Featured Mom: Elayna Fernandez of The Positive Mom

As moms, we are always looking for reasons to stay motivated. And let’s face it – with our busy schedules, this is no easy task. This weeks Featured Mom takes Momtivation (as she calls it) to a whole new level. This proud homeschooling mother, international speaker, and bestselling author, and philanthropist came from poverty, lost a lot along the way, and still managed to keep her head down and intentions clear – all while creating change for moms everywhere. An absolute inspiration for moms all over the world, we give you Elayna Fernandez aka “The Positive Mom“.

You are originally from the Dominican Republic. What prompted you to move to the U.S. and what was this experience like for you?

I was born and raised in poverty in the Dominican Republic. We didn’t have many financial privileges, but we had the freedom to be ourselves, to dream, and to pursue our dreams.

When I was 7 years old, while searching for treasures in the trash (we lived right by a ravine that was used by the locals as a dumpster), I found a special clue to my destiny: an old Highlights magazine.  I saw pictures of children playing with shiny toys, wearing jeans…it was exciting and I knew at that moment, in the middle of filth and stench, that I was meant to be more, do more, and have more… I was meant to experience that joy and abundance in my life.  I decided that in order to live that life, I had to learn English. I could not understand all the words.

In the next few months, my brother and I anxiously awaited for our special unknown friends to throw away their used magazines so we could pick them up and live that life through our imagination. We pretended to read them and we invented stories, guessing what was happening. Concurrently, I started my first business in order to raise funds for my newfound goal: I had found out they actually taught English classes at the local university and you could enroll at any age – my perfect opportunity!

Each night, after the usual electric black out (very common in underdeveloped countries, and especially in low-income neighborhoods), I would gather all the kids and relate the Highlights stories to them in the form of a cardboard puppet theater- for a fee, of course! I was on a mission!

By the time I was 11, I had gathered enough money to pursue my dream and by the time I was 15, I was actually teaching English to others, as well.

Knowing how to speak English and having a 4.0 average in college landed me the chance to participate in the Work and Travel program, and in 1999, I traveled to the United States for the first time. It was a fun Summer and I learned a lot, had a world of fun, and, naturally, I worked and traveled. It was then that I met the man who, after a 2 year long distance relationship, would become my husband.

In December of 2001, after a lot of pondering and with great sorrow, I left my paid-for elegantly condo, my successful corporate career, my friends, and my cherished family to move to California with my husband of 7 months.  I soon became pregnant with Elisha, and soon after she was born, Elyssa was conceived.

I had traveled a few times, so I never really suffered from cultural shock, but I do get homesick and miss my family!

My life was quite different as a stay-at-home military wife, especially while he was deployed. I was happy to be a mom, but I knew deep inside I wasn’t truly happy with my marriage and my now co-dependent lifestyle.

What is it like raising your girls in Dallas, TX?

We haven’t lived in Dallas for a long time. We lived in Florida for 7 years, which was most of their childhood. I am grateful that, while I never lived the Highlights magazine life, I have been able to provide it as a single mom to my daughters!

Let’s go back a few years. Can you talk to me a bit about your divorce?

The divorce itself was a gift I celebrated, after two and a half years of separation. It was an October night in 2004, just a few weeks after our cross country move to Florida, that I woke up in the middle of the night to find my husband’s surprise farewell letter. I knew this relationship was not healthy for me, but I wasn’t ready to let it go. At the time, the girls were barely 1 and 2,  we were staying in a tiny efficiency, and I had no income, no money, no car, or knew how to drive!

The irony of it all is that knowing English is the only thing I really had “going for me.”

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Being a Work at Home Mom: Expectations vs. Reality

Save for a period of slightly less than two years between my daughter turning two and my son being born, I have been a work at home mom. Being a freelancer and then having no time to figure out my own maternity leave because my daughter was premature meant I was writing and editing between NICU visits. Being a week out from the scheduled maternity leave at the “real” job I’d end up leaving when I had my son meant I was finishing up my last week of work in the maternity ward with a baby sleeping next to me. I have taken conference calls with a baby on my hip, brought children to meetings (with permission), and written articles while nursing.

When I call myself a work at home mom, I put an emphasis on the work.

wahm working from home - work at home momI’ve had a lot of moms – SAHMs and working moms alike – express an interest in following in my footsteps. How did you end up working at home with kids, they ask. How can I transition into that kind of employment? I always give a straight answer about my career trajectory, but I also tend to warn them that being a work at home mom is not all it’s cracked up to be. Consider:

Expectation: Because my schedule is flexible, I’m going to finally start going to coffee time with my SAHM friends again!

Reality: I’m going to have a conference call at that day and time every week, and I am going to participate in the call while nursing/changing diapers/helping a 8-month-old figure out how to stack blocks.

Expectation: I’m going to work while the baby is sleeping.

Reality: The baby is never going to sleep. Weekends are now workdays.

Expectation: My children will respect my professional boundaries and understand that sometimes they’ll need to play by themselves.

Reality:  During crunch time, I will put on a movie.

Expectation: I’m finally going to get to do all those things I used to do as a SAHM – especially in the summer time.

Reality: I’m so exhausted after putting in a day’s work while simultaneously giving my all to an 8-month-old and a 4-year-old, I never manage to actually make it out of the house before it’s way past pool time.

Suddenly sticking to SAHMhood or that office job with the tight AC seems pretty good, right? That said, for all the moms who still want to attempt working from home with kids, here are a few quick tips to get you through:

1. Take breaks to spend time with your kids. Even if they’re being perfect angels, they’re the reason you’re home in the first place. (Unless you’re like me and loved working from home even without kids.) A quick puzzle or read through a picture book will energize you and make your kids feel loved.

2. Try to get out of the house once a week. If you can work at the park on your iPad, cool, but of course not everyone can. Build time into your work schedule for outside excursions. It doesn’t have to be complicated or eat up half a day of work time – a picnic in the park during lunch hour counts.

3. Expect the unexpected. The baby that’s on a perfect two-nap rotation for two long months will eventually move on to a new sleeping schedule – possibly one with less sleep than is ideal. The kid who was a solo play expert may go through a clingy phase. You may very well spend more weekends than you want to working at the Starbucks while your partner takes the kids to the beach.

For me, working from home has way more pros than cons so I keep doing it. For other moms, the lifestyle I’m living at the pace I lead it would be a one-way ticket to therapy. You have to decide whether or not it will work for you, your family, and your kids, or whether sticking with a more traditional career arrangement or role is a better idea.

christa terry - mom meet mom

Win It: A Signed and Framed Floral Print from Bolig Photography

This week’s giveaway is a beautiful one – in fact, I wish I could win! Our sponsor is Pam Bolig of Bolig Photography, who is a talented fine art, food, and portrait photographer located in the Seattle area. Her photography is just gorgeous, whether she’s capturing graceful dancers, fresh local foods and drink, people, or objects in nature. Don’t you just love these?

Pam has graciously offered up one of the two lovely prints above in either 8×10″ or 11×14″ – once the winner chooses, her print will be signed and then framed so it’s ready for hanging in a nursery, living room, or any other room of the house.

Here’s how to enter:

  • You MUST have a completed Mom Meet Mom profile that includes a photo. If you haven’t signed up already, it’s totally free and takes just a minute or two. Remember, your profile has to include a photo to be eligible to win.

And that’s it! No hashtags. No coming back here and commenting. No need to share on Twitter (though we’d sure appreciate you putting in a good word for us). Just a profile with a pic.

The best part? Once you’ve created your profile, you’ll be automatically entered in every single one of the weekly giveaways we’re running from now until the end of July. Heck, you’ll probably be automatically entered in all of the giveaways we have planned from here until eternity. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

We’ll announce and contact the winning mom on Friday, August 2, and she’ll have 24 hours to tell us which print she’d prefer! If we don’t hear from her in that 24 hours, we’ll choose another lucky mama. In the meantime, like Bolig Photography on Facebook to see what’s new or check her out if you’re in need of a pro photographer!

And that’s it – the end of our two months of giveaways extravaganza! But keep checking back because we’re going to posting some new giveaways very soon and you’ll hear about them here, first.

Moms, Who’s Responsible?

Jodi Dejen - Mom Meet MomToday, we’re really excited to have a guest blog from Jodi Detjen, a Professor at Suffolk University and co-author of The Orange Line:  A Women’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life.

As moms, we dive in with gusto and seek to be that ideal mother. The one who is there for every event and doctor’s appointment.  The one who makes the lunches and makes sure everyone’s teeth are brushed. The one who doesn’t go to sleep until the kitchen is spotless.

But why?  That may sound heretical and out there.  But seriously.  Why? Why do we ‘do it all’?  Does it really matter if the dishes are left in the sink? What about our spouses?  What about building a support system?

We interviewed 118 college educated women about their experiences. Of the 77% who had children, many of them spoke about the burden of working and being responsible for the children and home.  They spoke of sacrifice and longing for things to be different.  They wanted to have both but struggled to see how.

Orange Line book women momsThe problem is, once we take over – it often starts right after the baby is born, we start to cultivate an assumption that everything must be perfect or something bad will happen to our child – thereby tethering us to 18 years of servitude because of course, we are the only ones who can provide this perfectly, to our standards.  Further, because we take over, our husbands learn early on that they are not as capable as us and so step back, rarely challenging our assumption.

But, what if we reframed the core assumption that we are the ones responsible for home and family?  What if we said to ourselves instead that we are both responsible for home and family and that others are perfectly capable of owning the responsibility as well?  Many of the women I our study did just that.

As a result, they were able to figure out what worked for themselves and their families.  Drop the rule that we are solely responsible and now we are free to figure out what works for us.  We are free to put our kids in daycare because the studies show that kids do perfectly fine in daycare.  We are free to negotiate child duties with our husbands because both our careers are important and we are both learning how to care for the kids. We can let our husbands have their own approach to parenting that differs from ours and gives our kids another perspective.  We can hire out help to clean the house or drive our kids around because these are tasks we’ve decided don’t work for us.

There are a thousand ways that we can raise our kids.  If we share responsibility, we can order out dinner without guilt because it’s not our responsibility to have a homemade dinner nightly.  We can let our kids go to school with mismatched clothes they picked out because we are sharing responsibility with getting dressed with our child.  We can let our kids ride their bike home from school instead of rushing home to pick them up.  We can hire out someone to drive the kids to their respective activities.

In short, by sharing responsibility, we can make ourselves an equal priority with everyone else in the family.

Will the world care?  Oh they will tell you they care.  They will stare at you incredulously as you say no to doing the school project because it’s your child’s learning not yours.  They might laugh at you behind your back because your daughter has her shoes on backwards.  They might even judge you because your house is messy or because you work or don’t work.

So another place you may need support is in finding other parents who have reframed their assumptions too.  Find another mom who could care less whether you vacuumed today.  A dad who takes every Tuesday short day off to take the kids to the park.  Another couple who want to rethink how they share care of their child.

And here’s the beauty of reframing the assumption:  if we share responsibility, if we shift that internal assumption, then these external judgments are really irrelevant. We can let them go past us like the wind because they are meaningless.  Instead we judge our parenting abilities not on how much responsibility we take on for ourselves or how perfect everything is, but on how well we all – everyone in the family equally, including ourselves — are living life to the fullest.  And that is a powerful place to live from.

The New Sibling Transition

siblings - brothers and sisters - mom meet momImagine that your partner brought home a roommate. They didn’t ask your opinion first or even consult you beyond letting you know a roommate would be moving in on some vague date in the far flung future. This roommate is loud and cries a lot. They sometimes use your stuff. They’re very messy, and your partner spends an awful lot of time cleaning up after this roommate. Worst of all, your partner seems very taken with this roommate. You even walk in on them cuddling. Yuck, right?

Now switch some of the roles, and you have just experienced what it’s like for a firstborn child when mama comes home with the “gift” of a new sister or brother. Once upon a time they were the center of your universe – or at least felt like it. Now they have to share you and they’re sharing you with someone who seems to have few, if any, redeeming qualities. Is it any wonder that jealousy and resentment can rear their ugly heads? It doesn’t seem so surprising when you consider it like that.

Luckily, we have some tips for soon-to-be second-time moms who are worried about smoothing the new sibling transition.

Try to put yourself in your first’s shoes. This is a BIG change. If your first is younger, they may not understand exactly what the new baby’s relationship to the family is – hence questions like “When are you bringing the baby back to the hospital?” Older kids may act like they’re fine while letting resentment stew, so be on the lookout for signs that they’re missing one-on-one time with you or feeling the weight of new responsibilities.

Enlist your first’s help. Sometimes newly minted big sisters and big brothers feel more positive toward a new baby when they feel a sense of ownership. Think of a toddler proudly saying “This is MY baby brother!” One way to foster that sense of ownership is to ask your first for help… bringing you a fresh diaper, picking a bedtime song, or showing baby how to hold a rattle.

Or let your first lead the way. Sometimes a parent’s best intentions fall flat when they try to enlist an older sibling’s help because the new big sister or big brother feels like the arrival of the new baby means new chores. If your bigger little one isn’t interested in helping with diapers or picking baby’s outfit, don’t push it for now.

Redirect in the face of regression. If your big girl or big boy suddenly wants binkies and bottles, try offering up a brand new big kid cup or toy. Remind them of how great being a kid is – sure, babies get a lot of attention, but they can’t go down slides, eat ice cream, or play the drums! Find some time to do big kid activities with your first; even 10 minutes a day of baby-free time can go a long way. Older kids may start behaving more like little kids, but it’s a phase that will pass.

Remember how little they are. While you were pregnant, your first may still have you’re your baby. When you brought the new baby home, your first probably seemed HUGE and so surprisingly MATURE. That’s probably okay if there’s a big age gap, but if your first is two or three or four try to remember how very little they still are. Baby them if that’s what they seem to need.

Let them lead the way. Sometimes your first is going to be crazy about the baby. Sometimes they’re going to be kind of meh about the whole big sibling thing. That’s okay! Don’t force sisterly or brotherly love right now. The baby isn’t going to care for a couple of months anyway. If your first has questions about the baby, answer them. If they’re acting like a little parent, smile. If they seem to need a little extra love from you, give it gladly.

Finally, when your first seems resentful because they have to wait, remind them that the baby sometimes has to wait when you’re finishing up a story or a game of Candyland. And that you love them and the baby both, but they’ll always be your first forever and ever.

christa terry - mom meet mom

Moving with a Toddler: Tips and Tricks

When my eldest daughter was 18 months old, my family moved from Washington, DC to the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. The resulting upheaval in our support network was a significant inspiration for the creation of Mom Meet Mom…but even before we experienced that upheaval, we had to go through the upheaval of the move itself – not insignificant with a toddler. Here are my tips for moving with a toddler – some from things we did well, and some, in hindsight, that I wish I had done.

* call a spade a spade: Be forthright with your child, and tell her, “we are moving,” not, “we are taking a little trip.” You don’t want her to think that you’ll never go home again every time you get in the car.

* when it comes to kid stuff, pack last and unpack first: try to make sure that you maintain your child’s space as long as possible. If you have the space, consider having a small box of “essentials,” selected by your child, that you keep with you on the plane/in the car during the move. When you get to your destination, set up your child’s room first, so that he can start to rebuild trust and stability in his new home right away.

* create a memory book: or some other memento of the special things in your child’s world – friends, neighbors, favorite parks. My daughter’s was full of pictures of neighborhood dogs. Tell your child that whenever she misses the things back where you used to live, she can look at her memory book. Of course, use your best judgment – if this won’t work for your child’s personality, skip it!

* explain everything: how will you travel to your destination? How long will it take? Will you move into your new home right away, or will you stay in a hotel for a while? How will family pets get there? How will your new home look when you first get there, will it be empty, or full of boxes? Will the weather be different in your new town?

* make mom friends (and other friends) in advance: boy, did we miss on this step. The whole family was lonely after we moved! If you can, try to connect with kids of similar age and set up playdates. It takes away from unpacking time, but helps your child have something positive to look forward to after the move.

* try to maintain the routine: outside any adjustments you might need to make to accommodate changes in time zone, try to keep the same routine during travel and after the move. If there are any special props that go with your routine (particular bath toys, preferred bedtime books, etc.) make sure you know where they are and can access them easily.

* expect a mourning period: no matter how well you prepare your young child for a move, there will be times when he will feel sad and miss his old home. Try to be understanding and patient, and help teach little kids the words to express their frustrations. Be prepared for the possibility of clinginess, as well as sleep and eating difficulties, as well as behavioral regressions. Remember that your child isn’t mad at you, they are just coping with a really big change. They need your love and support!

Moving with a toddler is hard, but Mom Meet Mom is here to support you. You can use our service to connect with new friends – for you and your child – and ease the transition into your new home!

julia high - mom meet mom

Win It: A Beautiful Monogrammed Beach Towel from Meg’s Monograms and More!

If your kids are anything like mine, they LOVE anything personalized, from backpacks to t-shirts to towels! That’s why we’re super excited to announce that this week’s giveaway sponsor is Meg from Meg’s Monograms and More!

beach towel giveaway 3Meg’s shop carries all kinds of adorable monogrammed clothes and gear for grownups and little ones.

beach towel giveaway 4The winner of this week’s Mom Meet Mom giveaway will be able to choose a blue towel with a cute crab applique or pink towel with a chic flip flops applique, either of which can be personalized with your child’s name. How cute are they?

beach towel giveaway 1

We love this shop!

Moms, if you win this giveaway, your little one is going to be SO ready for your next weekend trip to the beach! It might even make getting out of the water a treat instead of a trial. Keyword, might.

Here’s how to enter:

  • You MUST have a completed Mom Meet Mom profile that includes a photo. If you haven’t signed up already, it’s totally free and takes just a minute or two. Remember, your profile has to include a photo to be eligible to win.

And that’s it! No hashtags. No coming back here and commenting. No need to share on Twitter (though we’d sure appreciate you putting in a good word for us). Just a profile with a pic.

The best part? Once you’ve created your profile, you’ll be automatically entered in every single one of the weekly giveaways we’re running from now until the end of July. Heck, you’ll probably be automatically entered in all of the giveaways we have planned from here until eternity. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

We’ll announce and contact the winning mom on Friday, July 26, and she’ll have 24 hours to tell us which options she’d like to choose and where Meg should send her monogrammed beach towel! If we don’t hear from her in that 24 hours, we’ll choose another lucky mama. While you’re waiting to find out if you’re the winner, check out all the amazing monogrammed stuff in Meg’s store!

And don’t forget, we’ll have at least one more giveaway to wind down our two months of giveaways just for moms! We hope you’ve had as much fun as we had, and congrats to all the winners so far!

Sissy’s Having a Baby

So my sister is pregnant. Very pregnant. Despite her desire for one last vacation, it was tough for her to decide if she should go up to Newfound Lake in New Hampshire this year because first, she would be one hour away from any decent hospital, and second, let’s just say the “renovated” Boyscout cabins we rent every year don’t exactly scream America’s Top Places to Have Your Baby. However, still being three weeks from her due date, she decided the odds were with her and she could really use some R&R.

Mom Meet Mom - pregnancyAll week we had our eyes on her, wondering whether she would really make it to her due date and joking that we were prepared to roll up our sleeves should that time come soon. “Did you bring the sterile scissors? I’ll need them to cut the cord,” I mocked while secretly wondering if scrubbing up might actually be an option. She looked like she was ready to pop.

When Wednesday came, for my sister it brought with it unbearable heat and humidity,  a few morning vomiting sessions, and Braxton Hicks contractions spaced 12 minutes apart. With heavy rains in the immediate forecast, we realized that it would probably make more sense for her to pack up and head home early. She resisted at first, but it didn’t take much to convince her it was the right move.

She did just that. We helped her pack the car and wished her well – thinking deep down that the next time we would see her would be in a hospital with a new bundle of joy. My mother guessed she would go within the next two days, a friend guessed the weekend, and I figured she was close, but predicted she would make it to the following week.

She threw us all for a loop when a terrifying phone call came in just 20 minutes after her departure. My sister-in-law was the lucky one to pick up the call (while changing her son’s poopie diaper, of course). The heavy breathing and loud panicked voice on the other line told her that sissy was having the baby…very possibly in the car. Did I mention the rain hit? Torrential downpours.

My parents darted past my cabin in a panic. “Colleen is having the baby, we have to follow her!” Breathles, I picked up the phone and dialed her up. She answered almost immediately, ”HELLO, OH MY GOD, I HAVE TO COUNT…..” I heard heavy breathing…. “TWO MINUTES APART!!! OH MY GOD!!!” Then she hung up. This was really happening. My sister was having a baby in the car in the middle of nowhere, in the pouring rain with a toddler in the back seat watching the whole thing and quickly picking up on some new vocabulary: “F@#K, Shi*%, F@#K, Shi*%, F@#K, Shi*%…”

At that point, I did the only thing I could do. I prayed.

Twenty minutes later I received a call. What I thought would be more terrifying screams and potentially news of a newborn baby still attached to the umbilical cord was instead, surprisingly, the sound of my sister’s calm voice.

“You’ll never believe this,” she explained. “I called my doctor and told them my situation. Balling my eyes out, I told her that I threw up yesterday and today because I felt off and explained that my contractions were twelve minutes apart before I left, but within twenty minutes spiked to two minutes apart,” she continued. “Without hesitation she asked me if I had water in the car. I had 32 ounces. She told me to down the entire bottle as fast as I could and call her back.”

“What?” I replied, completely baffled by the random guidance and the doctors willingness to hang up the phone, knowing it was an emergency.

“And that was that, Meg. It worked,” she said. “Almost immediately after drinking the water, my contractions slowed down to almost nothing. It was insane. When I called the doctor back, she explained that I was dehydrated and the contractions that I was experiencing were actually uterine contractions, which are apparently very common and can resemble active labor!”

A week has gone by, and sissy still hasn’t had the baby. With her due date still over a week away, no one but the good Lord has a clue when her time will come.

Having a child of my own and now pregnant with a second, I often joke about all of the things no one ever tells you about pregnancy and having a baby. I think this one might top the list. Dehydration… To think that having contractions a few minutes apart while experiencing excruciating labor pains could mean anything but active labor absolutely baffles me. And to think how fast her doctor reacted with proper medical guidance is insane. The reality – there was nothing that surprised the doc about my sister’s frantic call. This happens all the time.

So if you’re pregnant or know someone who is expecting, please share this story.  I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to experience this type of false labor. Have any of you moms out there experienced severe uterine contractions as a result of dehydration?

meg gerritson - Mom Meet Mom

How to Treat a Severe Sunburn

sunburn_kid - treating severe sunburnYou can’t open a magazine in the summer without being reminded that we should all be slathering ourselves in sunscreen all the time, rain or shine, cloudy or sunny. And invariably, most moms – even the ones who have it majorly together – will drop the ball once a summer and end up with a medium rare kid or mega lobster shoulders. Most of the time, it’s no big deal. A little aloe and indoor playtime and the sunburn fades. Sometimes, though, a sunburn is so bad that it starts to look alarming or really bothers the person sporting it.

  • Contrary to popular belief, don’t treat a severe sunburn with ointments. 100% aloe in gel form is okay – cool it in the fridge first – but lotions don’t let skin breathe or heat escape, which can delay healing and making you more uncomfortable.
  • For severe sunburns that really hurt, take OTC anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen. If you’re giving your children medication for the pain, make sure you know the correct dosage, of course.
  • The itch that comes when a severe sunburn starts to heal can be temporarily relieved with OTC antihistamines like Benadryl. Don’t, however, use Benadryl cream on kids because the dosage you get in the lotion is unpredictable.
  • Stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water will promote healing.
  • Don’t apply ice – that can actually damage skin further. Instead, to relieve the pain and heat of a severe sunburn, apply cold compresses. Just wet a washcloth with cool water, ring it out, and apply it to sunburned skin for instant relief.

But if the sunburn is severe and includes blisters, or it covers most of your child’s body, call your pediatrician. Other warning signs that mean it’s time to call the doctor include a fever, severe pain, an infection at the sight of the sunburn, or a sunburn that doesn’t start to improve in a day or two. The doc will probably prescribe a corticosteroid cream or a short course of prednisone. In the most severe cases, IV fluids are needed to combat dehydration.

And next time, instead of treating a severe sunburn, remember the sunscreen!

 

5 New Free and Fun Summertime Activities from Kerri Zane

kerri zane - mom meet momThe following is a guest post by Kerri Zane, single mom adviser and author of It Takes All 5: A Single Moms Guide to Finding the REAL One. Enjoy!

There are still eight weeks left of summer.  Are you running low on ideas to keep your kids happily occupied? Here are a few additional summer activity ideas to mix things up and make the remaining days that much more entertaining.

The number one resounding free activity that most parents hope their children will partake in over the school break is ….drum roll please…reading!

Many kids, like my daughter, find anything having to do with a book, akin to schoolwork. That was until I handed her the new Kindle Fire.  She has spent hours reading, watching videos and playing games on it. I think one of her favorite features is the immersion reading feature. The text for the book is professionally-narrated giving her the ability to view highlighted words as it is voiced. There is also a feature called Whispersync.  It allows the tablet to automatically synchronize bookmarks, notes and highlights, so she never loses her place or thoughts. And there is a dictionary application so she can immediately look up words she doesn’t understand.  For mom it has FreeTime, so I can control what content she can access and how long she might be playing a video game on the device instead of reading!   The best part, this summer Amazon is encouraging reading with The Summer Reading Sweepstakes  where students, parents and teachers can enter for a chance to win 50 Kindle e-readers for their school. And check out Children’s editor, Seira Wilson’s, hand picked favorites.

Want to try another contest? Scholastic Books, the world’s largest distributor of children’s books is offering a Scholastic Summer Challenge. It’s a FREE global reading program where kids can log their reading minutes to earn cool prizes. When kids sign up, their parents can download a free ebook from Storia.  Children log minutes to beat the World Record for summer reading minutes (last year, kids around the world read over 95 million minutes!). Check out the website for free resources for parents including articles and book lists. Or visit the Scholastic facebook page for articles, tips, activities, video, and a giveaway every Friday.

My favorite free reading tip this summer: check out the reading programs at your local library. The best librarycentric free activities comes out of Orlando, Florida. In addition to traditional story times, they have all kinds of interesting, entertaining and free programs. For example, TechCrew teaches older kids to learn how to build apps and videogames, mix music, design graphics, even record, edit and add special effects to movies. They also have programs with outside presenters such as a Wrangler from Gatorland, the Talako Indian Dancers and a professional animator.

Is tonight the third Thursday of the month and you and your kids have nothing to do? Drop by The Brain Store. They host a game night in all 27 US locations where guests are encouraged to play games with store staff.

July is Family Golf Month, and golf facilities all around the country along with the PGA/LPGA Professionals and United Healthcare will offer a variety of free family-friendly golf programming. July 8th through the 14th is Take Your Daughter to the Course Week. Venues will also be offering free green fees to youth accompanied by a paying adult, and many facilities offer free clinics for kids, such as Get Golf Ready. Visit PlayGolfAmerica.com for more information.

L.L.Bean is encouraging families to discover ways to enjoy the outdoors with it’s launch of the 2013 Outdoor Discovery Tour. The company’s larger-than-life Bootmobile will embark on a multi-city tour providing free instruction for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and fly casting. Check the calendar for a full monthly schedule at L.L.Bean store locations. Additionally, people can search thousands of national, state and local parks using the company’s ParkFinder tool on their website. They also offer a free Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder app, available for iPhone, iPad and Android, makes finding a hiking trail or spot for kayaking easy while on the go.

For a free something a little closer to home to engage the little entrepreneur in your household, how about participating in the “Great American Lemonade Stand-tacular” and teach them the value of giving back with support of a good cause. For every lemonade stand photo uploaded to the Great American Stand-tacular’s Facebook page, County Time will donate $5 (up to $50,000) to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and help in the fight against childhood cancer. Download “Stand Plan,” to set up the most stellar stand in the neighborhood and learn the basics of business (“lemonomics”). For those of you super ambitious parent/child business teams, add a fun coffee twist. While kids enjoy sweet lemonade, sell the parents an International Delight Iced Coffee drink.

The best part of this free summertime activity is it keeps on giving! Country Time Lemonade has given me 10 FREE coupons and some super cool swag to raffle off.  Plus my friends at International Delight have offered 40 FREE product coupons. To enter and win any of these items log onto my contact page, type free lemonade or free coffee offer (whichever you prefer) into the subject line, type your email and mailing address into the message box. Winners will be notified on July 21, 2013.

Enjoy this cool fun and FREE summer!

About It Takes All 5:

Divided into three sections, this book has five straightforward how-to’s for healing the inside, healing the outside and re-entering the world of dating as an amazingly confident woman! Then using my no-fail, 5 finger philosophy, you’ll be able to not just find “the one” but “The REAL One” for a truly authentic and renewable “REAL”ationship!  The book is packed with valuable life skills, up to date research, and inspirational personal stories told by single moms from all over the country.