My #1 Tip For Getting Kids To Read Daily (Without Nagging From You!)

My daughter is in the third grade this year. Normally that’s a ho-hum age, academically, but this year, our state has the Third Grade Reading guarantee, where, if students don’t pass the reading portion of the third-grade standardized test, they have to repeat third grade.

Luckily, I have little doubts about my daughter’s ability to pass. She is brilliant, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mama! I’ve got proof! I’ve got report cards! Receipts! LOL

My son is in first grade and while he is great at reading, he doesn’t want to read. Every once in a while, I’ll hand him a book and he’ll breeze through it, looking bored. So you know what I’ve been doing?

 

1. Keep books in the car.

Even if you have a reluctant reader in your family, if you have at least one child who knows how to read and is good at it, your problem is solved! My daughter loves to read and will digest chapter books in a matter of minutes if you let her. My son on the other hand doesn’t like sitting still long enough to read. But in the car, they’re stuck there anyway, so reading works. She reads to him every day on the way to school and on the way home. When we’re going to my parents’ house (a 45-minute drive), they read on the way there. It’s easy and so far, it’s fun for them.

I ask them questions about the books and it’s a good way to get them to understand plot and story structure and test their comprehension skills. Plus, if you get your books from the library, you don’t have to look for them when they’re due. They’re just in the car!

 

Try The Bold New Menu At Bonefish Grill #HelloNewMenu

To say “my husband and I don’t get out much” would be an understatement. For one, we’re busy. He works incredibly long and strange hours and I handle most of the childrearing while bringing in a hefty paycheck of my own, so we’re constantly negotiating when one of us will be home to watch the children. Time together without the children is rare.

So rare, that when Bonefish Grill asked me if I’d like a night out to go try their new menu, it was all I could do to keep my composure.

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I asked my parents to watch the kids and off we went! We went to Bonefish Grill to celebrate our anniversary last year, so I already knew their food was going to be good. The new menu features new appetizers, a brand-new selection of bowls (tuna, strip steak, roasted veggies and shrimp!), new steaks and more.

First off, my husband and I had the new Bang Bang Shrimp Flatbread. (I’m going to use the Bonefish Grill photo here because, if you’ve ever been to Bonefish, you’d know that the lighting is low. Perfect for date night and cuddling in the booth, but horrible for iPhone photography.)

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It was delicious! It had just the right amount of kick to it, and I would have eaten all four pieces by myself if I didn’t have an entree coming. The waiter told us the sauce had a bit more spice than the regular Bang Bang Shrimp and it was a nice heads-up. I’d definitely recommend you try the flatbread if you go.

For our entrees, my husband tried the new ribeye with Asian peppercorn demi-glace. I asked for a bite of his before I even tried my food because it looked so good! And it was moist and cooked perfectly. Next time we go, I’m getting one.

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I got the sockeye salmon with lemon basil butter sauce, spinach and goat cheese. It was one of the daily specials, so I’m not sure if it will be available whenever you go. But it was delicious! I just realized that I got almost the exact same dish the last time we went. I took a bite of my salmon and told my husband, “This tastes different…like, it just came out of the ocean or something.” He laughed at me, but I was serious. That fish couldn’t have been more than a few hours old. LOL Both times the salmon has been incredible and it was so much food I honestly couldn’t finish it.

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The closest Bonefish Grill is about 30 minutes from us, but it’s worth the drive. The food is delicious and fresh without being horribly overpriced and we always receive excellent service while we’re there. If you’re looking for a new date night spot, Bonefish Grill is it.

 Disclosure: I received a gift card to facilitate this review.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

 

Ask Yourself, “Is This Worth The Fight?” Chances Are, The Answer Is No

My new thing (and something I honestly learned from my husband) is that I need to guard my energy. That means assessing where I am mentally and making sure I don’t let outside forces burrow into my spirit and take what’s left. No, no. I’m guarding against that type of foolishness.

If I woke up at 100%, I’m not wasting 5% of that on a Twitter fight with some troll who tells me I’m encouraging teen pregnancy. I’m not wasting my energy packing my kids’ lunches when they can do it themselves. I’m not wasting my energy participating in petty gossip or trying to set someone straight who is insistent that they are correct.

It’s about being mindful of how you are spending your time and what activities you could easily drop that would allow you to feel lighter and more energized every single day.

I realized that having an argument with my daughter every morning about her outfit choices (she likes to mix prints and create outrageous “looks”) was not worth my energy. She’s dressed appropriate for the weather, she likes how she looks, she’s 7. Who cares?

I realized that my career will unfold how it should and stressing over every single interaction and email with clients is not worth my energy.

I realized that stressing about making meal plans and giving my kids beautifully “designed” lunches was not worth the energy.

I realized that maintaining relationships with people who unload their personal problems on you but never ask how you are doing, that was not worth my energy.

Learning to manage my energy over the past few months has been life-changing. I don’t have to engage with every foolish thing that crosses my path. Now I simply step aside and keep it moving.

Remember: 75% Of Parenting Has Nothing To Do With Money

As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly thinking about money—how much is in my account, whether a client owes me money, whether I have enough set aside to pay my taxes. It’s exhausting, but my real concern beneath the anxiety is that somehow, the money will stop coming in and my children will suffer.

I had to stop and remind myself that so much of what I do for the children, day in and day out, has nothing to do with how much is in the bank.

Taking a walk with your kids is free.

Sitting down and listening to them tell you about their day is free.

Brushing tears away after they fall and kissing the boo-boo is free.

Allowing them to spend time to relatives and friends who love them is free.

Teaching them that beauty comes from within is free.

Sharing your wisdom is free.

Giving them the space to be themselves is free.

Saying “I love you” is free.

Having dreams for their future is free.

Hugging them every night before they go to bed is free.

Checking their homework is free.

Loving yourself so that they may have an example of what it looks like is free.

Being patient is free.

Teaching them to be respectful with their words is free.

Showing an interest in what they are interested in is free.

Teaching them compassion is free.

And I could go on and on. The point is that, while our stress about getting kids new clothes, food on the table, and a stable roof over their heads is real, great parenting can happen at any socioeconomic level. Don’t forget all the non-monetary gifts you’re giving your child, all the love you give that no money can buy.

GIVEAWAY: Family Challenge: Have Financially Savvier Kids In 30 Days

My children and I already talk about money very regularly. I look for teachable moments in our everyday lives to discuss the importance of saving money, spending money wisely and using money to fuel our dreams and goals. Just last week we had a long discussion about mortgages (!!!) because my kids wanted to know how much our house cost and, after hearing the number, wondered how in the world we could afford to spend that much! We talked about what a down payment was, the difference between a 15-year and a 30-year loan and more.

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Sometimes as parents, we think our children are too young to understand money, but truthfully, the sooner we start engaging them in these lessons, the better off they’ll be in adulthood when it’s time to manage their own households.

I’ve partnered with T.Rowe Price on their campaign to help families grow more financially savvy children! I’m participating in their Family Fitness Calendar, which gives you a month-long list of activities to do with your children. I took part in three of the activities with my children, who were all too excited to jump right in:

ACTIVITY #1 Organize a blind taste test.
HOW-TO: Prepare a blind taste test for kids to compare brand name and generic products, and explain the cost comparison between items. Is the difference in taste worth the difference in price?

RESULTS: My children are well versed in the wonders of generic products! We buy generic whenever possible and shop at stores like Aldi to stretch our grocery budget all the time. There are only a few products we have to buy brand-name and that’s for items like ice cream, salad dressing (this is my all-time favorite brand!) and deli meat. The rest of the time, generic is the move. We bought generic cereal for this taste test and the results were clear! They could not tell which was the brand name Cinnamon Toast Crunch and which was the generic kind.

Ayanna said: “I don’t care what kind it is. As long as it tastes good!”

Thomas said: “I like Frosted Flakes.”

ACTIVITY #2: Plan a weekend road trip.
HOW-TO: Work with your kids to plan for a weekend road trip. Help kids identify all of the expenses associated with traveling, such as transportation, dining, lodging, and entertainment.

RESULTS: We’re planning a trip to nearby Columbus, Ohio, because we love the science center there. (My kids are big science nerds!) We sat down and looked up hotel prices and tried to calculate how many miles we would have to drive (132!). We estimated that an overnight trip to Columbus would cost us:

$125 for a hotel room

$30 in gas

$70 for food (dinner the first night, then lunch the second because the hotel has a free breakfast!)

+ $62 for tickets to the science center

$287 TOTAL

The kids didn’t realize a quick trip could cost so much.

Ayanna said: “But…what if I don’t like the breakfast at the hotel? Can we go somewhere else?”

Thomas said: “I want to stay in a hotel with a pool. And a balcony. And a refrigerator in the room!”

ACTIVITY #3: Compare the cost of dining out versus cooking at home.
HOW-TO: Cook your child’s favorite dinner at home and keep track of the approximate cost with them. Then use an online menu to calculate how much it would have cost to dine out.

RESULTS: We made pizza because it’s cheap! When we order pizza, it’s usually $30 because someone wants wings and then another person wants cinnabread and my daughter can’t eat wheat pizza so I have to order something gluten-free for her! It’s a nightmare. So we bought a “bake it yourself” pizza from our local grocery store (and it’s completely plain so you add the toppings.) Total price: $6.99. You.can’t.beat.it!

Ayanna said: “I like going out to eat. It’s like a special treat and I wish we could go out more often!”

Thomas said: “I want to go get pizza!”

T.Rowe Price partnered with the family calendar site, Cozi.com, to give parents even more ways to make cents (ha!) with their kids. Use this link to add 16 fun family activities to your Cozi family calendar. Visit T.Rowe Price’s MoneyConfidentKids.com for more tips on raising financially savvy kids!

GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a $50 gift card and a cute piggy bank courtesy of T. Rowe Price!

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Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with T.Rowe Price. All opinions (of course!) are my own. 

Have Some Late Summer Fun At Wildwater Kingdom

Disclosure: I am a Cedar Point blogger and I was given free tickets to bring you this review of Wildwater Kingdom.

Earlier this month I headed to Wildwater Kingdom for a fun day at the waterpark with my family. I was extra pumped because my son’s only birthday request was that we go to a waterpark and I managed to make it happen.

This was our fourth time coming to the waterpark over the past few years but this was the first year my children were finally old enough and tall enough to experience everything in the park. The day we went was a horrible day weather-wise (thunderstorms forced a park closure for about two hours) but in the two hours that we got to splash and play, my kids had a wonderful time. Here are their highlights of the trip.

Splash Landing

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This is easily my children’s favorite part of the park. Everywhere you turn there’s water spraying on you and a giant bucket drops 1,000 gallons of water every few minutes. It never ever fails that I inadvertently get turned around in there and end up right underneath the bucket as it unloads on poor, unsuspecting me. It never ever fails. *shakes fists*

This is a great area for younger children (provided they really like water LOL) because there are tons of smaller slides and climbing structures for them to use and have fun. There are life jackets for smaller children if your child needs one.

Thunder Falls

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This picture does not do these slides justice. I can readily admit that I was too chicken to go down the slides, but my 7-year-old daughter went down twice by herself. Don’t judge me! I don’t like heights! The tallest slide is 100 feet tall and I’m just a fraidy cat. My daughter teased me the entire ride home. LOL.

Riptide Run

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Even though it was kind of cool the day we went (72 degrees isn’t the best water park weather), the lazy river was absolutely perfect! The water was warm, the flow was slow and gentle. It was no surprise I saw most of the adults in this section, looking absolutely blissed out. This was my favorite part of the park for sure.

If you’re looking for a late summer getaway with the family, Wildwater Kingdom is still open for two more weekends of fun! August 23-24 and August 30-September 1, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (And remember to bring towels for the family!)

Testing Out The NewAir AF-520 Outdoor Misting Fan!

We are now entering year four of battling my daughter’s eczema. I don’t talk about it much, because it’s frustrating. But the near-constant presence of itchy skin can be unbearable for her, and it’s been a heck of ride trying to figure out what her triggers are.

We know one for sure: When she gets too hot outside, she gets itchy. Then she doesn’t want to play and simply wants to go back into the house, into the air-conditioning. It’s unpleasant for everyone and a disappointment to me, as I want her to be able to run and play outside like the other kids.

The good folks at New Air sent me their outdoor misting fan to review and now I am in love, mainly because it provides her with cool air AND a reasonable amount of mist when she’s playing with her brother. We put it on the back patio for them to run through as they scurry from the house to the backyard. (Think sprinkler, but more refined and with the added bonus of a strong breeze!).

When it shipped to me, it needed to be assembled, but despite my lack of assembly know-how I got the thing up and operational within 15 minutes. (Yes, I’m still patting myself on the back for that.) Once we connected it outside, the children grabbed the hose, we hooked up the fan and they had a blast! It reaches a 500-square-foot radius and even on the lowest setting, it provided a strong breeze and cool mist.

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Yes, that is my son’s Halloween costume

It solved one of our eczema problems, which was a HUGE load off my mind. With the misting fan, my daughter could run and play and get cool when she needed to. I’m going to try to have a little get together before the summer is over, because I think it would be great for parties, particularly backyards and outdoor area where there is little shade.

We’ve used it a few times this summer and I can’t wait to use it all next summer too!

To learn more about the misting fan, visit NewAir.com.

Disclosure: I received product from New Air in exchange for this review. All views and opinions are my own. 

 

#SheInspires | Frechic Austin, Founder of Single Parent Support Group, From Lemons to Lemonade

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Name:  Frechic Austin

Age: 29

Kids: Several! Just kidding, I have three. Cameron is 11, Chanelle is 6, and Israel is 5.

Blog/Business URL: FromLemons2Lemonade.com

Whenever I have a moment of free time I look forward to…

Eating and enjoying the presence of friends in an informal atmosphere.  I love to sit and listen to my friends while we discuss positive things that we are doing in our lives. We drink wine and curl our feet up on the couch and just pour out to each other. I really value my relationships with my friends and I love to be there for them. Any opportunity to just sit and talk in each other’s living rooms is just therapy for us all.

My mommy superpower is…. 

Actually I had to think about this one! I really don’t consider myself to have any “superpower” HOWEVER if I had to choose one thing that sets me apart from other mothers is my ability to stay calm. I rarely yell at my kids. People think it’s so funny. My children could be acting a COMPLETE fool in public and I look at them and calmly say, “Okay. If you want to make bad choices that is up to you. But I’ll tell you what, bad choices bring bad outcomes.” They pretty much know what that means so they straighten up really quickly. Even when it comes to me disciplining them, I am really calm. I speak in an even tone and carry out whatever discipline without resorting to yelling. It’s got to be really bad for me to yell.

On really tough days I… 

Get away and escape in a book. My mind is always at 100. I’m constantly working, cleaning, teaching, and working some more. My mind can never relax. But my favorite thing to do since I was 7 is to escape in books. I love old Romantic Victorian novels. I believe it’s because it’s so different from my own life that I can actually escape into another life for an hour or so. If I were reading something similar to my own life I’d spend time drawing comparisons and thinking too much. That’s no fun.  LOL.

The thing that scares me the most about motherhood is….

What scares me most is my children growing up without morals, a healthy fear of God, and becoming unproductive members of society. I know that’s a mouthful but that’s honestly what I’m working so hard to do. If these things fall through, I will feel like a failure as a mother. I want to leave a legacy by instilling these values in my children as best as I can.

The thing that excites me the most about motherhood is…. 

My children growing up and building healthy and happy families. I long for the day when my future husband and I can sit in our home while it’s full of the children we created and raised in our blended family. I want our walls filled with the laughter of our grandchildren, smiles on our children’s and their spouse’s faces, and my heart will be full. J

I know for sure I’m passionate about…. 

Creating structures in our society to enrich and encourage support centered around single parents.

If my kids can only remember one thing I teach them, I hope it’s…..

Nothing in this world matters if you don’t have a right relationship with God and your family.

I feel like a great mom when…. 

My children tell me that I am. They are all that matters. I love when people in the community say that I’m a good mom but it means the most to me when my kids tell me. I’m doing it all for them.

My personal motto is…..

My first responsibility is my home. If my home ain’t right, I ain’t right.”

One thing that would make motherhood easier is if…. 

We had a village like we used to. If family, friends, and neighbors collectively supported each home and family. No man (or woman) was meant to be an island. We wouldn’t have to worry so much about the safety of our children if everyone looked out for one another.

As A Black Mother, This Is What Keeps Me Up At Night

Last Halloween, I took my kids’ trick or treating in my very much majority-white neighborhood.

We were around the corner, just out of view of my house, when a police car started riding slowly down the street.

I froze.

I kept one eye on the car as it followed me and my kids and I had to murmur to myself that I had done nothing wrong, that I was doing exactly what everyone else was doing (trying to enjoy the holiday with their kids). We kept walking and the police officer kept following us for a few more houses. Then they parked and got out the car.

“Want some candy?” they said, gesturing toward the bowl of candy they held in their hand.

I breathed a small sigh of relief but I didn’t respond. My kids darted over and grabbed some candy. I let them. (It was Halloween, after all and getting as much candy as you can is the whole point of the holiday.)

The police officers then walked down the street to catch up with the other trick-or-treaters and offer them candy as well, stopping to chat with the other parents, cracking jokes and doling out compliments on the kids’ costumes.

I, however, was shook. Because I thought I was about to get harassed for being black in my neighborhood. 

This is a real fear.

When I was sixteen and learning to drive, before I even learned how to parallel park or even merge onto a freeway, my parents drilled it into me that if I was ever stopped by the police I was to be slow and deliberate in my movements, keep my hands on the steering wheel and say, “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” to any interrogations. They just wanted me to get home alive.

And in the years that followed, I’ve been pulled over more times than I want to think about, usually for things like speeding (37 in a 35) or a broken taillight (that ended up being a 20-minute stop). And I always hear them in my head, “I just want you to get home alive.”

Because the reality is, for me, as a black woman, coming home alive after an encounter with the police is not a guarantee. Just typing that makes me want to clutch my children and keep them in some sort of bubble, but honestly, how do you parent like this? How do you make those decisions for your children’s future when you know there are people out there who will dislike your children and put obstacles in their way no matter what you do, simply because they are black?

Case in point: We moved to this city because they have one of the top public school districts in the state, for many years running. Most parents want that type of opportunity for their kids, right? Right. The trade off for that is that there are few black children in the schools. Sacrificing diversity for opportunity, when I wish I could have both.

The first eight months of my son’s kindergarten year, he received nothing but glowing reports. He was always on “green” (good) or “blue”  (great) on the class behavior chart. Always. His teacher gushed about how much she loved having him in class. Other parents would ask me how I got my son to listen and get “green” every day.
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Then in May, my five-year-old son was sent to the principal’s office for throwing playground pebbles at the cafeteria window. (The window did not break.) I got a call from school immediately after he was sent back to his classroom, with the principal keeping me on the phone for 15 minutes to discuss what happened. She told me that he would also lose recess privileges the following day.

It didn’t make sense to me, because up until that point, he had been in time out in school exactly one time:  in preschool, he refused to listen to the teacher when she said reading time was over and he kept reading his book. So now he’s graduated to trying to damage property? It didn’t make sense.

Not only that, but she told me he wouldn’t admit to throwing the pebbles. He repeatedly said he didn’t do it. I talked to him when he got home from school that day and I believe him, as he is one of those children who will tell you they did something, who can take discipline without lying to avoid it.

However earlier that year, when a (white) classmate pushed my son on the playground, resulting in my son having a bloody nose and needing to go to the nurse’s office, I didn’t even receive a call. I only found out because there was blood on his coat when I picked him up and his sister happened to see it because they share a recess period. The classmate got a verbal warning to keep his hands to himself. No loss of recess that day or the next. No visit to the principal’s office. No phone call to Mom.

I’m finding it much more stressful to help my son navigate school than I ever anticipated. But it’s not just school. It’s his extracurriculars. It’s his friendships. It’s his trips down the street by himself.

All of this is just tumbling out of me because I’ve never really put it out there before. The post, “I’m Afraid To Raise A Brown Boy,” touched on these fears, but that was a guest post. This one is all me. All my fears and nervousness alive and on the web. I just want my children to be safe, to be nurtured, to be uplifted for who they are.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask. But what if it is?

I don’t want to wallow in the feeling of hopelessness because it’s not hopeless. We can fight for our children and we can do something to ensure their lives and experiences are valued. We can.

 

#SheInspires | K. Elizabeth McCoy: “Parenting In General Is A Mixture Of Trial And Error”

SheInspires - Kerry

Name:  K. Elizabeth McCoy

Age: 28
Kids: Two kids ages 5 (girl) & 3 (boy)
Whenever I have a moment of free time I look forward to… Curling up with a good book or work on finishing up my two novels.  I’ve also been overdosing on British crime shows like Luther and The Fall at the moment when I have the time.
My mommy superpower is…. Cooking for multiple food allergies from scratch.  It’s definitely a challenge some days spicing meals up because there are things that my son is allergic to that my daughter isn’t and vice versa.  Thankfully, I’ve always had a passion for cooking and I get joy for making meals from scratch.  Like I make my own spaghetti 85% of the time as opposed to using can sauce.
On really tough days I… Take a few minutes of alone time to gather my thoughts.  My husband is really good about spending time with the kids before he has go to work and just giving me that 20 or 30 minutes to be alone and just breathe, cry or whatever it is I need to do to get back in a positive mind space.
 
The thing that scares me the most about motherhood is….Failing my children.  There’s no manual for this or a one size fits all.  Parenting in general is a mixture of trial and error.  My childhood left me with a lot of emotional scars and I strive to make sure that my children don’t have those same experiences.
The thing that excites me the most about motherhood is…. Just watching my children grow and knowing that I had a hand in creating them and shaping them.  I’ve always been in awe of life and the fact that we can create it.
I know for sure I’m passionate about….My family, my faith and giving back to others.
If my daughter can only remember one thing I teach her, I hope it’s…..Stick to your morals and values.  We live in a day and age where literally anything goes and I want my daughter (and my son) to stand for something and not fall for anything.
I feel like a great mom when….My kids are totally oblivious to the fact that I’m in the room and I get the chance to just really observe and see how genuinely they happy they are and that they’re great kids with compassion and true concern for those around them.
My personal motto is….Have faith and respect the journey.
One thing that would make motherhood easier is if….I had an extra set of hands.  A lot of times, I do feel like I’m spread a little thin, but I manage and make it work in the end.  It’s all about prioritizing.