Indy + NCAA Final Four = FUN!

It’s March and in my house that means NCAA March Madness is finally here. We love college basketball like crazy. And one of the best parts about living in Indy is that we get to host the Final Four tournament every 4-6 years. Including THIS YEAR! And with the Final Four weekend just a month away, I’m getting excited and thought I’d share with you some fun events already planned for the weekend.mff_2015_logo

  • Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships : Thursday, April 2nd at 7pm at Hinkle Fieldhouse – Tickets are $16 for ages 13+. Kids ages 3-12: $8. Now in its 27th year, the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships feature 24 of the best collegiate dunkers and sharpshooters, and will be televised live on ESPN. Purchase tickets HERE. (We’re planning on going! Lucas LOVES this stuff!)
  • Final Four Friday : Friday, April 3rd – FREE. Watch the Final Four teams at Lucas Oil Stadium in one of their final practices before the national semifinal games. Fans who attend will have the opportunity to hear from each head coach after their sessions and engage in on-court promotions. The day concludes with the Reese’s College All Star-Game tipping off at 4:30 p.m. (We’ve been to these free practices in previous years and they are so fun for the kids! But SUPER packed full of people, so get there early if you care about where you sit.)
  • Final Four Fan Fest : Friday, April 3rd through Monday, April 6th at the Convention Center – Tickets are available online through March 15 for $8 – Adults ($10 starting March 16th); $4 – Children ages 3-11, Current College Students with valid ID, Senior Citizens ages 55+ and Military Personnel with valid ID ($5 starting March 16th) and FREE for kids 2 and under. This event is the ultimate pregame destination. It’s an indoor interactive event offering a chance to meet legendary coaches and former college stars at exclusive autograph sessions, sign up for daily youth clinics, and participate in a host of sport activities ranging from basketball to lacrosse to hockey and more. The weekend also boasts a variety of unique entertainment including the annual Final Four Pep Rally featuring the bands and cheerleaders from the four participating NCAA Final Four teams. Purchase tickets HERE.
  • NCAA March Madness Music Festival : Friday, April 3 through Sunday, April 5th : FREE. It’s a three-day outdoor music festival in downtown Indy. Performers haven’t been announced but past performers include Bruce Springsteen, Fun., Dave Mathews Band, Kenny Chesney, Sting, Jimmy Buffet, The Black Keys, Muse, Zac Brown Band, LL Cool J and The Kings of Leon. Details on times and places (and who!) can be found HERE.
  • NCAA Youth Clinics : Saturday, April 4th (doors open at 11 am, starts at noon) – FREE with registration for kids in grades 3-8. The clinics are a community outreach program where kids receive sport instruction from NCAA coaches and student-athletes and get valuable information on fitness, healthy lifestyles and sportsmanship. There are four locations throughout Indy and you can register HERE.
  • Road to the Final Four 5K : Saturday, April 4th (rain or shine) – $25 if you preregister, $30 on site. The event benefits the Coaches vs. Cancer® program, which is a collaborative effort between the American Cancer Society and National Association of Basketball Coaches. The 5K starts at the NCAA Hall of Champions. Register HERE.
  • The Final Four Dribble : Sunday, April 5th – FREE with registration for the first 3,200 kids to sign up. DRIBBLE a basketball through the heart of downtown Indy! Participating kids will receive a T-shirt, basketball and free entry into Final Four Fan Fest (on that day only). Register HERE. (We’re already signed up! Join us!!)

Indianapolis does a GREAT job at hosting sporting events. And the downtown area is beautiful and welcoming. So come downtown to my ‘hood and have some fun with us! We’ll be enjoying some of the events above but we’ll also just be hanging around downtown if the weather’s nice. SO JOIN US! We’re fun. :)

SPOTLIGHT on local non-profit JabuAfrica

I’ve mentioned lately that I’ve been struggling to write here, primarily because I feel like my brain is scattered and I’m not sure how to share all of that mess. But what has happened in this absence is my desire to better use this “platform” for good. I’ll still be writing about what I’m thinking and feeling, but I’m going to narrow it down to a few things: my community, my parenting (choices and struggles) and my passions.

One way you’ll see this new focus is in a new monthly series about organizations that I think are doing amazing things. It’s called SPOTLIGHT and first up is an organization near and dear to my heart: JabuAfricaJabuAfrica_RGB.1.2

A little tidbit about me: I’ve always wanted a brown baby. Always. Like, I can’t remember NOT wanting a little brown baby. The night before I got married (to a white man), my mom said to me, “Katie, you know you’re not going to have a brown baby biologically now, right?”

Another little (more important) tidbit about me: I have a HUGE passion for kids who grow up in less than ideal conditions – physically or emotionally. I imagine the differences between the hearts of my children (who aren’t parented perfectly for sure, but who have more than basic physical necessities and are loved through and through and are told and shown that every single day) and those kids who are never hugged, told they’re loved, tickled, laughed with or feel complete joy from a parent.

One more tidbit: I’ve always felt a pull towards Africa. I can’t explain it. My close friend Sarah Castor sums it up perfectly. She writes “There is a Congolese proverb that says, ‘You can outrun what chases you but not what is inside you.’… For whatever reason, my heart has always been pulled there…” This resonates within me exactly.

There is such amazing beauty in the African land.

Photo credit: Sarah Castor

Photo credit: Sarah Castor

There is also extreme generational poverty like nothing I’ve seen.

Photo credit: Sarah Castor

Photo credit: Sarah Castor

In comes JabuAfrica. Sarah (and her husband Dave) adopted three boys from Africa. Their sons were born in South Africa, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of Congo respectively. And it was out of their adoption journeys that she founded JabuAfrica to work as a partner walking alongside initiatives that empower Africans and provide the resources for leaders to rise up and lead their communities.

I love what Sarah says in this: “It was my love of Africa that led me to adopt but it is now my deeper love and understanding that motivates me to empower families so that poverty does not determine a mother’s story, a father’s story or a child’s future.”

I love that so much. And that’s exactly what JabuAfrica and it’s partners are doing: empowering families. It’s what we all want, right? To feel empowered to make the best choices for our families? The thing is, we already have a million legs up simply by living in the US.

Last year, I was given the amazing opportunity to hear about with JabuAfrica is doing with one of it’s partners, Giving Back to Africa. I was speechless and my heart was filled while listening to and seeing the impact the programs are having in the DR Congo. PLEASE take the next 7 minutes and watch this video to see how they are helping the Congolese people take control over the future of their people.

There is so much more I want to tell you. More about JabuAfrica and its partners. More about Sarah and her love that is completely contagious. But you can read all about it on their website. What I really want you to do is get involved. I did because I was giving to a big international organization and I was seeing reports after reports about how little money actually goes to those programs and even more so, programs that were actually empowering its people. Since I personally know Sarah and her heart, I know my giving is being used in the best way.

How can you get involved you ask? Sign up for updates from JabuAfrica through their website. Donate if your heart is in this like mine. Go to their big fundraising event in July. (I’ll totally be there and I’d LOVE for you to join me! And it’ll be FUN. I promise you that.)

And ask me about it in person. I’d love to share more with you. And hopefully one day I’ll be able to show you my own pictures of Africa and share my own stories of the people. Once Sarah agrees to take me with her on her next trip. :)

One shade of who gives a #*&@

I have NOT read any of the Fifty Shades of Grey books. I didn’t read any of the Twilight books either and when my writer-friend Shireen told me how poorly she thought of the 50 Shades books (because of how crappy they were written, etc. and NOT because of the sexual nature) I just never had the desire to read them.

So what I’m about to say is based solely on my personal interaction with friends. I haven’t read reviews of the movie or read a single article about it either. But here’s what I’ve got to say: Who cares what two CONSENTING ADULTS do in a sexual relationship as long as it’s, again, consensual between two adults and legal? (I throw legal in there so no one can come out and talk to me about bestiality, child sexual abuse, etc.)

shades

Whether or not you agree with what she (I don’t even know her name) does with Christian Grey, or lets him do to her, is not the point. If it’s agreed upon by two adults, under terms they set together, and they both feel safe within the agreed-upon situation, why do you care about it? It’s THEIR choice. Not ours. (I mean, I guess if you want to get critical, it was the author’s decision, because remember, this is a non-fiction book we’re talking about.)

If you want to talk about Grey controlling her, let’s talk about control. In every single sexual interaction between two people, someone is in control. In the standard, most common mission sex position, someone’s on top and someone’s on bottom. If literally being on top of someone doesn’t signify control, I don’t know what does. There’s always some level of control in a relationship. And that’s okay as long as you’re on the same page with your partner.

I’m sure this woman has self-esteem issues from what I’ve been told. (Don’t we all?) It sounds like maybe Christian Gray takes advantage of his “age and experience” and her lack-there-of. (I’m not entirely sure I care since she willingly walked into this relationship as an adult knowing her own age and experience.) I’m sure I won’t let my kids read the books or watch the movie. (Especially since they are all too young and not the target audience.) I would probably not do things I’ve heard they do sexually in the book/movie. (It just doesn’t turn me on.) I also won’t go see the movie in the theater. (Because honestly it makes me uncomfortable sitting with a 100 strangers watching graphic sex scenes.)

BUT. (And this is a HUGE butt. Kinda like mine.)

(See what I did there?)

Here’s the deal: We all have the freedom to enter into grown-up relationships. OR NOT. And what you chose to do sexually within the consenting boundaries of your marriage (okay, or whatever relationship you’re in) is YOUR choice only.

So be all gung-ho about non-consenting sexual abuse issues. But don’t knock someone down or tell someone they’re wrong because they’re turned on by something that you don’t understand. Especially if you haven’t even read the non-fiction books.

(This is all about a non-fiction book series for adults that NO ONE is required to read, right? Geesh.)

 

on being real and genuine. and not stupid.

I know it’s been quiet around here.

It’s been intentional. Kind of.

I can’t really write what I feel lately. I’m feeling things too much, too raw, to write it out because then I’ll probably share way more than any of you are paid to read since you’re not my therapist.

I’m struggling with this stage of life that I’ve been in for too long. And there’s no “light at the end of the tunnel” moment in sight. Life is hard and I’m trying hard to live it rather than be stuck in it. But that’s hard too.

But I also want to maintain some balance here. Not only complain, but encourage too. That’s why I started writing: because it helps me and because I hope it’ll help you. But sometimes I write and don’t publish because it’s just to help me and those “letters” (because they’re more like letters than posts) aren’t really meant for anyone else to see. I imagine they might help someone but they’re too personal to share for the other 99% of you that it won’t help.

I kinda just want to live in one of two fantasy worlds right now. One would look like this.Fantasy World One

My family would live right on the canal in downtown Indy. The canal would be our backyard. The kids could just go feed the ducks and ride their bikes around the canal at anytime. It’d be perfectly safe with no strangers and the kids would never fall in the canal because this is my fantasy world.

My other fantasy world would be me with no kids. It’s okay. Pick up your chin and let me explain. Of course I love my kids and I wouldn’t ACTUALLY want them gone. It’s just that I’m tired. Physically and emotionally. Having four kids (which I totally understand how it happened thank you and that I’m blessed and that I’ll look back on this time and miss it) is kind of wiping me out right now. They’ve been sick and mouthy and sick again and again. Until the end of last week, I was having several really horrible tension headaches every single day for over three weeks. And I still had to parent my kids. There are no breaks when you’re a mom. None.

See? This is why I haven’t written. Because I’m not sure this will encourage anyone. Pregnant? Well don’t read this. I’m sure I could do the same with marriage. In love? Engaged? Well if I write about marriage at this point you won’t want to read that either.

Here’s the thing. I obviously wouldn’t want my life without my kids or my husband. But sometimes it would just be nice to be alone and have NO responsibilities. (Or someone to do them all for you at the very least. Like a husband that was also a maid, cook and nanny.)  To just run away for awhile and only take care of myself.

So what have I been doing the last two days to combat this inner crap running around in my head? Listening to Lead Me To The Cross (I prefer the version by Francesca Battistelli). This is the part that I’ve been hearing the loudest right now:

lead me to the cross
where your love poured out. 
bring me to my knees, 
lord I lay me down.
rid me of myself,
I belong to you.
lord lead me, lead me to the cross

This might not be your thing. And that’s totally ok. All I ask is that if you find yourself feeling stuck or lonely or uncared for (I don’t even think “uncared” is a word but I don’t care), don’t do something stupid. Don’t do something that’ll keep you stuck. Talk to a supportive friend, not one who will pull you down farther. Get off Facebook if you’re lonely and it’s making it worse or connecting you with someone you shouldn’t be connecting with. Write. Write and throw away your thoughts. It helps me. (Most of the time at least.)

I don’t know the point of this post. I’m not sure I started out writing this to actually publish it. I just wanted to keep it real I guess. To *not* write right now would feel less genuine than writing a crap happy holidays post.

Anyways, don’t do something stupid. And be real and genuine. That is all.

Winter Woven review

One of my favorite local Indianapolis artists is Kyle Ragsdale. We have two “Kyles” (as we like to call them) hanging in our home. So last month when I saw that he was the artist for a new children’s book I was PSYCHED.

The book is called Winter Woven and is about a nine year-old girl who receives a scarf as a gift and loses it.Winter Woven cover

The touching and vivid story about loss and a desperate search is written for an older child (8+ through adulthood) but even those younger will be drawn in by the amazing oil paintings gracing the pages of the book.

Winter Woven example

As you can see above, the words are even illustrated, lending wonderful ways of changing tone and rhythm while reading.

Winter Woven beautyI’ll be honest – I love this book mainly because of the scenes captured by Kyle. And of course, the scenes couldn’t be created without the lovely story written by local author Garrett Curry. Simply the fact that two local artists, one of painting and one of words, collaborated to create this book makes me love it even more.

You can purchase this gorgeous 11×11, 32-page, hard-back book on Etsy for $24.99. Go! Buy it now for your kids for Christmas! It’ll be a beautiful addition to your bookshelf or coffee table and you’ll be supporting local artists. There’s not much better than that.

 

Disclosure: I received a digital version of this storybook to write this review and will receive a hard copy as well. As always, ALL opinions written here are my own and are only influenced by my deep love for the work of Kyle Ragsdale. :)

 

Fresh Artistry Review

Sometimes I plan dinner for the week, go to the grocery and actually make what I plan.

Sometimes my son locks himself in my bedroom while I’m getting ready for work. And because our house is over 100 years old and still has the original doors which only lock from the inside, it’s cheaper to saw holes in the walls between closets to get him out (and get in to unlock the door) than it is to ruin a $400 door.Lucas in the wall

On those days, dinner doesn’t get planned. The meat doesn’t get taken out of the freezer. The 13 ingredients to make a nice, fresh dinner don’t get prepped. And we end up eating chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.

This is where Super Man should come flying in to save dinner with a great fresh meal ready for me to make.

But wait! That’s not Super Man! It’s Fresh Artistry!

What is Fresh Artistry? Fresh Artistry is a service that delivers locally designed recipes and fresh, proportioned ingredients to your home. Fresh Artistry helps you make chef-grade meals for your family without the hassle.

It’s pretty smart (and amazing) actually. You choose a meal (up to 3 per week) from their 7-recipe menu online and they deliver ALL THE INGREDIENTS to your door. And not just the ingredients, but measured and packaged separately with complete and SIMPLE instructions included. If you can read and follow a recipe, you can’t mess this up. It is SO CONVENIENT. And delicious.Fresh Artistry Ingredients

We were able to test out the service for a meal. We got the Peach-Chipotle Glazed Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Green Beans. I was a little nervous about the glaze since my husband and half of my kids are pretty picky eaters. The meal was delivered to me the same day is was packed in a box with an insulated liner and ice packs. The ingredients were fresh and pre-measured for an easy and quick prep before cooking. Since the recipes are tested extensively and focused on short start-to-finish times, it was a breeze to follow and cook. Simply eliminating the shopping and prepping for a chef-grade meal made me feel like I could cook a fresh, local and delicious meal even on busy nights.

Even better? MY WHOLE FAMILY LOVED IT. Even picky Adam, who doesn’t like peach anything, asked for more of the glaze (which I put on the side just in case because of my family’s tastes). He actually even said he’d consider PAYING for the service! (If you know my husband AT ALL, you know this is a HUGE statement.)Fresh Artistry Meal

The website says the family plans should feed 2 adults and 2-3 kids, but it fed my whole family (2 adults and 4 kids ages 12 to 1.5), which will cost you about $30 per meal. They also have smaller plate plans for smaller households (which run about $20 per meal) and delivery is free for either plan.

Fresh Artistry is fully launching it’s services TOMORROW, Friday 12/5. I encourage you to try it out. Because I already make most of our meals from fresh, local ingredients, we probably won’t use the service regularly because of our budget, but we’ll definitely do it again. One of the things I loved is that my kids all wanted to try it – which is CRAAAAZY because usually when I make new things NO ONE wants to even taste it, but because this was kind of like getting carry-out (just cooked at home) my kids thought it was like eating restaurant food. Which apparently changes whether or not they even TRY new foods. (Whatever.)

Go here www.freshartistry.com/faq to read more about the company, how it got started and some details I haven’t included here. And give it a shot. I think you’ll be extremely pleased. And you’ll be supporting a local business which always a plus.

DIY Reaction Contraction (aka Ball Wall)

One of my favorite places in Indy to take my kids is the Children’s Museum. It never gets old to them and it gives me a place to take the kids when they’re bored at home. And while we’re there, It gives me great ideas of things to do with them at home as well.

Did I tell you that I’m writing a monthly post for the Children’s Museum about doing just that? Each month I get to write about how the museum exhibits spark ideas and activities for us to do at home. You can check out my posts by clicking Right! Here! (go ahead! Click!)

This month we decided to make our own Reaction Contraction, also lovingly known in our house as the “Ball Wall.” Reaction Contraption at Playscape

It’s my boys’ favorite part of the entire museum so we cheaply and quickly made one to play with at home. So I thought I’d share how we did it.DIY Reaction Contraction

So fun (kid-tested, ages 18 mos to 12 years). Super easy (um, do you know me?). Super cheap (under $7).

Here’s what you’ll need:Supplies

  • various sizes of empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls (I used 14)
  • a display board (mine was 36 in x 24 in)
  • enough felt to cover the board (mine took about 1/2 yard)
  • Velcro (we used about 22 inches of the scratchy side only)
  • hot glue gun (it took 2 sticks)
  • scissors
  • a small, lightweight ball (like a ping pong ball)

We started about a month ago by saving paper rolls as they were emptied around the house. I cut out a section running the length of the roll. On the longer rolls, I just cut out a small section of each end so that it resembled a tunnel, big enough that a ball could roll in and out of easily.

I then cut about 1.5 inch pieces of the scratchy side of the Velcro. (See how uncrafty I am? I don’t even know what that side is called.) I hot glued one piece on the small toilet paper rolls and two pieces (one of each end) on the longer rolls. Make sure to secure the Velcro to the side of the roll and not the side opposite of where you cut. Remember, it needs to stick to the board so that the open side faces up.Track pieces

We also had some old display boards the kids use to paint projects on while inside the house. Any kind of sturdy display board or cardboard will work. I laid the board on top of the felt and cut around the board leaving a 1-2 inch border. Work your way around the board, squeezing the hot glue in small sections onto the board and then folding over the felt onto the hot glue to tightly secure it to the back of the board, fully covering the opposite side of the board with felt.IMG_7493

Now PLAY! I started by setting up a pattern that I thought would work and let Lucas (4 years old) put the ball down the first time. He attempted to fix the places that failed and kept maneuvering the track pieces so it would go all the way down.

Then I took them all off and had him create his own track. It was super simple but he was so happy and proud of himself when it worked.IMG_7503

Then Cami (8 years old) and Alaina (12 years old) lined up for turns. I had to make Alaina stop to go to bed. I had NO idea either of them would even look twice at it, but they had a great time trying to out-do each others’ designs.

So the next time you’re at the museum, look to see how you can bring those favorite exhibits home with you. We had so much fun recreating our own Ball Wall. :)