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I am an old blogger who has found their way back to the internet. I love being a mom, an African American, spending time with my husband and shopping online. I waste time on Facebook and I do not spend enough time on Twitter. Reading is my favorite past time but bad reality shows are my guilty pleasure. Here, I blog about parenting, businesses and their successes, and innovation.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

7 Tips on making the Family Portrait Stress FREE

Photo courtesy of

A couple of weeks ago, a favorite photographer of mine was running a special on family portraits.  I, so badly, wanted my family to get one.  The deal was he would snap about 5-7 photos and edit the best one.  Then he would my post them online to a password protected site.  It only cost us $30!  This seemed like a great idea.  He is a great commercial and family photographer.  His work has been featured in National Geographic, New York Times, and he is a chosen photographer for the Clinton Library.  I tell my husband this and he's like - SO?  He's got a camera and he takes pictures - Big Deal! I really try to breed culture into this family of mine but they constantly just let me know that NBA on TV, burgers, Xbox and Disney XD will suit them just fine. The Struggle is real!

The last time I tried to get my family to take photos, my middle child was 3 months old. Now that he is 7 and there is an extra child in the mix, I figured it was about time to do it again. 

When we last took a family photo, my husband and oldest son complained...and…complained... and complained. 

Why are we wearing blue?
I don’t want to wear blue.
You don’t have blue on…why?
Why are we wearing church clothes?
How long is this going to take?
I planned everyone’s outfit and yet, it still took us a longtime to get ready. I was determined to be better prepared this time around.  Here’s what I did and my advice on how to make your family photo shoot less stressful:

1.    Scour Pinterest for ideas i.e. clothing, color, theme, setting, etc.  You get the picture.  I based our outfits from my husband’s peach long-sleeve button shirt. Make sure your other family members have outfits to go with your inspiration.  My daughter and youngest son had nothing.  I had to buy my daughter a new outfit and my youngest son wore one of his brother’s old shirts.  It was kind of cold and the shirt I found for him was short-sleeved. That meant that he was going to have to be cold for those 5-7 shots and the during time waiting for the photographer to call us prior to the photo. I am a terrible mom but it’s all for the sake of a great family photo.  Who knows when I’ll get the energy to force these people to do this again?

2.    Make sure all clothing is clean the night before. Don’t wash any part of said outfits with black sneakers the night before. I made the mistake of washing my husband nice shirt with my son’s black Nike’s.  Epic FAIL! I really don’t know why I did it.  Trying to kill two birds with one stone, I guess.  It looked like a bicycle tire had invaded my husband’s neck and arms.  I ruined his shirt, the shirt that I based everyone’s outfit on! I discovered this tragedy an hour before we were to leave for the photo. He was upset but promised he’d improvised. Oh boy!

3.    Have everyone eat BEFORE they get dressed.  My kids are messy eaters, even the twelve year old. They were all dressed in record timing. I knew they’d be hungry but they could eat later, or so I thought.  They all wanted to eat jelly toast.  Yes, people – JELLY TOAST.  Last time I checked, jelly is not invisible. Like I said before – THE STRUGGLE! When I discovered my 12 year old had made the others toast for breakfast - I, figuratively, skipped a 4 foot distance to intercept those jelly toast plates of destruction. Oh no! Not in my our award-winning-photographer-low-cost-but-good-quality pictures. Catastrophe evaded….WHEW! He would have never tried to be so helpful any other morning.

4.    Know the photographer’s location at least the day before the shoot. I kind of knew where the photo would be but I didn't. Yeah, I know – NO CLUE.  I knew the vicinity but that was it. Needless to say, we were an hour late.  We drove to the park where I thought it was, but it wasn't.  I mentioned the park name to my husband and he immediately knew where and so did my oldest son. I always underestimate my husband. I should give him more credit. The photographer took us on.  He was still there in between shoots.  It was a family photo day.  Good thing because tardy was our name that morning. Why I never referred to Google Maps, I'll never know.

5.    Steer clear of dog poop walking up to the photo shoot spot. Pet owners you ‘gotta’ scoop the poop. I fussed at everyone this particular morning about applying lotion to elbows, rubbing Chapstick to lips, and keeping food away from clothes but I really didn't think about having to yell to my husband to catch my son from stepping in the doggy do. We were walking up to the photo shoot and because I was on a quest to block all things that could ruin my our family photo, my super mom senses laser-ed in on the poop pile.  I yelled to my husband and I swear this scene happened in slow motion. He grabbed my son around the waist just as he was about to ruin his shoes in the "prize" and whirled around in a circle like a ballerina and her partner and then ever so gently tiptoed over it himself.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen - my husband is superman.

6.    Give your youngest time to warm up to the photographer.  She was mean-mugging through the whole session.  I guess the 5-7 shots were good for everyone else but not her.  She needed time to warm up to this stranger pointing a camera at her family. This stranger that kept repeating her name was not cool with her.  The evidence is in the picture.

7.    When taking pictures outside make sure that it is not too bright that your family cannot open their eyes. The sun was really nowhere to be seen but if you already have tight eyes, it won’t take much to make them squint. It was a bright beautiful day. When I saw the picture, it looked like we are all struggling to open our eyes while smiling.  This was clearly a forced picture. 

Even though it took an act of congress to get this picture, I am glad we have one.  There is record that my family exists and we exist together - even if my husband and oldest look dorky, my youngest son was cold on his birthday (Yep - I did this to him on his birthday), my daughter was a mean toddler and I had too much going on around my neck (frills on blouse and a scarf – fashion NO NO).  I’ll take it because I know everyone will have the memories leading up to the moment of the photo. We were happy to be together.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Turning 34 is Not So Bad

I had a birthday on Sunday which marked me being Randi's daughter for thirty-four years.  I did nothing special.  My husband bought me shoes and the kids gave me Happy Birthday serenades.  Although it seemed like a pretty ordinary day, I noticed a perk in my step.  Cooking dinner was no problem.  Kids wrestling and running through the house did not bother me. Every TV we own turned to Disney XD was no bother either (I guess the kids were making sure they could catch pieces of their shows as they scrambled through the house). I was telling friend how I had this certain perkiness about me and during that conversation I believe I realized it was because I am on a path to doing what I want to do with my life.
I used to have reflection and new goals on the blog whenever milestones happened.  When life changes, goals change as well.  Now is as great a time to project new goals and restart a new tradition.
1.    Finish grad school – May 2014, whew! I see the light
2.    Began freelance writing - specifically topics pertaining to community/economic development (I’ll have a masters catered – see #1) , business, careers, marketing and obviously parenting.  So if you need web or article content, I am available for hire. I would also like to guest post for other blogs.
3.    Obtain certification in the Community and Economic Development field.
4.    Take this blog to the next level – I have many blog idols. 
5.    Help my children define income streams of their own.  I want to teach about money and entrepreneurship.
6.    Be a better wife and mother in God’s eyes.
7.    Help my son attain his sports dreams.
8.    Write a book.
This is what is currently on my plate and all can conquered. Since the New Year is coming up, I am sure you have some outlook and reflection on your horizon.  What are your goals?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dealing with Family During the Holidays

What is it about the holidays that make it hard to deal with family?  Here we are the day before the Thanksgiving and I have already heard two stories about family members are mad at each other.  One was over a pan of dressing and the other was over a crockpot. We should take a step back and ask ourselves if we are really upset over that pan of dressing or a crockpot or if we are living in a false realty. 

During this time of year there can be an extreme amount of pressure to make everything perfect, including our family.  It's completely understandable why we strive for perfection with the Hallmark channel showing sappy Christmas movies since Halloween turned the corner.  There is commercial after commercial showing families sitting around a table laughing, looking flawless and eating the perfect meal.  Our psyche is constantly being fed that we are imperfect and need to strive for a Walton Family Christmas. When dealing with family for the holidays, our outlook needs to be kept in perspective.  Expectations should be realistic. 


 photo credit:

Expectations of others need to be at a minimum.  Everyone is trying hard to please others.  If they overlook you and your needs, give them a pass.  Remember, it is a time for sharing, forgiving and loving.  Plus, it just isn't the time bring up the fact that you and your family member should have gone to counseling years ago because "said person" actually does not meet your expectations anytime of the year. 

 Expectations of you need to be at a minimum, too.  You cannot do it all.  You cannot buy, cook, visit or help everyone.  Keep tasks at a minimum in order to enjoy the holidays. Running around trying to be everybody's somebody will wear you out and make you the least favorite person at the holiday party because your energy level is 0.

Finally, don't give others the impression you can do it all.  People will take advantage of you and they will not have any shame in doing so.  When in the company of your family, talk about how simple your holidays are going to be.  Your hints will give them the idea that you are not the "go-to" person this year. The word "NO" needs to be a regular part of your holiday vocabulary.  If it seems harsh when relaying it to someone else, just follow it up with how simple your holidays are going to be and that would hinder your goals.  Invite your family members to join in your idea of simple a holiday season.  It may be a winner among the rest of your loved ones.

Dealing with loved ones during the holidays always puts us on edge. Keep it easy going in order to avoid the argument over the pan of dressing or the crockpot thrown out in the trash. Put on your duck armor and let the small things roll off your back.  Enjoy the time you have with your loved ones and forget about the perfect memories.  Just make your memories, true.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Getting Your New Business Right for the New Year

Halloween is past and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  And Christmas will be here before we know it.  It’s getting close to a new year which means I am getting close to the end of my graduate program.  The end of one life event and the beginning of another often prompts reflection.   I believe there is motivation in reflection.   If you haven’t gotten around to what you feel like you should be doing by now, don't sweat it.  I tell my children every night, if there is something about this day you did not like, you'll get a chance to do it over tomorrow.  Many will decide that the big step into entrepreneurship is what they want for themselves. There will be new business owners in 2014.  Maybe you or someone you know will need some tips.  Here’s how to be a “small business super star“ with your start-up during the beginning phase of your business:

1.     Plan to fail.  Yes, expect failure.  You can have a business plan, marketing plan and even an emergency plan, yet failure will creep up on you.  Stuff happens.  When failure appears, this is the opportune time to see what you as the business owner are made of.  Will you stick you head between your legs and shy away?  You better not! This is what your naysayers are waiting on.  The haters will be in full effect when you open your business. They will be waiting on your fall.   However, failure is not bad.  It’s how you handle failure that will determine if you are the rock star business owner you aim to be.  Keep your head up, shoulders straight, and move forward. 

2.     Develop a business alter-ego.  When BeyoncĂ© walks on stage, she becomes Sasha.  We stop and we give Sasha the attention she commands.  Everyone needs to know that you are serious about this your new adventure.  You cannot give away your product for free to Aunt Sally or your cousin Gina.  Being “nice Natalie” does not turn a profit, but “Decisive Debbie” gets the job done. Don’t be a push-over. If you don’t respect your business, neither will anyone else.    

3.     Get Social. You need to socialize every chance and everywhere you can. Get involved with the chamber of commerce, the local library, churches, charities and make friends with other business owners. Build an online community, as well. Respond to your customers or clients in all media forms.  Don’t be scared of how technology can keep you close to your customers or clients. Your company’s presence should be easily felt, seen and heard.  Your clientele needs to know you care about your community by seeing you involved in it. 

4.    Give the red carpet treatment.  It does not cost money to provide stellar customer service.  It can be as simple a quirky “thank you” given each and every time a customer or client visits your business or that special thank card slipped in each shipment. This will keep them coming back and making referrals.  When you visit businesses, start paying attention to how they handle customer service.  Decide how it could be better and implement that in your business.  Go out of the way for your customers or clients.  It will be worth it in the end.

5.     Get your money right.  Kanye West said it best – Wait ‘til I get my money right.  It would not be smart to start a business and your financial affairs are in an uproar.  This means that if you don’t know how you are going to pay for the first month’s lease payment on your store, then you might need to wait until you have the cash to invest in your dream.  Once you have the cash that is necessary to make your vision a reality, it is still necessary to know your next financial step.  Always, stay ahead by making moves with your next financial step while executing the current one.

These are among a few tips that will help you with your next phase of life as small business owner. Keep in mind that it will be hard, but nothing worth having is always easy. 

So now that I have given you that push, what are you waiting for?  Get busy! January 1st is right around the corner. 


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spooktacular Halloween Family Fun!                                                                             

Guest post by a friend - Kendra Thorton

It might be hard to believe, but it is already that special time of year when delicious treats are in abundance as well as lattes that feature flavors like pumpkin spice. Besides this, there are cornucopias wherever you decide you go. The fact is that one my favorite seasons of the year is Halloween. After all, the Halloween season has so many fun activities for my family to enjoy and there are plenty of tasty foods in which to delight for the children and myself!   

My children like to create their own Halloween costumes, but at the same time, they prefer some assistance with this endeavor. In addition to this, we work together in making delicious foods such as apple crisp, which has always been one of their favorites.

As they are out and about on Halloween night in trick or treating, I make sure they have a delicious treat when they come home such as some warm apple cider or some delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, which is always in popular demand. When my children get home, there is much time spent by making trades with each other in terms of the candy they have and the candy that they want! Since I make it a point to go through their candy and treats before my children make their infamous candy trades, it really does not bother me. What does concern me is an opened or homemade candy that is brought to our house. It is truly priceless to see how my kids organize and trade the candy that they have acquired from a successful night of trick or treating.

 As of this year, my kids and I will be spending time in my hometown of Chicago celebrating Halloween. I am waiting with anticipation for this delightful experience. At the same time, there have been previous years where my children and I have not stayed in our humble home. In fact, on a trip to the city of Orlando during Halloween not too long ago, we stayed in a hotel. I do understand that my children were not very enthusiastic about these accommodations on Halloween night, but I did have a plan in what to do to make it a fun experience for them. To begin our Halloween experience in Orlando, we started by decorating some of our pillow cases that we brought from home. We decided to design each case after various Halloween themes. Our experienced continued with my children going around various places in the hotel wearing their costumes that we designed together.

To assist with my plans, I found’s Family Traveler’s tribe quite helpful for this endeavor with the helpful ideas and suggestions that I received. I followed some of the advice and the result was truly warming. Guests in the hotel were extremely kind and gave Halloween candy as well as treats to all of my children. Believe it or not, we were able to go from room to room in search for Halloween treats for the kids and it went really well. Our time in Orlando was certainly a distinct and memorable experience for that year. At the same time, is created a memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life and I believe that my kids will treasure the experience also.


I am thrilled that I can celebrate Halloween 2013 this fall. The main reason for my excitement is the fact that I will be having some family over to my home for a visit. This delightful fact means that I will be looking for some new and terrific treats and goodies in which to serve my special guests. As I look for new delicious dishes and tasty treats, I have found that Pinterest is a fantastic resource in which I find what I am looking for and so much more! How about you? What seasonal holiday do you enjoy to celebrate?



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