Archive for the ‘product reviews’ Category

If you live in Arizona, this line holds very true this year! Our showers came a bit late but boy did they come! We dropped from the triple digits to the high 50’s in a single day! But if you’ve lived in Arizona for more than a year, you know very well that this cool weather is a late season tease with triple digit temperatures just over the horizon! So what comes with lots of moisture followed by extremely warm temperatures?…yup! Prepare for the onslaught of the mosquito invasion!

Now typically, I’d be reaching for my store bought bug spray. But over the last few years, I have become more and more hesitant to slather myself or my children in chemical that boasts warning labels like HAZARDOUS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS and CAUSES SUBSTANTIAL BUT TEMPORARY EYE INJURY and my favorite, WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY WITH SOAP AND WATER AFTER HANDLING! …and that was the DEET FREE “PLANT-BASED” bug spray!!!! Seriously?? And they’re somehow still encouraging us to spray this all over ourselves and our children?? So I started looking for a safer alternative that I could use without concern on both me and my children. Enter essential oils!

I personally use doTERRA’s TerraShield blend which is specifically formulated to repel those nasty little buggers that are out to get you! It is all natural, causes no skin irritation, smells wonderful and works amazingly well! A few drops applied directly to the skin or clothing will work well for about 4-6 hours! This is not the only oil that works well as a natural bug repellent. Peppermint is also very powerful and makes a great all natural bug repellent to spray directly on your plants!

Here is a homemade spray incorporating several essential oils known to repel various kinds of bugs as well as the very powerful blend, TerraShield, that has been working wonderfully for my family! It smells amazing, works incredibly effeciently at keeping all kinds of pesky buggies away and is not greasy! I make it ahead of time and keep it on hand throughout the bug season.

Don't want to spray chemical on your kids to keep those bugs away? Then make your own all natural bug spray!

Don’t want to spray chemical on your kids to keep those bugs away? Then make your own all natural bug spray!



4 TB water

2 TB witch hazel

4 drops of Thyme Essential Oil

4 drops of Lemongrass Essential Oil

4 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

4 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil

8 drops of TerraSheild Essential Oil Blend

Combine in a 6 oz spray bottle and keep handy throughout the season. I can even get this recipe into a 4oz spray bottle that I keep in my purse for when we’re out and about!

Want to know more about essential oils? Check out If you would like to purchase these oils, visit or contact


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Do your kids struggle with focus?

October 23rd, 2014 1:44am

Do your kiddos struggle with focusing in school? Do they have a difficult time paying attention in class? Struggle with nervous ticks or fidgeting? Does your child sit on the spectrum of autism with just enough functionality to not qualify for assistance? If you have ever watched your kids struggle with teachers because of behavior issues such as these, then I would like to introduce you to your new best friend…DoTerra’s InTune Essential Oil Blend!

This oil is a combination of Amyris Bark, Patchoili Leaf, Frankincense Resin, Lime Peel, Ylang Ylang Flower, Hawaiian Sandalwood Wood, and Roman Chamomile Flower. These oils have been carefully chosen for their ability to enhance focus and support healthy thought processes. THIS IS NOT A DRUG! This is a natural way, no matter your age, to stay focused on the task at hand and support your efforts to remain calm, pay attention and sustain focus.

This oil can be used aromatically or topically to produce results. I have used this oil on myself as well as my kiddos before testing, when we have a particularly tough concept we are trying to learn in school and when we are studying. It can be applied to the bottoms of the feet and/or back of the neck as well as diffused in the room and can be equally effective in either application.

Before you dismiss this as “hippie stuff”, I would like to share a personal experience with this oil. I was assisting a kindergartener with their reading. This particular little girl was seriously struggling with focus. She could not remain on task for more than a few minutes. Her teacher had tried to get her assistance but she was just functional enough to not warrant that extra help she so needed from the district. We worked together as best we could for several months with little effect. I was lucky if I got 5-10 minutes of productivity out of her. So one morning, I brought in a piece of cotton that I had put a few drops of InTune on. I placed it on the table while we were working. She commented how much she loved the smell. We worked together for 45 MINUTES! She was on task, focused and interacting with me at every turn. I was ecstatic! Her teacher was shocked and could not believe we had been so productive for so long! Needless to say, this cotton InTune “diffuser” became a very productive habit for us!

If you would like to know more about Essential Oils or this oil in particular, contact me at for more information. I teach classes on using oils in the classroom and at home safely and effectively and would be happy to set you on a safer, more natural path of greater productivity and success for your children!

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Those of you who were paying attention to the national news over the last month may have noticed that we, here in Arizona, got just a bit of rain…like twice our average rainfall!…in about a period of a day! What does this mean? Well, when you live in a desert, it means massive flooding, LOTS of standing water and…you guessed it…MOSQUITOS! Those of us who have touted for years the mantra “it’s a DRY heat!” are now forced to face a very frightening reality…it’s not dry anymore!

Flooding in Mesa, AZ

Mesa, Az received over 4 inches of rain in 12 hours!

So we turn to our bug sprays to save our children from those little itchy nightmares with wings…or do we? If you’re like me, you have a certain fear of the many chemicals in over the counter bug sprays. Especially when the warning labels include things like the following:
“Insect repellents containing DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3 years of age. When applying insect repellents to children, avoid their hands, around the eyes, and cut or irritated skin. Do not allow children to handle insect repellents. When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child. After returning indoors, wash your child’s treated skin or bathe the child. Clothes exposed to insect repellants should be washed with soap and water.”

Carrying the frightening "West Nile Virus", we have now had an influx of these annoying little guys!

Or how about this one…
“…repeated applications may increase potential toxic effects.”
Considering these bug sprays have an active time of only a few hours, if that, what is one to do when reapplying could “increase potential toxic effects”??
Well, this momma has found an all natural alternative! Doterra’s CPTG Essential Oils!… now before you roll your eyes, hear me out! I reacted with the eyeroll my first go around with a consultant too! But then I started researching. And then I started using them. And now, I am a total believer! My current, all natural, non-toxic alternative to bug spray consists of fractionated coconut oil, Lavendar, peppermint, lemongrass, and clove mixed in a 2 ounce spray bottle. It not only smells wonderful and is good for the skin, but it is the bomb when it comes to repelling those little flying menaces! Reapply as necessary! There’s NO toxic load you need to worry about!

Doterra's Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils are a very powerful all natural alternative to toxic bug sprays.

Peppermint is a natural repellant for ants, aphids, beetles, fleas, gnats, moths, plant lice, and spiders! Clove works especially well combined with lavender and lemongrass to repel mosquitos as well as ticks. Spray a little of this mixture into your hands and rub all over the exposed skin or you can spray directly on cloths.
My kids did not believe me after a day or two because, they insisted, we don’t see any mosquitos anywhere! So they decided to run off to school without their homemade bug spray application one morning. Can you guess how many bites they came home with?? My 6 year old daughter had about 7 and my 9 year old son held the record with about 18! Needless to say, they have not left the house without their bug spray since and so far, we have not had any new additions to our existing bug bite count! But what to do with those itchy bites we received in our moment of parental independence?… we use straight Lavendar oil…removes the itch immediately! Apply as needed…it also helps to heal them faster! Lavendar is a natural antihistamine!
I will admit, I am on a bit of a crusade to share these homemade essential oil remedies with all parents struggling to reduce their families toxic load. They have truly changed the way I think about home health! If you would like to know more, or even receive a sample of these little miracles in a bottle, feel free to contact me at

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Ok, you thought all the summer fun was over but we’ve got one more big science event for you and your kids to enjoy a late night together! The Perseids Meteor shower will be making it’s big annual appearance in the western skies August 11-13th this year! You can challenge your kids with a little astronomy by having them find the Perseus constellation…that’s where the show is supposed to start. But according to experts, it will be visible in various parts of the sky so keep a watchful eye!

One of my favorite astronomy apps is called SkySafari. It has been a source of great excitement for my kids on our star gazing nights because it uses your phone/tablet’s compass/gyroscope to be able to view the sky in real time and identify constellations just by pointing your tablets/phones camera towards the sky! It scrolls across the sky as you move it, labeling every celestial body you see! It will not destroy your night vision either, using the special night vision setting. Check it out in App Store. They are currently running a sale on their full version but the “lite” version really works just awesome and is what we have used for quite some time.

Have fun on your meteor watch! Ask your kids teachers about extra credit they might be able to earn by describing the event in class!

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Internet security for your kids

April 2nd, 2013 8:09pm

As our world speedily seeks to replace books with technology, our good old paperback friends have a little advice before they disappear into the background of our lives!

I know it’s on every parents mind. This is the new world of technology we live in. The internet in all it’s glory, amazement and horror are so easily accessible for our children at all times and seemingly in all places. It is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor, police, educate and generally protect our children as best we can from some of the onslaughts that await them in the interactive world we live in. But does that mean we give up?? NO! We have some amazing tools to tell you about!

First, for those of you with kids either using their own cell phones/tablets or using yours, you might wonder how can you get some control over interactive content on these devices. Our first tip is to download the Mobicip app! It is a free browser available through the app store or through their website at Once you have this browser on your device, you want to disable the safari browser or whatever browser came standard on your device. We are iphone users so we also have enabled all the security restrictions in our settings where we can control whether to allow app purchases, what apps are visible, etc. which is all password protected. At that point, the only browser available will be the Mobicip browser. Within the browser settings, you can set restrictions that are age appropriate for each user. Very handy when you have various ages using the same devices!

Now on to the computer issue. We HIGHLY recommend a program called NetNanny which can be purchased and downloaded at This program allows you to customize your settings for family members, customize your filter settings, receive reports regarding user accessed content, immediate text/email should one of your users attempt to access restricted material, and a log of every page visited by each user. This has become an invaluable tool for my family and I hope you will take a moment to review all the amazing features available through this program.

We hope you will continue to be vigilant on your children’s behalf in helping to protect them from the dangers of the internet while teaching them responsible habits in using their technology. Please weigh in on this issue with any suggestions you have found to work well in your own families and together we can help protect our families!

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Read your tots into the holiday spirit!

November 20th, 2010 6:30pm

Our Halloween book suggestions were so popular that we wanted to follow up with some great suggestions for your little ones for Christmas time! Here are some of our favorites and a few new finds for this holiday season. Read your tots into the holiday spirit and bring some of the magic of great stories into your home!…

“Night Tree” by Eve Bunting
This book was a new find for us this year. With great illustrations by Ted Rand, this story gives an account of a families tradition of venturing out into the woods to find “their tree” which they then decorate with popcorn strings, apples and other fun edibles. They drink hot cocoa and sing songs around the tree before heading in for the evening. The kids dream of the many animals that have Christmas dinner around their tree.

“Room for a Little One” by Martin Waddell
Brilliantly illustrated by Jason Cockcroft, this short but very touching tale gives the story of the first Christmas from the animals perspective as they each make room for a new “little one” this very special night. As the Kind Ox maintains throughout the story, “there’s always room for a little one here”.

“The Legend of the Christmas Tree” by Rick Osborne
If your little ones have ever wondered why we have Christmas Trees, this small board book adapted by Pat Matuszak and illustrated by Bill Dodge gives an account of how the evergreen tree became a symbol of Christmas as well as a way to tell people about God.

“Merry Creature Christmas” by Dandi Daley Mackall
It’s Christmas Eve, and all the animals in the forest are decorating the trees, hanging icicles, and building a nativity to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But Star, a wild colt, is too joyful to be still and decides to wake up Big Bear! Soon all the animals are dancing together on the night of the Creature Christmas! A very fun book that has an accompanying narrative and great rhyming cadence for your little ones!

“Santa’s First Flight” by Sam Beeson
This is a very fun spin on the traditional night before Christmas which takes place during Santa’s first year, when he traveled by penguin, and not by reindeer! Playfully and richly illustrated by Tom Tolman, this story will have your kiddo’s giggling at Santa’s crazy penguin crew that helped set the tone for the first Christmas sleigh ride and create the true spirit of Christmas!

We have many more suggestions for you but these are a few of our favorites to get you started! Check back for more suggestions and we would love to hear from our readers about some of their favorite books! Send your suggestions to with subject “Christmas Books for Tots” and maybe some of your favorites will work their way into our next post!

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Move over, magic eraser!…

August 27th, 2010 7:45pm

This is a small spot area in my car before I attacked it with Dash Away. You can see where my floor mat had been.

Ok, you busy parents of little mess makers, hold onto to your carseats because we’ve got a product that will absolutely make your “must haves” list!

I was contacted by Surf City Garage out of Huntington Beach, CA with a cleaning product they said couldn’t be beat. Having five children of my own and the various messes that accompany them, i have tried innumerable products and none seem to completely live up to their claims of “miraculous” cleaning power. So I was naturally quite skeptical of Surf City Garages claims for their Dash Away all purpose cleaning product. It arrived on my doorstep with the guarantee from its founder, Tim Miller, that “when used as directed, if this product isn’t the best you’ve ever tried, give me a call and I’ll buy it back.” As you will see from the pictures, I have no intention of calling Mr. Miller!

"after" Dash Away

This is the picture I took of the same area about 2 minutes after I applied Dash Away. You can barely see the earlier line of grime defining where the floor mat had been!

I decided to test it out on some of the toughest, most resilient stains I have at my disposal… my car. I have had the carpet professionally cleaned several times and was told to resign myself to the fact that certain stains are just impossible to remove. I very skeptically followed the directions for Dash Away…shaking the bottle, spraying a light mist over the stain, and then wiping it clean with a rag. Way too simple, I thought, until I began to actually “see” the stain begin to disappear! And as if thats not enough, it actually smells good too!

I turned my good friend Jodie onto the product to help her with a 3 year old, sun baked koolaid stain. She has had the stain professionally treated several times with no visible results. After showing her the product, she promptly went out and bought not only the Dash Away product but also the window and leather cleaners! Here’s her take on the Surf City Garage products…

“It lightened the koolaid…it worked on all the dark spots on carpet and got the smudge off the sides of the car and doors. I liked the cleaner because its not sticky or oily. I usually like aerosol window stuff but this stuff didn’t streak or leave smears.”

Needless to say, I am now a devoted fan! The product is non toxic and safe to use on a number of materials like vinyl, leather, carpet, fabrics like car seats, strollers and the like. Although it was designed for car cleaning, the applications seem limitless. I have no problem endorsing this product and highly recommend it to anyone looking for quick, easy and thorough cleaning results (and it’s only $9.99!). I was able to clean the entire interior of my Denali in less than 15 minutes with results that were better than the $60 professional interior detail I not only paid for but also waited over two hours to have completed several months ago!

Check out more info on Dash Away and other Surf City Garage cleaning products at Happy cleaning!

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Does your child struggle with behavior concepts? Perhaps numbers or letters are particularly difficult for them? Or maybe you just want your little one to feel extra loved and appreciated? All these are reasons to give Personal Child Stories a call!

Personal Child Stories

Little Sammy was one of the inspirations behind Personal Child Stories

Personal Child Stories was begun specifically to address all of theses questions. The company owner, writer and designer, Shara Lawrence-Weiss is a journalist, early childhood specialist, experienced nanny and freelance writer who is also experienced in special needs children from a firsthand perspective. She has taken this diverse background and combined her many skills along with a passion for reading into a wonderful positive learning tool for children of all ages. Her books are custom designed for each individual child with pictures, story line and theme centered around each childs particular needs.

I had to see this for myself! I recently received some samples of her product and was most impressed! Her books come in two sizes, 5×5 for smaller children and 8.5×9 for older children. Trust me when I say that these books are meant to last! Each page is laminated and the book is spiral bound for easy page turning. The result is a sturdy book that will hold up to drooling, chewing, throwing, stepping on, and just about any other rough treatment your toddler can imagine! The pages will not tear, can be written or colored on and then can be wiped clean again with a damp cloth to look brand new again!

Personal Child Stories

From babies to toddlers to even older children, Personal Child Stories inspire and teach all ages!

Storylines are completely customized and used in conjunction with actual submitted photos of the child to fit each childs individual need, situation or desired learning concept. She works closely with parents to accomplish this. Her alphabet book and counting book samples were a huge hit with my little toddler! She loved flipping through the book again and again, counting the pictures and pointing out the letters of the alphabet!…of course that was after I had exhausted my patience answering numerous requests to “read it again, mommy!”. The counting book was especially neat because it not only had a cute rhyming lilt to it but it also showed the numbers in Spanish, English, and sign language!

As a graphic designer of over 12 years experience, I can attest to the life-changing impact that strong images and well written copy can have on people of all ages. Shara has combined both in her product and I would highly recommend these books to anyone looking to teach their children through the power of positive reinforcement.

If you would like to learn more about obtaining your own personalized book for your child, visit Shara at

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If you are searching for that perfect valentines gift for a techno-mommy on your list, we’ve got a winner for you! We have stumbled across an iPhone app that is truly a mommy-tool calendaring wonder! The TotalBaby app definitely makes our MyTime Calendar recommendation list!TotalBaby iPhone Application The TotalBaby Application is a calendar and event tracking solution for kids and babies whose application is limitless!

Developed in 2009, this application was the brain-child of ANDESigned, LLC and is truly inspired work. It allows you to track multiple children from birth to whenever! To better explain this application, I will use my own family of 4 children as an example. Each child was entered with all their birth information and a current photo. I was then able to enter all their vaccination information through a slick interface that allows you to record by vaccine, date and even be as specific as the time of day. You can also make notes at each vaccination entry about how they reacted, doctor recommendations, etc. Next, I was able to enter all the doctor visits I wanted to for each child. For most of my children, this included just the well-visit check-ups for which I entered their measurement info and any pertinent doctor advice I wanted to keep track of. But I have one child that has had health conditions that necessitated specialists so I was able to enter these “sick” visits as well to track exactly when he went and what was discussed.

Total Baby is the most Complete Baby Logging and Tracking Application available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

But it doesn’t stop there! There is a wonderful diary entry area for each child where you can use pictures from your iPhone gallery or snap one for immediate use and couple it with any information you want to include. This is great when your child says or does something funny or memorable and you want to remember it but may not remember at the end of the day to write it into your journal. This app lets you jot it down right as it happens! There is also a milestone area…you title each entry so you can track when they took their first step (with photos!), first words, first smile, or even their first day of school! How about those parent/teacher conferences, concerts or special assignments? Yup, you can record those too! This area also comes with a timing feature so you can track the exact moment you want to notate through a handy drop-down menu that deafaults to the current moment!

If you choose, you can email the TotalBaby reports. Just specify dates or "all data" and you get a well organized synopsis of your child's history!

This event timing is one of the coolest features. Total Baby combines 13 separate timing and tracking functions into a single complete solution. You can track events for each child like diaper changes, bottle feedings/nursing (even which side they nursed on and for how long!!), naps, bathtimes, and one of my absolute favorite features (because I have multiple children to track) is the ability to track doses of medication. For instance, if I have more than one child that requires medication, I can track exactly what I give each child (time, quantity and specific medication) so I know exactly what they’ve received and when they are due for another dose. This is invaluable for sleep deprived mothers who may or may not have the ability to trust their memories at two o’clock in the morning.

To wrap up our review, all this information is literally at your fingertips! So when your friends ask you “so when was she born?” or your doctor asks “how many wet diapers did he have today?” or your child asks you “what did I do when I was 2?”. Not only is it easily accessible but you can also back up the files as well as email them (choosing all information or just specific dates)! We have looked at several other baby/child tracking apps and this one truly shines above all the rest. For only $4.99, it is a totally fun app that is so practical every mom should have it!

Our only complaint (and we had to reach to find a complaint with this app!) was that a growth chart would be very helpful to have in addition to the growth recording abilities it now has. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this feature will be included in future updates!

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Dance and cook with Goofy and his friends in Goofy's Kitchen!

Dance and cook with Goofy and his friends in Goofy's Kitchen!

Brilliant fireworks, beautiful music, and a snow fall surrounded by white lights all combine in the Disney fireworks display to bring the holidays home!

Brilliant fireworks, beautiful music, and a snow fall surrounded by white lights all combine in the Disney fireworks display to bring the holidays home!

Are you planning any trips to the Magic Kingdom this holiday season? If you are not, then you should! Holidays in Disneyland are truly magical! For starters, it’s pretty tough to find someone that could top the Mouse for his decorating savvy. The entire park gets a serious make-over for the holidays. Toon Towne is complete with snow on the rooftops and you won’t even recognize the Haunted Mansion, which has been overrun by Jack Skellington and his band from the Nightmare Before Christmas. The towering trees, wreaths, flowers, and holiday lights are truly a sight to behold. If you can’t get in the Holiday spirit in Disneyland, then I am afraid there is little hope for you.

If you are planning a Disneyland trip this holiday season and toting along multiple little people with you, we’ve got a few recommendations…

  • Transportation. If you have the ability to take the monorail into the park, this will shave considerable time off your morning commute. You must be staying in a Disneyland Hotel (California Hotel, Paradise Pier or Disneyland Hotel) in order to fast pass onto this little gem of a transport system. Presenting your room key along with your park ticket will get you in a full hour before the park opens on select days.
  • Food and the “bottom” line. If you plan to be in the park for the entire day, food can be a very daunting expense and major time waster. Again, we are addressing those with little ones here. Based on considerable experience, we recommend you try to limit yourself to two or less meals in the park. Snack before you leave your room. Then eat a good sized breakfast in the park late in the morning (you can hit the rides while everyone else is eating at normal breakfast hours, then eat while the ride lines are longer) then take along a smorgesborg of water, treats and snacks (fruit roll-ups, trail mix, granola bars, fruit, etc.) that will happily tide your little ones (and bigs ones!) over until the next meal. Skip the lunch and have either an early dinner or a late dinner. Again, this helps you avoid the mealtime crowds and time-waster lines.
  • Don’t miss the fireworks! You need to give yourself a good hour before it starts to find a decent spot. Take some blankets to sit on. Pick a spot near the castle or near the Small World ride. These are the best locations to be a part of the “White Christmas” part of the fireworks…yes, there is actual snow that will fall! You won’t want to miss it!
  • Give the gift of memories! If you’re going to spend all that money on getting your family to the park, then it’s worth it to make sure they remember it, right? Autograph books can help you’re kids interact with the characters firsthand and have some memories to boot. An autograph book that includes picture slots is a must. Our little ones loved to approach each character and “ask for their autograph”, if only to have an excuse to talk to the character one on one. Once finished with the trip, we insert photos of each child with their character friends into this autograph book and it becomes a real treasure for each child. A word of advice for the autograph seeking crowd…it is well worth investing in a “character dining experience” rather than face long lines to meet each character in the park. For the best food and character quantity, we recommend the “Plaza Inn “Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park” hosted by Kellogg’s All Time Favorites” inside Disneyland for breakfast. In one hour, you will fill up at least half of an autograph book.

Good luck on your Disney vacation and we hope you have as much fun as we did! Now go make some memories!

Do you have experiences or tips you would like to share about how to maximize a Disneyland holiday trip? Visit our forum and join in the conversation!

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