How I Survived Hurricane Katrina: A Tribute to Lily

To be honest, I had no intention on writing a post recapping my thoughts on this 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The week long television documentaries, radio editorials, and Presidential visits have been emotionally overwhelming and I think I speak for most New Orleanians when I say this is one Monday we are actually looking forward to arriving. The daily pictures, videos and stories will stop and we can go back to our new normalcy. But as I was reflecting on my own Katrina experience, the same question kept popping my head.

How did I get through it?

And my mind drifted to the same answer…I had Lily.

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When we began packing to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Katrina, it was clear this was no ordinary trip. We now had a 6 month old in tow and being prepared suddenly meant diapers, wipes, stroller, high chair, bottles, steam sterilizer, baby food, medicine, pacifiers and of course, her favorite lullaby CD. This left little room to pack much else for my husband and I but we were sure we would be pack in 2 days or so. And off we went…

The Red Roof Inn in Shreveport, LA was invaded by many of my family, friends and pets (14 rooms to be exact). What started out as a fun “Hurrication” quickly turned serious as we huddled by the TV and watched our levees fail and our city, homes, cars….LIVES….drown. But despite the tragedy and the palpable sadness, it was Lily (even at 6 months old) that brought hope, laughter and purpose back into the air. And not just for me and my husband, but for all 14 rooms at that Red Roof Inn.  It was like Lily could sense that people needed some comic relief and when anyone walked into the room she flashed this biggest, brightest, funniest smile that instantly made them laugh…even if only for a few minutes.

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Soon, word spread about the baby and other Louisiana evacuees at the Red Roof Inn came to play with her in order to pass some time and forget about their problems. When I originally thought that evacuating with a baby would be stressful, I had no idea that she would actually be the stress relief for so many people.

Ten years later, my “baby” is now 10 years old and to this day, I don’t think she knows what an important role she played in the lives of those at the Red Roof Inn in the days following Katrina. I have spent several years thanking friends, volunteers, police officers and doctors for what they did to help us at our darkest hour. But this year, I am thanking my daughter.

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Thank you, Lily. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I would have made it. I love you. ~Mommy

 

Wrapping Up Our Scholastic #SummerReading

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy and brought to you by Scholastic. All opinions remain 100% mine.

Well, it’s over.  The swimsuits have been stored and the bedtimes are getting earlier. The first school bell has officially rung and my two littles have entered a new year of learning. We took the summer to spend lots of quality time together as a family and learn about geography, culture and history through travel. Because both girls had to complete a summer reading list as part of a school requirement, I credit the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge for encouraging them to surpass the required reading and learn to truly enjoy it.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 7.20.10 PMBecause the girls went above and beyond, I asked them to submit a “5-word book review” for each of 5 favorite summer reading books. Here they are in no particular order:

All of the time my girls spent reading was logged into the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge powered by Energizer in order to help achieve a World Record!  Did you know that kids across the Nation have read over 208 million minutes so far this Summer? What an accomplishment!

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Need more inspiration? Energizer® and Scholastic are partnering to create the “Power the Possibilities” campaign which gives moms the tools they need to unlock their child’s talents. Parents can buy any specially marked pack of Energizer® brand batteries to scratch for a chance to win one of thousands of prizes that will power discovery and learning during the Energizer Instant Win Game. Prizes include a family trip to New York City, a Scholastic Study Corner Makeover, a tablet with Scholastic apps, a library of Scholastic books and more!

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These prizes definitely will help avoid the Summer Brain Drain that parents dread. Plus, Scholastic also has some fun games such as the Innovation Machine Game which inspire fun and creative writing as well as videos from Maggie McGuire that will teach you how to make reading a priority for your child.

Don’t miss out on any tips or promotions by following @Scholastic on Twitter and liking the Energizer® Bunny on Facebook! What are you doing to prevent Summer Drain Brain?

What’s on Your Appliance Wish List?

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy and brought to you by P.C. Richard & Son. All opinions remain 100% mine.

As a Mom of two who not only works full time outside the home but runs a blog and two successful businesses in her “spare” time, I value anything that can give me a few extra precious moments to spend with my family.  When finally getting some downtime, the last thing I want to do is clean house, spent countless hours on laundry or vacuuming every inch of the carpet.  I realize housework is a necessary evil but finding the right appliances can cut your time and hassle drastically leaving more quality time with the family.

P.C. Richard & Son is Americas #1 family owned and operated appliance, electronics and mattresses store offering a huge selection of items that would no doubt make my life easier. Just a few items on my Appliance Wish List are:

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  • Maytag 4.5 Cu Ft Front Loading Washer may be the answer to getting extra sleep! You can do small loads in the overnight wash and dry cycle and clothes will be ready for you when you rise. Genius.
  • KitchenAid 24″ Built-In Dishwasher can fit 14 place settings in a single load. It’s like the superhero of dishwashers!
  • With the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina around the corner, it should come as no surprise that this New Orleanian included the Pulsar 10,000 Watt 4 Cycle Propane and Gas Generator on a list of “must-haves.”

P.C. Richard & Son

While convenience comes at a price, P.C. Richard & Son is offering the Appliance Employee Pricing Event through August 29, 2015. You pay what the employees pay and your order can be shipped nationwide!

What’s on your Appliance Wish List?

 

 

NOLA Cooking Classes for Kids: A Spoonful of Sugar Sneak Peek

For those of you that know me, it comes as no surprise that I am a novice in the kitchen. I do not enjoy cooking, baking or really anything that involves the stove, oven or mixer. So when my daughter started showing an interest in cooking and asked me to teach her, I did my best not to break out into hysterical laughter.

After taking 5 minutes to show her the extent of my knowledge (boiling water like a boss, making gourmet grilled cheese and brewing one mean cup of tea), I knew I would need to seek help. But in my search for cooking classes for kids in the New Orleans area, the options were extremely limited. Fortunately, A Spoonful of Sugar is opening it’s doors on September 12, 2015 in Lakeview and we are able to get a sneak peek!

Cooking Classes for Kids in New Orleans

A Spoonful of Sugar offers many cooking classes for kids including Mom & Me (ages 4-6), Cooking 101 and 102 (ages 6-12), and Cooking for Scouts to name a few. We opted to try Cooking 101 since even Mom can admittedly use some kitchen skills.

Cooking 101: Learn basic cooking principles. Practice chopping & cutting, measuring & mixing, and safety rules.

When we arrived, the girls were given aprons and name tags and asked to have a sit for a quick introduction. Basic first aid and the importance of washing hands before cooking was discussed followed by a serious talk about knife safety. Once all hands were washed, Ms. Betty and Ms. Daisye introduced the recipe of the day and it’s ingredients.

New Orleans Cooking Classes for Kids

Heading into the kitchen, the girls were excited to be making “Fruit Sushi” which included rice krispie treats, fruit roll ups, strawberries, kiwi and a vanilla drizzle. First, Ms. Daisye taught the girls the proper way to slice the fruit which acted as the sushi filling. I will admit, I was nervous about having my kids handle sharp kitchen knives but I learned that A Spoonful of Sugar uses kid safe knives that were efficient but would not harm the kids if they made a mistake.

cooking classes

Following slicing and chopping skills, the girls learned how to use a rolling pin to create the base of their “sushi.” After assembling and rolling the sushi, the kids practiced measuring and mixing skills while creating a vanilla drizzle. The finished product was so cute and delicious! My girls had a blast and cannot wait to return. As a Mom, the facility was spacious and immaculate, the staff was very friendly and the activity kept the girls’ attention and interest. I highly recommend it!

Cooking Classes for Kids

A Spoonful of Sugar not only offers cooking classes, but also many options in manners and etiquette, too. Children’s birthday parties will be available and the facility can also be rented for baby or bridal showers.

Kids Cooking Classes

On September 12, 2015, you can join A Spoonful of Sugar for their Grand Opening Fairy Celebration and Open House! Reservations are required and space will be limited so don’t miss out! Details are below!

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Celebrating Dr. Seuss New Release with Carnival #SeussAtSea

If you follow this blog at all, it is no secret that my favorite family vacation is cruising Carnival. In fact, I spent my 40th birthday aboard the Carnival Dream which can only be described as magical (but heavenly works, too). Since we live in a Carnival port city, we jump at every chance we get to partner with the company and last weekend was no exception.

During our last cruise on the Dream, we took our kids to the Seuss at Sea brunch and were amazed at the attention to detail. Dr. Seuss himself would have been impressed. So, we were thrilled to hear that Carnival Cruise Line and its partner Dr. Seuss Enterprises recently teamed up with the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to celebrate the first release of a Dr. Seuss book in 25 years, “What Pet Should I Get?”

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We boarded the Carnival Dream and headed straight to the Encore Lounge to hear a special book reading by local celebrity and animal rescue supporter, Angela Hill. The kids were invited on stage to meet characters from beloved Dr. Seuss books including Thing 1 and Thing 2, to learn about how to care for a pet, and to meet some special puppies up for adoption. Following the reading, we were treated to the Seuss at Sea brunch which is absolutely spectacular.

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In conjunction with the event, Carnival is making a $10,000 donation to the Louisiana SPCA which is just another reason to love this company. While we didn’t leave with a new pet, it did open up the discussion at home about what type of pet would suit our family when the time comes. Dog? Cat? Fish? What kind of pet do you have?

Design Inspiration from At Home

As the Experimental Mommy, it should come as no surprise that this Biology loving, math solving, computer coding woman does not have an artistic bone in her body. Enter Pinterest. This platform has been a godsend when I am trying to be creative with things such as meals, kid crafts or decorating. However, many Pins are deceiving! They look so easy and convince this science geek that she should totally redecorate the living room and change the motifs of both kids rooms. News flash: these projects are not always as easy as they seem.

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When I tackle a big project and finally admit that I am far from a DIY legend, I call for help and run to a local home decor store. Fortunately, one of the best just opened a few miles from my house. Welcome, At Home to New Orleans! This home decor superstore boasts more than 50,000 unique items that will make you look like a master interior designer.

My family and I were invited to check out the Grand Opening of the new At Home and were provided a gift card to do a little shopping, too. I should have guessed that my daughters would quickly make good use of the gift on items they just “had to have.” But as soon as we walked in the door, we were all a bit mesmerized. This place is enormous!

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The patio section caught my eye first with a huge selection of colorful chair cushions, umbrellas and accessories to make your backyard the most comfortable place in (or out) of your home. But my 10 year old daughter noticed a sign on the wall that simply stated “SPARKLE” and she was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

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Making our way to the “sparkle” section, we found lots of wall art, frames, decorative pillows and just plain fun accessories. If you have a college freshman, the campus shop is just as enticing to make a dull dorm room feel like home.

After making our purchases, I literally had to drag the kids (and my Mom) out of the store which was only successful with a promise of returning soon. Do you shop At Home? What has been your favorite find?

Getting Closer to Our Scholastic #SummerReading Goal!

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Scholastic. All opinions remain 100% mine.

So, this is it. The very last week of summer. Can you hear the collective tears of my kids? Our summer has been full of fun and even a few learning opportunities so none of us are ready to see it go. But I am happy to report that my girls have kept up their reading skills through the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.

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My oldest has become hooked on Harry Potter (yes, I know we are late to the game on this one) and I love watching her get excited about turning every page. Not to be outdone by her sister, my youngest is reading her very first chapter books and has read multiple Judy Moody books over the past few weeks….even on vacation! I am so proud that they both have made a significant contribution to breaking the world record for summer reading!

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If you want to get your child involved, there’s still time! Simply sign up for Scholastic’s “Power Up & Read” challenge powered by Energizer and start reading. It doesn’t matter if your child is reading independently or together with you, you can build momentum by joining in the #MondayMinutesGoal. Here’s how it works:

  • Each Monday, Scholastic will announce the #MondayMinutesGoal which is the goal for the number of minutes for kids to read together in one week.
  • Encourage your child to read alone or with you in order to contribute to the goal.
  • Have your child log their minutes in the Summer Reading Challenge website or on a piece of paper.
  • Take a picture of your child proudly displaying their minutes read.
  • Share the picture on social media using #MondayMinutesGoal and #SummerReading

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Need more inspiration? Parents can enter a weekly sweepstakes to win a “Power Up & Read Kit” to keep you “innovative” all summer long. The prize pack includes: Scholastic tote bag, water bottle, a copy of Reading Unbound by Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith, $10 gift certificate to Scholastic Store Online, Energizer® brand batteries, Scholastic books, and more. Learn more at the Energizer Instant Win website.  And to make sure you stay on track, make sure to check out Scholastic’s Resource page, too!

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.01.21 PMSince my girls have done such a great job with this program, I want another child to be just as successful. One of my lucky readers will win the Innovation Book prize pack below:

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  • The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • Extreme Science Careers
  • Extreme Experiments
  • Plus Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge materials including reading logs, pledges, bookmarks, and more!

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Celebrating 41 with #DennysDiners

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Denny’s Restaurants. All opinions remain 100% my own.

After surviving topping the metaphorical “hill” when I turned 40, this birthday seemed like a breeze. Turning the Big 4-0 was such a big deal, that I was looking forward to a more relaxed way to greet 41. I requested a low key, family focused, offline, relaxed, go-with-the-flow kind of day and I am so happy that my message was heard loud and clear.

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After sleeping in a bit, I headed to my favorite day spa for a full body massage which can only be described as heavenly. Stopping for my favorite sweet tea, I met up with the family for some window shopping (ok, maybe I splurged on a thing or two) and a delicious lunch. When we returned home, my littles surprised me with a homemade chocolate cake and plenty of very thoughtful gifts when we returned home.

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When time for dinner, I remembered that at Denny’s, not only would the kids be thrilled, but this birthday girl could get a free Grand Slam! Score! I simply could not have asked for a more perfect day. While the hoopla of 40 was certainly fun and memorable, the quality time with my family wins every single time.

How do you like to celebrate your birthday?

How a Dermatologist Chooses Sunscreen #ChooseSkinHealth

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy and brought to you by Neutrogena. All opinions remain 100% my own.
It’s the middle of summer and for my family it’s time to be outside in the pool, a water park, a theme park or just a simple family picnic. We try to soak up every ounce of quality family time during the summer before the craziness of back to school begins. But to ensure a successful outing (and as an obsessive list maker), planning is key. Everything from a change of clothes to a first aid kit and snacks to sunglasses, I triple check the bag before leaving home.
With all of these outdoor activities, the first thing on my list is always sunscreen. But lately their has been a lot of confusion circulating about sunscreen leaving me staring at the plethora of options wondering which is best for me and my kids.  As with most of my skin health questions, I seek the advice of a dermatologist so I was thrilled to see that Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist in New York City, recently created a video to explain how he chooses sunscreen for his own family.

The video is easy to understand and has some really helpful tips for navigating the sunscreen section of your local store. Dr. Zeichner explains:

It can be really challenging to understand sunscreen labels. What I do, is go to the drugstore and look for a trusted brand. Make sure that it is labeled as broad spectrum and turn the bottle over and look for ingredients such as avobenzone or oxybenzone. For those with sensitive skin, look for a mineral sunscreen that only contains ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

As a Mom, I always want to do what is best for my kids which can cause some stress when trying to choose the correct product for their skin. Dr. Zeichner put my mind at ease by explaining that while choosing a quality product is important, you should focus on applying the product correctly. If using a spray sunscreen, you want to hold the spray 1-2 inches from the skin, spray the sunscreen for 1-2 seconds until the skin glistens, and then rub in the sunscreen. If using a lotion, make sure you are using a golf ball size amount for all sun-exposed areas. He explains:

When it comes to Labor Day, if you still have the same bottle of sunscreen that you have been using since Memorial Day, then you are not using enough.

As a scientist myself, I know the every day long-term, harmful affects of sun exposure on the skin. And with skin cancer in my family, I am extra cautious about protecting our skin. For this reason, I have been a huge advocate of the Neutrogena #ChooseSkinHealth program which is a partnership between NEUTROGENA® and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery to fight skin cancer and save lives through education, early detection, and the empowerment to follow sun safe behaviors. To-date, this campaign has completed more than 13,000 free screenings and helped diagnose 1,300 cases of skin cancer.

This summer, NEUTROGENA® partners and brand ambassadors such as Bella Thorne have displayed how they #ChooseSkinHealth on social media throughout the summer in effort to bring attention to the skin cancer epidemic and inspire others to practice safe sun habits.

What are you doing to protect your family’s skin this summer? Share your tips in the comments and then enter to win 5 bottles of Neutrogena sunscreen below!

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Sippy Cup Solutions: Testing Avent’s New Range of Toddler Cups

This post was written by Linzy of Crawfish Tales on behalf of Experimental Mommy. While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

With my older child we struggled in the transition from bottle to sippy cup. I could not find a sippy cup that she liked nor could I find one that was really truly spill proof. She ended up going from bottle to cups with a straw. She was fine with it and that worked for her. But straws are not spill proof either so that didn’t really solve that problem for me.
Testing Avent's new sippy cups
Now, with number two I am going to do better research on the sippy cups available on the market. In the nearly four years since my first one was at the sippy cup stage, I am sure there have been many new products introduced to the market and new technology.

I was asked to test the new Avent sippy cups that hit the market in January of this year. They come in the four stages of cup transition and they range in price from $6.99 for an individual cup to $12.99 for a two-pack and are available at Babies R Us, Amazon, Target, Walmart and Drugstore.com.

Here is the breakdown of the new products:
Stage 1 is for babies around four months old as they learn to take and hold the bottle independently. We are using the Avent Naturals bottle line so the new Philips Avent My Trainer Cup with the same soft spout Natural nipple is excellent for my little one. She is already familiar with that nipple so when I gave her the cup for the first time, she was already comfortable. She enjoyed the easy to use handles.

Stage 2 is for babies who are to transition away from the bottle nipple to a traditional sippy cup top. However, in my experience I have found that the transition to the hard top in the new design can be sometimes too drastic. So the Philips Avent My Penguin Sippy Cup and the Philips Avent My Easy Sippy Spout Cups come with both the hard and the soft spouts to help ease that transition. The easy to use handles follow the same penguin cup shape design that the stage 1 cup had which allows baby to feel more comfortable with the new product.

Stage 3 is for the growing toddler. This is for the baby who has mastered the sippy cup and is ready to take the leap into a straw cup. This new shape expands drinking skills with the Philips Avent My Twist ‘n Sip Straw Cup. The silicone straw that stays clean with the twist lid keeps it clean on the go. Since I didn’t have this option with my first little one who preferred straws, I am excited about this new product.

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Stage 4 is the big news. This is the first product of its kind. The Philips Avent My Natural Drinking Cup is going to change the way that children about a year and up learn how to use a real cup. Once your kiddo has mastered the sippy cup and the straw you don’t want to hand them an open cup to roam around with. You would probably be cleaning up after them all the time. But with this new cup they can still master the drinking from a cup skill without the mess. Here is how it works. The lip-activated rim allows toddlers to drink like a grown-up, from 360 degrees around the cup, while an internal leak-proof valve prevents spilling. Genius!

To help you learn which might be the best fit for your toddler, Avent teamed up with Scholastic to create “Sip, Sip, Hooray,” a story of several toddler friends and a mischievous Mama “Sippopotomus” who’s hunting for the perfect sippy cup for Baby “Sippo” (you can even download a digital copy here).

While my little on is still mastering stage one, I am excited about the cups that will grow with her as she transitions from bottle to cup. I am sure I will blink and she will be hold enough for stage four soon enough!

Is your little one ready for the transition? One Experimental Mommy reader will win the full Avent toddler cup range and a copy of “Sip, Sip, Hooray!” Enter below:

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