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Pet Parenting: How to take the dog on your Disney trip

By nwamamas - Last updated: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest post by Denise Holmes, dog-trainer and blogger at

Recently, I wrote a post for Travel Tails recounting a trip to Orlando with my dog, Henri. In the retelling of that adventure I mentioned that next time, I needed a visit to the Happy Place.

disneyworld1As in, Disney World.

Yes, I’m one of those.

That got me thinking. EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is September 19th – November 10th, and Christmas, my all-time favorite time to visit Disney EVER, is coming. I was in need a of a return visit, and I wanted to take Henri with me. But taking a dog on a Disney trip? How does that work?

The parks are obviously kid and family friendly, but what if your family includes your dog? (I’m 43 and single; Henri is the sole benefactor of my maternal instincts. I don’t expect him to be able to go to the parks with me, but I don’t want to board him for a week either.)

Fort Wilderness, for RVs and camping, is the only on-property Disney resort (‘on property’ means ‘on Disney property’) that allows dogs. We don’t have an RV, and camping in November, even in Orlando, isn’t really what I had in mind.

Well, as a former cast member, I was sure I could solve this little problem with some research. I knew Disney had a dog boarding, grooming, and daycare facility. Daycare isn’t really Henri’s favorite thing in the world, but it did solve the problem of what he’d be doing all day while I was traipsing through the parks.

Best-Friends-Pet-CareBest Friends Pet Care is a large chain pet care facility with 42 locations in 18 states, including one at Disney World. This is good news for guests, because the old kennels were just that. Kennels. The new facility is located on property, and much improved. It definitely meets what I envision Disney standard to be.

You can choose from a wide range of services (grooming, special treats) and activities (play group, a movie) for your dog. There is even a private dog park where you can play with your dog, or take a walk around the grounds. They open one-hour before the parks, and close one-hour later. Perfect for drop-off and pick-up, because I don’t envision leaving Henri there overnight.

(We’re co-dependent.)

Now, all I needed to find was a nearby dog-friendly hotel. I figured the easiest way to do that was ask. I wouldn’t recommend calling to ask because, when I called one of the Disney Reservation Agents, I got stuck talking to one of those electronic voices that ask 50 personal questions.

If you have questions concerning anything Disney, go online to, click ‘contact us,’ then, ‘chat.’ It took about 10 minutes to disney-good-neighbor-hotel-largeget a cast member to answer my questions. In my brief chat with the online cast member, I discovered Good Neighbor Hotels and Resorts. These are properties not owned by Disney but located on or near Disney property. THAT’S what I needed! There was even a website:

Once you’re on the site, click the link ‘Explore Hotels Now.’  It will take you to a page that allows you to select your hotel location, category, and features preferences. For location, you want Lake Buena Vista. (That’s where Disney World is located. Kissimmee and I-Drive would likely provide less expensive options, but they are, in my opinion, too far away.)

The only other feature I selected was ‘Pet Friendly.’ I found three choices: Clarion Inn, Holiday Inn, and the Sheraton.

Clarion has what they call VIP service (Very Important Pet), but it doesn’t offer any extra amenities like some hotels do. It’s just a fancy way of saying they allow pets. They accept dogs under 50 lbs., and require a $50 non-refundable deposit, along with an extra $15/day. Dogs must be crated if left in the room unattended. That’s a NO for us. Henri doesn’t crate.

The Sheraton allows dogs 80 lbs. or less, which is awesome for the folks traveling with big dogs. If your dog is over 50 lbs., it can be difficult to find a place. They require no deposit or extra room fee; however, they do not allow your dog to be left unattended. That could be a little inconvenient, even for someone who rarely leaves her dog.

dogs welcomeThe Holiday Inn seems the best choice for us. We meet their weight limit, 65 lbs. or less, and there were no other stated rules about crates or attendance. They charge a $50/ 5 days fee with a $10/ day after that. Not too bad.

All three of the hotels have shuttle transportation to and from the parks. But none of the shuttles allow dogs. I needed to get Henri to and from daycare, but I didn’t want to drive. It didn’t make any sense to drive him to daycare, then drive back to the hotel and take a shuttle to the park. I also didn’t want to drive to the park, walk, lose my car, walk some more, and then hope to eventually find my car in that ginormous parking lot.

Lucky for me, one of the hotels I called couldn’t answer my question concerning dogs on the shuttles and referred me directly to the company that operates them. To confirm: no dogs on the shuttles. Solution? Fleetwood Transportation will arrange to have a taxi pick up you and your dog. They will take you wherever you want to go. Personal service. Even better.DickeyStephens

So, if you are headed to Orlando for a Disney vacation and you want to take the family dog, you can do it! Book your room at one of the previously mentioned hotels; make reservations for your dog at Best Friends Pet Care; then call Fleetwood Transportation to schedule your ride. Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Now, don’t you think Henri and I should get to ride in the Grand Marshal car for the three o’clock parade?

Follow Denise’s adventures on her blog,, as she travels the world with her beloved Henri. 


Good Gossip: Latest news on favorite celebs

By nwamamas - Last updated: Tuesday, October 21, 2014

good gossip celebrities

Yes, we do love a little celebrity gossip but we also know it’s not cool to do something we teach our kids NOT to do. It’s never okay to indulge in stuff meant to humiliate or hurt another person. That’s why we came up with the concept of “Good Gossip,” which is celeb news minus any mean stuff. Have as much as you want because this “dish” is all guilt-free.

As always, this feature is sponsored by Great Day Farms, a national brand based right here in NWA. Look for their products at the Walmart Supercenter. Click HERE to like them and get coupons on their Facebook page.

ryan-reynolds-and-blake-livelyAwwww, Ryan Reynolds is going to be a daddy. Ryan and his wife actress Blake Lively are expecting their first baby. Blake revealed the good news on her website called Congrats to the new parents-to-be!

jennifer lawrenceLooks like Jennifer Lawrence may have cozied up to a new boyfriend. She has been spotted recently with singer Chris Martin (who “uncoupled” from Gwyneth Paltrow not long ago.) Chris is the lead singer for Coldplay. They’ve been spotted together in London and in Malibu, where Chris lives. Jennifer once said that all she needs in a relationship is somebody “to watch TV with me.” Pass the remote!

tony goldwynScandal‘s fake president, actor Tony Goldwyn, met the real President this year. He said that President Obama came up to him and said, “Mr. President! How do you do it? Where’s the grey hair? Where are the wrinkles?” Goldwyn said he was very charming. The actor’s response was this: “Sir, my job isn’t nearly as stressful as yours.”

emma stoneEmma Stone is SO pretty in a picture in the most recently issue of People magazine. And she is getting some Oscar buzz for her new movie called Birdman with Michael Keaton. Her next job is to play Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway. When she does get a little time away from work, she hangs out with boyfriend Andrew Garfield (who starred with her in Spider-Man,) and her perfect day off would be reading, watching a movie or walking along the river. Emma says that, in 10 years, she hopes for “family, peace, a home and challenging work.”

hilary swankWhen she’s not busy making movies or winning Oscars, Hilary Swank loves to dance. For her 40th birthday party, she hired a teacher who taught everyone at the party how to line dance. “We danced the night away under the stars at this incredible ranch north of Los Angeles,” she said.

Josh-ElliottJosh Elliot of NBC Sports (formerly on Good Morning America) got engaged to Liz Cho, who is an anchor on a local news station in New York City. Josh proposed to her during a trip to Europe.

Source: People magazine, October 27, 2014 issue

Good Gossip is sponsored by CCF Brands, a Northwest Arkansas company which makes Great Day All Natural Eggs. These eggs are produced by happy hens who are fed premium vegetarian diets with no animal fats, animal by-products, or antibiotics. Great Day Farms also offers hard-boiled eggs, which you can find in the deli section of the Walmart Supercenter. (Love the hard-boiled eggs because they’re peeled and ready to eat! Perfect in salads.)

Giveaway: Photo Shoot with Freedom Dreamer Photography

By nwamamas - Last updated: Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Monday, mamas! The winner of this week’s giveaway is going to see herself in a whole new way. We’re sending one local woman to a 5-hour photo shoot experience courtesy of photographer Marsha Foster of Freedom Dreamer Photography. The winner also gets one free 8×10 print of her favorite image from the photo shoot. This package would normally cost more than $500!

freedom dreamer 3Marsha specializes in boudoir photography, which can be as conservative or as bold as you want it to be. (Click HERE to read an earlier article we wrote about Marsha’s work.) The client decides what to wear — which could include a range of outfits like a fabulous dress, your favorite jeans or the kind of lingerie that would make your husband’s head spin. (Many of Marsha’s clients give some of their photos to their husbands as an anniversary, birthday or Christmas gift.)

If there are certain areas of your body you’re not too crazy about, don’t sweat it. A professional photographer knows how to position you in each shot so that your best features are emphasized and your not-so-favorite features fade away. Marsha is in the business of photographing REAL women and mothers — not stick-thin twenty-somethings who have never wrangled a toddler in their lives.

Boudoir photography captures images that help you see yourself the way your husband sees you — as that beautiful, feminine and, yes, even sexy woman that you are.

freedom dreamer 4At least two weeks before the photo shoot, Marsha will meet with the photo shoot winner for a consultation. She’ll get to know more about you and your personality and what freedom dreamer sportytype of feeling you want your photos to convey. (Flirty and sporty in a sports jersey, jeans or a tank top? Soft and feminine in silk or lace? Bold and edgy in a leather jacket?) She’ll give you tips on the kind of outfits that photograph best and show you plenty of photography Pinterest boards where she has collected great ideas to help inspire you.

On the day of the photo shoot, all you have to do is arrive at the studio with your outfits and a make-up free face. Marsha’s makeup artist and hair stylist Ashley Gregory will do the rest — including eyelashes, hair extensions, professional makeup — the works! After a couple hours to relax and get gorgeous, the 3-hour photo shoot begins. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the full supermodel treatment, this is your chance. Marsha calls it the “Full Day of Sexy.”

After the photo shoot, Marsha will meet with you to review more than 200 shots she will capture during the photo shoot. She’ll help you review the shots so you can narrow down your favorites. CLICK HERE to see a short video of what a photo shoot in session looks like. Click on any of the photos shown here to visit the Freedom Dreamer website and get more info.

HOW TO ENTER: To throw your name in the online hat for the complimentary photo shoot and print, click the words “post a comment” below and tell us what makes you feel beautiful. Is it a certain dress? The way your freedom dreamer legshusband smiles at you? A killer pair of stilettos? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

INCREASE YOUR ODDS OF WINNING: If you’d like to increase your odds of winning the Freedom Dreamer photo shoot, just email friends and family about the giveaway and CC us so we’ll be sure to give you credit. We’ll give you an extra chance to win for each person you tell. The email is

(You can also earn an extra chance to win by signing up to receive the free email newsletter we send once a week. The sign-up box is at the top right of this page.)

BE SOCIAL: You can also earn extra chances to win by commenting on our Facebook page, following us on Twitter or following us on Pinterest. If you do any of those, just mention it in your comment or email so we can give you proper credit.

We’ll tell the winner the good news via email at the end of the week, so watch your inbox. Good luck, mamas!

Devotion in Motion: Befriending the unfriendly

By nwamamas - Last updated: Sunday, October 19, 2014

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart. 

1 Peter 1:22   (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

“Well, the Bible says I have to LOVE him, but it doesn’t say I have to LIKE him!” You’ve heard someone say that before, haven’t you? (I’ll bet it was one of your aunts.) The opening quote is a common (Southern) utterance expressing exasperation at having to deal with an irritating person.

Those who say it indicate that they’re willing to extend the bare-bones-goodwill of Christian tolerance to people who bother them — but absolutely nothing more than that. They base this upon their understanding of the Scriptures. And although it is a statement that is often spoken, my study of the Scriptures has led me to believe that it’s not entirely true.

Look at today’s Bible verse (at the top), and think about it carefully. Did you notice that St. Peter uses the word “love” two times? He is twice giving us an cat friends2exhortation to love other people — using a different Greek word (with different shades of meaning) for “love” each time.

If I were making a translation of the verse, I would say something like this: “You already have Christian love for others. Now, go past that. Love them some more. And then be friends with them.”

So, the next time you hear it, (gently) tell your aunt or friend or neighbor that she is mistaken. And charge right ahead and love that person who is so difficult to love. And then ask the Lord to fill your heart with love and touch your heart with grace so that you can begin to “like” that difficult person.

After all, isn’t that just the sort of thing that Jesus would do?

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the weather has been gorgeous the past few days.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

The Rockwood Files: Procrastinator, heal thyself

By nwamamas - Last updated: Saturday, October 18, 2014

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Like most writers, I have a dance partner whose name is Procrastination. I hate his guts. What a slacker. And yet we keep on dancing. We side-step and disco-delay until I’m up against a wall and have no choice but to kick him out and get down to work.

So in an effort to “know my enemy,” I’m reading a book about procrastination. (And yes, I’m fully aware that reading a book about procrastination might just be another way I’m procrastinating doing the actual work. But I’ve already admitted there’s a problem, so give a girl some credit.)

I’m about halfway through the book, which is titled The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore. It promises to not only explain how to stop procrastinating but also offer insight on why we do it in the first place.

Most people think procrastinators are sprawled out on the sofa watching the Kardashians get weirder by the second, while their work goes untouched and obligations get ignored. But that’s a misconception. Because a lot of procrastinators are a whirlwind of activity. We are what I’d call “productive procrastinators.”

It’s amazing the amount of work I can get done on other chores when there’s a more important project I’m actively avoiding. If my kitchen is spotless, it’s because I’ve been seeking escape at the bottom of a sink of sudsy dishes. If the pantry is pristine, it’s because I’m looking behind cans of green beans for the willpower to start that looming project.

I’m not alone in this, right? Please tell me I’m not alone. There are more than 1,700 books about procrastination on Amazon, so apparently many of us struggle with this push-pull between work and distraction. If you, like me, are sick of waiting around for that magical, extended block of inspired time to tackle a project, here are three things I’ve learned so far:

should graphicShoot the “should.” Most of us spend a large part of the day thinking about what we “should” do. But that’s kind of like carrying a cranky, finger-pointing school teacher around in our head all day, and our response is to resist the authority. The book advises us to recognize that what we do – or not do – is our choice, regardless of the consequences. So “choose” to do something or not to do it. Shoot the should.

Aim for half. Not half the project. Just half an hour. You can do almost anything for half an hour, right? Set a timer, work for 30 minutes and then stop or switch to something easier. That half-hour of time is long enough to get started (which is always the hardest part) but not long enough to feel like drudgery. Then (and this part is important) give yourself credit for that short burst of focused work. Write down each half-hour and total them up each week.

Nurture your inner toddler. When my kids were little, I’d often get them to clean up their toys by promising that we could go outside and play afterward. It made it easier for them to do the boring stuff because they knew fun stuff was coming up next.

Similarly, the book advises procrastinators to schedule our own version of playtime, like lunch with a friend, a trip to get coffee or some time to sit and do nothing. Knowing you’re carving out time to relax makes it easier to focus during work. And free time feels a lot more “free” when you’re not mentally beating yourself up about what you “should” be doing.

Finally, here’s a great line from the book, which speaks to the heart of any perfection-loving procrastinator: “Work for an imperfect, perfectly human first effort.”

Projects can’t ever get better if they never get started.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

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