Our vacation plans for 2018 are set

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am a planner. In fact, one of the trips my family will take this year has been in the works since 2016. As it stands right now, we have three trips out of town as a family. I can’t say they are all vacations as one of these is a work trip for my husband but a vacation for the rest of us.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

I went to 8th through 12th grade in Albuquerque, NM before going off to college. But I returned every summer during college and even got married there in 1995. Over the years I made a few trips home to see my family. The last one was three days after Sept 11, 2001. (I can remember the date because the day I flew was the first day flights resumed.) Soon after that, my husband and I moved to San Antonio. My parents soon followed so I had no reason to return. Well, my brother still lived there but it seemed easier for him to come visit us than for the four (and later after the kids, the six) of us to travel to him.

But now he has bought his first house, and I thought it might be fun to take the kids to Albuquerque to see where I went to high school and to see the mountains. (I really do miss the Sandia mountains.) I mentioned the trip to my mom and the next thing I know, we have plans to drive with them to drive to Albuquerque for a Spring Break visit.

The kids were quite insistent that Lexie needs to be here for her birthday which is the Monday of Spring Break. But the very next day, we will get up and make the 11-hour drive to Albuquerque. We will spend 3 days there checking out my brother’s house and sight-seeing before driving back home on Saturday.

The good news for my husband is that we are leaving him at home. It is always a hassle to get him to take time off, and we have a major family trip coming up in August so it seemed easier to let him stay here and work.

Bastrop, Texas

Speaking of work, our June trip is actually a conference for my husband. Every year the Texas City Attorney’s Association has a conference in June. For many years it has been in South Padre Island but a few years ago they tried the Lost Pines Resort outside of Bastrop, TX, and they will be returning there this year.

This is a resort, so the kids and I will spend our days riding bikes, playing frisbee and relaxing in the lazy river while my husband attends the 2 day conference. He will get to join us in the fun in the evenings and on Friday afternoon when the conference ends.

Alaskan Cruise

Our biggest trip is a 7-night cruise to Alaska in August. In 2015, my parents paid for a Caribbean cruise for them, my brother and my family. We had 3 cabins in a row and had a great time. The kids, who had been nervous about going on a cruise ship, loved the trip so we began talking about taking another cruise. Somehow that ended up as a cruise to Alaska.

So, once again, my parents, brother and my family will be going on a trip together thought this time we are each paying for our own cruise and flights. As with our last cruise, a majority of our shore excursions will be done together. We will be riding a train, taking in a lumberjack show and going whitewater rafting. The kids also wanted to see Huskies, so we are going to a sled dog training camp.

Planning an Alaskan cruise is proving to be quite different than one to a warmer climate. I will certainly have more posts about the trip. Until then, I am looking forward to all these trips.

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An Early Start on our Alamo City Comic Con Costumes

Any of you who follow my blog know that my family dresses up for the Alamo City Comic Con. Often there is not rhyme or reason to the characters we go as. Everyone just chooses something that they like.

The first year – I wore a huntress costume. A generic costume – not the DC character. My husband went as Jedi, and the kids went as Star Wars ARF Trooper for my son and Elsa for my daughter.

The second year – I wanted something more recognizable, so I went as Poison Ivy. My husband went as Han Solo, and the kids went as Star Wars ARF Trooper (again) for my son and the pink Power Ranger for my daughter.

The third year – As soon as I saw the trailer Suicide Squad, I knew I wanted to go as Harley Quinn. (There were many other people who had the same idea.) My husband went as Batman, my son as Deadshot and my daughter as Wonder Woman. This is as close to a family theme as we have done (all DC comic characters).

Lara Croft

Last year – My husband and I started thinking about “couple” costumes. We decided to go as Lara Croft and Indiana Jones. No, they aren’t a couple but again it is the theme – archeologists/adventurers. We got a lot of attention. My son went as K2SO from Rogue One, and my daughter was a very cute Pikachu.

Now Alamo City Comic Con typically is in the fall so we have eight or nine months before we need to have our costumes picked out. But since we often are putting together some of our costumes (rather than buying them) we like to plan early. For awhile now, my husband and I have been kicking around ideas of couples costumes for the 2018 Comic Con.

Rogue & Gambit from the X-men, Scott and Jean Gray from the X-men, Harley Quinn & the Joker from DC Comics, Aladdin & Jasmine from Disney, Captain Hook and Emma Swan from TV’s Once Upon a Time, and some more obscure suggestions found on the internet were all considered.

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The Canary and Green Arrow from Season 2 of the TV show Arrow.

We decided this year we will go as The Canary/Sara Lance and Green Arrow/Oliver Queen from the TV show Arrow. Originally, we picked the Season 2 costumes but since my husband decided to order his costume this year (rather than make it), our costumes are from different seasons. Sara Lance appeared in Season 2 but was killed off in Season 3. Of course, this being a TV show based on a comic book series – no one stays dead. Sara Lance is brought back to life in Season 4 before going off to her own series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

As I said, my husband ended up buying his costume. Making a costume with green leather just turned out to be too hard to do so he ordered it off Ebay. He also bought a bow but plans to make the quiver and some arrows without points (since you can’t take real weapons into comic con.)

I had considered buying my costume. But then after looking at what I would need, I decided to piece it together. I ordered a leather jacket that looked similar to her cropped jacket and ordered some black leather pants (because really where am I going to find leather pants but on the internet?). Finding a black corset that fit me correctly proved to be harder than I thought. After going through about 5 different ones, I found the perfect one. (Again, thankful for the internet and Amazon’s free return policy.) I already had the boots so after ordering a blonde wig, I think most of my costume is complete. We will still have to work on a mask, bo (staff) and a belt. But the costume is definitely coming together, and we still have nine months to go.

Media Madness seminar – dealing with technology and kids

As first vice-president of our elementary Parent-Teacher Association, I am in charge of Parent Education. Any time I share with the parents something of interest, my goal is to share that information here.

This past week, I brought in a speaker to talk to the parents about managing their kids use of electronics. The presentation was called “Media Madness,” and it was presented through Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program. Our presenter was Larriann Curtis, the Vice President of Membership for Texas PTA.

It was a good presentation. I had heard some of the information before, but it is always good to be reminded of these things. Here is a recap of some of the information covered.

Children nowadays grow up in a different world than many of us grew up in. They are exposed to technology at a much younger age. In fact, they grow up with it. Their socialization, their communication and their playing centers around it.

The Internet is accessible at all times and from anywhere. And with it you have the world at your fingertips. But the concern is that you don’t know who is one the other end. You don’t know the person chatting with you as you play your video game. You don’t know the person responding to your comments on blogs.

Tip #1: Teach your child to question what they know about the people they meet online. How do you know who they are? Why do they want to give you this information? What do they want?

One thing it is hard for many people to understand is the persistence of the Internet. Whatever you post, whatever you do is out there forever. Even if you think you are posting on an app that only shows what you said for just 30 seconds before it disappears, nothing is safe. Someone can copy, paste and repost your message or image. This is incredibly true when sending naked or risqué photos to a boyfriend/girlfriend. Once broken up or when in a fight, those pictures may be shared or perhaps shared the instant you send them.

Tip #2: Teach your child to never share anything they wouldn’t want their parents, their grandmother, pastor or teacher to read/see.

One way to give a visual to your child about how hard it is to erase something from the Internet is to take a water bottle. Add some drink mix to it and then tell them to now remove that drink mix. No matter how many filters you run the water through some of the drink mix will always remain.

The Internet can be good – look at the wealth of information available – or bad – misinformation, cyber bullying, addictive.

Tip #3: Never let your child keep their phone, tablet or computer in their room after bedtime. Nothing good is ever communicated at night.

To ensure your privacy and that of your child, you need to actively change your settings on apps and websites. We need to remind them that social media and many sites on the Internet are businesses. If they aren’t selling something, we are the product. Our information, our demographics, are what they are collecting.

Tip #4: Discuss with your child about balancing media use, what sites are good to visit and what they can and cannot believe/trust on the Internet. This should be a continuing discussion.

And this last sentence was a theme throughout the presentation. All of our work as parents needs to be an ongoing one. We need to work on raising digital citizens who question what is presented. As technology advances, we need to keep up with it and keep up with educating our children about its uses and dangers.

Here are a few websites that she recommended parents check out.

www.netsmartz.org – This is put on by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It has tip sheets, videos, games, worksheets and resources for all ages.

www.commonsensemedia.org – This website reviews and offers “child friendly” ratings on the latest releases of movies, books, video games, music, apps, TV shows and websites.

www.cyberwise.org – A site for parents and teachers about online safety. It offers an e-newsletter.

www.ikeepsafe.org – Identifies the six pillars of Digital Citizenship and Wellness – balance, ethics, privacy, reputation, relationships and online security.

www.wiredsafety.org – Content for tweens, teens and parents about cyber bullying, sexting, online gambling and legislation.

www.connectsafely.org – The site has strong social media resources, tips and guides.

www.stopbullying.gov – This site offers a cyber bullying “Lifeline” call center, apps, tips and news for parents, teachers, and students.

Crazy Texas Weather closed schools…and the city

Just last week, Texas had some crazy winter weather. On Monday, we enjoyed a high of in the upper 60s. It was perfect weather for San Antonio’s march to honor Martin Luther King Jr. (San Antonio hosts one of the largest marches in the country every MLK day.)

The next day, our high was 29 (but felt like 14 with wind chill). Yes, a cold front moved in Monday night and with it came freezing rain. Now, much of South Texas is not prepared for freezing temperatures or icy roads. Cities and counties around here do not have sand trucks or snow plows. (They do have a few trucks that can spray an anti-icing agent on the roads.) None of us have snow tires and the majority of drivers do not know how to drive on icy roads. Luckily for us, severe winter weather is a rarity in South Texas.

By 4 p.m. on Monday with the sun still shining, our school district cancelled school for Tuesday. So did all the other 16 school districts in San Antonio as well as the colleges, court house, city and county offices, and a wide range of companies, both big and small. My husband even closed his law firm and opted to work from home.

This is what happens when we get ice on the roads. The city shuts down. Yes, San Antonio (the 7th largest city in the U.S.) and the rest of South Texas become the brunt of a lot of jokes about our panic and what many Northerns consider an overreaction.

 

Tuesday started out by 4 a.m. at freezing and as the day progressed the temperature continued to drop, reaching a low of 26.  Freezing rain and sleet were steady throughout the morning and early afternoon. We had icicles hanging from our roof and plants. North facing windows became a sheet of ice as did my back deck and patio table.  San Antonio has many overpasses and bridges which froze over. Overall there were 230 accidents reported between midnight and 4 p.m., but it would have been much worse if so many of the drivers hadn’t stayed off the road.

Wednesday morning, we woke to 27 degree temperatures and ice still on some of the bridges and highway interchanges. But the majority of the roads were fine. School resumed and by mid-morning the ice was gone. After 32 hours below freezing, the temperature warmed up to 46 by late afternoon. And the temps kept rising over the next few days until by Saturday we were back up to the upper 60s again.

So, for one day, San Antonio and area communities closed. The bad thing about missing school due to a Winter Freeze Day is that the day must be made up. It means that the kids lose getting President’s Day off in February. But they did enjoy having four day weekend here January. Now it will probably be another couple of years before we have to worry about this crazy winter weather again. Or I could be wrong. It did after all snow in December.

Dying my hair for the first time – a Madison Reed review

For the past few years, I think I have been in denial about how much gray hair I actually had. I even had a white streak in my bangs but still couldn’t admit it might be gray or a sign that I am getting old. I don’t recall exactly when the lighter stripe showed up but I originally thought it looked more blonde than white.

Recently, I noticed more gray stands in my hair and decided it was time to do something about this. I have never dyed my hair – beyond a temporary dye back in high school. I know nothing about dyeing my hair. So, I turned to the internet. I knew nothing about stripping color, lift, shades or pretty much anything. I did also check in with my mom and mother-in-law who have both colored their hair for years.

Now, I was not interested in changing my hair to a different color. I wanted to retain my color but just get rid of the grays. In fact, I would prefer that no one know that I dyed my hair. My research – or more accurately, Facebook – led me to Madison Reed, an online hair color company specializing in hair color without harsh chemicals.

They offer a way to find your perfect shade. If that doesn’t work or you have any questions, you can chat with someone online, on the phone or email them. I am a strawberry blonde but was having trouble having the website recommend a color that looked appropriate. Instead I looked at all 40 shades and wrote down a few I thought might be right for me. Then I emailed a couple photos of my hair (following their online instructions) to their color specialists.

Twenty-four hours later, the color specialist responded with two colors that she thought would look good. One of them – Ravello Blonde – was one of the colors I had picked out so that is the one I went with.

Now with Madison Reed, you can place a one-time order or save some money and sign up for membership where product can be regularly shipped to you. (The membership can be cancelled at anytime.) I opted for the one-time order and was able to a free shipping code online. (I also ordered the extra tube of color as my hair is longer than shoulder length.)

Before shot – on left side of photo, you can see a lighter strip area in my bangs.

The product shipped and arrived promptly. You get everything you need in the box – hair color, 2 pair of gloves, cap, barrier cream, cleansing wipe, instructions and samples of their shampoo, conditioner and no-frizz serum. Even though they send detailed instructions, they also offer videos online that show exactly what to do and how to handle difficult to cover gray hairs.

after shot – gone are the grays – color is a little darker than my original color plus the lighting in the room was different

The directions were easy to follow. While I was a little nervous about doing this myself verses going to a specialist, everything turned out fine. The grays were covered, and the color was perfect. My hair felt soft and healthy afterwards.

It has been about a month since I dyed my hair, and the color still looks great. (And no one has asked me if I dyed my hair.) If you are looking to cover your grays or are only looking to go up or down one shade of color, then Madison Reed is definitely worth it.

Making changes – my non-resolutions for the start of the New Year

It I that time of year where many people make resolutions to change something in their life. And in a few weeks, those resolutions will probably be forgotten. That is precisely why I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions.

Image result for resolutionsAccording to a quick internet search, about 45% of Americans will make one (or more) resolutions this New Year. The top three resolutions are losing weight, start exercising and stopping smoking. Other popular resolutions include better money management and debt reduction.

My concern about not following through on a resolution is definitely supported by my online search.

Resolution length:

  • Past the first week: 75%
  • Past 2 weeks: 71%
  • Past one month: 64%
  • After 6 months: 46%

In 2013, I posted about New Year’s resolutions. I refused to call it a resolution, but I wanted to lose about 5 lbs or at the very least slow down the weight gain. And if you look back at my other posts, weight gain (and counting calories to lose weight) have been the topic of several posts. Just so you know, the counting calorie thing does work. I did lose 13 pounds in 12 weeks. But the holidays hit and bad habits crept back up.

As for that non-resolution from 2013, I can’t say whether I stuck with it our not. But one of my top non-resolutions for this year is…you guessed it. I would like to lose weight…oh and starting exercising would probably help me get in shape. But the memories of all those times where I start a program or plan and then get off of it as soon as I get busy or sick flash in my head.

So here are some things I would like to do in the upcoming year. And no, I will not call them resolutions as I don’t want them to fail.

Lose Weight

Image result for healthy choicesUgh. This again. Yes, even though I have successfully lost weight in the past, my problem is reverting to my bad habits as soon as I stop watching what I eat. So, I cannot go back to counting calories because as soon as I stop, any weight I loss will probably come back. This means I need to look at ways to change my behavior.

My worst habit is snacking/eating when I am not hungry so that is the behavior I am going to try and change. If I can make some low-calorie or healthier options at the same time that will be a bonus.

Exercising

I have never really enjoyed exercising. But I know I lead a pretty sedentary life. When Jase was in kindergarten, we walked to school every day – pretty much no matter whether it was cold or hot outside. I think we ended up only driving twice that year and it was due to rain. When I needed to go to the school, I walked. Fast forward to now and I find many reasons for us to drive rather than walk. And that lack of walking to the school consistently has taken a toll on my fitness.

It would be impractical of me to think that I am all of a sudden going to love exercising or find the time for a good long work out. Instead, I think I am going to aim for 10 to 15-minute blocks – at least once a day and to start walking to the kids’ schools more often.

Organizing

Image result for organizingFor two years in a row I participated in the 52-week challenge that helps you organize your house by doing one task/area each week. It really did help. But some of the areas need more work. I have already cleaned off ½ my desk and gone through all the clothes in my closet, eliminating those items that don’t fit or I don’t like anymore. But there are a few other areas – my dresser and the other half of my desk – that need some organizing. My goal is to break these projects down into smaller steps and work on them in the evenings while watching TV.

Now whether I can keep up or accomplish anything on these non-resolutions, we will just have to wait and see.

For those of you who made a New Year’s resolution, here are few tips gleaned off the internet to help you achieve them:

  • Make only 1 resolution
  • Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to set your goal (Might be too late for that one.)
  • Don’t attempt previously failed resolutions
  • Don’t base your goal on what everyone else is doing
  • Break your goal into a series of time-based steps
  • Make your plans and progress concrete by writing it down
  • Tell your friends and family what you are aiming for
  • Regularly remind yourself of the benefits
  • Give yourself small rewards for achieving each step
  • Expect small set-backs, and don’t make these a reason to give up altogether

As you can see, I made a few mistakes already by picking three areas instead of one and by picking areas that I have failed in before. I think I will just ignore these tips and stick with my three areas and see how it goes. I’ll plan to do an update at the end of February and let you know if I kept up with any of these.

Happy New Year/Top 10 Parenting Posts from 2017

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope your 2017 was good and that 2018 will be even better.

I typically begin each year by recapping some of my top posts from last year. Since Mondays are my days to write about parenting, today I am listing the Top 10 Parenting Posts of 2017. These are listed in no particular order…in other words, these aren’t ranked as to which ones are better than the others. If you missed any of these, simply click the link after the first few lines/paragraphs of each post.

family-dinner-clipart-screen-shot-2012-10-19-at-9-34-16-am-300x220Making a point to eat together as a family 

Growing up, my husband’s family didn’t sit at the dinner table. His father was a high school basketball coach and often gone at dinner time so my husband and his brother ate mostly in front of the TV. Sitting around the table wasn’t done except on holidays or when company was over.

I grew up with a totally different scenario. We ate dinner together – every night at the table. My brother and I always knew to be home by 6 p.m. for dinner. It was considered a treat to eat in front of the TV. (To read more, click here.)

Anti-Bullying seminar: Don’t Stand By, Stand UP!

This past week, I brought in a speaker to talk about bullying and how to empower your child to Stand UP.

The presentation was called “Don’t Stand By, Stand Up!” and it was presented through the Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program. Our presenter was Dr. Sylvia Reyna, a retired Texas teacher, principal and superintendent. (Click here to read part one & here to read part two.)

Sticking with my No TV or computer in my kids’ bedroom

Ever since Jase was young and would easily fall asleep in front of the TV, my husband has occasionally brought up the idea of putting a TV in his room. And as Jase uses a computer more and more (mostly for play instead of homework), my husband has also suggested we give him his own computer for his room.

On both these accounts, I am firmly against it. I don’t see any reason Jase or Lexie need to be holed up in their room watching TV or glued to the Internet without any contact from the rest of us. (Click here to read more.)

The problem of telling little white lies in front of your child

I’m busy that day.

I already donated to your organization.

The meal was delicious.

Thank you. I love it.

Many of us tell these little white lies without a thought believing these “harmless” fibs spare feelings. We say these things to make our lives easier and to avoid conflict. (To read more, click here.)

Figuring out how to get my ADHD child to sleep

Lexie has always had a problem falling asleep. I am jealous of those parents who report that their children are in bed and asleep by 7 p.m. Heck, I am even jealous of the ones who get them asleep by 8 p.m.or even 9 p.m.

Lexie, on the other hand, is usually up until 10 p.m. or later even though her bedtime is 9 p.m. My husband originally dismissed it as her taking after him. He has always had trouble falling asleep. But now we know he is right. Her sleep problem is related to her ADHD (which my husband was recently diagnosed with too so it is something she inherited from him.) The problem is that she can’t stop her racing mind long enough to fall asleep. (Click here to read more.)

Waiting for a growth spurt

Jase wasn’t a small baby. He was 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 22 inches at birth. In fact, in those first few months he was quite a chunky baby.

When he became a toddler, those pounds shed as he became active. And for those first few years, he was actually quite average, falling right at the 56% for height for his age.

But as he has grown, those percentages began dropping. And now at 12 years old, Jase is 55 inches which makes him in the 10th percentile for height. In other words, he is short. It means that out 100 boys, 90 of them will be taller than him. (To read more, click here.)

Deciding on when to get your kid a cellphone

Jase turned twelve in May and just finished elementary school. Some of his classmates already have cellphones. Jase does not.

As an elementary school student who I walk/drive to school most of the time, there was no need for him to have a phone. His extra-curricular activities (soccer and karate) were done with me in attendance. Only when he stayed after school for violin practice or tutoring did he walk by himself (or with his sister). But we are just two blocks from the school. There was no need for a phone.

But next year, Jase enters middle school. And as I understand it, most of the kids there have cellphones. Teachers send messages via the Remind app. Homework requires different apps, and students even can use their phones during class to watch videos or utilize apps as part of a class exercise. (To read tips on making your decision on a cellphone for kids, click here.)

Shy or just reserved?

There he stood, leaning against a tree. He watched the other boys playing but didn’t approach them. I knew he wanted to, but he still held back and watched. Ea he hung out in the pool alone while the other boys dove off the diving board. It wasn’t fear of the diving board that kept Jase away. It was the awkward shyness of not knowing how to join his friend who is playing with other boys he doesn’t know or doesn’t know well.

This was the scene recently at a birthday pool party that Jase, Lexie and I attended. It was a joint celebration for Jase’s friend Aidan and for Aidan’s sister, Morgan, who is Lexie’s friend. While Lexie had no problem running off with some girls, it was Jase I knew who might struggle at the party.

(To continue reading, click here.)

Encouraging my nine-year-old to save money

When Jase was 5 years old, we started giving him a small allowance as a method of teaching him how to handle money. We stopped buying him candy or toys when we were at the store and insisted he uses his own money for these extras. Jase is willing to do extra chores to earn money and is good about savings. Even now, he has $100 in savings and is often reluctant to spend his money.

Lexie too has been receiving an allowance. But she has the exact opposite reaction as Jase. If she has money, she thinks she needs to spend it. If she gets $5, she wants to buy something right then. She made $9 at her Nana’s garage sale and immediately handed it to me to buy an app for her iPad. (To read more, click here.)

Two wrongs don’t make a right

The other day while online, I was reading an advice columnist. A woman wrote in about an incident with her boyfriend’s parents. The mom made a comment that she thought was rude. She responded with a sharp remark. When her boyfriend told her that what she did was rude, she didn’t believe him, hence the need to write into an advice columnist for an unbiased opinion.

The columnist sided with the boyfriend. The woman’s response was indeed rude. I agreed with the columnist but when I read the comments below the article, it seemed many other readers didn’t agree. Some of them even thought the woman should have been more direct. They thought she should stand up for herself rather than let the rude comment stand.

I didn’t read all the comments but none of the ones I read sided with the columnist. And I thought, “This is what is wrong with society.” The fact that the mentality was all about getting even or putting people in their place seemed wrong. Since when did two wrongs make it right? (Click here to keep reading.)