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Boys and their Crazy World of Sports

10 Apr

I’m feeling in the need of a good rant about boys, sports, bullying, and sportsmanship.  So here it is and I promise the next post will be about another fun and light hearted family adventure…

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After spending another Saturday running around to multiple sporting events with my boys, I once again observed the horrible negative side of sports. Fortunately, over the years, I have encountered much more positive than negative, but the negative always seems to hit me really hard.  I absolutely hate it.  How can youth sports bring out such an ugly side of some adults?

Over the past few years, it seems that our society has put forth so much time, money, and energy into confronting the issue of bullying and the issues surrounding this problem.  Well, after sitting through many years of athletics, maybe we really need to start looking at what is being taught to boys in the world of youth sports.  Over the years, I have watched more coaches yell uncontrollably at their players and referees, put them down, and confront them in a horrific manner.  I’ve observed fans (yes, adult fans) calling players names and laughing at young athletes when they botch a play.  Why is it that just because a boy is in a sports uniform it is okay for adults to humiliate, taunt, and in a sense bully him?  How is it that we tell our kids to not bully and expect them to be kind, yet let all the rules of common decency fall apart when we put our kids out on the court or field? We expect young athletes to follow rules, but silently ignore the poor behavior by adults.  This is just wrong.

It seems that we put these young athletes on a pedestal for their successes, yet on the other hand we allow them to be treated horribly by adults and their role models, all in the name of sports.  What do we expect?  Is there any question why some boys head to school Monday morning and bully those that are weaker?  This is a recipe for disaster.

I fully understand that sports are competetive and it’s okay to expect boys to be tough. I am not a fan of the “everyone wins” mentality. It’s ok to cheer and be excited.  It’s normal to feel thrilled when your team wins, but it is just as important to be proud when you lose.  While I see so many amazing coaches, teammates, and supportive fans (fortunately, this is the majority), I also have seen the worst of the worst.  I am truly shocked and disappointed by the horrible behavior by that small percentage. I always leave those games with rude fans and obnoxious coaches feeling a little shaken up and sad for the players.  This is not right.  Period.

There is no easy answer to fixing this problem, but as parents, we need to start somewhere.  Even if that just means starting with ourselves.  We need to not just look the other way and shrug off this poor behavior.  Fellow sports parents, we know that certain teams will carry a reputation for being more “intense and rowdy”.  We need to stop sugar coating the truth and stand up to this overlooked form of bullying.  We need to inform leagues and referees of  poor behavior.  We need to never allow our sons to play for a coach who continually displays poor sportsmanship or be represented by fans who promote this type of behavior.  If enough of us stand up for what is right, hopefully we can take the negative out of youth sports.  Bottom line, our boys deserve better!

For the Love of Camping

24 Jan

The art of camping is one family adventure that has definitely grown on me over the years.  I didn’t grow up in a camping family, but I always envied the fun that my childhood friends would have on camping trips.  I always knew that camping was something I wanted my kids to experience, but wasn’t quite sure where to start.  When my camping journey began (being that I was a novice camper), the reasonable way to begin this new adventure was to hook up with a rented RV and go from there.  Taking the first step was by far the hardest part and camping surely has been a learn as you go experience.  Mistakes were made (yes, even nasty dump tank mistakes), as well as many more successes. I experienced a few tears, all while creating some great memories.

Camping actually was the “perfect” vacation for my family when the kiddos were young.  It beat airplane rides, rental cars, and dining out.  At that early stage in my journey of parenting, the thought of dragging 4 small kids (and all their crap) through TSA and on layovers, all while ignoring sleep schedules and lugging car seats, diapers, and sippy cups was totally unbearable.  Camping made it possible to explore our surrounding states and sights, all while still getting away from the routine of being at home.  We camped often and saw so many amazing places.  But, as every parent knows you must change as your family grows and all good things do come to an end (kind of).

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As soon as my family grew out of naps and booster seats and those little bodies grew bigger, camping was not quite the same.  My true passion to start seeing the world was finally possible and quickly overruled any camping desire.  I put my rustic outdoorsy side on the back burner and abandoned most of our camping excursions.  Believe it or not, it was kind of sad (okay, not that sad).  There is something about being able to fill your kids full of junk food, get as dirty as they want, and run around like hooligans outside all weekend.  I love the feeling of setting up “camp”, the late night adult campfire discussions about politics, and playing cards.  So, in keeping up the tradition, my family now spends one weekend a summer filling my kids with the best food of Walmart and zero showering (for the boys at least).

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Each summer we spend a weekend with a growing group of fabulous families at Palisade Sate Park in Central Utah.  This place is just too perfect of a campground and way to much fun to quit visiting.  The location is great for friends and family coming from several different states and it is absolutely beautiful.  The lake is just big enough to explore, yet small enough to put a life vest on your older kids and let them take out a canoe.  Since this lake doesn’t allow power boats, it especially adds to it being a perfect lake for swimming.  There is tons of open space for that game of  kickball, an outdoor movie, or just to throw the frisbee around with your dog. The bathrooms are clean, with showers and flush toilets (a must for this high maintenance camper).  There is even a golf course and cafe to add to the list of why I love this place.  Did I mention the most amazing sunsets too?

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I could rave on and on about this amazing campground, but I think I’d better get on booking our campsite for this summer.  Happy adventures!

To Read more about my camping adventures, check out my post about Yellowstone.

Giving Back to Belize

19 Sep

As a parent, I feel that one of my many responsibilities is to teach my children about compassion and  giving back to others.  It is no secret that American children have it really good.  We live in a land of fancy stores, well manicured homes, and a great education system compared to much of the world.  Most American kids don’t really understand the reality of true poverty.

So, when it comes to teaching my kids this concept, it can be hard.  I, like so many parents, can easily  get caught up in our daily life of material things and stuff.  We are a society caught up in iPhones, video games, and celebrities.  It is truly a difficult task  for our young people to see beyond that.

While vacationing abroad, I always make a point to stop at a local school, village, or library.  In past years, I would stock up some needed donation items to distribute to local charities.  Our family would show up to distribute our donations and my kids would love the attention and praises of being told how kind they were.  Honestly, this attention would overshadow the meaning of why we were there.  I never had much success with impacting my kids for more than the time it took them to get their next virgin pina coloda.  I really wanted to make an impact in their  young minds, but have had little success in the past. On our recent summer trip to San Pedro, Belize, a different approach was attempted (this tactic was somewhat by mistake, dictated  by luggage restrictions).  We showed up empty handed, except with a basketball from our local University, and thought we’d send a monetary donation after returning home.  The focus of this visit turned away from my kids and onto the true meaning of the less privileged kids of Belize.  The visit was all about observing and really seeing the needs of the children who attend this tiny school.

The reality of  the struggles this school in Belize faced was a sobering experience.  The soccer field was dirt, buildings sat over a swampland,  and the level of poverty shown in the homes near the school property was unlike anything we have ever seen.  Yet with all the obvious obstacles this school faces, they have amazing success in educating some of the poorest children in San Pedro.  After spending almost an hour touring, learning, and asking questions. my kids were impacted.  They left quiet (which NEVER happens with my crazy bunch) and asked questions for hours.  I knew they were impacted.

Upon returning home to the U.S., my kids genuinely wanted to give back.  They decided (on their own) to donate many of  their old toys and sell them at a yard sale.  With the help of some donuts and juice, they were able to raise $75 to send to the school.  They were on a mission and deeply touched by their experience in Belize.  My youngest even asked for his birthday, instead of a remote control car, to send that money to the kids in Belize.  It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps! Most importantly, they were looking beyond themselves and felt like they were giving back to the kids of Belize.

So my goal, as a parent, is much more then just this one small school in Belize.  The bigger picture is what I hope for with my children.  I hope to raise compassionate adults, who realize that the impact of  giving can touch so many lives.  I hope that as adults, they too will find the importance of giving back and teach their children to do the same.  If every parent could just pass on a little bit of this way of thinking, our world would surely be a better place!

Click HERE for more information about Holy Cross Anglican School, Belize

Tropical Paradise

27 Aug

When I was planning our 2012 summer family adventure, I was looking for something unique.  Something a little more adventurous than the typical beach vacation and a way to expose my kids to some new experiences.  I wanted my kids to do things that were beyond anything they could have ever imagined.  Through hours of research and planning,  I finally decided on Belize.  Having already made a trip to this tiny country (minus the kids), I had a good idea of what to expect and thought that it would fit the bill for my active brood.  I was right.  The kids had a blast, enjoyed some amazing experiences, and even learned a bit along the way.  Mission accomplished!  Our adventures in Belize began in the jungle and continued with some “chillaxing” on the island of Ambergris Caye at the Coco Beach Resort.

Coco Beach was the perfect tropical family resort.  Two bedroom condos, amazing pools (with an unbelievable climbing and sliding structure), swim up bar, and a staff that loved kids (or at least faked it really well).  I will admit that Coco Beach was not the easiest place to get to.  The trip started on the mainland, included a quick puddle jumper flight over to Ambergris Caye, a taxi to the dock, and lastly a quick boat ride to the resort.  While getting to this tropical paradise was a little draining for me (ok, totally exhausting), it was all part of the adventure for the kids.  They were totally fascinated with the 12 passenger plane and the a boat doubling as a taxi was totally amazing.  The minute we arrived to Coco Beach, the torture of the long and hot day became a distant memory.  This resort is fabulous!

With my kids being so programmed to associate beach vacations with boogie boarding, Belize was quite a surprise.  To be honest, at first my kids were upset when realizing that Belize was not going to be like other beach vacations.  There are no waves, so playing in the surf and boogie boarding was off the table.  After about four thousand complaints about the no wave situation, the little monsters finally listened to all the other great things that Belize had to offer.  Swimming with sharks, petting sting rays, spear fishing, sailing, and exploring the island on bikes or a golf cart.  The kids were sold on Belize and never looked back.  We spent the days keeping active and the evenings out exploring the town of San Pedro.  Perfect combination of activity and relaxation!

Ambergris Caye (and the Coco Beach Resort) was total paradise for the whole family!  By the way, if you’re wondering…yes, that is my kid swimming with an 8 foot shark.  No lack of adventure in Belize!

Golf Cart Adventures in Belize

10 Jul

The small town of San Pedro, Belize is known for their cobblestone roads and tiny streets packed with golf carts.  Thats right, the main source of transportation on this tiny little tropical island is the golf cart.  So, we rented our own cart & set off with all 4 kids in tow, to discover and explore the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize.  What a fabulous day we had!  Our little adventure really gave my kids a look at how the locals of Belize live and created some great memories.

We stopped at a small local school that many of the poorest children in San Pedro attend. My kids were fascinated by the differences from their school in the U.S. and are still compelled to do something to help the school children of San Pedro.  We even left the school with a basketball from our local University.

We had to stop at my favorite San Pedro restaurant, Waraguma, for some lobster papusas!  Yumm!!!

Minor injuries are a must on every adventure with my brood.  Yes, I almost fed my 8 year old to a 100 pound Tarpon fish.  A little blood with a few tears and he was all recovered.

After leaving the town, we navigated through the north end of the island.  We rode through the tiny jungle lined paths and made a quick stop for cereal and pasta at the Mata Grande Market.

No trip would be complete without a coconut or two…or one really HUGE coconut!

What a day.  Full of fun, sun, lots of bumps, and adventure!

Welcome to the Jungle

9 Jul

First, I must start by saying that I consider myself to be pretty adventurous.  I don’t have any huge phobias, I am willing to try new things, and I definitely consider myself to be brave.  Extreme is what I set out to do on our latest family adventure and the mission was accomplished.  My desire for adventure and thrill rocked my little world!

This summer, I set out with the family for something totally unique, high intensity, and an ideal situation to create some long lasting memories. I thought that with having 3 wild and crazy boys, an adventurous daughter (that could use a little toughening up), and a flexible husband…a few days in the jungle of Central America would be a great adventure.  It was an adventure alright!  We experienced amazing new situations and experiences as a family…although it was a bit painful at times.  It was crazier than I could have imagined and the conclusion is that the jungle is not for wimps!

We began our Central American adventure in high adventure mode.  After traveling for what seemed like hours on end, I led the family away from the airport and headed deep into the Belize jungle for a stay at the Caves Branches Jungle Lodge.  Three days in a treehouse, limited electricity (no hairdryers, TV, & air conditioning), and only walls of screen to protect us from the life of the jungle.  The place was unique and beautiful.  I felt like I was a million miles away from it all and I was ready for the adventure to begin.

We spent the days exploring the local cave systems and learning about the Mayan culture.  We rode around in a vintage bus, had a picnic lunch in a cave, climbed to the top of a Mayan temple, and played in the rivers throughout the jungle.  The adventure factor was high, the history was amazing, and the weather was hot!  I returned to the lodge each day ready for a cold beer and loving the heavily shaded pool!  Little did I know that while I felt the days were adventurous, the nights were the real adventure.

When the sun set, the jungle became a whole different world.  The humidity rose, the noises got louder, and the bugs became braver.  Actually, the 4 inch cockroaches can’t even be considered bugs, they were more like nasty little monsters…yuck!  I slept with one eye open (when I could actually fall asleep).  I’m not sure if I was more afraid of the noises in the dark or what could appear right in front of me if I turned on a light.  My one and only nighttime bathroom visit included bumping into my husband while we both were chasing a cockroach with DEET bug repellant.  Not a pretty sight I’m sure.  Just a side note, DEET does not kill massive cockroaches.  It actually doesn’t even slow them down.  I decided it was better to just wait to use the restroom until morning, regardless of how uncomfortable it became.  I was also so incredibly thankful that my poor husband was the only one suffering from a case of montezuma’s revenge (sorry Honey!).  It was hot, loud, and I was scared.  I patiently waited each night for morning to come so I could actually relax and get a couple of hours of shut eye.

Over all, (speaking after recovering for 6 days in a fabulous tropical beach resort) this was an amazing experience.  A bit painful at times (okay, it was horrible at times), but I wouldn’t change a thing.  The stories and experiences we shared are irreplaceable.  I feel proud and strong.  I can say I survived and my kids have experienced something that none of their friends have ever done.  I set out for an adventure and was it ever an “adventure”!

My daughter will never again be squeamish about the bugs at home and my boys will always view me as one pretty brave Mama!  I can cross staying in the jungle off my bucket list and start looking toward what to do next to top this adventure of a lifetime.  I just know that my next extreme  family experience will involve air-conditioning and hopefully no cockroaches!

Staycation Anyone?

6 Jul

Spending quality family time together and creating memories doesn’t have to involve thousands of dollars or airline travel.  Great memories can happen right in your backyard…literally.  Grab the kids, dump the screens for a few days, and reconnect.  It’s time to take a Staycation!

A staycation is the art of staying local but acting like you are on a vacation.  It is a great way to have some quality family time without the hassle and expense of a traditional vacation.  The possibilities of things to do are endless and with some planning and preparation you are sure to create some amazing family memories.

First, suffer the typical pre-vacation stress that you would if you were actually going away.  Clean your house, “pack” your clothes, pay bills, stock up on food, and let the office know you are on vacation.  Being prepared is the most important part!  You don’t want to spend your entire staycation looking for matching socks and running errands.

Also, decide as a family what everyone would enjoy doing and come up with a plan beforehand.  Water parks, amusements parks, museums, and movies are all great places to spend time together as a family.  The summer months are also full of free concerts, outdoor movies, festivals, and farmers markets.  Decide before what you are going to do each day to avoid confusion and arguing.  Here are a few more unique and creative ideas to make your staycation a success.

Go back to school.  Spend a day enjoying a day on a local college campus.  College campuses have such a fun and exciting feel.  Find a sporting event, check out the football stadium, buy some souvenirs at the bookstore, and eat some grub at the local hot spot.

Go visit some horses.  Kids love animals and horses are great to love.  Go out for a horseback ride, enjoy a local rodeo, or go and watch the horse races.  You can’t go wrong with any of these ideas – kids love animals and cowboys.

Find a last minute deal on a hotel room in your city.  Stay the night, enjoy the pool, and let the kids eat room service in bed.  You may only be a few miles from home, but you will feel like you are a thousand miles away.

Learn about your local history.  Do some research and learn about the unique and historical landmarks in your area and go visit them.  You might be surprised!

Turn your yard into a fun zone.  Get out the slip ‘n’ slide, play your favorite music, BBQ, make s’mores, and end the night with an outdoor movie while sleeping under the stars.  You could even splurge and rent an inflatable waterslide, with all the money you’re saving by not traveling.

Experience a new adventure as a family.  There is not much better for family bonding then doing something new for everyone together.  Go zip lining, rafting, water skiing, rock climbing, indoor skydiving, or anything else that is out of the ordinary for your family.

Most importantly, just spend time together connecting and bonding as a family.  Let the chores wait, turn off the phone, and have fun!

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