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Give Kids the World

I have been pitiful in telling you about our trip to Orlando with Family Forward and Universal Studios. One measly post telling you about the gorgeous Loews Portofino Bay. But I wanted to make sure too much time didn’t pass before I shared with you one of the most meaninful parts of our family trip.

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Before Family Forward, I had never heard of Give Kids The World. But they were hosting a “blogger bash” and pool party and when I read about their purpose I knew we had to go. Give Kids The World is a 70-acre resort complete with over 144 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions, whimsical venues, and fun specifically designed for children with special needs. They partner with wish-granting organizations to help fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses who want to see the many theme parks that central Florida has to offer. Their mission is to never turn a child away.

As we toured the resort, I loved how everything was made with kids in mind. There were train rides, princess chairs, a carousel and a huge pool and splash pad. My favorite part? An ice cream parlor where kids are allowed to choose ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Give Kids the World, the staff is trained to never say no to a child’s wish. It is created to be a place where families can forget about doctors and diagnosis and focus completely on the fun.

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One of the most impactful parts of our tour was going in the Star Tower and seeing the stars on the ceiling that represents every child that stays at Give Kids The World. This is just a sliver of the ceiling because they have served over 130,000 kids. And they said that each kid knows exactly where their personal star is.

My pictures all stunk but this video of their “Extreme Village Makeover” gives you a really good picture of their facilities. It is truly amazing.

How can you help Give Kids The World? Well obviously you can donate money. They are EXTREMELY fiscally responsible with 91.7 cents on every dollar going directly to help children enjoy their vacations. You can also volunteer at their central Florida location. They rely heavily on volunteers. You can even plan your Orlando vacation around volunteering with Universal’s Vacation Like You Mean It package. I always feel like Orlando vacations are so over the top with my kids spoiled to death so I love combining our trip with a way to give back. Mostly I just think it is important to be aware such an amazing place exists.

Our final pool party was a celebration with families that were staying at the resort. As I looked around the pool and splashpad you truly couldn’t tell who was a blogger and who was a mom of a child with a terminal illness. We were all just families who wanted to enjoy our time together. That really stuck with me. I am so thankful a place like Give Kids The World exists and so thankful to Family Forward for putting it on my radar.

I Like Giving

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I cannot remember a time in my life when my parents didn’t instill us with the message that “to whom much is given, much is expected”. Generosity was very much central to my family when I was growing up. And Ryan and I have tried very hard to make it central to our family as well.

Have you seen any of the viral I Like Giving videos? I have shared a few of them here on the blog and on Facebook. Their mission is simple. To encourage generosity. Simply that. And not necessarily big, grand sweeping gestures of generosity. But simply encouraging all of us to live our lives more generously. So very simple. But imagine if it really caught on. It would radically change the world.

I have known Brad and Laura the founders of I Like Giving for several years. And I was so excited when I found out Brad was writing a book filled with stories of generosity. I knew it would be something worth reading and sharing with others. They asked me if I would share it with my readers and I could not wait!

I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life is inspiring and helpful in giving practical suggestions on easy ways to be generous and how to raise generous kids. Brad tells personal stories and stories shared by others about how to not just be generous with your money but be generous with your life.

Want to see how a small act of generosity can have a huge effect on someone’s life? Check out I Like Giving’s latest video, I Like College.

Want to be inspired some more? I have 5 copies of I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life for you. To enter simply leave a comment letting me know a simple way you like to be generous.

Why I Got My Eleven Year Old A Smartphone

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Up until last week if there would have been a parade for people against middle schoolers having cell phones I would have been the grand marshall. I would have ridden in front (in a convertible or course) waving the banner HIGH. I was passionate about the subject and I let people know it!

But as Lily entered middle school Ryan and I really started to feel as though she needed a phone. We wanted to be able to leave her with friends for short periods of time and we don’t have a home phone. We had a pre-paid phone for home but it was constantly getting lost and didn’t hold much of a charge. And she was beginning to have more after-school activities where I wanted to be able to get a hold of her and couldn’t.

So off to Best Buy we went to get her the most basic of “feature phones.” We wanted something more than a flip phone since texting was an important feature. But beyond that, we wanted simple. And no “smart” with our phone.

But guess what? Those phones hardly exist anymore. When we got there and saw our choices they consisted of a huge variety of smart phones, one flip one and one other phone with a slideout keyboard and the old school resistive touch screen that basically never responds to touch. It got a 3 star review online.

Ryan and I literally sat in Best Buy for nearly an hour (while our two youngest kids went crazy with tablets) and debated what to do. This was going to be her eleventh birthday present so a flip phone seemed like the lamest gift ever. So if we wanted to avoid smartphones we were left with this really crappy other phone that, when we added her on our plan with a contract, ended up costing $50 more than a really good smartphone. But we were completely prepared to do it because we wanted to stand by our beliefs that middle schoolers should not have smartphones.

Well. Lily is now that proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy 4. We did not come to this decision lightly and it came with quite a few adaptations. Here is what we did:

  1. Turned Off Mobile Data: My biggest concern with a smartphone is that she would have access to the internet 24/7. Not only was I concerned about what she might see, but I didn’t want the phone becoming an extension of her arm. We tried to take her off our data plan but apparently phone companies like you paying for their data plans and Verizon wouldn’t shut it off. So instead we manually turned it off. She can browse under wireless in our home but we have filters and this was not different from before when she had access to tablets and her iTouch.
  2. Installed Family Base: When I called Verizon to ask them to shut off mobile they instead recommended this feature. It does cost like $5 a month but it is worth it because I can see all of what Lily does on her phone. I get weekly emails detailing who she is calling and texting (and who is calling and texting her). I can also see if she uses any mobile data which she knows she is not allowed to do. I can also see all this activity through an app on my phone. Family Base can also be used to block numbers from texting or calling if that every becomes necessary and limit the amount of money your kids can spend on apps (which would be zero in our case).
  3. Limited her hours of use: Again, we use Family Base for this. Her phone basically shuts down from 9pm-7am and doesn’t allow her to make or receive texts and calls. Originally we were just going to make her “turn in her phone” every night but we learned from trying this with other technology that we stink and consistency with this so the app makes it idiot proof for us.
  4. Disabled You Tube: We simply shut off the app under the settings
  5. Downloaded a safe browser: I liked the functionality of Mobicip. It restricts websites based on age. It also allows you to restrict your kids from downloading apps without a password. There is a paid version that does a bunch of other stuff but for right now we are just using the free features.
  6. Cell Phone Contract: When we gave her the phone we had a long talk about how this was a big responsibility and how we didn’t take it lightly. I had written up a cell phone contract and we went over it and she signed it. Honestly I think she was so excited about having a phone she would have signed anything. But so far she has shown a lot of maturity regarding her phone and I am proud of how well she is sticking to our rules. You are free to download our Cell Phone Contract and use it if you like.

Ryan and I really wanted to be upfront about our rules and what we expected from the beginning. I didn’t want to set her up for failure or try to “catch her” breaking rules. As she gets older we will loosen things up and she will be able to use the phone much more like a smart phone is intended. It is also excellent leverage when we need to punish her for attitude issues or behaviors completely unrelated to the phone. As the cell phone contract states right at the top, we consider this our phone that she is allowed to use. When she can pay for her own phone we can talk about different rules.

If there are any other ways / apps to protects kids online I would love for you to share them in the comments. I know this is a touchy subject, and one about which I still have strong opinions. But we made a decision that we are pretty happy with and hope is a good one for our family.

Protecting Yourself From a Security Breach With LifeLock

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Last week I told you about a way I was making shopping with credit cards easier and safer. But how about even safer? It seems like every day we read about a new security breach from Target to Home Depot to Jimmy Johns. Not to mention they all seem to happen at the stores I shop at the most!

Identity theft scares the heck out of me ever since I saw “The Net” back in the early 90s. But I must admit I mostly feel completely helpless to do much about it. But here are five things you can do when you here of a security breach at a store you have recently frequented:

  1. Monitor your transactions: Check your bank records and look for any purchases you know you didn’t make. Make sure this is a joint effort between you and anyone else who is using the same accounts (spouses, children, etc.)
  2. Report suspicious transactions immediately: No matter the size, contact your bank or credit card immediately if you notice a supicious charge.
  3. Order a new debit card: If you believe your debit card number was compromised, don’t wait for fraudulent charges to appear on your statement. Because it is linked to your bank account, you run the risk of a criminal depleteing your whole bank account. Request a new card from your bank immediately. Also, keep in mind that credit cards offer more protection and less risk because funds are not directly withdrawn from your bank account.
  4. Follow the story: Watch for communication from the retailer involved in the security. Often times they provide additional information specific to their incident.
  5. Consider using an identity protection service: LifeLock provides identity protection products and services you can count on. In fact, with LifeLock Advantage™ and LifeLock Ultimate Plus™, they can help you detect fraudulent activity with alerts for cash withdrawals, balance transfers and large purchases within our extensive network.

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LifeLock is the leading provider of proactive identity theft protection services. They have been around since 2005 and have over 3 million members. They offer 3 layers of protection: Detect, Alert, Restore. If a threat is detected you are notified by text, phone, or email and can quickly respond if the activity was yours or not.

LifeLock offers 3 levels of service: LifeLock Standard, Life Lock Advantage, and the new LifeLock Ultimate Plus. There is something for everyone’s individual needs. Just for my readers, if you enter the promo code BREACHWATCHyou will receive 10% off the protection plan of your choice.

Put your mind at ease and check out LifeLock today!

 This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of LifeLock. I have been compensated for this post but all words and opinions are 100% mine.

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