Sparks of Magic

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How We Manage Homeschooling Five Kids Plus Some Options to Get Started in California

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Well, we did it and took the leap this year, our journey to homeschooling has begun. I guess I shouldn't say that it’s just beginning, because I've homeschooled our kids off and on since our eldest (now a Senior) was in Kindergarten, but this is the first year that we have ALL FIVE of them home and WE are working together.

Did you get that? Yep. WE.

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Jeff and I are a team in pretty much everything, but until recently, school has always leaned more towards this Mama’s court. However, since I am also working from home and focusing heavily on our transition to Los Angeles, we decided to meet in the middle for the kids’ education for this season in life.

At the time of this post, we are home educating 2 in middle and 3 in high school, with one graduating in Spring 2019. I know that people see the fun perks, like school at Disneyland and other destinations, more time spent as a family for travel and 1:1 learning and have this glamorous idea of what it’s like to be a home educator. I love homeschooling, but to be fair if you are considering it, it is A LOT of hard work especially with older students and it is not an easy feat. They get on our nerves. They don’t get to do what they want. They literally eat up the entire house since they’re home all day. They can’t be on social media during school hours (oh yes, they love that part *total sarcasm*). They have to have a schedule. They also have to get dressed. Granted, we do have our lazy days in pajamas, because if you can - why not, however brushing teeth before coming to the table is always a must! Oh, and yes, they have to do work. Thankfully we have an amazing and supporting Education Specialist through our charter school, along with a great team of Special Education teachers for our kiddos that need extra help. When we look at the pros and cons, especially a mid-year relocation, it made the most sense to round them all up, strap on our teaching hats and buckle down to make it work!

Be prepared. Homeschooling will test your marriage. You need to compromise & work together.

Agreeing to Compromise

Let’s be honest, after almost two decades married we have come to understand the word “compromise” on many levels… but let me tell you - homeschooling will test your marriage. Jeff and I have always had differing opinions about homeschooling, and it never really made sense for our family until this year to have all of them home. Fun fact: Jeff was homeschooled his entire life. He is not too proud of that fact for more reasons than one, but mostly because he missed out on a normalized social aspect and his schooling was due to sheltering not academics or opportunity for advancement in the real world. Our kids are little social butterflies most of the time, so he was/is most concerned that this area of their lives would/will suffer. You see how I am still including the present? Because it still scares him, LOL.

I, on the other hand, think that homeschooling is amazing - no matter how many times I’ve sat at the table and cried over planning another week of studies or rearranging schedules to accommodate appointments, travel and other things to keep them on track. In full scorpio fashion, I am a ball of emotion and energy so I can get a little excited with my doomsday thinking if I forget something. You feel like (because you kind of do) have the responsibility of your children’s entire future on your shoulders, and while it scares the shit out of me, it also empowers me because I CAN do this and I AM doing it. It’s not perfect, I am not perfect and my kids are not perfect. However, I am always reassured that they are doing well and we are making it work. The opportunity and flexibility, the joy of seeing our kids “get it” when it comes to certain subjects that are naturally tough, especially after spending years in traditional school coming home confused as hell - to me, is worth the tears, frustration and hard work.

So, how on earth do we make it work for us? I decided to share some of the ways that have helped us over a few blog posts, but be mindful as your family will have different needs than ours. There are so many blogs and articles on homeschooling in CA, and I assume if you’re reading this we know each other in real life, so I would hope that my input actually means something to you. If you have questions, reach out! :) This post focuses more on the options available in California to get this series started.

Homeschool Options 

In the state of California, we have options when it comes to home education. This is simply a brief overview and list of those options and should not be the foundation of your decision-making process. Dependent on your area, seek out school options, call and email, meet their administrators in person and ASK QUESTIONS. YOU are the advocate for your children’s education, speak up and find out what will work for your family based on your children’s needs and learning styles. We have children that have Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and Section 504 accommodations and we have Support specialists and teachers that must follow the same mandated regulations as if they were in traditional school. We have always homeschooled through a public charter school so as a disclaimer for this and all future posts, my experience is the perspective of a public charter family in CA. Additional note: NOT ALL CHARTERS ARE THE SAME.

  1. Homeschool Program through Public Charter School: Just as it implies, you are enrolled in a public school and when you homeschool through this option, you are provided funding but you are also 100% responsible for using those funds appropriately for curriculum, enrichment and field trips. You work with an Education Specialist (ES, a Credentialed teacher) to plan your children’s path and they guide you on how to spend your funds. Funding amounts vary based on school, grade of student and location. Because this is public school, the purchase of religious products and services are prohibited. In our experiences, we meet in person or virtually with our ES every 20 school days or once per month.

  2. Homeschool Program through Private Schools: Many times this is an online or video program, additionally many programs are religious-based. As stated, this is private school, so it will also cost money to attend once accepted. For us personally, and with so many children, it is was not a viable financial option and we like the idea of them learning varying perspectives and having more flexibility in curriculum for each child.

  3. Independent Study through Public Charter or Private School: This is done through a public or private school location with varying ways of your student(s) receiving education. Some allow your student(s) to be onsite for an allotted amount of time and work from home the remainder. Some schools have scheduled classes to attend and they provide the curriculum. This option typically does not include any funding as curriculum provided covers CA standards based on grade level.

  4. Private School Affidavit (PSA): This is the option I am least familiar with, but you file with the state as a private home school to educate your own children. Based on CA Ed Code, there are filing dates, which are October 1-15th. More on that is here.

Ok, I know, that could be a lot to swallow if you’re just toying with the idea. However, once you decide the school option, there are still more areas to consider that include the age/grade of your child, their academic goals, learning styles and your desired time commitment. I am excited to embark on sharing our experiences here and touching on every one of those areas. I am grateful to live in a state that allows us options as parents to participate fully in our children’s education.

Do you homeschool? If not, have you considered homeschooling? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Our Disney Dreamers Academy 2018 Experience

Family, Disney, TravelCamilleComment
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In March 2018, our third daughter was blessed with an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World thanks to Steve Harvey, Essence Magazine and Disney Parks. She applied for Disney Dreamers Academy in the fall of 2017, and just a few days before Christmas she was sent a congratulatory letter that she was accepted and could bring a guardian for the trip. We all knew it would be me, Jeff said he knows the boundaries when it comes to Disney magic. :)

Our trip was absolutely amazing. I've posted about it on Instagram and my personal Facebook, but have yet to sit down and journal the experience to the keyboard. I wholeheartedly went as a Mama, not an influencer, not a blogger. Sure, I took pictures and posted a few times, but my intent was not to capture and Instagram my way through because many times I miss a lot in that mode; I wanted to soak up the experience and be present with my girl.

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I am so glad I did.

It was a whirlwind, jam-packed week of laughter, learning, fun, tears, excitement and I could not be more proud and equally honored to have shared the moments with KeiLana and the other 99 teens and guardians in attendance. Along with the teens, we parents learned so much.

I was blessed with reconfirmation on direction in MY life. My mind and spiritual wellness were refreshed and renewed in walking my path. I was reminded that my journey is mine, as my children’s are theirs. While we are a team and work together to better our collective lives, still, at the end of the day I cannot walk their journey for them - and they cannot hinder me from walking mine.

We were told the event was a set up for us as parents. SURPRISE! We were also there because we needed to be. I can’t argue with that, I truly believe we are where we are supposed to be. I felt it. I made some new friends that I hope and believe will last as we watch our kids grow up and pursue their dreams, encouraging each other along the way.

The kids (and us parents) were reminded by Princeton Parker that our “what if’s” are often rooted in fear, that we hinder ourselves from moving forward in that mindset. Most of all, our daughter has found a tribe of likeminded peers; She is part of this amazing group of 100 that has chosen to be, not just exist.

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Who will you be?

If you want to BE - you must make a choice.

If you want to exist - you just have to breath.

– Princeton Parker

I will continue to share our experience here so stay tuned, there was so much to take in! For those that are in high school ages 13-19, applications for the Class of 2019 are currently open until October 31, 2018!

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Disclaimer: My daughter was selected by Steve Harvey Radio Network, Inc and Disney Destinations, LLC (“Disney”) to receive an all-expense paid trip (flight, hotel, food, Disney World admission) to Florida with a chaperone (me), based on her application to The Disney Dreamers Academy. No further compensation was given.

The Year of Healing: Hello, 2018.

Family, ThoughtsCamilleComment
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2017 shook me to my core, broke me and opened my heart in ways that I was not ready to experience, let alone imagine. I felt like I was repeatedly hit with a ton of bricks throughout the year and never enough time to get up and recover from the previous blow.

The past year, and my heart, seemed overwhelmed by loss:

  • I was laid off from a full time, well-paying and benefitted job that I loved.

  • Loss of my second dad (Father-in-law) hit hard, unexpected and filled me with emotions that I still cannot fully express. I still struggle with how to grieve, when to grieve, and how to move forward. Over eighteen years of memories remain in my heart, including those now cherished most, are of caring for him in his final weeks, days, hours - it will always be bittersweet.
  • Missing out on opportunities that I swore were for me, so I set my heart on them only to receive rejection after rejection.
  • Loss of my Grandmother-in-law, a woman that always remembered me, encouraged me and prayed for me & my family, even when her mind started to fade and couldn't remember her own children's names.
  • Loss of my naivety of the world we have always lived in regarding race and religion. This loss was not bad in the sense of the aforementioned situations, because a veil was lifted from my eyes and mind, but it was like ripping off flesh from a wound I didn’t even know I had. This loss was a good one, but painful nonetheless.

My eyes, heart and mind were wide open - to everything and to everyone’s pain but my own. I always dove in to be a fixer, to see other people happy, to help heal their hurts. At first, I saw the various losses for myself and pushed it aside so I could deal with the situations at hand because things had to be done. I mean, hello - I am “The Magic Maker.” I set myself up daily with high expectations and in the last year seemingly felt like I failed most of the time.

I felt guilt day in and day out because I never felt  like what I did was enough. I never felt like I was enough as a mom, caregiver, daughter. I never felt like I was enough for my husband. Granted, these are all things that I told myself, none of them are true. But I convinced myself that this was the case. I had to be more. I had to be better. I was so focused on pleasing other people that I didn’t realize that they weren’t asking me to do any of that.

The stress I experienced began to manifest in my body physically and overwhelmed my already riddled mind with more anxiety and depression.

I stopped writing. I stopped running. I stopped caring on the inside and no matter how hard I tried to fake it, I just couldn't make it. 

Contrary to some people’s beliefs, depression is not a choice. I didn’t wake up and choose to go completely dark. I do try to find the magic in everything, but this time and at that point the reality of my life seemed to only have been touched by darkness.

I felt there was no other way. I began to close my heart. Even though I visited Disneyland as often as I did and even met Kerry Washington (OMG), I still couldn’t shake feeling so broken.

Then, I began reading and listening. I figured if I couldn't write, I could at least maybe listen, keep learning and somehow figure out how to heal. There are few people in my life that I have felt truly listened and held conversation with me and my fast moving mind and my late Dad was one of them. When I was unable to chat with my blood Daddy, he was there for me as if I were one of his own kids. He knew me since I was 17, which is half of my life. Even in his final hours he was chatting it up with his kids, throwing out gold nuggets of wisdom. What he told my youngest sis is one that will stay with me forever. He always focused on love, the importance of giving it and receiving it. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. It’s all about love. It’s all we need. It is the core of our being and existence.

Essentially, and for lack of butchering his words, I will paraphrase, but he told her teach her kids to love themselves. To be comfortable in their own skin, love wholeheartedly and fully.

Once Dad passed away I found myself having conversations with him and they have been little chats that I treasure and have taken to heart. Month two of his passing, I woke up with a strange sense of peace (it has come and gone, but this day it was clearly a moment I remember and feel). It was the first time I woke up and forgot about the previous night terrors and overwhelming sadness that my heart had been feeling.

I remembered and then before I could become sad again, my heart heard, “Remember what I told Joy? That’s for you, too sweetie... You must love YOU.”

Oh. I see...slowly but surely...*lightbulb*

I need to love myself.

That’s how our kids will learn to love themselves. I can’t teach something I don’t know or experience. It was then that I realized I was in desperate need of some self love and care. Just like Dad, that's all he said. He didn't give me a long speech or make me feel like I was doing anything terrible. It was a gentle, loving reminder to take care of my own heart. I was clearly not doing that.

I was broken inside, trying to help other people pick up the pieces of their lives. Yet, my oxygen mask wasn’t fully on. I knew that at some point I had to change how I was living. I am so thankful that even through his heartbreak and grief, my husband saw my needs and suggested that maybe it was time that I seek counsel. So, I began therapy. I started journaling, saving my thoughts to sort out offline. I started running again and even occasionally went to the gym. Those things helped, but it really was conversation, sorting out my thoughts, allowing myself to feel and be okay to not be okay without guilt or stigma for seeking help.

With the prompting of a sweet friend , I chose a word that I want to use to set precedence for this new year. Initially, I chose “manifestation.” I was desperately seeking resolve, closure, new things, and seeing dreams and goals come to fruition. Almost as quickly as I envisioned “Manifestation,” the word “healing” came to mind and I knew that is what my goal would be for this year. The word kind of picked me. From there, my friend reminded me that I needed to cultivate the soil so that things could grow and I would see that manifestation in the end. I am continuously learning to enjoy this journey, to accept both the light and dark magic that surrounds me (more on that in an upcoming post), embrace and feel the emotions that surface but let them pass through.

I’m learning to be more open with myself and with that kind of comes a “no more bullsh*t” type of feeling that has seemed to surface. My time is no longer to be wasted worrying about what others think or how I should perform or live my life. It’s wasted time and energy, and no one has time for that. I’m learning to say “no,” and move on without guilt. It’s not always easy, but my heart and soul feel so much better to just move forward.

As I heal, as I write more and seek genuine interactions with others during my time here on earth, I am reminded that I am a spiritual being simply experiencing humanity. All of this will fade away. My soul, my existence will live on just as my Dad’s before me. Every moment is one that I am learning to feel – and let go. Life here is truly about the journey. I’m hugging and loving my hubby and babies tighter. I’m appreciating the moments that I will never get back. I’m learning to love myself and be okay to let go of perfection. I’m learning how to let go of needing to control, and letting those that love me do just that - love me hard. Sometimes we forget to allow others in, to let them love us and see us at our most vulnerable point. As a highly sensitive and emotional person, I never thought that I was repressing anything... until it was almost too late.

As a side-note, don’t mistake my revelation as me being a doormat for other people’s negativity because I’m here for the love. I still won’t take bullsh*t. I can and will love from afar if I must. I prefer closeness and hugs, but remember, this is my year of healing, I won’t knowingly allow myself to be subjected to that nonsense.

Friends, here's to a legit 2018, filled with all kinds of magic, love, continuous learning, good health, and most of all a road to the healing of my soul, allowing newness to manifest in ways that I couldn't have imagined for myself. 

Freedom in Release

Thoughts, Family, WellnessCamilleComment
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It’s been way too long since I’ve written from the heart, and I look forward to sharing more. I’m in the middle of rebranding the blog both in design and focus. It’s something I’ve talked about since the beginning of the year but just haven’t gotten to it. As our family’s life has shifted dramatically in the past couple of months, it seems like the most appropriate time to shift in my space on the web.

Even in darkness I know there is beautiful magic and I appreciate the magic so much more going through this seemingly dark period in my life, after my dad-in-love’s passing. I think that’s what Dad continues to show me.

We live and love through our journey and must find that magic to hold onto.

It’s not easy by any means and every bit is a learning and growing experience.

Let Go

One of the things I am slowly learning, is to let go and free myself. In order for me to truly be free I have to allow others the same freedom. I must let go all the way, and that includes releasing others of my expectations. Why? Because it keeps me bound in my mind. I begin to worry about things that aren’t necessary to worry about. I want to be free. I liken this to being at the beach and I want to truly feel the warmth of the sun, the coolness of the water; I’ve gotta get up and go in. But if I’m holding the hands of people that aren’t willing to feel those things with me, and waiting for them, I am still bound. I’m not free because I won’t release their hand. Essentially, I have to let go.

Your Freedom is Your Own

I have to free myself from how I think they should be, live, respond, believe, or feel, in my mind. I also can’t live in fear for others because their journey is not mine. I can’t do that for my kids or husband , my best friends or my family. I’m not abandoning them by any means, I’m simply opening myself to let go. I’m still there, but I’m in the water. I’m experiencing my freedom. For others, their freedom is on the sand because perhaps they feel trapped by the water. I can’t be mad that they don’t feel free in the water. Why would I want someone with me if they’re in fear? Let’s say they physically decide to go with me in the water, but they are now trapped in their own minds, too. Their lessons and learning aren’t the same as what I need.

Will we eventually be in the same place and share the same emotion? Perhaps, and if not, I have to be okay. I have to appreciate them on the sand, or in the air, or in their car, haha. I have to appreciate that our journeys will always be that – OUR OWN. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different.

Release Others

We have to get to a place where we are looking at how we are living and release ourselves and others from expectations. Does it hurt sometimes? Sure it does, it can be scary feeling as if we are alone wherever we are, but we must allow ourselves to feel the hurt, and just let it pass through. We can’t dwell and we must focus on our own hearts because they also have to live and learn and grow in theirs.

Keep loving friends, keep living and spreading your magic. Let others splash in the water or roll in the sand. Let them experience and grow in their freedom how they need to. Love and appreciate where they are because they are learning and growing, just in a different way.

Spring Break at Dillon Beach, CA

Travel, FamilyCamilleComment

Spring break has come and gone. 

We spent our family vacation in Dillon Beach on Bodega Bay, CA with my husband's family. Every year, they rent a home that sits midway up the mountain of Oceana Drive. IT IS GORGEOUS. 

This quaint little beach town is about 30 minutes west of Petaluma, CA but approximately two hours from us (Lodi). As a SoCal girl, the first thing I will tell you is that this is a cold beach. I usually pitch a fuss about having to wear a jacket on the shore. I know, such a baby. However, our kids love it though and somehow manage to still dip their toes (or depending on which kid) or whole body into the freezing water. 

Some of the fun things they enjoy include digging holes, hiking up the mountain, and rolling down the massive sand dune. 

If you plan a trip to Dillon Beach you should know a few things:

It was amazing time spent just revelling in the beauty of the coast and closeness of our loved ones. We are forever grateful for the memories we get to make with our babies, and that they get to grow up appreciating these moments of family, creation and fun.

Pictures say a thousand words, so I will leave you with Jeff's amazing visuals.

Other sights & experiences in the area:

What are some of your favorite spring break excursions?

It's the Climb

Family, TravelCamilleComment

Family day trips are great, especially when you get to be out in the open, consumed by nature. Okay, that totally does not sound like me. I am not a hiker. I do not enjoy lounging in the forest. I appreciate it all from a distance, but it isn't my "go-to" idea of F U N.

 
 

However, I have an active family, and they L O V E nature trails, hikes, forests and oceans and I love them to pieces for it. So, I go. I'm mostly afraid of being eaten by a wild animal, being taken by the ocean, or one of my children falling off the edge of a trail. I will tell you that the more I participate, it is slowly growing on me. Don't let me see signs about bears or other wildlife because I will turn right around and go back to my car.

Our most recent adventure was to the East Bay at Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area. We met up with one of our favorite people, Jeff's cousin, Melissa, who happens to be one of my dearest friends since I was 18. She is always good to hang out with our crazy fun family; always ready for an adventure with the Kimble-Walls! :) 

 
 

I learn a lot about myself on trips like this, like how strong I really am - even when I think I am going to keel over or am scared of some random sound in the bushes. I also realize how important moments spent as an entire family unit are to my kids. I am making a more conscious effort to reserve off days for doing things that they enjoy. I treasure the memories that I have with my parents and brother as we traveled, whether it be camping, hanging at the beach, or exploring new cities and states together. Being such a large family is not the easiest thing when you want to see the world, but we are committing to explore as much as we can together. That's the beauty of it, we get to do it together. Before long, our eldest will be in college (yikes, just 2 more years), and our youngest a high schooler. Time is going by so quickly, and I don't want to miss out on an experience with them.

 
 
 

Having kids sometimes feels like an uphill battle, but just like on our hiking trip, in life there are a lot of sweet, precious moments and at the end, when you look down and back, you see how far you got and feel pretty proud that no one fell off; even though we might have bickered on the way up and/or some of us complained - we made it. Together. You see, getting to the top is just part of it. It's the climb that makes us stronger, brings us together, and shows us new things. This truth is something we try to show our kids, not just tell them. Giving them hands on experience to relate to life will help them grow as teens and adults. Getting to where you want to go isn't easy work. It's uphill, it can be a battle, it can be exhausting, but it is so satisfying. Enjoy these moments while you can.

Magic Moments: Travel Planning Fun with Get Away Today!

Travel, Family, EntertainmentCamilleComment

I'm extremely excited to announce that I am a partner with Get Away Today travel! When Jeff and I only had 2 girls, we booked vacations through Get Away Today, and as our family grew, family travel took the back burner. It is unfortunate, as traveling is really fun, especially with kids! Thankfully we've hit the road quite a few times since, and are looking to expand our travel borders in the near future.

I used to want to be a travel agent, my mom worked for a travel agency when I was younger, and it was always fun to go visit her at her office and see all the images of tropical locations and scenery on the walls. I never really paid attention to what she actually did, it was just fun to visit and dream of being in one of those exotic places as I waited for her to get off work.

Fast forward to today, Jeff and I have five kids of our own and we are learning that "organized travel" is extremely important. When I say "organized" I mean, planned, and plotted, making sure we stretch every dollar and get bang for our bucks. We used to lean towards spontaneous, as in "let's go next month" type of travel, and that can get expensive and is somewhat stressful. As our income has always fluctuated, it has been challenging to really save for anything, let alone a full blown family trip with bells and whistles! When doing spontaneous travel, a family vacation was never long enough, lasting only 2 -3 days in southern CA with the kids to visit family and sometimes Disneyland (our happy place). 

About Get Away Today

Get Away Today takes the guesswork out of booking a full vacation package. They have awesome benefits, like a layaway plan and Peace of Mind travel insurance, which is a plus when you're really saving towards a family vacation. The downpayment for travel is $125, which includes a nonrefundable $50 layaway fee. The trip needs to be paid in full within two weeks of travel (many other sites require it from 30-45 days prior). 

When I became a partner with Get Away Today, I was so excited to finally get back to booking and saving. Our family will get to experience more travel in the near future, especially as I am have embarked on a new journey in my career, so saving is a little easier. Work hard, play hard, right?!

 Hurry, this offer ends 6/26/16 for travel through December 31, 2016.

Hurry, this offer ends 6/26/16 for travel through December 31, 2016.

Book with Get Away Today

So what does this mean for you, my readers, family and friends? Well, if you choose to book through Get Away Today Vacations, you will receive a $10 credit towards any 2 night stay (use code "SPARKS" when booking) and I will earn a small commission for referring you. Stay tuned for special offers throughout the year, like Adults pay Kids Price at Disneyland, which is going on until June 26, 2016. I'll keep you updated and look forward to hearing your travel stories, too!

We just booked our Fall vacation and cannot wait to share our experience with you!

Magic Moments: Games and Learning with Kids - Scrabble x Disney

Family, Disney, EntertainmentCamilleComment

Naturally, we love Disney games at our house. I purchased the Scrabble "Disney Theme Park Edition" game last year, but I never made the time to sit and play with the kids. I know, that's terrible, but that's the facts. My intention is to change the fact that moments with the kids are few, at least when it comes to organized games or activities. Half the time I'm lucky my dinner table is cleared of "life" so we can sit down and enjoy dinner together, let alone a board game!

One of the kids' favorite games to play with my parents is Scrabble. When I saw that Disney had their own version (of course), I had to pick it up. The game is just as magical as you would think it to be, with a twist of pixie dust added. You get extra points for using Disney words and/or phrases, which is perfect for us Disney-loving people.

Playing board games can be a fun treat at home, or on-the-go! Consider packing one or two for your next road trip or family vacation. You'll be making memories on vacation, even in your "down time."

Learning: Scrabble is a fun word game that really is perfect for kids, regardless of age! When we first started playing with my parents a few years ago, the kids usually teamed up with an adult. Today, they play on their own and they're increasing their vocabulary as we have them look up words in the dictionary and thesaurus. Granted, when playing with younger kids, each turn takes a little longer than if we played with all adults, but it really is a fun game to play together as a family. The kids learn to be resourceful with a dictionary, and we all have a fun time learning new words and realizing how big our imaginations can be when we accidentally create words. The game gives us all practice in patience, teamwork, comprehension, and exercising our creative brain muscles.

In the box: This special Disney edition comes with some fun pixie dust! Aside from the board, 4 wooden tile holder and 100 tiles, you receive a cute little pouch with the castle graphic & fireworks. The bag has a velcro closure, which is great since it lays flat in the box. The tiles are imprinted with the letters and point value in blue. Unlike classic Scrabble, there are also 26 Magic cards that come with it, fully decked out with Disney graphics, and special instructions enhancing game play. I think it's a pretty awesome game to have in our collection, and one that we will play for years to come. We also have monopoly, but let's be honest that game takes days to end. This is perfect for a family game night before or after a Disney movie, of course!

Where to buy it: I honestly can't remember where I purchased my version, but after looking at Amazon, it's slim pickings. The only ones are available for a minimum of $100 for the Disney Theme Park Edition. If you're a mega Disney fan, it might be something you'd consider. For me, I know I didn't pay that much, so I'm thinking in the range of $50 max. You might be able to get it in store at Target or Walmart. Sometimes your local hallmark will have special edition board games.

I'm sure you know by now, that we will try anything that is Disney themed at least once, and I'm happy to report that this game will be one we will be taking on road trips to play in the hotel!

Do you have a favorite Disney themed or classic board game?

Realizing Why I Write and How I am Moving Forward

Thoughts, FamilyCamilleComment

I woke up from my sleep in tears. Literally. I had a dream full of emotion, it was bittersweet and I was cut to the core in the midst because, for some reason I was in my dream, KNOWING that I was only dreaming. I was being reunited with some of my dear Disney friends at a celebration of some sorts; we shed tears of happiness, caught up on moments missed and chatted about our different paths in life. I was so overwhelmed this morning as I wiped away what was left of the moments that never really happened. 

My brain runs like a motor that has a broken off switch.

I told myself, "Self, you better get up this morning and do some writing." I'm not sure what writing has to do with my emotional dream, but I do know that writing helps me to process everything that goes on in this crazy-beautiful, ADHD head of mine (wide eyed awake, or asleep). I've also noticed that since I've been on a writing hiatus, my brain feels like it might explode since I'm not releasing anything mentally. 

Hitting "publish" offers a different kind of satisfaction and solace than just having a verbal conversation. I don't have a huge audience of readers here, so for me, this entire process has been about a release. Believe me, I LOVE to talk. However, I tend to convey my thoughts better through written form. I write about things that are important to me (family, fun, life), and I also have sponsored content that I create for brands. I'm blessed with the opportunities that I do have, but at the end of the day, this space is still for me and anyone else that is seeking to find some magic in their lives.

My world outside of Sparks of Magic is very R E A L.

I know that life is not perfect, but I choose to be positive about most of it, which includes my writing and my visual imagery for my blog and social spaces. I like pretty things but I have a messy house more often than not. I can't stop my kids from loving crappy junk food or wearing mismatch socks. They also tend to be angels in public and I have no idea where I get them from when they are at home. My husband and I are seriously best friends but you also should know that we drive each other crazy (which is where we got our crazy kids).

I live a daily battle with anxiety and depression that I don't usually talk about outside of my immediate family and close circle of friends. I love people. I love connecting with others. I work full time in human resources and at times find that I take on the emotional stresses of colleagues and students on campus. Sometimes I just can't help it because I care. I cry in my office with students and new hires that are trying to survive working to support their families, I celebrate with them when they are getting their first job or retiring from years of service. I cry all the time. Happy. Sad. Frustrated. Elated. Mad. Confused. It's just what happens. If only I shed water weight like I shed tears.

There is this perception that bloggers have a picture perfect life.

I will never attest to that, and the bloggers that I know will be the first to tell you that is not true. Perhaps you're reading the wrong blogs if that is the expectation. We tend to joke about being "Martha Stewart" in the kitchen as the epitome of the perfectly marketed domestic lifestyle. No. That is her BRAND. Real Life is meant to be lived. Life is messy. Life is hard and most of us work our asses off to get where we are. I might not have buckets of money pouring in from my sporadic content, but do you know what I do have? Enough. The universe takes care of me and my family, and things come along when they do, WHEN they are meant to happen. 

There is A LOT of hard work to put into having a successful blog, and I give MAD PROPS to my peeps that are doing it SO WELL. (I am going to need to compile a list of some of the diamonds in the blogging game, people that are raw, real, and some of the best). I just don't have the same desire or time to put into growing my blog; I had to come to that realization and not beat myself up over it. Over the course of past the year, and during my hiatus I really wanted to understand myself, set some goals for my life, and figure out why I couldn't seem to stick to the consistency needed to build my Sparks brand the way that I can totally envision. Then, it hit me.

B E I N G a "full-time blogger" is not my calling, and I am realizing it is not my desire.

Let it be known, if you don't know me already, my career passion lies in working for a brand that has existed for decades. If you remember the early stages of Sparks of Magic, it began as a Disney-focused blog. It was a means to an end. It gave me comfort to write about the magic I experienced, and long to have back, when I worked for The Walt Disney Company. I truly believe that Disney is my destiny. I put it out in the universe years ago, and my journey keeps moving in that direction. No matter where I am job-wise, since leaving Disney, it has always been my goal/dream/destiny to go back. I worked hard to finish my Bachelors Degree last year and am studying for my GMAT to apply for my MBA program. There have been times that I've wanted to give up, mainly because a career with Disney includes a 300 mile relocation for my family of seven, not to mention a much higher cost of living; then, I look at my kids.

Kids don’t do as we say, they do as we do.

I've grown up with a passion and drive to follow my heart. I work 24-7 for myself and my family and I don't ever want to be in a place where I am settling. I pursue my goals and take necessary steps towards achieving them for myself, but also for my kids. What better role model would they have than one that birthed them, loves and cares for them, and will always be here to support them?  My husband and I parent in a very transparent way, our kids might "know too much" for a lot of people's standards and opinions, but we are gearing them up to live a very real life for themselves. We can't keep them bubbled up and they need to know that you succeed when you give it your all, and then some. They also need to understand that success is different for everyone. They also need to understand that mistakes and failure are part of the journey. Determination and working through failures and mistakes towards our goals gives us learning experiences that we wouldn't have any other way.

All that to say?

I guess I no longer feel like I need to be something that I am not meant to be.

Granted, in just 2 years time, I have been able to do some really awesome things with Sparks of Magic. If I compare my success to another blogger's or my journey to another person's, it is easy to say I haven't achieved much. Sometimes I forget how far I have come in a short amount of time. I can't forget that, and I am encouraging each of you to remember where you started, where you are and where you are heading.

Today, I am working on propelling myself to where I know I belong. My blog will continue to serve a purpose, and it might not fully support us financially, but it does help. It might not be the top blog in any specific category, I may never win any awards, but you know what? That's okay. I am choosing to move forward and focus on what my blog IS: It is a place that spreads magic, big and small, to anyone that stops by. Sometimes I feel it helps me more, but I love to inspire, and sometimes we CAN inspire ourselves. I will continue to write here and share the awesome and not so awesome things that I face, like sassy teenagers, fun-filled family trips, thoughts on real-life situations, dreams and aspirations, and obviously a whole lot of pixie dust. I also will continue to write for brands that have values that align with mine.

For whatever reason, I am now realizing that I just have a different mindset. I guess that's what it comes down to, my perspective. I feel like I needed to express the justification for not being as consistent as I would like. I still can't pinpoint what my dream has to do with this, aside from being inspired as my friends continue to inspire me hundreds of miles away, to just keep writing. Kinda like Dory. So, I think you'll be seeing "me" more with this new mindset. Hey now, two blog posts in a week. See, progress already. :) Thanks for hearing my heart.

Moments in Dining Out Together

Thoughts, Family, FoodCamilleComment

If you're anything like me, dinner time can be hit or miss. With the hustle and bustle of working full time and coming home and assuming the "homework dance," while attempting to cook dinner with your spouse, whilst having a conversation, it gets pretty overwhelming. Sometimes, it's nice to just say to cooking, "not today," and plan for a night out.

Whether we sit together at our own dinner table, or plan a special time out to eat together, there is something special about sharing a meal with your family. At the end of a long day, even if I do spend time in the kitchen, sitting down with my family brings comfort, peace and I love the interactions that ensue.

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This past week I began a new year as part of Denny's Ambassador Council, so it was a special treat to take the kids out (on a school night at that!), and share a family meal. My kids & I love our local Denny's in Lodi (I-5 and Hwy 12); the staff is always very attentive, they take great care of us, and the experience is always wonderful.

I know that I've shared before that Kids Eat Free on Tuesday nights, and with a large family, we like to take advantage of the savings! We specifically went to Denny's to try their newest menu "Red, White and Bacon!" Do you love bacon? Because my family LOOOOVES bacon (I won't lie, I'm eating a gluten free bacon breakfast sandwich as I type). My kids freaked out when I told them the menu was all about bacon. They were immediately sold and the countdown to our Tuesday night excursion began.

For all of my bacon-loving movie fans, Denny's "Red, White and Bacon" menu is a partnership with Twentieth Century Fox and their new film, Independence Day: Resurgence. 

Our kids are usually little angels when we go out. All of a sudden they remember their Ps and Qs, they are cordial with each other, and they share food! I often think we should go out more often for that alone! Unfortunately, the pocket book doesn't always agree, so we get out when we can, and make it memorable with each experience. 

If your kids can eat off the kids menu, let them. We encourage it, especially when we are looking to save a bit of money and honestly they get enough food, even as little tweens. Now, we do have a couple that can eat off the adult menu, so then we add an extra side (usually 99¢) from the kids' menu.

Selecting their food is half the fun, as the kids' menu changes just like the adult menu. Our kids still love to color and do the activities in the menu. I seriously hope they always keep their love for creating and handwriting, along with their childlike spirits! They are so fun!

The kid's menu doesn't have anything "new" but the activities, and you CAN substitute the new honey jalapeño bacon for regular bacon and it is delicious!

MOMENTS NEVER FORGOTTEN

I think my favorite times when we eat out include the conversation. The kids are always entertaining, and it is sweet to see how they are growing up into little adults. We will never get these moments back. Some days are absolutely trying as a parent, but nothing brings a smile to your face more than a stranger encouraging you and telling you how wonderful it is to see a large family enjoying meal OUTSIDE the home. I think it's rare to see large families out and about, let alone confined in a restaurant. There was a time when we didn't really go out because being outnumbered by toddlers and little ones isn't always fun and games (for them it is, though). Ha. But they are growing up, and have almost mastered their inside voices that getting out is good for ALL of us, especially on those nights where my "not today" attitude is showing. Food brings us together, and it's been blessing to have more opportunities to get out and dine together as a family. So, thank you Denny's! 

THE MENU

Some of the new and returning things that you'll see in this limited edition menu include:

  • Red, White & Blue Slam® - It's back! In honor of "Independence Day: Resurgence" this classic entree includes two fluffy blueberry buttermilk pancakes topped with strawberries, cream cheese icing, and whipped cream. Of course, a slam isn't complete without two eggs cooked to order, hash browns, and your choice of two bacon strips or sausage links.
  • Honey Jalapeño Bacon Slam® - Everything that the Slam is known for – two eggs cooked to order, two buttermilk pancakes, hash browns, and thick-cut honey jalapeño bacon.
  • Triple Bacon Sampler - SIX strips of bacon!! Two strips each of honey jalapeño bacon, turkey bacon, and hickory smoked bacon, hash browns, two eggs cooked to order, and your choice of bread (don't forget they have gluten free).
  • Honey Jalapeño Bacon Sriracha Burger - This is a Sriracha seasoned, hand pressed 100% beef patty topped with cheddar cheese, two strips of honey jalapeño bacon and creamy Sriracha sauce, served on Denny's new brioche bun with a  side of French fries.
  • Loaded Bacon, Steak & Potato Skillet - note, this does not include honey jalapeno bacon, but it can be substituted!
  • Bacon Cheddar Tots - House-made shredded potatoes, bacon and cheddar cheese, served with sour cream for dipping! I bet this would actually taste good with ketchup. Or ranch. Or both. Just saying.
  • Maple Bacon Sundae - say WHAT?! I'll have to go to Denny's again, but on an empty stomach, because honestly by the time we got to dessert, I couldn't look at anymore bacon. :) It is on our "try next" list. This is exactly what it sounds like. Premium vanilla ice cream, maple syrup and crispy bacon.  
  • Sweet Blueberry Sensations beverages
    • Lemon Berry Smoothie
    • Berry Blue Lemonade

ENTER THE SPECIAL SWEEPSTAKES

For a limited time, Denny's and Twentieth Century Fox are inviting you to participate in a fun sweepstakes, with the grand prize being whisked away to the red carpet for the Hollywood premier of Independence Day: Resurgence!

You can enter by posting a photo of a person that you'd want fighting alongside of you, should we ever encounter an alien invasion! Use the hashtag #IDRSweepstakes on Twitter and Instagram and be entered to win an all-inclusive trip to the Hollywood premier!

Are you enticed by the deliciousness of bacon? I'm not sure how well you can fight off aliens on a full stomach, but at that point I don't think you'd care. :)

This yummy conversation was sponsored by Denny's in an ongoing partnership to bring you the newest menus and special offerings, I am a  member of Denny's Diner Ambassador Council. All thoughts and opinions are magical and mine. :)

Back at it Again!

Travel, Family, EntertainmentCamilleComment

Well, it's the second quarter of 2016, and it has been an eventful year, thus far. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might have seen what I've been up to outside of work and family (surprisingly not too much, especially in the writing area). The past three months have been extremely busy and unfortunately, Sparks of Magic was put on the back burner as I worked, at one point 3 jobs, and maintained my sanity on the home front as mama, wife, and everything in between.

I'm relieved and so excited to say that I am pretty much settled into one full time job and our little business is doing great with my hubby taking the reigns on that! 

Here's a fairly quick recap of our family's last three months:

December:

image.jpg

Christmas!! We made an epic Christmas card (That I never sent out, aside from social media) dedicated to our family's favorite franchise: Star Wars. The holiday season was great to us. We were blessed with extra family time and I transitioned out of working multiple jobs. to just one. Yay! And as you can see below, my degree came in the mail! I finished my Bachelors program at the end of November. 

January:

I honestly can't remember January, aside from celebrating my mom's birthday, working, and staying afloat! This month almost everyone got the flu, it's kind of all a haze. :)

February:

Big changes, the hubby had a job change mid-month, and we began to officially plan our spring break excursion to Southern CA to see family, and our favorite Mouse. :)

March:

Spring Break finally rolled around, and the happenings included visits with family and friends in Los Angeles, a whirlwind day at Disneyland Resort, and, unfortunately, the hospital. Thankfully our daughter is doing well, and back at living life 110% full of energy and sass. :) Jeff and the kids that were in good health, spent a night at the beach with the in-laws. We had a blast, but think we need a "do-over" at the Happiest Place on Earth with no wheelchairs or ice packs involved!

So, what's up for the future?

Sparks of Magic: A lot of fun! In addition to picking up momentum here, I'll be linking to my writing that can be found on other fabulous sites like Disney Moms of Color, DisneyExaminer, Entertainment New Media Network, and The Blogorail!

I will be attending at least two conferences this year (ConnectHER and ENMN) that I can't wait to update you on and some ambassadorships/partnerships will be revealed soon! While I will continue to partner with brands that compliment my site and offer value to my readers, my writing will remain transparent and I plan on writing more from my heart. I'm excited for what is in store.

HAN Creative Co: We are thrilled to dive into offering workshops and expand some of our photography and event services. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, you can visit our business site: www.hancreativeco.com. We are currently taking a few design/small business clients over the next month, you can subscribe to our newsletter that will launch this quarter.

The Walls: For our family, we are putting it into the universe to spend more time together and travel as a family more. Whether it is a day trip or weekend getaway, we want to see the world - together. Bits and pieces of our documentation will be found both here on Sparks and on our business site. We are encouraging the kids to write more, and are setting up a place for them to do some of their own blogging and journaling of their lives and experiences on family trips. All in good time. :)

I want to thank those of you that have checked in with me to make sure I'm A-OK since my quarter-long blog hiatus. I appreciate all of you and cannot wait to be back in the groove of things again. I hope your 2016 is treating you fabulously! 

A Very Mickey Christmas

Family, Disney, EntertainmentCamilleComment

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Yellow Loop! Today we are sharing our Favorite Holiday Movies and TV Specials.

I have an affinity for all things Disney and Christmastime is no different. Even prior to getting married and having a family, my husband and I grew up with Disney and holidays coinciding. Naturally, when the time came, we introduced Disney magic and our kids have also grown to love the cherished stories of Mickey and Friends, too!

 This was a few years ago, I haven't gotten a picture of them all sitting still together with their hot cocoa since! :) 

This was a few years ago, I haven't gotten a picture of them all sitting still together with their hot cocoa since! :) 

One of our favorite pastimes includes family movie nights that leave us with peppermint hot chocolate hangovers and sweet dreams full of magic and the Christmas spirit! In fact, we just recently had one of those nights and it was so fun being home to snuggle with my favorite people and enjoy a Disney holiday fix.

Our first holiday movie that we watched this season was Its A Wonderful Life. It's my husband's favorite non-Disney holiday film, and I pretty much cried most of it. It's a great film, but my favorites are Disney so we decided to start out with Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas!

 Image © The Walt Disney Company

Image © The Walt Disney Company

We love Disney's holiday films, especially when they feature more than one story. Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas includes three stories, each special with a unique lesson teaching the spirit of Christmas, giving, friendship, family, and love. This special film anthology was released in 1999, and has been a favorite of mine ever since!

  Image © The Walt Disney Company

Image © The Walt Disney Company

Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas is a hilarious holiday take starring Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, as they are wishing to have Christmas every day and then realizing that Christmas is more than just presents and yummy food, but about cherishing time with loved ones and appreciating the season to spread joy and love with others.

  Image © The Walt Disney Company

Image © The Walt Disney Company

The next film, A Very Goofy Christmas, is probably our children’s least favorite film in the series, because they have never really been huge fans of Goofy’s son, Max. They often chatter about Max’s bad attitude and disrespect towards his dad, Goofy. Max does tend to have an attitude of entitlement (assuming it is because of his teenage years) and the kids recognize this as something we’ve really worked on teaching them - the importance of gratefulness and positivity. However, that being said, this specific film is always a good reminder for them to be grateful and have a good attitude even if things don’t go their way. We laugh together as we watch Goofy spread Christmas cheer and blessings to others in the film. Max eventually realizes the spirit of Christmas is about believing and sharing the joy and cheer with others.

  Image © The Walt Disney Company

Image © The Walt Disney Company

The final story is one of selflessness and love. This one is Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of Magi, a retelling of the classic story where a man gives the love of his life a special treasure by selling his most prized possession. Ironically, this woman gives up her most prized possession to compliment the man’s item. While their gifts end up being "useless" it is the idea of the priceless time and thought, and act of love by giving up what they love for the person they love.

I really appreciate that the films touch on topics that we can discuss with our kids, it is far more than entertainment and with everything that we watch, we attempt to share what we learned or took away from the stories. 

In this day and age, it is important to have these discussions with our kids, in order to foster a home environment that has open communication and is founded on love, learning and growing together.

If you have yet to see Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas, I highly suggest it! We will definitely be watching it again, in addition to the sequel, Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas, this weekend!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Yellow | Favorite Holiday Movies + TV Specials Loop:

How a Family of Seven Can Eat At #DennysDiners for Under $25!

Family, FoodCamilleComment

When you think of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's always nice to have a night out with the family, especially when you know that you won't be spending a ton of money! I made a plan to budget some money for a family dinner night at Denny's, with a goal of spending less than $25 before the tip, for all of seven us.

Sounds impossible, doesn't it? But I'm happy to report that not only was it possible, three of us even ended up eating off the regular menu, not the $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu! Every family is different and you must take into consideration any food allergies, or picky eaters. But once you get that squared away, it's pretty easy! Here are four easy tips on making your dollar stretch when you want to eat out at Denny's.

1. Find out when your local Denny's has "Kids Eat Free" night.

Our Denny's "Kids Eat Free" night is on Tuesday nights from 4 pm - 10 pm. The requirement for kids (13 and under) eating free is that one (1) adult purchases an entree $4 or more. Their meal does not include drinks. And the adult entree order can be from of the $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu.

You should also know that one adult entree entitles ALL of the children in your party to eat for free; this is the real deal, not a one-for-one special that many other places have. Obviously, since our kids outnumber us by 3, it's really nice and budget-friendly.

2. Plan your meal ahead of time with the kids.

Because I was challenging my wallet, I wanted to make sure there were no hiccups or "add ons" when ordering. This means, our kids didn't order drinks, just had water. I know, terrible, right? They're used to it because we typically don't drink soda or juice at home. Every once in a while they'll get a Shirley Temple or hot cocoa when we eat out, but that is not often.

They also understood that they couldn't add a million extra sides to their meal because each one costs extra. Instead of each of them tacking on french fries, we just ordered one big side order for $2 and they shared it. I should have clarified with our server if their extra sides were covered, but forgot to ask. 

Having your kids be part of the challenge is also fun because they try to figure out how much they can eat, or order within that monetary amount. You help them become decision makers and understand the value of money and what it can or can't buy. Luckily, for us, we ate when they got free meals, so ultimately it didn't matter as long as they ate from the kids' menu.

3. The $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu

For the kids that don't get enough in their tummies off the kids' menu, you can order from the $2 $4 $6 $8 value menu. My eldest (14) ordered the $6 Eggs in a Basket and she had so much food, she ended up bringing her hash browns home. When we realized the kids would eat for free, my husband and I deviated from ordering from the value menu, mine for allergy reasons; him, because he really wanted the Super Bird ($9.69) sandwich, haha.

You should also note that when you order from the value menu there are no substitutions, not even for allergy reasons. I think that is something they should consider in the future, considering the price of the gluten-free english muffin is the same price as the side of toast slices they'd use for the sandwich. In the end it didn't even matter because they were out of stock on the bread (even after calling ahead of time to confirm they had some), so I just ate chicken sausage, egg whites, and hash browns.

Here's a glimpse at the menu, there is a lot that you can choose from and even if your entire family at from the value menu you can still save!

4. Use coupons!

Denny's often does advertising through coupons in the paper or daily mail. Additionally, make sure to sign up at Dennys.com for rewards and you get a 20% off coupon. Since we recently participated in the Denny's No Kid Hungry initiative, we had a $5 off $20 coupon which came in handy for this trip.

Okay, so our grand total (not including the tip) was $24.04! That's pretty awesome for feeding all seven of us!

The kids are excited about the new holiday menu, including a holiday spirited milkshake and Rudolph pancakes! Stay tuned for our next adventure! :)


This is a sponsored conversation through my partnership with Denny's. All opinions shared are mine and hopefully added some magic to your day!

A Conversation About Charity, Over Ice Cream Shakes

Family, FoodCamilleComment

It's the last week of school before my kids will have their first quarter, two-week break. During this final week, my boys have 1/2 day sessions all week. In an effort to spice things up, and keep my sanity, I thought it would be a fun surprise to take them out on a little dessert date before we started homework. I met with both of their teachers in the morning for parent conferences, and I'm happy to report that they are both doing well. So, I whisked them away and we went on a Mommy/Sons date to Denny's! As brand ambassador, I make it a point to visit my local Denny's and chat with them about any promotions. In this case, I was prepared to discuss Denny's joint effort with No Kid Hungry. 


The minute we walked into Denny's they stood in amazement at all of the campaign fliers posted, signs on the table, and walls full of people's names. What simply started out as a fun dessert date with my boys turned into much more, as I shared with them the campaign I was working on with Denny's and No Kid Hungry.

They colored and ordered their Oreo blaster shakes. They also had fun testing out the Dreamworks COLOR app with the new HOME, Dinotrux, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman kids' menu. We talked a lot about food, and after all of their questions, I shared my part in the No Kids Hungry campaign. Sometimes I forget that inquiring minds want to know what I'm up to, and it was actually a proud moment for me because they understood the importance of the campaign.

For our family, we've been blessed to have huge support system with family members that lend a helping hand if we ever need it. I told them that not all kids have that luxury, and as a family that is blessed to receive help when we need it, we should pay it forward and do what we can to help others in need. I broke down the donation monetary amounts for them (it was a fun little math lesson), and told them that $1 provides up to 10 meals, and $10 provided up to 100! They thought that was pretty awesome, and immediately asked if we could participate... because, "kids are hungry and it's not right for them to be if everyone just helps." My eldest son had a sad look on his face and said he wished he didn't spend all his birthday money (way back in April) because he would give $10 to donate for 100 meals. I reassured him that we can't go backwards in time, only forward. So they can be mindful and grateful for all that they get to eat, and be willing to share what they have with others.

As I shared in my previous post for this initial campaign, my kids thankfully have never gone hungry for lack of food. The many times they are hungry, is usually due to a picky palate, not because they don't have anything to eat. This campaign really reminded me of the luxuries afforded to us that so many don't have. 

Did you know that if you dine in the restaurant and donate $3, you'll get coupons in return, well over the amount of your donation, for future dining? My boys were most excited to write their names on the wall, knowing we helped to give 30 meals to other kids today. They are both very tender hearted and simply can't imagine the thought of not being able to eat when they need it most.

Kids are so active, and the lack of nutrition truly affects their moods, retaining information and is a determining factor in their behavior. This cause is so important for that reason alone. We are talking about the future of our country – the minds of our children. 

If you're not able to get to a Denny's location, you're always welcome to donate directly through my fundraising link; there's still time to support the cause in ending child hunger in America. I hope you'll join me and my family, Denny's and No Kid Hungry as we work to bring awareness to this nationwide issue of child hunger.

This conversation was sponsored by Denny's. While I have been compensated to share my thoughts and help bring awareness to the No Kid Hungry campaign, All thoughts and opinions shared are mine.

Another First Day.

Thoughts, FamilyCamilleComment

It's barely 9 am and today has already been emotional. 

No, we didn't have any fights or frustrations; this morning went very well. If you have kids, you know that what might seem as a simple act of walking out the door, ON TIME, with kids in tow, really is an accomplishment. 

With our five kids, someone is bound to be in tears over the last bowl of cereal being eaten, forgetting to put their shirt in the dryer, or fighting over the bathroom, hair brushes, or socks!

I know that as the nervousness of a new environment fades, and they become more comfortable with their new school schedule, we might see a more typical morning at home – madness. Ha ha!

I loved seeing them walk together, help each other find things so they weren't late, and I'm grateful to have been here with them this morning to not only witness the angelic behavior, but to love on them and usher them into their newest journey.

I began the school drop offs at 7 am and was home by 8:15 am. Three schools later, and hugs with my five babies, I went back to my car with a sense of relief. I have been counting down to them going back to school, tired of hearing the "I'm boooooored" chant for days on end. But, even after all of that, in that moment alone, as I began to drive away, I let out a huge sigh and began to cry.

Talk about emo. :)

Today is a day of firsts; we now have a freshman in high school. We also have two 7th graders, and both of our boys are now "uppers" at the elementary school. As we move forward in life, we always have firsts and I want them to know it's okay to be nervous, but they should be excited to learn new things, grow in new ways and experience life with a new perspective.

It's so weird hearing my 7th grade baby girl  talk about her extracurricular activities for her college applications; she wants to go to Stanford or UCLA, so she's diving in and signing up for Science Olympiad and deciding what else she will pursue. Sometimes I want to say "STOP GROWING UP!" But, I know, this isn't Neverland.

I guess to keep it short and sweet, I am making it a point to remind myself that they will grow up. But as they do, I will keep stashing these memories like today away. When I'm feeling frustrated or stressed, I will pull these memories out and remember that I am not promised to have them tomorrow, and pretty soon, I will have my last "first" with them.

Have your kids gone back to school? Please tell me I am not the only crying mother. :) 

Raising Our Boys to Respect Women

Thoughts, FamilyCamilleComment

With all things in life comes responsibility, especially with how we treat others. We focus on respecting others' mind, body and soul. Teaching our kids to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions is important. In this journey of life we are privileged to raise our five children and hope to watch them flourish as responsible citizens and kind hearted people.