Encouraging the Next Generation of Innovators with 3M

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. While I was compensated for my time and effort, all opinions remain 100% mine.

As a child, I was fascinated with science. I was the kid that wrote “lab supplies and science kits” on my Christmas list for Santa. One of my favorite gifts was a microscope and I would spend hours taking a closer look at anything that would fit under the lens. My curiosity continued into high school where I elected to take science related coursework such as Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

Flash forward to Senior year. I began investigating colleges and my Dad (a civil engineer) took me to a local University to tour their engineering department. We walked into an intro level course to observe a lecture and I froze. The ENTIRE class consisted of 50 men. Absolutely NO WOMEN. Coming from an all-girls high school, I was immediately intimidated when I observed that not one female had elected to take that class. My confidence left faster than my body could get out of that classroom.

I enrolled as an Education major.

While my focus had changed, my love for science did not. I landed an internship at a local government lab and was assigned to assist a female scientist. She quickly became a mentor, my confidence level rose and I decided I could in fact excel in science. I graduated with a Master of Science in Molecular Biology with a Minor in Chemistry.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 8.04.55 PMBecause of my journey, I am passionate about STEM education efforts for young girls. With two daughters, I have taken several steps to bring science to life and show them at an early age that women CAN succeed in science based careers. From science fairs to field trips and Take Our Daughters To Work Day to Career Day, I am doing my best to mentor the next generation of future female scientists.

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I love that companies like 3M, one of the world’s most notable innovators, are inspiring the next generation as well through initiatives such as The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge!  In an effort to make science fun and take it out of the textbook, the contest cultivates the next generation
of problem solvers and give students an opportunity to receive mentorship from 3M scientists.

By April 20, 2016, kids in grades 5-8 can submit a one-to-two-minute video describing the science behind a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem. Judges evaluate the entries through April and May based on creativity, scientific knowledge, persuasiveness and overall presentation. Videos will not be judged on production skills and may be recorded on cell phones or basic digital cameras.

This summer, ten finalists will be announced who will participate in a mentorship program during which they will get the opportunity to work one-on-one with renowned 3M scientists. The finalists will be challenged to develop their innovations that positively impacts lives. The winner receives $25,000 and the title, “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

Have a great idea? Check out all of the rules, guidelines and entry requirements here: http://www.youngscientistchallenge.com

Finding My Fringe Hours

In the last few months of 2015, our family was struck with a tragedy. My mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital and found herself in the midst of an 8 hour brain surgery that changed her life. Fortunately, she is stronger than any adversity and has truly amazed us with her resilience. Even though I was not the one going through a life changing event, those few weeks changed me forever.

Life is fragile.

As the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, my year flashed before my eyes. I saw myself starting a new full time career. I saw myself growing iConnect Influencer Management to it’s biggest numbers to date. I saw myself hosting a successful blogging conference and helping colleagues grow their own brands and businesses. I saw myself raising two beautiful girls, helping with homework, attending dance recitals, working the school fair and chauffeuring my little ones to many social events. I saw myself taking care of the home, bills, and laundry. And I did see glimpses of spending quality time with my husband. What I didn’t see? Me just being me.

If not now….when?

During this little flashback, it was obvious that I had a busy year. But I definitely noticed that I spent very little time focusing on me and that needs to change. But since my life pace is not anticipated to get any slower in 2016, how am I going to find time for myself? Fortunately, I have some pretty amazing friends in this world of blogging and Jessica Turner reached out to me to take a look at her new book, The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You.

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What is a fringe hour? Turner defines it as:

“…a limited or appointed piece of time that is found in the margins of the day….something decorative. Activities and passions pursued in the fringe hours make your life more beautiful.”

Sounds great, right? But how do you find your fringe hours? Well, you will have to read the book! But I will tell you that following Jessica’s suggestion of tracking your time for a week was a real eye opener. This exercise allowed me to better understand where my time is being spent, how I can streamline activities and where I can possible find my fringe hours.

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While it is still very much a work in progress, I am genuinely excited about finding time for me in 2016.  Want to join me in finding your fringe hours? You can find the Kindle version of The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner on Amazon for just $1.99 this week! It’s time to focus on YOU. If not now….when?

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. While I was compensated for my time and effort, I genuinely love the book and know you will love it, too!

Take a Fall Break with Wyndham Extra Holidays and Save!

This is a sponsored post with Wyndham Resorts. However, all opinions are my own.

In just a few hours, Halloween will be over and the Christmas carols will begin. Time seems to be moving so quickly. I could sure use a break from the craziness to relax and soak in these precious days with my little ones.

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Wyndham resorts offered by Wyndham Extra Holidays are your ticket to the perfect vacation. With spacious and comfortable suites plus all the amenities of home, you can be sure your Fall vacation will run smoothly before the craziness of the holiday season begins. You can cook hearty Fall meals in fully equipped kitchens or relax on your private deck and enjoy the scenery. No pizza on a hotel bed necessary. And now, stay at select resorts for as low as $84 a night this season! Hurry—offer ends October 31.

Ready to get away? Find your Wyndham Extra Holidays deal here, travel by November 25th and save up to 30% just by mentioning code FALL15!

Two-night minimum length of stay required. Valid for new reservations only. Reservations subject to availability. Reservations not valid over holidays and special events. Cannot be combined with any other offer. All monetary amounts are noted in U.S. Dollars unless otherwise noted.

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

 

Top 5 Things to Know Before Heading to Dollywood’s Splash Country

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. While tickets were received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

On a recent trip to Pigeon Forge, TN, my family and I decided to cool off at Dollywood’s Splash Country. Below are a few tips based on our experience.

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1. Pack it: While I am sure you won’t forget your sunscreen, you should know that the park does not provide towels. Since we did not pack any in our luggage, we chose to purchase beach towels at the park. We were able to get 2 towels for $25 which not only served their purpose but doubled as excellent souvenirs as well. Bonus tip: the sidewalk gets hot, consider wearing water shoes to protect little sensitive feet!

2. Climb it: To this below sea level, flat terrain Louisiana girl, the hills of Tennessee are no joke! Do yourself a favor and do some cardio training before you visit especially if you have kids that want to ride the slides again and again and again……

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3. Rent it: By far, the best money we spent on this entire vacation was on the River Retreat at Splash Country. Nestled against the lazy river, our private retreat featured patio table and 6 chairs, 4 lounge chairs, flat screen TV (with the Disney Channel), two ceiling fans, a locker and wait for it……ROOM SERVICE. That’s right, no standing in long lines for lunch and fighting for a covered table. We ordered food from our retreat phone, designated a time for delivery, and went on our way to enjoy the park. When we returned, our food had been delivered for no extra charge and no extra hassle. As a Mom, this little hideaway in the middle of a bustling theme park made a World of difference in the mood of the kids and stress level of the parents. Worth EVERY penny!!

Bonus Tip: TimeSaver passes are available for $20 per person. This wristband allows you to schedule times to experience popular slides without waiting in line. For us, the lines were not unbearably long when we arrived and a team member told us bands could be purchased at any point in the day. So we decided to wait it out and see if we needed to take the leap. Crowds did not pick up so we opted against the bands which saved us $80!

4. Buy it: We opted to buy the refillable drink mugs the day before when we went to the Dollywood theme park. In the heat, it is important to stay hydrated and the mugs cost us $35 for 4 mugs. With the mug, refills are only $0.99 and we were excited to learn that we could use the Dollywood mugs in Splash Country, too.

5. Conquer it: With all the things you need to pack, I can recommend one thing to leave at home…fear. Let it go and experience new things! What an incredible feeling it was to see my girls conquer their fears of the unknown and truly enjoy life. Splash Country provides quality time (read: no electronic devices) together with my whole family.  The staff was incredibly friendly, the facilities were clean, the food was yummy and a fun time was had by all!

Have you been to Splash Country?

New Orleans Audubon Zoo’s New Gator Run Lazy River: SNEAK PEEK!

For more NOLA inside scoop, follow me on Facebook and Instagram, too!

It’s time to plan your Summer vacation?  Do you know where you will be taking the kids this year? While New Orleans is not traditionally known as a kid friendly destination, I beg you to reconsider.  Between the Aquarium, Insectarium, Children’s Museum, kid centric walking tours, beignets and City Park’s Carousel Gardens, there is no shortage of entertainment for your little ones.  And now, the Audubon Zoo is making a New Orleans vacation even “cooler.”

The Cool Zoo already offers jumping water spouts, a huge alligator water slide, a spider monkey soaker, and water-spitting snakes and will expand in 2015 by an acre and a half with the Gator Run lazy river, sand beach and additional refreshment stand with more seating.  The Gator Run addition is slated to open in April of 2015 to cool off zoo guests in the crazy New Orleans heat.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to get a sneak peek of the addition right after water was added to the park.  Who’s ready to dive in?

 

UPDATED: 

The Cool Zoo Admission will be $10 for Members and $12 for Non-Members.  It WILL include the Gator Run lazy river.

Coming to iRetreat? Join STASH Hotel Rewards!

Do you love to travel? Do you love a good deal? Then the STASH Hotel Rewards program is for you!  Stash is a hotel rewards program which allows you to earn stays at independent, unique hotels across the U.S. We are excited to announce that Stash has partnered with iRetreat 2015 which will be held in New Orleans on June 28-30 (use code IRETREATEARLYBIRD for 20% off your conference pass) and our host hotels, Hotel Mazarin and Dauphine Orleans.

When I travel with my family, I love to take advantage of the boutique hotels which embody the unique charm of each City we visit…something that big box hotels are missing.  From free breakfast buffets with local flare to some of the most luxurious pools and spas, hotels included in the Stash program have it ALL.  And just by staying at these hotels, you quickly earn points towards future stays.  Stash away your points to get FREE nights and make that dream vacation much more affordable! Ready to get started?

JOIN STASH–IT’S FREE!

SPECIAL OFFER

Sign up for STASH using this special membership sign up to qualify and immediately earn a bonus of 500 points just for joining! And if you are a blogger, write a blog post before February 15, 2015 featuring the STASH program and earn an additional 2500 points (report your post here to qualify for this bonus). Plus, one lucky blogger who writes a verified blog post post by 2/15 will receive a special award of 25,000 points!

Going to iRetreat Blog Conference?

iRetreat Attendees: Points may be redeemed at Hotel Mazarin or Dauphine Orleans Hotel during iRetreat. When you stay at Hotel Mazarin or the Dauphine Orleans Hotel during the conference you will earn on average another 800 points per night of your stay. Those who stay at least four nights will be awarded another bonus of an extra 2500 points from the New Orleans Hotel Collection.

Now that you have seen the benefits of Stash, join for FREE now!

Safe travels!

Get In The Holiday Spirit at the New Orleans City Park #CelebrationInTheOaks

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy as part of the Holiday of Wonder campaign sponsored by Wonder and Company and Celebration in the Oaks at New Orleans City Park. All opinions remain 100% mine.

Sometimes living in Southeast Louisiana can make it very difficult to get into the holiday spirit.  Wearing flip flops to Thanksgiving dinner, sweating while searching for the perfect tree and turning on the air conditioning while wrapping presents does not make me want to belt out my favorite Christmas carol.  But this is the reality that all New Orleanians have to face and as a Mom, I struggle to get my family ready for the fa-la-la-la-holidays.

For many years, my own parents took my brother and I to the New Orleans City Park to experience Celebration in the Oaks which was the signal of the arrival of the Season.  And now, I love carrying on the tradition with my own little family. More than 165,000 visitors flock to the magical light displays covering 25 acres of the historic City Park including the Botanical Garden, Storyland, and Carousel Gardens.

While I have visited Celebration in the Oaks many times in the past, every time I return I see something new.  The creative team at City Park works hard to add fresh ideas and breathtaking displays to delight even the seasoned guest.  New for 2014 is the expanded Sea-Labration exhibit and an animated light display set to music called “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” which is truly spectacular.  Looking down at my two daughters, they were dancing and singing along with the holiday tunes…in shorts…..in 75 degree weather.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

But, my entire family stopped in their tracks and gasped when we saw the enormous Dripping Snow Tree.  While we knew it was actual snow, the tree was covered in white lights and appeared to be dripping snowflakes on the ground below.  And can you believe that since the park uses energy efficient LED lights, the entire illuminated tree uses only as much energy as a simple toaster?

The dripping snow tree at #celebrationintheoaks #cito2014 uses the same amount of energy as a toaster!!

A video posted by Bridgette Duplantis (@experimentalmommyblog) on


One of my favorite activities in City Park when I was a kid was riding the train around the 2 mile track.  But when the route is decorated in lights, the ride is something to behold. I highly recommend you visit Celebration in the Oaks Monday -Thursday (as crowds are lighter on weekdays) and head straight for the train when you arrive to avoid long lines.  Even better?  Buy your tickets online at CelebrationInTheOaks.com which will make accessing the fun much quicker!

So, for people across the South who are melting in their fuzzy winter socks and scarves you insist on wearing, brighten up your holiday spirit by taking the trip to Celebration in The Oaks at the New Orleans City Park.  The experience is open from now through January 3, 2014 (closed on 12/1-12/4; 12/24 and 12/31).  Tickets are only $8 per person (children under 3 and Friends of City Park are free).  The train ride is well worth the additional $4 per person and you can also purchase tickets for the amusement park rides for $3/ride or $17/unlimited rides.

Need more info?  Follow New Orleans City Park on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Is Carnival’s Seuss at Sea Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast Worth It?

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines. While travel accommodations were complimentary, all opinions remain 100% mine.

You saved up all year to take an epic family vacation with Carnival Cruise Lines. Suitcases packed with your cruise travel essentials, you board the ship ready for some much deserved rest and relaxation.  If your family is like mine, you head straight for the food and quickly become mesmerized by the seemingly endless options all included in your price of admission.

But on your first full day at sea, your family wants to take part in the Seuss at Sea Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast…for an additional charge. What?! Why spend more money when you have already paid for the buffet?  Below, you will find my reasons why the $5 per person is completely and totally worth it.

1.  Let Kids Be Kids: We asked a lot of our kids on this trip. While we had tons of fun, we asked them to wait in lines with patience, sit at fancy dinners quietly, and walk long distances without whining. But THIS breakfast was ALL about THEM and they could let it all out!

2. Dine in Whoville: Carnival went all out with the themed decor at this breakfast. The entire dining hall was transformed into a colorful and magical world complete with a beautiful ice sculpture.  My girls could not wait to sit down at our polka dot table!

3. Fun Food: There are no boring omeletes, plain pancakes or bland bowls of oatmeal at this event.  My kids got to choose from menu items such as Horton’s Cereal Crusted French Toast, Truffula Tree Pancakes and of course, the always popular Green Eggs & Ham.

4.  Character Dining: Similar to other character breakfasts at other theme parks (which are WAY more expensive), the whimsical Dr. Seuss characters roam the dining hall and visit with every table. You are allowed to take pictures with your own camera so you do not have to pay extra for professional pictures.

5. Fancy Footwork: The wait staff on Carnival is over the top friendly and really go above and beyond to make your trip memorable.  This breakfast is no exception! The Staff dresses up in costume and performs a fun routine for guests which my kids loved.

The Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast on the Carnival Dream was more than a meal, it was an experience and in my opinion well worth the price.  This was the perfect was to start off our Sea Day which was followed by a kid-centric agenda of water slides, comedy hour and mini golf.  No wonder Carnival hosts more than 700,000 kids aboard it’s fleet each year!

Celebrate a Birthday with Carnival Cruise Lines

On July 16th, it happened.  Even though I attempted to flee the Country in hopes this day would not come, I was unsuccessful.  Forty found me.  FORTY.  What?  Wasn’t I just turning 21 like a year ago?  Despite my hesitation about this milestone, it turned out to be the best birthday ever (except for my 9th birthday when I had a party at McDonald’s and got a purple boombox from my Grandma…that was pretty rad).

My hubby (in cahoots with Carnival Cruise Lines) was a Rockstar and deserves all the props for making me feel like a Queen on my special day.  Here are some ways you can help a loved one celebrate their birthday while aboard the Carnival Dream.

1.  Decorate the Cabin: Cleverly hide some decorations from a local party supply store and deck out your stateroom with balloons, streamers, banners and signs.  Some Carnival ships offer this service for a fee if you cannot seem to hide the decor in your carry on bag.

2.  Breakfast in Bed: Order room service the night before so you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast in bed instead fighting the crowds at the breakfast buffet.

3.  Spa Appointment: The Carnival Dream has a lovely “Cloud 9” spa which offers services for women, men and children, too.  My hubby surprised me with a morning massage and facial. It was a great way to start the day!

4.  Bucket List Excursion: Following my spa treatment, we headed off to swim with the Stingrays in Grand Cayman.  It was just the right touch of adventure and relaxation to make for a memorable birthday.

5.  Signature Dining at the On-board Steakhouse: While the regular dining options are fantastic, the steakhouse is a whole other level of exquisite.  Make a reservation and let them know you have a birthday being celebrated at your table.

6.  What’s a birthday without cake? Special decorated cakes can be ordered at the Steakhouse and I can tell you that it was delicious! A whole cake was delivered to my table complete with candles and of course the obligatory birthday song.

7.  Roses Are Red. And yellow, white and pink, too!  A dozen multicolored roses can be purchased on board (the Carnival Dream offers this at the Cherry On Top shop) and delivered to your stateroom.

8.  Send a Gift: Not on board with your loved one? You can still arrange to have a gift sent the their stateroom to let  them know you are thinking of them on their special day.  One of my best friends sent me a Carnival Sweatshirt which was much needed at the chilly theater on board.

9. Make a Memory: Professional photographers are on hand several nights on all Carnival ships.  I absolutely loved having a professional shot taken of my precious family. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Turns out, 40 is not so bad after all.