Planning some weekend getaways for the family in 2019

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a planner. I have vacations planned months, sometimes years, in advance. When our family decides on a Disney World trip or a cruise to Alaska, it is usually with months of planning.

It is odd that this year begins, and I don’t have definite plans for a family vacation. Last year at this time, I knew we would go to Albuquerque in March, Bastrop in June and an Alaska cruise in August. This year, I have ideas, but nothing has been set.

My husband owns his own law firm. And it sometimes is hard for him to get time away. Honestly, I think since he is the boss he should be able to take time off, but he sees it as more of pain to work extra hours to take a vacation that most likely he didn’t want to go on in the first place. He doesn’t love cruises like the kids and I do as he doesn’t like being without access to email (which is why we paid for the cruise internet plan).

So, to give him a break from planning a week-long vacation, I am thinking this year we plan a few weekend trips. This would mean he would only miss one day – maybe two days – of work and they would be spread out throughout the year. At least in my mind, it sounds like a better deal for him. Of course, his answer was why don’t we only do one weekend trip. Ah…no.

Here is what I am thinking about for this year.

April – The kids have a three-day weekend at the end of April. (All San Antonio schools close for the Battle of Flowers parade which is part of Fiesta, a 10 day festival held every spring.) In the past, my husband and I have used this time for us to take a couple’s vacation but one year, we did take the kids to Dallas. My thought is we again go to Dallas – or more specifically to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas. Great Wolf Lodge is a indoor water park that is only open to people that stay at their lodge.

I have always wanted to go to the Great Wolf Lodge and would like to go before the kids get too much older. I think this date would be good as it shouldn’t be as crowded at this time since most kids are in school.

June – Usually we go to wherever my husband’s attorney conference is being held – Bastrop or South Padre Island. He works and we play. But this year it is here in San Antonio. Now while we may go stay on the Riverwalk for an evening, it isn’t the same thing as going somewhere that has a beach or other outdoor activities. The kids love the beach. And since we didn’t get there last year, I am thinking we should head to South Padre Island for a weekend. Of course, working this into my husband’s schedule may be challenging and we can always change the date to July or August if necessary.

I am also in the beginning discussions with my parents about maybe going some where with them for a few days. This would be without my husband. Just as we left him here when we went to visit my brother in Albuquerque, I think another trip might be fun. My parents haven’t been to Corpus Christi which is only a few hours’ drive away. And this trip wouldn’t have to be a weekend trip though it will have to wait until summer break.

September – In 2017, my parents rented a cabin at the lake. We went up on Friday and stayed to Sunday. It was great. The place wasn’t crowded, and the weather was still nice enough for the kids to play in the lake. We had smores, campfires, and got to see plenty of deer. The kids are hoping we get to go it again. The good news for my husband would be that he would only miss half a day of work. Of course this trip all depends on my parents since the cabin can only be rented by military or retired military personnel.

And that pretty much wraps up our trips. It would be tops 3 1/2 days off for my husband but we would still get to do some fun activities.

To make a New Year’s Resolutions or not

Ah the new year…a time when people make New Year’s Resolutions…and then forget them a few weeks later.

It is easy to want to start off the New Year “right.” And oh, there are certainly some changes that I would love to make to my life, but it is that knowledge that most New Year Resolutions fail that makes me not want to make any.

Popular Resolutions

Lose Weight/Eat Healthier – Many, many people would like to lose a few pounds (or maybe a lot of pounds). If you aren’t wanting to lose weight, you may be one of those who wants to change our diet to a healthier one.

Exercise More – Life is busy. For some of us, finding time to exercise and improve strength and stamina is hard. Gym memberships soar at this time of year.

Get Organized – No matter how organized I think I am, there is always something that needs organizing or cleaned up in the house. If you are looking for a good plan to get your home organized, check out 52 Weeks to an Organized Home. https://www.home-storage-solutions-101.com/organized-home.html

Stop (drinking, smoking, yelling at the kids)/Start (reading, learning a new hobby, making friends, smiling more) – Who doesn’t have something they would either like to stop doing or maybe start doing?

Save Money/Reduce Debt – Everyone should have some money socked away for emergencies. Or perhaps you want to save up for a vacation or other larger purchase or even begin putting money away for your kids’ college or your retirement. Or you can simply want to pay off those school loans and credit card bills.

Resolution Failure

According to a quick internet search, about 45% of Americans will make one (or more) resolutions this New Year. But often these resolutions don’t last.

Resolution length:

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

Tips for Making your Resolution Last

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

  • Make only 1 resolution
  • Be specific (Don’t say lose weight, have a set amount as our goal)
  • Be honest with your goals (Don’t set yourself up for failure with an unreachable goal or base the goal on someone else’s goals)
  • 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

So, did you take the plunge and make a New Year’s Resolution? If so, go ahead and share it in the comments. (That counts as writing it down!) As for me, I want to lose 10 lbs. Now to break that down into achievable steps.

Top 10 Parenting posts from 2018

Tomorrow marks the first day of the new year. I know it is a little early but let me say – Happy New Year!

I hope 2018 was good and that 2019 will be even better.

I want to end this year with a recap of 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 2018. 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 of each post.

Media Madness seminar – dealing with technology and kids

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. It was a good presentation. I had heard some of the information before, but it is always good to be reminded of these things. (To read more, click here.)

Getting my kids their own debit cards

When Jase was five we began giving him a small allowance to teach him about money. In the beginning, I would put cash in his wallet. When he went to store, he paid for his items. We did the same for Lexie when she turned five. Then in 2015, the kids received iPads for Christmas and with that came online purchases for apps and games. As online purchases became a norm and with Jase making money doing yard work, it became easier to keep track of their money on a spreadsheet. (To read about debit cards for kids, click here.)

Lightning strike causes havoc

It was a dark and stormy morning. The sounds of the thunderstorm woke me. A glance at the clock showed it was 5 a.m. Suddenly, a bright burst of light flashed, followed by a boom that shook the house. (To find out what happened next, click here.)

Being named Alexa in a world being taken over by Amazon’s Alexa

In the beginning of 2015, the Amazon Echo joined our family. The digital assistant for this smart home device is named Alexa. The same name as my daughter. So, of course, we changed the “wake word” (the word to activate the digital assistant) to ‘Echo’ on our device to avoid confusion. (To find out more, click here.)

Teaching my son to swallow pills

Some children learn to swallow pills early while some teenagers and even some adults can’t do it. Lexie learned almost two years ago when she was 8 but that was out of necessity. She takes daily medication for her allergies and for her attention deficit disorder (ADD). (To read about learning to swallow a pill, click here.)

Learning to deal with tween behavior

Last month my son became a teenager, but so far it my ten-year old daughter who seems to have the teenage attitude. With her I get the exasperated “I know” or the sigh and eye roll or her palm slapped to her forehead. And I am pretty over it. (To read more, click here.)

Finding out if my son is a late bloomer or has short stature

Ever since he was a toddler, Jase has always been on the smaller side. As he grew, he seemed to have found his growth curve for height in the mid to upper twenties on the standard growth percentile scale. And then about three years ago, his growth slowed down. And now at age 13, he is only in the fourth percentile for both weight and height. (To continue reading, click here.)

Knowing how to swim doesn’t stop 6-year-old from drowning

So many times, when you see a story about a child drowning, there will be comments such as “This is why my kids learned to swim” or something to that effect. People seem to think that knowing how to swim will safe guard their child from drowning. But sadly that isn’t the case as my neighbor found out. (To find out what happened, click here.)

Kids Not Feeling Well: Stay home or go to school?

School began three weeks ago. Three days in, Lexie complained her throat hurt. No fever but it was clear she had some congestion. The next morning came the familiar debate – do we send her to school because it is only a cold (or perhaps allergies) or do we keep her home? (The debate continues here.)

Cooking almost every night

Most evenings you can find me in the kitchen cooking dinner. My neighbor, a mother of three grown daughters, marveled over this since she doesn’t cook every night now and certainly didn’t when her girls were younger. But I don’t find this odd. (To find out more, click here.)

A Star Wars Christmas Tree

My husband and I have talked about it for a few years. Every year, we get more Star Wars Hallmark Christmas ornaments thanks to my mom. For many years, every Thanksgiving, she gives everyone in the family Hallmark ornaments – Star Wars for Jase and my husband, trains for my dad and whatever catches her eye for my brother, Lexie and me.

With more Star Wars ornaments coming in each year, I can’t even begin to tell you how many we have. I would say over 75, but I haven’t counted them recently.

So, each year, when we get the latest release of Hallmark Star Wars Christmas ornaments, we mention we have enough to decorate a Christmas tree with just the Star War ornaments. We already have a 9’ slim tree in our living room and a 7’ tree in our front office, which are decorated with many, many Hallmark ornaments – Star Wars and others – as well as handmade ornaments. We clearly have enough ornaments for another tree. For a while now, I suggested we add a third tree to the house and put it in our bedroom.

Well, this year my mom bought my husband the Hallmark Star Wars Christmas tree skirt. It is very cool. It lights up! But both of our trees already had tree skirts. Hmmm…must be a sign for us to finally buy a tree to dedicate to our Star Wars ornaments.

And that is what we did. We bought a 7 ½’ slim tree for our bedroom and put most of the Star Wars ornaments on it. We did keep a few for the other two trees.

Now what would a Star Wars tree be without a Star Wars Christmas tree topper. Hallmark does have one – a Death Star. I was able to find it on sale online. It too is awesome. It lights up and plays either “The Imperial March” or “The Star Wars Theme,” when first turned on or when activated by a remote that is concealed as an ornament.

So after years of talking about it, we now have a Star Wars Christmas tree.

Helping run our school’s Angel Tree service project

Delivering gifts to our partner school in 2017.

Every year, Lexie’s elementary school does an Angel Tree for families in need from our school as well as our “partner” school. (In our school district, every school PTA is paired up with another school to help that PTA with advice or volunteers. Usually a more well-to-do school is paired with a less fortunate school.) It isn’t done at all schools, but we have a tradition with our PTA of doing an Angel Tree as a service project.

And since I am PTA president this year, of course, I am more involved in the project than I have been in the past. Most years, I have just bought items. Last year, I helped cart over the goodies. This year, I did both those things as well as advertise the event and organized the wrapped gifts that came in. Luckily, I had someone else who was actually in charge of the event.

It was her job to contact the counselors at each school.  The counselors select families in need of a little help during the holiday season and submits wish lists of items these families need. It could be household items, clothes or toys for the kids. The lady in charge then put the list online for people to sign up. We had 16 families at our school and 18 at our partner school.

Now many Angel Trees stop gifts for kids past the age of 12, but we don’t abide by that. We give gifts to everyone in the family, whether they are two months old or 17 years old. We also give to the parents and address family needs which can be anything from blankets, towels, kitchen supplies to just cleaners, laundry detergent or shampoo. In the end, we had 168 individuals or family needs on our list. Wow!

I have had friends in the past who have had to rely on Angel Tree for their kids to have anything for Christmas, so I am always happy to help. I started with adopting one kid and then moved to adopting two – one for each of my kids to help. Of course, Lexie and Jase don’t fully understand the struggle these families endure. They have a room full of toys and can’t imagine kids being happy with clothes or shoes as gifts. But we always gave those items in addition to a toy.

As the years went on this morphed into me adopting the whole family, so we would adopt two kids and buy something for the parents (usually clothes) and buy whatever their family needs were. It is hard not to go overboard with buying so I always set a budget.

This year, I decided to forgo the buying items for kids. I looked at the family needs for some of the family needs from our “partner” school. They wanted cleaning supplies, laundry detergent and blankets. I happen to be at Sam’s Club and noted that many of the cleaners came in packages of 4 so it only seemed logical to “adopt” four families. I bought laundry baskets, trash bags, laundry detergent and blankets from my local grocery store to add to the cleaners I bought at Sam’s Club. I then added tissue boxes and paper towels from my own supplies. I think they turned out very well. (Sorry for the slightly blurry photo.)

Since our Angel Tree had so many families/individuals on the list, we struggled to fill some of the last spots, which were for parents who were asking for clothes. I looked at the list and saw that many of the moms wanted jackets. I had just come into some extra dough after selling something on Craigslist, so I took that money and bought three jackets and then at least one other thing on their list – a scarf, a candle, a shirt and a hat and gloves. Yes, after doing 4 family needs, I “adopted” three more people – and spent exactly the amount I made from Craigslist.

And a week after the due date for all the gifts, our PTA room was swamped with wrapped packages. We have a very generous community. Everyone on that list got multiple things. Some had 2-3 wrapped packages, but I saw kids with 6 or 7 gifts, including a bicycle!

It took us four SUVs to haul over the portion that went to our partner school. They were ecstatic to see all those packages and couldn’t wait to deliver them to the needy families. What a great feeling to know you are helping others have a brighter, happier Christmas!

Poptart the hamster joined our family

Two months ago, I wrote about Lexie wanting a hamster. For weeks, she had been on her best behavior and been demonstrating how responsible she could be. But while we wanted her to be responsible for her potential pet that wasn’t our main concern or maybe I should we had three concerns – their names are Nikki, Spooky and Tails. Ok, so Tails isn’t much of a hunter, but the other two cats certainly are.

Hamsters and cats don’t mix.

We had told Lexie this, but it didn’t deter her. And with all her hard work, we couldn’t keep saying no. So, within a few days of my post on maybe getting a hamster, we did it. We let Lexie get one.

We bought her the cage from Amazon. She bounced all the way to the pet store to pick out her hamster – a Chinese Dwarf hamster – she named Poptart. She even paid for her own hamster though I bought the bedding, food and other supplies.

 

Lexie couldn’t wait to get her home and have her run around in her hamster ball. Even Jase was fascinated with Poptart.

But not everyone was thrilled. Nikki, Lexie’s cat, was definitely unhappy to be booted from Lexie’s room. She was used to sleeping with Lexie at night and lounging on her bed during the day. That all changed. Ever since the little hamster joined the family, Nikki has been banned from Lexie’s room. Oh, she has made it in a few times, but we have been there and as soon as she shows any interest in the hamster, she is booted from the room.

I am happy to say that Poptart is still alive 8 weeks later.

As for the newfound responsibility Lexie showed, it stayed for a few weeks and then began to wane. (See my post on the morning rush.) But she has been very good about helping clean Poptart’s cage and feeding her – especially Poptart’s favorite carrots.

Overall, I have to say that I’m glad we allowed Lexie to get a hamster. Poptart seems to be a good addition to the family. But this is it. No more animals. Three cats, two dogs and a hamster is quite enough.

My animal-loving daughter takes death of animals – even in the movies – to heart

I’m raising some animal loving kids. Both kids are very compassionate about animals. I guess this is to be expected as we have three cats, two dogs and a hamster.

Lexie in particular loves dogs and wants to be a dog rescuer when she grows up. If I let her, she would start now. She always concerned when she sees a loose dog on the street or a sign advertising a lost pet.

While dogs are clearly her favorite, she does love all animals. And this love has been clearly shown in her reaction to two movies that we have watched in the past few months.

When we went to the theater to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Lexie was particularly troubled by the scene where the brachiosaurus dies in the fire. It was by far a sad scene for everyone in the theater, but it bothered Lexie quite a bit. Beyond just the tears during the scene, for days afterward she would suddenly wail out about the injustice of it all and why did it have to die?

For that matter, in the first Jurassic World, she was quite upset when the Indominus Rex goes on a killing spree of the other dinosaurs on the island. She had very little concern for the people who died but the dinos were another story.

Last week, we watched Alpha. We almost didn’t make it past the opening scene where the warriors chase the buffalo over the cliff.

It doesn’t matter to Lexie that this is just a made-up story or that these creatures weren’t real. She feels for the innocent creatures. In fact, she always seems more upset about the death of animals than she does about the human characters. Maybe it is because humans are flawed or simply because she doesn’t think the animals deserve to die. It doesn’t even matter if the death is so others can survive such as in Alpha when the boy Keda has to kill a rabbit to feed himself and the wolf Alpha.

Guess this means Lexie will never be a hunter. And I guess this means we need to really monitor what scenes Lexie sees in the movies, on TV or YouTube. Because as we all know not everyone out there loves animals. Not everyone sees them as creatures with feeling. There are lots of bad people out in the world who mistreat animals and these people are portrayed in movies and on TV. It was sometime over the summer that Lexie was devastated about a cartoon on YouTube in which someone threw a puppy against the wall. For the longest time while she was crying about this, I thought she saw a video of a real dog being killed. Ugh.

In the end, Lexie did like both Fallen Kingdom and Alpha. Heck, she even watched A Dog’s Purpose which is about a dog’s spirit who gets reincarnated as several different dogs throughout its life. The first death was the hardest but with each one it got a little easier and she loved the end of the movie. By the way, we warned her not to watch this movie but she insisted because it was about a dog.

I know we can’t protect her forever from these images and stories, but I do think we have to remember how sensitive she is to the lives of animals and while my husband and I understand the scenes in these movies, Lexie might not. At the very least, we can warn her about anything that will leave her in tears.