GIVEAWAY: “The Nut Job” DVD Is Perfect For Family Movie Night

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Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m going through the motions with my kids. They go to school, I stay home and work and in the evenings we’re just kind of existing in the same space, but we’re not really talking and we’re not really connecting as much as I’d like. Part of me was happy when I was knee-deep in Young Mom Summit details, because they were content to play together and didn’t demand as much of my attention, but now? I’m feeling a little lost, honestly.

A good family movie night does wonders for me and my kids. We spend the whole day talking about it, I obsess over snacks and pizza toppings and we have a good time. I usually lay a blanket on the floor and we eat picnic-style while watching a funny movie. (Always a funny movie. We have enough drama in real life.)

It’s a time to be still, enjoy each other’s company and be silly together. My kids are 7 and 5 now and they no longer fit on my lap. They are developing their own friendships at school, they want more independence and before you know it, they’ll be out of my house. I’m trying to squeeze the most out of the time we have left together.

That’s why I’m happy to be sharing this giveaway today! I have five copies of the new-to-DVD film, “The Nut Job,” and I want you to win!

Film synopsis:

THE NUT JOB is an action-packed comedy in fictional Oakton that follows the travails of Surly (voiced by Will Arnett), a mischievous squirrel, and his rat friend Buddy, who plan a nut store heist of outrageous proportions and unwittingly find themselves embroiled in a much more complicated and hilarious adventure.

 To enter the giveaway, share your nuttiest parenting moment in the comments. I’ll pick five winners on Monday, April 21. Good luck!

 

Disney’s “Give A Book, Get A Book” Campaign Gets Books Into Hands Of Low-Income Children

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On Saturday, Disney kicked off some HUGE news during its 2014 Social Media Moms Celebration. It unveiled its Give A Book, Get A Book partnership with First Book that will donate up to ONE MILLION books to U.S. communities in need, as well as present families with free digital books from Disney Publishing.

This is an initiative that is near and dear to my heart because I truly believe EVERY child should have access to any book they so choose. One of my major goals for the site is to partner with other organizations to make sure my readers’ kids have full, fun book libraries at home. So I was thrilled to be on hand for the announcement.

To kick off the announcement, they had special remarks from Disney Junior’s Genevieve Goings (from “Choo-Choo Soul”); Nancy Kanter, Executive Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide; and First Book Board Member, Dr. Martha Bernadett.

And then Levar Burton came out!

For those of you who don’t know, I consider reading to be my sport of choice. So to meet the “curator-in-chief” for Reading Rainbow, it was literally an item on my bucket list. And then they played the Reading Rainbow theme song and I just about lost it.

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In addition to the top brass from Disney Junior and First Book, they had three celebrity guests: David Arquette (voice of Skully in “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”), Ariel Winter (voice of Sophia in “Sophia the First”), and Tim “Make It Work” Gunn (voice of Baileywick in “Sophia the First”). My kids didn’t know who they were—until they started reading.

“She sounds like Sophia!” my daughter whispered to me.

“She IS Sophia,” I whispered back.

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There are two ways to participate in the “Give A Book, Get A Book” program:

  • For a limited time, with the purchase of any specially marked Disney Junior book or product, receipts or packaging will include a redemption code allowing kids and families to direct the donation of a book to First Book in the region of their choice and toaccess a free Disney Digital Book to share as a family. This program begins April 21.
  • Additionally, Give a Book, Get a Book bookmarks with redemption codes will be distributed to visitors at participating public libraries and Radio Disney events throughout the summer.

 Please be on the lookout for more information. I, for one, can’t wait!

VIDEO: Take A Peek At The Magic Of The First Young Mom Summit

Without further ado, here is the video I promised of the Young Mom Summit. If you weren’t in attendance, you missed out!

Be sure to join the mailing list so you’ll be first to hear when we’re coming to your area!

Reminder: There Is More To Life Than What Social Media Shows You

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I was talking to a good friend yesterday (on the phone! Whoaa!) after not hearing her voice for close to a year. I’ve been watching and participating in her life via snippets on Facebook and Instagram and was so impressed by how hard she’s been working to achieve her goals.

But she quickly reminded me that Instagram only gives you half the story, if that. I immediately understood.

Browsing my Instagram account, you’d think I was a self-assured 28-year-old with two lovely kids, a loving husband, an obsession with food and this little event called the Young Mom Summit. But what you wouldn’t see is me obsessively checking my bank account balance, falling asleep with my face on my keyboard, quickly deleting rejection emails, or telling my kids, no, I can’t afford to buy them some new toy.

It was a good reminder that all that glitters isn’t gold. Sometimes we’re so convinced that what we’re seeing is real life, that everyone manages to find the right angle for that selfie on the first try, when realistically, there are probably at least 10 other shots that didn’t make the cut. It’s another reminder that we shouldn’t covet what we see other’s flaunting, but rather, focus on what makes us authentically happy and pursue that. 

In 2013 I wrote:

I work online all day so I get caught up from time to time in the appearance of things rather than the substance. You can’t look at someone’s Instagram account and know anything about their life. It’s what they choose to share and who is putting their troubles, their fears and insecurities on blast? Not too many people.

We pick the best moments to share. How many Facebook photos have you seen of someone crying ’cause they got laid off? Or a photo of swollen feet from working two shifts straight? We tend to highlight the positive.

I’ve been focusing inward and it feels good. I congratulate my friends on their success and I’m not hating on them because I know there’s more than enough to go around. It’s all about abundance, remember? I don’t feel threatened by someone else’s success because it has no baring on my own.

We could all use the reminder that social media isn’t real and shouldn’t replace a phone call or seeing your friends in person to catch up and see how they’re doing. If all we do is glean little bits of their lives from Facebook or Twitter, we’re missing the whole picture. Sometimes we can’t sense depression or despair from a status update.

Reflections Upon Turning 30 – Are You Where You Thought You’d Be?

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Even as a child, I’ve always had dreams about how my life would play itself out. I’d dream of being married, with about 4 kids and working as an anesthesiologist at Washington Hospital Center in D.C where I was born. And for me, that was my American dream. 
 
Little did I know that I’d become a mom when I was 17 years old, drop my pre-med degree to study dance, get married, move away from home and do a whole bunch of other things I never thought that I would have. It’s been crazy how much I’ve thought back on my life since my birthday but it’s given me a whole new set of things to dream about. 
 
A few months ago, I turned 30. I know right, 30!!! Not twenty-something but 30! I thought I’d be all cool about it, and for the most part I was and am, but I was kind of freaking out too at the realization that I’ve come to a major milestone in my life and a couple of things were happening. 
 
One thing is that my gray hair is trying to make an early appearance. And to that I say, THE DEVIL IS A LIAR!!! I’ve already talked to my stylist about pulling out any kind of black dye that he has to cover it up for me because *in my Kevin Hart voice* I’m not reeeeady!!! And two, it’s forcing me to think about where I want my life to go from here. That part isn’t as scary as it sounds and one that I’m ready to attack head on. 
 
For the most part, I’ve done all the things I aspired to do up until this point. I’ve graduated college, got my Master’s Degree, got married, had 4 kids and started two businesses. Okay, let’s talk a moment about the businesses. As I mentioned, I wanted to be a doctor. In fact, everyone wanted me to be a doctor and it’s all anyone talked about when I was a child. I was supposed to grow up and become the first doctor in the family. But I learned a hard lesson early in life that following my passions meant more to me than pleasing people or making a lot of money. So, I scrapped that whole doctor idea. 
 
But honestly, I never envisioned myself as a business owner and it’s awakened a side of me that I knew was there but was afraid to bring to the forefront. The side of me that’s willing to fight to make my businesses successful and prosperous to the point that my children would be proud to continue to run them if they so choose to. Now, I’ve always been driven but driven to live up to predetermined standards. It’s a whole different monster when you’re the one setting the standards that you live up to — when you set the bar, when your success or failure is solely on you. And upon reflection I’ve realized that this is the part of my life that I’ll be concentrating on for the next 30 years and the next 30 years after that. 
 
In my teen years it was all about building a foundation educationally that would serve as the building blocks to my dreams. In my twenties it was about understanding what those dreams were and putting things in motion to accelerate them. And now in my thirties (oh my goodness, did I really say that??) and beyond it will be about leaving a legacy for my children and their children that will set them up to do and be anything that they want. 
 
And in order for me to do that, I’ll be doing everything that I can to, well, win. 
 
To win as a mom by relaxing a little more and stopping a bit to live life as it happens and not just look back on it through photos that I’ve posted on Instagram. To win as a businesswoman and at the standards that I’ve set for myself and my life to excel above the fray and emerge powerful, strong, smart, strategic and be the kind of woman and mom that my kids look at and say “Wow, she’s amazing!” I hope that they’ll say that anyway because as a mom, the approval of my kids through their health, smiles and warm hugs mean the world to me. 
 
But the part where they look at me and know that I’ve achieved something in my life and done the things that I set out to do means just as much. So I’m focused man, and proud to be here and in this skin and knowing that the next portions of my life are going to be so great. I can hardly wait! Hopefully turning 30 won’t be as dirty as they say it is but more hopeful, more happy and just more WIN!
 

Have your goals changed as you’ve gotten older? Have they changed your outlook on life? 

I’m Taking Your Questions On Ask.Fm!

 

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So often, I get questions from readers about some of the issues that are plaguing them. Whether it’s about relationships, building your career, parenting dilemmas, or really, anything else, I’m always happy to add my insights and give you a fresh perspective.

This is why I’m on Ask.fm, one of the web’s leading Q&A websites, giving you a teeny bit of the knowledge I’ve gained as a full-time blogger, family life educator and mommy of two. I did a soft launch a few months ago but now am ready to go full force. Sometimes people want to ask questions but would like to be anonymous, so this gives you the space to do it!

Simply go on my profile here and ask away!

Here’s some of the questions I’ve weighed in on so far. Feel free to ask me anything here.

My child’s father uses materialistic things to appeal to the public eye that he does his job as a father, however the hard work that goes on behind the scenes (late nights, buying necessities, childcare, sacrifices, etc.) goes unnoticed for me. Why does something so petty seem unfair?

It seems unfair because it IS unfair. It is hard to see someone taking credit for being a good parent, when you are shouldering the brunt of the work and responsibility.

However, don’t let it harden you. Your child will understand what’s going on soon enough (if he/she doesn’t already). You just focus on being the best parent you can be. Keep doing what you’re doing.

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I’m really skeptical about sending my child to daycare for the first time? What are some suggestions to get over separation anxiety? Less worrying? Most importantly how can I find the right childcare center?

I think everyone is nervous about their baby’s first time at daycare. I remember freaking out in the parking lot after I dropped my daughter off for the first time. And that evening, when I got back and she was happy and in one piece, it was the happiest I had ever been.

So I would say to make sure you are comfortable with the center. Know the staff and let them know you’re a little nervous about it. They deal with nervous parents all the time and they know how difficult it can be. Some daycares will let you do a gradual entry, where your child will stay a couple of hours at first to see how they adapt (and it gives you time to adapt as well!).

In terms of finding the right center, ask around to see what other parents had to say. Most states also have a rating system that lets you know how the center ranks with regard to educational policies and you can search inspection reports online (usually at the department of job and family services website).

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How did you balance school and motherly duties in college? I am a junior in college with a sweet 10 month old baby girl. My family helps me out during the semester by keeping her and we rarely get to spend time together.

It’s not easy by any means!! So I commend you for pushing forward and making it work for you.

I’m not sure if you live on campus and your daughter lives with your family or if they just watch her while you have class, but either way, having that support system is great! One thing I’d like you to focus on is that while you might not be getting as much time as you like (because you are working to improve your future), your baby girl is getting lots of quality time with people who love and care for her. That’s always a good thing, right?

One thing that always helped me was bringing my daughter with me to campus (if your school allows it). I don’t mean bringing her to class (although I did that too), but to just walk around with her and be in that space where you know you are doing what’s best for her. Introduce her to a professor or two…don’t feel like you have to hide your two worlds. Being a student-parent is challenging, but take it one day at a time. Honestly, that’s all you can do.

Why The Hell Did I Get Married At 21??

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I was out at lunch with a friend recently and she asked me how long I had been married.

“Seven years,” I responded after I thought about it for a bit.

My answer stunned me. Seven years? Doesn’t seem like I’m old enough to have been married that long. Seven years married. Ten years together. I’m 28, my husband 33.

We met on my first day of college and for me, at least, it was love at first sight. We hooked up toward the end of my freshman year and just…never broke up. Sure, we had arguments and perhaps went a day or two without speaking, but somehow, we always found our way back to each other.

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Now that I’ve gotten a few more years on me, I’m wondering what exactly compelled me to get married at 21. Of course, by the time we exchanged “I do’s,” we had a six-month-old daughter, but I strongly remember this unyielding desire to be his wife long before I got the news I was going to be a mommy.

Our marriage hasn’t been easy over these past seven years, but I find myself happier now than I was back then. I’ve grown and learned to appreciate my husband in his entirety. He’s not a perfect man, and he may not even be the perfect dad or husband, but he tries to make improvements in the places he falls short and I appreciate that effort.

Marriage is more than just the wedding day. I say this time and time again because in this Pinterest culture we live in, we focus on the dress, the cake, the colors and forget that forever is a mighty long time. It takes work to sustain a healthy marriage. But it’s “good” work, the same way you may have a “good” workout. It energizes you, makes you feel strong.

Looking back, I can admit my views on marriage were skewed. I thought marriage was like one long sleepover, where you stayed up late telling each other how much you love them and having lots of amazing sex every night. I didn’t anticipate the never-ending bills, the anxiety that comes with having an asthmatic child, unexpected home repairs, crazy in-laws (love y’all! lol), self-employment headaches and all the other little issues that can chip away at a marriage if you let it.

The best advice I have for any couple looking to get married is to cut your partner some slack. I was very rigid in the beginning of my marriage and took everything personally. But truthfully, everything isn’t a reflection on their feelings for you. Life gets busy, people get tired and when you live with someone day in and day out and share finances and responsibilities, occasionally you get off track. It happens.

The important thing is to breathe and reboot. You can always start over whether you’re at the beginning of a disagreement or the end of it. Choosing each other over all little petty things that could get between you — that’s marriage. That’s a good marriage.

 

It’s A Wrap! The First Young Mom Summit Was A Success!

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Part 1 of the recap – watch for part two tomorrow!

When I tell you all that my heart is full and that the Young Mom Summit was everything I hoped it would be….

When I tell you that I was so touched by the amount of love and admiration between attendees….

When I tell you that I couldn’t believe how dope my presenters were, even though I handpicked them myself…

When I tell you that I looked at the youngest attendee there and could see her laughing with her mom as her babies kicked inside her belly…

It was EPIC. There is simply no other way to describe it.

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Everything was amazing but I tell you what – the women who showed up for the Young Mom Summit were so eager to hear from the speakers and to partake in the day’s activities. I’m so honored that they chose to spend their day with me! It means so much for each and every one of them to show up for the first realization of my vision!

The speakers were incredible. I was sitting there taking notes like I wasn’t the one who put this whole day together!

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Me and Adrianne, from SameStoryDifferentFace.com! She flew in from Philly, along with her friend Courtney, to support me at my first offline event and it meant so much to me. You better believe she’s got 100% support from me on whatever she does next! (By the way, do check out her site. She does amazing events for young single moms and if you are in the area, you should attend!)

Esha Ansari, director of the teen parent group Cleveland YoungLives, presented an informative and relatable session on stress management. I know a few attendees who have already put some of her tips to use!

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Esha speaking about self-care and setting boundaries

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Six tips: Figure out where stress is coming from, figure out what is in your control, do what you love, manage your time well, have boundaries, and pack a “de-stress” toolkit

Beverly Davis, a financial education manager at Key Bank, gave us all a chance for a real-life money make-over. She talked about budgeting realistically, the importance of an emergency fund (strive to have at least $1,000) and so much more!

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Beverly Davis, finance coach!

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Arlice Nichole of the savvy AWomansWorthOnline.com gave each participant a handout to help them identify their passion and leave with three action steps they could take to get closer to their goals. She rocked it.

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Arlice Nichole, career strategist

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I’ll have more updates this week, but I wanted to spill some details on the event quickly because it was a great day. Attendees had fun, the raffles were awesome and I am so proud of myself for overcoming one of my biggest fears—taking YML from strictly an online brand to one that exists (and thrives) in the “real world.”

I honestly can’t wait for the next one. And that is such a great feeling to have!

 

5 New Ideas For A Date Night That’s Easy On Your Wallet And Heavy On The Fun

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Coordinating schedules with my husband to even have time to sit down together to watch a movie without somebody falling asleep is tough. He goes right to school from work and I work from home managing two businesses and a toddler. So it’s likely that in the evening when my husband and I see each other that we’re dog tired and mumbling, “Hey… you sexy, but goodnight!” I often loathe how crazy busy we are and that we can’t spend more time together. But we always make it a point to spend uninterrupted time with one another by doing a date night at least twice a month.

Date nights are so important for a relationship because it helps to nurture your friendship and intimacy. It’s a time just for the two of you where you can choose to be grown and sexy or even chill and relaxed.

We get a babysitter and literally just hang out. What’s fun about out date nights is that we genuinely enjoy each other’s company and that he doesn’t take for granted that we’re married. Our date nights feel like he’s courting me all over again and I love that. Some date nights are more elaborate than others but I suppose that’s what make them fun. We’re always on the hunt for cool things we can do for date night and here are a couple of things we’ve done that could possibly spark some ideas for you and your hunny.

1. Wine and Paint

Okay, this isn’t the manliest thing to do but it’s definitely fun. There are places that offer wine and paint nights all over the country but, it’s basically where you go to an art studio and are instructed on how to paint a specific piece of art. You leave with your masterpiece and maybe even a little buzzed. Some places are BYOW (bring your own wine) and some places provide the wine for you. This was a fun choice for us because my husband and I are super competitive so we spent most of the time trying to see who’s painting looked the best, even though they were pretty much identical. It also gave us a chance to chat, laugh and just be us. Good times indeed.

2. Indoor Shooting Range (or driving range)

My husband is prior military so he’s no stranger around a weapon. He finds it relaxing to go to the shooting range and fire his weapons. I fail to see the relaxing aspect of it but we went together on our last date night and it was actually pretty fun. You can rent a weapon at the range and buy rounds to fire there as well. You don’t need any special licensing or anything to fire weapons inside the range and there are people there to walk you through basic gun safety if you’re a novice. It was weird that I even found this one remotely fun because I’m not keen on weapons but I can’t lie, I walked out of there feeling like I was too legit to quit and in some kind of movie. I was probably doing the most but I stepped outside of my comfort zone it ended up being pretty cool.

3. Live music/concerts

I love live music and something about it is just super sexy. Maybe it’s the atmosphere, maybe it’s the relaxing aspect that jazz music has or maybe it’s just being out my baby. Whatever it is, I love it and it’s probably one of my favorite things to do. There’s something about sitting there and letting the music infiltrate your ears — it’s almost like it penetrates your soul and helps to melt all your stresses and troubles melt away. There are a few restaurants in our area that offer live music on Friday nights and we love it. We’ll go, get appetizers, listen to music and have a great time just being with one another.

4. Karaoke

Even if you can’t sing, it’s still fun to get up there and belt out your favorite song but it’s equally as fun to see other people who may not be musically inclined get on stage and think they’re Beyonce. Let me tell you, it’s good times! I laughed so much last time we did this. People are so invested in their performances, even when they’re bad, and it’s so amazingly entertaining. It’s like American Idol auditions in real life. You can’t beat that!

5. Play board games

Sounds lame but it’s a good opportunity to spend some one on one time with your boo. Our favorite game right now is Monopoly Empire. It’s great because there can be a winner in 25 mins or less and wont take you all night to play like traditional Monopoly. I laid out some snacks at our dining room table once our kids went to bed and we sat and played this for a couple of hours. This one is even good if you want to have another couple over and have a game night downstairs for the grownups and movie night in a separate area of the house of the kiddos.

No matter what you do to spend time with your boo, make sure you have fun, enjoy each other and think outside of the box. The most random things could prove to be the most enjoyable. What do you usually do on date night?

 

[Open Discussion] Are Married Moms “Allowed” To Be Overwhelmed?

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The first and (so far) only time I ever got cussed out after a blog post was a few years ago when I wrote about being exhausted after my husband took a new job that required him to be gone 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week.  I wrote the post as a nod to single moms and the sacrifices they make as they work to provide their families with love and financial security, but I’ve since learned single moms do not like being treated as “magical, mystical women, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” From my experience, they will tell you, “I do it because I have to.” End of story.

I still remember the commenter who told me I was a whiny little b****. “At least you have his income to spend!” she wrote. “You don’t even know what being a single mom is like.”

The majority of my friends are single moms and they share with me the challenges they face on a daily basis: needing back-up babysitters for the back-up babysitter, struggling with work and life balance with no one to share the load, being exhausted at a molecular level from being “on” every day from sun up to sun down. 

As a married mom, I am now acutely aware whenever my posts start veering toward the “woe is me” category because who wants to hear that mess from someone who has a partner helping them out, however big or small his contribution may be? I am thankful to have my husband, but even still, I get overwhelmed at times. Is that “allowed”?

My friend Emily (and awesome blogger) wrote a guest post here on her perspective of married moms:

I have never been married, but I assume it takes work to keep a marriage going. And not just a little work. As a married parent, you do not only have one important relationship, you have multiple: with your child(ren) and your spouse. As a single mom, I am not worrying about finding “us time” or how to communicate better with my partner or the million other things that come along with a marriage. I have no arguments, no disagreements, no distributing finances. It is just me and my little guy. While I do go through everything alone, there isn’t the stress of a relationship on top of everything.

Emily can certainly see both sides of the coin, but I wonder if she’s in the majority. I know sometimes when I hear a married mom complain about all she has to do, I wonder why she doesn’t just ask her spouse for help ( even as I have been there, done that with the “Why should I have to ask for help?” attitude).

Let me hear your honest thoughts: When you hear a married mom vent, are you more likely to empathize or roll your eyes?