Tuesday, May 24, 2011

5 Summer Getaways Every Kid Should Experience (sponsored)

There are some obvious summer vacations that every child should experience: a beach vacation, an amusement park trip...But there are some other, slightly more obscure getaways that still resonate with me from childhood. I hope to let my children experience at least some of them:
  • A week in the country. My mom grew up in rural west Tennessee, just north of the booming metropolis of Jackson. Many summers, she took my sister and me up to visit our country kinfolk. I wouldn't  trade those trips for anything. They were so different from our day-to-day summer in Memphis. Picking blackberries. Hiking gullies. Riding four-wheelers. Walking to "the store" to get a tall glass bottle filled with Nu-Grape soda. I can still feel/hear/smell/taste the entire experience.
  • A camping trip in a tent. This one didn't go so well for our family. We borrowed a tent from my uncle and headed to the Smoky Mountains (a great getaway of its own). As soon as we set up camp, torrential rains began pouring. At some point in the night, we abandoned the tent and slept crammed into the camper cover that was on the back of my dad's pickup. In the morning, we were awakened by park rangers on bullhorns, urging us to "evacuate immediately".We spent the rest of the trip in a hotel. But your camping trip will go much, much better.
  • A driving trip to Washington DC. There is nothing like the wonder of the monuments, the museums, and the general patriotism of DC. Our family spent one year living in Baltimore, so I was fortunate enough to take a couple trips to our nation's capital as a little kid. I hope to give this experience to my own children someday soon.
  • A cross-country journey. I've never done this, truthfully. But I'm a big advocate of road trips (really don't love to fly, actually). I'd love to drive west, stopping when the ocean begins. Along the way, we'd see all the great things we could, stop and eat road food, and buy lots of tchotkes. Ah, to be on sabbatical so that vacation days (or lack thereof) wasn't a concern!
  • A week at the gulf coast. This is my memory of older-childhood vacations. We would get a condo so we didn't have to eat out for every  meal, but when we did get to go out to eat, we would gorge ourselves on shrimp and oysters (well, except for my dad, who has a deathly allergy). My mom and dad would lounge under beach umbrellas, nursing adult beverages all day while we body surfed and looked for shells. More years than not, we replicate this vacation for our children, I'm happy to report. 
Vacations are memory makers for your children, and they don't have to break the bank. A week in the country holds just as dear a spot in my heart as those spendy trips to DC do. Get creative and make some getaway memories with your kids!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

this couldn't be any cuter



Occasionally, I like to run downtown at lunch. There is a nice trail along the river, then I can run back through the city streets. And I get to see some oddities I don't see running through the neighborhood. Nothing earth-shattering, just a little bit of weirdness to break up the day:
  •  Broken little bird eggs on the ground. I hope the birds are snug in their nests with their babies, rather than being consumed by a nasty raccoon. Even if their city pigeons.
  • On the bird theme, I saw a pretty little male cardinal, dead on the sidewalk. It was odd, cause he looked so dignified - almost like he was just asleep there under a tree. Natural causes.
  • 2 old ladies on walkers, smoking cigs on the sidewalk outside an office building. One was wearing bright purple pants and an oversized acid-washed jacket. Kick it old-school 80's, smokin grandma.
  • Shattered green tiles from an abandoned building. I actually picked up a shard and brought it home. It's that opaque green glass from the 30s and 40s. Wish I would've gotten more.
  • The river is super-high right now. All of the trees beside the river are underwater.

Monday, April 18, 2011

In debt (guest post)

Finance is not fun, ever.  Even for my father, who worked with numbers everyday for a very large company.  At the end of each of these days, he’d come home and cuss at the lingering budget numbers that would give him headaches long after he had left the office.  Usually a conversation about money and debt only serves to prompt anxiety and trigger depression . . . kind of like talking about weight, or those hazy college Saturday nights.  But the unfortunate reality is that sooner or later you have to deal with your debts.
Now that summer is rapidly approaching us, and the little ones will be home . . . all day . . . looking for trouble, the idea of saving money (let’s be honest, there’s something about warm weather that just coaxes the spender out of us – most likely it’s all that vitamin D that keeps us happy and carefree) seems a bit impossible.  Not to say it isn’t a daunting thing to consider at any point during the year, but at least during the other 9 months out of the year there aren’t sticky fingered little people fighting with each other.  Here are a few ideas to help bring in some income that don’t require the kids to be at school.
  • Sell your old/unwanted possessions.  This isn’t a new idea, but it’s rare that most people actually follow through on it.  Going through things, organizing, letting go, pricing, it’s all most definitely a process.  This can be three times the project if you have children, but let them have a say – get them into the habit of letting go of material things, that they no longer actually need or want, early.  When it comes to toys, donating may be an even better choice.  I once had a stuffed animal collection that I never touched, but couldn’t stand the thought of selling.  Who would these new owner’s be?  Would they be as neglectful as me?  But after visiting a local children’s hospital, I decided, much to my mother’s surprise, that I wanted to give them to the children there.  Regardless if you’re donating or selling, in the long run the purge will leave you with a clutter free space and mind, and if you’re lucky some extra bucks in your pocket too.
  •  Type/Proofread papers.  Doesn’t it seem like everyone’s in school or is going back to school to avoid dealing with these bad unemployment rates?  And where are these people getting the money to go back to school?  Well, they’re all taking out loans, which means most of them are still also working some sort of part-time job while pursuing their degree.  Not everyone has the time to type up and proofread their documents while juggling a job (or two!).  If you’re good with spelling and grammar, offer these services to them at an affordable rate.  They’ll be more than happy to pay for the help.  Set aside library time a few days a week, let the kids sit and read while you make money.
  • Baby-Sit.  Well, if you’re lucky (relatively speaking) to be home during the summer months (as my mother was), then you already know that not every mother is privy to such a gift.  Many parents are seeking a reliable and affordable alternative to mainstream daycare, which can get costly or, even more expensive, camp.  Not to mention the best benefit of all: instant cash.

    This guest post is brought to you by Nicole Bostic of DebtConsolidation.com.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Spring storms

    Like most people, I love a cool, thundery shower on a spring night. Makes sleep so deep, so sound.

    But in the south, we don't get that kind of rain in the spring. We get, angry black skies with vertical sheets of water crashing down. And when the rain stops, but the sirens go off? Get in the bathroom. Pronto.

    I've lived in a hook-echo path from Memphis to Dallas for almost my whole life. Tornado alley. I've rode out literally hundreds of storms. My attitude toward tornado sirens has varied from complete fear (as a child) to nonchalance (as a 20-something, pre-kids) to my current healthy mix of fear and respect, which was brought on by a too-close-for-comfort glancing tornado blow - just 2 blocks from our house. That was 3 years ago.

    Last night was one of those angry stormy nights. I'm a weather junkie, so I knew it was coming. Awoke around midnight and checked the radar on my phone. On cue, I heard thunder in the distance. Here it comes.

    When the sirens went off, about an hour later, I went to turn on the TV (no signal). I looked outside to one of the angriest, windiest rains I can remember. Instead of pulling out the weather radio, I hit twitter, where the people I follow (a mix of friends, experts, and eccentrics) appeared to be doing the same. Weather geeks posting radar screen shots. Meterologists deploying storm chasers (badass).

    And moments after getting the all-clear, folks posting videos and checking on each other. Amazingly, a friend posted a tree had downed on her house, and others, at 2 am, offered to "drive to Wally world" to get a tarp. It was the virtual equivalent of convening in the front yards to check on each other, and it was so amazing.

    I know I've posted before about how technology has changed things, but this is ridiculous. In the best of ways.

    Wednesday, April 06, 2011

    little switches

    Sometimes, little switches make a disproportionate amount of difference. Over the past 6-7 years, I've become quite a bit more environmentally conscious. I HOPE that the little changes we've made around the house will eventually  make a big difference, but the fact of the matter is: these little changes are just a drop in the bucket. To make a real difference, we all need to make little changes. For that matter, we really need to make big changes as a world to make a big difference. Here are some things we've done to try and make a difference:
    • Our city has a very easy, no-sort (hence no-hassle) recycling program, and I'm pretty meticulous about recycling paper, glass and aluminum. Weekly pick-up means you really don't have to have tons of recyclables laying around for very long. I estimate, that by recycling rather than trashing recyclables, we've reduced our trash output by about 30%.
    • Even though I detest the light put out by fluorescent light bulbs, we've made the switch. I don't hate them any less, but I cope.
    • By moving closer in to the city center (and moving to a smaller city), we've cut our commutes by about 50%. This is not only environmentally conscious, it also makes it so we can afford gas!
    • I consign my clothes (when they're in great condition), and donate them (when they're in not-so-great condition). Same for the girls' clothes. JB wears his clothes til they're worn out, so they are usually unsuitable, even for donation. Realistically, that should be my goal for all of us. But I gotta live somehow right?
    • I try to donate toys where they'll get the most use: classrooms, day care, or a family who is short on funds.
    • I have begun composting, and it really makes a difference in the soil quality for my small herb garden. We avoid some manufactured chemicals by composting food waste.
    Here are some things I think we SHOULD do - most of these are bigger changes, which is why we haven't made them yet:
    • Further lessen driving. I go home for lunch many days, and that adds one more back and forth car trip to each day. With gas prices continuing to increase, reducing driving by at least one trip per day makes good financial sense, along with environmental sense
    • Begin avoiding plastic containers - things like food storage containers, etc.
    • Quit buying so much new stuff. Seriously. We have way too much stuff.
    • Move away from manufactured fertilizer/weed control for the lawn. I am so reluctant to do this, as I don't have a clue how to maintain our stupidly big yard without chemicals. And truthfully - I'm afraid it's going to be WAY more work than I'm willing to do.
    • Move to a less meat-based diet. I don't think we could become vegetarian (my family LOVES meat), but maybe just a few subtle changes to lessen meat consumption?
    My 2 children need to learn to be good stewards of the world. I hope that, with these little switches, I'll help them learn by example.

    I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Cottonelle blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Easter -- My favorite things

    Easter is such a pretty and inspirational holiday. Though not my top fave, it is definitely up there on the list (for the record, my faves are Thanksgiving and Fourth of July). Here are some things that make this a special holiday:
    • The symbolism. Spring is a time of rebirth, and as a Christian, it's also a time for me to "clean out" and start over. Nice and fresh. Just like the flowers, trees and grass do.
    • On that topic, church is always especially inspirational on Easter morning. And the little girls look so pretty in their new dresses with smudgeless white sandals. Also, I do love a boy (big or small) in white bucks. Add seersucker, and I swoon.
    • Ham. Preferably a Petit Jean ham, with homemade mac and cheese, lemony asparagus,  a nice bowl of sugared strawberries, and some yeasty rolls. 
    • Cadbury mini eggs. Good lord, if these were sold all year, I'd be as big as a house.
    • Easter egg coloring! This really should be at the top of the list, but I'd feel bad about putting it ahead of the true symbolism of the season.
    • Easter egg hunts are fun too, but the Easter bunny really would like to sleep in most Easter mornings. Hiding eggs before sunrise means that she often forgets where she put them. But I wouldn't miss the deviled eggs for nothing.
    • Easter pics. Taking my girls' pictures in front of my pretty pink peonies is one of the great rituals of this season. Now I feel compelled to go Easter dress shopping. Right now.
    • The weather. Yes, we have had cold Easters in Little Rock. But more often, the air is warm and mellow. Not too hot, not too cool. 
    • Pretty bunny and chick images. The Golden Egg Book is so quintessentially EASTER. And so beautiful. I cherish it.  You will too.
    Here are a few things that DON'T make my list of Easter loves:
    • Jelly beans. Never have loved them.
    • Peeps. These marshmallow candies have a half-life. I used to enjoy these, but  now I am grossed out.
    • Cadbury Cream Eggs. (See Peeps above).
    • Spring has sprung by the time Easter arrives. That means just a few more weeks til the heat and humidity set in. Summer is my least favorite season, I think.
    • Easter grass. Pretty? Sorta. Impossible to clean up? Always.

    “I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hop blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

    ski time!

    S and I went with our church youth group to Breckenridge, CO for a weeklong ski trip over spring break. I know just enough about skiing to be dangerous. My previous ski experience comprises 1/2 a day of skiing in the Poconos on the bunny slopes. 20 years ago. I remember being simultaneously terrified and invigorated, with a heaping dose of SORE.

    This time was different. We started our ski days with 1/2 day of ski lessons, which was worth every penny. After that, we were, remarkably, cut loose on the mountain. Some thoughts:
    • Altitude AIN'T fun. Having to stop mid-staircase to catch your breath? A pain in the ass. But returning home and running your "long" run without getting winded is a gift.
    • Kids are remarkably resilient and superfast learners. They all schooled me on the slopes. Presumably because of their lack of fear and their flexible bones.
    • Traveling with a youth group isn't like traveling with your family. It's basically a week-long camping trip. No exploring the high-end restaurants and bars in the precious town. Also, many of the kids will burn through their money in the first 2 days. Be prepared to make pb&Js for these poor planners.
    • Another way youth group travel is like camping: sleeping arrangements. If a condo sleeps 8, they mean: sleeps 8 if you're sharing a couch-bed with 2 more people.
    • Ya'll, Kansas is HUGE. And WINDY. Death-defying in a church bus.
    But I am now a ski-lover. I can't wait to go back.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Motherhood doesn't make you special: a rebuttal

    In response to a provocative post on the great blog: Damn You Little Rock: I agree. I'm not special cause I'm a mother. The only thing that makes me "special" or "chosen" for motherhood is a set of ovaries. That? Ain't special.

    But. the job we do as parents is a very special, very important one. We hold the safety and well being of our children in our hands every time we load 'em up in a car to haul 'em to dance class or whatever. And even moreso: our parenting tactics can make or break the delicate self confidence of a child who will one day be an adult, who, God-willing, will be an incredibly special person.

    recent stuff from Goosey