October 31, 2014

Coughs, Colds and Protecting Your Baby from the Dangers of RSV

Disclosure:  I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for MedImmune. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

When I was pregnant with my twin sons I remember being bombarded with so much information.  It was my first successful pregnancy and with each passing week, I was one day closer to my goal of a full term birth.  My family knows all too well the complications of premature births and with so much stacked against me I prayed my pregnancy would beat the odds.  I was fortunate and birthed healthy twin boys full term.  I know each day several babies enter the world prematurely.  Preemies face a lot of challenges including increased risk for breathing and respiratory related conditions like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).  RSV is a cold-like virus which affects most children by the age of 2 but preemies are twice as likely to develop the disease as opposed to babies born full term.

When I was a little girl, I remember my grandmother and great-grandmother scolding those visiting newborns in our family saying "Washed ya hands before you pick up that baby."  Funny, they were right.  The CDC and American Red Cross cite handwashing as one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs like colds and flu.  In fact, the Red Cross incorporates hand washing into several of their training protocols. 

This time of year, November through March, is cold and flu season and it's also RSV season.  Some may mistake RSV for the common cold but unlike the common cold, RSV can be deadly to little ones.  In fact each year in the United States some 125,000 children under age 2 are hospitalized due to RSV and another 200 die due to the deadly disease.  Yet, many new parents have never even heard of the disease.  It's important to educate new parents about this dreaded disease and ways to protect their little ones from it.

First and foremost, KNOW THE SIGNS.
If your child has any of these symptoms, contact your pediatrician IMMEDIATELY:
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Bluish color around mouth or fingernails
  • Rapid, difficult or gasping breaths
  • Fever (100.4 F°{rectal} in infants under 3 months of age)
  • RSV is extremely contagious so before others hold your little one make sure they  wash their hands before holding your baby  
  • Keep baby's clothing, toys and blankets clean
  • Don't let anyone smoke in your home or around your baby
  • Avoid crowds, young children and people with coughs, colds or sniffles and remind people to cover the mouths when coughing
  • Talk to your child's pediatrician about RSV
  • Start discussions with other new parents you know
  • Check out www.RSVprotection.com and learn more about RSV
November 17 is World Prematurity Awareness Day and it's a great time to share the facts and raise the awareness about premature births.  Learn more about who's at risk for premature births, causes of premature births and ways to reduce your risks.

October 30, 2014

Teens, Tweens and Wireless Plans

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Influence-Central for Virgin Mobile. I received a sample device to facilitate my review and a thank you item for participating.
We are a cell phone only household.
We ditched the house phone about four years ago and haven't looked back.  Now that our kids are older, each of them has a cell phone and as a mom who never thought my kids needed a cell phone, middle school and high school are teaching me some valuable lessons about kids and cell phones.
Three boys, a little old lady, a husband, moi and all these phones.  
#VirginMobileMom #MC
According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center1,  78% of the teens surveyed have a cell phone and almost 1/2 of those kids have a smartphone.  Now before you gift your child with the latest and greatest cell phone there are few things to considerTake for instance, do they really need a phone?  Should you add them to your plan?  Prepaid? Contract?  No contract?  Will they use their phone for talk, text or internet?  How much can you really afford?  What about parental controls?  Will my kid be up all night searching the ends of the internet?

Do They Really Need a Phone?
My oldest son called saying he missed the bus back to the other campus and needed me to come pick him up.  My middle son sent me a text to let me know he was heading to the library to finish a school project after school.  My youngest called to ask if he could visit a friend after school.  With unforeseeable hiccups to our daily routine I feel a lot safer knowing my kids can call or text me if they need me. So yes, my kids really do need a cell phone. *in my Yoda Mom voice*

Individual Plan? Family Plan? Contract?  No Contract?
Managing one cell phone is easy peasy but when you have 3 or more cell phones things can get a little tricky.  Most plans offer a family plan.  A family plan is typically the most economical plan as there is a base price for the first phone and a charge for each additional line.  Some family plans allow you to share minutes and text and data.  Should you sign a contract or opt for a no-contract prepaid phone plan.  Nowadays nearly every carrier offers both contract and no contract phone plans.  Most contracts are 2 years and perks vary from carrier to carrier.  For example, you may get one service on one network and the same service may not be available on another network.  Phones tend to be a little less expensive on contract plans versus prepaid plans.  However, the monthly costs may be higher. Contract plans offer a limited selection of phones to choose from.  Whereas, no contract usually means a wider selection of phones to choose from but no contract = no discount on your phone purchase and phones can be expensive.

Talk. Text. Data. 
Hubby is a talker.  I am a texter.  The kids they are all about the data.  When choosing a cell phone plan, look for a plan to meet your family's needs.  Virgin Mobile offers affordable, customizable wireless plans to meet your family's talk, text and data needs. 

Virgin Mobile Custom lets me customize a plan to fit my family's needs.  Hubby gets more talk time.  I get more text messages and the kids get more data.  As our needs change, we can change the plan.  You can even add unlimited plans for apps like Instagram, Twitter, Pandora, Facebook and more to specific devices.   

How Much Can You, I Mean We Afford?
If you have a contract plan, beware adding teens and tweens to the family mobile plan can be quite surprising when the bill arrives.  One word, overages.  I remember the first time I saw a phone bill totaling over $1,000.  I couldn't believe it and it was all due to overages.  Too many texts.  Using more data than the contracted plan allotted.  All those power-sucking, data-draining apps running in the background.  As parents we can't expect our kids to be mindful of how much we spend on our family's phone plans so it's up to us to manage our family wireless plan.  Virgin Mobile Custom eliminates the guesswork and offers phones for as low as $80 and plans starting at $6.98.  Virgin Mobile Custom makes creating and modifying your family's wireless needs easy breezy.  
Setting House Rules
Recently our school district changed the Student Cell Phone Usage Policy and now kids can use their phones before school, after school and in the classroom with teacher permission.  My kid may need access to the internet during school hours but I cannot think of a single reason why they would need Facebook or Twitter during the school day so I need a plan to restrict those activities during the school day.  
Virgin Mobile Custom offers parental controls feature which allows me to manage access to certain apps and callers during specified times (i.e. during school, homework time, dinner, etc.) and even days of the week.  Virgin Mobile Custom offers more parental controls than some of the other plans I've seen.  You can access parental control features from the internet or from your Virgin Mobile device.  

Check out the links below for more info on Virgin Mobile Custom 

Source: 1   http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media/Files/Reports/2013/PIP_TeensandTechnology2013.pdf

October 27, 2014

365 Pocket Prayers for Mothers

Express your concerns, frustrations, and heartaches to God with 365 Pocket Prayers for Mothers

"Daily life brings worries—challenges with your children, tasks undone, health problems, financial difficulties, and other things that keep you from enjoying your children and your life. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to pray for or even how to talk with God about these life issues. 

October 25, 2014

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What Do YOU want ME to Know?

What do YOU want ME to know?

The 2014 Niche Parent Conference was in one word:  AMAZING.  The conference was inspirational, informative and just beyond words awesome.  I met so many amazing writers including Tomika Bryant, the author of My Mommy's Neighborhood.  I have to preface the story by saying Tomika and I signed up as volunteers for the conference and I was so looking forward to her because it was the first time I'd ever met anyone with the same spelling of my name.  I was thrilled to meet her and find out the origin of her name but as luck would have it we never got around to that discussion because of all the other fab happenings of the weekend.

One day, we were chatting with some fellow writers just waiting for the day's events to begin and she excused herself saying "I have to take this call.  A friend of mine has breast cancer and is having surgery today and I asked her to call me once she came out of surgery."   When she returned I told her I was writing a series of posts about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and asked her the question I've been asking survivors all month long: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What Do YOU want ME to Know? 

Tomika shared her story of being diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in 2013.  She explained various types of breast cancer diagnoses and the role of estrogen in breast cell development.  There's an irony in the role of estrogen in breast development and breast cancer development but Tomika explained it in a way that blew my mind. She shared things I never knew about the disease and it's effect on the body.  Her diagnosis was not just a diagnosis for her but she was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend and this obstacle in her path of life wouldn't be met without a fight.

She wanted me to know she knew women who died from breast cancer.  This disease still ravages families.  A breast cancer diagnosis is not a time to sit around singing Kum Ba Yah, it's a time to fight.  Tomika shared stories of women, both young and old, she knew who didn't win their fight.  She is determined to make a difference by telling the world BREAST CANCER STILL KILLS.  Money is needed to fund the research needed to combat this disease and women of all ages are dying every single day.  Tomika's correct.  According to BreastCancer.org, 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2014 and 85% of new diagnoses will occur in women with no family history of the disease. (http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics)

Tomika didn't asked to be a part of this "sorority" as she calls it.  She actively participates in fundraising campaigns to fund breast cancer research and just recently completed the Tour de Pink and posted about her experience in a recent blog post:  http://www.mymommysneighborhood.com/i-rode-with-a-warrior-2/ 

In the post she shared a selfie of her and another Tour de Pink cyclist with the words "Today she announced via Facebook that the doctors have given her weeks to live and I am asking for you to keep her in prayer."  My heart broke when I learned the cyclist, Kara Guzzetti, passed away yesterday from a form of metastatic breast cancer.  Wake up people.  Wake up!  Wake up!! WAKE UP!!!  

Tomika wanted me to know
Breast Cancer kills and more money is needed to fund the research necessary to combat this terrible disease.

Leftover Salsa Beef Stew Made with Love From MY Kitchen

Last week the most amazing thing happened.  I met someone with my name.  I know it may not sound like anything all that special to you BUT when your name is Tomika, spelled T-o-m-i-k-a, it's pretty special.  Yep, that's my name.  Tomika.  
Feeling a little Rumplestiltskin-ish huh?  Been wondering what "Tomi" was short for all these years.  

With a name like "Tomika" you won't find many personalized items but times have changed.  Thank goodness for the internet now I can practically have anything personalized with MY name on it including *drum roll* including recipe labels.

Now that the weather is cooler and the holiday baking season is near, I am looking forward to sharing homemade goodies with my beloved family and friends.  I like to prepare foods for some of the elderly members of my church from time to time and this year I am sharing some fab soups. There's nothing like bowl of hot soup to warm you up on a chilly Fall day and this is something different I'm sure they'll enjoy.

Soup is one of those foods you can add your own personal touch to a basic recipe and make it completely your own.  If your soup doesn't have the flavor you're looking for you can add a little of this or a little of that and voila you've got a masterpiece.    

I had a few leftover cups of salsa in the fridge from a visit to one of our fave Mexican food restaurants and decided to use them to add a little zing to my quick and easy beef stew recipe.  I can whip a pot of beef stew in 30 minutes or less.  It's an easy recipe and I can sneak in tons of veggies so it's nutritional as well.  Winner!
Leftover Salsa?  Make Leftover Salsa Beef Stew.


  • Leftover salsa
  • 3 12-oz bags of frozen veggies 
  • 1 14-16 oz. can of beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 lbs. beef (I use sirloin steak, sliced into strips fajita style)
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tbsp. oil (I use olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • Onion (OPTIONAL)
Additional ingredients (add to your liking.  Be mindful you may need to add more water to make stew to your desired thickness)
  • Beans
  • Onions
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano


1.  Pour leftover salsa, frozen veggies, beef broth and water into large stockpot and turn on low heat
    Leftover Salsa?  Make Leftover Salsa Beef Stew.
    2.  Heat skillet and add olive oil.  Allow oil to heat before adding sliced beef.  
    3.  Brown beef on all sides.
    4.  Add flour to browned beef and stir to coat 

    Leftover Salsa?  Make Leftover Salsa Beef Stew.
    5.  Add beef to stockpot and stir.  
    6.  Bring to a boil for about 10 minutes and reduce heat to a simmer until veggies are of desired tenderness.   

    This recipe makes a lot of stew and after I let if cool down a bit, I fill up containers, slap on a Kidecals personalized label and share my creation with family and friends.  The labels are waterproof so if I spill a little soup on them I can just wipe it clean.

    Check it out.  
    Kidecals Personalized Labels
    Next time you have a little leftover salsa from your fave Mexican restaurant, don't toss it.  Save it and add it to your favorite dish to create a one of a kind dish for your family.

    What do you do with leftover salsa 
    from your fave Mexican restaurant?
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