Don't Let The Grinch Steal Your Christmas...Safely Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping!

Much holiday shopping these days is done online and there nothing worse than completing all of your shopping, giving the gifts and then waking up the day after Christmas to find your credit card has been compromised.  I should know because that very thing happened to me last year to the tune of about $2,000!  Don't worry, I was able to contact my credit card company and get all of it refunded but wow, what a hassle after all of the hectic holiday frenzy.  So, whenever I was asked to post some tips about safe holiday shopping this year I was instantly onboard!

                          Five Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping For Your Family in 2017

We all know how important it is to set good examples for our kids, especially when it comes to internet usage, online information, and shopping habits. This year alone, nearly 72% of holiday shoppers will be making online purchases. With a projected value of $106 billion, online hackers and other cybercriminals have been preparing all year to take advantage of vulnerable individuals and information.

Protecting your family from these unwanted holiday attacks requires a proactive approach. Savvy individuals willing to practice online safety and review their financial information for fraudulent or unauthorized activity are much more prepared to identify and address seasonal internet crime. From reading up on current scams, to actively monitoring internet and account activity, staying safe this season can be easy as long as you follow these helpful tips.

Tip 1:   Check the website's security
With the abundance of fake ecommerce websites, it’s essential to make sure both the product pages and checkout page are secure before authorizing the purchase. Scammers often attract individuals with unbelievable deals, rare merchandise, and other tantalizing offers, however, they’re less likely to have obtained the necessary certifications required to secure the site (but it is possible). Therefore, to be safe, consider checking the URL in question against Google's Transparency Report for the site’s safety rating.

Tip 2: Monitor your account(s) and sensitive information for changes
Individuals should frequently check all active online accounts and billing statements in order to identify and report unauthorized usage or charges as soon as possible. Fraudulent spending or access to sensitive information could seriously damage your current and future financial standing. Therefore, it’s essential to catch issues early and follow the necessary steps required to dispute fraudulent charges or identity theft attempts on your credit report.

Tip 3: Use strong and unique passwords for parental controls and shared accounts
We all know how important it is to keep an eye on the content our children view and the amount of they spend online. Parental controls make it easier to track, limit, or entirely prevent online activity while also filtering websites and protecting your stored information like credit card numbers or other passwords from unauthorized access. Ensuring you have an extremely strong and unique password when activating parental controls is the most effective way to guarantee your kids won’t crack it. Another quick tip is to create entirely new passwords for all new online accounts!

Tip 4: Update your computer’s security software

If you keep clicking “remind me tomorrow” on your computer's update notifications, today’s the day. Installing manufacturer recommended updates ensures that your sensitive information and software is protected against current threats. Although it seems simple, the 30 minutes spent updating could save you hours of headache. Hackers use malware and viruses to penetrate weak or unprotected WiFi networks, programs, or operating systems. To identify and address these vulnerabilities, manufacturers and development teams release and highly recommend installing the most recent security updates to ensure your computer is protected. 

Tip 5: Lead by example and limit online shopping
Although it’s not always possible, limiting your exchange of sensitive information using the internet is the most secure way to stay safe from cyber criminals. Consider leading by example this season in order to teach safe, responsible, and thoughtful purchasing. Instead of shopping online, have a discussion with your kids around the importance of supporting small businesses, security of cash, and value of keeping money in the local system. Try making a new tradition by logging out of the computer, collecting the kids, and exploring your community for unique things and hidden treasures that make the most thoughtful gifts!

 Don't let The Grinch steal your holiday joy by not practicing safe online holiday shopping! 


Reindeer Food Recipe!

Alright, if you're like me and REALLY get into the Christmas spirit then you go all out with the kiddos.  This year I sent them all letters from Santa, complete with maps from the North Pole to their homes.  It was so fun to see their little door hangers that said, "I'm on the Nice List, Santa.  Stop Here!"  Well, if we are in agreement about making this a special time of year for all the little ones in your life then I've got just the DIY project that you need to try!

As we all know, if it weren't for Rudolph and all of his pals, Santa would be in real big trouble getting to all of the houses out there.  And we certainly don't want him losing his way to yours!  So, why not leave a trail of reindeer food for them to follow?  Don't have a recipe, you say?  Well, Personal Creations just happens to have one for you, complete with printable tags that have the cutest little poems!

                                                     CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED!

After making your Reindeer Food, you will want to bag it up and add one of the cute downloadable tags with a poem to it!
                                                   “Sprinkle on the lawn at night,
                                       The moon will make it sparkle bright,
                                         Santa’s Reindeer fly and roam,
                                     This will help them find your home!”

Want a little more hands-on activity for your little ones?  There is even a tag you can download for them to color.

                          And how about one for an elf, Rudolph or even Santa, himself?!

Each of these adorable tags come with their own special poem and they are absolutely FREE for you to download with you kiddos so the countdown fun of waiting for Santa to arrive can officially begin!

DIY Mason Jar Snow Globes Just in Time for Christmas!

Who out there does not love doing arts and crafts projects with their kiddos?  And what kid doesn't love doing arts and crafts projects?  OK, now that we've answered that question I've got one for you that I think everyone will love!  It's a mason jar snow globe with a step-by-step guide from Shutterfly that you and your children can easily construct.  There are so many options to make these snow globes unique that I know you will not want to make just one.  Fill the inside of the globe with any variety of small magical items then sprinkle some glitter for the snowflakes and you've got a charming little keepsake to take out and use year after year or a great gift for friends, neighbors or grandparents!

Here are just a few items you will need to get started on your project:

  • Tree ornament
  • Glitter (2 tablespoons per globe)
  • Clear glue (2 ounces per globe)
  • Warm water (1 cup per globe)
  • Mason jar
  • Spoon
  • Glue gun
                                      SOME IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED!

Use the guide to get you started then let your imagination run wild creating this cute project!  OH...and don't forget to attach a card to your gift!


Tears in a Bottle

With my mother's death just two days ago, I am reminded of a Bible verse:  "You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8

This verse paints a lovely picture for me of God's love.  He cares enough about my sorrows to capture each and every tear of mine and put it in a bottle.  Wow.  I wonder how big the bottle is or how many there are.  Because along this journey with my mother I have shed many.

Thursday I made my daily visit with her and each time I left I wondered if it would be the last earthly visit I had with her.  I remember her looking a little worse than the day before but her eyes were opened, although glassed over a bit.  Her chin had turned cooler than usual and I had noticed other signs that her body was beginning to shut down.  As I sat there I talked to her about heaven once again.  She had indicated earlier in the week that she was seeing a light.  I told her how wonderful it would be to see my father who had been deceased for fifty years, how excited he would be to see her again.  And how her blind eyes would finally be able to see again.  She would be able to run and jump and there would be no pain.  I also reminded her that her lovely white hair would most likely be replaced by the striking black mane that she once had.  And her job in heaven would surely be to tend the flower gardens there.  Ones more beautiful that she ever tended here on earth.  I told her, "You have fought the battle, you have finished the race, you have done good."  And then I kissed her on the cheek, told her I loved her and would see her again the next day.

I received a call around 10 pm from the nursing home that evening.  The nurse told me that my mother was not doing well.  I said, "I'm on my way."  I made my husband drive as fast as he could and the entire time I was saying, "Don't let her die before I get there, don't let her die before I get there."  And then my husband turned to me and said, "It will be OK if she does."

Upon arriving, I walked as quickly down the hall as I could, swung the door open and ran to her bedside.  I began saying, "Mama...Mama?"  I touched her hand and then her face. She did not respond and I looked at my husband and told him to get the nurse.  He already knew but turned for the door just as she walked in.  My mother was gone.  Gone from this earth into her heavenly home.  And although I had prayed for months for God to take her, to take her out of her pain and misery, I suddenly felt so sad and overwhelmed and alone.  And that's when fresh tears began to drop.

Those tears have fallen ever since.  Whenever I awake and remember that she is gone, they fall.  Whenever my mind recalls a memory, they fall.  And then I take comfort in knowing that although both of my earthly parents have gone to heaven, I have have a heavenly Father.  One who cares so much for me that he is catching every one of those tears and putting them in a bottle.  And that he knows all of my sorrows.  He knows exactly how I am hurting right now.  And that gives me hope.  Hope that this intense pain will one day get better.  That He will hold my hand not only through the next couple of days that are sure to be unbearable,  but always.  He will walk every step of this next journey I am to take with me.  And He will pick me up and carry me whenever I am too weary to walk.

People have said that on the other side of sadness is joy.  Less than twelve hours after my mother passed into the eternal world, I witnessed the birth of my tenth grandchild.  And as I watched that precious little boy be delivered into our world I thought, what a gift that God has given me.  He has shown me the circle of life; both life and death within just a few hours of each other.  I'm still reeling from all of this and don't understand the mysteries of God.  But I do know He cares for me.  He has shown me that and I am overwhelmed with His love and mercy.  His mercies truly are new every day.