Browsing Category

Adventures/Travel

Adventures/Travel

Keeping Perspective on Family Adventures

As I type this, my crew and I are on the road toward eclipse totality. We decided to take off for an overnight adventure to chase the full eclipse because our day trip plans were canceled by Mother Nature. Now we will spend a total of two nights away from home so that we can experience 2 minutes of totality excitement.

We have no idea where we will spend our time while waiting for the eclipse. There are reports of traffic jams, crazy people, and gas shortages.

Personally, I am concerned about one thing: a bathroom WITH toilet paper. Every time my husband or father suggest a spot to meet and set up “camp” for the day I ask, “Where is a bathroom?”

It’s become quite clear to me that men don’t think about these things the same way.

So our spot for tomorrow remains a mystery. As do the traffic conditions, the bathroom issues, and the weather.

Tomorrow could be a fantastic family memory or a complete disaster.

Continue Reading

Adventures/Travel, Out West

Travel the Southwest USA with Kids

We decided to Travel the Southwest USA as a family and it was an amazing experience. Two years later and we still revel in our memories. Our family packed up our 12-passenger van and headed out west to tour well-known parks and landmarks in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.

This experience was a first for our family and now you can learn from our experience because I took really great notes:

Every time something happened that worked out well, I jotted it down. When a plan failed, I made a note of the problem. Finally, when I found myself thinking, “I wish I had known that,” then I wrote it down.

And now all of this information is compiled in a 40+ page guide so you can take your own adventure out west!

This great information can be downloaded for only $4.99 $3.99 through 5/20 and you can begin planning:

Add to Cart

Headed for a vacation with the kids to the Southwest USA? I've got you covered with tips, hotels, restaurants, and more in this 40+ page e-book! Continue Reading

Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal: Heading Home

Our incredible adventure was technically over except for the long drive home looming before us.  We found ourselves in Albuquerque, NM but had to make it back to Raleigh, NC.

Three long days of driving.

Thankfully we had a few stops planned for our trip home to give us something to look forward to.

Our first one was in Oklahoma City, where we were going to crash for the night.  We took this opportunity to visit the Oklahoma City bombing memorial.

IMG_8148

The Memorial is done in such a way to honor those we lost and reflect the tragedy that occured.  The quiet reflecting pool is located on the site where a street formerly ran through the area.

IMG_8149

There is an wall on either side of the pool.

IMG_8159

Embedded on one wall is the time, 9:01, representing a time of peace before the tragedy struck.  (The bombing happened at 9:02)

IMG_8160

The wall on the opposite side shows a time of 9:03, representing the moment when the journey toward healing began.

IMG_8163

Empty chairs sit on the lawn, arranged in 9 rows, each representative of a floor in the building where a loved one was lost.

IMG_8152

Names are etched in the glass bottom of each chair.  At night, lights illuminate the chairs.

IMG_8155

The children’s garden displays tiles created by the children of the city.  They are displayed along the wall in the back while visiting children are invited to leave their sentiments on chalkboard tiles on the ground.

IMG_8170

Sidewalk chalk was available on site.

IMG_8176

Recorded on the wall outside of the memorial are these words:

“We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.  May all who leave here know the impact of violence.  May this Memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope, and serenity.

IMG_8181

I am so glad we took some time to visit this site before heading to bed.  It made a huge impact on my kids.  They will all remember this, even if it is a vague memory in their minds.

Note:  Visiting sites like this with kids can be tough.  They all respond differently.  My 11 year old daughter was in tears for quite some time.  That’s OK.  We let her express her pain and talk through it.  Tragedy is difficult and we all feel things to different degrees and express those emotions in different ways.  One child might cry through the pain while another might keep asking, “When are we leaving?” as they are uncomfortable with the pain (or bored because that is another response a child might experience)  

On the other hand, my 6 year old thought we were going to see an actual bombing.  He was disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a weapons display.  He kept asking us where the bomb was.  We attempted to help him understand what happened in Oklahoma City, but it is still a bit outside of his realm.

When we visit sites like this, we try to keep it short and informative.  I want my children to see how a city walks through a tragedy together and how they rise above on the other side, but I don’t want a child in tears to have to sit with that sort of pain for too long.  Don’t put expectations on your children’s reactions.  Just help them process what they feel and validate their feelings.

The next morning, we were off for a two night stay in Nashville so we IMG_8216could visit friends.  We have bunked with these friends in the past so the kids were eager for a return visit.

This friend is one of my BFF’s in 7th and 8th grade.  We kept in touch despite the distance from Maryland to Alabama while growing up.  It is such a joy to still be in touch.

Our kids have a great time together.  We spent a lot of time with her youngest child while her older two were in camp.

IMG_8211

But we took everyone for half price milkshakes at Sonic in the evening so the older kids could get in on the fun too!

IMG_8219

And additional bonus for me this trip was meeting a friend from the world of online social media.  Andi (who helps run the Nature Pal Exchange) and I met through Periscope and have continued to chat on Facebook and Instagram and other social media sites.  She took the time to drive and meet up for breakfast so we could finally chat face to face.

IMG_8198
The last day of driving was the hardest, despite the down home cooking IMG_8221stop at Cracker Barrel because yes ma’am I do love that place thank you very much.

 

But then Cracker Barrel was over and we only had our beds to look forward to, which was wonderful yet it also meant that our vacation was over.

And it is.

We are home safe and sound filled with wonderful memories about our time out west.

 

 

Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal Day 12: Mesa Verde

In second grade, my husband saw a picture of Mesa Verde in his history textbook.  The image and information intrigued him.  His fascination never ended.

The images of the cliff dwellings stayed with him so that when he heard we were going out west, he immediately asked if we would be close to Mesa Verde.

Of course, we made it happen.

And he was able to see the textbook pictures come to life before his very eyes: Cliff Palace.

Visit Mesa Verde with your kids for a memorable experience of a lifetime. Continue Reading

Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal Days 10 and 11: Arches National Park

It was time to leave Bryce Canyon. On a last minute whim we decided to take the scenic route and check out Capitol Reef National Park.

IMG_7730

We ventured out on a brief hike to take in a view of the park.  This park is a geologic monocline, which is a “wrinkle” on the surface of the earth.  This “wrinkle” extends 100 miles!

IMG_7398-001

It was pretty hot so we decided to have a picnic lunch.  Our picnic area was exactly what we needed.  There was lots of shade and open grass area.

IMG_7425-001

IMG_7426-001

IMG_7433-001

The scenery was stunning.

IMG_7729

It was a welcome respite from the heat of the afternoon.   We continued our drive through Capitol Reef with a short stop at the petroglyphs.

IMG_7446-001

After a quick viewing, we continued the drive to Arches National Park in the city of Moab. Our first stop was our hotel and we enjoyed a quick swim in our hotel pool for a view of our first “arch”.

IMG_7734

Then we thought we would head to the actual park that evening. The rangers were not at the gates anymore, but the park remains open to the public for 24 hours a day.

IMG_7990

On our way to Double Arch, we stopped at Balancing Rock and attempted to push it over.

IMG_7744

After a bit of fun there, we enjoyed the ENORMOUS Double Arch.  The hike was a short one and well worth the experience.

IMG_7756

It was nearing sunset and the views were impressive.

IMG_7768

IMG_7783

At this arch, you were able to scramble and climb all over the actual arch.  The view from the “hole” pictured above was lovely.

IMG_7796

Eventually it was time for a good night’s sleep so we could return to the arches the next day.

We began our morning with a hike to Delicate Arch.  This is an intense climb, but only 1.5 miles long.  A large section of the hike was along this rock face.  Walking on a large rock made this an intriguing and different sort of hike.

IMG_7820

IMG_7822

IMG_7823

IMG_7840

Near the end of the climb, the pathway was created around a large rock.

IMG_7845

Around the bend was the view we had been waiting for: Delicate Arch.  The very arch that is on the Utah license plate.   This was the place I had been waiting to see.  The view was grand!

 

IMG_7856

The kids joined me to experience the arch up close and above us.  I was terrified as the drop behind the arch is deadly.  The area under it is plenty spacious, but it is still a frightning prospect.

IMG_7871

The wind began to pick up in an awful way, so we hiked back down the rock face.

Our next stop was Landscape Arch, which is closed off to pedestrian traffic as it has shown many signs of collapsing in the “near” future.  It is the longest spanning arch.

IMG_7886

Sand Dune Arch was small and hidden, but a fun site to check out.

IMG_7912

And then the kids BEGGED to return to Double Arch, and we were happy to entertain their choice.

IMG_7929

They LOVED climbing around in this arch.  It felt like rock climbing all over again to them.

IMG_7976

IMG_7936

Our family fell in love with this park the same way we fell in love with Zion National Park.  But we still had one more stop, so eventually we had to begin to make the drive to Colorado.

On our way out of the area, we saw an Arch on the side of the road (not in the National Park) named, “Wilson Arch”.

IMG_8006

It was a perfect ending to our time in the area.

 

Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal Days 7 and 8: Bryce Canyon

We would have been content to remain in Springdale, near Zion National Park, on the Virgin River FORVER.  No one wanted to leave.

Alas, we knew that our check out time was approaching, but we procrastinated.  I started my procrastination with breakfast by the river with one of my favorites.

IMG_7477

Then we swam while soaking in the gorgeous view.

IMG_7471

Then it was time for more playing in the river. 
IMG_7486

Before we knew it, it was time to check out.

Springdale had lots of great lunch options and we filled up on a delicious meal before heading out of the National Park area.

IMG_7500

“Good-bye Zion.  We love you!  And we WILL be back.”

IMG_7518

Our next destination was Bryce Canyon and we were eager to see the hoodoos.  We spent our evening taking in various view points on the scenic drive.

PicMonkey Collage

Our next morning was spent hiking among the hoodoos.  This was a fantastic experience.

PicMonkey Collage

Walking behind my boys, listening to their chatter while hiking, was a fantastic moment in parenting.  IMG_7657I was able to watch their relationship grow right before my eyes, without the typical distractions of home and life.

Hiking with your kids is an experience I highly recommend.  It doesn’t matter WHERE you go hiking, though these locations out west are incredible, but just GO hiking together.

Conversation comes easy as you hike. The time spent together deepens relationships and your knowledge of one another. It is a beautiful thing.

Of course, picking out hikes that are interesting, challenging, and include scenery that is very different from home is helpful too!

Our hike out of the hoodoos was particularly memorable.  It is called the “Lombard Street” of hiking.

IMG_0980

IMG_0979

IMG_0990

Crazy, fun stuff.

Then we headed a little ways out of Bryce Canyon City and grabbed lunch. Our diner choice got an A+ in my book simply based on the HUGE mason jars that they used to serve iced tea!

IMG_7684

We returned to the “Wall Street” section of our morning hike again that evening. The kids wanted to walk around and explore this crazy hike a bit more.

IMG_7378

After a good night’s sleep, we stopped briefly at a local playground.  The kids needed some time to run and play while I picked up a few groceries for a picnic lunch.

IMG_7696

Then we said goodbye to Bryce Canyon, wearing all of our Zion Canyon T-shirts…

IMG_7349-001

And we buckled down for the next big drive.