Guest Post: Fit Mommies

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Published: 04/09/2014

Max Muscle is an advertising sponsor of PwcMoms.com.  You can find them in the Harris Teeter shopping center at the intersection of Hoadly and the PW Parkway.  Owner Corry Matthews is happy to provide fitness consultations, product recommendations, and more.  It might be called Max Muscle- but the store is designed for people at any point on their fitness journey. 

Guest Post: Prince William County’s Best Kept Secret for Weary Mommies

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Published: 10/03/2013

For those of you who feel like you’re hangin’ on by your fingernails…I hear you!!  Allow me to share with you my story of survival…

My husband has been out of town this week, so I’ve been doing my best to single parent our FOUR little girls 8 and under (one of whom is potty training…which FEELS like the equivalent of having newborn triplets in my humble opinion). 

Yesterday, after spending most of the day deep cleaning the summer crumbs and cobwebs (and feces) away, I could not fathomthe thought of my freshly sanitized kitchen being destroyed by another meal.  The kids were bouncing off the walls, I was starting to lose my cool, and things appeared to be heading south quick. 

Then I remembered.

It was Tuesday night.   

We drove north to exit 156 and as soon as the IKEA sign came into clear view, it was as though I was staring at the Statue of Liberty herself, bright torch held high to the evening sky.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
 Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”  The 
sonnet engraved at the base of her Lady Liberty started to ring in my ears.  “Send these…the tempest-tost to me..,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

You think I’m being melodramatic, but when I arrived at the IKEA cafeteria for Kids Eat Free night, it was as though I had stumbled upon a support group for Mothers of Small Children.  School House Rock played on the TV in the background while we introduced ourselves, talked about potty training survival tips, and tried to teach our toddlers not to steal each other’s chicken fingers and meatballs. One mom asked if I had ever come to IKEA twice on a Tuesday (free lunch and free dinner).  I said no, but noted it for future reference.

In between sips of Lingonberry juice we made new friends journeying through the same season of life and encouraged each other because God knows we need it.  And then we dropped off the delightful little souls in IKEA’s safe and wonderful play place, Smáland, where they frolicked in the magical “forest” after being firmly instructed/threatened to not have an accident in the ball pit (Children must be potty trained to go to Smáland).


So, next time you feel like you’ve reached your end and you’re not sure where to turn, just remember, IKEA will feed you ALL (You only have to pay for ONE adult meal!), and even watch your children for you (If you apply for an IKEA family card, children can stay in Smáland for one hour).  What a cup of cold water for those of us in the trenches.  

Thank you, IKEA, for preserving me and our posterity this Tuesday and for many Tuesdays to come. 

Annie Brogan Garman feels HIGHLY UNQUALIFIED in her role as a mother, but is willing to talk about it just in case it helps others who feel the same way.   She is a wife to Colby John and a mother to four gorgeous girls:  Haley Jane, Darcy Elaine, Gracie Kane, and Penelope Raine.  They all serve at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia (www.pillardumfries.com) where their husband/father just happens to be the Pastor.  If you don't mind her transparent writing (on everything from her inadequacies to plucking chin hairs) you can find her at www.anniebrogan.com.  

“The Watson’s Go To Birmingham”

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Published: 09/21/2013
Set your DVR's for a special treat on the Hallmark Channel, as a part of the new Friday night “Walden Family Theatre” series.  The beloved book "The Watson's Go To Birmingham" comes to life on the screen, this Friday, 9/20, 8 PM (ET/PT) with a talented cast, starring Tony® Award winner and Grammy® Award nominee Anika Noni Rose (“The Good Wife,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Princess and the Frog”).  Also starring are three-time Tony® Award nominee and Grammy® Award nominee David Alan Grier ("Porgy and Bess," "PEEPLES," “In Living Color”), Skai Jackson (“Jessie”), Wood Harris (“The Wire,” “Remember The Titans”), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (“The Fighting Temptations”), Pauletta Washington (“Beloved”), Bryce Clyde Jenkins (“Easy A,” “Have A Little Faith”) and Harrison Knight (“We the Party”).

Tonik Productions is one of the many companies responsible for bringing this project to fruition.  Nikki Silver is an Emmy® Award- winning producer and chief creator of ToniK Productions. Tonya Lee Lewis has partnered with Nikki Silver to form this production company.  Nikki Silver has been persistent in her efforts to see the book, The Watson’s Go To Birmingham, written by Christopher Paul Curtis, published by Random House Children’s Books, come alive on the screen.

“The Watsons Go To Birmingham” is presented by ARC Entertainment, Walden Media, Walmart and Procter & Gamble and is a ToniK Production. Louis J. Grieci III, Ben Simon, Janet M. Morrison, Aaron Tucker, Jim Bechtold, Trevor Drinkwater, Brad Liebow and Brian Wells serve as executive producers and Philip Kleinbart, Nikki Silver and Tonya Lewis Lee serve as producers.  Tonya Lewis Lee, Stephen Glantz and Caliope Brattlestreet wrote the teleplay and Kenny Leon is the director. 

Photo Left to Right: Kenny Leon, Anika Noni Rose, Harrison Knight, Nikki Silver
According to director, Kenny Leon, “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham” is “a love story, a family story, that the whole family can sit down and watch and do that one thing together.  Laugh together, think together, even shed a tear together but this movie is all about family and all about love, just what the Hallmark channel represents.”
 



















 Photo: Kenny Leon and Anika Noni Rose Photo: Tonya Lewis Lee                                               

On Tuesday evening, I attended the Red Carpet Washington DC premiere of this film at the Newseum, as part of the press for PWC Moms. Honorable William A. Bell, Sr., Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where the majority of the movie takes place, also attended this amazing event.  The Mayor of Birmingham brought artifacts from this historic time in Birmingham to the event for a temporary display that evening.  The artifacts included: Pews from the16th St. Baptist Church; a segregated lunch counter; a segregated water fountain; mug shots of people arrested after the e Children’s Crusade march and shrapnel from the church bombing.  The artifacts brought you back to a time in history where there was a movement for equal rights and for humanity.

The film takes place in 1963, upon the anniversary of life changing events during the civil right movement.  As children, we are taught facts about this era of time but this movie brings in the human spirit through the eyes of an 12 year old African American child experiencing racism firsthand in Birmingham, Alabama.




Photo of Honorable William A. Bell, Sr., Mayor of Birmingham, AL, and a photo of segregated water fountains

This is a movie that every family in America should watch as it portrays so accurately what it would be like to experience racism and bullying during the civil rights movement in the South.  Tonya Lee Lewis states “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham” is about a Northern family that travels to Birmingham and experiences racism, up close and personal, during the summer of 1963.”  During the film, the family comes closer together and overcomes fear and develops courage to stand up for what is right.

Through the eyes of a “tween” who attended the screening, Amada, 12 years old, believes that “kids should watch this film because they will take away the important message that it's important to understand our history so that it will not ever be repeated again." 

When I asked the director, Kenny Leon, what questions we should be asking our kids when we watch this movie together he stated these two crucial questions “Do you know what racism is?” Do you know what bullying is?” He said, as a parent, we must discuss with our kids the events that took place during 1963 and discuss the injustice at that time but also remind them of the good people in the world who influence positive changes.  He said that “Ultimately, Love Wins!”

The performances of the cast are stellar and especially noteworthy is Bryce Clyde Jenkin’s performance of 12 year old Kenny Watson.  By the end of the movie, you will have laughed, cried and experience critical thinking about the civil rights movement.  This movie will speak meaningful conversations between families.

If you miss the world premiere of “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” on the Hallmark channel on Friday, 9/20/13, the movie will also encores on 9/27/13 and 10/11/13, at 8 PM (ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.  The DVD will be released on September 24thand it will be sold at Wal-Mart.

For educators, Walden Media has partnered with the Hallmark Channel and Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers to create turnkey lessons plans for grades 4-12 that coincide with the themes and messages explored in this movie. “The Watsons Go To Birmingham Teacher Guide,” which will be free of charge on a dedicated Hallmark Channel microsite and the Walden Media website www.walden.com, encourages active student participation, while integrating social-emotional learning, literacy, writing and character education designed to reinforce critical thinking and deep comprehension skills.

I highly recommend this movie and your children that are in grade school, junior high and high school.  After the movie, set aside a time to discuss any questions that your children may have and explore the civil rights themes presented during “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham.”  I hope your family enjoys watching this film as much as I did! 

This post was written by Amy Fitzgerald, who attended on behalf of PwcMoms.com

Guest Post: Saying Thank You to our Military & Veterans

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Published: 08/29/2013



            This summer my AHG troop VA0428 participated in some really neat service projects.  I want to share them not to brag about what we did but instead to spread the word about some great opportunities.  Both opportunities are about honoring our military or veterans.  You do not need a group to participate in these opportunities, though prior coordination with the people that run the event is necessary.
            Operation Welcome Home (OWH).  Baltimore Washington International airport (BWI) is a major hub for returning military from their deployments.  The military that come through here are touching US soil for the first time since they left for their deployment.  Many will then make connecting flights to go to their home bases all over the US.  Some of them have their homes in the MD/DC/VA area.  OWH gives the returning military a hero’s welcome home.  There are two ways to help: 1. send thank you cards to OWH for them to distribute, or 2. go to BWI to volunteer.  When you volunteer for an OWH event, you help with three things: 1. decorate the airport (OWH has decorations), 2. assemble goody bags for troops, and 3. greet, cheer, and thank military members as they come out of the gate.
            This quote says it all:
"OWHMD Volunteers:
The greatest moment of my 7-month deployment to Afghanistan was being greeted by you at BWI. The best gift for a returning servicemember is a simple "Thank You" and a handshake.  You'll never know how much your time spent at the airport means to us, but please accept my deepest appreciation for what you do."
(signed) LtCol James H., USAF, Phoenix, Arizona"

For more information or to find a date to go to a welcome home greeting, please go to their website: http://www.operationwelcomehomemd.org

            Honor Flight.  Honor Flight’s mission is to fly veterans back to DC to visit their war memorial.  One thousand World War II veterans die every day.  The majority of Honor Flight missions fly into Reagan Airport.  The veterans fly in to DC in the morning, go see the war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery and then fly back home that evening.  What the local Honor Flight does is give these veterans a surprise hero’s greeting when they arrive in DC.  These veterans served our country and then came home and went back to regular life without any thank you.
            In June when we went to participate with Honor Flight at Reagan, we welcomed 90 World War II and Korean War veterans.  The looks on their faces when they walked out of the gate was priceless.  They had no idea we’d be there, cheering for them, and thanking them.  Not one of the 90-80 year olds had dry eyes.  We gave our full names and birthdates to the point of contact a few days ahead of time so that we could go inside security to participate in the gate greeting.  It was definitely worth it!  You may bring patriotic thank you posters and thank you cards to give out.  After the gate greeting, we went outside to wave to their buses as they left.  Later a couple families went to the memorials to visit more with the veterans.  The veterans were extremely appreciative. 
            This is a great experience for people of any age.  The organizers were excited when I told them I homeschooled.  They said they had wanted to tap into homeschool groups.  Unfortunately during the public school year, they often have no one show up for the surprise gate greetings for the Honor Flights that are during the week.
            There is a great movie, “Honor Flight” that documents an Honor Flight from Wisconsin.  In it, you hear from World War II veterans about what Honor Flight meant to them.  I would highly recommend watching the movie to help your children understand the importance and meaning of this.  For information on the movie:  http://www.honorflightthemovie.com
            Honor Flights take place Aug-Nov and then start back up in the spring.  For information on participating in an Honor Flight event, please go to: http://honorflightdca.wordpress.com

Carrie Kilareski is a local military wife, mom, and homeschooler.  Thanks for the great information, Carrie! 

Giveaway: Natural Mom Home Day Care

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Published: 08/07/2013
Based on her own desires for natural childcare that allowed for attention, cloth diapering, natural foods including organic cooking, and affordable rates, local mom Rosemarie is opening Natural Mom Home Day Care beginning September 2nd, in the Rippon Landing Area of Woodbridge.  Here's what she has to say:


Natural Mom Home Day Care LLC opens its doors September 2nd to offer the Woodbridge/Dale City area (Rippon Landing) state licensed child care services for children 6 weeks to 6 years. “This is an opportunity for me to offer the services that mean the most to parents, like organic/natural foods, toddler yoga, baby sign language, family preferred scheduling and  complete preschool curriculum with rates that saves families over $2,000/year versus area day care centers.”, stated owner Rosemarie Groner.

After unsuccessfully searching for safe, affordable, high quality child care that offered the same natural care she provided for her new infant at home, owner Rosemarie Groner saw an opportunity to change the lives of area families. With a background in child care, she received state certification and created a child care program that offers local families an affordable, flexible, and safe alternative to area day care centers. Natural Mom Home Day Care LLC offers small group child care (3-4 children), organic/natural home cooked meals and home-made baby food at no extra cost, accepts cloth or disposable diapers, toddler yoga, baby sign language, photo sharing, preschool curriculum, and flexibility with after hours babysitting available by appointment. 

“I have three assistants that can help me with sick days, vacation and appointments”, explains Groner “Which means parents can feel comfortable relying on me. I have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of area families and I take that responsibility very seriously.  A great day care provider is an extension of the family and that’s exactly what I plan to be.” 

To celebrate their grand opening, Natural Mom Home Day Care LLC is giving away a gift certificate for 5 hours of free after hours babysitting by appointment. To enter, head over to their facebook page and like them. One winner will be chosen at random. 

Visit naturalmomdaycare.blogspot.com, call 703-402-0362, or email Rosemarie at naturalmomdaycare@gmail.com to get more information and to request a “Parents Information Packet” with rates, menu plans, policies and procedures, and program highlights. 

In celebration of her new business, Rosemarie is offering something that every parent could use- 5 hours of after-hours babysitting (a $50 value).  Tell your husband to make reservations, and go out without the kids!! Enter using the Rafflecopter below.


PwcMoms is running this contest, but not responsible for care.  Please see any waivers or agreements provided by the babysitter, as well as her state license for details. This is a sponsored post paid for by Natural Mom Home Day Care, and information was provided by their owner. 

Guest Post: Toddler Tyme at the Manassas Museum

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Published: 07/31/2013


We have been pleasantly surprised with the Toddler Thyme program at the Manassas Museum this summer.  The title is a bit misleading as the classes are for children ages 3-5 years old (they said they are looking to change it for next time), but Love Bug (who is a little over 2 years old) was allowed to join since Sweet Girl was signed up for the classes.  The classes cost $10 per child. 

The classes are being held every Monday during the summer and there's something for everyone!  Themes range from railroads to life on the farm to pirates to police.  Classes are offered at two different times and last one hour.  One class is at 10:00 am and the other begins at 11:15 am.

The class is run by two young ladies who work for the museum.  Each class usually starts off with a book about the week's theme.  Then, we sing songs and/or do fingerplays.  Next, the children are invited to a table set up with supplies to do a craft.  Sometimes, we have done two crafts in one sitting if they are "small" crafts.  Other times, we have taken a break to play games or do something more active.  The class typically ends with one more story and then children are given a special take-home surprise before the class ends.

The children are throughly engaged for the entire hour.  They are learning new things about the theme of the week, practicing their good listening skills, taking turns, standing in line and using both fine and gross motor skills with the art projects and games.

I have to admit that I wasn't too sure about paying $10 per class for each child, but it is well worth it in my opinion.  The young ladies that run the class remember my girls' names and they are so friendly.  They work very well together and do a good job of keeping the children engaged for the full hour.  I like how parts (or all) of the classes are held outside--if the weather permits it.  The girls have loved the activities and proudly display their crafts at home.  The girls also look forward to the special take-home surprise at the end of each class.  We always leave class happy and excited about the theme of the week.

There is still time to try out this wonderful program, but there are only four more classes left this summer.  If you are interested in joining a class, check out the Manassas Museumwebsite.  They do recommend that you register in advance.

Side note:  There is a wonderful playground and picnic area that is open to the public behind the museum.  It's a great place to run around if you get to class a bit early or to have a picnic after class.
You'll walk past the beautiful Butterfly Garden on your way to the playground.
The playground and picnic area.
Check out the fun we've had at Toddler Tyme!
(Edit from Kristina: Visit Angela's Blog for pictures to go with each event- there were simply too many for me to copy and share each one!)
CIRCUS
Craft:  Circus collage with stickers, paper and stamping
Games/Activities:  Circus songs, Pin the Tail on the Lion, Three-ring Beanbag Toss and Tight-rope Walking
Take-home surprise:  Circus animal tatoos
LIFE ON THE FARM (held at Liberia Plantation)
Craft:  Fuzzy Lamb 
Games/Activities:  Frog Fingerplay with frog finger puppets, Trying out a butter churn, Making real butter and Milking a pretend cow 
Take-home surprise:  Real lamb's wool
UNDER THE SEA
Craft:  Ocean sticker collage and Paper Plate Rainbow Fish 
Games/Activities:  Fish Fingerplay with finger puppets, Parachute fun with Blow-up Sea Animals and Magnetic Fishing 
Take-home surprise:  Fish tatoo and a fish or toad squeaky toy
PIRATES
Craft:  Pirate Hats, Paper Parrots and Pirate Coloring Page
Games/Activities:  Fingerplay, How to talk like a pirate and a Treasure Hunt with real "treasure" at the end!

Take-home surprise:  A "treasure chest" filled with loot:  play money, eye patch, necklace, tatoo, Manassas Bull Run Civil War patch

About the Author: 
The Master's Daughter, Angela Pounders, loves teaching and sharing her ideas with others. After working various teaching-type jobs, she now uses her God-given gifts with her children at home.

Disclaimer: This was an uncompensated post from a guest author.  All opinions are her own.  Visit Angela Pounders, aka "The Master's Daughter" at her website or on facebook

Guest Post: One Risk to Know About, One Risk to Talk About

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Published: 07/12/2013

Do you know someone with epilepsy?  Do you know someone with a seizure disorder?  Know a person who has had just one seizure?  If so, learn about this condition and you can save a life.

It is called Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy or SUDEP and it is a fatal complication of seizures that I was never made aware of.

My husband, Jeff, died on February 26th, 2012 at the age of 42 from SUDEP.  The short story is this: Jeff had his first tonic-clonic seizure (or grand mal seizure) in his sleep in January.  We followed up with doctor visits, CAT scans, MRI’s, EEG’s, you name it.  Nothing showed a reason for the sudden seizure and we were advised that it could be a “one time event”.  However, in February, Jeff had a second seizure.  In the hours afterwards he appeared to recover then voiced that he was tired and laid down for a nap.  He died in his sleep.

I had never heard of SUDEP.  Most families I have met that have lost a loved one to SUDEP had never heard of the risk.  I was warned to not let Jeff drive, he couldn’t go swimming, or climb a ladder.  But I was never told to monitor him in his sleep.  I was not told that people with seizures can die from a condition eerily similar to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

If seizures effects you or someone you know I want you to know about this risk.  I want you to educate yourself about SUDEP and preventive measures.  Just as new parents are told of SIDS, people with seizures should be told of SUDEP.

There is no known cure-all way to prevent SUDEP. Currently, the best course of treatment is to encourage and engage in these preventative strategies:

§  advocate for increased awareness by the public and the medical community;
§  maximum seizure control via strict treatment adherence;
§  regular physical activity and lifestyle modifications that reduce stress and seizure activity;
§  patients should regularly visit with their doctor especially if their convulsive seizures are not completely controlled;
§  consider the use of alternative resources such as monitoring devices that detect certain seizures and can alert caretakers and enable early intervention;
§  consider supervision or monitoring during sleep hours to identify seizure activity;
§  ensure that family members and caretakers have knowledge of seizure first aid and of emergency resuscitation measures including CPR and defibrillator use;
  • inquire about and advocate for research that enables a better understanding of the mechanisms of SUDEP. (The Danny Did Foundation, http://www.dannydid.org/sudep/)

Please join us in Prince William County on September 22, 2012 for a 5K in honor of Jeff Beaupre.  I have partnered with the Chelsea Hutchinson Foundation (http://www.chelseahutchisonfoundation.org/) and the Danny Did Foundation (, http://www.dannydid.org/) to raise awareness of SUDEP.  Funds from the September 22, 2013 5K will go to the Chelsea Hutchinson Foundation to be used to provide sleep monitors and seizure response dogs.  Race information can be found at: http://www.runningguru.com/EventInformation.asp?eID=6074
 
About the Author:  “Jeff’s Wife” has a blog detailing her family’s struggle with SUDEP and grief at http://survivingaftersudep.blogspot.com

Guest Post: A Red, White, and Blue Breakfast Celebration!

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Published: 06/28/2013

A Red, White, and Blue Breakfast Celebration!
Breakfast is a big deal in our house. A slice of toast or a glass of juice just won’t cut it. And you can forget skipping it! That just wouldn’t fly (or be healthy) with our group of five, especially on the weekend.  Instead, breakfast usually looks like a veggie omelet with whole wheat toast and a side of fresh fruit, a fruit smoothie with a bowl of steel cut oats and a dollop of natural peanut butter, or a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with homemade granola and fresh berries. See, I told you that it was a big deal!
Since breakfast tends to be a big production anyway, I like to center a lot of our family celebrations around the first meal of the day. It is fun, a little unexpected, and it starts our morning out on a happy note. Most people think of celebrating July 4th over the grill with hot dogs, hamburgers, deviled eggs, and lots of creamy salads. While I love a good cookout, I challenge you to mix things up a bit this year and try some fun, festive, and HEALTHY alternatives. Breakfast is a great place to start!  Experiment by incorporating some familiar, but healthy, alternatives such as whole wheat waffles instead of those “Lego my Eggos” and plain Greek yogurt instead of the popular blue yogurt tubes. With some fresh fruit to dress everything up and a few festive accessories, you will be well on your way to celebrating a happy, healthy July 4th with your family.
A couple of years ago I put together a Red, White, and Blue July 4th breakfast celebration for our family. I included some of our favorite healthy breakfast staples and “blinged” them up a bit with some simple and festive accessories.
Our menu included: whole wheat waffles with pure maple syrup; fresh fruit salad (sliced strawberries, blueberries, and bananas); Greek yogurt parfaits topped with homemade granola; and homemade pumpkin muffins with a swirl of vanilla yogurt on top. Don’t worry; the gumballs were just for decoration!
It was a HUGE hit with our kids. We started our day with a healthy AND festive breakfast together and we had fun.  

Recipe links:

Sarah Young resides in Prince William County with her husband and three young children. Sarah is a full-time mother, Certified Health Education Specialist, healthy living advocate, and the creator of Health Wise Home, an online resource that focuses on educating, empowering, and inspiring others to help build a healthier future. In her spare time, she enjoys running, hiking, gardening, being outside, and spending time with her family.
For healthy recipes, information, and inspiration you can follow Sarah and Health Wise Home on Facebook and at her blog, https://www.facebook.com/HealthWiseHome and http://healthwisehome.wordpress.com/ .

Guest Post: Children's Museum in PWC!!

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Published: 06/18/2013

Imagine a place where interactive exhibits and diverse educational programs spark curiosity, creativity and lifelong learning for children, their families and the community that supports them.  This is the mission of Discovery Junction Children's Museum, an emerging museum in Prince William County.
We are a group of educators, business professionals, and parents who live, work, and play in Prince William County.  We believe that the children in our community deserve a space devoted to their physical and intellectual development through the most natural activity of childhood, play.  We want a place that celebrates children for who they are but also allows them to dream about who they may become.  Families should have a place to spend the day together where creative interactions and learning opportunities are present in each moment.  Teachers need a local destination for field trips that will complement and reinforce the curriculum being taught in their classrooms.  We are excited to bring Discovery Junction Children's Museum to Prince William County to serve those purposes.  We would love to have you join us in making it happen!
How can you help?  In the near future there will many volunteer opportunities but in the mean time you can learn more about Discovery Junction by visiting our website at www.discoveryjunction.org.  Help us spread the word by following us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Discovery-Junction-Childrens-Museum/374497385894306, and share our page with your friends.​  Visit us on July 10th at Manassas Mall for Movers and Shakers where your children can interact with our first activity, Magnetic Creations.
Most importantly, support our first fundraiser being held on Friday, June 28th and Saturday, June 29th at the Evergreen Fire Department in Haymarket, VA.  We are holding Antiquities Children Portraits.  For $10 your child(ren) will get a 20min photo session with vintage clothing and props and an 8x10 classic vintage portrait.  You can choose to purchase additional photos in packages but no additional purchase is required.  Please visit http://www.discoveryjunction.org/#!antiquities/c1tik to learn more or send any questions to info@discoveryjunction.org
We look forward to working with you to bring Discovery Junction Children’s Museum to Prince William County!

Guest Post: Free Things to Do With Little Ones In PWC

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Published: 06/14/2013
 
Free Things to Do With Little Ones In PWC

My oldest, Max, is 5 ½ now, but when he was about 1 we realized we REALLY had to tighten up our budget or else I wouldn’t be able to continue to stay home with him.  It really wasn’t much fun at all having to turn down adventures with other mom friends because it just wasn’t in the budget.  At that time,  I even had to make sure I didn’t use much gas because there wasn’t much for THAT in the budget either!  Anyway, I managed to find some things to do to get me out of the house as well as stick to our budget.  These might not be the kinds of things that get your heart racing with excitement as you picture your child’s  pure joy when you arrive at your destination, but trust me when I say that little ones have as much fun in these places as they do at some place like House of Bounce(which I loved and love, but can’t always afford). 

Chik-Fil-A:  My favorite is the one on Liberia in Manassas.  Max & I spent many mornings there in the  dead of winter or summer.  I would get a coffee and he’d play.  I couldn’t enjoy my coffee a lot since you can’t take food or drinks in the play place with you, but it was something other than our 4 walls.  And it was usually pretty quiet in the mornings.

Manassas Regional Airport:Always a fun thing to do!  I actually used to go over there before I had kids and just take a camping chair, a good book, a cup of coffee and read and watch the planes take off and land on pleasant-weather days.  WITH kids, we would go over and walk around outside the fence and just look at the parked planes & helicopters and if some were taking off and landing, all the more exciting!  They also have a museum in one of the buildings there.

The Mall:  I think Max was almost 2 or 3 before he realized that the ride-on toys at the mall served a purpose other than indoor playground equipment.  We’d go to Manassas Mall and he’d play on the ride-ons for a long time.  He was perfectly happy to do so, but once in a while, if I saw a dad or a grandparent, I could almost guarantee they were going to get schmoozed into paying for a ride and sometimes Max got the benefit of that on things like the carousal ride!  Most of us moms just claimed we didn’t have money to make the rides go.  Manassas & Potomac Mills have ride on toys.

Mall Play Area in Potomac Mills:  I’m so bummed this didn’t exist when I was in the stage of life I’m sharing here.  I would’ve gone there all the time!  Now Max is nearly too tall to go in, but it’s a great play area!  No shoes or coffee allowed (what’s with all these places not letting us get our coffee on??  I mean, REALLY!!  I know they could spill & make a mess, but still…..)

Prince William Forest Park: I can’t believe how many people I have run into who haven’t been here!  It’s so close and for just $5 per car per visit or $20 for a one year family pass, you get entry into the park and all it’s trails, including a stroller & wheelchair accessible trail AND it’s awesome playground!  If you’re military, you get in free.  This is one of our favorite places to go now - it’s almost always very quiet during the weekdays and we pretty much have the place to ourselves! Sometimes we hike to a creek and throw stones in for a while, other times we just play on the playground.  Last year I found that if you go during the week days in May & June, you might meet up with large groups of field-tripping kids.  They tend to head back to school around 1ish, so after that you’re golden!  They also have a quaint visitor’s center with a store and some displays.

Frying Pan Farm Park- This is actually a bit of a drive, it’s off of Route 28 in Fairfax.  However, they have great free programs in the spring & summer (get on their email list) and they have pigs, goats, cows and horses and there are often baby goats & pigs to be seen.  Again, if you get on their email list, they will let you know when new babies arrive.  They also have a farmers market during the week.  There is a playground, a country store, a wagon-ride tour of the property (last I checked it was $3 for adults and $2 for kids), and some kid-sized tractors for them to climb on.  Everything but the wagon ride and whatever you want from the store is free.

The Farm at Broad Run-  This place is a plant nursery, but they also have chickens, roosters, turkeys & donkeys you can walk around and view.  One area even has the feed dispensers where you can get a handful of feed for a quarter and feed it to the animals.  I like to walk around the whole place with the kids and then end up in the small store inside and buy a basket of organic berries and maybe pick up some grass-fed ground beef before leaving.  When we were there last time, they had about 14 baby chicks staying warm inside the store.  A torrential downpour began while we were inside, so we hung out eating our berries and playing with the chicks!  It is a hike from Eastern Prince William -  about 40ish minutes, but my kids love it more every time we go.





Sarah Meisenhelter is mom to two boys, ages 5 & 3 and resides in Montclair.  She has a passion for God, girls & women facing unexpected pregnancies and  natural living.  She blogs about these things over at www.TheWildRuby.com

Guest Post: Helping Children Sleep After a New Baby

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Published: 06/10/2013

I just had a baby and now my older child won’t sleep – Help!!

You knew you would lose sleep with a newborn, but you may not have been expecting your older child to suddenly need your attention in the middle of the night.  This is however a problem I see quite often, especially if at one time your older child did have some sleep difficulties.

What is going on?

If your child previously slept with you or in your room, they may not understand why the brand new baby is now getting to sleep in your room.  After all, you may have told them that your room is just for Mommy and Daddy if you were transitioning them out of it.  They may start waking in the middle of the night trying to get in bed with you, or may start giving you a hard time about going to sleep at bedtime.  Even if your child did not sleep with you, just the change of having a new brother or sister may cause them a slight amount of stress, which could affect their sleep.  All the changes going on could also be causing their bedtime to be later.  If children are overtired at bedtime, they are more likely to wake during the night and earlier in the morning.

Having Patience

The first step in solving your child’s behavior is to first have (or try to have!) patience and realize where they are coming from.  If your older child was an only child before the baby came, they were used to getting all the attention.  Now, not only is the baby getting some of their attention, the baby probably gets to stay up later with Mom and Dad and gets to spend all night in their room.  How fair is that?!  It is a good idea to spend some extra one on one time with your older child during the day.  You should be totally focused on them (no cell phones or television) and this should last for at least 20 minutes.  Each parent should try to do this every day.

Bedtime

You may need to factor in a little extra relaxing time before sleep time at night.  Your child may need a couple of extra books or some extra songs.  Decide before hand what you will add, and do not let your child dictate what you do.  If you tell them you will read an extra book, stop at that extra book.  If they beg and cry for another one and you give in, you will have taught them to keep begging and crying even if you say no.
If your child is really upset at bedtime, you may think about sitting in their room with them while they fall asleep, then every several days moving further and further away from them or come check on them every 5 or 7 minutes for extra reassurance.

Middle of the Night Wake-Ups

If your child is waking in the middle of the night, discuss with your partner during the day how you want to handle it.  Being consistent is essential in changing a behavior.  So if you do not want your older child coming into bed with you, do not let them do that, even once.  This is especially important if your newborn is sleeping in bed with you – your older child may not be as aware of the baby and could roll on them or crawl over them. 
If you are okay with your older child coming into your room at night if they do not wake you or your baby, you could make a bed for them on the floor.  You could put a crib mattress or sleeping bag on your floor.  You will need to give your child rules – if they sleep in this bed, they need to come into the room quietly and not wake anyone.  This is probably a better idea for a child at least three years old and one that has not shown any jealousy issues toward the newborn.

It Will Get Better

Remember that it will get better, especially if you handle the behavior consistently and with as much patience as you can have being a sleep deprived parent!  Your child may need a little extra reassurance now, but will once again start sleeping well.  And by that time, your newborn may be sleeping better too!


About the Author:
Michelle Winters, of SleepWell Sleep Solutions is a certified Gentle Sleep Coach and Greenproofer based in Northern Virginia. Michelle provides sleep consultations for children up to 6 years old in which she assists parents in creating a gentle, respectful plan to get their children sleeping.  She can also assist parents who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant, and who already have children identify and remove toxins in their environment.  Michelle conducts in person consultations in the Washington DC Metro area and can also conduct consultations over Skype or phone for clients outside the area.  She is also available to conduct workshops and group talks to businesses, parents’ groups and preschools.
This post is provided by SleepWell Sleep Solutions.

Guest Post: Safety When Home Alone

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Published: 06/04/2013
The next few months are filled with vacations, summer camp, swimming, and cookouts for most families. But for working parents, it can also mean decisions about if your children are ready to be home alone. Babysitters or daycare can be a huge cost but it can be dangerous to leave your kids home alone while you’re at work. Any parent is nervous about the safety of their children, especially when you hear horror stories about kids left home alone over the summer. Deciding whether or not your children are ready to stay at home by themselves doesn’t have any hard and fast rules to follow—it depends completely on the responsibility and maturity levels of your child. If you decide they are ready, go over these points with your children to make sure they stay as safe as possible.

Role Playing

Role playing situations with your children and what they should do when they’re home alone can help you make better judgments on whether they’re ready and teach them what to do. Talk about what to do in a fire, injury, or intruder situation. By role playing, your children will be more ready to take action and stay safe in worst case scenarios. Do things like pretending there’s a fire or that you’re a stranger asking to come inside your home with an “emergency.” Taking time to remind your kids to never open the door to strangers or to someone they feel uncomfortable with will keep them safe and give you some reassurance.

Rules for Being Home Alone

Part of the basis to stay at home alone needs to be about following rules. If your children can follow your rules well and understand why, they might be ready. Setting special stay at home alone rules is important to keeping them safe when you’re not there. Decide if they can use kitchen appliances, play outside, have friends over, and what chores and tasks they need to do when you’re not home. Having a family meeting with a conversation works better than laying down the law—but you can also use technology to keep an eye on your children.

Emergency Planning

Going over what they should do in emergency situations and the family plan that is modified for when they’re home alone will help them know what to do and help you get to them quickly if something should go wrong. Talking about what to do in severe weather of if someone breaks into your home and judging his or her reactions to these conversations can help you make your decision about your child.

Routine Checks

If you’re able to, schedule check-in times with your children while they’re home alone to see how they’re doing. While it might not fit into your work schedule, it’s important to know what they’re up to when you’re away from home. Home security systems are also a good option to keep track of your kids. Text alerts can be sent from certain systems when different unlock codes are used upon entry to your home. And even more advanced systems allow you to peek inside your home with your smartphone and cameras installed in your home. The cost of a security system is an investment but is less than an all-day babysitter all summer long.


About the Authors: First Security provides home security services from their home office in Ellicott City, Maryland, offering three times the protection at half the cost of competitors. Their blog has lots of home security tips, including posts like Is Your Son Really Safer Than Your Daughter?, Why Hide-A-Keys Are a Bad Idea, and more home alone security tips. Disclaimer: Not every child is capable of or should be left home alone. If you plan to leave your child at home alone, ensure your child is of age and maturity to be left alone and conform with local and state laws. - 




Disclaimer: Not every child is capable of or should be left home alone. If you plan to leave your child at home alone, ensure your child is of age and maturity to be left alone and conform with local and state laws.
 

Guest Post: Summer Education Tips

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Published: 05/30/2013
The following is a guest post by Winter Harris the editor of Christ Centered Home Magazine. She shares her own tips and tricks to keep your kids learning, yet having fun, this summer in Prince William County!
Guest Post: Summer Education
by Winter Harris

One of the most talked about problems for children during the summer is how much information they lose from the previous school year because there is not an option at home to continuing building upon what they have learned. As a mom, I understand how difficult this can be when you are used to transporting kids from school to practices and other extra-curricular activities. If I’m being completely honest, the end of the school year signals a welcome break for more than just the kids; Mom is officially on “Summer Vacation” as well. However, the older my kids got, I began to realize the importance of them retaining the information they had learned during the school year.
I strive to set my kids up for success so I went on mission to find the least stressful way to promote learning throughout the summer. Thanks to our dear friend, the Internet, we don’t have to go far to find the tools we need to make things fun and interesting. My children range in age, so I have a variety of suggestions you can use.
  • First and foremost, encourage your children to read at least 15-30 minutes a day. This alone can help them keep the mental juices flowing. Use your local library to check out a variety of subjects, and not just the ones they enjoy reading. There are great fiction and non-fiction books that promote learning without seeming too obviously educational. My children like to read books about history and facts. My son can tell me information from the 1800s that I had no clue about.    
  • Use online resources like ABC Mouse, Disney Jr and Sprout Online that include free printable worksheets, grade appropriate games and learning challenges. I’m huge on electronic devices, so if you have a tablet or device, utilize those free educational apps. My kids will jump at the chance to play on my tablet. I would suggest any apps by IntelliJoy.   
  • Take field trips to places like the Manassas Battlefield Park, Bull Run Regional Library or the Teaching Garden in Bristow. There are an insurmountable number of options to choose from in Prince William County, but these are some of the ones we frequent.  
  • At home I like to choose a letter of the alphabet each week and attach a scripture to it. We have a large empty pretzel container and each time they can repeat the scripture back to me or name something that starts with our letter of the week then they get to put their name in the jar. We have a weekly drawing and that child wins a prize. We attach age friendly scriptures to promote fairness in the game. This concept could also be applied to poems, historical speeches, or the Bill of Rights as a way to promote memorization.
Summers can be relaxing and educational. As moms our job is to do our best in finding the balance between the two. Try visiting the National Summer Learning Association to get the facts and to find additional resources. While I get the importance of taking a load off, I just want to ensure my kids don’t dump the whole load and that they are adequately prepared to start the new school year refreshed, ready to learn. Enjoy your Summer!
Winter resides in Northern Virginia with her husband and four children.  She enjoys traveling, photography, scrapbooking, writing, socializing, and decorating.  She attends Fireside Church, where she is a part of the worship team.  She owns Christ Centered Home Magazine, a modern periodical for today’s woman of faith.  She is active in the non-profit community, member of Off the Field PWA, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Meant 2 Live foundation. You can follow Winter on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Virginia Campaign for 1000: Virginia Adopts

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Published: 05/29/2013

Hey, guys! It's Kristina.  The Governor has announced an initiative to try to get more children adopted out of VA Foster Care.  You can find more information on the "Virginia Adopts" program on their website.  Did you know that 50% of kids who leave foster care without a family will be homeless within two years or that 94% of Foster Youth won't graduate from college?  

I know that the idea of Foster Care and adopting from Foster Care can be intimidating, so I invited Kristina Nohe to share her story with us.  She's a PwcMom of four kids, and her story is awesome.  If you'd like to share your foster care or adoption story with us, I'd love to share it, too.  Thank you, Kristina, for sharing this intensely personal story! 



There’s a story in every family: some families begin with moving to a new home, some have chapters focus on overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, and still others are laced with whimsy and fun.  Our family’s story has a little of all of that, but, at its core, our family is a love story.

When my daughter was small someone asked her about the make up of our family.  With child-like innocence and honesty, she told them, “We’re like a twisty cone.  I’m chocolate and my parents are vanilla.  We’re twisted together onto one cone and that’s our family.”  We’re a trans-racial adoptive family, which is a fancy way of saying that we adopted children of a race other than our own.  When Rachel, our daughter, was three, she called us a ‘Choconilla’ Family.

Most parents have nine months to prepare for the arrival of their first child.  My husband and I heard we were “expecting” over lunch and by dinner a three-year-old girl and a 22-month-old boy, Rachel and Nicholas, were bounding down our driveway and into our hearts.  We were suddenly foster parents to two adorable and rambunctious children.


Be it fostering, adopting, or expecting, no one is ever really prepared the first time someone hands you a child and declares that you are solely responsible for its care, feeding, and safety.  That first night, we called our friends with kids and asked, “What should we feed them?  What is an appropriate bedtime?  What size diaper does a toddler wear?”  In other words, we were pretty typical first time parents.

After a few weeks, we felt like we were getting the swing of things, which meant that it was obviously time for a curve ball.  I found out that I was pregnant.  We had gone from no children to expecting our third in under a month.  If the existence of the platypus hadn’t convinced me of it before, I was then certain that God had a very highly tuned sense of humor.

Ten years, four kids, and a pug later, we can look back through the haze of sleepless nights combined with active days and marvel at the start of what became our family.  We adopted Rachel and Nicholas, added two bio-babies, Jack and Teddy, to the mix, and life’s been one great adventure ever since. 

Like every family, we’ve had our challenges.  If I had a nickel for every time I was asked, “What country did you adopt them from?” I could retire in luxury.  I’ve gotten used to the look of surprise that I get when I tell people that we adopted from the foster care system, but it still breaks my heart a little each and every time.  All too often, children in foster care are seen as second-class, broken, or something to be avoided.  We had well-meaning, but woefully misinformed people warn us that taking in foster children would lead to any number of horrible things based mostly on what they seen on a made-for-tv movie.  When we took in children of a different race, we heard ugly comments about our children being happier “with their own kind” or questions as to whether a parent could truly love a child that didn’t look like them.  Ignorance can be a very unseemly thing.
The other comment that I hear a lot is “These children are so lucky to have you.”  The funny thing is that it is the exact opposite.  We are so blessed to have them in our lives.  They are bright, funny, imaginative, talented, inquisitive, and being their mother has made me grow in ways that I couldn’t even imagine before they walked into our lives.  It was not a sacrifice to add them to our family; it was a gift.  I look back now and realize that there was a place reserved for them in my heart that I didn’t know was empty until they each stepped in and filled it.  They are my children.

Our family is like a twisted up cone, sometimes the flavor is Rocky Road, sometimes it is Cherries Jubilee, and sometimes the whole thing is rolled in a rainbow of colored sprinkles.  It doesn’t matter the color, the flavor, or where it came from; we all sit side by side in the crazy banana split of life, sprinkled with nuts, a whole made better by its different parts. 

If you’ve ever considered adding to your family through adoption, visit www.virginiaadopts.virginia.gov to get more information about Gov. McDonnell’s new initiative “Campaign for 1,000” with a goal of matching a thousand families with the thousand children eligible for adoption in Virginia’s foster care system.  It could be the best decision you’ve ever made.  It certainly was for us.




 Kristina Nohe is the mom to four fabulous children. When she isn't driving them around to their various activities, she is homeschooling them and cooking Gluten-Free food. She is a former Navy brat who has lived all over the United States, but can't think of any place else she'd rather raise her children than Prince William County, Virginia.

Guest Post: Favorite Spring Fashion Pieces on a Budget

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Published: 05/16/2013
Guest Post: Favorite Spring Fashion Pieces on a Budget

Hey y'all, I'm Molly and I've lived in PWC for just over 3 years. I blog over at Stilettos and Diapers about fashion, motherhood and life in general. As much as I love fashion and wearing all the current trends, I'm frugal and never like to spend too much on my clothes. Today, I'm sharing with you some of my favorite pieces for spring and summer that fit into a Mom's budget. All these pieces are under $30! 

Floral and Print Shorts 

These are hot, hot this season. In tons of patterns and lengths, there are trendy shorts out there for everyone.


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Maxi Dresses 

These are all the rage again this year. I love them because I love to wear dresses, but short ones can be awkward when leaning over to tend to your babies. Maxis can be dressed up with wedges, or down with flip flops. You can wear them to the park, for a playdate or a night out with your husband. I love a good versatile piece that gets me the most bang for my buck. 


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 

Colors and Patterned Tops

Just like the patterned shorts, there is no lack for color in this seasons tops. Neon, floral, stripes and sheers are all over the place. Don't be shy with your color! 


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Hope this easy guide helps you fill your closet on the cheap this season! If you want to keep up with me and more of my frugal fashions, you can follow me on my blog, Twitter or Instagram


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Guest Post: How I Found The Perfect Playgroup

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Published: 05/14/2013
The following is a guest post from Samantha at Happily A Housewife. Samantha lives here in Prince William County and shares something I think many of you will relate to: Her own experience in moving to PWC, not knowing anyone in the area, being a new mom, and trying to find the perfect playgroup.




One thing I have noticed since moving here 6+ years ago, is that no one else seems to be "from" here either. When we had Matthew our first born, I knew NO ONE. The six months we had lived in the DC metro before he was born I basically stayed in my apartment all day, everyday. I knew once having him, that had to change, we had to socialize. But living in a new place, with no family or friends, makes that tough.


The way I changed things was joining a playgroup. It was hard at first, I felt left out, like I was never going to fit in. Here is how I changed that:

First how I found the perfect playgroup.

1. Look online. This is the easiest way if you aren't too outgoing. Meetup.com is where I found so many groups to chose from. Especially in the DMV there are so many different groups. Find a couple. Join and attend a few meetups to see what fits you and your kids best.

2. Find a group that has kids the same age as yours. A group with school aged kids probably isn't going to meet when you are available to play with your toddler.

3. If you are more outgoing and willing to talk to people at random (I am not), go to your local library. During the story times and playtimes. Also hit up a local park. Talk to the other moms, they probably have a group they can refer you to.

Fitting into a playgroup.

1. My biggest piece of advice to give anyone...... GO TO THE MNO (mom's night out) or girls night out events. It is SO worth making that extra effort, trust me! Being able to talk to other moms without cranky, whinny, hungry toddlers at your feet is much easier.

2. Don't get discouraged. If the first few times it feels a bit off, like the other moms aren't making a huge effort, they probably aren't. They don't want to put in the time to meet someone new if they don't think you are going to stick around. The more events you attend, the easier it will get.

3. Don't push your parenting philosophy. It is so nice to have a group of women you can turn to when your child isn't eating, sleeping, or having problems at school, but advice is different than a mom who thinks her way is the only way. Be the mom you are, and don't change that. At the same time, don't expect others to change the way they parent either.

There are still so many times while sitting at a play date with my kids, that I remind myself how glad I am that I took the effort to find a playgroup. The kids have all become friends, and probably more importantly I have founds a group of women that have become true friends.

People I can rely on.

Other moms who keep me sane.



I am Samantha, a wife, SAHM of 3 wonderful kids (Who apparently doesn't have ONE photo of her family of five, awesome, right). We live in PWC and love it! I blog at Happily A Housewife.  You can also find me on Twitter, and Instagram where I over share about our life, write the things I wish I could say to my kids, attempt to share recipes every once and awhile, and most importantly post 8 million (unnecessary) photos of my babies!

Party on a Budget

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Published: 04/28/2013

Party on a Budget
By:  Angela Pounders
 
I told myself that I would not be the type of parent who would go all out and spend a lot of money for my children’s birthday parties.  Instead, I would buy a few themed items and work around that with what I had and/or buy some inexpensive items to go with it.  My parents never went all out and I have some of the best birthday memories.  To me, it’s not about how much money you spend, but about the time spent together.

This year, Sweet Girl, my (now) four year old, wanted an Elmer the Elephant party.  (He’s a patchwork elephant featured in books by David McKee.)  I couldn’t find party stuff to buy so I had to be creative. Love Bug, my (just turned) two year old, picked a Thomas the Tank Engine theme.  Of course, there is a ton of stuff out there with Thomas!  However, I ended up spending about the same for each girl’s party with these easy, fun and inexpensive ideas.

Plates and Napkins:  I always let the girls pick out plates and napkins that go along with their chosen theme.  We have done solid colored plates and printed napkins before as well.  I found the cutest elephant napkins that stand up.  There is a wide variety of designs available.  So, not only did we have napkins, but a table decoration at each spot! 


Tablecloth:  Go with a solid color and something that can be reused.  If you are having a bunch of children over, plastic tablecloths from the Dollar Store work great.  Oriental Trading has a good selection to.  We used our nice cloth tablecloths (you know, like the ones you pull out for the holidays) this year for the girls and it made them feel so special.

Decorations:  A lot of money can be spent in this category, but it doesn’t have to be.  I printed out color pictures of Elmer and his friends and also of Thomas and friends to hang around the living/dining rooms. I also printed some in black and white so the girls could color them and used those as decorations, too. You can find a lot of free printables online to go along with any theme.  I found some elephant party invitations at the Dollar Store and used those for decorations and for making Sweet Girl’s birthday card. Remember, think outside of the box!  Also, streamers and balloons in colors that go with your child’s theme are an inexpensive addition to the décor.  The Dollar Store is the best place to go for these disposable decorations.
The new idea I came up with this year is free!  I thought it would be fun to decorate using books.  Yes, the kind you read.  We went to the library and checked out a bag full of books for each girl’s theme.  We set the books up around the living/dining rooms.  They decorated the rooms and were in reach when the girls wanted to look at them.  You could also buy some new books for your child and put them out the morning of his/her birthday as a surprise.



Activities:  Again, you can find many free printables online with patterns and craft ideas.  There are also a variety of BINGO type game sheets that you can print out, too.

Sweet Girl really wanted to look like Elmer and asked if I could paint her.  Um, no, but how about coloring a t-shirt to wear instead?  I drew a checkerboard on a couple of t-shirts and let the girls go at them with fabric markers.  I even made one!  What child wouldn’t think it was neat to draw on and make his/her own shirt?  You could prep each shirt with a picture related to your child’s theme (draw it on, iron-ons, etc) and have each child decorate his own shirt.  An activity and party favor in one!



Cake:  Maybe you feel like you’ve saved enough money with everything else to buy a bakery made cake, but why not make one at home?  Whether you make it from scratch or a box, it is so fun to have the birthday child make the cake with you.  Sweet Girl even wanted to help place the animal cake toppers (which doubled as toys afterwards—another money saving tip!) on her cake.
I hope these fun, easy and inexpensive ideas help you with the next party you plan.  Remember to think outside of the box and be creative.  Think about how things can serve double functions to save even more money.  Spend more time and less money and everyone will benefit from it!


Angela Pounders is a transplant to Prince William County Park from Arlington.  She is blessed to be a stay at home mama to two beautiful girls.  As a former teacher (as well as preschool director and Children and Family Director), she is always on the look out for fun, easy and educational things to do with her girls.  She shares her ideas on her blog, The Master’s Daughter.
 
themastersdaughter.weebly.com

Favorite Books for Toddlers

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Published: 04/24/2013

Favorite Books for Toddlers
By Carolyn Brace

"Image courtesy of [Ambro] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"


Once upon a time I used to read books to my pregnant belly. Then I read to my tiny little babies while they snuggled in my arms. Soon those books were chewed on with great love. Before I knew it we were reading books at every meal (a great time to read since they are a captive audience) and now we are constantly nagging our 8 year old to put away her book at dinner and talk to us. I live in a house with five children who love to read. They are ages 8, 5, and 2. No, that doesn’t equal five kids, until I mention that I have three 2 year olds. Three opinionated 2 year olds. It is wonderful that they love books, but with that love comes strong opinions and definite favorites. With that, I thought I would share my 2 year olds’ latest favorites with the hope that your children will enjoy them too.


Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

This book really touches on the bedtime routine and nervousness children feel when they are alone in their rooms. I recommend reading it with a great amount of drama and theatrical skills. Yell and holler along with Llama as he wonders where his mamma has gone. My children also like to point out Llama’s stuffed llama as they too sleep with stuffed animals. They clearly see themselves in Llama.


The Neighborhood Sing - Along and When will Sarah Come

The first book is written and photographed by Nina Crews, while the second is written by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard and photographed by Nina Crews. You may have read books by Nina Crews’ father, Donald Crews and she has clearly inherited his talent and vision. My children have always loved real photographs of people in books. They like to see other children’s actions, expressions, and movements. The Neighborhood Sing –Along is a collection of favorite children’s songs with authentic, beautiful pictures of children. The only downside is that it is long and my children want to read every single page of the book: sometimes twice.

When Will Sarah Come is perfect for any child with an older sibling who attends school. It is the story of a little boy who wonders all day long when his sister, Sarah, will be coming home. Life just isn’t the same without her. Its repetitive nature has my children reading along with me and happily predicting the ending.



Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Who needs words? Good Night Gorilla has only a handful of words but that is all it needs to capture my children’s attention. They love saying goodnight to all the animals and gasping with delight when there is nothing on the page but the surprised eyes of the zookeepers wife. (Once again, being theatrical is a big plus). With three children reading at the same time we opted for the lap book sized version and it wore out after receiving heaps of love.



Grandpas are for Catching Worms by Harriet Zeifert

What child doesn’t like to lift the flaps of a book? Many lift the flap books have lost their flaps in this house, but either my children are becoming more gentle or this book is sturdier because it still has all it’s flaps intact. This delightful story gives us a chance to remember our grandpa, who lives 10 hours away and is not seen too often, and to talk about all the wonderful things we can do together as families. Harriet Zeifert is a fantastic author for young children and also has lift-the-flap books for mommies, daddies, brothers, sisters, grandmas, cousins, teachers and many holidays.


Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley and Don’t let the Pigeon Ride the Bus by Mo Willems

What 2-year-old child doesn’t want power and control? In these books the children get to tell the monster to go away and tell the pigeon “NO!” as he constantly asks to drive the bus. After only a few readings my children were happily yelling “Go Away” and “No” at these engaging books that encourage audience participation. Another plus? My 5 year old can easily memorize them and “read” them to his younger siblings.


Last, but not least, books with your children as the main characters!


I use Shutterfly to create books with pictures of my children. Whether it’s a quick book with the pictures of all the people we love or a long journey through our memories of the holiday season, children love to see themselves and the people they love. What is more fun than a book about yourself?!


It’s been said before and I’ll say it again. The best way to teach your children to read is to read to them. So grab any book and enjoy! You’ll create a foundation that is priceless.




Preschool Busy Bag Exchange

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Published: 04/21/2013
 Preschool Busy Bag Exchange 
by Courtney Power

If you already have a Pinterest account I am probably not going to tell you anything you don't already know. If, like me, you still don't pin keep reading because I've got an exciting idea for you. Preschool Busy Bag Exchange Being a non-pinner I had to google the term when an interest thread was started on my local neighborhood mom's Facebook page. Basically, it is the same principle as a cookie exchange but instead of baked goods you swap games/activities geared at the preschool age group.


As a mom of a 4yr old and 21 month old with self-professed "paint by numbers" crafting ability, I jumped at the idea of making multiple copies of a kid's game in exchange for getting back all new games in return. Our exchange was the Wednesday before Spring Break and the activities were lifesavers on vacation. A special thanks to Kelly who organized our neighborhood exchange and to all the other Montclair Moms who participated, you ladies ROCK!


We had 16 moms participate in our exchange. This may seem like a lot, especially when you’re in the throes of making 16 copies of a game, but when you walk away with 15 new games it is totally worth it. Below are pictures of the different games made. [Note: there are 17 items listed because two were bundled together] Some are overtly educational (alphabet match-up), some are just for fun (I-spy bottles) and some build great fine motor skills (anything with clothespins). While this was titled as “preschool” busy bag exchange the games really fit a spectrum of ages. My youngest one uses the I-spy bottle as a shaker and loves the pool noddle threading with no concern for following a pattern whereas my older child can easily do color matching but has been stretched by letter and sound identification.



A picture of my haul!



1) Counting/Shaking Eggs: match egg top and bottom, insert lentils or candy to match the number
2) Connect the Dots: a laminated flip book of connect the dots puzzles and a dry erase marker
3) Color Match: grab color card with appropriate clothespin
4) Number Tracing: trace numbers with monster finger puppet using rhyme to help remember
5) I-spy Bottles: small water bottles filled with rice and assorted treasures to find
6) Pool Noodle Lacing: pool noodle segments of different colors & numbers, pattern cards to replicate




7) Double Trouble: use the loose shapes to recreate the patterns
8) Felt Puzzle: match felt puzzle pieces to outline on background
9) Magnetic Fishing: wooden dowel fishing pole, felt fish with shapes and numbers
10) Color/Number Wheel: grab color or number with appropriate clothespins
11) Popsicle Shape Makers: Velcro dots allow creating of shapes with Popsicle sticks




12) Popsicle Stick Puzzle: line up popsicle sticks to create the puzzle image
13) Lacing Cards: practice lacing shoelace in the holes
14) Playdough Gingerbread House Mats: use playdough to make assigned number of decorations
15) Pipe Cleaner Threading: thread appropriate color and number of beads on the pipe cleaners
16) Colored Animal Sorting: use tweezers to sort animal figurines by color or animal type
17) Alphabet Match Up & Beginning Word Sounds: match uppercase letter bottle cap to lowercase letter or to picture that matches the beginning word sound



If you are interested this would be great to do just before school ends, in the middle of summer when boredom sets in or anytime really. Some thoughts on successfully executing a busy bag exchange. -- 16 participants were a lot and more than probably a high threshold level. You want to have enough participants to make the crafting effort worth your time and money, especially since it is generally more cost effective to buy materials in bulk but not too many that it becomes overwhelming and you run the risk of repeat or extremely similar activities. -- we used a Facebook event to organize our exchange. This way each participant could post a link to or describe what they planned on making (avoiding repeats). You could also feasibly use a Facebook group to coordinate as well. The communal forum also allowed for sharing of supplies that participants might have had in excess or weren't using. -- the exchange date should be set a couple of weeks if not at least a month from the initial setup time. This gives everyone time to browse for ideas, shop the sales and make the game/activity. -- Pinterest and Google are great places to get ideas. There are a ton of very crafty mom bloggers out there. -- for all you military mommas out there we had a participant from out of state who mailed in her contribution. If you were organizing for a geographically separated group you could either share addresses or ship to a single POC who would then separate, collate and ship.


The school year is drawing to an end of if you are going to host one of these with your child and classmates, now’s the time to start organizing!




Courtney Power is an Air Force wife and mom to two crazy kids. She lives in Montclair and can’t say enough good things about the Prince William County community and Montclair Moms in particular. 





4 simple ways to sneak exercise into your day!

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Published: 04/14/2013

4 simple ways to sneak exercise into your day!




 Gone are the days when I had hours to spend at the gym or time for long runs through the neighborhood. Now that I am a stay at home mom with 4 small kids, I have to make sure to grab all opportunities to sneak some 'fitness' into my day! Here are 4 simple ways to help you fit in fitness:

 1. Dance parties! My kids love when I put on loud music (especially Gangham Style, of course!) and we dance all around the house. You are guaranteed to work up a sweat if you do this for 30-40 minutes.

 2. Lunge, squat, lunge. Whether we are at the park or just playing in the basement, I practice this one. I lunge, I squat, I lunge. Repeat as many times possible. Do this 4-5 times per week and you will notice firmer and stronger legs.

 3. Make use of your stairs. I don't have a gym membership, but who needs one when you have a built in stair master in your house? Here is a stair workout that I love to do 2-3 times per week. Quick and intense!

4. Races! My boys are very competitive and love to race Mommy. Sometimes, I even let them win! ;) Either way, we do this over and over for 20-30 minutes and I'm exhausted. The extra bonus is they are usually exhausted too!   How do you squeeze fitness into your day?  



Lisa is a stay at home mom of 4 boys (ages 7 and under). In her life before kids, she was a personal trainer and marathon runner. Now she blogs at Workout Mommy to provide motivation, inspiration, and ideas on how to fit in exercise, fitness, and health in your busy day. She firmly believes that exercise is what keeps her (somewhat) sane and it's a lot cheaper than therapy! Workout Mommy can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Get Outdoors with NoVA Outdoors

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Published: 04/12/2013



If you haven't heard about NoVA Outdoors, our area's finest blog for reviewing parks and playgrounds, you've been missing out!  You can expand the county list on the left sidebar to find a large number of parks in Northern Virginia and beyond.  Families love the honest reviews and pictures, so you can "know before you go."  

I got a chance to chat with Kamber Petty,  local mom and founder of NoVA Outdoors and asked her a couple of questions. 

Kamber Petty, NoVA Outdoors



What do you look for when reviewing parks and playgrounds?

When I'm reviewing parks I look for fun equipment for the kids to play on, restrooms for the potty training crowd and natural areas where the kids can walk the trails. Safety is always a concern so I look for parks that are kept up and if the equipment is in good shape.



Have you had any funny moments on any of your adventures. 
One of the many funny moments I've had over the past two years while reviewing parks was with my oldest Cooper. Cooper was 3 years old at the time and I asked him what he thought of the park we were at. I'll never forget, he put his hands on hips and in a very serious voice he told me he was concerned there were no swings for his baby brother Max. From that day on every time we get in the car after a park visit he lets me know what he likes about the park and what was missing.


Although the website boasts many, many reviews.  Here are some that are specific to towns in Prince William County. Click on the town to read the reviews. 





Article written by Micaela WIlliamson, author of Kid Trips Northern Virginia Edition



Parental Urban Legends- Early Care Edition

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Published: 04/03/2013

Parental Urban Legends- Early Care Edition
by Denise Stern


One of my favorite phrases PWC Moms has coined is “Varsity Moms,” which pretty much describes this audience. These are the moms with 2 or more kids who can tell you at the drop of a hat which pediatrician has the best waiting room times, which restaurants offer kids-eat-free-nights and just when exactly you might expect to reach the finish line of Sleeping Through the Night.


Varsity Moms, I ask you--- please help first time parents by squashing the Top 3 myths of infant care that have permeated the parenting landscape, but are just plain wrong.


Photo credit, Micaela Williamson




Myth #1 – Putting rice cereal in baby’s bottle will help baby sleep longer


There is absolutely no evidence that shows that thickening milk or formula with cereal will make baby sleep longer at night. In fact, the most cited study on this topic, (Infant Sleep and bedtime cereal) heartily disproves this parental urban legend.


In our desperation to “tank baby up” and buy an extra hour of rest, we often think that a fuller stomach = sleep. This is true when we give baby milk before bed to ensure that s/he doesn’t wake unnecessarily from hunger but the addition of rice cereal does not help baby sleep longer.


Why People Swear it Works:

When parents introduce rice cereal in baby’s bottle, it is typically at the 8-12 week mark, when parents have about had it with getting up 3-4 times overnight. The fact is, baby is naturally sleeping longer stretches at this time anyway. Thickening formula receives the credit for what baby is doing naturally.



Myth #2 – Mylicon will Eliminate Gas and Soothe your Baby


This myth is near and dear to my heart because I desperately believed it myself with my own 3 kids. Study  after study definitively demonstrates that Simethicone (the generic name for gas drops) is no more or less effective as a placebo. In a nutshell? Gas drops don’t work.


Why People Swear it Works:

EVERYONE recommends Simethicone drops. No one does not recommend them. Once again parents of newborns just want to soothe their babies and I know you will be shocked to hear this, but marketing companies love to capitalize on that so they sell, sell, sell a harmless but useless product.


And once again, it is caregiver and baby who should be given the credit for getting that uncomfortable gas out of baby’s tummy. Slow feeds, lots of burping and gently switching position or massaging baby to get gas out after feeding are the real reasons baby is comforted.




Myth #3 – Putting baby to sleep later at night will make them sleep later in the morning


We’ve all done this one. According to pediatric sleep specialist, Dr. Lisa Meltzer,  “the internal clock is a powerful force that typically wakes young children up around the same time every morning, no matter what time they go to sleep at night." This means that putting baby to sleep later only robs them of sleep they should be getting. This then contributes to the overtired cycle the next day, making it more difficult for baby to settle and rest again.


Why People Swear it Works:

Because it would work for adults and seems correct. And again, we just want to figure out how to help that baby sleep. When we do wear out our little ones and they sleep for long stretches out of sheer exhaustion, we receive another “false positive.” Keeping baby awake longer than their bodies need may work for one night or one nap, but baby just can’t sustain fighting against their natural rhythms.




What Parental Urban legends can you add? And which do you see as baby gets older?




Denise Stern is the President & CEO of Let Mommy Sleep, DC’s first and only baby nurse agency. Denise and her team of nurses & speech pathologists offer sleep consultations and overnight care to families of newborns and infants.


Girls Day Out: Spring Essentials Under $30‏

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Published: 03/27/2013



It may be cold outside, but everywhere you look there are signs of spring — flowers are blooming, clear skies and store windows and displays are exploding with bright colored jeans, accessories and shoes. I've already started buying clothes for my four year old son but it's my daughter I am most excited about shopping for. Okay, okay, so she's only eight weeks old, but I am already dreaming of the mommy-daughter days out we will have in the future! 


Here I've put together two fun and comfy looks ideal for a girls day out. And don't worry! None of these will break the bank, no no no! With two kids I know how important it is to stick to budget friendly shopping and find the best deals around — all items featured here are $30 and under (click on the image to see individual prices and stores) and are from Target, Old Navy and Payless. The important thing is that they can be worn a variety of different ways throughout the summer and easy to dress up or down. 




Mommy and Daughter Spring Essentials




There is a misconception that being stylish comes at a high price, but you and the family can look and feel great without spending much. My favorite places to shop are Old Navy and Target which offer great prices and good quality clothing as well as local consignment and thrift shops.


For more budget friendly style ideas, updates and reviews for you and the family visit me at Very Busy Mamá — Life, Beauty & Style.


HAPPY SPRING!

Guest Post: Better to Give than Receive: Kids' Birthday Party Presents

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Published: 02/28/2013



We love giving special presents to our friends...even to friends that we don't know very well.  Whenever my children are invited to a birthday party, we take time to think about the child and like to get something unique.  However, the past few birthday parties that we have gone to, we never even saw the child open the present!  We end up leaving it in some bin.  If we're lucky, we will get a generic card in the mail saying "Thank you for coming to my party."  There is NO mention of our specific gift.
I remember my grandmother complaining about such a party years ago.  She was invited to a  child's birthday, and there was no present opening.  She didn't even receive a thank you card, and that is a huge no-no in her book.  At the time, I didn't even have a child, but I vowed to her that I would never to do this.  She would be proud to know that two children and twelve birthday parties later, I have kept my word!

My children open EVERY PRESENT they receive from friends at their birthday parties (except gifts from people that are not in attendance.)  I don't care if other children are bored and don't like sitting around.  We have small parties anyway, and the whole process takes 10 minutes.  Everyone will receive a PERSONALIZED thank you card within a week (okay...maybe 2 weeks tops.)

I realize that some people invite the whole class to their birthday party, or they are paying for playtime at a fun kids' place.  If I had a 90 minute party for my child at a bouncy place, I would want the time to be spent playing or jumping too, but I would never send a generic thank you card.  I wouldn't subject my guests to sitting through 25 gifts being open, but I also do not want/need 25 new toys in my house.  (Another reason I like to keep the parties small.)

What do you think?  Am I out of line?  Do you feel like you pay so much for your child's birthday party that a generic thank you card is enough, or do you forgo thank you cards all together?

Image credit:  © Mschalke | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Thanks to Micaela Williamson, AKA SuperNovaMommy for this fantastic guest post.  If you're on the Fairfax border, be sure to check out Micaela's fantastic site for even more great events to keep you and your family active and happy in Northern Virginia. You can also find SuperNovaMommy on Facebook

Guest Post: Switch Up Your Winter Workout

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Published: 02/20/2013
It's about this time that I hear many students say , "I'm bored with my workout and don't have many options". Here is some of what I tell them to beat winter workout boredom and spice up that cardio routine:
-Make a cardio medley by picking three different cardio machines, or circuits, and workout on each for 10 minutes or so. This is a great alternative to just getting on the same machine for a certain length of time.
-Break up your workout by separating them into segments, each with a different focus-speed, incline, resistance, steady state, etc. By changing your workout  every five minutes, you get  variety and,  because you're  focusing on just a few minutes at a time, the workout will fly by.
-Try  something  new.! We  all  have  our  favorite  machines & routines  but  winter is a great time to experiment with something completely different. Challenge yourself to do something new.  When was the last time you tried the rowing machine or the stationary bike at the gym? What about an at home workout?  Moving your  body in  a different way can  rejuvenate  your workouts.
-Try group fitness.  Even  if  you're  not into group fitness classes, giving  one  a try  can  give  you  new  enthusiasm  for your workouts.  Pick up a schedule at your club and make a deal to try one new class every two weeks. You get a lot of energy from working out in a  group,  so take advantage of it!

I have to say, I’ve tried all of these and yet not one is perfect for me.  One day I may feel like taking a class or,in my case, teach a class. Another day, I may turn on some music and create my own “cardio medley” at home or at the gym.  Other times, I may pop in Insanity or Turbo Fire to check working out off of my to do list.

I challenge you to try something different over the next two weeks. Be sure to share your experiences with someone. They may want to give it a try too!   

Adrienne Vose is a Certified Fitness Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor, dedicated wife & mother of 3. She likes to workout & motivate others to "MOVE IT" and believes that without exercise, people are inhibited from achieving and maintaining their health goals. 
No matter what your fitness goals may be or how hectic life becomes, there is a way to accomplish those goals. As a trainer, her number one priority is to create a routine that works towards your needs and gives you the results that are best for you. "Eat Healthy, Move More & Stress Less" is her motto and she fully believes this is the KEY to a healthy lifestyle. 

This guest blog is presented as an opinion.  Health changes should always be discussed with a doctor.