Friday, March 23, 2012

Miracle Gro Expand n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix

This post brought to you by Scotts®. All opinions are 100% mine.
We have found it virtually impossible to make a garden successful in Florida. The dirt is just awful, and we've resorted to making table-top gardens, but have been unsuccessful there, as well.
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I've recently been introduced to a new product from Miracle Gro, called the Expand ‘n Gro™ concentrated planting mix. Expand ‘n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix is different from basic potting and garden soils. Because it’s a unique blend of Miracle‐Gro plant food and coconut coir fiber, a compact, lightweight, easy‐to‐carry and easy‐to‐store bag of Expand ‘n Gro can do everything a big, heavy bag of soil can do, only better.

This concentrated planting mix expands up to 3 times when mixed with water, feeds plants for up to 6 months, makes native soil more workable and retains up to 50% more moisture than basic potting soil.

Coir is a lightweight, all‐natural material derived from coconut husk. Coir consists of 2 components: fiber (both long and short) and pith. Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, and Mexico are the top producing countries of coir. Harvesting coconuts begins with de‐husking. The copra (flesh) and milk of the coconuts are used as food, but the husk itself is also useful. First, long fibers are removed. These will be used in the manufacture of ropes, doormats, mattresses, automobile car seats, and garden pots. The remaining short fibers and the pith, which makes up about 70% of the weight of the husk, are by‐products of the fiber industry. Previously, these materials were disposed of, but now they are compressed and sold around the world as soil amendments.

Most native soil, whether sandy, hard clay, or somewhere in between, is not ideal for plants. Improving and then maintaining the condition of native soil can be a daunting task, and many soil amendments last only one year. Bags of traditional garden soil and amendments are messy, heavy, and difficult to transport and store. Lightweight, concentrated Expand ‘n Gro is easy to use, and helps ensure plants get the right amount of moisture and air they need to thrive. The honeycomb shaped, sponge‐like cell structure of compressed coir pith re‐expands when water is added. This permanent re‐expansion of coir offers several benefits for plant growth, including improved moisture control and bulk density. And because coir contains a great deal of lignin, a slowly decomposing organic polymer, Expand ‘n Gro continues to benefit native soil for multiple years after it is first added.

In pots or in‐ground, the absorbent coir fibers help ensure that water is used efficiently. Expand ‘n Gro retains up to 50% more moisture than basic potting soils and then releases water as plants need it, to help prevent over or under watering. Since moisture and nutrients must be able to reach plant roots, proper air space and circulation in soil is critical for plant health. Tilling this planting mix into native soil can reduce the soil’s bulk density – making it up to 40% lighter, and creating up to 90% more air space. The result is more workable native soil with better water holding ability, moisture distribution, and drainage, all of which ultimately creates an improved rooting environment for plants.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DreamBox Learning- Differentiated Math Curriculum

If you've been reading 4BabyAndMom for any amount of time, you probably know how crazy we are about education. Marissa is going to school to be a teacher, and Lauren went to school for Early Childhood Education.

As a mom of a gifted, Autistic son, I have found it virtually impossible to find any online games, websites, or even an established curriculum that keeps him entertained and engaged, while staying competitive and encouraging. We've used some websites that included some educational aspects in them, but not until recently have we found a really fun program that truly contains a rigorous math curriculum that builds conceptual understanding and fluency for every grade level.

DreamBox Learning put together a platform where your child can play kindergarten math games online, all the way through the 5th grade! You don't have to go through the public school or be a homeschooler, you can simply use this program as a tutoring/supplemental tool for your child on your own time- or on the go- so that he or she will be more successful in math.

What I love most about the DreamBox Learning Math program is that there is a free trial, and then the program is available on a month-by-month rate, or by a discounted rate (6 month membership), starting at only $12.95.

The kindergarten curriculum teaches counting (from 1-100), including lessons where kids can build their own hundreds chart; it even teaches calculating doubles and near doubles (early addition skills). This is a screen shot from one of the counting lessons:

By visiting the DreamBox website, you can click on each grade level individually to see what types of lessons your child will be learning. The program allows you to track the growth your child (or up to 4 children) are making as they progress. They make this easy, so you don't have to stress about the methods or your own ability to teach your child more difficult math. DreamBox has a Parents Tips area which gives some great advice on how to incorporate math into your daily life, from Kindergarten through third grade, but when you subscribe to DreamBox, you’ll get regular academic progress emails that include tips for family activities that reinforce the specific lessons your child is learning.

If you're looking for an engaging, proven math curriculum for your child to learn at home, I recommend checking into the DreamBox Learning Math Program. For more information on why early math skills are beneficial, visit


Battles at Home- Military Marriages Need You + Giveaway!

It sounds like a headline right out of a newspaper- TROOPS RETURNING FROM IRAQ FACE NEW BATTLE AT HOME. It's sad, but very true- the Military divorce rate has risen 42 % during one of the country's longest wars.

 “When troops return home, civilians think ‘OK, that’s it. It’s over.’ But that’s not true. The stress on our marriage of 13 deployments since 9/11 has been immeasurable.” – Valerie Gaff, former Air Force Senior Airman, wife of Air Force Master Sergeant. The divorce rate among military couples has increased 42 percent since the Afghanistan-Iraq wars began in 2001.

This staggering statistic comes as a result of thousands of couples who have endured multiple deployments resulting in years of separation. What’s worse, plans to pursue divorce or separation have shown to increase with each subsequent month a service member is deployed.

When Air Force Master Sergeant Todd Gaff received orders to deploy to Afghanistan in 2001, he and his wife, Valerie, never imagined it was only the first of 13 tours of duty in the region. With each return home, a new challenge is presented. “We had to renegotiate our roles, routines and relationship,” says Valerie. “While Todd was away, I was totally in charge and fully responsible for our children and household. When he returned, it was hard to let go of some of those roles. It was also scary getting reacquainted. By necessity, we both changed each time we were apart.”

According to FamilyLife, a nonprofit leader in marriage conferences since 1976, the first 90 days post-deployment are the most critical for military marriages. “That window is the proven time frame during which people develop habits and will set the tone for the future of the marriage. It’s critical for military couples to establish healthy habits quickly as they struggle to reconnect and restructure their families,” says FamilyLife founder and president Dennis Rainey. To help the transition to home and family, FamilyLife wants to provide military couples with The Art of Marriage, it’s proven DVD program for strengthening marriages and preventing divorce through simple, yet effective, insights.

“We would like to help spark a nationwide movement to ‘give back’ to those who have given so much to our country,” says Rainey. Because FamilyLife wants to help military couples to view The Art of Marriage, they are asking the public to consider three donation opportunities:

  • TEXT $10. Make a $10 donation right now by simply texting OPS to 80888 to help a military couple to attend The Art of Marriage. 
  • DONATE. For a donation other than $10 donate online, go to
  • HOST AN EVENT. Help a military couple in your community or church by hosting an event yourself! Text HOST to 85005

The importance of The Art of Marriage and the movement to help married military couples has caught the attention of Grammy-nominated, American Music Award and multiple GMA Dove Award winners MercyMe. “Trying to keep military families together is something I take very seriously. [This] gives us all an opportunity to offer these couples a fighting chance” -Bart Millard, Lead singer MercyMe.

Because Valerie Gaff has experienced the challenges of an 18-year military marriage, she understands the storms she and her husband have faced and encourages people to make a donation. “Civilians often don’t understand that though the battle overseas may be over, our troops must now come home and fight for their marriages,” says Gaff.

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It's very easy to take your marriage for granted- when your spouse is not deployed or serving your country. I have many friends who have husbands and wives which are currently serving in different military branches, and I often find myself wondering how they have the strength to survive deployment.

I encourage you to take a few moments, watch this video- donate if you can- but simply share it with your friends, family, pastor, church, Mom's group, etc., to help spread the word about this great program that helps give back to the people and families which sacrifice so much for our freedoms.

To read more about the program, and ways to help, please visit

GIVEAWAY: To help celebrate marriage, and spread the word, we are giving away a $20 Applebee's Gift Card to one lucky couple. To enter, simply fill out the RaffleCopter widget below. If it is not loading properly, please click here, and give it a moment.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bloom into Spring with an Outback Bloomin' Onion- For FREE!

March 20th is the official start of spring and at Outback they're going to celebrate by giving away FREE Bloomin’ Onions! Just mention to your server that you're there to "Bloom Into Spring". It's a bonzer way to get into the spring of things, and it’s Bloomin’ Free!

Free Bloomin' Onion valid at participating Outback Steakhouse Restaurants with any purchase on March 20, 2012 only – while supplies last. Offer is not valid in conjunction with any other discount or offer and has no cash value. Limit one offer per table.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Free Rita's Italian Ice! 3/20

Mark the First Day of Spring with FREE Italian Ice!

For the past 19 plus years, Rita's has been giving away a free, regular size Italian Ice to each and every guest to mark the first day of spring! This is a sweet date for Italian Ice lovers, as each year, hundreds of thousands of guests visit Rita's in search of the first taste of spring. In fact, in 2011, Rita's guests showed their spring spirit and over 1.2 million cups of Italian Ice were given away in a ten hour period!

They are already gearing up to celebrate the arrival of spring in 2012! A springtime tradition, Rita's annual giveaway will be held on Tuesday, March 20 from noon to 9 p.m. at all open Rita's locations. This is surely a tasty tradition that you won't want to miss! So be sure to stop by your local Rita's location and celebrate the arrival of spring!

To find a Rita's location near you, click here.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Make Holiday Vacation Plans Now! Busch Gardens Christmas Town Opens November, 2012

From a press release:

Tampa’s Premiere Family Destination Will Create the Bay Area’s Biggest Christmas Celebration Ever Tampa, Fla. (March 1, 2012) – Busch Gardens Tampa is getting ready to launch the biggest Christmas celebration ever! Christmas Town will transform the park into a nighttime holiday wonderland of wintery surprises and all things Christmas, filling guests’ senses with seasonal sights, sounds and flavors, and creating a beautiful new tradition for Tampa’s families.

For the first time in the park’s 53-year history, visitors to Christmas Town will experience all-new evening attractions, shows and shopping every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, Nov. 30 through Dec. 23. Guests can look forward to special entertainment, live music, festive treats, holiday shopping and thousands and thousands of twinkling Christmas lights around every turn. “When Christmas Town opens in November, it will be the beginning of a unique holiday tradition for Tampa Bay area,” says Jim Dean, Busch Gardens Tampa’s park president. “We are creating a season-long celebration for family and friends unlike any other event our guests have ever seen – the kind of Christmas fun only Busch Gardens can provide.”

Similar to the park’s popular Halloween event, Christmas Town will be a separate-ticketed night event, and regular daytime Busch Gardens admission is not required or included. Discounts will be available for annual pass members, and families with children ages 3 to 9 will enjoy special ticket prices for their youngest members. The new event will also offer some magnificent new opportunities for groups looking to book a unique holiday party. For park news, updates, photos, “Like” Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on Facebook.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Happy 9th Birthday, Alexzander!

Who knew that having a baby makes your heart expand so hugely? And just when you think that you can't possibly love that little person anymore, or your heart may explode, they really start to get cute.

Wishing you the best of birthdays today. I cannot believe you are nine.. it feels like it was just yesterday that YOU were growing inside my belly.

You taught me how to be a mommy, you make me laugh, shake my head, re-evaluate every piece of sarcasm in my mouth, and keep me on my toes. I love it when you want to cuddle or snuggle with me, because you'll always be my baby. I love watching you grow, and get older, even if I want to pretend you're still just a little squirt with a plastic tool box. I love how you challenge me, and encourage me to be a fighter. How you teach me how to be a better mom, and show me that being different is really super cool. I love you tremendously- never, ever forget it.

Happy Birthday, Butterbean.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Chops (Pork Loin)

I tweaked this recipe a little because I had a loin of pork instead of pork chops, but I've been in the mood for cranberries and ran into this recipe at MomOnDealz. It looked SO good, so I knew I had to make it!

Her recipe:
*4-5 boneless pork chops
*2 tablespoons butter
*2 tablespoons brown sugar
*1 tablespoon corn starch
*1/2 cup of dried cranberries (original called for these plus a Granny Smith apple. I didn’t have one so there was no apple in mine)
*1 cup cranberry juice (original was apple juice)
*1 teaspoon of pepper (original also called for salt, I don’t use salt in anything)
*1 tablespoon onion chopped (original called for whole onion, I don’t like onions so I cut it down in portion)
I put everything in the crockpot and cooked it on high for 4 hours.

  • One loin of pork (approx 2 lbs)
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • Salt and Pepper

It looked like this after I threw it all into the slow cooker:

I used a liner, (because this preggo mama is feeling like her hips are going to explode today), so I can have an easy and quick clean-up. I'm cooking it on high for about 4 hours. I may lower it.. Depending on how hungry the troops are in an hour or so. I'm planning on serving this yummy smelling meal with stuffing and corn; thanksgiving-with-a-twist style.

Oh-my-gosh! Totally yummy!!! I will be making this again sometime soon, but next time I will add more cranberry juice and a granny smith apple. I will also put the cranberries in last, because the ones that were on the top tasted really yummy, and the ones in the "gravy" were ok, but I really preferred the ones on top. 


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Happy Platypus Day! Phineas + Ferb Giveaway!

Doobie-do-wah-do-wah, doobie-do-wah-do-wah.....

We love Perry the Platypus at both of our homes at 4BabyAndMom.

Not only is he a fabulous master of disguise, an amazing multi-tasker, and a beloved pet- he's cute as pie, has the patience of a saint, and is the coolest cartoon a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action we know! Come on..! He's living in a home with Candace, two genius boys who put themselves and the town in danger, and knows martial arts. Not to mention he's saved the "Entire Tri-State Area" a gazillion and two times! Yes, we love Perry the Platypus.

This is the second year of the National Platypus Day, but this year, you can learn how to do the Platypus Walk! The dance choreographed by Rosero McCoy looks a bit like "Walk Like an Egyptian" meets the "Batman Dance" meets "Shake it All around." But the kids love it and had a blast trying to dance/walk like Agent P along with their other favorite Disney show characters.

For more information on Platypus Day, check out Disney and Disney XD. Enjoy the Phineas + Ferb marathon on Disney, now!

In celebration of this most special day (in our homes, at least!) we're giving away a Phineas and Ferb Laughapalooza Joke Book to one very lucky reader. With jokes that are super funny, and some that are super corny, your child will be giggling endlessly with Phineas, Ferb, and Perry!

Want other ideas to help feed your child's Perry addiction?? Check out this super cute Perry inspired packed lunch at Frosted Fingers!

To enter this giveaway, fill out the RaffleCopter widget below. a Rafflecopter giveaway



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