Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creating Better Smiles With The Listerine Oral Care Challenge

Confession time: my family's oral care routine isn't the best it could be. Oh sure, we all brush - I'm lucky to have two little girls who don't mind brushing their teeth - but it isn't always as often as it should be. The nighttime brushing always happens, but they often forget in the rush of the morning. My older daughter has several permanent teeth already in, but still doesn't floss or use mouthwash. I try to feel good that at least they do brush, but I know that brushing alone can miss the germs in 75% of your mouth.

I'm a faithful brusher thanks to my sensitive teeth, but only occasionally use mouthwash and hardly ever floss. My husband is faithful with the mouthwash but also never flosses. It's not that we want to neglect our mouths - but when you're busy it's easy for some steps to be left behind in the process. We only get one set of teeth, though, so we could all do better at creating good habits when it comes to caring for our teeth and gums.

Recently I was invited by Mom Central to join the Listerine Oral Care Challenge. The challenge involves committing to a twice-daily routine of brushing, flossing and rinsing for the entire family for three weeks. Listerine provided us with a kit including new toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash for kids and adults. We also have a chart to keep track of our progress and keep the kids motivated. Chances are I'll throw in some prizes for the kids so they don't slack off, too.

Our Listerine Challenge kit

My younger daughter is still too young for mouthwash, so she'll be participating in a modified version by committing to brushing twice a day. It'll likely be tough to convince my older daughter (who has sensory issues related to autism) to go beyond brushing, but she likes the characters on the kids' mouthwash bottles, so I'm hoping she'll give it a try. If we do it together as a family, she might be more likely to copy what the adults are doing, too.

We'll be starting our challenge on December 1 and finishing just before Christmas. I'm hopeful that we can create new family habits that stick and have dazzling teeth to show off at all of our holiday parties! Check back in three weeks to see how well we did, and if you're concerned about your family's oral care routine, join in and start your own challenge!

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Listerine and received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

World Prematurity Day & RSV: What You Need To Know

In my previous job as a labor and delivery nurse, the most stressful and anxious moments for me were when women came into our department in premature labor. Our small hospital wasn't equipped for preemies, so we often had to send them to a larger hospital if the labor couldn't be stopped, or if there wasn't enough time, prepare for a preemie birth and then get the infant shipped to a NICU as soon as possible.

I could tell these women were scared, and I shared their fears. No one wants to have a baby too early. I am lucky to have two daughters who were born full-term, but I have friends who have lost children to prematurity. I had a sister who died due to complications from being born too soon as well.

1,400 babies are born prematurely in the United States every day, and 13 million babies are affected by prematurity around the world. Prematurity, defined as being born before 37 weeks completed gestation, disrupts a baby’s development in the womb, often stunting the growth of some of the body’s most critical organs.

At birth, preemies often have difficulty with breathing, feeding and maintaining temperature. Because their immune systems haven’t had time to fully mature, preterm infants are more likely to develop infections, and because their lungs are underdeveloped, they are more susceptible to respiratory problems.

One infection that parents of preemies must watch out for is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).  For the average, full-term infant, RSV is about as serious as the common cold. But for preemies, RSV can attack their already weak systems, requiring medical intervention or hospitalization. Even with medical attention, up to 500 infants die each year from RSV.

Today, on World Prematurity Day, I want to share information about RSV as well as some tips to help prevent it, because the number one way to help reduce the risk for RSV is through education.

While RSV may mimic the symptoms of a cold at first, there are warning signs that your child could be in danger. If your infant shows any of the following symptoms, you should contact your pediatrician immediately:

• Persistent coughing or wheezing
• Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
• Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
• High fever
• Extreme fatigue
• Difficulty feeding

Like the flu, RSV has a peak season from November through March, although some regions might have longer seasons.

While there is no cure for RSV, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk for your child:

• Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently
• Ensure you, your family, and any visitors in your home wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
• Avoid large crowds and people who may be sick
• Never let anyone smoke near your baby
• Speak with your child’s doctor if you believe he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available

Even if you don't have a preemie, it's important to consider these suggestions. One in eight infants in the United States is born premature, which means there's a strong chance you know or will come in contact with a preemie in your daily life. Washing your hands frequently, keeping common areas sanitized, and avoiding large public places when you're sick can all help to save the life of an infant who doesn't have the strength to fight off a virus like RSV.

So today, on World Prematurity Day, consider what you can do to help stop the spread of RSV, and take a few moments to learn about premature birth and what's being done by organizations like the March of Dimes to improve the outcomes for these tiny babies. We can't always stop a baby from being born too soon, but we can improve that baby's chances of having a long, healthy life.

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kingston urDrive: The USB Drive Is Fun Again

Thank you to Kingston for sponsoring this review. Please click here to learn more about Kingston. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own.

Some people call them thumb drives. Or flash drives. Or USB drives. Whatever you call them, they've become a routine way to carry and transfer data in our digital age. Some are designed as cute characters, some come on keychains, and some are built to withstand a beating, but generally all of them have the same purpose: store data to use between devices.

But storing data is generally the limit for most USB drives. They're passive devices, holding the information we need so we can move it to another device, where it can be used by that computer's software. They're really interchangeable to me. I've received so many USB drives from various blog conferences and promotions that I don't even care if I lose one, as long as it didn't have any sensitive data on it. They've become throwaway devices at this point.

However, I recently had the chance to try out the new Kingston 8GB DataTraveler 109 with urDrive software, and I can honestly say the lowly USB drive suddenly has a lot more potential.

The urDrive software makes it possible to carry much of your digital life with you on your USB drive, but also to use that data no matter where you go. Stored on board is an mp3 player, a video player, and a photo viewer for all of your media files. (No need to worry if the computer you're using has the right software or not!)

It also has its own web browser that can save all of your favorite sites and preferences to the cloud, available to you from any computer with your urDrive USB drive. This is incredibly useful for working at public computers where you don't want to leave any of your personal information behind, or for when using a work computer (during lunch, of course) where you can't save any of your favorite sites or preferences.

For kids, the urDrive software also includes Fooz Kids, a kid-safe web browsing application with a parental dashboard to set limits and monitor your child's use of the internet. And for both kids and parents alike, you can access the latest flash games from EA Games and PopCap Games on your USB drive.

Finally, if you're worried about the safety of the computer you're using with your USB drive, you can run a quick scan using the included Norton PC Checkup software.

Additional apps can be downloaded from the urDrive store, allowing you to customize your USB drive to fit your needs.

I often work between several computers, and the Kingston urDrive is a resourceful tool to keep around. I like storing my music on it and having a ready-made playlist wherever I happen to be working. The easy access to PopCap Games is great when I need a short break. And keeping my favorite websites bookmarked on the Maxthon 3 web browser is much easier than trying to save my bookmarks on each computer.

Also? It's smaller than any other USB drive I've ever owned. I mean itty-bitty small - about the length between two knuckles and about as thin as two or three dimes.

Here's a quick video that explains a little more about the Kingston urDrive:


Want to try the urDrive out for yourself? I'm giving away a 5-pack of Kingston USB drives for one lucky winner - enough for you and your family or friends to try out!

To enter: leave me a comment below telling me how many USB drives you currently own. If you're like me and aren't sure, give your best guess. (I've got an entire jar filled with promotional USB drives, plus one in my purse, two in my laptop bag, and probably one or two hiding in a suitcase.)

One entry per person, US residents only. Be sure to provide a valid email address so I can contact you if you're selected as the winner.

Entries will be accepted until Friday, November 18 at 11:59pm ET. After that date, one will be selected by random drawing and contacted via email. Winner has two days to respond to the email or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Don't Be An Aunt Dot: Tips For Finding Your "So Right" Holiday Gifts

Now that it's November, I've shifted from ghosts and candy and pumpkins to full-on holiday preparations. I love watching for the sales ads and then planning my list for everyone in my family.

When it comes to gift-giving, I know I'm not the most original, but I also know I'm not the worst gift-giver. That title belonged to my great aunt Dot, the queen of strange and unwelcome gifts. She was so memorable she has her own category on my other blog - if there were awards for bad gifts, she'd have the Lifetime Achievement award.

Aunt Dot was the master at shopping every 90% off, final-clearance sale to stock up on gifts for everyone she knew. And then she'd present you with a large department store shopping bag for Christmas each year, forcing you to pull each small item out of it and show the whole room.

Although she passed away a few years ago her spirit lives on, and RadioShack and I would like to share a few tips on how to avoid the gifts that are so wrong, inspired by real Aunt Dot gifts from the past.

1. Consider your recipient's interests.

Nearly every Christmas Aunt Dot gave me a nutcracker in some form or another. Tall wooden nutcracker, nutcracker ornaments, dancing and singing nutcracker. But I hate nutcrackers. They creep me out almost as much as clowns. I gently told her this several times, but somehow the message didn't sink in. (And we won't even discuss the Santa figurines she gave to my Jewish husband!)

When shopping for gifts, remember to think about what that person is interested in. If you're not sure, ask your loved one directly or ask another friend or family member who might have a better idea. It doesn't take a lot of effort to know I'm a technology geek and would have loved an MP3 player or a gift card to purchase a new video game.

2. ...but remember that too much of a good thing can still be too much.

One year at Thanksgiving, my family had a bowl of mixed nuts on the table. Aunt Dot noticed that I liked to pick out the cashews. So what did I get that Christmas? A bag of cashews. And for Easter? A bag of cashews. And my birthday? You guessed it...cashews. That continued for over ten years - I'm officially sick of cashews.

Just because your best friend mentions she loves owls doesn't mean you should get her something with owls on it for every special occasion. Don't let yourself get stuck in a rut with your gift choices!

3. Practical gifts are good...just not too practical.

I love good practical gifts. The year my husband and I bought a house, my grandmother bought us a toolbox and several tools so we could handle minor projects in our new home. When my mom bought her first laptop computer, I gave her a wireless router so she could use her computer anywhere in her house.

But there's a limit to practical, and it's important not to cross that line. Like giving toilet paper as a gift. (With one roll removed from the pack, too.) Or cake mix. Or this...

Yes, that was one of my Aunt Dot Christmas 2006 gifts. I don't even know what to do with nonfat dry milk.

4. Some items should never be re-gifted.

Recycling and re-gifting are all the rage this year. In this economy, it's great to be frugal, and passing along gifts you don't want or shopping for gifts at a thrift store or used goods store can be a great way to save money.

There are some items, however, that are best given as new. Giving a couple wine glasses with the year 2001 written down the stem as a wedding gift for their 2003 wedding? So wrong. Same goes for stuffed animals from thrift stores that smell like they were pulled from the dumpster.

Aunt Dot may have had good intentions, but that stuffed bear wasn't going anywhere near my kid.

If you have a gift you don't want, consider a trade-in program like The Shack's Trade and Save program, where you can trade in your unwanted electronics for credit towards a new product purchase. Get rid of stuff you don't want, then buy the things you'll actually use - perfect!

5. Check your expiration dates.

When it comes to gifts that are so wrong, expired gifts are the worst. The majority of food gifts I received from Aunt Dot were expired or close to their expiration date. I once received chocolates that were so old they had turned white in some places, which was really disappointing after I was excited to get chocolate as a gift. (And cashews. Never forget the cashews.)

But expiration dates aren't just for food. Health and beauty products and even batteries have a set shelf life - make sure the gift recipient can use the product before it expires. And if you're buying a gift card or a gift from a daily deal site like Groupon, consider any limits placed on them and when they'll lose their value, if ever.

So So Right

Aunt Dot's heart was truly in the right place, but her execution was a little off. She thought of the bargain before considering the interests of the recipient. She got so caught up in buying several small, cheap items at the lowest possible price that she missed the opportunity to spend the same amount of money on one quality gift that we were sure to love.

It doesn't take a lot of effort to make sure you're a gift-giving hero during the holidays. Stores will offer a lot of bargains in the weeks leading up to December 25, but just because it's on sale doesn't mean it'll be the right gift.

Learn from Aunt Dot and make sure your gifts are so right this year. Because this:

Aunt Dot's Gift from Christina M on Vimeo.

is soooooo wrong. (And yes, that is the price tag you see hanging from the toy.)

Full disclosure: This article was written in coordination with RadioShack's "So Right, So Wrong" holiday campaign. I was compensated for my time and effort, and all opinions expressed here are my own. Stories shared above are 100% true - just be glad I didn't tell you about the time Aunt Dot gave my mom a mooing toy cow that poops candy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Naturalizer Review & Shoe Giveaway!

I'm very picky about my everyday shoes. I insist on shoes that are comfortable to be in for hours on end, which usually means I don't wear heels, anything too narrow in the toes, or anything that doesn't have cushioning for my feet. When I went for my first pedicure last month, the technician remarked at how smooth my feet were - I told her it's because I don't subject them to regular shoe abuse like many.

Recently I received a pair of Naturalizer shoes for review, and I was so excited to try them out. I've worn Naturalizer shoes in the past and always liked how comfortable they were. This new collection of shoes promised high style while still keeping the comfort that Naturalizer is known for, so I intended to put them to the test.

I received a pair of the Valya style, a cute flat that is perfect for work for occasions or when you want a slightly more dressy shoe.

When I first put them on, it felt a little snug in the toe area. Uh oh, I thought, here come the blisters. But I was surprised at how quickly the shoes adjusted to my feet and soon felt as good as slippers. After repeated wearings (and I specifically made sure to wear them a lot before giving you my review) they're still amazingly comfortable, with just the right amount of cushioning to keep my feet happy all day long.

But Naturalizer doesn't just make flats. If you're into heels, you might consider something like these (Irma):

Or if boots are more your style, check out the sexy Arness boots:

Some quick facts about Naturalizer:
  • Since 1927, Naturalizer has proven that wearing the latest footwear fashions can be comfortable, stylish and affordable all in one.
  • With rich leathers, soft suedes, and beautiful, trend right details, Naturalizer shoes provide the ultimate in style + comfort.
  • Backed by research from “Style & Trend” experts, the Naturalizer line offers the influence of current fashion, blended with the enduring style women have come to expect from the brand.
  • Exclusive to Naturalizer is N5 Comfort - five distinctive features that provide flexibility, lightness, balance, softness and breathability in every step - so Naturalizer shoes feel as good at the end of the day as they do at the beginning.
  • Naturalizer offers a variety of styles including tall boots, loafers, wedges, pumps, platforms, flats, booties and oxfords. The fall collection from Naturalizer has something for everyone, with feminine details and styles inspired by a range of classic and contemporary trends.
No matter your style, there are a pair of Naturalizer shoes just perfect for you, including narrow and wide widths and even boots designed for those of us with larger calves! Naturalizer delivers shoes that make you look good and feel good always, so you can live your life and love your shoes.


OK, enough talking about the shoes - who wants to win a pair? Naturalizer is providing one lucky reader with a pair of shoes from any of their collections - ANY pair! (Note: free pair is awarded as a gift card equal to the pair of shoes you select.)

To enter:

Mandatory entry: Visit the Naturalizer website and leave me a comment below telling me which shoe you would pick from their fall collection.

Additional (optional) entries: (leave a separate comment for each)
1. Follow Naturalizer on Twitter
2. Follow me on Twitter 
3. Like Naturalizer on Facebook

Be sure to leave an email address in your comment so I can contact you if you're selected as the winner. US residents only.

Entries will be accepted until Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 11:59pm ET. One winner will be selected by random drawing. Winner has two days to respond to my email or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck, and remember to care for your feet!

Full disclosure: I was provided a pair of shoes by MyBlogSpark and Naturalizer and the Brown Shoe Company. All opinions expressed are completely my own. My feet would never tell a lie - they believe all feet should be happy and pain-free.