How to Protect Against Sex Offenders

After listening to KRBE’s discussion on sex offenders on my way in to work I did a little research and read some of the below statistics on Family Watchdog:

•  60% of abusers are family friends (babysitters, neighbors, or friends of the family)
•  30% of abusers are their own family.
•  And 10% are strangers. -Most people think it is just strangers you have to watch out for, but 90% of abusers are people the victim knows.
•  Not all perpetrators are adults. It is an estimated 23% of abusers are under the age of 18.
•  Absence of one or both parents is a risk factor (Some research found that children living with only one biological parent at twice the risk of sexual victimization)

I decided to do a check of my new neighborhood and had a small heart attack when I saw an address a few houses down from us.  Just a reminder to always keep an eye on your children as you never know who or where the “bad” people could be.  How many times have you heard of someone getting arrested for something horrible and their family and neighbors all saying how wonderful they are?  Unfortunately, you just never know what goes on behind closed doors.  The nice, rich woman down the street could be your biggest threat and the cranky, old guy across the street could be one of your children’s greatest protectors and your second set of eyes.

I want to take this opportunity to urge you to empower your children to say “no” to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns.  Doing this is a critical step to preventing your child from being sexual abused. Here are some things I do:

  • Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
  • Teach them that some parts of their bodies are private.
    • Let them know that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care.
    • Tell them that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them OR if someone tries to show them his or her own private parts, they should tell you ASAP.
  • Teach them boundaries and that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make him or her uncomfortable or scared.
    • Assure your kids that it is okay to get help, even if someone he or she cares about might be upset or embarrassed.
  • Teach your child that these topics do not need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse should be kept a secret. Let your child know that if someone is touching him or her or talking to him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable or scared, that it should not stay a secret.
    • Abusers rely on the child’s likelihood of not telling an adult.
    • Assure your child that he or she will not get into trouble if he or she tells you this kind of secret.

As you talk to your child about these items, remember to focus on creating a safe zone. Hopefully, they don’t tell you about sexual abuse at the time of the conversation and you are just laying a foundation for future questions or concerns. Also, take a moment to do a sex offender search and read why they are on the list (this is important as not all offensives are alike).  Please remember that these are only the registered offenders that were caught and realize how many are out there that haven’t been.  Our children are our greatest asset and it’s our job to look after them and keep them safe.

If you live in Texas, you can check your zip code here.

If you live in Missouri, you can check your address here.

If you live in Florida, you can check your address here.

If you reside in a state that isn’t listed above, go here.


How to Get Paid to Lose Weight!

If you’re not feeling very motivated to lose those extra pounds,  here’s a nice little incentive that might help change your mind: cold hard cash.  I don’t know about you, but the frugalista in me is definitely motivated by that.

There are two sites I have personally used and love: DietBet and HealthyWage.  I used DietBet monthly to lose the baby weight after Cici and I’m at it again to lose it again from Baby J.  I’ve just completed my first round and am happy to say, I WON!


When you sign up at DietBet, you can create your own game or join one that’s already in progress. I personally always join one, but that’s just my preference. Also, DB offers two different types of games: lose 4% of your body weight in four weeks or The Transformer for losing 10% of your body weight in six months.  Note that you can do these consecutively as well.

So how does it work you say?  You pick a game  that suits your budget (bets can range from $10-$500) and put in your deposit and weigh-in.  In 30 days (or 6 months if playing the 10% Transformer) everyone submits their final weight and the winners split the pot evenly. Payouts are made via Paypal a few days after verification. For example, the last time I won I had deposited $25 and received back $48.33 (my $25 deposit and $23.33 in winnings from the pot).  I chose to reinvest it into another DietBet game until I reached my goal weight, but you can cash out if you’d like as well.

I’m currently signed up for Shape Up for Summer with Heidi & Chris Powell with a $30 deposit, $151,980 in the pot, and 5,066 players as of May17. Wish me luck!


Healthy Wage is for more significant weight loss. You can set it for 10-150 lbs to lose, over 6-18 months, for anywhere from $20-$500 bet per month.  It has a handy online calculator which allows you to determine roughly what your payout will be.  In most cases, the prize won’t be less than $100.


If you want to do a Healthy Wage team challenge, you will have to put up the entry fee which is currently $25 per month for up to three months. The team challenges advertise much larger payouts — up to $10,000. However, this top dollar prize is if your team is the most successful and has a higher percentage of weight lost than any other teams participating.

These programs and their apps work for me because I’m motivated in three ways:
1. I want to lose weight and be healthy
2. I do not want to lose my deposit
3. I love to get paid

Have you tried either of these?  What incentives do you need/use to get in shape?

For more information, you can check out this excerpt from Good Morning America:


Freebie(s): Week of May15

CVS Freebies!

Buy 1 Colgate Total Toothpaste, 4-4.2 oz $3.00, sale price through 5/21
Use $1.00 off coupon (  Or $0.50/1 – Colgate Toothpaste 3 oz or larger from SmartSource 5/15   ++use one $2.50/1 Colgate Toothpaste, CVS Coupon from CVS Extracare Coupon Center Week of 5/15

Buy 2 Pepsi , Mountain Dew 1.25 – 1.5 liter or Aquafina 20 oz 2/$2.00
Use $2.00/2 CVS App Coupon (download the CVS app, add you card and load the coupon to your CVS Card


Future Bookworms Unite!

If you’re not a bookworm like me and wondering “why should I be reading to my child”, here are some statistics for your contemplation:

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) children who are read to at home have an advantage over children who are not.  Of those children who are read to 3-4 times in the last week by a family member, 26% recognized all letters of the alphabet compared to 14% of children who were read to less frequently.  In addition, children who are read to frequently are more likely to:

  • count to 20 or higher than those who were not (60% vs. 44%)
  • write their own names (54% vs. 40%)
  • read or pretend to read (77% vs. 57%)

There are so many ways to find physical books, PDFs, as well as ebooks for your little people to read without spending a fortune.  The below all offer easy options to give kids access to a wide variety of reading material — some without spending a cent on gas!

1. Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program

Kids in first through sixth grades can earn a free book by filling out the “Summer Reading Triathlon” reading journal.  After your kids fill it out, bring it to a Barnes & Noble store between May 17 and September 6 to earn a free book from a selected list.  If you have younger children such as mine, they also offer story time on Saturday mornings (varies by location)!  As a side note, the library near me does a summer reading program as well. My girls log their books over the summer and receive a certificate and free book if they reach their goal!    🙂

2. Read Conmigo

Immerse your children in preK-fifth grade bilingual reading by signing up for Read Conmigo.  If you live in California, Florida or Texas, the program will mail you a book every four months and the online resources like bilingual activities and educational tools are available to everyone, regardless of location.

3. Reading is Fundamental

Reading is Fundamental partnered with ustyme to allow free access to 50 classic ebooks including “Goldilocks,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs,”.  Kids can even read along with an adult using the ustyme app to make live video calls.  I plan on trying this with the girls and their Papa soon, but I haven’t tested it yet. Let me know if  you have!

4. Free Kids Books

Download free PDFs from this online library of kids’ books.  With picture books for toddlers, books with pictures and words for bigger kids, and chapter books for young adults (you can even get coloring books).

5. Goodwill

I can’t even tell you how many books we’ve bought from Goodwill. Most of the time I take the girls as a reward and let them pick out two-three a piece and I generally spend about $5.  There’s always a wide range to choose from and they’re rarely more than gently used.  I’ve even found some brand new cookbooks still in the plastic for me for $2!

6. Little Free Library

Little Free Library is trying to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. There are over 36,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world, bringing curbside literacy home and sharing millions of books annually.  There is a listing here of all addresses for these little book exchanges.

Little Free Library

7. Craigslist and Freecycle

If you’re looking for some kids’ books, don’t forget to check out Craigslist and Freecycle. Plenty of people have books they’re not using or their children have outgrown and would be happy to share.  Added benefit: you will be teaching your children about reusing/recycling at the same time.

8. Libraries

Of course, your local public library has plenty of books to borrow for free. This is a great option for families who like to constantly switch up their reading selections (not to mention renting audiobooks and DVDs).  Our library  has a for sale section that we buy from too.  Also note, both our current library and our previous library offered children’s story time in the evening and family night once a month.  Just another way to get your kids interested in books/reading.

9. Amazon Free Books

Amazon has a ton of free kids’ books available for Kindle downloads.  Just search for “children’s books, Kindle edition” and sort the prices “low to high” to see all the freebies.

10. Amazon Prime Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Amazon Prime members can borrow books for free through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows users to borrow one book each calendar month.  The program offers a wide range of kids’ books to pick from, but you’ll need a Kindle (and a Prime membership which I LOVE) to read them.  I did splurge and use my rewards points to buy Cici a Fire Kids Edition (occasionally on sale for $79) for her birthday.  It’s a complete tablet with apps, camera, etc.  In addition,  you get 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited (love this), Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee (already used once) .

11. Project Gutenberg

While mostly for older kids, Project Gutenberg has a wealth of free downloads available.  Type “children” in the search field and classic kids’ books will appear from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” to “Alice in Wonderland” and many others.

12. Imagination Library

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was created and 1995 and has expanded to send more than 60 million books to kids in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. To see if your area is eligible for free books you can register online to search for a local program. Unfortunately, my area in Texas isn’t available but I did sign up for future mailings just-in-case.

Do you know of any other ways to get free kids’ books?

FitBit – A Healthy Moneymaker

Did you know you could make money with FitBit? The fitness activity tracker is actually a great way to make some extra money and earn rewards and prizes.  Will you get rich? No, but being able to earn money just for walking is a great motivator and your Fitbit will pay for itself! Check out these helpful links and tips below on how to get started making money with FitBit.

Walgreens Balance Rewards

Chances are you already use a Walgreens Balance Rewards card that gives you points for buying items where points=money  (5000 points=$5 off). If you have a FitBit or other activity tracker,  you can earn even more points! Just sync up your FitBit or other device and earn away. For walking you get 20 points/mile with a max of 1,000 points per month.

Pact (previously GymPact)

To use the Pact app, you commit to exercise for a certain number of days by logging in at a gym.  However, this app can also be synced with FitBit so if you make your step goal of 10,000+ per day it counts as meeting your exercise for the day.  When you sign up for a pact, you select a certain amount ($5 or $10) that is deducted from your credit card or PayPal account for each day you miss. If you hit your goal, then you get paid a reward ranging from 30 cents to $5 per week.  When you accumulate $10 you can request a payout that comes from the pool of money from people who didn’t make their pact.

BlueCross BlueShield’s Well onTarget

If you have BlueCross Blue Shield insurance check the “MyHealth” tab and see if you have Well onTarget available to you.  If so, you can get 55 points per day for having your FitBit synced.  If you use your FitBit daily that’s more than 20,000 points a year.  I accumulate the points and buy movies and other items on clearance from their online store and use it for Christmas and birthday presents. For example, last year I redeemed Alvin and the Chipmunks: Scare-riffic Double Feature for 1,566 points for Milla’s birthday.  She loved it and it was free for me!


After joining Leap4Life sync up your FitBit device, set goals, join events and challenges. You earn FitWell points, which can be redeemed for gift cards. As we mentioned before, If you compete in events and challenges and earn reward points, you’ll be able to quickly redeem them! You only need 2500 FitWell points for a $25 gift card! That only takes most users a few months!


AchieveMint is a website that gives you points based on healthy activities.  It can be used either on a desktop or as an iPhone app and you receive points for sleep, steps, food logs, etc.  Earn 10,000 points to be rewarded with a $10 check!

The great part with all of these is all I have to do is connect my device, sit back, and wait. There is no real work or maintenance involved.  I’m accumulating money and rewards at all these sites every day and I just have to try to make my 10,000 steps which is great motivation to take my kids for a walk or play some tag at the park.  Seriously, when’s the last time you played tag?  You’d be surprised how quickly those steps add up!

Life Insurance – A Must for Single Parents

If your dependents require your financial support for their livelihood, then life insurance is a must. This is especially important for those of us who are parents of young children. We need to provide enough money to cover the costs involved in raising our “babies”.   Life insurance protects our kids from the unknown and helps them through an otherwise difficult time of loss.

Sure, no one wants to think about keeling over. It could be today, tomorrow or 50 years from now, but it will happen eventually. No amount of money could ever replace a parent. However, having life insurance coverage will bring you and your family some peace.  In addition to providing income to cover everyday living expenses, your family needs insurance to cover any outstanding debts (i.e. mortgage, credit cards, loans) and other expenses like your funeral and burial costs that can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars. You don’t want your children or their guardians to be left with any extra burden in addition to the emotional and financial burdens they will already be suffering.

Except in special circumstances, term life is probably going to make the most sense for most people reading my blog. Why? It’s simple to understand and easy to compare across insurance companies. It’s much more affordable than whole or universal policies ($25/month vs $450/month), and the death benefit gives you the most bang for your buck. Term life doesn’t lock you into an investment that may not give you the best returns.  There are rare cases where whole or universal policies might be worth a look. If you’re wealthy and looking for investments where you can grow your money tax-free, these policies can be a solid option if you’ve already maxed out your retirement savings.

Due to financial restraints, I chose a term life policy.  Houston traffic is intense and God forbid something happens and I meet my demise on the way to work one day, I know my girls will be the beneficiaries of a $500,000 policy.  I am in good health and I don’t smoke so I was able to get a 20 year policy for $225/year when Milla was a year old.  This is one cost I don’t skimp on.  This policy gives me some peace of mind knowing that my little angels will be taken care of in the event I’m not around. When you’re a sole provider, nothing is more important.sleeping angels

Appeal Your Property Taxes!

If you think the market value of your property is incorrect, the appraisal district encourages you to file a protest. First and foremost, understand that when you are negotiating with an appraiser at the appraisal district that you are protesting your property value, not your property taxes. If your strategy for winning your protest is to convince the appraiser that your ever increasing taxes are a huge burden, your story will fall upon deaf ears. The appraisal district has absolutely no control over your tax rates; they simply determine property values.

In most cases, no appraiser will physically visit your property to assess the value. Counties simply do not have the manpower to cover the entire county on a yearly basis. I live in Harris County, where there are approximately 150 appraisers who are required to attribute value to more than 750,000 property accounts. It simply can’t be done. Do not consider your tax assessed value to be indicative of your true market value.

Preparing for your hearing is most crucial. As a property owner representing yourself you can greatly increase your chances of getting a value reduction if you apply the methods I’m listing here. Appraisers will actually appreciate your due diligence.

Pictures are worth a thousand words – Take pictures of any disrepair on your property and of any “negative influences” surrounding your property. Qualified negative influences could be busy streets, water tower looming over your house, sewer plant nearby, commercial property bordering your residential, etc.

Google Earth – I would recommend printing a satellite view of your property and the surrounding area. Probably 85% of the time you can find something negative to talk about on the image (i.e. construction, road issues). Get creative as this adds support to your argument.

MLS Sales – If you know a Realtor that can assist with evidence gathering, ask them to print some of the SOLD properties in your neighborhood. Many times you will see that the appraisal district’s evidence will suggest that a comparable house built in 1965 with no remodeling recently sold for $150,000.  This “never remodeled” house is jacking up your home value. However, you may be able to find the property on MLS and see that the pictures and description suggest otherwise and it sold for a higher price solely because it actually had a COMPLETE remodel recently.   Therefore, your value should be adjusted downward from that sale because your “comparable” home is in original condition and has never been renovated.

Estimate of the value – When you meet with the appraiser you need to have a number in mind and support that value with the evidence you have prepared. Saying you want a lower value without knowing what that lower value should be suggests to the appraiser that you haven’t done your research. Remember, you’re trying to prove your case for property value. It’s hard to prove something when you don’t have a theory built yet.

Short and Sweet – Appraisers may sit with 20-40 property owners every single day. They probably hate protest season and people in general by the second week. Limit your stories and stick with the facts. The appraiser will appreciate it and will hopefully return the love in the form of a value reduction.  Unless you are in a newer cookie cutter style neighborhood with a lot of recent sales you can almost always come up with a little something which can persuade them to nudge your value down. Never argue, complain or whine.

Chances are pretty good that you’re paying more in property taxes than you should be so present the evidence at hand and speak with confidence.. According to the National Taxpayers Union, as many as 60% of properties in the U.S. are assessed at a higher amount than their current value. I personally bought my home six months ago and recently received a tax assessment $10,000 higher than what I paid.  I have already protested and settled with my county and will save at minimum $400/year now on my property taxes.  Hopefully you will too!  If you decide to protest, let me know how it went for you.

Property Taxpayer Remedies from Texas Comptroller