Thursday, March 26, 2009

Traveling with Children

Last week, my kids and I went on a trip back "home" to Georgia. In all, it's about a 17 hour drive from where we live in Kansas. Oh, did I forget to mention that we brought our dog along, too? I bet you are expecting the rest of this post to sound a bit like a nightmare, and I'm sorry to let you down! The traveling part was actually no big deal at all! Yes, my kids tend to fight. And they also get along really well. And no, I don't know what it is about them, but they have always traveled quite well. I wish I knew the secret to offer to parents whose kids whine, complain, argue, etc. from the backseat, but in 17 hours, I heard very little. And let me remind you...a good portion of the trip is through what some people call "boring" Oklahoma and Kansas.

On the way out, we were in the car by 4:40 am. My son stayed up all night, so he was asleep within 30 minutes. My daughter, who had gotten a couple of hours of sleep, held out a little longer. She was also the one who woke up when I stopped to get gas the first time, and of course, had to potty. It was snowing! About six hours into the trip, they were both awake, and we listened to music from my mp3 player. (In case you don't know this, for older vehicles, you can get a thingy that plugs into the cigarette lighter that allows you to play your mp3 player through your radio.) We had already been through snow, freezing rain, and now RAIN. As a matter of fact, it rained the rest of the trip and rained for three days once we arrived in Georgia.

Just past Little Rock, Arkansas, my van engine started rattling. This terrified me since I had just had $1300 of work done on my 14 year old van! I pulled off an exit where there were 4-5 visible hotels. I figured if we were going to get stuck somewhere, this would be the place! I went to one hotel and asked where there was an auto shop. They directed me about two miles away, and when I got there, I wanted to turn around and leave. It was a dump and scared me! Luckily, they did not work on Nissans, but directed me to another shop at the next exit. The man who helped me had most of his teeth and this shop was much less scary! After driving it 40 miles (with the dog still in his crate in the van!) the man came back and said that there was no rattling, but perhaps I had gotten some bad gas and it had worked its way through the system? YAY!!

After that, (and because I had only gotten two hours of sleep the night before) I decided we should stay overnight in West Memphis. We found a decent Motel 6, which was close to Waffle House, and they are pet friendly. Yay again! But I did learn something that might help you...make sure you tell them that you want a room with Wi-Fi if you need it. They had a big red sign that read "Wi-Fi here" or something like that, on the outside of the hotel. But once we got settled in and we needed the activation key to get online, we found out it's only available in certain rooms! Unfortunately we had a new girl check us in, and she neglected to ask if we needed it. Fortunately I was too tired to care too much and I fell asleep before 8 pm. The room was about $40 and decent enough. A great place to crash just to re-charge and finish the trip.

The next day, we were supposed to go through Tuscaloosa and see a gymnastics meet between Alabama, North Carolina, and OU (University of Oklahoma). The kids decided to skip that and go directly to their uncle's house, so that's what we did. We went through Birmingham instead and the drive was quick...and then we hit "Atlanta" traffic. We were just in Kennesaw, but if you live anywhere near, you know that it takes forever to get anywhere, and that is why I moved to Kansas! After staying there for a couple of days, and getting treated to Japanese, The Varsity, Chick-fil-a, and the new movie "The Race to Witch Mountain," we left for my sister's house about an hour away.

We met at the Gwinnett Arena, where we got to watch the "last place" Gladiators kick the tails of the first place FL "Everblades." It was SO much fun!

During the rest of the trip I was able to reconnect with old friends, visit my parents, spend some time at Bass Pro Shops, shop at the Lego store, get a tattoo, eat LOTS, swim at a cool indoor pool, and... wow, I think that's it! When I left GA, I drove to Murfreesboro, TN to visit my childhood friend, where we spent the night. From there, it was 13 hours to get home. So we got up around 4:30 again, and drove on a Sunday, all the way home. Other than the people who don't know that the left lane is for passing, (grrrrrrr) the trip was uneventful. The kids didn't even watch any TV during this trip, even though we had two TV's available and some new movies that we bought on the trip (because we brought the DVD player and forgot to bring any movies! d'oh!) When I got a chance to look in the rearview mirror, I saw them looking out at the scenery, and I wondered if they were like me...making up stories about the things I saw out the window. I'd been doing that since I was a little girl. During this trip we saw farmland, lakes, rivers, cool bridges, mountains, and lots of other travelers.

I can't wait to get on the road again. If you have never taken a road trip with your children out of fear of their behavior, just do it! It may work out much better than you expect and you might find yourself a few adventures in the future!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Personalized Children's Gifts

This is going to sound really strange, but it is what it is.... On Valentine's Day, my kids and I were at Border's and I let them each pick out a book. My daughter came to me with a book called "Evie the Mist Fairy." Apparently there is a series of books with different fairies that represent different weather conditions. Anyway, as I flipped through the book to make sure it was appropriate for her, it occurred to me how good it felt to see my name on the pages! "Evie" is not a very common name, so you don't see it everywhere. I've seen it on TV, and a couple of movies, but during my lifetime it's been rare. Then I thought how children must feel when they see their own name in books! Created 4 Me is a great place to find a personalized book for your own child. Another is "I See Me". These gifts, while a bit higher in price, will prove to be one of your child's favorite gifts and something he or she will treasure for years to come! I'm a mom myself and STILL get excited about seeing my name in print!

Personalized Children's Books.  Click here!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Writing Stories

As this school year has progressed, I've found myself becoming much more lax in our schooling. And my kids seem to have learned more than ever! There are days that they choose to build with Legos all day, and I just let them. They learn WAY more doing that than they do in "school" and heck, they learn the information in school in a few minutes...why not give them that time?
Recently my daughter, who just turned 6 in November, asked, "Instead of doing handwriting, can I have a book where I can write stories?" I didn't "give" on the handwriting, but I did say that the stories sounded good. I gave each of my children a simple spiral bound notebook. I did not tell them to write anything specific. I just said to write. What came back completely blew me away. My son will be 8 next month. He filled up an entire page and a half with a great story about a puppy that went missing. My 6 year old wrote an amazing story as well. I was totally impressed! They even drew pictures to go with them.
There are a couple of lessons here. I haven't mentioned yet that I had been stressing about my son's writing. His handwriting is "okay" but early on, he had difficulty even TELLING stories, because they weren't true. So I thought, "oh no, how am I going to get him to write?!" So I let it go. He is in 2nd grade and I've never made him write anything, other than the answers to his school work. So all of that worry was for nothing, because not only did he love it, the product was wonderful, and he sat for two hours to write it WITH JOY! Think about all the schooled kids that are forced to write things who end up hating it...I remember those days! I'm sure we will deal with that at some point, but for now, I'm enjoying the pleasure they get out of writing as much as the pleasure I get out of reading them!

Better to Bless

As a single mom, there come times that I really miss having someone to put his arms around me and say, "Everything's going to be okay." I was reminded by a dear friend recently that we are to rely on God for these needs, and that is so true. Even married moms, who don't have a great relationship with their husbands, or whose husbands travel or are fighting our war in Iraq...we all have a longing from time to time for more than what we have. Whether it's comfort, love, forgiveness...we have needs. And I have to say, especially during that "time of the month"...we have needs! lol
I have come across a really great program called Better to Bless. For some great inspirational videos, click on that link and then go to "the movies" where there are currently three to watch. They all remind me, personally, that everything IS going to be okay. And they say so much more! I hope you enjoy the movies, and I hope that you pass them on to friends and family who you know could use them, too. Also, check out the other programs on this site and always remember to pass your blessings on. You never know the lives you will change by the "little things" you do!

Tom Woods