12 Free Meal Offers for Veterans Day 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

On Monday, November 11 we celebrate Veterans Day. It's a chance for us to recognize and thank our nation's men and women in uniform and their families for their service, commitment and dedication to our country. As a military spouse, I appreciate when a business or company provides a 'no strings* attached' offer that Phil can take advantage of. One of his co-workers is Army and they have a good time planning their lunch breaks each year. Below are just a few of the offers available tomorrow. 

Veterans Day freebie meals

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" ~ Woodrow Wilson

2013 Veterans Day Freebies

California Pizza Kitchen
Chili's Bar and Grill
Einstein Brothers Bagels
Famous Dave's 
Krispy Kreme
Olive Garden
On the Border
Outback Steakhouse
Red Robin
TGI Fridays

Bonus: free haircuts at SportsClips

*Always check with your local chain to ensure they are participating and to ask about possible restrictions and exclusions like alcohol and gratuities. For more Veterans Day freebie offers visit Veterans Advantage and Restaurant News and Military Spouse Magazine

Image from freedigitalphotos.net and Flexico, Inc. 

What's Your Excuse? My Thoughts on the Word Bully

Friday, October 18, 2013

I don't usually write reactionary posts, but I felt this needed to be said. It's not my intention to make anyone mad. But it is my intention to (hopefully) make people think. If you have no idea who Maria Kang is or what the drama is about, read up first or this might not make sense. 

I opened my Facebook this morning and apparently I'm supposed to be upset over the photo fitness enthusiast Maria Kang posted of herself, her abs and her children on her Facebook page (more than a year ago). Well, I'm not upset but I am disappointed. People are outraged. How dare she put up a picture like that! Kang has been labeled a bully and frankly I don't think that's fair. 

Folks, it seems some of us, myself included, need to put the Internet on pause, go make a good cup of coffee and take some deep breaths. Maria Kang is not stretch mark shaming. She's not trying to make you feel bad about yourself. She's certainly not a bully. I feel what's happening here is her photo has poked the bear. Or, more specifically, the 'What's Your Excuse?' tagline used on the photo has. 

Am I carrying around extra weight? Definitely. Do I have body image issues? Yep. Do I wish I were living a more active lifestyle? For sure. Are any of those Maria's fault? Not in the least. When I look at Maria's photo and read the tagline, it doesn't make me mad. Good for her for working so hard at something that is obviously important to her. Whatever jealousy, insecurity or anything else that makes me feel even slightly 'less than' when I look at her picture is all on me. They're part of my issues. In fact, she's right. My personal answer to her tagline question is, "I don't have any excuses." I have several reasons, but no excuses. 

I feel that people (okay, women) are letting their insecurity, maybe a little guilt at not being more fit, maybe even a little anger at how often we feel we're not able to put ourselves first determine what filters they're looking at Maria's photo through. I would bet money that everyone who has a problem with the caption reads it as 'what's YOUR excuse?' and, through the little voice in their head, the word 'your' has been assigned a judgey, snarky tone. I read it as a straight question, with no emphasis on any of the words. It's all about perspective.

I also wonder how many people who are upset over the photo also have Words of Wisdom Pinterest Boards filled with quotes like, 'no one is in charge of your happiness but you;' 'the control center of your life is your attitude' or the biggie 'no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.' 


If you're one who has had a visceral reaction to this situation, ask yourself: has Maria harmed you in any way? Threatened you? Do you feel there is an imbalance of power? Are you intimidated by her? Physically harmed? I could go on but I think you get my point. Please stop referring to Maria as bully. It dilutes the word and diminishes the experiences people, particularly children, are having with actual bullying. 

"It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school everyday due to the fear of attack or intimidation by other students - 2 out of 3 teens are verbally or physically harassed every year. - 58% of teens have had hurtful things said to them online and over 40% say it’s happened more than once."

Our children are in crisis. They're experiencing depression, missing school and attempting and committing suicide because they're being bullied. This is not okay! I think the word bully is being used more and more as a catchall phrase and it's doing more harm than good. I think there's a fine line between someone being mean and being a bully.  

It seems that, as a society, we've gotten so sensitive that negative statements, any type of confrontation, thought or idea that makes us uncomfortable or forces us to confront our own demons (like Maria's photo), puts us on the defensive and are automatically getting labeled as bullying behavior. I think that's wrong. There's a difference between bullying and being a jerk. It may be slight, but in my mind there's a difference nonetheless.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Take a moment to reflect on the word bully and what it means to you. Think about how you're using the word and in what situations. What terminology and phrasing have you used when talking with your children about bullying? Bullying is serious. We need to treat it seriously. Please don't use the word so casually. Our children are counting on us and we can't afford to have the word lose its true meaning. 

For information on bullying visit Pacer.org, Stomp Out Bullying.org, National Education Association.org and StopBullying.gov. Quoted statistics from Do Something.org. Image via freedigitalphotos.net and David Castillo Dominici.

10 Steps to Setting Parental Controls for the iPod Touch

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My son doesn't have an iPhone, a fact he reminds me of all the time. Last year he got an iPod Touch for Christmas and that will have to do for now. We were hesitant to give him such easy access to the internet. My personal opinion is that children under the age of 14 shouldn't have unrestricted and unmonitored access to web. Even after age 14, I believe families should have guidelines in place and an understanding that the internet isn't always a safe place for kids to be. 
Internet safety for kids

We've tried to have an open dialogue with Tyler about why we're (or rather, I) am so strict on what kinds of things he's allowed to do with his iPod. I've told him it's not so much that I don't trust him, it's that I don't trust everyone else on the internet. I've explained and shown him examples of  the ways people are using apps like Instagram and Snapchat in way that the app creators didn't intend and in ways children don't need to see. 

We're alright with being thought of as the uncool parents if it means we're limiting his exposure to inappropriate (and sometimes flat out indecent) material. We decided the best we can do it set as many parental controls as we could, explain our rules and the consequences for not following them and monitor how he uses his iPod.  

The Settings and Restrictions tabs are your best friends. Get to know these areas. Most of the steps we've taken started here. 

1. Set a passcode lock
We keep it simple so we'll remember it. If he loses the iPod, at least we have a small measure of security in that hopefully no one else will be able to use it.

iPod parental controls

2. Link the iPod to your iTunes account
Having the iPod on my account means I can see everything on it. It also helps me keep it backed up and the software up to date.

3. Provide contact info
The lock screen reads "If found please call" with my Google Voice phone number.

4. Install Find My iPhone
I have this app on my iPad and my iPhone. If he does lose it the location based service, combined with the contact info hopefully would get it returned to us quickly.

5. Turn off in app purchases
My son uses his iPod almost exclusively for gaming. Many of the games he likes are free to play, but ask for real money to buy boosts and extras. He once spent $25 on gas cans for Battle Bears! Since his iPod is linked to my iTunes account, this is a way to ensure I don't get any surprises on my bank account. In app purchases can add up fast. I can monitor how much of his iTunes gift cards he's used and let him know when he runs out of funds.

6. Change settings for explicit content
Go to Settings --> General --> Restrictions and look for the content ratings. I believe the default settings are set to 'all,' which means if your child is searching iTunes or You Tube they may stumble across something with strong language or worse.

7. Set a Restrictions passcode
In addition to a main passcode, I set one specifically for the Restrictions are. This way, the settings for explicit content aren't changed. The passcode is one that only I know.

8. Turn off the ability to delete apps
I chose this option so he can't install and then delete an app before I can see it. I also want to make sure he didn't accidentally delete the Find My iPhone app. 

9. Delete some apps and settings altogether
I deleted YouTube, the ability to play multi-player games, the ability to add friends, Ping and iTunes. This was something I struggled with. I wanted him to have some freedom, but I also don't want him to have unlimited access to YouTube, and some of the games in the iTunes store seem like they are for kids but aren't. My hope is to prevent him from things like accidentally downloading the explicit version of a song rather than the radio version. 

10. Install a safer browser option 
This is a new one for us. Since he was 9 when he got the iPod, I really didn't want Tyler to have any access to the web. Now, he needs to go online for both homework and sports so I'm going to install a new browser after doing more research on the options below. 

Mobicip Safe Browser
AVG Browser
McGruff SafeGuard Browser
K9 Web Protection Browser

Since iPads, iPhones and the iPod Touch are very similar in function, I think many of these settings will work across the devices as you'll find them in the same areas. 

I know I seem mean and paranoid, but I'm not. We're really trying to balance Tyler's growing independence and desire for freedom and privacy with responsible use of the internet. Tyler and I have had many conversations about what a digital footprint is and how the things he posts online will live forever. He already knows what college he wants to go to and we looked up their social media guidelines. 

Phil and I are doing our best to impress upon him the importance of using the web the 'right' way. Plus, I think being a kid today is hard enough without the added distractions and pressures of the web and social media. I feel like giving our younger kids unlimited and unmonitored access to the web is forcing them to participate in conversations they're not yet mature enough to have. 

What about you? What precautions have you taken with your child's digital device? Are there any steps I missed? 

*Child photo from freedigitalphotos.net

Merida's Royal Coronation at Disney World | Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Princess Merida Coronation at Disney World photo by Melanie Sheridan

Photo by Melanie Sheridan

Father's Day Gift Idea for Sports Fans | The Sportula

Friday, May 24, 2013

My husband is hard to shop for because he says he doesn't need or want anything. I generally end up buying him the same things, shirts and his favorite candies, for gift giving occasions.This past Christmas I found a gift that has been very popular with the men in my family: The Sportula.

First I gave a set to my dad, then Dennis gave us a set and now my brother wants one too. The spatula, tongs and fork are super sturdy and two come with bottle openers on the ends.

Father's Day Gift Idea for Sports Fans Sportula

Sportula has expanded beyond NFL and now has NHL, patriotic themed, college teams and Nascar sets. I like that they've also brought in a new product, the Boasters (stainless steel coasters) for those of us who already have the sets but want another way to show off our team pride. We're slowly making over the deck and the boasters would be perfect to have on the coffee table. You can buy Sportulas and Boasters on the Sportula store on Amazon.

*Not sponsored, affiliate link used. You can laugh at my dirty grill but not my team!

Six Young Adult Books I Can't Wait to Read

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I'm not ashamed to admit how much I'm enjoying reading young adult and teen fiction. I think there's a creativity and story variety that isn't present in 'grown up' books.

Do you read the online op ed section, Room For Debate, from The New York Times? About a year ago, several writers weighed in on the topic of adults who read teen fiction. The opinions were predictably varied. I 100% agree with author Patricia McCormick's statement:
"Authors who write for young adults are taking creative risks -- with narrative structure, voice and social commentary -- that you just don’t see as often in the more rarefied world of adult fiction."
You said it, sister. Also, I have only given up on a young adult book once. I started The Book Thief and couldn't get into it, but I'm much more willing to give it a second chance than I would some of the grown up books I've tossed aside (I Know This Much is True, Slammerkin, Freedom, The Year We Left Home).

Plus, it's been a good way for Tyler and I to connect. We've read some of the same titles and he trusts my book suggestions more than he used to. I've got six young adults books on my never-gets-shorter Want To Read list. Three are conclusions to trilogies.

Six Young Adult Book Suggestions

The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green (out now)
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (out now)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (out now)
Allegiant (from the Divergent series) by Veronica Roth (expected October 2013, last in trilogy)

I will say I liked Divergent more than Insurgent but both are good. Tyler is reading this with me so I'd say this series is good for ages 10 and up. I read both books before him just to be sure.

Reached (from the Matched series) by Ally Condie (out now, last in a trilogy)

Again, I liked the first book better than the second but I really want to know how all the plot lines wrap up. This is also good for 10 and up. I think Tyler would enjoy it if he could get past the romance. There is a love triangle and relationship between two characters with kissing but not intense kissing.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the conclusion to Daughter of Smoke & Bone (from the series of the same name) by Laini Taylor (out now)

Here's one where I liked both the first and second equally. I was all set to let Tyler get started on these until I got to the middle of the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight. There's a relationship with the lead characters and there's more descriptive intimacy than I think he's ready for. I'd say this is better for 15 and up.

Certainly some themes are better left to an adult audience but the young adult books I've read are something grown up books rarely are: fun. There's a difference between a quick, mindless read like the Sookie Stackhouse books and one that is really fun to read. It's rare that I've been so excited to sit down and read all day as I was on the Harry Potter release days.

Another Room for Debate contributor, Lev Grossman, also summed up my feelings about YA when he said:
"Bottom line, there's one thing that young adult novels rarely are, and that's boring. They're built to grab your attention and hold it. And I'm not as young as I once was. At my age, I don't have time to be bored.
Preach. There's room on my bookshelves for all kinds of reads. As long as young adult authors are creating such captivating reads, I'll be in line to buy them.

What are your thought on YA books? 
Leave your favorite title in the comments! 

*Affiliate links used, tablet image from freedigitalimages.net

Do You Call It Pop or Soda? | Wordless Wednesday

Pinterest Stress? Not This Mom

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

So, apparently, according to the media, Pinterest is causing stress for moms. Last week I read the story online on the Today show website and heard it again on the news this morning. The Today Show conducted a study and found that 42% of moms claimed Pinterest stressed them out. The only thing I can think of to respond to that is: priorities.

Pinterest Makes Moms Stressed

I understand the idea behind why the show did the study. Most women I know will agree they are their own harshest critics and the stress they put on themselves is worse than stress from outside sources. I am by far my own worst critic. The voice in my head can be overwhelmingly negative and hard to silence at times. But never will I say looking at Pinterest is my biggest source of stress, or any stress at all for that matter.

When I go to Pinterest the word that comes to mind is better. I'm inspired to put better food on the table, hopefully take better pictures one day, be a better businesswoman, become a better blogger, dress better, give better gifts, throw better parties, get better at organization and so on and so on. I don't go to Pinterest because I think I'm deficient in these areas. I go because it's fun! There are so many amazingly talented and creative people out there, why not use the resources they've given us (for free!) to do things we normally do, only make them better?

That's the way I approach the site and I hope you do, too. If Pinterest or other creative outlet sites are making you feel inadequate in any way, I think it's time to take a step back and examine your priorities. No social sharing sites should have the power to make you feel like less of a mom, wife or anything else. Social media is supposed to enhance our daily lives and relationships, not make us feel bad.

YOU need to be the one using the sites and not let them use you. Also? This is not a competition. You do you, I'll do me and everything will be alright. Also, also? Don't play into the media's hands. We're better than that. If you're not having fun online, perhaps it's time to step away from the computer and re-evaluate what you hope to get out of participating in social sites like Pinterest.

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Remember when I said I was ready to get back into social media? Well I jumped in with both feet and RSVP'd for my first conference in more than a year. This week, my family and I are in Orlando where I'm attending the Disney Social Media Moms conference.

Disney Social Media Moms 2013 Celebration

This year is the fourth time Disney World has hosted about 200 bloggers and their families at the resort. The invite-only conference put together by Disney's marketing and social media teams, is a chance for families to experience deluxe resorts, park hopper tickets, behind the scenes looks at new attractions, premier swag and giveaways and great food from the Disney chefs at incredibly reduced prices. It's a hybrid of a conference, press junket and vacation.

At the conference we have an opportunity to hear from various Disney execs and departments and hear about the new developments within the parks and other Disney departments like cruise lines, Interactive (gaming and multimedia), social good and Disney Destinations. During the day, we bloggers listen to motivational speakers and business execs to learn about marketing, writing, promotion, branding and social media while our families run around the parks. At night, we're all treated to things like fine dining, character appearances and entertainment. 

At the 2010 event, Ann Foster, Director of Disney Destinations, said in her presentation that we only have 18 summers with our kids. That really stuck with me. Tyler will be 11 this year so half our summers are gone! I love that, when he looks back on his childhood, he'll have so many memories of our time here. This year will be extra special because we surprised him by inviting his best friend and family to come along with us. Disney truly knows how to put on an event and this conference never fails to disappoint. I'm incredibly blessed to be attending for the third time.

If you want to follow along with this year's discussion you can connect with Disney Social Media Moms in several ways:

Eventifier  (not sure how long this link will be live)
Twitter Search #DisneySMMoms 
5 Minutes for Mom Disney Social Media Moms attendee blog link up

Official Twitter handles:

Disclosure: While Disney is the official host of the conference, we are not attending as sponsored (hosted) guests. All opinions are my own.

40 Books in 12 Months - I Can Do It!

Monday, April 22, 2013

So, I did something that may end up being really awesome or really dumb. I set a goal for myself to read 40 books by the end of December. I love to read so I'm pretty sure I can pull this off. I'm a little bit ahead of the pace Goodreads says I should be on.

Hopefully I'll remember to do at least short reviews of all the books here on the site, but if I don't you can always follow me on Goodreads to at least see my star ratings. I'm always on the lookout for new titles and authors to add to my To Be Read Pile. If you've come across anything good lately let me know!

See the titles I've read so far in my 2013 reading list

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Melanie has read 13 books toward her goal of 40 books.
Image from Google Images

Blog Breaks and Boredom

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Holy hiatus! I've never been away from the blog this long. I can't tell you how many times over the past several months I've stared at the blinking cursor in the post editor, trying to compose something, anything, to show that I'm still alive. I've even Googled 'coming back from a blog break.' It's not that I don't have anything to say, I'm just not sure the things on my mind are interesting enough to keep the blog going. How can I find my voice again after being gone so long? Who's still around to read? Should that even matter?

So, what have I been up to? Not much really, just being with my family. There have been a lot of meals at the dinner table, movie nights at home, beach days, pool days, good books, homework, client work and hockey. So. Much. Hockey! And then there was Dennis. I didn't want to talk much about him here because I felt I should protect his privacy a little and they were his stories to tell, not mine. But, long story short, he came from Sweden last August to live with us and now we have another member in our family. He went home a few weeks ago. Tyler misses him terribly. Dennis is Tyler's best friend, big brother and hero rolled into one.

Maybe Dennis leaving is part of why I felt the need to get back online. I must admit, it was really nice to have someone to talk to every day who was on the other side of the kitchen table as opposed to the other side of the monitor. As much as I enjoyed all the family time I've started to get the same feeling that led me to start blogging in the first place. I got so caught up in 'being present' for everyone else that I forgot myself and the things that make me happy. Writing makes me happy. Social media makes me happy. When I'm happy it's hard to feel lonely or bored. And let's face it, being an at home mom can often be both lonely and boring.

So here I am attempting to get back on the horse. Come with me for the ride?

2013 Reading List

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome to my reading list for 2013! I'm terrible at remembering to do reviews in part because I read really fast. I set a goal for myself to read 40 books this year and I'm on track to possibly go even higher. I'd love to know if you've read any of these titles and how you liked the book.

In mostly chronological order:

At Home With the Templetons - Monica McInerney
The Shoemaker's Wife - Adriana Trigiani
The Last Time I Saw You - Elizabeth Berg

Divergent - Veronica Roth
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott - Kelly O'Connor McNees
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty - Joshilyn Jackson
Days of Blood and Starlight - Laini Taylor 
When in Doubt Add Butter - Beth Harbison

Patty Jane's House of Curl - Lorna Landvik
Nearlyweds - Beth Kendrick
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
The View From Mount Joy - Lorna Landvik

The Panther - Nelson DeMille
The Lion - Nelson DeMille
Tall Pine Polka - Lorna Landvik

Notorious Nineteen - Janet Evanovich 

Tapestry of Fortunes - Elizabeth Berg
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Sisterland - Curtis Sittenfeld
Dead Ever After - Charlaine Harris 
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

The Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown
The Engagements - Courtney J Sullivan

Reached - Ally Condie
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
The Tao of Martha - Jen Lancaster 
Where We Belong - Emily Giffin 

Life After Life - Jill McCorkle
Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson

Wedding Night - Sophie Kinsella 
One Mississippi - Mark Childress

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