Dine Out to Help End Childhood Hunger in America #NoKidHungry

nokidhungry

When you think of childhood hunger, what comes to mind? For me, it’s usually those ads with kids in Africa with the distended tummies and some soft voice over about how for just pennies a day we can feed a starving child. I hate those ads. Not because I don’t support what they do, but because I feel like they’re preying on my kindness and desire to make the world better. As a kid, even though I didn’t have a lot of food, compared to those kids on TV I was eating like a queen.

A number of years ago I was at a conference and there was a booth about the No Kid Hungry program. I had never heard of the program and found out it was just a few years old, having rolled out as part of Share Our Strength in 2008. I knew exactly what they were trying to do. End child hunger in America.

It pains me that in this great country so many kids go to bed hungry every night. Even more kids deal with food insecurity, not knowing if they’ll have anything to take for lunch or to eat when they get home from school. We don’t think about kids in our own communities going without meals. Unlike many of the poorest countries in the world, as we go about our day the likelihood of encountering a child who deals with hunger or food insecurity isn’t something we see.

Yes, we know it exists. Yes, we donate to food pantries. Yes, we realize our kids go to school with students who get free or reduced meals. But it’s actually hard to really see and grasp.

Most people don’t know, but for almost all of elementary school I got free lunch. There were no snacks waiting for me when I got home. Meals were simple. Not as in simple because mom was busy. Simple as in “pretend tomato soup” made with ketchup and hot water, or half a sandwich because if I ate a whole one my mom would have nothing to eat. And meals were even more simple as the month wore on if my grandparents or my uncle didn’t “happen to stop by on their way home from the store.” I don’t think I ever went hungry in the sense that there was no food at all or that I went to school or to bed without eating something, but there was definitely a sense that if there was more food I would eat it.

I went to school early, usually leaving the house to catch the 6:45 a.m. bus so I could have breakfast. There were a lot of us, probably 10 kids, so it didn’t really seem all that weird. I wasn’t bullied or made fun of because I ate breakfast at school. In the summer, I rarely ate breakfast. Which is a habit born out of necessity that dies hard.

Every Monday my teacher would give me five lunch tickets. If I lost them, I wouldn’t have lunch. I diligently wrote my name on the back of each ticket, in case they got lost, and then put them in my pencil bag. I remember in 4th grade my lunch tickets were yellow. Some kids had blue tickets. Years later I understood why some kids were handed blue tickets and some kids yellow. It’s humbling to realize that my mother had to ask for help, yet she did everything so it wouldn’t affect me so much.

I know what food insecurity is. I understand how it can impact your ability to learn and pay attention in school. I have a great appreciation for the food that I am served because I often had a choice of eating food I didn’t care for or going hungry. When you’re 6 or 7 it’s a pretty easy choice.

Although we didn’t keep kosher – imaging trying to do that when you’re dependent on other people providing your food – there was a long list of food I couldn’t eat. I rarely ate meat, even at school. You don’t realize how often schools serve ham, or cheeseburgers, or sloppy joes until you have to trade your friends your main dish for their peas or carrots or corn. You don’t realize how few vegetables are actually served until you ask a number of the kids around you ‘are you going to eat that’ as you point to whatever vegetables they’ve pushed to the side just so you don’t feel hungry any more.

I don’t worry about if I will eat today. My daughter will never know a home without food, nutritious or otherwise. At nearly 50, I am still affected by the lack of food when I was a kid. Today, I have the privilege of choosing organic, nutritious, fresh foods. I also have the ability to be part of the solution to put an end to a situation I know too well.

Dine Out for No Kids Hungry is a month-long promotion in September to help end child hunger in America and get more people involved in solving this problem. There are thousands of restaurants participating across the country to help bring an end to child hunger and kids dealing with food insecurity. By dining out at a participating restaurant a portion of the profits from your meal will be donated to Share Our Strength. Go eat out!

With your change you can be the change. Kids should never have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Please learn more about No Kid Hungry by following them on Twitter, Like their Facebook page, and share your support of those restaurants and companies donating by tagging your photos with #NoKidHungry.

 

Note: It’s not easy to share stories like this, but as I get older I realize how important it is for me to shed the fear of sharing and do it to help kids like me. This is not a sponsored post.

Sara

Should We Get Rid Of School Picture Day?

School Picture Day

When you hear the phrase “school pictures” what comes to mind? Maybe it’s the parade of photos your parents proudly displayed (or, maybe still do!) in their home when you were growing up. Perhaps it’s the envelopes of school pictures that you never get around to sending to the aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Or it might be those websites of goofy pictures of us dressed in clothes that have us saying “What were we thinking?”. Whatever it is, I’m sure there is a strong feeling that comes to you when you think about school photos.

My grandma proudly displayed my school photos in her home. This despite the fact that I was in my 40s and no longer was that little girl with the big smile in that dated 1970s photo. My family members frequently mentioned still having them to remind them of when I was little, even though we now talk about decidedly adult matters.

For the past several weeks I’ve seen people posting about their dissatisfaction with their kid’s school photo. Rarely do I see people sharing how much they like the pictures. Which makes me wonder if school pictures are a waste. Not just of money but also time. The kids are likely out of class for half an hour or so. Is it worth it so the school has photos for a yearbook? Can’t the  teacher just take pictures of the kids against a wall if the school needs a photos?

With the ubiquity of cellphone cameras, it’s not like the olden days when school pictures may be the only professional (and I use the term loosely) photos a family would have of their kids. On any given day we may have a hand full of pictures of our kids. If we went by first day of school photos alone, there are probably 50 pictures on your phone right now from just that one day.

BabyGirl gets so excited for school picture day. When the paperwork is sent home, she already has the background she wants circled and is talking about what she’s going to wear. And it’s not just her. I hear the buzz among the kids. There’s an excitement for them that I just don’t hear among my friends.

What I do hear about is the cost, especially if there are multiple kids. With just one, I’m not saying much about the $18 I’ll spend on the cheapest package. It already has more photos than I’ll need, but buying exactly what I need a la carte costs more. So, I go the package route.

But I hear so many negative things from my friends, that I wonder if it’s even worth it to have them. I wonder if their attitude would change if they knew the pictures were a fundraiser for the school. Or that many of the major photography companies provide the school with extras like “visitor” stickers, award certificates, sticky photos for student files, or downloads for the school’s software systems, and, of course, those yearbook photos. That if we get rid of school photos then the school loses these and will need to find a budget for replacing these. And while it seems easy to just send in a photo of your child, someone has to manage all of them and get them in the right dimensions.

Is it time we give up school photos? Do grandparents even care about them any more now that we’re plying them with near-daily photos? Maybe it’s because my experience hasn’t been bad that I’m not ready to just walk away from this rite of passage. Or, maybe I just don’t want to have to pay for stupid stuff I don’t need with another fundraiser.

Your thoughts? Should we just forget about school photos? Or are you like me and not yet ready to give up on them?

Sara

Kids, Smartphones, and Emergency Preparedness

Kids Smartphones Emergency Preparedness

VZW Disclosure

September is National Emergency Preparedness month. I didn’t know there was a month dedicated to this. And because I didn’t know and I consider myself to be well-informed I figured you may not know either.

As part of the Verizon Influencers group I participate in the weekly #vzwbuzz chat on Twitter (Friday at 3pm ET if you want to join in!). As part of the recent chat about using smartphones in emergency preparedness planning I mentioned a few tips for parents of tweens and teens. Based on the conversation and shares, I realized this is an area where we, as parents, really need to step up and help our kids.

As adults we’re not always prepared for an emergency. We take the jumper cables out of the car and forget to put them back. We can’t find the flashlights and never got around to downloading one on the phone. We don’t know the names and phone numbers of our kids’ friends.

And if we don’t have it all together we can’t expect our kids to have it together either. Especially when it comes to having many of the tools at the ready on their smartphone. Talking to our kids about this isn’t easy. These “just in case” type scenarios are often met with blank stares. That is if they’re even willing to take their eyes off the device and stare at you.

But we need to have the conversation and talk about what to do in case of an emergency. And not just leave it nebulous and broad, but talk about different scenarios. It has to be an easier conversation than the ones about sexting and bullying, right?

So I’ve come up with 6 things that MUST be on your kid’s phone in case of emergency.

1. Parent’s Name – none of this “mom” or “dad” only stuff on the phone. Even if the main name is Mom, in the notes put mom’s full name. Anyone with a title (mom, dad, grandma, etc.) or nickname should have the full name somewhere in the contact file. This is mainly for first responders who may need to contact you. Adding photos with the entry will be great help for emergency personnel, too.

2. ICE Entry – ICE stands for In Case of Emergency and every person with a smartphone should have a contact with this name. In here you put the main number to call, but also add in any other pertinent information. Include alternative phone numbers, allergy information, key medical information that doctors or emergency service personnel would need to know. Even things like, “wears contact lenses”, “broke right wrist in July 2012”, or “picks up sister from XYZ Elementary school” are important.

3. Flashlight app – kids will download a zillion different apps, but may not think of a flashlight app. There are many different types for Android, iOS, and WindowsPhone. A flashlight could come in handy in a power outage, be used to signal for help, or even just help you be found in the dark.

4. Programmed Emergency Numbers – maybe 911 isn’t who needs to be called and they can’t reach you. They may not remember the grandparent’s or close friend’s phone number. Having access to an alternative safe adult is key to ensuring kids have someone to call if they can’t reach you. If you child does babysitting (or pet sitting) make sure they’ve included the parent’s information in their phone in a clear and understandable manner. We’re so good at shorthand, but emergency personnel don’t have time to figure out what we were thinking.

5. Family GPS App – There are apps that help keep families in communication with each other without being overly complicated or intrusive. By downloading an app like Life360 you not only are able to communicate discreetly with your child, but there is a GPS functionality that will show you where the phone is located. Rather than being used to spy on the kids, a GPS app can be a safety measure and give a child peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to find them in an emergency.

6. First Aid App – While younger kids may not use this, older kids may find the Red Cross First Aid app helpful in a variety of situations. While it’s always advisable to call 911 in case of an emergency, not everything requires a call to 911. Instead of having to search the internet, it’s helpful to have one app that will give them reliable and accurate information. While an app is never a substitute for taking a first aid or CPR class, having something that can guide you through a situation can be very helpful. Again, if your kids are responsible for another child (whether because they babysit or watch a younger sibling) have them take a babysitting class so they’re not solely relying on an app.

Now that the easy part is done on the smartphone, it’s time to talk to the kids and actually prepare them. In emergencies we aren’t calm and perfectly aware. We can’t expect our kids to be either. Especially younger kids. And while it might be easier to do all this yourself once they’ve gone to bed, let the kids be involved. It shouldn’t be scary for the kids. And they should know why you’re putting all this stuff on their phone. While we don’t expect emergencies, it’s like going on a plane trip – you have to know a few safety rules before you go.

What other “must haves” do you think should be on this list to help kids stay safe in an emergency using their smartphone?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team and share information about technology. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara

Kids Today

Life Isn't Pretty Quote

Before this past weekend, I’ve never been to a Mormon service (I think they’re called meetings). It’s not that I don’t have Mormon friends, rather I never really had a reason to go. That was until now. My husband’s best friend from childhood was sending his youngest son off on his mission. Their family invited my family to join in the celebration. And when you send your child off for 2 years knowing you’ll have little communication with him, it’s a reason to celebrate on many levels.

The service was lovely. Very different than what I’m used to. But in some ways it was similar. The sanctuary looked different, but the love and spirituality was both seen and felt. There were little kids who were in awe of the older kids. The older kids who looked up to the young men and women who were moving on to that next level. And the adults who looked on with such pride that with their eyes filled with tears there was no question they were tears of joy.

The kids, though. The kids. I tried not to be that creepy woman staring. No matter how young I feel, I’m still that 40-something woman. And when you watch teens intently, it can border on creepy. Especially when you don’t know these kids.

But I watch them. And they gave me hope. Not hope in a religious sense. But real hope.

See, these were good kids. Despite their crazy personalities that show up on social media, they’re good kids. They Instagram and text and kik and snapchat. But they’re good kids. These aren’t the kids who are using these social platforms to bully or spread hate. They’re using it to stay connected. To lean on one another. To call out their friends privately and tell them to chill out or stop being a jerk.

I’m not saying these social platforms are cleansed of their evil. What I’m saying is that I saw hope in a future that’s often flashed before us in the news in horrible stories of violence, disregard, anger, and hate. I saw joy among friends who were so deeply connected that they cried and hugged as they said goodbye to their friend, knowing that while he’s on his mission that there’s no quick and easy way to stay connected.

And while I sat there listening, watching, taking it all in I realized that “kids today” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Kids today are kind. Kids today are compassionate. They’re giving, loving, and dedicated. Kids today are just like we were those many years ago. Only, they live in a very connected world that has changed their concept of time. For them there isn’t such a thing as absence. With a smartphone you’re never apart.

So realizing, for the first time, that their friends wouldn’t be on the other end of a keyboard was quite a realization. A realization that all those times their parents said that “if they’re real friends they’ll be there” means more than just a reply text, Skype chat, Instagram photo, or video. These kids introduced themselves and were wowed that people who had been friends for 40 years would be there.

Because friendship is more than a like, a plus, a retweet, a text, or a silly video. Friendship is a connection in the heart and soul that says “I’ll be there.”

Life isn’t always pretty, but sometimes it’s extraordinarily beautiful!

Sara

Hard Luck: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 8

Wimpy Kid Hard Luck

 Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. Wimpy Kid Book 8

Our favorite Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffley, is in middle school and things aren’t going as planned. Jeff Kinney’s 8th book in the Wimpy Kid series will hit stores November 5, 2013. If you have a Wimpy Kid book fan in your house you’ll want to pre-order today. Amazon has a price guarantee so you’ll get the lowest price available up until the date of delivery. So, if the price goes down before the book is released you’ll get that lower price. The book is available in hardback (currently $8.11 ea) or on Kindle ($7.70).  If you’re like me you’ll end up getting both – one to add to the collection on the shelf and one to have at all times because reading this book once will not suffice.

Rowley’s ditched Greg for new friends now that they’re in middle school. Not one to do things without some drama, Greg is said to take a leap of faith in hopes of making something big happen. It’s Greg, so we’re not sure what kind of craziness will ensue but it’s sure to keep kids glued to the book through the end.

Order Now!

Note: Amazon can change the price at any time. The prices shown are current as of the time of publication. Remember that for all pre-ordered books Amazon has a low price guarantee.

 

Sara

Zen and the Art of Dealing With Jerks

 

Originally, this was going to be a post about how I’m using my knowledge of ancient scholars to teach BabyGirl how to deal with one kid who lives life as a victim. However, I don’t want the school or some outraged mom screaming at me, or worse, BabyGirl. So as I was talking to her last night about dealing with this person I kept telling her that learning how to deal with this type of person now would server her well throughout her life.

BabyGirl kept telling me that it’s not so easy to ignore this kid. I understand that. When you spend hours every day in a class with 16 other kids, ignoring one of them isn’t as easy, or practical, as mom and dad make it seem. And in reality, even when there are 100 people in your office and you’re trying to ignore the office jerk it’s much easier said than done. But we all know it has to be done.

I decided to read her a book called Zen Shorts, which I started reading to her when she was about 4. It’s a short children’s book with a lovable panda named Stillwater. Stillwater teaches the neighbor-kids important lessons by telling them stories found in Buddhist or Taoist teachings. It’s a wonderful book because the 3 lessons shared are ones that, if learned early enough, can spare our kids a lot of heartache.

The last story of the book is about letting go and not holding on to the anger and frustration that often exists when we deal with people who aren’t nice. While I try to surround myself with helpful and kind people, the reality is that there are jerks in the world and sometimes they invade my space of awesome. And it’s annoying and frustrating and it bothers me and it makes me think about them and how I wish I was Samantha from Bewitched and could just turn them in to a toad. And then I pause to breathe and realize how ridiculous all these thoughts are and how I need to stop.

I explained to BabyGirl that I’m pretty sure this kid didn’t even mention her name or talk to anyone about the jerk behavior exhibited at school. That this kid was probably cozy in bed asleep not giving her one thought, yet here she was angry and frustrated because this kid relishes in the victim role and is overtly rude and mean and takes every look, breath and cough as a personal affront. I needed her to put him down.

One day two traveling monks reached a town and saw a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silk robes. She scolded her attendants, who were burdened with heavy packages they were holding for her so they couldn’t help her cross.

The younger monk noticed the young woman, but walked past without speaking. The older monk stopped and quickly picked her up on his back, carrying her across the water and put her down on the other side. Not only did she not thank the monk, she shoved him out of her way and quickly departed.

As the two monks continued on their way, the younger monk was brooding and preoccupied. After a long time, he finally spoke out. “That woman was selfish and rude, but you picked her up and carried her! She didn’t even thank you.”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk responded. “Why are you still carrying her?”

Just as the story in Zen Shorts, she has continued to carry this jerk with her long after she should have put him down. She continued to be burdened by one person’s choice to be miserable and make others miserable too. We’ve all been there. And the sooner BabyGirl is able to realize that she controls her thoughts the better her days are going to be.

Reading the story and talking about how we shouldn’t let other people’s choices affect our feeling was also a reminder to me not to put some things down. People who are jerks in 4th grade are likely to continue to be jerks throughout high school and into adulthood. We hope that somewhere along the way the jerk hat gets thrown away, but that’s not always the case. This leaves us having to deal with people who are not nice or who are manipulative, vindictive or play the role of victim any chance they get.

I wish someone had told me when I was 10 that I’m not the Jerk Whisperer. Sure would have made a lot of things easier. So I’m telling BabyGirl that she’s not the Jerk Whisperer and she’s not the manager of toxic waste for Jerktopia. Maybe in these terms she’ll understand that some people just need to be put down, walked away from and never given another thought.

Disclosure: The link to Zen Shorts is an Amazon Affiliate link. If you decide to buy the book, I may receive a commission for your purchase. For that, I thank you.

Sara

Flossing Can Be Fun … For Kids and Parents

I don’t know about you, but when I look back to my childhood dental experience it’s a wonder I don’t hate going to the dentist. My family dentist for most of my childhood was an old man from Transylvania. Yes, for reals! Then I moved to California and our dentist was right down the street from our house and he was young-ish and had all kinds of cool techy stuff.

I remember the first time going to the new dentist and being complimented on how clean my teeth were. And I remember him laughing when I told him it’s probably because I was afraid of my other dentist. But, it was true. I had a cavity and I’m pretty sure the instruments used were from “the old country” because they looked like something he stole from the Smithsonian. From then on I vowed to keep my teeth extra, super-duper, sparkly clean.

Fast forward to becoming a parent. It’s one thing to be obsessed with having clean teeth for yourself. It’s something completely different to pass on such a quirk. But, I really believe that good oral hygiene starts early. And it was something I wanted BabyGirl to know. I never want her to be afraid of the dentist. Her first dental appointment was when she was about a year old. And when I tell people this I often get weird looks. Sometimes even a puzzled “Why?”.

Our current dentist is awesome. She’s been our dentist for almost 20 years. Even as we’ve moved we would make our travel plans to come back to see her every 6 months. Again, proof I’m crazy. She and her staff are so encouraging to BabyGirl. But, as you probably know, getting kids to brush and floss isn’t as easy as all the cutesy ads make it out to be.

When I was a teen and got braces I remember my mom getting me a Waterpik to help me keep my teeth clean. That little device was my best friend since I couldn’t floss my teeth easily. So when I saw the new Waterpik for Kids with the stickers I knew it was time to introduce BabyGirl to something that would not only be fun but very beneficial. Using the Waterpik for the first time was hilarious! BabyGirl ended up squirting more water on the mirror and vanity than she got in her mouth!

Waterpic for Kids

Since getting the Waterpik for Kids, I couldn’t be happier with BabyGirl’s eagerness to take care of her teeth. She had pretty good dental hygiene already, but there’s just something about pulsating and squirting water that makes bru

shing and flossing more of a joy. I nolonger have to ask and double check and ask again if she brushed and flossed. And she told me it’s fun and that after a few days she’s already noticed a few differences.

She’s almost 10 and the creep of self consciousness is speeding up. She notices other kids’ smiles more and she is more aware of hers. The tween years are upon us and having a confident smile is becoming more important. So it was even more of a win that BabyGirl wanted to have her own water flosser.

If you have kids 6-12, a water flosser might be just what you need. And, really, for older kids it could be the perfect way to get them to floss without nagging.

5 reasons having a water flosser is more effective and more fun for kids (of all ages!)

  • When used with brushing, water flossers have been proven 3X as effective as dental floss
  • The unit can be customized with cling stickers so kids can decorate it as they like
  • Removes bacteria deep between teeth and below the gum-line where brushing and traditional flossing can’t reach
  • Kids can control the speed of the pulsating water so they’re in charge of the flossing
  • Watching the junk go in to the sink is fun for many kids, and lets them know they’re doing a good job

Having good oral hygiene starts early. Having both parents who are on board with helping kids brush and floss is important. But when kids can take an active role and really want to clean their teeth, that’s a huge parenting win!

If you want tooth brushing time to be fun, consider the Waterpik for Kids. You can get the kids water flosser online for under $50. Or you can get Get a $10 Savings coupon when you “Like” Water Pik on Facebook (must use by 9/4/12) and purchase your unit at a local retailer. You can also receive a $10 coupon for the Waterpik Complete Care water flosser/sonic toothbrush combo.

This is a sponsored conversation for Waterpik. I was provided a Waterpik for BabyGirl and a Waterpik for grown ups. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sara

6 Tips To Enjoy Vacationing With Your Kids

Tips To Enjoy Going On Vacation With Kids

First there’s the panic of getting everything ready for vacation. There just isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done and still do everything else. So, we rush to pack and inevitably a favorite something doesn’t make it in the suitcase. Or, you’re super-organized and are packed and ready to go a few days ahead. And still, something gets forgotten.

Vacationing with the kids is something we look forward to, on many different levels. I know people who are excited to go on a family vacation, but send their kids to day camp while on vacation. I have friends whose idea of a vacation is packing up the car and just heading out, with no particular destination in mind. Both of these would not make for a good vacation for me.

As a kid, I didn’t go on family vacations. It just wasn’t something we were able to do. So when I became a parent it was a completely new experience for me. Sure, I went on a few trips with my family. But nothing that would make me claim to be “in the know” about traveling and vacationing with kids. I have to say, though, that CycleGuy and I have been extraordinarily lucky with out vacations with BabyGirl. She’s a great traveler!

And while there isn’t much time left for summer travel, I offer these 6 Tips to Enjoy Vacationing With Your Kids because they work no matter the time of year.

1. Involve the kids in packing – In my case, it’s just one child. Even if you’re trying to surprise them, most kids are able to contribute something so they feel invested in trip. Younger kids can help gather up some of their clothes or specific toys, maybe even talk about some of the things they might see along the way. Older kids can create a packing list before packing so mom or dad can check to make sure the right things are taken. The kids are less likely to complain constantly if they had a hand in choosing what they wear. And anything to keep the complaining to a minimum leads to enjoying the time together.

2. Prep the unfamiliar – I don’t know about you, but when I am in unfamiliar territory I don’t function the same. Kids are no different. When the kids are uneasy, it makes for challenging times for the parents. Recently we were at Disneyland and a family from New Zealand was sitting next to us while we were eating lunch. From the sound of the conversation they’d been in the US for at least a week, yet the two young boys were having problems with the food. It was unfamiliar to them and they just didn’t like it. I could tell the parents were frustrated, as they pleaded with the boys to just eat something.

3. Let the kids decide sometimes – If they’re old enough, even 2 or 3 year olds can make simple decisions, let the kids have some control over what happens on vacation. It could be something as simple as rotating who gets to choose what kind of food you have for lunch or what activity is first when you get to the beach. As parents we make a lot of decisions for our kids. Giving them some control over decisions helps them to feel invested and part of the vacation. They’re also less likely to complain about everything if they get to make decisions.

4. Establish a norm or routine – One of the challenges of vacation is the lack of routine. I know this sounds counter-intuitive to what a vacation is supposed to be. But, when we have our kids in a routine at home it’s hard for them to adjust to a 180 turn. When we travel with BabyGirl, we try to keep her bedtime routine similar to what she’s used to at home. The time is flexible to some degree, but even if it’s late we always make sure there is something familiar and comforting to help her get to sleep. Agitated and anxious kids do not make for cooperative and pleasant travelers.

5. Plan ahead to avoid tummy troubles – Even if we’re not too far from home, the different food, desserts that aren’t normally part of every evening at home, extra treats, restaurant meals and different levels of activity can cause digestion or intestinal changes in kids. Sometimes it’s just the excitement or anxiety of vacationing that causes the trouble. Having a product like Culturelle Kids! to keep the digestive tract in balance is often all that’s needed to ward off these troubles. When we travel we usually get BabyGirl started on the chewables about a week before we go. This way we’re less likely to encounter digestive problems when we’re on vacation. A sick kid while on vacation is definitely nothing to write home about. And having had friends spend their vacations in the ER with a child with gastro-intestinal problems, I know it not only is expensive in terms of money but it’s also costly in terms of making great family memories.

6. Let the kids take pictures – I know this doesn’t seem to go with the other tips, but one of the best ways to make sure kids are engaged is to give them a camera. With digital cameras so inexpensive these days, the investment is often very manageable. Even little kids have safe and durable cameras available to them. And while the photos may end up being deleted, there will almost always be one or two that can go in the vacation photo album giving the kids a sense of pride knowing they contributed to the memories made on vacation.

Family vacations can create memories that last a lifetime. Many of my friends, and I’m sure your friends too, have amazing stories of trips from their youth. But there’s always one person whose story is more like a tale of woe, often involving a trip to the ER or some equivalent in the middle of nowhere. Those are the types of experiences we’re trying to avoid now that we’re parents!

How do you get your kids involved when you travel so it’s an enjoyable experience for everyone?

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was provided compensation for my time to write about my vacation tips. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara

Enough Time Moms: Using Hindsight to Move Forward

Footprints at the Beach

Yesterday I wrote about failure and how we should fail early, fail often. Today, at Enough Time Moms, we’re talking about looking back at 2011 to help shape what we want 2012 to look like. I’d love for you to visit and join the conversation.

Disclosure: I am a compensated blogger for Enough Time Moms. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Image credit: Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sara

Can a trip change your life?

I know people who have traveled the world. They’ve enjoyed their travel and look forward to their next destination. Every once in awhile I come across someone who will say their life was changed because they traveled somewhere. I can’t say one place changed my life.

Western Wall in Jerusalem IsraelWhen I was 14 I went to Israel. I was supposed to live there a year on a Kibbutz. My first three days were spent in a bomb shelter. Not so usual for a girl who had just moved from California. But, in the early 1980s in Israel time in bomb shelters was pretty much normal.

I never look at that as a life changer though. As a Jewish kid, stories about bombings in Israel were dinner conversation in my house. Not just because I was Jewish but because I had family living in Israel and there was always concern.

I lived in Israel for a few months and then came home early. I obviously wasn’t cut out for bomb shelter living or worrying about being blasted into seventy-three thousand pieces. To be fair, the kibbutz I lived on was never directly hit. It was a few kilometers from Lebanon and near the Golan Heights. All was quiet in the Golan Heights, but the early 80s saw periodic hostility between Lebanon and Israel. No matter how hard I tried, I worried that I’d be killed. It affected me. It affected my family.

Fast forward almost 30 years and I’m perched on the horizon of BabyGirl’s first international trip — Italy. Unlike mine, she’s not going by herself. Nor is she going to an area of hostility. And the trip is only 10 days, not a year.

My trip to Israel helped shape who I am today. There were some negative parts, but the biggest impact was being able to see a world bigger than me. It made me want to travel. I gave me a sense a freedom and wonder. And that’s what I hope for BabyGirl.

Gondolas in VeniceWith a 5-city itinerary I know it’s going to be exciting and every day will be full of history, beauty and amazing experiences. We’ve taken time to learn about Ancient Rome and the history of Italy’s great cities she’ll be more of a participant than an observer. And we’ve both decided to learn Italian to feel a little more comfortable to explore.

Right now I don’t know if this trip will change her life. I may not know for many years. What I do know is giving BabyGirl the experience of international travel will mean something to her. Seeing history first hand will bring to life things she’s shown interesting in learning about. Seeing a new culture. New foods to try.

International travel offers rich experiences if you’re willing to allow yourself to go beyond your comfort zone. It’s not an easy task for a child that crave order and predictability. As the departure date gets closer I’m sure the excitement level will go up. And while we’re going with a group that will include kids her age, BabyGirl won’t know any of them. Luckily, we’ve got 7 hours at JFK airport to remedy that!

Can a trip really change her life? I think so. And I hope she’ll look back on this trip with great fondness for how it changed her.

Image Credit: Gondolas –graur codrin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net; Western Wall – Jeroen van Oostrom/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sara