our roster for the Summer Travel Guide. If you have a great summer activity idea you'd like to include or know someone who does, please email us at childrenteachingmama@gmail.com! We'll be closing the list in a week, so get those requests in soon.


State Farm Neighborhood Assist Needs Your Help Choosing Their $25,000 Grant Recipients #MC #Sponsored

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for State Farm. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.

When I was a child, I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout with my troop 114 until I was in high school. During that time, we did our part to help out our community in many ways, including helping the local Boy Scouts build a nature trail at a park that is still there today and flourishing with flowers and wildlife. Throughout high school and college, I continued donating time and volunteering. I remember picking up trash along highways, visiting nursing homes and spending time with the elderly and, one of my favorites, volunteering time in the emergency room at a nearby hospital each week. Now that I have children, it's been very important for me to share my love of volunteer work and giving back to others. I very much believe in paying it forward even in very small ways. I've tried to teach them through my own actions over the years, whether giving money to the homeless or even buying a meal for someone who does not have enough money. Then, my own children were the recipients of an amazing gift through Make A Wish Foundation when my son's wish to visit Disney World was granted. Since then, they've met many other families, had the change to raise money for cancer research and have joined wholeheartedly the fight against cancer. In addition, my boys just recently walked in the March for Babies in Atlanta, which was a huge fundraiser event for the prevention of premature birth, helping mothers and their babies.

With my history of volunteer work, it's no wonder I was very excited to write about the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Program once again. Each year communities submit their ideas to State Farm for bettering their community and 200 submissions are selected. Then, State Farm needs our help narrowing down those submissions to 40. It's a very tough decision, so it's very important for everyone to take a look at all of the communities, read their ideas and choose your favorites. Why? Because the 40 communities with the most votes will receive a $25,000 grant, making their dream become a reality! You can vote for your favorite cause or causes daily through May 16th, so you have 4 more days to help communities get one vote closer to their final total.
There were a total of 4 community ideas submitted for Georgia and all of them sound amazing and worthy of the $25,000 grant, but the one that resonates the most with me is Project H.O.P.E. It currently supplies kindergarten through third grade with tutors and mentors to help them succeed and reach their educational goals. Those who are part of the program know that success does not stop at 3rd grade and many students continue to need extra help throughout school. The grant would help them expand the program to include fourth and fifth grade, provide free lunches and much, much more. As a mom who needed tutoring in school and has a special needs child who will need special attention once in school, I think this project is a great one to support and, for that reason, we gave many votes to this cause!

In which ways have you gotten your family involved in the community? Be sure to take a few minutes to vote for these great ideas via the State Farm Facebook app. They can make such a difference for so many people and communities. The possibilities really are endless with $25,000 in grant money!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for State Farm. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Honor Your Mom & Raise Money For Cancer Awareness #MC #sponsored #MyHeroMom

I participated in an Ambassador Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.
This Mother's Day, I am quite nostalgic for my childhood and wish I could be with my mom on this special day. My mom means so much to me and sometimes I forget to tell her just how much. Mother's Day is the perfect time to do so during Northwestern Mutual's #MyHeroMom initiative. Through May 13th, Northwestern Mutual is asking sons, daughters and anyone wanting to honor a "heroic" mom or mother figure by simply uploading an image of them to Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook with the hashtag #MyHeroMom. Why? Because it's always nice to tell your mom just how much you love and care about it, but also because the Northwestern Mutual Foundation will donate $5 to its nonprofit partner, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), up to $50,000, for each social action using the #MyHeroMom hashtag. For more info, just go to the Northwestern Mutual Facebook page. You can also post to social media from their page.

Alex's Lemonade Stand is an amazing foundation with a mission to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer. In particular, they want to empower children to get involved and make a difference for children with cancer! As many of you may know, my son has cancer. As of today, he has three brain tumors and is diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis(NF).  This month just happens to be NF awareness month thanks to the Children's Tumor Foundation, which is how we heard about Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation last year.

Little Liam taking a nap with Peanut Butter the bear.
As the parent of a child with cancer, I can say with complete honesty that it's tough. There is one side of cancer that is dark, ugly and just plain tough. It's so hard watching your own child suffer, get sick and go through all of the different chemotherapy treatments each week, month and year. However, there is another side to treatment that has shown me just how brave my little boy is. He is such a hero and faces all of his fears and struggles head on, smiling all the way. I am so proud of my little boy and what he has accomplished. Some days are worse than others, but I stay hopeful that one day a cure will be found, thanks to organizations and foundations just like Alex's Lemonade Stand and the other businesses that support them, such as Northwestern Mutual. Today is a good day, as I sit next to Liam, listening as he plays a game on his iPad, laughing and just enjoying being alive, out of the hospital and with his family. That's really all I can ask for!
As for my other hero, my mom, she has been such an amazing couch throughout Liam's diagnosis and treatment. She is always there for us and loves my boys like they are her own. She taught me how to love, how to be a mom and also how to be a strong woman who can accomplish her dreams. For that, I am forever grateful. She came from humble begins and worked hard to be where she is today. That showed me, even at a young age, that anything is possible. I cling to that thought each day and make it my mantra not only for my life, but for my son's. So, I just want to say thank you, mom, for all  you do for us each and every day. I cannot imagine my life without you and look forward to all of our phone calls, visits and vacations. I love you with all my heart!

Now that you've read all about my heroes, please go honor your mom or special mother figure just like we did with a photo and the #MyHeroMom hashtag. It only takes a minute and is for a great cause!

I participated in an Ambassador Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.



Get Your Delicious Teavana Oprah Chai Tea At Starbucks & Mother's Day B1G1 Special

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Starbucks. I received a promotional item and a gift card to facilitate my review. 
Every Christmas there is only one thing my dad always asks for and that is Starbucks coffee. He drinks it daily, making at least a pot or two of coffee every morning. Then, when he is on the go, he always stops by and picks up a dark roast to tide him over. I can't blame him one bit because Starbucks is absolutely delicious, from their coffees and teas to their sandwiches and desserts. Within the past few months, I've changed over from coffee to hot tea! I'm not sure what changed, but each morning I wake ready for a cup of hot tea. Loose-leaf tea is my favorite because there is something that's just satisfying about steeping my tea, inhaling the rich aroma and taking that first sip. A nice cup of hot tea is a perfect way to start the morning and it has become my new ritual to start each day right!
Speaking of teas, Starbucks has some delicious Teavana tea blends, which are my absolute favorites because the blends are so flavorful. I have been so excited about the newest blend of Teavana Oprah Chai Tea because not only do I love Oprah, but Chai tea is one of my favorites. I couldn't wait to visit Starbucks and try out the new tea.
So, my original plan was to visit Starbucks with my mom so we could share some mother-daughter time together, catching up and just enjoying each other. My mom is my best friend and we talk daily on the phone since she lives in a different state. We always look forward to vacations, holidays and other impromptu visits. She has supported me through my entire life and does so much for others, often putting herself last. I'm so fortunate to have her in my life and cherish all of the moments we spend together. Unfortunately, her visit was cut short because she wasn't feeling and we didn't have a chance to go. She deserves a special treat and we will definitely go to Starbucks together soon, but, for the time being, I thought we could still have some chat time while at Starbucks. So, I headed to Starbucks, ordered some Teavana Oprah Chai Tea and called my mom so we could chat just like if she were there with me.
Enjoying my Teavana Oprah Iced Chai Tea
Upon entering Starbucks, I noticed a sign saying that each purchase of the Teavana Oprah Chai Tea benefits education, so I asked the lady behind the counter and found out that Starbucks will make a donation to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation for each Teavana Oprah Chai product sold. How awesome is that?

I decided to have my Chai tea iced, but you can also order it hot, too. Since it was so warm outdoors, the iced Oprah Chai Tea was absolutely perfect and refreshing. The flavors are so robust and satisfying. It almost reminds me of a pumpkin pie with the many intricate flavors, including cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves that are blended with loose-leaf black tea leaves. All of these ingredients blend together making a one of a kind, delicious tea! Of course, I couldn't resist a piece of lemon pound cake to go along with my tea.
In addition buying a Teavana Oprah Chai Tea to enjoy in-store, you purchase the loose-leaf Chai tea to enjoy at home.  I also received a set of my own Teavana Oprah Chai Tea and a tea mug complete with a lid and strainer so I could easily add the tea in by spoon, steep it and enjoy a few minutes later. Starbucks offers a variety of Teavana Oprah Chai Tea sets that would be perfect for Mother's Day.

I've made hot Teavana Oprah Chai Tea almost every night since my set came. I absolutely love the mug that came with it, too! I am hooked on this new tea and, because I know proceeds go to a very worthy and important cause, I can feel good about my purchases in the future.

Mother's Day B1G1 Deal At Starbucks
Don't forget to stop by Starbucks for Mother's Day tomorrow for delicious Teavana Oprah Chai Tea. You can purchase it hot or iced. Either way, it is wonderful and I could drink it every day. Tomorrow, on May 11th, 2014, visit Starbucks with your mom or friend to receive their Mother's Day Buy One Get One Teavana Oprah Chai Tea special! It's one day only and the perfect day of the year to share it with someone special. Take your mom, sit, relax and have a great Mother's Day!

Have you tried Teavana Oprah Chai Tea yet? If so, do you prefer it iced or hot?

Be sure to visit Steep Your Soul for more information about Teavana Oprah Chai Tea and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Starbucks. I received a promotional item and a gift card to facilitate my review.  

Stonyfield YoBaby, YoToddler, & YoKids Organic Yogurt Pouches Are A Hit & Yogurt Pouch Giveaway

I participated in a Blogger Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Stonyfield. I received coupons to facilitate my shopping trip and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

When Josiah was only a baby, he was quite a picky little eater, so we searched endlessly for baby foods he would eat. Our family mostly eats organic and natural foods, so this really limited what was available for Josiah and we were stumped. We eventually looked to his pediatrician for some ideas and he recommended Stonyfield Organic YoBaby Yogurt. He absolutely loved it. He would eat all of them, but he especially loved the sweet potato yogurt and would gobble it down every single time and then want more. Then Liam came along and, believe it or not, he is even pickier about foods than Josiah. At least we knew about YoBaby already, so we went straight for it as soon as he was old enough. His current favorite is the YoKids Strawberry Smoothies. Those are so delicious, I've even found myself drinking them because we always have them stocked in the fridge. That's why we were so excited to try out the new Stonyfield Organic Yogurt Pouches!

Stonyfield just happens to be our all-around favorite yogurt for many reasons, including their history of organic farming. Even before they started making yogurt, the co-founders of Stonyfield ran a non-profit organic farming school with a mission to protect the environment, produce healthy foods and to keep local farms going strong. This immediately tells you their dedication to healthy, eco-conscious living and I love that about them. The new Stonyfield YoBaby, YoToddler, & YoKid Organic Yogurt Pouches are a product of this dedication, containing pure organic ingredients. They are the very first refrigerated organic  yogurt pouches available! Their products are made without the usage of toxic pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics or GMOs and they are a planet-friendly business, making their own yogurt cups from plants instead of petroleum, among other practices! In addition, they never use high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavorings, so you know what you eat is, indeed healthy, not to mention delicious!

Our Thoughts
While shopping at Target, we happened upon the Stonyfield YoBaby, YoToddler, & YoKid Organic Yogurt Pouches and the boys were immediately asking if we could get some. They can be purchased separately or in 4-packs, so we opted for the 4-pack of YoKid pouches. My boys are especially fond of blueberry yogurt, so that's what we got. My first thought was the size of the pouches because they are bigger than the YoBaby pouches, which is great! Since my kiddos are now 4 and 6, they definitely eat more and, when it is snack time, I want to fill those tummies enough to last them until our next meal.

When I was little, there were no baby food or yogurt pouches, but they sure do make life easier in more ways than one. First, they are great for moms on the go like myself. You can throw them in a lunchbox, diaper bag, purse or picnic basket with ease or worry that they will squish all over the place and make a big mess like yogurt cups can sometimes do. Speaking of messes, no spoon is even needed because babies, toddlers, and kids can just suck up the yogurt straight from the pouch. It's such a timesaver for parents!

So, I've listed all of the reasons I love Stonyfield Yogurt Pouches, but the real test all comes down to the opinions of my children. What did they think? Just as expected, they thought the blueberry yogurt was delicious and tastes just as good as the cup yogurt. Josiah told me he especially enjoyed the true blueberry taste because it really tasted like fresh blueberries and not just sugar like some other yogurts do. Liam kept it simple and said, "It was just so yummy!"

As you can tell, we are huge fans of Stonyfield and the new YoKid Yogurt Pouches were quite a hit with this mama and her two little ones. I'm always excited to find great organic snacks and foods for our family and only want the best for my children. Knowing what I know about Stonyfield and their commitment to organics and the planet, I feel that this is the perfect choice for our family. I can feel good about buying these items because they are not only delicious, but nutritious.

Ready to give them a try? Be sure to use the store locator to find YoBaby, YoToddler, and YoKid Organic Yogurt Pouches at stores near you. Also, don't forget to connect with Stonyfield via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to keep up with the latest news. You can also find some great recipes on their website!

Thanks to Mom Central and Stonyfield, I have an awesome giveaway to share with our readers!

Giveaway Time
One Lucky Reader Will Win 9 Stonyfield Yogurt Pouch Coupons (3 YoBaby, 3 YoToddler, & 3 YoKids)!
To enter, use the Giveaway Tools form below. This giveaway is open to US readers, 18+ years of age and ends on Sunday, June 1st at 11:59pm. Good Luck!

I participated in a Blogger Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Stonyfield. I received coupons to facilitate my shopping trip and a promotional item to thank me for participating. 


We Participated In The March For Babies In Atlanta, Georgia With Kmart #TeamKmart #MC #sponsored

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Kmart. I received product samples and a travel stipend to attend an event, and I received a promotional item to thank me for participating and a donation was made on my behalf to March of Dimes.

On Saturday, April 26th, the boys and I headed to Atlanta for our local March for Babies event! The March of Dimes works tirelessly to end premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. Our son, Liam, is one of half a million babies born too soon each year. He was born 5 weeks early and his lungs were not fully developed, so the doctors and nurses worked endlessly to get him healthy and ready to go home. While Liam was still in the ICU, we learned all about March of Dimes and how much they do for families, women and babies. Below is a photo of Liam the day he was born. This is one of the reasons March of Dimes and the March for Babies exists. The March for Babies is a very special and important event and fundraiser that helps support community programs teaching moms about proper pregnancy health and how to have healthy, full-term pregnancies. It also funds research to find answers to premature birth and other issues that threaten our babies. Since 1970, $2.3 billion has been raised to benefit babies and, this year, 3 million people will join in on the March for Babies!
Liam as a preemie in the ICU
We were so excited to attend the March for Babies because of all they do for premature babies like Liam. He was in the hospital for 2 weeks and my husband and I even attended a healthcare class teaching us about caring for preemies, which was supported by March of Dimes! Liam has experienced many health issues over the four years of his life. Some may have caused the premature delivery, including his diagnosis of Neurofibromatosis. Others may have occurred as a result of being a preemie, such as very sensitive skin, allergies and late development. For these reasons, March of Dimes is especially close to our hearts and we want to participate, raise awareness and support them in any way possible. 
Introduction of teams, including #TeamKmart
So, the boys and I arrived at the March for Babies in Atlanta at the World Congress Center just in time for all of the fun. The day was perfect for the event, with the sun shining and warm weather. As a huge fan of Kmart, where I remember shopping as a child with my grandma and mom, I couldn't wait to join their team during the event and that is exactly what we did. We found the Team Kmart tent as soon as we arrived at the event. Did you know that Kmart has worked with March of Dimes for four decades and is their number one corporate sponsor? They have raised a whopping $114 million so far, which is just amazing! In addition, Kmart is rewarding their Shop Your Way Members who donate in-store with a 5% back on their next in-store purchase! While there, you can also purchase a special collectible puppy figurine for only $5 and $1 from each purchase goes to the March of Dimes. Teams were being announced on-stage and when Kmart was mentioned, the crowd went wild. There were many teams present, but Kmart's dedication to the cause was quite obvious and many, many of their employees came out for the day.
Next there was a t-shirt contest to see which team had the best t-shirts! The teams were so excited and animated that this was a really fun part of the March for Babies. We were all clapping and cheering as teams showed off their shirts and danced across the stage. Then, we stopped for a quick snack at the VIP tent before looking at the rest of the other tents. When walking around, I immediately noticed how many people dedicated their time as volunteers. They all had smiles on their faces and were quick to help people with any questions they had. Here's a group of great ladies that took some time to talk with me:
Somewhere along the way, we were told to visit the Kids Zone and the boys were all for it! The boys loved the Kids Zone because there was something for all ages. For smaller kids, there was a play area with cars, basketball goals and other assorted toys. The boys also had to jump into the bounce house for a few minutes. The next booth we found was for the Atlanta Braves where the boys both got foam tomahawks. We are huge Braves fans, so the boys were really excited to see them. In addition, there were robot cars and, lastly, clowns painting faces and making balloon animals! The Kids Zone was a great place for the kids to get out some energy and have fun, too.

Right as we were finishing up in the Kids Zone, the march was gearing up, so we headed over to the starting line with everyone else. There was a huge line of all the teams and supporters, so we had to wait our turn to cross the line and get started. During this time, I shot a little video showing the area and everyone participating in the event.

As we crossed the line, the excitement was electric and everyone was so pumped to get going. We walked and we walked.... I believe it was just over 3 miles in all! It was such a wonderful experience, being with so many others passionate about the march. By the time we made our way to the finish line, we were tired, but clapping because it felt like such an accomplishment. Teams raised so much money for March of Dimes and the day was so much fun.  You bet we will be back next year!
Have you ever participated in the March for Babies? If so, tell us about it. If not, check out the Kmart March of Dimes website for more info on local events. Believe me, you will have a great time participating and it is all for such a wonderful cause. Thanks to everyone who made the day so special and who raised so much money for March for Babies. We'll see you next year!
After the march with my boys!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Kmart. I received product samples and a travel stipend to attend an event, and I received a promotional item to thank me for participating and a donation was made on my behalf to March of Dimes.

Liam's Brave Battle With Neurofibromatosis : NF Awareness Month #EndNF #CTF

May is Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month and we want to encourage all of our readers and followers to do their part to educate themselves about NF, help find a cure, and spread the word to others! Neurofibromatosis became a very serious and important subject to us a few years ago and now we wait, hope and pray that one day we will find a cure.
So, what is Neurofibromatosis?
NF refers to a number of genetic conditions and carry a very high risk of tumor formation, particularly in the brain. Although Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder, half of the cases show no prior disorder in other family members. The severity of issues and symptoms vary, though, if one parent has NF, there is a 50% chance their children will also develop the condition. There are currently three types of neurofibromatosis: NF 1, NF2, and Schwannomatosis. Liam has been diagnosed with NF1, which includes tumors that grows on nerve tissue that may be benign, but can cause other serious damage by compressing nerves and other tissues. His tumors are on his optic nerves and growth can cause vision issues, blindness and even hearing problems over time. In addition, NF1 children are 5 times more likely to experience developmental issues, including learning disabilities.

Liam's Story
Liam's story is far from over, but he has already been through so much and is our little hero. There are so many children affected by this disorder and the more we learn about it, the more doctors can do for our babies.

Liam was a preemie and his lungs were not fully developed at birth, but we had no idea the future would bring more health issues. For almost 8 months, he was a happy little fellow who seemed content with his family and was rarely sick. Then, almost four years ago, I was writing a blog post about birthmarks and realized Liam had an uncommon amount of café au lait spots all over his body. While researching birthmarks, all the websites said to contact a pediatrician if your child has more than 8 café au lait spots. At that time, Liam had 18. I was in a panic as I called and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Cheek and, two days later, we went in to discuss what this could mean.

Dr. Cheek honestly didn't know much about Neurofibromatosis and I certainly didn't. Yes, I've watched programs on TLC and other channels about extreme cases of NF, but nothing about babies and children with NF. So, he referred us to a neurologist and, a few weeks later, Liam was scheduled for his very first of many MRIs. The first MRI showed no growth, but the results changed in 2012. The neurologist found two brain tumors, one on his optic nerve and one deep in his brain. At this point, we were referred to a pediatric oncologist. Continued growth was found and, in September of 2012, Liam began chemotherapy to shrink his brain tumors. After three months of treatment, another MRI was given and we found out that the chemo was not working, so we changed to a different chemo treatment that would last from 9-12 months.
During those months, we experienced the ups and downs many NF parents experience. It's so hard to see your little one in pain, but you also witness the amazing braveness children exhibit when met with such a huge challenge. Liam is such a happy little boy that you'd never know he spent the weekend in the hospital due to a high temperature or couldn't eat for days due to mouth sores. As a parent, you feel helpless because you want to take that suffering away, but it isn't possible.
Liam playing during a chemo treatment at the Aflac Cancer Center
Liam has been on a chemo break for almost 6 months and his next MRI is coming up in June. This will determine whether or not he will continue his treatment. It's really a wait and see situation that many children go through because NF varies by child and you never know when the tumors we begin growing again. There is no rhyme or reaaon to NF, which is one of the main reasons it is such a frustrating mystery. Liam's oncologist doesn't know when it will happen, but knows it eventually will and, when it does, we will be back at the hospital each week for treatments once again. The tumor growth is sometimes linked to growth spurts and tends to decrease once children go through puberty. Neurofibromatosis will always be a part of Liam's life, but even more so until the tumors become less active.
Since first discovering NF, we have met some amazing people, from Liam's nurses who treat him like a special little man every time we come for a visit, to his doctors (Dr. MacDonald and Dr. Castalino) who are dedicated to fighting NF and finding a cure. There are also doctors in the Atlanta area attempting to put together a new NF clinic where they can further research and bring other NF families together. In addition, Liam's wish through Make A Wish Foundation was granted last September and we visited the most magical place on earth, Disney World! The outpouring of support from our friends, families and other non-profit organizations has been not only helpful, but uplifting.
Braves Night with the Aflac Cancer Center. Liam met Tim Hudson!
Looking at my NF Hero, I see a brave little boy who can accomplish anything and I'm determined to do my part to find a cure so that he and other NF heroes can one day live without the worry that the next MRI will show tumor growth or that the current chemotherapy treatment is not working.  I am hopeful that one day, chemotherapy and doctors appointments will not be a regular part of Liam's life. When a new breakthrough in NF research comes out, we jump for joy and our hope is renewed. That's why during May, Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month, we encourage others to learn about NF and what they can do to support our NF Heroes and those who are also searching for a cure.
For more info on Neurofibromatosis, please visit the Children's Tumor Foundation website. They are a wonderful resource and do so much for our little guy. Please share Liam's story with others. Together we can #EndNF and spread awareness!


I Took The Aveeno Daily Challenge For A Healthier, Happier Lifestyle #AveenoDailyChallenge #MC #sponsored

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Aveeno. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

As a mom of two very active boys, it's so important to be healthy and prepared for just about anything. This is why I was so excited to take part of the Aveeno Daily Challenge. Last month, I made a pledge to myself and Aveeno to live healthier. This included changing my bad habits, exercising and using Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion. Now that we are at the end of the challenge, I am sitting here reflecting on the past month and everything I have accomplished.
I have to admit that bad habits are hard to break. My worst habit is and was fast food. It's fast, it's easy and it is extremely unhealthy and, during the challenge, I was determined to stop eating as much. The first few days were hard to take, but we stocked our kitchen with fruits, veggies, yogurt and healthy options that were also delicious. That way we weren't tempted to drive into town every afternoon for a treat. We already had them handy at our home. This has been a great change for not only me, but for the entire family.

One of my favorite healthy meals!

In addition to eating healthier, I pledged to exercise at least 30 minutes a days. Luckily, just as this challenge began, the weather became beautiful here in Georgia. We love spending time outdoors and the challenge motivated me get off the couch and become more active with my family. For Easter, we went to Florida with my parents and took advantage of the beautiful sandy beach for daily walks after putting on our Aveeno sunscreen, of course. Plus, we moved into our new house a few months ago and our lake is a little less than a mile from our home, which makes for a great walk with the kids. We've started walking almost every single day now and it's become an expected after-school activity for us. The lake is the perfect place to spend some time because it's beautiful, the boys can feed the ducks and I can continue my exercise with a nice swim. The boys really enjoy our walks and cooling off in the lake, so it is a win-win for my family. The walk back home is the real workout because it is totally uphill and killed my legs the first few times, but now I'm a pro. It feels great to be more active and to keep up with my boys.
Keeping active during the #AveenoDailyChallenge
My last part of the challenge was to use Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion each day. I'm a huge Aveeno fan and have used their products for years. From make-up to baby products, we love Aveeno because their products contain natural ingredients and are great for sensitive skin. Liam has eczema, Josiah has fair skin (he's a redhead), and my husband and I are prone to breakouts. I can't use many lotions because they irritate my skin, but not Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion. Unlike scented lotions that can dry out your skin, Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, noncomedogenic and contains Active Naturals Colloidal Oatmeal blended with other ingredients that actual work to heal your skin from the inside out. The ingredients soothe skin and are clinically proven to improve the health of skin in only one day. After three weeks, the results are truly amazing. After a long winter of not using lotion daily like I should have, my legs were ashy, my skin was dry and I could tell it was far from healthy. Now? I can wear my shorts without worrying about ashy knees or peeling skin embarrassment. Not only that, but my skin just feels healthy and I swear it has a glow to it now. No wonder Colloidal Oatmeal is the number one natural ingredient recommended by dermatologists! With the hot summer months nearing, I'm definitely keeping my Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion handy because we spend so much time outdoors and it can replenish the moisture in my skin each and every day.

I'm so grateful for what the Aveeno Daily Challenge has done for me and my family. Spending quality time with my boys is so important and now we have something special for us to do together that is not only fun, but healthy! It also keeps us active and outdoors! Do you have a plan to become more healthy over the next few months? Challenge yourself and make it happen because you will feel great with everything you accomplish! A special thanks to Aveeno for challenging me to better myself and to become healthier.

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Aveeno. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.


Celebrate Your All-Star With Dove Men+Care & Target + Video Contest #DoveALLSTARDAD #sponsored

Disclosure: This post was written for Target & Dove Men+Care in conjunction with Global Influence. Compensation was given in exchange for my participation in the campaign. All opinions written are my own.
My Dad grew up in a farming community here in Georgia and, from the time he was old enough to walk, he was given work. Whether he was out gathering eggs or helping his mom in the kitchen, he was dedicated to his work and always wanted to do his best. As soon as he graduated high school, he joined the Marines with his friends, which was during the Vietnam War, and after many long years, made it back to America where he started his first full-time job. While working full-time and starting a family, he also attended graduate school at night and received his Masters in Business. Just a few months ago he retired from that job after 50 years of hard work. I love my Dad so much and am so grateful for everything he has taught me over the past 34 years of my life. He has passed on his strong work ethic and determination to succeed. He always encouraged me to do my best and continues to support me through thick and thin. He is, no doubt at all, an All-Star Dad!

Do you have an All-Star Dad, husband or father figure that has impacted your life?
Dove Men+Care and Target have teamed up to help celebrate All-Star Dads with an awesome contest where winners will receive tickets to this year's 2014 MLB All-Star game in Minneapolis! I know my dad and husband would love to win a prize like that.
How To Enter
All you have to do is submit a short video about your All-Star Dad and why he is the best!
Videos can be submitted via Instagram and through the sweepstakes website. Instagram videos can be a mazimum of 15 seconds while videos submitted on the sweepstakes website can be up to 30 seconds. Don't forget to use the contest hashtag #DOVEALLSTARDAD for your video.

Once all the videos are in, Dove Men+Care and Target will narrow down the selection to the top 10. Then, beginning May 15th, viewers can vote on their favorites for their own chances to win #10 Target gift cards. If your video makes it to the top three, you win an all-expenses paid trip to the 2014 Midsummer Classic in Minneapolis with your Dad. How amazing would that be?

What are you waiting for? Show your dad, husband or father figure just how much you care by submitting those videos. You can submit videos until May 4th, so hurry up before time runs out. You only have a few more days and you don't want to miss out on this one.
Dove Men+Care Products are available at Target and both my husband and son love them. We have the Dove Men+Care Extra Fresh Body Wash and it smells so good. This is their go-to body wash and makes them smell so clean after a shower. I have to admit I've snuck a few times and used it myself. Have you given them a try yet?


Great Gifts Ideas For Mother's Day At Best Buy @BestBuy #GreatestMom

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.
One of my go-to stores when looking to buy gifts is Best Buy! If a holiday or special day is nearing, you bet I'm going to Best Buy. I can always find great gifts and, since Mother's Day is nearing, it's time to find that perfect gift for my mom! If your mom is anything like mine, finding the right gift can be quite a challenge. Luckily, Best Buy has you covered and can help you narrow down the search for awesome Mother's Day gift ideas based on your mom's personality! You can find a gift your  mom will not only appreciate, but put to good use!

So, what is your mom's personality like? Is she a Foodie, Fitness Fanatic, Entertainer, Adventurer or someone who is On-The-Go all the time?

For myself, I picked the Adventurer category to search for gift ideas because I love to travel and explore. Every weekend we go on mini adventures and, during summer break, we travel all over, from the mountains to the beach! I really cannot wait for the kids to get out of school so our fun can begin. After looking at the list, I decided the least I could do was help my kids out with some great Mother's Day gift suggestions. There were so many great gift ideas that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to drop some hints and show my readers some of the many amazing gifts they can find at Best Buy. Not to mention, Adventurer gift ideas start at only $14.99, so there are items for families on a budget, too.
My top pick for Mother's Day in the Adventurer category is definitely the Nikon Coolpix AW120 Waterproof Camera! I currently own a dslr camera, which is great, but I'd love something more compact to take with us on our upcoming vacations. This one is especially appealing because of its waterproofing, which means I can not only take it on the beach without worry, but I can even take it underwater for some beautiful photos I usually wouldn't be able to capture.  I also love that the camera comes in some bright colors, including blue, orange and green in addition to the standard black color.
There are several other items on the list that would make this mama extremely happy. Here's a list of 5 other top picks for adventurous moms like myself!

Lowepro Photo Traveler 150 Camera Backpack (To keep my new Nikon Coolpix AW120 safely stored, of course!)

Lenovo Yoga 2 Touch-Screen Laptop

Logitech® Ultimate Ears BOOM Wireless Bluetooth® Speaker

Otterbox iPad Mini Defender Case

GoPro Hero 3+ Black Action Camcorder

Looking to purchase Misfit Shine products? You can also save 20% online and in-store with this coupon! In addition, don't forget that Best Buy has a low price guarantee, so if you find the product you want at a different store for a lower price, Best Buy will match it! If shopping from home like I often do, shipping is totally free when you spend $25 or more on qualified purchases

Now that you've seen some of our favorite gift ideas, take a look at the Best Buy Mother's Day Gift Center to find a gift for your mom. What would you like for Mother's Day this year? Take a look at the gift ideas and leave a comment letting me know which gift you'd love from your family!

Enjoy Twitter Parties?
Join Best Buy on Friday, May 2nd at 12pm CST and Wednesday, May 7th at 7pm CST for a chance to win Best Buy gift cards and other great products! Be sure to tweet using the hashtag #GreatestMom with you favorite Mother's Day Gift ideas from Best Buy. We hope to see you at the parties!