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

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: American Girl in a Caribbean world

1. How would you define Momtourage?

My Momtourage is my family and close friends. My mom plays a major role in my Momtourage. The boys know her as “Honey”. She spends the night Monday-Friday to help with getting the boys ready for school as well so drop off at school. My family (aunts, grandmother, sister) helps with date night or just relief time. Our friends help with support and encouragement.

2. How do you balance Motherhood?

How do I balance Motherhood…umm I don’t. I’m still learning how to take time for me. Motherhood have taken over my life completely. Although, being a wife and mother is rewarding, it can also be stressful. If we are not careful, we can easily lose ourselves in the process of trying to build our families. Often, I tend to take care of my household and neglect myself. After, self evaluation … I’ve realized that, I  cannot give what I  don’t have. So now, when I need time to myself, I take time. Having boys,  I’m always busy, whether it’s straightening up after them, doing homework, or having to be at baseball, basketball practice or a school event. One of my goals this year is to get “me” back. I have a membership at Massage Envy and I try to go at least once a month as my “me day”. I’ve had my membership for about 4 years, but don’t go as much as I should.

3. What is your Mommy must have item?

Sorry…I had to make it plural…My phone and Jared’s epi pen is most important, both boys are asthmatic and Jared has severe allergies along with my planner is second- to make sure I have all their doctors appointments scheduled.

4. What is your Momtourage story?

My husband and I started our family the “non transitional” way as some may call it. We had Joshua, then got married,  when Joshua was 3, and had another child 3 years later. I was a “nontraditional” college graduate. I attended college at 25 years old. I finished up my degree while I was pregnant with Joshua.

I am a wife. My husband is from a small island in the Caribbean named Saint Kitts. Having a mixed cultural family makes us unique.  We have traveled to St. Kitts as a family 5 times. We usually travel to visit my husband family every other year during Christmas time. This new culture has made me open minded and taught me so many things. I have learned how to cook Caribbean foods. (Which I love, because I love cooking). I have also, sampled different Caribbean dishes that I never would have sampled prior to meeting my husband. I have also dressed up in a mascarade costume, during their carnival time. Having a mixed cultural family and living in the U.S. has it’s challenges.  The boys do not get to see their extended family often. We usually communicate with my in laws through social media. Visiting St. Kitts has taught the boys and I about small island Caribbean culture. Traveling has taught us how to be open minded to any culture that we may come across in life.

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

Until next week….

XO,

Meka

Girls Run The World

AG or American Girl Dolls as we all know are the “it” dolls for girls both young and old. Many of you know that our tradition for the past couple of years is to get Elle an American Girl doll for Christmas, so of course we were ecstatic when given the opportunity to partner with American Girl and tell you all about the new girl of the year Luciana.

We were so thrilled when we heard that Luciana encourages STEM and she’s an aspiring Astronaut. As black mom I am personally so excited when I see companies with diversity! Representation is so important to all brown girls and Luciana doesn’t disappoint. Elle loves reading the stories about all of her AG dolls. Each story is so unique and inspiring.

Luciana is just as stylish as Elle, from the purple streaks of hair to her cosmic dress and hologram doc marten inspired boots, as well as her cute choker and awesome fanny pack. I truly believe that Elle and Luciana are kindred spirits when it comes to style!

I asked Elle what was her favorite thing about her American Girls dolls and without a beat she said reading their stories and playing with them all day. Currently we live in a technology driven world where kids are glued to tv’s, iPads, video games and no longer being KIDS! I love that Elle still loves playing with her dolls for hours. Before Elle got her first AG doll at age 3, she played with her Aunties AG dolls. That’s when we knew she was ready.

Several dolls later she still has the same excitement she had 4 years ago. Be sure to check out all that American Girl has to offer, there is truly a doll for everyone. And cheers to Luciana the doll of the year! Elle is already plotting on getting the astronaut outfit.

Did you grow up with AG dolls? Do you buy them for your little one? If so share with us which dolls you have at home. Until next time….

XO,

Meka

Momtourage Monday: Killing it in Silicon Valley

1. How do you define Momtourage?

Momtourage is my tribe. My village. My circle of support from moms I personally know

and ones in my extended network. They offer affirmations, prayers, cheers, and words of encouragement and help me understand that I am not alone and we are on this journey together.

2. How do you balance Motherhood?

As a first-time mom, it’s about prioritizing and understanding what is important to me and my family. I was in several leadership positions within my church and sorority and decided to take a step back once my son arrived so that I could shift my focus and completely focus on him. Once my son became a bit older and I had a better view on balancing everything, I was able to resume my duties in my roles. My husband is super amazing and has constantly challenged me to take more “me time” and indulge in self – care, so I’m learning to do that more as well so that I can feel energized and renewed for my husband and son. Whether it’s a regular visit to the hair salon, my manicure and pedicure appointments, a coffee or smoothie break, or sleeping in for an extra hour, these little moments allow me to maintain my sanity.

3. What is your Mommy must have item?

My iPhone X for the amazing portrait option + battery chargers! I keep a charger in my bag as well as in my car so that I’m always ready to capture those special moments.

4. What is your Momtourage story?

My husband and I moved to Silicon Valley almost 3 years ago after my husband was recruited to work at a large tech company. It was a huge move for us since we are both from North Carolina and Virginia. Being 3,000 miles away from family was definitely hard (still is) and became even more challenging as we began planning for our family. Since we do not have any close relatives here, we have learned to depend on our church family, friends who are like family, neighbors, coworkers and sorority sisters and fraternity brothers to fill in the gap during this new season of our lives. It can be frustrating at times when we want to have a real date, spend a night away or attend an evening function because our parents aren’t readily available but we always think of creative ways to spend time together.

A month after I returned from maternity leave, I was given the opportunity to craft my role and was promoted. Around the same time, my husband was tasked with taking on additional responsibilities at work. While we’ve excelled in our careers, it’s also required us to make sacrifices and balance more effectively. I had a huge meeting planned with one of my new board members at a large tech company along with my local and national presidents. My son was not feeling well, so my husband and I had to make an executive decision that he would stay home and cancel one of his meetings as it was important that I attend this meeting and enjoy my moment with our national president. It’s a blessing to be able to able to be a super hero at work as well as a mommy hero at home. Motherhood is a huge balancing act, but I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

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

Until next week….

XO,

Meka

Museum Of Ice Cream 🍦

If you haven’t heard the hype, you’re truly missing out! Yesterday I had the chance to venture out to Miami to visit the Museum of Ice Cream. Yes you read correctly, there is a museum dedicated to Ice Cream and it’s a blogger and photographers dream.

Just as you’ve all seen on Instagram, the rooms exude color and the vibe is fun. The museum is currently located on Collins as many of you know, they just closed the one in LA, aside from these locations there is also a San Francisco location.

As a lover of all things PINK, I was in heaven when I walked inside. First we were greeted by the Ice Cream tarot reader and she was a true character.

After meeting the tarot reader we had to come up with our “ice cream” names so I conveniently used the name “Sprinkle Meek” as in sprinkle me…. Cheesy perhaps but it was all in good fun.

The sprinkle pool was as cool as I’ve seen on Instagram. This is the only timed location, since it’s so popular. They gave us about 2 minutes to snap away and enjoy before the next group entered.

Oh and if you’re wondering, no the sprinkles are not real. They are plastic replicas actually. Still fun and great for photo opps.

I felt like a kid again! I was so amazed by the colors, the staff was so friendly and engaging. Be sure to come with a sweet tooth because you get to indulge in some delicious desserts like key lime ice cream cones, chocolate covered bananas and melted ice cream drink, which literally taste like MELTED ICE CREAM 🍦

The hands on exhibits made for a fun adventure and there were several children in the museum young and OLD.

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Although the tickets were more than I would normally pay for a museum,($38 a pop) I feel like the experience was totally worth it!

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If you’re able to snag some tickets I would highly recommend doing it ASAP, they sell out daily and they are limited to 2,000 tickets per day!

This just reminds me of how there are so many ways to make money out here! Utilize your creativity and always think outside the box. Seriously a freaking pop up museum of all ICE CREAM! This has been such a successful and innovative business venture and believe me there will be many other pop ups in the near future!

Be sure to check out the gift shop as well!

You can score anything from Sprinkle crowns, socks, a glass backgammon set to whip cream!

If you get a chance to visit be sure to comment below or tag me in Instagram! Until next time…..

XO,

Meka

Little Campers

As the cold temps head our way, more creative ways to incorporate play is needed for the boys. We are so excited that our friends from Picasso Tiles sent over this awesome camping set for them!

Having a house with 4 kids, 3 of which are BOYS can get loud and a bit crazy. Many of you know we don’t allow the kids to watch tv during the week so creative play is always our go to. This camping was the perfect way for the boys to enjoy an outdoors adventure in the comforts of home.

There’s something about these walkie talkies that get Jagger going from 0 to 100! I love watching the boys use their imagination, they set several “bear traps” and called for “mayday” at least 20 times.

Would you believe me if I told you that they have played with this tent at least 20 times since receiving it a few weeks ago?! Even little Axel decided to get in on the fun.

From utilizing the compass, to roasting hotdogs on the convenient gas stove this camping set is ready for any adventure your little one can imagine. I love encouraging the kids to play creatively, it truly helps with their social and expressive skills.

Each set comes with the following:

• Gas Stove (2 AA Batteries required)

• Oil Lamp (2 AA Batteries required)

• Water Bottle

• Pan

• Shovel

• Hot Dog & Steak

• Plate

• Binoculars

• Multi-function Whistle

• Utility Knife

• Watch

I’m so thankful that this tent is big enough for Maveric and Jagger to comfortably fit inside or we would have a serious issue on our hands. What are some of your little ones favorite creative play items?

Be sure to snag one here for your little one, trust me this camp set is #HWTH approved!

Until next time…….

XO,

Meka

Homemade Naan Pizza

As many of you know, I’m not the biggest fan of cooking! But when you have 4 kids and a husband to feed you pretty much have to make it work. One of my kids favorite dishes besides pasta is PIZZA! So today we are sharing our favorite Naan Pizza.

Start off by preheating the overnight to 350 degrees . Ingredients include the following:

  • Garlic Naan Bread
  • Cheese
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic Salt

Add sauce to your liking on the bread, we recommend covering the entire bread and leaving about a inch sauce free for crust purposes

After adding your sauce, you want to add a little garlic salt for flavor. If you’re unable to find the garlic naan bread you can add more garlic salt or garlic powder for flavor.

Next up is CHEESE! Now this recipe can work for a vegan lifestyle as well. Simply add your favorite vegan cheese instead.

After the cheese is layered, proceed with your favorite toppings. In this case, Elle decided to use tomato, spinach, and mushrooms. Maveric and Jagger are happy with plan cheese pizza. I love letting the kids help with cooking because for some reason, when they help they eat more. Go figure…. Once you’re done with topping, place your pizzas in the oven for 16 mins.

If you prefer a crunchy crust, you can leave them in for an extra 4 mins.

Nothing beats a fresh pizza with fresh toppings! And I’m the words of Elle this helps us save money and it’s fun to make your own.

This concludes our Cooking with the Harrells segment, hopefully I can find the strength to come up with another fun recipe to share with you all!

Until next time…..

Xo,

Meka

Farmer’s Market Adventures

So recently I have been battling the urge to go VEGAN! Yup vegan and YES I too watched What the Health!  Although I have done 30 day Vegan challenges, nothing is harder than fully committing.  As of today I am not vegan, I have however, given up meat.  The main items I’m having a hard time getting out of my system are seafood and CHEESE.  Also milk, not as if I’m drinking the milk but milk is in so many normal items I use on a regular basis like, Pringles! Why exactly is milk in a plain can of Pringles?!  I have really been reading labels and to be quite honest the best thing for me to do is head over to the farmers market and just buy fresh veggies.

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Last weekends trip to the Durham farmers market really made me want to explore more of what my local market has to offer.  I have pretty much found my favorite “fast food” meal and if you follow me on Instastory you know that it’s zucchini and sautéed spinach.  Growing up in Baltimore it was normal for us to go to the market to purchase everything from fresh doughnuts to deli meat.  And going to the Supermarket  (grocery store) is where we purchase everything in between.

WebImage16I was  so inspired to add more fresh flowers to the house as well, even though I have a bit of   “black thumb”.  Nothing sets the tone more than fresh flowers at the dinner table, so I’m going to give it a try more often.

WebImage19 One thing I really love about visiting farmers market’s are the small business vendors, like this delicious lemonade stand.  It wasn’t too sweet, very refreshing and delicious.  Anytime  I can spend with the kids and create fun memories are always a plus in my book.  After walking and exploring we decided to grab some pizza ( not vegan, SUE ME HA!)  then we headed to our next destination….. Charlotte.

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I will eventually fully convert into the Vegan lifestyle but I’m taking it one day at a time.  This is my journey and I will share with you all along the way.  Until next time…..

XO,

Meka

Library Adventures

A few weeks ago the kids and I ventured downtown to check out the re-opening of the Central Library.  It was everything I could imagine and more.

IMG_3113 The Children’s section was out of this world, it’s set up for play and reading.  I love that they have items that will entertain toddlers and school aged children.  I’m not sure who had more fun, the big kids or Jagger.

IMG_3106 From the reading nooks, to the computers, I recommend going in with a game plan or you will get a bit overwhelmed.  I will be honest, I was a tad bit nervous taking Jagger, all I could think about was the stereotype of a library and the fact that you have a librarian saying Sssshhh but this is the complete opposite.

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They have story time, an auditorium, a cafe, a teen section and a PARKING DECK and so much more!!!! There are so many levels that we didn’t even have a chance to check out the entire library.

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One really neat thing, is that kids can get their own library cards starting at age 4 and up.  Maveric was so happy to check out his first book on HIS card!  This was such a cool Mommy moment.  Elle has been getting books with her card for a while, now she’s pretty much a pro so this is a pretty sweet memory for us.

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I totally plan on going back so that I can truly soak in all the Central library has to offer, until then please make a family trip downtown, you won’t be disappointed! Until next time….

XO,

Meka