Monday, December 30, 2013

The Pillow Project - January 2014 service project

In 2013 Tyler and I did a monthly service project either benefitting a designated organization/group or  volunteering.  Although he was only 7 at the start of the year, I knew he was able to understand service and the importance of giving back by helping others (in a future post I'll share my personal reasons why community service and volunteering are and have become vital to my emotional well being).

We have already started planning our projects/activities for 2014 and are starting the year with the Pillow Project.  This will be the same as what we did in 2013 except on a larger scale, we are reaching out to you to join in with us.  The Pillow Project will benefit three shelters (The Relatives Inc, My Sister's House and Men's Shelter of Charlotte) in Charlotte, NC, one (The Healing Place) in Raleigh, NC, one (IRIS Center) in Baton Rouge, LA and one (The Homeless Voice) in Hollywood, FL by donating new pillows and pillowcases.  Many of us take for granted laying our heads down in our own beds, let alone, on fresh linens and pillows.

In order to have an impact we need your help and the help of your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. You can easily participate one of two ways: by purchasing pillows and pillowcases and giving them directly to us (we'll coordinate with meeting you and we will take to the facility) or you can purchase via the online wish list (if you select Ship to Home, they will be sent directly to the designated facility). We WILL NOT accept money to be used to purchase items, only pillows and/or pillowcases.

Below are links about the shelters so that you can see the group of people they serve as well as the number of beds.  We thank you in advance on behalf of the children, women and men that will be able to lay their heads on new and clean linens and pillows because of your generosity.

Charlotte, NC: Wish List (items will be sent directly to Men's Shelter of Charlotte)
The Relatives -The Relatives is a system of resources that helps children and youth find shelter and support.
 My Sister's House -The mission of My Sister's House is to provide a program and housing for single homeless women in a safe environment, which provides resources to improve mental health, physical health, financial health, spiritual health and legal health and empower the residents with the tools needed to become self-sufficient and end their homelessness. 
Men's Shelter of Charlotte -We serve over 500 men per night, 365 days a year for less than $20 per guest per night. Each man we serve has access to all of our services for that cost. 
Raleigh, NC: Wish List (items will be sent directly to The Healing Place of Wake County)
The Healing Place of Wake CountyOur mission is to offer innovative recovery and rehabilitation to homeless alcoholic and chemically dependent men and women through a continuing mutual-help program. The program is specifically designed to rekindle the client's desire to return to a meaningful and productive life. 

Baton Rouge, LA: Wish List (items will be sent directly to IRIS Center)
IRIS Center - Shelter for up to 60 women and their dependent children. Services include free room and board, counseling, residential support groups three times per week, emergency transportation, children's services and emergency financial assistance. 

Hollywood, FL: Wish List (items will be sent directly to The Homeless Voice)
The Homeless Voice - Their mission is to provide the homeless population access to shelter, food, employment opportunities or referrals, as well as access to social services all toward the aim of enabling their return, if possible, to self-reliance.

Atlanta, GA: Wish List (items will be sent directly to My Sister's House)
My Sister's House  -Provides Emergency Shelter, Temporary Shelter Programs and Residential Recovery for 264 women and children. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Santa's Favorite Kind of Reaction

With all of the thought that goes into getting gifts that our loved ones will enjoy, nothing shows appreciation better than an excited reaction.  That took place several times on Christmas morning.  Hope everyone is having a great holiday with their families!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Service Project Announcement Coming Soon!

At the beginning of 2013 I made the decision that my son and I would do a monthly service project.  Each month this year we gave time, and in some cases, money to help different groups of people/organizations. In 2014 we will be doing the same, but on a larger scale.  Stay tuned for a post within the week about January's service project, of which we are really excited!  This year we are looking to get more people involved and hope that you will join us.  There will be plenty of ways for you and your family to be part of the solution to some of the challenges within the community.

Stay tuned……..

Thursday, December 12, 2013

We Haven't Left

I promise I haven't abandoned this blog, I have missed sharing and have tons of things in my head and in journals.  We're coming back and by we I mean me and Tyler.  When I started I planned for this to be a blog where both of our voices are heard.  Give me a few more days and WE will be back sharing some things we have planned for 2014, including some activities that we hope you'll do with your family and us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fun With Food: Stand 'N Stuff Soft Flour Tortillas

Recently while grocery shopping I found the must have item for any taco night…..Stand ‘N Stuff Soft Flour Tortillas! They are the answer to several problems with taco night, especially for people with little hands.  These shells are basically mini soft shell bowls that stand on their own.  The shells make it easy for everyone to fill their own tacos. 

You simply heat the shells and in the time it takes for them to finishing warming you can prep your fillings. Next, you set out the toppings and wa-laahh BYOM (Build Your Own Meal)! :-D Tyler enjoys helping in the kitchen so this is right up his alley. It also cuts out the time that I normally take to fix his meal and then mine, so on taco nights we're able to sit down at the same time and eat together. 

Tyler's tacos: cheese, steak fajita strips (sold pre-cooked in a package) and salsa. My tacos: sour cream, cheese, lettuce, guacamole, salsa and pan seared scallops. This is the other great thing about taco night, you can easily satisfy the various food critics in your house. Unlike hard shell tacos these don't immediately fall apart as soon as you take the first bite. 

If you and your family enjoy tacos, pick some of these up the next time you are in the grocery store.  I've added these as a kitchen staple. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Switch Witch: Halloween's newest super hero……for parents!

On Halloween and the day after, Facebook was flooded with cute and awesome pictures of children of all ages (including yours truly) in their Halloween costumes.  As I was scrolling I saw a post that said "For the Switch Witch…" with pictures of a decorated note. When I checked out the details of the note I was introduced to one of the best ideas to get your child to surrender their trick or treating loot…the Switch Witch. I reached out to my friend to ask more about the Switch Witch and their new family tradition. After reading about this, she may soon be one of your family's newest traditions too.

The story of the Switch Witch as shared by Sky:

I first heard of Switch Witch when I lived in Asheville. I didn't have any children then, so I filed the idea away got when I did.   This was the first Halloween my son, Kingston, 3.5, really cared about the candy. He got so much I started to cringe with the thought of endless requests for candy. Knowing the "yes, after lunch, or maybe later" I would reply would surely send him into a whining boy, of which I do not see often. But let's be honest, candy can have that effect on kids (and a few adults I know) (hehehe) (you know who you are).
So it was November 1st, The morning after the big event. I asked him, after breakfast, if he had ever heard of the Switch Witch. He replied "no, who's that?" I said "she's a good witch that switches your candy for a toy. Does that sound like something you might be interested in?" A resounding "YES, I Would!"
We dumped his candy onto the table. I took his candy bucket and said "ok, what candy do you want keep, let's put it in your bucket,"
He set some aside for himself and started a pile for the Switch Witch. His pile was getting bigger so I explained "the more candy, the better the toy"
"Oh, ok." He said. We put just a few pieces in his bucket and put that away for safe keeping.
We got a notepad and I said "ok, let's write her a note telling her what toy you want."
 Then a million question came up, typical for a toddler.
"Where does she live?"
"I don't know!"
"When does she come!"
"When you are sleeping"
"Maybe she will be here in the morning and we can have breakfast with her"
"Maybe, but she has a lot of candy to switch, lots of houses to go to"
"How many"
"More then you can count"
"Wow! She's busy! There's gunna be a lot of happy kids!!"
"Yes there are. You can ask the Switch Witch whatever you want and I will write it down for you,"
"Cool! Thanks mom!"
  We spent a few minutes doing the letter, then he colored on it for decoration.
We put the candy in a bowl with the note.
I think it's an amazing idea. I got him a tow truck toy, per his request, from target ($6.99) and a few small cars (.99 each). The switch witch felt there was a lot of candy to warrant the extra cars (;
Happy boy! Happy mom!
Win! Win!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Candy Disposal

So, Halloween is over.  After weeks of planning and choosing costumes, decorating houses, school and church activities, Fall Festivals and the most exciting part for kids, Trick or Treating, Halloween is now over.  Probably for the past week your ghouls and goblins have been building a stash of candy, enough and this morning you are looking at it trying to figure out how to get it out of your house.

Earlier this week Tyler had a dental appointment and hanging in the office (Dentistry for Kids) was the above flyer letting us know that their office will buy your Halloween candy ($1 per pound up to 5 pounds) and then send it overseas to the U.S. troops as part of Operation Gratitude, from October 31 - November 15.  The healthy supermarket, Earth Fare, is hosting a TRICK or TRADE-IN this Saturday, November 2, 10 am - 5 pm where you can "trade in your unhealthy candy for a real sweet treat".

Many dental offices offer a candy buy back program so reach out to your dentist or others in your area, this is a win - win for everyone, especially us parents who are bad about raiding our kid's stash.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Giveaway: Advanced Screening Passes for Free Birds

Enter for your chance to win a pair of passes to the advanced screening of Free Birds. You must be a resident of the Charlotte, NC metro area to qualify and be able to attend the screening Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 11:00 am. To view the entry tab you must do so using a computer or a tablet, the entry tab isn't viewable via cellular device. There will be three lucky winners.

Good luck!!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Free Redbox code

One of the things I enjoy doing the most with Tyler is movie night.  There is nothing more fun than pizza, popcorn, our favorite chocolate treats to put in the popcorn, pajamas and a night enjoying a new adventure or sharing laughs.  Use the code MCPC413S and enjoy a free one night rental from Redbox and have your own movie night.  The code is good until October 23, 2013.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Giveaway: Hungry for Home & What Do Animals Do on the Weekend?

The introduction snippet I posted last week was for the book, Hungry For Home, which believe it or not is a cookbook! Hungry For Home showcases the best of traditional Southern cooking and storytelling, along with recipes brought here from around the world. Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole, Carolina Crab and Mushroom Bisque, Crackling Corn Bread (yes it contains cracklings), Sauteed Collard Greens Brazilian Style and these are just a few of the recipes found in this book.

Have you ever wondered what animals do for fun? During the week they're busy with work and school, but look what they do when the weekend comes.  What Do Animals Do on the Weekend? takes readers on a lively adventure through the alphabet.  Kids and adults can discover together that leopards eat their dinners in trees, Eskimos invented kayaks to hunt whales, and crocodiles can grow to be 20 feet long.

Thanks to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library I have a copy of each book to be given away. Good luck!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Giveaway Teaser!

This is going to be very interesting!  Based on the above snippet of the book introduction, what do you think this book is about?  What is the genre?  This is one of the books that was given to me by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library to give away and I must say that I'm a little sad that I only received one of these because I would love to have one for myself (guess I'll be making a purchase soon).  So comment away, I'm looking forward to seeing the responses.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Are you your child's best advocate?

This evening I participated in a town hall meeting regarding North Carolina's new legislative initiative, Read To Achieve. In short it mandates that 3rd graders that are not reading on grade level will be held back.  These students will be given the chance to attend summer reading camps (not mandatory) that will be devoted to getting them on level.  If at the end of the six weeks they are up to par they will be allowed to move to the 4th grade, if not, they will have to repeat the 3rd grade.  The forum was hosted by First Baptist Church West and in attendance from Charlotte Mecklenburg School System were Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark, Community Superintendent (West) Allen Smith and NC Senator Malcolm Graham. The purpose of this forum as well as several planned forums is to make sure that parents are aware of this new legislation, especially parents of 3rd graders, such as myself.

One of the attendees asked the question, "Are you all (school system) prepared to deal with the outpouring of feelings and comments at the end of this year of parents that don't know about this law?" It is something I thought about when I read the letter that is posted on my son's school's website before the school year started.  The same letter was sent home during the first week of school, but I'm sure not all parents received or read that letter.  It brings me to one of the challenges, better yet, responsibilities of being a parent, being your child's best advocate.  Are we waiting to be told and spoon fed everything, or are we taking the initiative in seeking out policies, regulations, responsibilities, expectations, resources, etc.? Often times parents rely on the school to give them all of the information that would be helpful for their children, but why is it solely the responsibility of the school.  Yes, they are aware of many tools that are available, but what about being proactive?  As I mentioned above I found the information about the new legislation on the school's website.  Let me be clear, I don't visit the site as often as I should, I was honestly only there to see when Open House was because I was trying to plan an end of summer vacation.  But on the site there is a host of information about the school as well as links to the system's site. On my recent post about the public library I highlighted a few of the many FREE resources that are made available, just through having a library card, which is free. The public libraries appear to be a underutilized resource, but it is readily available to all.  

We make the time to plan vacations, strategically tackle Black Friday, research the pros and cons of the iPhone versus the Samsung Galaxy, etc, are we doing the same for our children? Not that we are going to uncover every resource and opportunity but are we putting forth the effort that our children deserve?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

$1 Sandwiches for Jimmy John's Customer Appreciation Day

Thursday, October 3 from 11 am until 3 pm, Jimmy John’s is saying thank you to their customers by selling sandwiches for just $1!!! The discount applies only to in-store purchases with a limit of one per person.
In a company press release, “Jimmy John’s thanks you for your loyalty,”
This would be a great treat for a lunch date with your child at school.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sensory Friendly Movie Experience

Shout out to AMC Theaters for teaming up with the Autism Society to offer Sensory Friendly Films for families with members living with autism spectrum disorder!  Each month select AMC Theaters will offer a current family friendly movie in an auditorium that will have the lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up, dance, walk, shout or sing. This offering  grew out of a request from a parent of an autistic child in Maryland, more than 300 children and parents attended the first screening! Click on the link above to see if any of your local AMC Theaters participate.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekend Agenda 9/21-9/23

Did you know the World's Fair is coming to Charlotte this Sunday?  The Mint Museum Uptown is hosting Sunday Fun Day (which is one of our favorite hangout spots in town) is debuting their new exhibit 'Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at The World's Fairs 1851-1939':
This groundbreaking international exhibition presents outstanding examples of glass, furniture, jewelry, ceramics, precious metalwork, and textiles displayed at the world’s fairs between The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London in 1851 and the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Many of these objects have never before left their respective institutions or countries.
The museum is debuting this exhibit in a big way, there will be a Ferris Wheel in uptown Charlotte as part of the opening events his Sunday! If you come out look for us between 1-3pm, we'll be there volunteering.

If you're in the Kannapolis area Saturday evening you should check out Stories Under the Stars, for an interactive program that brings words to life.  
What better way to kick of autumn than with a corn maze?!  Rural Hill's seven acre Amazing Maize Maze is now open through November 3.

Big shout out to all of the ladies that will be participating in the Ramblin' Rose Tri this Sunday! I did it last year and crossing that finish line is such an incredible feeling.

What is on your weekend agenda? Don't forget to check out the calendar for upcoming activities and events. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Justin Timberlake, Math Whizzes, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and World Travelers all in one spot?!?!?

Do you know where you can go to learn new languages, receive free tutoring services and stream tv shows and movies all for free?  Give up?  It's your public library!  And those are just three of MANY services they provide and offer to the community and card holders.  The saying 'Membership has its privileges' definitely rings true in this case.

Most people think of the library as just a place to check out books, or if you are my age, it was where you spent your weekends in high school before a major project was due. Well there are so many services available it has taken me a week to decide which to highlight because there are just too many to highlight without this qualifying for a PhD thesis.

I would have had no idea about all the library offers and probably wouldn't have taken my son as young as I did had it not been for my father.  My parents are really great about doing activities just with him as a bonding opportunity and getting a library card was one of them.  My father was the one that introduced him to the library and got him his first library card. I lived in Hickory, NC when I was a pharmaceutical sales rep and I had a library card there upon learning that you could check out movies.  Clearly this was before Netflix and I don't remember them having a Blockbuster Video. But that was four years before he was born so I hadn't been inside a library for a while before taking him in to check out books.

One day I decided to go onto the library's website to see if downloading books to mobile devices was a possibility (which it is) and that is where I discovered a whole new world of services offered by the library.  One of the first was the ability to download new music. Imagine my delight to be able to download some of Justin Timberlake's '20/20 Experience' the week it came out!  That is where I found out about Hoopla, it is a service that allows you to stream movies and tv shows to mobile devices, for free. A sorority sister of mine recently posted about Hoopla on her Facebook page and how she enjoys it with her twins. Frankly I was surprised that someone else knew about it but am glad that people are taking advantage of this resource.  There are lots of kid friendly movies and tv shows available, especially shows that were popular when I was a child.  I always love sharing things with my son that my brother and I use to love or were popular when we were his age. Or as Tyler says, 'back in the old days'.

You can also take advantage of a great program called Mango Languages through the public library.  My son is in a spanish immersion school and since I did a horrible job of paying attention in high school, my spanish is sub par and I have got to learn so that I can better help him learn as well as communicate with him to make sure he isn't cursing me out to my face unbeknownst to me.  Mango Languages is a program that offers 60, yes, 60, foreign languages and yep, it's free! You can even choose if you just want to learn for conversation or if you want more in depth learning for grammar and reading comprehension. So guess who has it downloaded onto their mobile devices?

The other really huge service offered to the community through the public library is free tutoring services.  That's right, I said free! provides free tutoring services daily from 4:00pm EST to 12:00am EST. You can select from math, science, english and a few other subject areas and it is broken down by elementary, middle, high school and adult levels.  Seriously, how often are you able to find free tutoring services?

As I said earlier, membership has its privileges and you don't get these free services without having a library card. There are so many other services and programs I didn't mention: help with starting a business, digital magazine subscriptions, movie screenings, story time, audiobooks, book clubs for all age levels and the list goes on.  You can find out for yourself better than I can tell you.  What's the Daily Show with Jon Stewart reference?  I got to go to a taping of the show when it was in Charlotte for the DNC and guess where it was filmed?!?!  Yep, at ImaginOn, part of our library system! You can't tell me that isn't pretty awesome! The library is for kids of ALL ages. Do you and your kids have one of the the coolest membership cards in town?  What are some of your favorite things about the library?

Giveaway Winners: Rissi Palmer's 'Best Day Ever'

Congratulations to Brandy D. and Roxanne L. who will each receive a copy of Rissi Palmer's 'Best Day Ever' CD!  

Thank you to all that entered.  Stay tuned, there will be more giveaways in the near future!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

Before I became I parent, I constantly found amusement from stories one of my girlfriends who would share about her own child and things that she would say.  From her obsession with a deceased historical figure (mind you her mom nor I were even born when the person died) to some of her responses or ‘back talking’ that isn’t always meant as disrespectful.  Well I’m not so quick to laugh now that I have similar stories to share.

When he was younger, Tyler and I were in an office supply store and I was making a purchase at the register.  He kept trying to get my attention and I could see him pointing out of the corner of my eye, but I asked him to wait until I finished.  What caught my attention were the words ‘man’ and ‘pirate’.  I then asked him to repeat his question and he continues to point at a man that is wearing an eye patch and very loudly asks, “Mommy is he a pirate?”.  So in my embarrassment I tried to quiet him down, tell him it isn’t nice to point and tell him no.  I don’t believe the gentleman heard, if he did, he did a great job of ignoring him. 

Another time we were in a drugstore and we walked past an elderly woman with white hair and he (frantically waving) says, “Hi Grandma”.  **Let me throw a disclaimer in here by saying that my mom doesn’t go by the name Grandma, Grandmommy, or any other commonly used name, nor does she have white hair.  She definitely doesn’t look like the stereotypical image of grandmothers, as many grandmothers these days don’t.  Why the need to say all of this?  One to brag about the fact that my mom is really cute and doesn’t look like she has a grandchild.  But more importantly, I don’t know where he got the visual association with physical appearance and family titles.**

And OMG death to the phase where he and his classmates verbally hurt each other by saying that they aren’t each other’s best friends or by saying that I’m not your friend, such and such is my best friend.  Ooh wee, giving the ‘that isn’t nice, you can have more than one best friend’ speech has gotten old really fast.  What makes it harder is when it is a child that I’m not all that thrilled about myself (Yeah I said it.  And don’t you even act like there aren’t some kids you’ve met that just aren’t your ‘favorites’.) but I do the right thing and try to correct the behavior.  

What are some 'it wasn't funny at the time, but now I can at least chuckle' moments that your little ones have had?