Tips On Planning Your Staycation

Spring break is over, and we’re back in school.  I’m going back to work and will once again battle wits with elementary school kids trying to reason with me over the most trivial of things.  Snuggling in bed with my daughter, tickling her to tears wins hands down over the prospect of going back to work.  But vacations don’t last forever.  That’s why whenever we get the chance to take some time off from work, we should make it count.

If your thoughts are starting to already veer towards the next holiday, you might want to think about how to spend quality time with the ones you love.  How about going on a staycation?  You can simply stay home or book a nearby hotel room or one of those cozy Branson cabins and hibernate from the rest of the world for a few days.  Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of your staycation.

Take a hike.  Go on a hiking adventure with the entire family.  You don’t have to go far.  You can simply go out and explore a nearby trail park, or mini zoo.   Visit those places which you normally just breeze past on days when you’re rushing on the way to work or school.  They could prove to be surprisingly exciting too.

Stock up on the multimedia.  This is the best time to have a movie marathon.  Borrow DVDs from your library, and watch to your heart’s content.  In between movies, you can pop in a CD and dance like nobody’s watching.  It’s an excellent workout and family bonding activity in one.

Chill out.  Hardly anyone in his right mind would want to slave away in the kitchen on a staycation.  Keep things simple, if you must cook.  Better yet, order some take out.  Have gourmet food delivered to your doorstep.  If you’re too lazy to do the dishes, use paper plates instead.

Break the rules.  If the kids normally go to bed at 9pm, give them an extra hour to probably watch TV or play another round of Monopoly.  This is the chance for them to do what you sometimes do: stay up late and sleep in.

Times are hard, and we do what we can to maximize whatever resources we have.  A little R&R doesn’t necessarily have to mean breaking the bank.  With a little imagination and creativity, you can have a memorable and relaxing staycation.

Freedom and Popcorn

When Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation more than a hundred years ago, huge numbers of slaves jumped for joy as they finally enjoyed the freedom they had always longed for.  Without a doubt, freedom is something even we in this day and age continue to value.  There’s probably nothing anybody wouldn’t give to be free.

Right now, I am free.  I’m a single woman who can do as she pleases, without anybody to look after but herself.  But as I sit here and think about eating dinner alone tonight, I realize that there’s nothing more I want than to be with my daughter.  She’s at her dad’s now for Easter break, and I’m once more home alone.

I have the TV all to myself, and can freely watch my favorite soap, but deep down in my heart, I wish my daughter was here, popping corn with me as we get set to watch another Disney flick.  After work, I can go on a night out with friends, but I choose to go home, with my daughter’s imaginary arms waiting to hug me at the door.

Freedom is special and most people would fight tooth and nail just to have it.  I don’t mind freedom, but if it means being away from the one I love most, then to hell with it.  I’d rather have that ball and chain tied to my foot as long as I have my daughter right next to me, pigging out on buttered popcorn for hours on end.

 

How to Celebrate Halloween on a Budget

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your worst nightmare would probably be the Grim Reaper wreaking havoc on your budget.  Trying to make ends meet is hard enough, but if you have kids who look forward to Halloween with wide-eyed excitement, you may find yourself struggling to stretch your already floss-thin budget to just accommodate their holiday whim.  Giving in to your kids’ trick or treating fantasies doesn’t necessarily have to burn a hole in your wallet.  Here are a few un-ghastly and cheap ways to celebrate Halloween.

Watch a Halloween flick.  There are tons of good Halloween movies for kids.   It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and The Nightmare Before Christmas.are just a few movies which kids young and old are sure to enjoy.

Read bedtime stories.  You can start building the anticipation of Halloween by reading Halloween stories at bedtime.  To add to the horrific effect, you can read them by candlelight or with a flashlight in hand.  Ask your local library for Halloween reading suggestions.  For the older kids, you can read Goosebumps or Bunnicula to them.

DIY and Recycle.  A little creativity does go a long way.  Rummage through your closet to find ordinary wardrobe items which you can transform into nightmarish outfits. You can get a plain, old white shirt, for example, make holes in it, dye it a little bit, and you’ve got a top perfect for a zombie.  Pair a striped t-shirt with a pair of cut-off jeans, fashion a makeshift eye patch with some cloth swatches, and you’re good to go as a pirate.

Join forces with friends.  When it comes to buying treats to hand out to candy-starved kids, you can go to the store with your neighbors and split the cost of buying candies in bulk.  Shopping for wholesale items will definitely cost you a lot less.

Hard times call for penny-pinching measures.  With these budget-friendly Halloween celebration alternatives, you can still afford to enjoy the season without worrying about blowing your entire savings.  Don’t be surprised if your kids give you a mom or dad of the year award, because thanks to you, they’ll sure have a Halloween they won’t soon forget.

 

 

Mother-Daughter Adventures: The African Safari

As a kid, I remember being a huge fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure series.  You know, those chapter books where you get to choose how the story ends.  I would be so wrapped up in it, that I’d pause only for bathroom breaks.

Now that I’m a full-grown, Chaka Khan- inspired- I’m-every-woman kind of girl, I would like to dip my fingers in a different kind of adventure- the real kind!  I’d like to share an extraordinary type of adventure with the love of my life- my daughter.

The first thing that comes to mind is an African safari.  What could be more exciting than witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat?  My daughter loves going to the zoo, so a safari will be an entirely new experience for her.  I can almost imagine the adrenaline rush go through her as she strokes a baby elephant.

I thought that all safaris were the same, but apparently they’re not.  There are all sorts of safaris- guided safaris, walking safaris, river safaris, etc.  What will be perfect for my daughter and me would have to be the family safari.

South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya are the best destinations for a family safari.  The people here are particularly skilled at making sure that safaris are safe and fun for both parents and children.

With a family safari, I wouldn’t have to worry about my daughter’s short attention span, as the people in charge provide for other activities such as crafts, or even biking or canoeing.  There are also crafts for kids to do, if and when they feel like taking a break.  The learning never stops.

Oh, I can feel my fingers tremble with excitement as I search online for family holidays with Mahlatini.com. Life is one huge adventure, and I want to go on it with nobody else but my daughter.  Toto’s song, Africa, is playing in my head now…

My Slinky-Dog Scare: The Near-Death Experience That Never Was

Many a grown adult has confessed to shedding a tear or two while watching Toy Story 3.  Although I am not part of that group, I just have to say that the slinky dog character in the movie nearly made me wet my pants a month ago.

During our recent trip to Hongkong Disneyland, my daughter was relentless in her pursuit to make me go on the Slinky Dog ride with her.  I was never a fan of theme park rides, so you can just imagine how I felt as we were queuing up for the ride.  My stomach was in knots, and I can barely think straight.  That slinky dog must’ve smelled my fear from a mile away.

In her most reassuring voice, my daughter said, “Mama, just hold my hand, close your eyes, and think of happy thoughts, ok?  It’s going to be fun!”  I couldn’t believe hearing those words from a 6-year old.  It was a Freaky Friday- Jaime Lee- Lindsay Lohan type of role reversal.  I felt as if she reattached our umbilical cord.  She made me feel safe beyond words.

As we got on the ride, I just kept my eyes on her and forced a huge grin.  I held her hand and screamed my lungs out.  Seeing her have fun was enough to make my fears drop a notch or two.

That day, I realized that there really are some things we learn from our kids.  My daughter taught me to just let go and be brave, that things don’t turn out as bad as we feared they would.  She is now my bastion of courage.  Whenever I look back on that moment, I feel like crying…

How about you?  What important life lesson have you learned from your kids?

Pepper and the Neverland Pirates

Pepper sounds like the perfect name for a pirate, doesn’t it?  I have to admit that my daughter’s obsession with the TV show Jake and the Neverland Pirates has rubbed off on me.  Even at work, I find myself humming the theme song to myself.  Didn’t the seven dwarves say that you should whistle while you work?

This penchant for pirates has prompted me to look around for pirate ship playsets.  I’m amazed at how awesome they look and how functional they are as well.

Image from http://www.carolina-playsets.com

I’ve found one which I especially fancy.  It’s an outdoor wooden boat playset.  It’s made of high-grade wood with smooth surfaces and rounded corners, so I wouldn’t have to worry about my kid getting splinters.  What I love most about it is it has a picnic table inside!  My kid can have a picnic there with her friends, or just do some artwork to her heart’s content.

If you have a big enough backyard, you might want to consider getting one too.  I’m thinking of setting one up over at my dad’s old house.  There’s so much unused space to work with, and a pirate playset will definitely look good there.

Yo ho, maties!  I’m going to get my cousins to chip in and get ourselves a pirate ship for the backyard.  Now, if I could just get this eye patch out of the way…

Fly Now, Pay Later

The great Milli Vanilli once said (or rather, lip-synched), “You got to blame it on something…”  Since it wasn’t raining this morning, I couldn’t blame my somewhat somber mood on the rain.  I will just make my apparent lack of sleep accountable for the feelings of nostalgia which overcame me as I got up at the crack of dawn.

I had a flashback of my childhood.  I was specifically taken back to the time when my dad and I would sit together on the living room couch as he flipped through his album of places he’d like to visit.  Yes, he made a scrapbook of places overseas which he dreamed of going to.  We were strapped for cash back then, so his dreams of overseas travel had to take a backseat.  When he wasn’t looking, I used to go through his album of dreams, making a vow to myself to take him to at least one of those places when I grew up.

I believe that now is the time to make his dreams come true.  I sought help from an uncle who works at a travel agency, and he suggested that I should get cash advances to pay for our trip expenses.  By getting a cash advance, we can go on our trip and pay for it later on.  It seemed like a really good idea to me, so I wasted no time in getting that loan.

Next month, my daughter, dad and I will be taking our first trip out of the country.  I know it’s going to be a memorable one, and I’m pretty sure we’ll all have a great time.  My dad is obviously excited, as he just got a brand new Canon DSLR to use during our trip.

This trip is going to be awesome: I’ll get my much needed respite from work, and I’ll be fulfilling an old man’s dreams…

Magic at OrlandoEscape.com

If you happen to be a used car salesman, now’s the best time to strike up a deal with me, as I’ve noticed that for the past few days, I am easily persuaded by most people.  Just last night, I was talking on the phone with an old friend who now lives in Florida, and she effortlessly was able to convince me to visit her in Orlando for a vacation next year.  When I told my daughter about this, she nearly shrieked with excitement.  I had to keep myself from screaming along with her.

First thing on our itinerary would of course be Walt Disney World.  My daughter claims to love Mickey and the gang to the moon, I love them to the four quadrants of the galaxy!  I’m every bit a fan of them, even more than she is, I guess.  Seeing our favorite Disney characters while going on all the fun rides will just be a blast.

And how can we not go to Universal Studios? My daughter’s a bit of a Harry Potter fan, so she’s sure to love that.

My friend says, we don’t have to worry about accommodations, as there are lots of Hotels on International Drive to choose from.   There’s even one, she says, which offers a Kids Eat Free Program, and it’s located next to the world’s largest McDonald’s.  That I got to see!  Staying on International Drive, they say, is a total experience.  The place is peppered with a lot of restaurants and shopping centers.  This is Orlando’s hub of activity.

As I navigate through the pages of OrlandoEscape.com, I am all the more convinced that Orlando is the perfect vacation place for my daughter and me.  We all need to escape from the daily grind, and with the many things to do and places to see in Orlando, I’m sure that there will never be a dull moment.  That will be our first trip out of the country, so it will be an adventure in a totally different realm for us.  Now, that’s what I call Orlando magic!

Fun Family Idea: Kids’ Easter Crafts

For the past few days, I have been trying to perfect my impression of a bunny blurting out “What’s up, Doc?” in perfect pitch, when suddenly my daughter says, “Mama, that’s Bugs Bunny you’re doing!  You should do the Easter Bunny because Easter Sunday is coming soon!”  Okay, so my attempts at impersonating a Looney Tunes character have been foiled.  I will then direct my energies towards coming up with worthwhile activities to do with my kid for Easter.

Easter crafts are always a good idea to do with kids.  It enhances creativity- both theirs and yours- and helps add joy to the occasion.  More than that, you get to bond with them without having to spend so much.

The basic materials to use will have to be a couple of paintbrushes, a few bottles of poster paint in primary colors, colored paper, scissors, and virtually anything around the kitchen or house which you can reuse instead of throw away.

If you plan on having an Easter egg hunt, you can first paint the eggs (preferably hardboiled, of course).  Tell your kid to paint whatever he or she fancies.  There are absolutely no rules when it comes to your child expressing himself through art.

Even those empty egg cartons can be transformed into works of art.  Turn it upside down, paint it over, stick on some buttons as wheels, and you have a tiny Easter car.

Get some pieces of cardboard, and make an Easter card with your kid.  She can decorate it however she likes, even put some bunny ears sticking out of the corners of the card, and give it to her favorite aunt or playmate next door.

If you can’t seem to get your creative juices flowing though, you can always get ideas on Easter crafts for kids off the internet.  There are also free printables which your kid to color in, or paint, if she wishes.

 

Traveling With Kids: Things to Remember

Life is a highway, and I want to ride it all night long- sure, as long as I don’t have a bunch of attention-deprived kids screaming in the backseat as I drive!  It’s a breath of fresh air to finally have gotten them to agree to step out of the house, put down the Wii console, and venture into places we’ve never been before, but with their short attention spans taking over, I can hardly keep my eye on the road without having to glance at the rearview mirror to see if the kids are ok.  Thank heavens I read about The Guardian 50 tips for travelling with kids the night before.  A single mom like me does get by with a little help from online articles.

The key to surviving long road trips with children is to keep them entertained.   Try popping in that Barney CD, even your ears hurt from listening to it over and over again.  Play I Spy and other classic car games.    It also helps to travel at night, so the kids will nap most of the way.

If motion sickness gets the better of your kids, open a window and do keep a bag ready- just in case.  Try preventing untoward incidents by making sure everyone in the family isn’t hungry or thirsty.

To save on travel time, plan your trip ahead and take the shortest route possible.  Ask around for any ongoing roadwork, so you can take alternate routes.

It goes without saying that safety is an important concern when travelling with kids.  That Direct gov using a seat belt advisory can be put to good use this time.  Tell your kids to buckle up, even if that means arm-wrestling them just to have your way.

Be a responsible parent and make sure that your car is in tiptop, roadworthy condition.  Check the brakes, lights, water, oil, etc.  Be sure that you have car insurance, to help keep your mind at ease, in case of any eventuality.

Near or far, travelling with kids is always a worthwhile experience.  They learn things which they normally wouldn’t in the confines of the four walls of the classroom.  Travel opens up a whole world of discovery for them.  You get to see aspects of their personality you’ve never seen before, and you yourself inevitably get to unleash certain facets of your persona which only traveling with your children manages to bring out.  It’s a win-win situation, so go ahead, pack your bags, be like Dora the Explorer and travel the world!

 

References:

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/2010/01/13/are-we-there-yet-how-to-keep-bored-back-seat-kids-entertained-86908-21964496/
http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Yourchildshealthandsafety/Roadandtravelsafety/DG_195279
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/familyholidays/8421886/Kirstie-Allsopp-on-how-to-travel-with-children.html