Parenting/Family

Planning for a Family Visit with Toddlers in the DC Area

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camp kesemWe dropped the kids off for their yearly sleep away camp. Camp Kesem is a week long camp that serves children who have lost a parent to cancer, have a parent undergoing cancer treatment , or whose parent is a cancer survivor. The camp is an opportunity for kids to just be kids and to hang out with other kids who have experienced the life altering effects that cancer has on an entire family.

While Scotty is now 8 years cancer free, the long term effects are still present and the changes within our family are forever there. HB didn’t really want to go but we explained that in many ways, it’s important for other kids to see different perspectives of cancer and whether they see it or not, our kids were affected forever.

While they are at camp, I am heading to Memphis, and am excited and honored to be given this opportunity. The agenda over the next three days is full from 9a – 9p. They have us meeting with families, doctors, doing projects with the kids, touring the hospital, meeting with the Communications department and finding out being one of their ambassadors and what that entails.  I will be sure to share some of each day’s events while i am gone if i can. But as a I said, they have us booked all day, learning.

TrooperAnd last week, my brother and his two girls were here for the week. It’s been a very long time since I had toddlers in my house. It was quite an experience –and a lot of work. I forgot all the demands and attention they require. They were adorable and we had a great time. The most popular member of our household it seemed was Trooper. The girls loved him and he loved them back. It was awesome to see how gentle and affectionate he was to them. As big as he is, he can be gentle and playful. When they left, he moped around the house for a day or so missing them. He’s now back to normal – thank goodness!

Planning for a Family Visit with Toddlers

Their week long stay had me playing tour guide, so I thought I would share how I handled making plans for them knowing that because of their ages (2 and 5), we needed to have fun, be flexible, and get a taste of the beauty of Virginia (aka “grassy land” – which is what my 5 year old niece calls Virginia)….

I wanted to find events/attractions that would not take all day either — because as anyone that has had young kids — their attention spans are limited and they need naps. Here’s what I came up with and then also planned pool time, walks, and art activities at home. I was pretty pleased with myself for being so organized and planning activities that really worked out well for everyone…

National Aquarium Baltimore, MD Adults: $39.95
Children (3-11): $24.95
Seniors (65+): $34.95
National AquariumNational Harbor is a great place to take the kids –they can run around and the aquarium also offers the chance to touch jelly fish and other sea creatures on the 2nd floor.
Smithsonian Butterly Pavilion DC/Smithsonian Adults: $6.00
Children (2-12): $5.00
Seniors (65+): $5.50
Butterflies at the SmithsonianButterflies are EVERYWHERE in this small enclosure. The kids loved it.
Great Country Farms 18780 Foggy Bottom Rd, Bluemont, VA 20135 Weekdays: $8/Child & $10/Adult kids under 2: FREE Great Country FarmRide the Cow Train.
Solve the giant Mazes.
Grab some air on the Pumpkin Jumping Pillow.
Make friends with the Barnyard animals.
Hook the big one at the Fishing Pond.
Much, much more!
FLY DANCE COMPANY Wolf Trap – Theater in the woods $10.00/Ticket Thursday, August 4 at 10:30 am Fly Dance CompanySo you think you can dance? Check out this high-energy, gravity-defying dance crew as they mix hip-hop, pop n lock, and modern dance with colorful costumes and comic delivery. Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Great Falls Park Great Falls/Mclean VA 8.00 Park Entrance Fee Great Country Farm

Scenic National Park, with hiking and climbing on rocks.

Change is Constant

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IMG_7569Lots going on — which is why I am slacking on updating often. My day job has been in the midst of a lot of change – my awesome boss has decided to leave, our CEO resigned and we are moving offices -which will add a sucky commute to my work week- all in the span of a few weeks! Talk about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, not to mention the kids are now out of school for the summer and my puppy, Trooper, has been away for two weeks getting some serious obedience training. We miss him terribly and have been all excited for him to come home and yesterday the trainer texts asking if they can keep him an extra week at no charge, so they can work with him on tracking. So – I would say he’s doing well with his training and we can’t say no –but man, we miss him.

Oh, and HB is done with middle school. It’s hard to believe my little baby is now heading to high school. I have mixed feelings about it all. I just really cant get my head around the fact that she is growing up so fast. She is now officially taller than me. I keep having flash backs of little moments when she was a baby and it really does seem like yesterday. Then I am reminded that it was a very long time ago when she tells me I don’t understand anything and how could I embarrass her so much by <whatever it is that particular day>!

As for my fitness life – I’m down another pound. Seems like that’s my MO. Slow and steady. That’s 11 pounds down and about 3% body fat lost. I’m really happy with the progress. I feel so much better and you can see a lot more definition in my body. It’s the protein I tell ya! Eat more protein!  I’ve been enjoying my 2x a week sessions with my trainer, Wayne. I’m doing some strength training I have not ever done before and he seems to enjoy trying to figure out how to make me sore. Every session he has been asking me how are you feeling and I have said, a bit sore but nothing major. Well, this week – my calves were SORE. When I went in for yesterday’s session – he seemed to revel in it a bit more than he should and proceeded to have me do a very intensive upper body circuit that left me shaking. It’s been interesting to work 1:1 with a trainer. It takes a few weeks to get acquainted. I guess you can say it’s like dating. At first, it’s all nice and once you are more comfortable, the real sets in. Well – we are at the real point. In a good way of course – He is pushing me and I am seeing results. Which is the point – and it has reignited my motivation. So I would say it’s been money well spent.

Then of course there is [Solidcore] and Boxing — a well-rounded fitness cycle. Some people ask me how I find the time to do it all and still take care of stuff in my life. Well, it’s a good question. Some of it is getting up super early to get my work outs in. Some of it has to do with asking for help. My hubby knows it’s important to me, so he does his part to help the gears run. And finally, my kids know that it’s just what Mom does and I hope they take my lead and continue to be active throughout their lives. It’s about 5-6 hours total out of each week if you think about it. There are MANY hours in a week – 5 or 6 is nothing – and we all deserve ME time. It’s my therapy, my time to hang with my friends, listen to some good music, challenge myself physically and mentally, and set the example I want to set for my kiddos. How can I NOT find time – ya know?

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18 years, 18 years…

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18th wedding anniversaryThis was waiting for me on my Facebook wall when I got into the office this morning by Scotty –

“Remember our 18 year anniversary? We had to cancel our dinner reservations because we forgot you had to take our daughter to that annoying teen show/concert thing. Do you recall how both of our kids were sick, coughing up lungs and leaving tissues all over the house for the dog to get? How about battling with the kids over the dishes even though it would be easier for us to just do them, but we don’t because we are teaching the kids responsibility? How we ran errands separately so we can divide an conquer? Remember how I sang “Girl you don’t need makeup” to you, and you stopped me saying that the song is not actually a nice thing, and then you sang Kanya “18 years 18 years..” and I stopped you reminding you how that one isn’t appropriate either? Happy Anniversary – I can’t imagine taking on the world with anyone else and still have as much fun as we do. I love you and can’t wait to see you after work… after I run errands to get the kid’s meds and whatever else you remind me that I forgot to do.”

True to my personality, I added…

“remember how I said I wouldn’t be mad at you at all today — and then I got mad at you. And how i forced you to take a selfie?”

I don’t have any special magical advice to share about marriage. It’s a lot of work, there are peaks and valleys. We do genuinely like each other as well as love each other. We laugh a lot. We treat each other with respect, even when we are angry (which does happen). We like hanging out together. Above all else though, we are committed to one another. It’s us – in it together.

Marriage

The Magic You Were Born With

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PinkI was trying to figure out what really bothered me about the latest Kim Kardashian instagram image.  It’s her body, so what do I care if she wants to show it to the world. But yet, it still bothered me. Then I read something posted by Pink today on Twitter that captured what I was feeling:

“Shout out to all of the women, across the world, using their brains, their strength, their work ethic, their talent, their ‘magic’ that they were born with, that only they possess. It may not ever bring you as much ‘attention’ or bank notes as using your body, your sex, your tits and asses, but women like you don’t need that kind of attention. In the quiet moments, you will feel something deeper than the fleeting excitement resulting from attention, you will feel something called pride and self respect.” -Pink

It is absolutely her right to show her body off and be proud. I just can’t help but think about what happens when her ‘looks’ stop getting her attention. What happens then? More plastic surgery, treatments, perfect lighting to keep up the facade? I would imagine that when your fame and career all stem from how you look – you get wrapped up and it consumes you.

Pink QuoteWhen I saw her IG posts, I didn’t stop and say oh, i wish I was just like her. Quite the opposite actually, It bothered me. It felt cheap, unnecessary and an over the top cry for attention.  It also angered me – my teen daughter sees images like that all over the place now and in her still forming mind, she begins to think that’s worthy of attention and worthy of emulation.

It makes parenting that much harder…

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Move Out Of Your Comfort Zone in 2016

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Here we are in December, weeks away from the New Year and the beginning of winter. Colder weather, darker days, a lot of stress for some trying to survive the holiday season.

Move out of your comfort zoneFor me, it can be the perfect recipe for losing motivation and momentum – if you let it.  I used to think that this time of year and into early January, when all the gyms are full and people start creating New Year’s resolutions, was the time for renewed inspiration. I find myself starting to feel the pull of the warm bed in the early morning and find myself staring at the clock during some of my workouts wondering how much longer I have until it’s done.

It’s a good thing to recognize because as someone who loves working out – the feeling of a good sweat and the feeling of strength that comes with a great workout. There’s nothing like it, I can’t imagine drifting away from this lifestyle – but it becomes more chore-like if I don’t continue to challenge myself by trying new things or switching things up.

So – for those who are active on the regular and reliably focused on leading a healthy lifestyle – I challenge you to switch things up in the upcoming year. If you find something you love already – great – keep it up but also try a few new things to spice things up. Try a new class – ZUMBA anyone??  Try weight lifting, try Barre. Get outside of your comfort zone — your body and mind will actually benefit from it!

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You are a work in progress

History Does Indeed Repeat Itself

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The US Is a Melting PotI’ve been following the recent controversy around accepting refugees into our country. Our country was created by people fleeing oppression and it continues to flourish by all of us who make up this glorious melting pot.

History repeats itself – I shared a recent article about groups of people not wanting to accept Jewish refugees fleeing from Germany during WWII and we all know what happened there.

With the explosion of digital information there are groups of people who are taking advantage of situations like the terror in Paris to instill the fear of fear in people world wide. In this NYT editorial, Fearing Fear Itself, Paul Krugman makes the interesting point,  “the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire.”  

“The world would be a whole lot safer if people would stop caring about politics and start caring about people.”  – a friend on facebook

It also goes along with the sensitivity of society lately. Disruption, thinking differently, being better at something or inadvertently saying something stupid – any and all of the above can produce responses that seem unfit for the situation.

Here are just a few examples I’ve seen lately…

Online, people can’t make an off color joke (intentionally or unintentionally) without it becoming a big ordeal, causing an uproar, a boycott or producing a verbal lashing. What used to happen?  We would think to ourselves or even say out loud “oh that person is an asshole” and we moved on.

Kids and sports.  My son and I were not that thrilled that he received a ‘participation’ trophy for playing flag football this Fall.  All I did was pay to have him on a team and he got a trophy at the end of the season. That is not trophy worthy in my book and as it turned out, it wasn’t trophy worthy in his book either.

I think all of this ultra-sensitivity is causing people to be less kind, more risk averse, and too careful -which seems to be the sentiment in this email my brother sent to me today (copied below). I obviously did not write it. It was one of those long, forwarded, you don’t know who really wrote it, emails, but it resonated with me because I do think we as a world are becoming more and more sensitive and less tolerant than is good for us.

being a 1970s kidTO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.

Then, after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, and, when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads.

As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes..

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren’t overweight. WHY?

Because we were always outside playing…that’s why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day. –And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem..

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendos and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs,
no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.

WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broken bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from those accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms, and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and -although we were told it would happen- we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, and inventors ever. The past 50 to 85 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas..

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If YOU are one of those born between 1925-1975, CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good. While you are at it, forward it to your kids, so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it ?

Goodbye to a Friend: Life is Too Short

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This weekend I attended the memorial service, well, it really was a celebration of life, for my friend Niki. A group of her local DC friends gathered in a church basement behind the Nation’s Capital to connect and share the joy that was Niki Mitchell.

Niki was a writer, a published author, The New Color of Success: Twenty Young Black Millionaires Tell You how They’re Making it, and a masterful PR executive with a wicked sense of humor, wit and passion. It was clear if you knew her and if you didn’t, all you had to do was be in this room this weekend. Her friends and family are a collection of amazing, talented, funny people.

The celebration of her life was full of stories told by the people who knew her best – the ones she loved, she worked with and shared with. We laughed a lot during the afternoon as we remembered her. We cried about the void her unexpected passing has left. We comforted one another as we said goodbye. She will never be forgotten by anyone who had the pleasure of knowing her.

Her childhood friend, who literally knew Niki her whole life, shared all the phases of Niki’s life – childhood, young student, writer, wife, mother. One thing she did share was a few weeks before Niki’s unexpected passing, they spoke about taking better care of themselves. She said she had noticed that Niki was not taking care of herself. She was so busy taking care of everyone else around her – she was neglecting her own wellness.  It’s a reminder to us all – take care of yourself first -mentally and physically- so you can take care of others around you.

Closing out the celebration, her business partner spoke about ways you can tell you lived a good life. Niki checked all the boxes and even though she left too soon, her life made a difference. His words reminded me of a favorite quote: In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

Its not the life in your years, its the years in your life.

On the drive home, Scotty and I talked about how this type of remembrance is how we would want to celebrated. I want a celebration of my life that included laughing, eating good food and as I shared with Scotty, dancing! Everyone will need to bust a move in my memory!  I want people to say their goodbyes in the spirit of who I am.

The rest of the weekend, I was mindful, evaluating where I am, where I want to be and who I am around. Life is too short to be around people who suck the happiness out of you. It’s cliche but true — life is way too short to waste time with fools and to worry about stupid little things that at the end of day, don’t matter.

 

Life is Short Quotes download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifes-Too-Short-Inspirational-Life-Quotes

Toxic Family: Are You Obligated To Help?

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I’ve been dealing with some heavy shit the past few weeks and it’s been hard.

I have an older family member who has been asking/expecting financial help to live because for years, he and his wife did nothing to prepare for their retirement and lived at a level that was well above their income. Not to mention, they were less than stellar family members and did little to help others voluntarily throughout the years.

Should you help everyone in your family just because they are family?

I keep hearing because they are my family as the reason why I should ‘do the right thing’ and pitch in but thinking about that brings up more questions for me…

  • Where is this rule written?
  • Why did they not have to follow it when others needed help?
  • Am I a bad person if I choose to not help?
  • Do I have to help because others in my family will be burdened and I should share the burden?

What I think bothers me more as my family starts to figure out how to offer help together is the lack of any sort of real understanding or care about the impact their ask has. It affects our ability to pay down our own debts, save for our children’s college and put away for when our retirement comes.  All things they never did as they lived a high stylin’ life.  When you don’t have any extra money, you have to change your standard of living – you can’t shop at high end stores or get fancy cars with a high monthly payments.  It’s been their problem all along –they don’t grasp the concept of having to lower their standard of living.

You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.

The worst part of having to figure out how to help them is the bubbling up of old buried family issues. Maybe we need to celebrate Festivus – and air our grievances! Things that you thought were way behind you come to the surface with each back and forth.  Their apparent lack of understanding or taking responsibility for their situation and their combative responses to any sort of inquiry into what’s really going on with them financially and physically literally brings me back to my teens and early 20’s when I was dealing with them more regularly. It’s a huge reason why I keep them at a far distance from my every day life – they are not healthy people.

Is there a way I can help, whereas it does not play into their unhealthy lifestyle but also does not cause me to revisit old family crap? That’s the question really – I try to focus on being kind to everyone but I am not willing to do it to the point where it burns me. No way…

Every family has stuff to deal with — good and bad. I am certainly not the first person out there who has had to deal with mooching family members. It’s causing me to turn in emotionally and I am finding it hard to be inspired and motivated to share like I used to. It’s a very sad situation and while I certainly want to help if I can – I’m not sure I can without causing myself inner turmoil.

When Parents Are Too Toxic to Tolerate

Toxic parents. How to know when it’s time to let go.

School Dress Codes: Are They Out of Control?

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Dress Code I think this whole appropriate attire issue is getting out of control. My daughter is now constantly questioning what she can and can’t wear as she gets ready for school- instead of worrying about learning. Pencil skirts are NOT ok because it outlines the butt, and skirts have to be a certain length, leggings can’t be worn without a long shirt…. the list goes on and on.  It’s getting out of control – It’s now a distraction to her and me.  Are we really at a point where young men can’t control their thoughts and actions if a classmate is wearing yoga pants?  If that’s the case – it’s bigger issue than just the clothing being ‘suggestive’.

Teens Are Fighting Sexist Dress Codes With This Brilliant Hashtag

And it doesn’t stop there — rules that ban innocuous super heroes because they are categorized as violent super heroes…  School Reportedly Bans Girl’s ‘Wonder Woman’ Lunchbox

We are creating an environment with too much padding and expecting it to stop what ails the world.  It’s not yoga pants and Wonder Woman lunch boxes that’s the problem. It’s this pervasive culture of putting the responsibility on the female to keep it all in check as opposed to teaching both boys and girls how to treat one another with mutual respect.

And it’s happening in schools all over the country — bare shoulders are against the rules in some schools. How the heck is a shoulder distracting to someone??

Ridi School Dress CodesSchool dress codes spark wardrobe wars: How to handle it with your kids

Do school dress codes unfairly target girls?

Even this summer, HB attended an amazing camp but the rules stated the girls had to wear one piece suits or wear a shirt over their bikini –but the boys were able to wear just their swim trunks. When I went to pick up my daughter, it was one of the first things she told me about — and asked how come the boys didn’t have these sorts of rules?

It’s a good question –

#IAMMORETHANADISTRACTION

Time Flies: An Abrupt Wake Up Call

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I have had a series of recent light bulb experiences that have thrown me for a loop and served me a helping of reality…

Ack! My Parents Are Getting Old

I have 4 brothers and sisters and we have a half sister that is quite a bit younger. My Dad has been married to her mother since I was 6 – so a very long time. Since the early 90’s, my dad and step mother have lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Their health is failing and they have had serious financial setbacks for a myriad of reasons that I won’t go into. The bottom line is they can’t afford to stay in the Phoenix area and none of the family lives nearby. So, they decided to move to Ohio to be closer to their daughter, my half sister and they arrived there last week.

Seeing pictures of them during their drive out to Ohio shocked me. You know how you have this vision of your parents? Well, my vision didn’t match what I saw and it was a jolting reminder that time marches on and my parents are aging. Scott and I are very lucky to have both sets of parents still around – but health problems are starting to creep up and the unstoppable hands of time are spinning.

Seeing them look so frail, was a great reminder to me why taking care of my health and wellness while I am young is important. Exercise, eating healthy and maintaining a positive attitude towards any situation will go far as you age. Trust me on that one! Seeing the differences in how my parents are aging based on their life outlook and how they have taken care of themselves has been very educational for me. It’s night and day.

Oh No! I’m Feeling My Age

Brittany Marklin Britt’s wedding this past weekend was beyond lovely.  Not sure if I have mentioned, but Britt is a bit younger than me – and hence, the wedding crowd was young. It was one of those experiences where I felt old. Not old enough to be a granny or anything, but old in the sense that I really didn’t want to ‘hang’ out. It’s not a bad thing  — the wedding guests were nice but I don’t enjoy drinking and getting shit faced and it takes me forever to recover!

On top of feeling old at the wedding, yesterday, my tween daughter sent me pics her friend took of her (included below). Talk about feeling my age – she looks so grown up. How the heck did my little baby become a young woman? And to boot, she is about an inch or less away from being taller than me. She just seems so grown up.

It’s inevitable-we age, grow up, become adults, get old and eventually we will pass. The reminders this past week have left me feeling somewhat blah and melancholy about things around me.  I will get out of my funk but it was an abrupt wake up call…

Life is short.
Act with good intentions.
Say what you need to say to those you care most about.
Cherish the moments.
Be Kind.
Laugh a lot.
Spread Love

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