Why you should buy a Toll Transponder in Florida, Colorado, California, etc.

If you are a frequent traveler like I am and renting cars everywhere you go, you are probably heading to places that have toll roads, and if your extended family lives in a state that has tolls galore, be sure to look into toll transponders and buy one.  California has a monthly fee – I used to travel there a lot and got one, but the $2.00 a month minimum charge is a turn off, if you are traveling infrequently.

Regarding transponders, I can speak for Colorado, California, and Florida.   If you go more than once a year to a place that has toll roads, and there are no fees (Colorado and Florida have no minimums or fees), it’s wise to get a transponder or look into the rules for the toll roads where you go.  Here is what I discovered:

For the past few years we travel to and from central Florida a lot and each time e went, the rental care companies got super rich off of us-  even if we used the toll roads for 2 out of our 5 day rental, we got charged $3.95 per day no matter what IF we used even one toll road – this is maxed at like $20.00 generally but that adds up.  Plus you pay all your tolls too!  So, at $20 per trip (convenience charge), it is better to just buy your own transponder at Walgreens, Turnpike Service Centers, or Publix stores.  You reload them, add your rental vehicles as you rent them, and you can also share the transponder among family members and friends.  So, it can go in any vehicle in the state.  In Florida and Colorado, there are no monthly minimums or service charges, making the transponder a must have!   And, in Colorado, your toll rates are discounted if you have the E-470 pass, so it is certainly worth having, just get the one that you can move from vehicle to vehicle, unless you live there, of course.

Happy traveling!

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My break up with the Mirena IUD one year ago- must read

Required disclaimer: I may wear scrubs each day but I am not a medical doctor, and this is my personal experience and opinion. Every one of us is created different and your body may react differently, but this is my story….

My experience with the Mirena IUD didn’t start off bad, nor go poorly, but I always felt more bloated and like I just couldn’t lose the weight despite working out, eating right and staying healthy.  Since we were not sure whether our family was complete yet, neither my husband nor I considered more permanent options and since I heard people used the Mirena for a long time, I assumed it was safe.   But last year, we changed all that.

After about 5 years of having it, I started experiencing vertigo and other symptoms and tests ruled out tumors or other causes so I wasn’t sure what was causing them. Last year, around Halloween, I was experiencing these symptoms again and was the heaviest I had been since having the kids or getting married.   Despite a solid work out routine, I felt unhealthy and had a huge gut. At a mere 61 inches tall, 133 lbs. is a lot to carry around and a very unhealthy BMI.  I had tried giving up soda and alcohol and didn’t shred a pound. By January of 2015 I had already replaced the Mirena once, so last year, I went in and had it removed and completely changed my diet at the same time. I reduced sodium and sugar from my diet and eliminated all microwave meals which are super high in sodium. I was told by the doctor to give it one year to see if the Mirena was the culprit for my weight and symptoms.

It’s now a year later and for the past 3 months I have reintroduced Chinese food (without MSG), normal salted foods, and maintained a healthy diet and the weight is not back.  But I remain true to my habits- more fruits and vegetables, smoothies, protein, and replacing soy sauce and canned foods with healthier alternatives or home-made options.  My gut that was pretty prominent is gone and I feel better.  Once 132-133 last year at this time, I am now 115-116.  I was wearing size 10 shirts and large size t-shirts but now am back to small shirts and size 4 pants. I was wearing size 8 pants at this time last year.  I even squeezed into size 2 earlier this year and was so excited- I have never worn size 2!   I still don’t drink soda but I drink wine and beer in moderation and eat a balanced diet and I haven’t felt period pain and experienced spasms and cramping like I did on the Mirena.

Think about it – something that stops your periods completely over time just isn’t natural and naturally your body responds by retaining water and fluids, or other things.  For me that fluid retention was very harmful and resulted in unhealthy conditions.  Again, will you lose the weight and the gut I did if you break up with our IUD?  I am not sure, but I do know that the Mirena IUD was simply not right for me, and now that I am hormone-free, I feel much better and more energetic.  I have not done anything with my eating habits to lose weight, nor diet, and I am still keeping the weight off.   There are other life stressors for me now, but going natural without hormones or any artificial things inside my body has been the smartest decision I made.   I have a friend who tried Essure (two of them) and it didn’t go well either.  Some others swear by it.  For me, I prefer nothing inside me that is unnatural or unhealthy and do not want any more surgeries or artificial options.  If you are lucky to have a husband who can shoulder the permanent birth control option, I urge you to do research, consult your doctor, and make informed choices. 
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Wilderness Aware Rafting – Amazing family fun!

Rafting 2016 July 16We went rafting as a family for the first time.  The last time my husband and I went rafting was when we were still engaged to be married, so this was truly a treat.  Wilderness Aware (WA) is a great company, located in 20160716_123242Buena Vista, Colorado., and they do more than just white water rafting.  WA offers full-day and half-day rafting trips, a dinner float (this one is so cool), multi-day trips, including camping or B&B stays with rafting included.  You can also book zipline tours, horseback riding, and bike trips through WA.  Their website is great, easy to use, and offer discounts when you book on-line.

SAM_0647WA facilities are great!  The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and extremely helpful.  Once you arrive on-site, you can change there, buy water, and apply sunscreen (they provide this).  If you do a full day rafting trip, breakfast is provided on-site too!  You meet your guide and get your gear, and then receive a safety demonstration.  We had Isaiah as our guide and he really hit it off with our kiddos.  SAM_0654He even let my eldest row with him.  She loved it!

It was their first time, and the half day lower browns canyon (Class I and II rapids) really made them feel comfortable.  They are actually ready for Class III and IV now.  But mom and dad may not be, just yet.   The dinner float was assembling when we returned to Buena Vista, and it looks so interesting – You float down, and eat at a grill, and then return back. The views SAM_0660are breathtaking on the raft, and Colorado is so scenic, so I can imagine how much more amazing it would be to have a nice dinner and a glass wine along the Arkansas river while admiring the view.  We had fun rafting as a family, and I know we will return next summer, if not sooner, to take in some more of the fun.  We want to try zip lining as well, and Wilderness Aware is a great company to book trips through.   DCIM101GOPROThey are organized, and made us all feel special. They sent us information before the trip and kept us well-informed on construction in the area, best route to take, and what to leave behind in the car. All in all, our first rafting trip as a family was a huge success, and we are looking forward to a return trip very soon – thanks Wilderness Aware for an amazing whitewater rafting trip.

Disclaimer: I was compensated with a free family half-day Lower Browns Canyon raft trip in exchange for promotion and this post.  The review is honest, and the opinions expressed here in are my own.  

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AT&T Amber Alert Device — Perfect for Kids

ATT AMBER ALERT GPSWe have had AT&T for years, and I love their service and customer service is amazing!   We tried out a few different devices with AT&T when we needed to communicate with our kids, but aren’t quite ready to give either of the kids cell phones yet.   They are only ages 7 and 9 as of this summer, so when we first started trying AT&T devices last year, they were only 5 and 7.  The Filip watch was nice, and fashionable, but I felt like the AT&T Amber Alert GPS device held a battery charge longer, and didn’t require wearing the watch. This made it less likely to get lost or stolen.  Amber Alert GPS is a great device for both kids and adults who may need a little extra assistance.  For us, it worked perfectly, even on the ski slopes as they took ski lessons!

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Here’s how the device works:   We had our older daughter hold on to it.  It’s a small transponder with two-way talk/alert.   You can tell when there is signal as a blue light flashes.  For ease of carrying, we took a lanyard and attached it to the transponder so it fit around her neck, or she could put it in her coat pockets while skiing. When she wants to communicate with us,  she pushes and holds down the large button (Alert button), and it rings to the assigned phone number.  There is an app/website where you can configure all of this.  So, as soon as she holds down the button for a few seconds, it calls the cell phone programmed for two-way communications.  Only one number can call into the device, and only one number is called out from the device.   I programmed my phone to have it say my daughter’s name and GPS Alert, so I could immediately see that and answer.  Then, the device acts like a speaker phone for her.  We can have a normal conversation.  Conversely, if I wanted to reach her, I’d call the phone number assigned to this GPS Device and she’d push the same button to answer and talk.   The coolest part of this device is that I can see where she is at any given time as long as it is in her possession.  I could track her movements on El Dora Ski Mountain (phone signal there is bad), but I could still track her using this device, which was awesome!  When we left her for a sleepover, I knew I could call her and say good nite, or she could call me anytime if she needed anything, but it’s not like she’d disturb others with a smart phone, plus I think 9 is still too young for a smart phone.  The only place we don’t send it is school because there are rules in school about technology.  But, if you want to use the GPS feature, you can slip it into their backpacks.  I knew when my husband was safely making it down the mountain and canyon when he took the kids skiing in his rear-wheel drive car.   The device, software, and apps for it are easy to install and use, and log in and out of.  We even tried this device for my father-in-law, but I think the kids found it more user-friendly than he did.

I highly recommend the Amber Alert GPS device for younger kids, and even though the Filip watch looks more stylish, I found the Amber Alert Device held a charge better and longer, and the voice quality and ease of use were better.   The charge is only $10 a month on your existing wireless account, and the device costs $99 to buy from AT&T (but they are out of stock right now),  so you can also get it on amazon as well through this link:

*Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this particular post, but I did win the Amber Alert GPS device at an AT&T-sponsored event a couple of years back.  I have other posts for AT&T And have previously posted about their products and services.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

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For my mom – Mother’s Day 2016

Note: This essay is published at Mile High Mamas for their mother’s day essay contest, but I have permission to share it here too. 

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I love this quote from the Disney© Movie, Odd Life of Timothy Green, “There are 2 people in the world who want you more than anything. They will do their best, they will make some mistakes, and you only get them for a short time, but they will love you more than you can ever imagine….”

I only realized how much my mom sacrificed for us after I became a mom almost 9 years ago. She was 25, and married off to a man she hardly knew (arranged marriages back in the day).  Then, she was immediately setting sail (okay, she flew) to a country almost 10,000 miles away from her home for a new life.  She left behind all she knew, the languages she spoke and the people she loved.  Over the last four decades, she also moved all over the country for dad’s career, and stayed at home for us.  She shuttled us to all our activities and school events.  When we were sick, she stayed up all night worrying and caring for us.  Her love didn’t end when we went off to college.  She was always thinking of us.  Mom sacrificed so much for us.  She’s my hero, not just this Mother’s Day but every day.

This mother’s day is especially special for us.  Mom recently started a journey that will be both difficult and have its triumphs too.  Mom is private about her life so I won’t share more but we know she will do great! She is the strongest person I know because of all she did for us and all she sacrificed.  Only a strong person can do that! My mom is unique and special, and loved by all who meet her.  While I may not have mirrored everything she did, I am better off because of the choices she made for us.  This mother’s day, I want her to know that she is my hero.  Because of her sacrifices, I am here, living in a country with amazing opportunities.  I am all that I am because of what she taught me and how she cared for me.  I have her personality, her smile, and people often mistake me for her when I call them.  There is a saying that “we live on through our children.”  Well, if this is true, mom, I have lived and breathed you for 43 years, and will keep doing so as long as God allows.

Thanks for being one of two people who wanted me more than anything and doing your very best.  Your children and grandchildren are proof that you do more than your best.  Thanks for making mistakes along the way.  We made better choices as a result of them.  God has given you to me for 43 years and I pray he loans you to us for much longer.  After all, he still wants you to teach your grandchildren a few things we didn’t want to learn.   Finally, thanks for loving me more than anyone can ever imagine.  Now that I am a mom, I actually don’t have to imagine.  I only hope I can be half the hero for my children that you are for us.

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