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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!

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!

Wikki Stix Deal

12 Jun

So, I am not a deal blog, but I am a Mom who loves to share a great deal.  One of my favorite travel toys for kids are Wikki Stix.  They are small, clean, and seriously can keep your kids quiet for hours (even my kids).  They are awesome for road trips and airplane rides.  I suggested them in my post about Staying Sane in the Friendly Skies.

I know I’m going to take advantage of this great deal and stock up before our summer trips!

http://www.plumdistrict.com/deals/wikki-stix-20-for-40-toward-award-winning-kids-toys-from-wikki-stix-LKvRQS

Happy Travels!

Staying Sane in the Friendly Skies

10 May

Traveling with babies and children can be a very challenging situation.  I have had my fair share of great flights and some horribly embarrassing situations also.  Here are a dozen of my favorite practical in- flight tips for parents…

1.)  Remember that traveling with kids is NOT fun.  Airline flights can be successful, but they are not easy for parents.  Do not expect to relax and watch a movie, read a novel, or look at every page in your People Magazine.  If you ignore your kids, your children will misbehave, you will be stressed out, and the other passengers sitting around you will give you dirty looks.  Just plan on being a non-stop babysitter the entire flight and it will be easier for everyone.

2.)  Have your child sit in their car seat if possible.  You can’t expect a 3 year old to sit in a lap belt for an entire flight.  It is way too much fun to jump on the seat and make faces at the people sitting in the row behind them.  Entertaining for the kid, annoying for others.

3.)  Pack plenty of HEALTHY snacks.  Feeding your kid 10 packs of fruit snacks and candy is not a good idea.  One word…Puke.

4.)  Always carry on a simple change of clothes for each child and parents.  There is nothing like your potty trained preschooler falling asleep in your lap and having an accident.  It’s pretty rough walking off the plane with a half naked and screaming child wrapped in an airplane blanket.  Even better when it happens in 1st class…classy!

5.)  Bring a portable DVD player, over the ear headphones, and several DVDs.  Your little one might actually sit and watch the movie.  If not, the act of changing the movie 5 times can even keep your child quiet and busy for a few minutes.

6.)  Loosen up on your regular media rules and let them watch something you wouldn’t usually allow.  Popping in an action filled PG-13 movie for your tween son will keep his attention much better than the regular stuff he watches.  Being in a crowded box, 30,000 feet in the air, with a bunch of strangers is all about survival.  Save the rules for when you are on solid ground.

7.)  Plan for ear pressure during take off and landing.  Be ready to feed or give a pacifier to babies and encourage older kids to swallow or chew on something.  Sippy cup, box juice, gum, or whatever works.

8.)  Bring a small blanket and pillow for each child.  It can make all the difference if they sleep or not.

9.)  If you are traveling on a longer or night flight, older kids may need some help getting some sleep.  I’m not a doctor and recommend talking with your family physician about what the best option is for your child.  If you are interested, I have had pretty good luck with melatonin.  Words of advice, think twice before using Benadryl, some kids have the opposite effect and it may dry out their sinuses.

10.)  Pack some new and fun activities.  Some of my favorites are WikiStix, colorful pipe cleaners, Play Foam, and coloring pages on a clipboard.  These are all small, easy, quiet, and inexpensive.

11.)  If your kid is going to kick the seat in front of them, take their shoes off.  It’s not nearly as fun to kick a seat barefoot.

12.)  Most importantly, keep calm.  You can do everything right and your kid can still decide to behave like a total monster.  Don’t let other people around you stress you out more.  Parents are in a hard position on an airplane.  It’s not like you can take them for a little walk out front to resolve the issue.  You are stuck.  Remember, you’ll never see these people again in your life.

Good luck and happy travels!

Traveling with Grandparents

5 Apr

Dedicated to all of the cool Grandparents out there willing to give the “multi-generational travel” thing a chance!

 

 

 

Vacationing with Grandparents can be a great way to spend quality time as a family and really create some fabulous memories.  Getting in quality time with family during crazy holiday visits, birthday parties, and normal routines is hard to come by in our fast paced lifestyle.  I am all about creating memories for my kids, since memories will stay with them forever.

Since our Grandma and Grandpa live out of state, our visits always include sleepovers.  We have spent several days together under one roof, without driving each other totally insane (insane, yes).  Our sleepovers are always at one of our homes, which means that someone has to plan and host.  When the visits are at my home, I’m busy with the daily routine, plus entertaining my guests.  Laundry, bills, cooking, and running kids here and there.  Hubby is busy with work and his iPhone never stops chiming.  The kids are distracted by their friends, the phone, homework, and sports.  All of the daily stuff plus trying to be a good hostess.  The Grandparents do great jumping into our daily routine, fill in where they can, yet are ready to step back out after a few days of the craziness.  We also try to make an annual visit to their world.  It happens to be a 55 and older Country Club community.  This is another story.  We roll in like a tornado and never slow down. When their perfectly organized and quiet home is invaded by 6 people (4 kids and sometimes a dog) it is quite the adventure and not much of a relaxing vacation for anyone.  Controlled chaos at best.  Need I say more?

So, on one of our “regular” visits we started talking about travel, my absolute favorite subject.  We have traveled together in the past…once.   That trip consisted of a little multi-generation camping trip.  I figured if we survived that without any major catastrophe, it was time to go bigger.  So it was decided (after a few glasses of wine I’m sure) to travel together again, go big, and really make it happen.  Costa Rica was a thought, I started planning, and we did it!  It ended up being great and accomplished exactly the goal…a great experience for everyone!

I have to credit a good part of the success to the Grandparents giving up control and trusting my love for planning travel.   We agreed on some dates, set a budget, they booked their flights, and showed up where I told them to go.  Perfect.  No stress in the planning!  Then while on the trip, they rolled with the punches.  They went on the tours I arranged and seemed to enjoy every minute.  They weren’t concerned about the kids making a neighbor crazy (like at their house) and I wasn’t worried about picking up the next big mess.  The kids loved the new and improved Grandpa and Grandma.  While the kids knew that their Grandparents would be meeting us, they were still thrilled.  The look on their faces when two familiar faces appeared in a very unfamiliar place was amazing!

I won’t lie and say that there wasn’t a couple (okay, several) times before our trip that I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision.  I worried if my kids would be too much for my parents and my parents too much for me.  I seemed to forget that being away from the real world and in a vacation frame of mind changes everything…for the better!  Relaxed Grandparents, stress free parents, and rested kids makes for an amazing visit.  This time away with the Grandparents allowed for some of the most amazing memories.  My kids will always remember the special time they each had with each grandparent.  No distractions and no real worries, unless you call where to eat dinner a stress.

While I am fairly new at planning this multi-generational travel, I feel really good about the couple trips we have shared .  I think I can consider it successful if we can’t wait to plan the next one!  Here are a few decisions we made that I felt were a big part in making our trip so amazing…

We traveled separately and met at the destination.  Dragging a retired couple though the travel sagas of our family, on planes and in airports, would have been ugly .  The stress of that alone could have pushed even the most most doting grandparent over the deep end.  We even chose to spend few days alone before meeting up.  Great decision.  My kids were all relaxed, adjusted, and had some great adventure stories to share.

We made sure Grandma & Grandpa were set up with some of their own space.  We rented a house with an attached studio apartment in Costa Rica.  It worked perfect.  They could escape for some R & R and it gave our family a little space as well.  We didn’t invite them along to be built in childcare, we wanted them to have a great time too!

I planned a couple activities to let the kids see that the older generation is not all boring.  Kayaking, boogie boarding, and zip lining.  Watching Grandpa zip line through the jungle was a mind blowing experience for my “cooler- than-cool” preteen.

This experience was able to to create some great memories and let my kids see a very different side of their Grandparents.  As a whole, it was awesome and we would do it again in a heartbeat.  The memories that were created will last a lifetime.  Now to decide where to drag Grandma and Grandpa next year!

Travel Tips for the Brood

30 Mar

Traveling with multiple kids, on airline flights, and possibly to different countries has the potential of being a very difficult task.  With a little work and planning it can be somewhat painless!  Through our travels, I have made some great decisions and some mistakes too.  So here is what  I’ve learned, what works for us, and what doesn’t work.

1.)  Research, research, research!!  Don’t head out of town without a plan.  I always structure a few days with activities.  I also leave other days open to relax or fill them in with activities we find when we arrive in our destination.

2.)  I always pack a thin small blanket for each child in their backpack.  Many airlines don’t provide blankets anymore and they really make a huge difference in their comfort.  It may make the difference if your little one will sleep or not…huge!

3.)  I always dress my kids in bright colored clothing when traveling through airports.  I have kids that are natural explorers, even during the wrong times and at the wrong places.  If they are dressed in hard to miss colors, they are easiers to spot if they decide to wander.

4.)  Check your luggage.  I have seen so many families running to catch connections, carrying everything but their kitchen sink, and screaming at their kids.  Kids are unpredictable and enough stress.  Leave the luggage hauling to the airlines.

5.)  Keep the numbers easy.  One carry-on for each person, that’s easy to manage.   I also always write on my hand how many pieces of luggage I need to pick up at baggage claim.  Count, check, double check, and count again.  I know it sounds crazy, but once we left a carseat at O’Hare airport on the baggage carousel.  The worst part was we didn’t notice it missing until we were loading into the rental car with 4 tired, crabby, and grumpy kids under 8.  Big bummer!

6.)  Don’t pack fruit or meat products when leaving the country.  Other countries don’t allow you to bring it in and trust me, it will end up being a hassle.  I thought the dog who sat down next to my daughter, wagging his tail, was just adorable.  Ya, it was cute until we had to spend the next 10 minutes digging through every piece of carry-on luggage to find half of a smashed banana.  Not fun after traveling for 12 hours.

7.)  Always carry on enough clothing to make it through a full day if luggage goes M.I.A.  Dad always carries a large backpack with PJ’s, a change of clothes, and swimsuit for each person.  At least if the luggage is lost we can still have fun at the pool.

8.)  If you are heading to a beach or lake, bring your own life vests for your kids.  Many places (especially south of the border) will not have the right sizes or any life vests at all.  It is a huge piece of mind knowing that your little loves are safe while enjoying the water.

9.)  When heading off to those tropical vacations, get a prescription for some antibiotic ear drops before you leave.  There is something about swimming, different water bacteria, and humid climates.  Every water centered trip we’ve gone on, I have had at least one kid with at goopy and gunky infected ear.  Kids always have a way of informing you of this at 2 a.m.

10.)  Bring a stroller as long as possible.  It might seem unnecessary to drag along a stroller for your preschooler, but it comes in very handy.  Even if it is just for restraining purposes while navigating through the airport.  I wish I could still convince my grade school kids to ride in a stroller.

11.)  If traveling to another country and language will be an issue, be prepared.  If you have medical or dietary concerns plan ahead. Our family has issues with food allergies, so I preprinted a card in Spanish explaining our situation when traveling to Central America and Mexico.  See my post on Traveling with Food Allergies for more information.

12.)  Don’t leave electronics at home.  I am all about quality family time and limiting the time glued to a screen, but really parents are only human.  The DS, itouch, and iPads  are a great distraction (or free babysitter) when I am trying to enjoy a moment of peace with my husband.  It is my vacation too!

13.)  Learn while you travel. There is nothing better than, while creating memories & having fun, to teach your kids about another culture or way of life.  Leave the resorts and tourist spots.  Shop at a grocery store,  eat where the locals eat, and talk to people that are different than you.   Be a traveler, not just a tourist.

Traveling Abroad with Food Allergies

13 Mar

With summer approaching, millions of families will be packing up and heading out for summer vacations.  For parents of kids with food allergies this opens up a whole new worry, especially if visiting another country.  Different cuisines and language barriers can make traveling much more challenging for allergy sufferers.  Like millions of other parents, I have a child with food allergies.  I spent many years following my little boy around the playground wiping down his hands and keeping him safe.  I was constantly making sure that he didn’t accidentally ingest some dreaded peanut butter or a milkshake that another child left behind.  I worried more than any mother should, while trying to keep his life as normal as possible.  As he grew older, his allergies improved.  Things seemed so much easier and I worried less and less.  As my son got a little older, we decided to vacation out of the country.  I wondered how would it could work and how could I keep my son safe?  I spent hours on the internet and gathered as much information as possible.  So far, we have had 2 successful trips overseas and I can’t count how many safe domestic airline flights we’ve flown.  I have actually been very impressed by the amount of concern and care that others have taken in addressing his health and safety.

Here are some tips and ideas that have helped keep our travels safe:

1.)  Research the cuisine of a country before you book your trip.  Every region has different foods and specialities.  Know their foods and know where allergens may be hidden.  It may be a deciding factor if that is a safe place to visit.  Personally, I know I would avoid parts of Asia with a peanut allergic child.

2.)  Let the airlines know about the allergy before you arrive at the airport.  They can not serve peanuts in the rows around the allergic passenger.  Many airlines will even make the entire flight peanut free.  Also, I give my son an over the counter antihistamine and wipe down everything near his seat.

3.)  Be sure to know the word of the allergen(s) in the native language of the county you are visiting.  Research is crucial, sometimes there can be different variations of the same word.

4.)  Have a fluent speaker translate a paragraph explaining the allergy and emphasize the severity.  Even a little exaggeration can’t hurt.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Copy it on bright paper and laminate.  I made several copies so I always had a copy with me at all times .

5.)  Avoid establishments where there could be cross contamination.  I am very strict with this while traveling overseas.  No bakeries or ice cream shops.  No way!

6.)  Always pack a few snacks to have on hand.  Many foreign countries label all their pre-packaged food from the grocery store.  Take advantage of packaged snack foods and produce.

7.)  Go with your gut feeling.  If you feel like someone preparing your food doesn’t take you seriously, go somewhere else!

My overall experiences traveling with my food allergic son have been positive.  I have actually felt that people in other countries have been more understanding and cooperative than here at home.  Be safe, do your research, and have fun.  Happy Travels!

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