The Thing about Traveling with Children

The thing about traveling with children is that you never know when or how the benefits will manifest themselves.

Naysayers will argue time and again about how small children won’t remember anything.  They argue that traveling is hard on the parents and not worth the time or money.

This may be somewhat true, but I would like to argue that many of the benefits may manifest themselves in ways you might not expect.

Although my children may not remember much about trips they took at an early age, we were planting a seed and didn’t necessarily realize it.  We were planting the seeds of flexibility.

Adventure.

A lot has been happening in the Two Kids and a Map household.  We found out that my husband’s job is moving us to Denver, Colorado.

My husband and I were concerned about how our children would react and with good reason.  After living all of their years in Pensacola, we are uprooting our children from the only house, school and life they have known.  We are going to move them from Pensacola, Florida across the country to Denver, Colorado.

Imagine our surprise when my eight year old son said that it would be an awesome adventure even though he would miss his friends.  All the while, his sister was sitting next to him nodding her head in agreement.  Both children were understandably nervous but are excited to start this new adventure together as a family.

I attribute this to the traveling that we have been doing for as long as they can remember.  Travel has helped teach my children to embrace change.

It has taught my children to look for adventure around every corner.

My traveling children have also taught me something.  They have taught me not to underestimate the power of traveling with children when they are small.

Which experience will stick with my kids?

They stood in front of a screen that was bright green but they were confused.  My kids could see that they were standing in front of a green screen but when they looked at themselves on the television, the monitor showed them standing in front of a map of the United States.  Both of their heads swung back and forth from the television to the screen behind them and looked up at our tour guide, Kimberly, with questioning eyes.

From the front row of our tour, I could almost hear them talking to themselves.  My son would say, “Hey?!? How on earth does that work?”

“This is totally freaking me out,” my daughter would exclaim.  That is her new favorite saying and as she looked for me in the small crowd I could see it in her face.

This was the second stop on our Inside CNN Tour at CNN’s World Headquarters, the largest of 48 worldwide.  The first stop was a brief introduction and a little bit of information about how the shows are produced.  It was interesting to me after teaching Journalism I, which included a 6-week unit of broadcasting.  It seemed to hold my husband’s attention because he is actually a CNN (of the Internet variety) junkie.  Surprisingly enough, my five and seven-year-old children were captivated.  When I first found out that we were scheduled for this tour, I was a little concerned that much of it would be over their heads and not entertaining enough. Well, that is what I get for worrying.

My kids were beyond thrilled when our tour guide called them both up to show everyone how the green screen worked.  She grabbed a matching green sheet and threw it over their bodies so that only their heads were showing.  Then, she pulled the sheet up over their heads so it was almost like they were hiding under Harry Potter’s invisible cloak (at least on camera!).

As I stood there watching two of the people I love most in this world, I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed.  I know it sounds cheesy and I am typically not prone to emotional bouts but while they stood mesmerized in front of that green screen, my mind was racing a million miles a minute as I fast forwarded through their lives.  The mental picture included them in high school journalism and then behind a broadcast desk much like the one that we saw Kyra Phillips sitting behind. It brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face as I wondered if this would be the one experience that clicked.

We are working hard to teach our children that they can be anything that they want to be (and that a backup plan is a healthy part of career planning as well!).  I wonder which of these things we expose them to will be the one thing to stick.  Which one of these travel and life experiences will make a lasting impression and guide their career choices later in life?

Who knows?  Maybe it will be that one trip to Atlanta where we got to pretend to be on CNN.

*Thank you to the Omni Hotel at CNN Center for covering our tour cost.  As always, all opinions are my own with no outside influence.

A Pile of Shoes

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It is just a pile of shoes. 

Some were expensive and some were on sale.  Some were worn just once and others were worn many times.  One pair walked me down the stage as I received my Teacher of the Year award in 2008.  Another pair took me out to dinner with my husband.  One pair had the privilege of making an appearance in two different weddings.

These are just a handful of the many bridesmaid shoes that I have had to purchase over the years.  My husband and I were one of the first few to get married and after that came a deluge of weddings for the next ten years.  After standing up next to dear friends or family more times than can be counted on both of my hands, I have quite the collection of bridesmaid shoes. 

Each pair of shoes not only represents a beautiful wedding but also an exciting adventure. Six weeks after I delivered my second child, I left my brave husband at home with our three year old and the baby and flew from Florida to San Francisco to help one of my best friends from high school celebrate her big day.   Another wedding created a trip to Panama City where my brother-in-law married one of the most wonderful women I know.  Even though I don’t have a pair of shoes for the wine country wedding (we walked barefoot through the grass), looking at the shoes reminds me of the time spent with my husband driving from one winery to the next.  That is one of the first few vacations my husband and I took in our early years of our marriage.   

The last wedding I was in, I wore those pretty little gold shoes from Nine West.  The reception was at a beautiful bed and breakfast in Downtown Pensacola.  That night, after the dancing had finished, I tossed those shoes in my suitcase and flew to Oahu to celebrate my ten year anniversary with my husband.  The shoes never did make an appearance on that trip.  My flip flops were more suited for our dinners on the beach but every time I shoved the shoes out of my way to find a shirt or a pair of shorts, they made me smile. 

I have since retired my bridesmaid shoes.  As I clean out my closet I still smile when I think of each adventure that happened all because I was walking down the aisle…again…and again.

Visit Mara over at Mother of All Trips to see what everyone is dreaming about today!

Dreaming of Callaway Gardens

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Callaway Gardens is a beautiful spot hidden away in South Georgia that makes for a great family getaway.  In a few weekends, we will be making the four hour drive to Callaway Gardens to visit for the first time.  Everytime we drive north from our home, we pass Callaway Gardens.  Each time we do, I always tell my husband that I want to plan a trip there sometime.  We are finally going to get to make the trip!

Besides the beautiful gardens, we will check out the nature trails and then when we are good and hot from our walk we will head to Robin Lake Beach where we will do some swimming and maybe check out a paddle boat.  There is a butterfly center, a Birds of Prey show as well as some ziplines to try out.  I think that we will have plenty to keep us busy during the two days we will spend at Callaway Gardens!

Where are you traveling over the next few weeks?

Join Mara over at Mother of All Trips to share your Monday Dream!

*Photo Courtesy of Tony Crescibene via Flickr.

In Memory of…

This morning, I enjoyed sleeping in, my kids are getting in a few minutes of video games before I make them turn the television off and head outside, and we are going to have a nice dinner tonight with Oma and Opa who arrived from Germany last night to visit us.  The fact that I can do this and have this day with my family in part because of the men and women who have given their lives for my freedom is not lost on me. 

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On this Memorial Day, I am thinking of all of these men and women and giving thanks.  I am thinking of my husband’s great uncle, Winder Lane Close, who went to fight for our freedom during World War II and never came back because he was killed in action in his early twenties.  A few years ago, my husband and I were able to visit his gravesite at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial.  We were the first family members to visit in over 40 years and it was an emotional moment finding his name on one of the hundreds of white crosses. 

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Stop by Mondays are for Dreaming at Mother of All Trips to see what others are hoping, wishing and dreaming.

Monday Dreaming: Postcards

This week, I made it my mission to clean out the hall closets.  They were a disaster and it took awhile to wade through all the junk.  While I was gutting the closets, I came across this box.  It isn’t a big box…just a little shoebox sized Rubbermaid bin but it is full of over 15 years of memories. 

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Since I was allowed to pick out souvenirs, I have always picked up a postcard everywhere we went.  I have postcards from big cities, small towns, attractions like the La Brea Tar Pits and the California Missions, amusement parks and hotels.  

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I even have post cards from cities and states that we just drove though.  I made sure that when we stopped to buy gas, I would run into the convenience store and grab a postcard. 

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Since I got married almost eleven years ago, I really haven’t purchased postcards on our travels unless I was sending one.  After digging around in this box and dreaming about places I visited years ago (some I have revisited since), I think I might have to start with this tradition again! 

What are your travel traditions? 

Thank you to Mara for hosting Monday Dreaming at Mother of All Trips.  See her latest Photo Friday where she shared her son’s souvenir cup!

Dreaming of Summer

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This morning marks the third to last Monday that I will have to get up, make a lunch, get the Big S on a bus (well, my husband has been doing this part), sign homework packets, and check homework after I fight to have him finish it.  There are many more responsibilities that come along with having a school aged child and I imagine they only get worse as the years go by but in just three weeks we will get to shirk all responsibilities for two short months.  We can sleep in if we want, stay up late with no repercussions the next morning.  We can eat lunches out, play at the beach all day, and my favorite part of summer?  We can travel whenever we want without worrying if Big S is missing too much school and without having to make up work when we get home.

I am looking forward to spending time around the house with my kids (ask me how I feel in the middle of the summer after breaking up the 100th argument of the day!) but I am also looking forward to our trips.  We have a couple of trips planned and we have a couple of little weekend getaways that we hope we will be able to take.  In June, we are heading to Asheville, NC.  Later on that month, a friend and I will be taking our four children to explore Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.  In July, we are headed to Disney for a multi-generational (just a fancy word for saying grandma is coming along) trip that grandma has been planning.  Along with my mom, we will be spending the week with my sister and her family.  We haven’t seen them since November of last year so we are long overdue!

What are you doing this summer?

Thank you to Mara at Mother of All Trips for hosting Monday Dreaming!

Traveling Mom, Traveling Daughter

Some of my severe wanderlust I attribute to growing up in a military family that moved around a lot.  Each time we moved, it was across the country.  Hawaii to Florida then to California to Virginia back to California…well, you get the picture.  We would pack our cars full of only what we would need for the next weeks as we waited for the delivery of our belongings and we would drive. 

Most of my wanderlust, though, I attribute to my mother, a lover of all things road trip and adventure.

A scrapbook page of our weekend adventures to Washington DC while living in VA.

A scrapbook page of our weekend adventures to Washington DC while living in VA.

 

My road trip memories are full of homemade tuna fish sandwiches ice cold from the cooler and bags of chips and green grapes at rest areas all over the United States.  Our meals were always placed upon a lovely picnic tablecloth.  Somehow we always got to the hotel early enough to play in the pool for an hour before bedtime…every single night, no matter what.  Of course I later found out that my mom planned it that way so we had time to wear ourselves out splashing in the water and then we would fall asleep quickly once back in the room.  Those fun mini cereal boxes were always a treat on road trips because that was the only time she splurged on them.  My sister and I would fight over who would get which cereal boxes but we would be especially excited when we found out we were staying in a hotel with a free continental breakfast because that meant make-your-own waffles the next morning!

Preparation for proper roadtrips always started with one or two new outfits, some new toys and magnetic travel games but it was the stack of brand new books that plagued me for days before we hit the road.  A week or two before the road trip, we would make a trip to the bookstore where we would get to pick out several books.  When we got home those books were confiscated and placed on the top shelf of my mom’s closet until the trip.  I read voraciously and this was pure torture.  I always contemplated snatching one of the books and hoping she didn’t notice but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it knowing that she would find out somehow or just magically know. 

Getting lost was always on the road trip agenda.  I can picture the gigantic Rand McNally Atlas sitting on the front seat or on the hood of the car as my mom determined where to go.  Inevitably, we always got lost but some of our most exciting adventures were when we were trying to get back on track.  When I finally had my driving permit and then license, I remember a brief argument about wanting to drive and not being able to.  At least not until we were in a stretch of super flat, straight road!

My last epic road trip as a young woman was to move me from Southern California to Pensacola for college.  I wasn’t even 18 yet.  I know the fear and trepidation that I had as we made our way closer to the city that I would call home for four years.  Little did I know I would still be here 15 years later.  I remember pulling in to New Orleans, a side stop to see the city, and falling in love with it for the first time.  I remember something going wrong with my car and for the last 300 miles (maybe more!) of the trip; fully loaded semi trucks were passing us by.  I remember pulling into the University of West Florida and seeing my dorm building for the first time.  Most of all, I remember driving my mom to the airport, watching through the window as my mom walked to her plane, crying tears of both joy and sadness.  Joy because I was beginning a new phase of my life…one that would eventually take me to where I am today–a mother of two children of my own.  Sadness because I was watching my mother get on a plane and leave me to test out my independence and continue to grow into the woman I am and in the past she had always been the one to watch me leave.   

A scrapbook page from our CA to FL trip.

A scrapbook page from our CA to FL trip.

I hope that I am teaching my children to look for adventure around every corner the way my mom taught my sister and I.  I hope that I am inspiring the same wanderlust and love for road trips in my own children with some of the same traditions and some new ones as well.  Both kids are already fighting over who is going to get the last mini cereal box.  When we get lost, this time because of a faulty GPS (of course it wasn’t me that missed the turn!), my four year old always asks if I have to turn around again. 

I hope to watch my teen daughter’s eyes roll as I play my favorite monster ballads from when I was her age.  I am so nervous for the day to arrive when my son begs to drive the car for part of our road trip.  And I know that fight will happen someday because, already, he is full of such independence.  As my children do get older, I hope I never forget the  excited exclamations when cows or horses are spotted, the tired yawns and the chorus of “are we there, yets” as we embark on new adventures.  I hope I always remember that my children associate the gigantic bag of Swedish Fish in the shopping cart with an impending road trip.

So many memories made and so many more to make.

In honor of Mother’s Day this week, thank you Mom.

Be sure to wander over to Mother of All Trips to see other Monday Dreams.

Hiking with Kids

Cashiers, North Carolina has a number of wonderful hiking trails that lead to mountain vistas and waterfalls.  As part of my solo road trip with kids, we are headed to Cashiers, North Carolina to be guests of the High Hampton Inn and Country Club.  I am looking forward to strolling around Hampton Lake, having afternoon tea, and exploring the nearby hiking trails

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My kids will whine about walking across a parking lot to get to the store but will run for hours when we are on a hike or a nature walk.  When we were in New Orleans last week, the kids complained as we walked from spot to spot through the city but once we hit our destination they were all too happy to run and jump and play until their hearts were content!  I am hoping that this holds true when we arrive in Cashiers.  Now that my foot is healed and I have been released from physical therapy, I am looking forward to hiking with my kids and exploring Cashiers.

What are you dreaming about?  Stop by Mother of All Trips to see other travel dreams!

Photo Courtesy of KE4SFQ via Flickr

Dreaming of a Girl’s Weekend Getaway

This weekend is my annual girl’s weekend getaway.  There are a couple of us that try to get together every year.  It started with my 30th birthday.  We headed to Biloxi, Mississippi for a true birthday blowout.  Last year, we were on a super tight budget but we had a wonderful time exploring Destin, Florida.  This year, we are headed to Orlando.  I know I just went to Orlando for the Traveling Mom Retreat and it feels like we head to Orlando every other trip but I am so excited about this trip. 

We have been reading the Harry Potter books since the first Harry Potter book came out over ten years ago.  We have a standing date when the movies come out and I can’t wait to share the books with my children when they are old enough. 

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We are making this trip to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I got lost in the pages of the books and I can’t wait to get lost in the streets of Hogsmeade, walk the halls of Hogwarts, and drink our first butterbeer (we have been told frozen is the way to go). 

What I am most looking forward to is spending some much needed girl time with two of my best friends. 

Stop by Mother of All Trips to see other travel dreams!

Photo by popculturegeek via Flickr.