Recap of our San Fran Visit

A trip to California always does our family GOOD! This was our second time flying to the west coast as a family but our first time visiting San Francisco. One of our favorite places was the California Academy of Science’s it’s basically an Aquarium, Planetarium, and Natural History Museum all mixed into one cool adventure! The one thing that stood out the most to me was the dinosaur bones. I knew the kids would love this and couldn’t wait to see theirs faces when they noticed them.

In edition to the awesome dinosaur bones, we were able to explore sea creatures

We were also able to see the Golden State Bridge and that was the coolest thing for me!

Yup once again Jagger decides to be “Jagger” in the family pics lol. Gotta love that guy!

In addition to this we ventured to Fisherman’s Wharf via street car for some good seafood.

Here’s Maveric holding a love crab! This is his face after we told him it was alive.

All in all we had a wonderful visit here are some suggestions:

  1. Don’t rent a car! It’s so hard to get around and find parking, public transportation is the best as well as Uber.
  2. Pack layers- the weather is so unpredictable we went from cold to hot to cool back to cold in one day.
  3. Go with the flow- California in general is such a wonderful place to visit so anytime I’m there I feel at peace and in an awesome mood

Well that’s it let me know where you end up, we didn’t get to see the Fullhouse location but there’s always next time. Until then….

XO,

Meka

The SHADE of living in 2 different cities…

Many of my close family and friends know the inside scoop on our process of moving from Winston to the Raleigh area.  Today I’m sharing the SHADE  we had to go through to make it work!

SUPPORT – Living in 2 separate cities so that we can fully transition to the Raleigh area was tough!  We agreed that it’s best to let Elle finish out the 3rd grade in her current school which meant we really needed to sacrifice and we needed an amazing support team.  The boys and I stayed with my in laws M-F then we went home to Winston on the weekends to be with JoColby and Elle.  I’m so blessed that my in laws have enough space that we were extremly comfortable during this process.  They boys have their own room and I stayed in Elle’s room.  We basically had the entire upstairs to ourselves.

HUNT– While we were making this sacrifice for our children we were always on the hunt.  Looking at different neighborhoods, trying to find the perfect schools.  We actually found our 3 favorite locations but it wasn’t until my husband brought in our amazing realator Chantel of Be Home Realty, I knew the hunt would be over soon.  We gave Chantel our budget and she was all over it.  When she sent us the listing to our current  home I instantly gave her the side eye because the pictures on Zillow made the home look so dark and gloomy.  Once I stepped into the house I knew THIS was our home! The process was seamless thanks to the work of Chantel and our amazing broker Phillip Harris of Blackhawk Mortgage!  We highly recommend them when you’re ready to make that move.

ACCOUNTABILITY– Living in seperate cities from your spouse and child/ children we had to hold each other accountable. We made sure we utilized FaceTime, weekends were for us to reconnect.  I will admit it was so hard to hand off the baton and leave Elle with her father.  Often times I wondered if it was worth it, will she be effected not having her mother M-F? Whenever I was in doubt I prayed.  I knew that these 7 months ( November- June) would fly by and boy did they.

DEVOTED – because this was such a major change in our family dynamics, we devoted one on one time with each other.  I made sure that I incorporated Mommy/ Daughter dates so that I could stay in tune with Elle and her thoughts throughout this process. We also worked on a journal together as well.  In addition to this I also made sure that  JoColby and I had a monthly date night. We wanted to make sure our foundation was strong especially since he just got back from deployment and BOOM our family is divided.

EXCITEMENT– through all of the sacrifices we remained excited about our future.  The thoughts of a new home, with more room so that we can invite our friends and family over, a place where our children will grow, the thoughts of our family being back in the same city again. We remained humble and excited during the entire process.  Most importantly we are THANKFUL.

Have you ever lived in a separate city from your spouse or child? What did you learn during the process? Until next time….

XO,

Meka

5 things to do this summer

DSC_6052_EditedSo it’s seriosuly July 3rd and I’m JUST making a summer bucket list.  This year I learned to go with the flow, plan and adjust accordingly.  A lot of times we feel like once we make a plan, it has to be set in stone.  Who are we kidding especially when we have children!

DSC_6031_EditedSo here’s my very SHORT summer bucket list:

  1.  Make tie dye tees with the kids
  2. International family trip  ( I may or may not already have this booked )
  3. Enjoy an outdoor movie
  4. Visit family in Baltimore and have freshly steamed crabs
  5. Invited family/ friends over for a summer gathering

DSC_6026_EditedI learned my lesson last year check out my list here I wanted to accomplish 11 things, with a newborn baby, deployed husband while working full time and blogging.   Yeah I know….  tell me about it.  Sometimes we push ourselves to prove that we can do any and everything but why?  This season I’m all about reclaiming my happiness.  I am here to love on my husband and kids, create amazing memories with them, cherish my family and friendships and grow in my calling.

DSC_5954_EditedI’m challenging my Momtourage to do the same!  Do what you love, grow your brand and crush it.   What summer adventures do you have lined up? Share below I might need some ideas for next year!  Until next time….

XO,

Meka

 

Incredibles 2 with Alamo Draft House

This weekend is jammed packed with adventure, not only is it Father’s Day weekend, BUT it’s also my birthday weekend and the weekend for the release of Incredibles 2. Thanks to our friends at Alamo Draft we were able to cash in on the fun.

To celebrate the highly anticipated release for Incredibles 2, Alamo hosted a fun pre-movie craft session. The kids were able to make super hero masks, and super hero shields. In addition, they were also able to construct their own color creation with cool coloring sheets.

And of course they had a photo booth ready with tons of props.

After we got our craft on, the kids were able to show off their super hero skills and then we enjoyed the movie.

I really loved the reclining seats, as well as being able to order snacks without a line. The menu options even included a Vegan friendly meals. Being able to order from the comfort of our seats was the highlight of my day! #MomLife

This was our first time visiting Alamo Draft Cinema and trust me, it won’t be our last. The overall vibe took be back to the 80’s lots of nostalgia as well as VHS tapes. And for those that love a little spirit while you watch and dine, they have alcohol or “grown up juice”.

Overall the movie was a hit with the kids, and us parents. I can’t believe it took 14 years to recreate, but hey it was well worth it.

Be sure to check out this fun recipe of Jack Jack’s movie favorite movie treat, you’ll get it when you see the movie.

Thanks again to our friends at Alamo Draft House Cinemas for the invite we had a ball

Be sure to check out their summer movies series . They have several deals for the entire family!

Until next time……

XO,

Meka

Mother’s Day throughout the years 2010-current

I’ve been blessed to celebrate Mother’s Day for 9 years! And each year I have a tradition to coordinate outfits with my loves so today I’m sharing my pictures and things I’ve learned as a mom throughout the years.

Year ONE

This was my very first Mother’s Day and although this is the ONLY picture I have captured of us, I remember it like it was yesterday. JoColby was deployed Elle’s first year of life ( sound familiar?!) so it was just the 2 of us. We wore Pink and White. This is the year I learn how strong I truly was and how thankful and blessed it is to become a MOM.

Year TWO

Toddler Elle and I wore black and white this year. This was the year that challenged my relationship with JoColby as well as helped me grow as a woman. I wore a ring on my left hand because I so desperately wanted to be married, however things weren’t perfect and we were still growing. This is the point where we decided to be the best parents for Elle.

Year THREE

Navy and floral was my theme, unfortunately I didn’t capture the floral shoes I was wearing to coordinate with Elle BUT check out the hand!!! Yes newlywed, JoColby and I worked through our differences and grew to love each other more than ever! This is the year I learned that prayer really works and to NEVER settle if it’s meant to be God will work it out.

Year FOUR

Denim was the theme and we welcomed a new family member. Young Maveric Ellis joined us and he was such a joy to our life. Elle’s new best friend and my first son! This is the year that I realized I could love more and step out on faith!

Year FIVE

There’s NO place like HOME! This year I took a road trip with the kiddos solo to visit HOME aka Baltimore and we stayed with my sister. In true Bmore fashion our theme was Orioles gear. This was the year that I learned that I could truly multitask and take on anything! I had the fashion truck at this point and balancing 2 kids and a husband I thought life was perfect as it was… Boy was wrong!

Year SIX

And then there were 3! This was my most trying year. I’ve never been so scared and confused as a mom, until we had Jagger. Many of you know that Jagger was born 2 months early and stayed in the NICU for a month. This year I was too exhausted but very blessed so I decided PJ’s were the best option for us! We pretty much stayed inside until Jagger was older but we had a ball. JoColby cooked dinner and there was love all over because we were so happy that Jagger was Home. This was the year that pushed my faith to the limit and I learned to pray stronger than ever before.

Year SEVEN

One time for the culture! This was the year of many first. We took the kids to Disney World, we celebrated love, we celebrated US and I believe this is when I coined the term #HWTH, Hanging With The Harrells. I truly thought our family was really complete here. But as we know, I was wrong!

Year EIGHT

Now this was the year of completion. We welcomed Axel Roman to the family and we went with a more relaxed theme of Grey tees with different phrases in them. This is the year I truly grew. JoColby was deployed the entire year and I gave birth without him. This year tested every emotion, every ounce of my strength and sanity. But at the end of it all, God showed me how strong I am as a wife, mother and woman! There’s seriously nothing that I can’t do and I learned that last year. I also learned my value, and decided to step out on faith and started my blog. This was the year of absolute GROWTH.

Year NINE

Pastels and pinks! I’m happier than ever and I feel like this is truly OUR year! God has been showing out every step of the way. We are almost settled in our new location, finding the perfect house for our family and I am working in the BEST location with so much support and growth opportunities. I can’t thank God enough for each lesson throughout the years.

Thank you so much Momtourage for sticking around with each and every journey of my life. If it wasn’t for me becoming a Mother the Momtourage would not be here. I started this group after Elle was born and I’m happy to still have you all around. Stay tuned for more events, oppourtunites to grow and celebrate each other together! Until next time……

XO,

Meka

5 family friendly places to visit while in town for MommyCon!

panorama-Charlotte-1With the excitement of MommyCon right around the corner for Charlotte, I wanted to share five places to visit that are #HWTHApproved while you’re in town for MommyCon.  Some of you maybe asking, what is MommyCon?  MommyCon is an amazing conference that truly celebrates natural parenthood.  I love that they celebrate holistic health, self-care and so many other positive attributes.  So with that being said, snag some tickets here and be sure to use code HWTH18 to save 10 check out our top five:

  1. Discovery Place–  If you’re looking for a place to let the kids truly let out their energy, this is the place.   From STEM to rain forests, you and your little ones will love it here.  You will be able to truly interact here with hands on learning experiences as well as play spaces for the little ones.  There are so many exhibits for kids of all ages.     0737-Discovery-Place-138c

2. Carowinds– If you’re into thrills, then Carowinds is the place to be!  Just like all amusement parks, you and your family can indulge in roller coasters, family rides, pools, and games galore.

carowinds2If  you have a preschoolers ages 3-5, then you’re in for a treat!  Carowinds now offers a new program that allows preschoolers to enjoy the park for FREE! Check out details for the Pre- K pass here.

3. Imagine On If you’re looking for something free, then this is the place for you.  The Imagine On center is a library and theater rolled up into one.  There is somethings for all ages, even a loft for teens.  Be sure to check the schedule of events, there is always something happening here.

imaginon

4. Lazy 5 Ranch  This place is a total gem, that is IF you like animals.  You have the option to take a wagon ride, or see the animals in the comfort of your own car.  Camels, Kangaroos, and rhinos oh my!  You and your family will be entertained by several animals.  And the best part is feeding them.  Be sure to bring cash, as cards are not accepted.

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5. Pelican’s Snowball Last but not least, one of my families favorite and very in-expensive treats are snowballs, from Pelican.  With 100 flavors, the possibilities are endless. One thing I love about Pelican’s are the prices, ranging from $2-$5.  With such amazing prices you might want to get another, no judgement here! Be sure to enjoy a quick game of corn hole and take pictures in front of the signature pastel building.  I personally enjoy marshmallows added to my snowballs.

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I hope that you’re able to enjoy one of our favorite places in what we call the Queen City.  Charlotte is what I will always call my 2nd home, I truly miss living there but in the mean time I enjoy my weekend getaways in the city.  Don’t forget to ge a ticket for MommyCon here and be sure use our code HWTH18 to save 10% Until next time…

XO,

Meka

Educational toys you will LOVE!

The following post is a sponsored post for Lakeshore Learning, all opinions are my own.

With all of the toys our kids collect throughout the year I have been seriously contemplating more Montessori, Learning and STEM toys. Lately I’ve been focus on STEM toys and I’m so excited to partner with my friends at Lakeshore Learning to show you some of our favorite toys for learning and stem!

Since Maveric is attending kindergarten this year we have really been focused on math as well as his penmanship.

I really love this numbers and counting light up activity center this is a great way to encourage Maveric to use his thinking skills as well as number recognition. The light up box also doubles as extra fun when you pair it with the see inside magnetic blocks .

These blocks make up for hours of fun wit the boys! And since we don’t allow the kids to watch television during the week it’s a win win for us! I love watching the boys use their imagination and create amazing towers, dinosaurs, houses and more.

I love that Lakeshore has toys for all ages! Elle and Maveric put their brains together to complete a few STEM challenges with this Building Brick Challenge kit

Since Elle is already an avid reader she took over and lead the way and explained everything to Maveric, which made me so proud!

They had to create a maze that allowed their marble to travel across the board.

After trial and error they were able to successfully craft a maze that worked well with their marble.

I love that we chose to not allow screen time during the week, this really allowed the kids to stretch their minds! I hope you found some of the cool toys useful. Be sure to check out more from Lakeshore here. They truly have something for everyone. Until next time…

XO,

Meka

Momtourage Monday: Military Wife, Blogger and Photography Momma

1. How do you define Momtourage? Momtourage is your Go-to mom group. A unique group of ladies that support you no matter what, relate to you and lift each other up. Without judgment or shaming. A place where you can feel safe, be yourself and open up about this crazy roller coaster called motherhood. Oh and they also get together for those mommy play dates, let’s not forget about that. 

2 How do you balance Motherhood? With Grace, definitely with Grace. But honestly it’s not always there. I have to always be reminded to take care of myself first. Mentally, physically and emotionally. Those things are key for you to be a better mom, wife, friend… But trying to have it all together and keeping it up can be really overwhelming and you lose sight of the most important things. So yes, Grace is always my hero to Balance motherhood.

3. What is your mommy must have item? My Baby Carrier! My god, what would I do without it. Life changing for sure. Can’t imagine motherhood and no baby carrier. You can get so many things done while you baby-wear. It is simply amazing. I’ve traveled, breastfed, cleaned, cooked, shopped using it and I love it. Now my toddler wants to walk all the time but for breastfeeding and napping on the go it is my life saver. 

4 What is your Momtourage story? Well, let’s see… I’m a mommy of two kiddos. A 7 year old boy and a 2 year old girl. Since the beginning my husband has been hands on with house chores and with the kids. We always say it’s all about team work. That’s how we define our relationship and parenting. But when Kayden my eldest was 2 he decided to join the Military, something I was against since the beginning. But he went through with it anyways and I just followed along to keep my family together. (But let me tell you it was the best decision we have ever made because it has lead us to we’re we are now.) So he left for basic training and I remember being terrified about the thought of staying alone with my 2 year old son. All I could think of was that I didn’t know how to be a parent without my partner. How would I balance work, home, parenting and everything in between on my own. Soon after he left I learned that I could and I felt so proud about myself. I became so much stronger and independent and felt like the world couldn’t stop me. After he finished Basic Training we were stationed in NC and moved out of Puerto Rico. I left my job, my friends, my family and everything I knew to start a new life with the man I loved and give a better quality of life to our child. Only 2 weeks in and he got orders to Deploy to Afghanistan the next month. It all happened so quickly. Again I would have to handle everything on my own but this time in an unknown place where I didn’t know anybody. Everyone advised me to go back to Puerto Rico until he finished his tour but I decided to stay. I stayed because I didn’t want to run away from my fears and I wanted to grow as a woman and mother. And I definitely did. I even did things I never thought I could do. Right when he got back from his deployment I got pregnant with my second child, something everyone predicted hahah! I had been staying at home with Kayden only for a year so transitioning from 1 kid to 2 kids and staying at home all day with a toddler (4) and a breastfeeding on demand newborn was a struggle. When Mia was 6 months old I decided I needed a place to share my motherhood journey, my love for photos and everything I liked to help with my anxiety. My husband suggested Instagram, got me my first DSLR and rest is history. I’ve created my own little platform since then and I love connecting with other moms in the community. It has helped me to be much more open, social and take on new adventures. We are In the civil world now, loving every minute of it and better than ever. 

Be sure to check out more of Vil and her amazing family Here

Thank you so much Vil for sharing your story! As always we hope these stories encourage, or inspire other moms and moms to be!

Until next week….

XO,

Meka

Momtourage Monday: City Girl in a Southern World

1. How would you define Momtourage? I haven’t been to any momtourge events YET but from on the outside looking in, it looks to be an amazing group of woman supporting one another threw this journey of motherhood and daily mommy struggles.

2. How do you balance Motherhood? I wake up everyday and throw on my cape lol…… speaking honestly it’s a daily struggle everyday brings something new nothing like the day before. So I’ll say by waking up with a clear mindset ready for what that day will bring.

3. What is your Mommy must have item?

A sports bottle with WINE!!! just joking…. I must have this thing we call patience it’s not easy to find Lord knows. I search everyday for it, but no matter what with everyday that comes no matter how deep it’s hidden I always seem to find it!

4. What is your Momtourage story?

My story is one that would take years to explain…but to sum it up I’m a mother of 4 wonderful children 3 girls ages 17,15,& 12 and last but most certainly not least my most recent addition my 1year old baby boy! They are my world they are what I live for. I know all mom’s say it but for me it’s what keeps me grounded without them there is no me. I’m a stay at home mom with the struggle of a disability (Psoriatic  Arthritis) it’s a daily struggle all of its own. But my kids would never really know because I push threw for them without hesitation. My children and I recently moved to Charlotte, NC from Maryland something I wanted to do but never had the courage. One day I took a step out on faith and here we are… going from having their Dad active in their daily lives to having to do video calls and phone conversations is a huge struggle. Somehow we manage somehow I still have all my hair my edges still holding on cause Lord knows it’s hard with teenage girls and a toddler (Bless my little heart)! I’m a single Woman with 4 wonderful children. I say Single woman and not single parent because they have an amazing active father in their life, so I always say I’m SINGLE not a single mother to me it has two different meanings.

Thank you so much Esha for sharing your story! As always we hope these stories encourage, or inspire other moms and moms to be!

Until next week….

XO,

Meka

Family Friendly Eats: Harvest 18

Family nights are so important, most of our family nights include food or a movie. This time we chose food. The crew and I were invited to checkout Harvest 18, a family style restaurant located in Durham and boy were we in for a treat!

Often times parents dread going to restaurants with kids because of the lack of kid friendly food options in addition to GOOD food for parents. Or in my case you have that ONE child that likes to embarrass you every time you decided to eat out. I won’t call out any names but sometimes you have to just let your child stand up while they eat and not feel judged!

Once everyone was settled we were able to order our meals. There were so many awesome options and I was to happy too see the kids absolute FAVORITE item on the menu…. Mac and Cheese!

Before our meals came out we were able to sample a few items not on the menu!

Fried Mac and Cheese balls

Sautéed Fish with beets, Elle actually really loved this she has a sophisticated pallet to be 8 years old.

I started off with the Kale Caesar salad and of course I had the Wood fire grilled Atlantic Salmon which I LOVED!

JoColby opted for the wood fire grilled Mahi Mahi he absolutely enjoyed it and got the most inquiries via our Instastory .

And of course the kids wanted their fave…. Mac and Cheese and it was so delicious! They were able to choose from sides or fries for a side option.

For dessert we had the Rise Glazed Donut Bread Pudding with a cherry glaze!

Wow we truly enjoyed dinner everything was absolutely amazing and the atmosphere was so welcoming to our large family. So here’s why we LOVE Harvest 18 and why we will be back!

  1. The atmosphere is inviting, and the service is great! As I said earlier everyone was so welcoming and inviting to our family!
  2. The food!!! We enjoyed everything and having a place that accommodates parents as well as kids is always a plus.
  3. Location! With Harvest 18 conveniently located minutes from South Point Mall it makes for the perfect location to get shopping and dinning done.
  4. 80% of the food served is harvested from local N.C. farmers!

We officially stamp this restaurant #HWTHapproved when you go be sure to let us know how you enjoyed it! I personally can’t wait to visit when the weather is nice so we can dine outside. Until next time….

XO,

Meka

Mommy & Mav Date

Being a mommy of 4, you’re constantly pulled into several different directions and it doesn’t get any better as your kids get older! One thing I try to do to help is scheduling one on one time with each of my kiddos. Yesterday Maveric and I were able to check out a pre-viewing of the Beanstalk the musical thanks to our friends at the Raleigh Little Theater. The play official showcases tonight until April 1st.

The show is just as we remember the book as a child. Young Jack, eager to please his mother climbs the Beanstalk to retrieve golden coins, a hen that lays golden eggs and back again for the magical harp. Unlike the book, the musical is packed with entertainment and several laughs! The actors did an absolutely amazing job. The one thing I really loved was that the play was just the right amount of time to keep Maveric entertained and no tired. With the show being 1 hour long, it’s perfect for families of all ages.

Last night was such a perfect way to spend our Mommy/Son Date, we laughed, we were intrigued and Maveric had several questions after the performance which will have us at the library today to check out the book.

I highly recommend incorporating the arts into children’s lives early on, even if you have to bring babies and tag team with a friend to the lobby when they need a break, do it! The earlier you start the better and more open minded they will become.

A huge thank you to our friends at the Raleigh Little Theater for allowing us to experience such a fun memory together. Be sure to check out upcoming plays here . I personally would love to see Alice and Wonderland with Elle next month.

What shows are you looking forward to check out? Whatever you choose enjoy it and take your little one with you. Until next time…..

XO,

Meka

Momtourage Monday: Strength, Faith and Love!

1. How would you define Momtourage? Momtourage is a group of moms who understand and support each other. They share tips, and provide a safe place to discuss all the bad that comes with motherhood. They lift each other up and provide support when needed.

2. How do you balance Motherhood? I’m barely balancing, lol. It’s a daily struggle. I take it a day at a time, and when things do not go as planned, I don’t beat myself up. I know I get to start fresh every morning.

3. What is your Mommy must have item? My iPhone, it has my calendar, it’s my connection when I am away, and it holds countless apps that make my life easier.

4. What is your Momtourage story?  My story is long, but I’ll give a condensed version. I was your average mom and wife. I had a great corporate job, and so did my husband. We had a 2 year old son and I was pregnant with our 2nd son. Like was good. We adored each other and our son and could not wait to have another son. On a sunny beautiful day during our annual vacation, our lives shattered in a million pieces, pieces I am still trying to put back together. My husband broke his neck and was left paralyzed from the chest down. It has been 6 years since his horrific accident. Our eldest son is now 8 and our youngest is 5. It has been a struggle to say the least. I never expected my life to be this way. However, some things have not changed, and that’s the love we have for each other and for our kids. It’s that love that pushes us through each day. Life is a daily struggle, but I lean into life and I understand clearly that “life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you”. We have taken these struggles and used them to our advantage. I know I am stronger, more compassionate, more hard working, and more determined then I would have ever been had this accident not happened. I know my boys are going to grow up with a unique set of experiences that will make them more empathic and more kind than most. They also see first hand, on a daily basis, that even when things are hard, you fight and you get it done. I hope they carry that fire with them always!

Thank you so much Yasmine for sharing your story! As always we hope these stories encourage, inspire and uplift other moms and moms to be!

Until next week…..

XO,

Meka