Monday, February 29, 2016

Easter Basket Ideas

I'm going to take a minute to promote my books because they can add value to your Easter baskets. Most of them can be found at your local Christian bookstore--Lifeway, Family Christian and others. Try to give them the business if you can, but they are all available on both and christian books if not. HERE and HERE.

But first, you might want to include something like this in your child's basket:
Or this version:

Here are some basket ideas:

Check for the books at your local Christian Bookstore. If not order HERE.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Best Movies for African American History Month

February is African American History Month. I know I'm a bit late to the game, but there are some good resources out there. And for those of us who are Caucasian parents raising African American children, Haitian children and other races/ethniticities, having resources available is always a good idea. 

Below is a list of movies. I have not seen all of these, so I am taking the recommendations of other people on some of them. The descriptions are from IMDB, Ted Baehr or online.

The Gabby Douglas Story

The story of the international gymnastics phenomenon who overcame overwhelming odds to become the first African American ever to be named Individual All-Around Champion in the artistic gymnastics at the Olympic Games.

The Preacher's Wife

Reverend Henry Biggs finds that his marriage is flagging due to his constant absence caring for the deprived neighborhood they live in. On top of all this, his church is coming under threat from a property developer. In desperation, Biggs prays for help, and it arrives in the form of an angel named Dudley. My kids like this movie because of the the little boy and his friend who finds his happily ever after with the Biggs family.

Remember the Titans

Based on a true story, Titans depicts the forced integration of an all black high school with an all white school and its impact on football in 1971 Alexandria, Virginia. Faced with the need to unify their team, two coaches, one of them played by Denzel Washington, must help the team to learn that the real victory lies in changed hearts.

Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored

Chronicles the early life of its author Clifton Taulbert. Clifton is encouraged by the Christian faith, love and kinship of his tightly knit "colored" community to overcome the racial intolerance prevalent in the deep South of the 1950s and 60's. 


42 tells what happens when the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team signed the first black player in the Major Leagues, Jackie Robinson, in 1947. 42 is an inspirational, superb movie showing how the Christian faith of both Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson helped end racism in professional baseball. However, there is a fair amount of foul language and some racial epithets, so caution is advised, especially for children.

Driving Miss Daisy

Over 25 year, as the American South changes profoundly, the friendship between a highly independent, eccentric Jewish matron and the stalwart and very patient black widower.

The Lilies of the Field

This wonderful family movie teaches the Gospel in a winsome, entertaining way that’s unsurpassed by most other movies. In the story, a group of German nuns transplanted to Southwest America convince a young black man to help them build a local church. In the meantime, the young man teaches the nuns the joys of Pentecostal Protestant worship focused on Jesus and His Gospel. Both Jesus and the local church are lifted up.

Akeelah and the Bee

Akeelah, an 11-year-old living in South Los Angeles, discovers she has a talent for spellin, which she hopes will take her to the National Spelling Bee. Despite her mother's objection, Akeelah doesn't give up on her goal. She finds help in the form of a mysterious teacher, and along with overwhelming support from her community, Akeelah might just have what it takes to make her dreams come true.

The Princess and the Frog

With a modern twist on a classic tale, this animated comedy is set in the great city of New Orleans. Featuring a beautiful girl named Tiana, a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical bayous of Louisiana.

The Color of Friendship

A TV-G rated television film, is a heartening tale of racial tolerance with a very interesting twist. An African American US congressman with an interest in South African politics invites what he thinks is a black South African child into his family home for the summer. However Mahree Bok, the daughter of a South African policeman, is in fact white and it takes a lot of courage for both sides to accept the other. By the time she has to go home, however, Mahree has become an important part of the family and best friends with the Congressman's daughter, Piper. 

Annie (2014 version)

Ever since her parents left her as a baby, Annie has led a hard-knock life with her calculating foster mother. All that changes when mayoral candidate Will Stacks takes her in on the recommendation of his advisers. Stacks believes that he's Annie's guardian angel, but the plucky youngster's confidence and sunny outlook may mean that Annie will save Will instead.

These are all that come to mind. Leave a comment if you have thoughts on these movies or can add any to the list.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Summer Camp: Is Your Child Ready for Camp?

It might seem too early to start thinking about summer camps, but it's not. National camping week is in February, and the parenting magazines have special features about camp. Both of my twins already have their camp plans made. 

One opted for a one week fun Christian camp in Pensacola. The other opted for a no frills five week mission project camp. She's been before, but only for a week. This is the first year she's old enough to go for five weeks.

She's not the first to go. All of my children have gone, some as early as 4 years old. Others as elementary, middle school or high school campers. One went as a leader.

Trinidad high school team

Jeff as a preteen camper
It's not easy!

7-10 year old team
A parent stays with a 4,5, or 6 year old camper. Look how small Jasmine was!

Jessica and Jasmine went to Arizona together. Jessica was a leader, and Jasmine was a camper.
 They might have had a little trouble getting their belongings to their tents.
 All of these pictures are from TMI, which is a good, though tough, program. I don't have pictures of the fun camps.

Is your child ready for camp? Should he go? Only you can decide that. Here are some thoughts on it:

Is Your Child Ready for Summer Camp

     Do you have happy memories of camp -- memories of special friends, singing around a campfire, or learning to swim or sail? You might have played jokes on cabin mates, taken part in impromptu skits, or slept in a tent for the first time. Camp days can leave positive lifetime memories. Unfortunately, they can also leave lasting bad memories when a child goes to camp before he's ready.
     Although some residential camps accept children as young as six, that doesn't mean a six-year-old child is ready to sleep away from home. You are the best judge of whether or not your child is ready for camp. Here are some things to consider:
·         Has your child experienced sleeping away from home before? If you've had to pick him up from a friend's sleep over, he's not ready for an unfamiliar camp. If he's hesitant to spend time at grandma's house, he's not ready. A child should have positive away-from-home experiences before attending a residential camp.
·         Can your child care for his own needs? Does he choose clothes and dress himself? Shower himself? A child should be able to handle his own self-care, eating, and sleeping needs before being away from parents at camp.
·         Is your child really interested in attending camp? Does he ask questions about what he'll do at camp and show enthusiasm toward it? A child should look forward to camp and openly show his interest.
·         Will your child know anyone at camp? If a friend or sibling is attending the same camp, your child may not suffer as much homesickness. If your child is going with an older sibling, coach the older child on how to help the younger child.
·         Does your child enjoy new experiences? Going to new places and making new friends? Does he like to try new foods and new activities? If so, he may come home from camp with a list of addresses for new friends and a whole list of new hobbies.
·         Do you feel confident about your child going to camp? Are you going to spend the week or the summer worrying about your child? If you're feeling uneasy about your child going to camp, he'll sense it and it will make him feel less sure also. Listen to your feelings. They may be telling you to wait a summer.
     If after considering it you don't feel your child is ready to go away to camp, there are other options. Here are some things to consider:
·         Find a local day camp for your child. You can find day camps to fit your child's interest and needs and your budget. Call your local YMCA or Park and Recreation Department. Your child can experience sports, crafts, and new friends in a setting where he feels comfortable.
·         Consider church camp. Your church might have a one week camp for the church kids. Even though he'd be away from home, your child would be with his church friends. The counselors will also be people he knows from church.
·         Attend a family camp. Your whole family can take part in the camping experience. You'll learn new skills and take part in activities together. Family camp will help you bond and share memories.
·         Volunteer to be a counselor or camp worker. Find a camp that can use your help as a counselor, cook, lifeguard, or craft teacher and attend residential camp with your child. Having you nearby will give him the confidence he needs.

     Summer camp can be a lot of fun, but make sure your child is ready before you launch into the world of new experiences away from home. You are the best judge of whether or not your child is ready.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Healthy Snack: Baked Broccoli

A few weeks ago I baked broccoli for the first time. The kids loved it. Understand, my kids are not vegetable fans. Jasmine will eat broccoli, but the others grumble. There was no grumbling about the baked broccoli.

We tried it two different ways. 

Raw broccoli rinsed. Allow time to dry. It doesn't cook well if it's wet.
Garlic cloves--however much you want. Your guess depending on your preference. After chopping real garlic cloves a few times, I started cheating and buying it in the jar. 
Olive oil -- 2T to 1/4 cup depending on how much broccoli you have

Put all ingredients in a large bag or bowl and shake.
Bake in a single layer on a cookie sheet at 400F for 15-20
You can shake it in a bag.

Or mix it in a bowl. This bowl has a lid, so we shook it.

Raw broccoli rinsed and dried
1/4 olive oil
1-2 t garlic powder or fresh garlic
2T brown sugar
1-2T lemon juice
1/2-1t cayenne pepper

Put all ingredients in a large bag or bowl and shake.
Bake in a single layer on a cookie sheet at 400F for 15-20

Anyone else have a baked broccoli recipe or any other healthy snack ideas?

Planning the Perfect Birthday Bash

     Does the thought of entertaining ten preschool children send you into a panic? How about ten preteen boys? Planning the perfect birthday party can unnerve the most organized of parents. Here are some ideas that will help you plan that special day without feeling overly stressed.

What kind of party?
     The first step in planning your party is to know what you want. There are numerous options for both at-home parties and parties held elsewhere. Think through these things:
·         Decide if the party will be at home or away. If you have a small house or it isn't child or teen proof, you may want to have the party at the gymnastics facility, pizza place, skating rink, or bowling alley. If you have a big yard where you can have a cookout or set up games, you might want to host the party yourself. Have a back up plan in case of rain.

·         Set the number of guests to be invited. How many children do you want to invite? Some parents use the rule of one child per candle on the cake. Others invite the whole school class. Decide how many children your budget and your nerves can handle.

·         Determine how much you can spend. Parties at pizza places, skating rinks and other places run from $10-$15 a party goer. You can spend up to $30 a child at Build-a-Bear if you opt for each child to get a stuffed animal with an outfit. That adds up fast if you invite many children. The good news is that the cost may include everything -- cake, entertainment, and a party bag. If you have an at home party you may want to rent a bouncy house or something similar. That would cost you $75-100 for the afternoon, but you could invite as many children as you wanted and the cost for the bouncy house wouldn't change. Don't forget to figure the cost of food, cake, and party bags for at home parties. Avoid the urge to go all out for your child's party. Children can have just as much fun playing games and eating cake and ice cream as they would at a more elaborate party.

·         Decide on the theme. Let your child help you plan. For younger children, pick a theme and plan simple games around the theme. If you choose a Blues Clues theme, make everything blue. Pin the tail on a blue dog. Play games with blue balloons. For an around the world party, have the children come dressed as though they were from another country. Make cardboard passports and provide stickers for different countries. Party goodies could be souvenirs from each country -- plastic sunglasses for the USA, fans for Asia and so on.  Make the cake to look like a globe. Older children might want a theme based on a reality show or a mystery to solve.

·         Keep the party short. For preschool children, an hour and a half is long enough. Plan parties for the morning before nap time. School aged parties shouldn't be more than three hours long unless you're planning a slumber party.
     You can begin planning once you know what kind of party you want to have.
·         Once you've decided on the number of guests, the budget, and the theme, make a shopping list. What food, party favors, and place settings do you need? What do you need for games? What will go in the party bags? Make your first stop the dollar store. You can often find the same items as you would at a party shop.
·         Line up any entertainment. Ask for and check references before hiring a magician, clown or otherwise. The cheapest entertainment isn't always the best. The most expensive one may not be the best, either. Find out who other moms have used.
·          If you're having the party away from home, book your party well in advance. You may get a better deal if you have the party Monday-Thursday rather than on the weekend.
·         Consider hiring a teen or two to help with a party for younger children. They can help supervise games, serve refreshments, and trouble shoot. Parents may also volunteer to stay and help.
·         Plan plenty of short games. Plan more than you think you'll need in case a game goes more quickly than you expect or flops. Have a favorite video ready for extra time.
·         Make sure the invitation gives all the important details and that you invite everyone that you intend to. Follow up with phone calls if you feel it necessary.
·         Have a few extra treats in case someone shows up that you didn't plan on. A parent may forget to RSVP, or a sibling may tag along. A prize may get broken or a cupcake dropped.
·         If you don't know all the children personally, check ahead for food allergies. Nothing is worse than having a four-year-old come to a party and not be able to eat the cake or drink the koolaid.
Party Day.
     Now that the big day is here, there are a few final things to do.
·         Don't worry about having a spotless house. Children don't care if the bathroom is sparkling or the carpet freshly steam cleaned. They're there for the fun and treats. Just tidy up and save your energy for the party.
·         Pick up the cake early. Check that you have enough treats, plastic silverware, plates and so on.
·         Be flexible and plan for the unexpected. Keep a sense of humor. The point of the party is to have fun, not to have everything perfect. Someone will spill koolaid. A plastic prize will get stepped on and broken. Deal with it and move on.
·         Have a video playing or a craft set out to entertain early guests.
·         Open the gifts at the party and have the birthday child thank everyone. You might want to take pictures of your child with each gift giver and the gift they brought. Print the photos out and send the picture home with a quick thank you written on it.
·         Have a final fun send off activity for the party goers to do until they're picked up.

Party ideas for children:
Magicians, clowns, other entertainers - These are usually a hit, but don't hire anyone  without meeting them first and checking references.
Art/Craft Parties - You can purchase simple crafts supplies and kits for home, or pay for a certain number of children to make a project at a craft store.
Cooking Parties - This can be as simple as decorating cupcakes or as elaborate as preparing specialty food together.
Live Animal Parties - Meet at the zoo or hire someone to bring the animals to you. Check references and safety issues ahead.
Science Parties - Get a book of simple science experiments and set them up around the kitchen or bathroom. Turn the geniuses loose.
Storybook/dress up parties - Either have little ones come dressed in a certain theme -- favorite character, prince or princess, zoo animal -- or have dress up clothes available. Take pictures on a digital camera or Polaroid that you can send home with them.
Gymnastics, Bowling, Swimming, or Skating Parties - Unless you're set up for this at home, you'll have to pay to have the party at a facility.
Tea Parties - Tea parties and teddy bear tea parties are popular for the youngest party goers. School age girls sometimes enjoy a more formal tea party fashioned after an adult affair.
Detective Parties - School age children will enjoy finding clues and solving a mystery -- especially if it results in treats at the end.
Party ideas for preteens
Crafts parties - More elaborate crafts such as ceramics or pottery can be done at home or at a craft shop.
Sports facility parties- Gymnastics, swimming, roller skating, ice skating, and bowling parties can be hosted at the appropriate facility.
Makeover parties - Hire a beautician to come to your house and give make up and hair styling tips. Get parental permission before making permanent changes to hair.
Sleep over parties - Limit it to one gender. Provide lots of snacks and appropriate videos, and let them make their own fun.
Hired entertainment - This age group is harder to please than the younger group so make sure bands, magicians or other entertainers are familiar with what preteens like and want.
Scavenger Hunt - Divide into teams and give each team a list of items to find. Have prizes for winners and losers alike.
Video arcades or other entertainment complexes - Video games, laser tag, simulations or virtual reality games are a big hit with the guys but can empty your pockets in a hurry. Save this for a special birthday.

Special trip - Trips to a special event or sight seeing place offer a change of pace for older children. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Teen Birthday Party Idea: Escape Games

It's sometimes hard to plan a great birthday party for teens. They are too old for bouncy houses, and bowling and skating parties have become too boring. You might be lucky enough to have a great recreation center that has the newest games as well as indoor soccer, Nerf games or something like that and then it's easier.

If you have an Escape Game nearby, you may have it made. It's $26 a person here, but the limit is 8 people, so your child would have to limit the guest list and keep you from going totally broke. Then you just need to go to a nearby fast food place for drinks and a cake.

I thought about doing it next February for Jasmine's 16th birthday, but decided to try it out. Here's our experience:

A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to do something with our older kids. So I booked my husband, myself and four of our children to do an Escape Game. It's called "The Attic."
Here's the description:

A long time ago a young lady and a gentleman fell madly in love, and they made plans to be married.  On the day of the wedding, however, the young gentleman was nowhere to be found.  The young bride to be was never able to move passed that day, and everyday for the rest of her life she would retreat into the attic wearing her wedding dress to surround herself with things that reminded her of her long lost love.  The Attic was her sanctuary, but after a while it became her cage.  Finally, on the day of her death she locked herself in the attic, and her soul never escaped.  It is your responsibility to follow the clues, and help free her lost soul!

Here are some pictures taken with my phone before we went in.
(You can't take pictures in the room.)
This is the lobby

Jessica signing the waiver. 


The guy who works there explaining how it works. You are locked in a room where you look for clues for how to get out. He gave us the clipboard he was holding to write down notes. 

They were really ready to go.

 We went into the room, and the guy locked the door and started the one-hour timer. There were lots of objects around the room. Some of them had numbers and letter on them. Together they gave us the clues to open locked boxes with other clues. It was a bit complicated because there were multiple codes to break, and the guy gave us some clues on a monitor to help us when we got stuck.

When we escaped that room, we were in yet another room! That one had its only set of clues, but less complicated. So we were able to get out  with six minutes to spare!

Has anyone else done an Escape game?

Anyone have another great idea for teen birthday parties?