Category Archives: Adventures!

The Truth of About “Going Screen-Free” this Summer!

time_unplug_children_summerI wish I could say it was a great epiphany or the culmination of the study of great parenting journals that helped me arrive at the decision to go screen-free for the summer.  No, it was nothing like that at all, it was an honest to goodness, full-blown, hissy fit. One of those not to be proud of parenting moments wherein you make a loud, impactful declaration from which you cannot back down.  Such is the birth of our screen free summers! Continue reading

New Summer Bucket List 2014 – Download Today!

Crazy as it may seem, we are more inclined “to do something”, if we write it down. Using this principle, I set out to make our summers full of “doing” and the summer bucket list is as much fun to create as it is to complete!

summer bucket 2014Since my children were very little we have had a summer bucket list and we continue to use it with our teenagers today.  It’s a great way to get input from everyone ~ because no two “perfect summers” look the same!  We also go screen free from June 1st to September 1st hence the need for the list!  That will be a story for a future blog post!

Some years our list included elaborate vacation plans while other years we focused on a theme.  There was the year of the sea shell, the year of visiting and last year, was the year of travel.

The list has space for movies, people to see, things you won’t do this summer and more.  Children love to fill this out and you will be surprised how simple and easy some of their requests are to fulfill.  I hope you enjoy this activity with your family.  Love to hear what is on your bucket list!

 

 

Where Charades and Google Translate Collide!

It’s been less than 24 hours since the arrival of our 13-year-old Chinese Exchange student, Mark.  Armed with Google 20140205_155558 (2)Translate on the kindle fire, the laptop and phones, we attempt to communicate with our non-English speaking guest.

My children gravitate to the technology of google translate and I am enjoying listening to the translators lovely automated voice send Chinese sounding sentences into my home. It is my contention though that despite our best efforts with google translate, I find good old fashion hand signals, charades, and show and tell work just as well. Even when I do my best charades, my son responds with “Stop Mom, your confusing him…”

Google translate isn’t perfect either and it  has left us all scratching our heads at times because some things just do not translate well from English to Chinese or vice versa.

This morning’s point and nod session support my contention that simple human interaction is sometimes faster and more accurate. As my son typed furiously into his laptop to find out what Mark wanted for breakfast, I opened the refrigerator and pointed.
The charades pointing went something like this:untitled (23)
Cantaloupe ~ “Yes”
Pineapple ~ “No”
Milk ~ “No”
Orange Juice ~”Yes”
English Muffin ~ “Yes”
Eggs ~ “Yes”
Shredded Cheese in bag ~ “quizzical glance, no response”.

A moment later our google translator announced something out of the laptop that should have  meant “What do you want for breakfast?”  I turned to my son and said, “Why don’t you make Mark an egg and cheese sandwich on an English muffin with a side of cantaloupe.” My son looked at me in astonishment, he obviously missed the point and nod session in front of the refrigerator.  And, whatever google translate had just said left Mark looking at my son and shrugging his incomprehension.

It’s not to say that we wouldn’t be lost without google translate. With on-line translation help we found out about Mark’s family; his Dad is an engineer, his brother is nine years old and his mother “manages fruit”, the last one needs some work, I think.

The rules to Chinese checkers though can be taught by Mark with simple board moves followed by “No” and “Yes”.  A little pointing, and hopping over one more peg that makes sense, by Mark, showed us all the finer points of the game.

Tonight we will attempt the grocery store and I am definitely using the point and nod technique, but later I hope my children will show Mark google earth and we will be able to see where he lives, right down to the street he calls home.

It is fascinating to watch our cultures, our languages, our generations, but most importantly, our ability to communicate collide with the help of modern technology and good old fashion charades.

How to Plan a Cross Country Train Trip…

LB Living Better Travel & Adventure

Family Planning Meeting #1  (a.k.a. controlled bickering)

“Is everyone on board for this trip?”, asks Mom, ” I am not planning this trip alone.” (pun intended) My request for the  family to come together and sit down for a minute sounded something like this, but if I were to watch an actual recording of what transpired,  it may have had more of an air of frustration from me with some attitude thrown in by the kids.  I was greeted by my teenagers with groans, eye rolls and of course the statement “what do we have to plan, just get on the train and go?”.

Make no  mistake, this is a real blog about a real family going on a real adventure of a lifetime.  In our family, as I am sure is true in many families, I (the Mom) am the household planner, holder of all schedules, appointments and lists of who needs to be…

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Cross Country Train Trip – New Blog Page

IMG_0321Thank you for all the comments and encouragement about our latest adventure ~ a cross country train trip. You can join us on our trip directly at:

One Train, Thirty Days, Countless Adventures
http://lblivingbettertravel.wordpress.com/

We would love your input and suggestions!  I will continue to reblog posts to this page under the “Adventures” Tab as well!

All Aboard! Setting out to see “the States”

It’s official, we are setting out to see the states!  The United States ~ the country we call home.1017615_10152101119519014_1702857193_n

After much deliberation and debate we have concluded that the best way for this family of five to see the states is by …. wait for it… TRAIN!  Thirty days, 12 segments and as many contiguous states that we can cram into one trip!  (For more information, click here AMTRAK USA RAIL PASS).

How did we arrive at this decision you might ask?  Well, it goes something like this…. I have always wanted to travel cross country and I anticipated that I would be doing it like the Griswolds (if you are unfamiliar check the video reference in our last camping trip post).  The Griswolds less the dead grandmother on the roof!

Seriously, my vision involved renting an RV and spending a summer month leisurely riding across America with my family.  I’ll admit I’m an optimist and an adventure seeker, but thankfully, I also possess a very practical and realistic mindset.  The idealistic version in my head collided with reality and produced these frightening truths about my family’s ability to drive across country together:

1)  I actually do not like to drive ~ I am a great passenger!

2)  My family loves each other but let’s face it my teenage children do not get along like the Brady Bunch.

3) Our marriage like most marriages has its strengths, however, after 2 decades together I am quite certain that getting lost while driving in a new city is not one that brings out the best in us.

4) The idea of driving a large RV, repeatedly parking and setting up in campsites, and copious amounts of gasoline all worked against this once dreamed of idea.

Enter the train plan.  Many years ago I traveled through Europe on a Eurail Train Pass and it was the time of my life.  A few google searches later and I stumbled upon the Amtrak multi-city pass.  For Christmas we surprised our children with the plan and gave them their first assignment, to choose the one city they can’t miss on our trip.  (Our only caveat was to start 10-12 hours outside of the northeast since that is within driving distance of our home and can be saved for a later adventure).

Now I need your help, my fellow bloggers and followers.  What advice can you share about train travel?  Where should we go?  What cities, places, adventures should not be missed on our next great adventure?  Any and all suggestions are most welcome!

Best Pumpkin Story Ever…

Pumpkin-Patch1

Raising twins boys has its joys and challenges.  In my case, my twins are as polar opposite as you can get.  I have stated many times that they “split up the genes in the womb”.  You take outspoken, and I will take pensive, you take natural athleticism, and I’ll take analytical genius, you get the picture.   By three years old, I was parenting two very distinct personalities in my young boys ~ Twin A a.k.a. “Clinger” and Twin B a.k.a. “Runner”.  Clinger would not leave my side without a meltdown of epic proportions, while Runner looked for every opportunity to bolt.  So, on the occasion of the preschool field trip to the farm, you had better believe that their mother would be there to chaperone.  
 
The field trip took place on a beautiful sunny day at an apple orchard and farm not too far from our house.  After picking their own apples, and examining the many different kinds of gords, we headed to the highlight of the trip, the pumpkin patch. The farmer brought us up to a large field with row after row of pumpkins.  After explaining how the pumpkins grew, he then released the kids to the patch to pick a pumpkin to bring home. 
 
Clinger didn’t move, he held tight to my pant leg as the rest of his class moved into the patch.  Runner, on the other hand, started down one of the aisles, moving quickly and with a fierce determination.  As he ran down the row, Runner began picking up pumpkins and putting them down (okay, dropping them, not “putting them down”).  To my horror, he started to move faster and faster, grabbing pumpkins, looking at them and dropping them.  “Runner!”, “Runner!”, I yelled, but he was oblivious and the more pumpkins he grabbed the more upset he became. 
 
Limping down the row with Clinger clutched firmly on my leg, I tried to catch up with my son.  By the time I grabbed the back of his little overalls and turned him around, I could see that he was distraught.  “Wait, what are you doing, why are you dropping all of these pumpkins?”, I yelled, probably a bit too loud since I was out of breath from chasing him.  Runner turned, imagesJSBPPPVQlooked up at me and yelled right back, “I AM LOOKING FOR ONE WITH A FACE ON IT!”

                                Happy Halloween!

The Griswolds and the best kept secret for a waterpark???

What is the best kept secret for having fun at a IMAG0702 water park?

GO TO THE PARK IN THE RAIN!

That’s right, you cannot get more bang for your buck than a water park in the rain!  It doesn’t even have to be raining, cloudy days and the prediction of storms later in the day work just as well!

This is not just my opinion, this is my EXPERT opinion, as I have frequented more water parks than the average bear.  My camp job for many years was “DayTripper”, yes that was my title, and I loved the job!  Once a week we travelled to the Northeast water park known as Water Country!  A day anticipated by every camper as the highlight of their summer.  I learned early that  have the most fun at a water park you actually need to go in inclement weather.

When rain threatened our last day of camping in Maine, I immediately jumped on the opportunity that Plan B presented and  announced “let’s go to a water park”.  My three children looked at me like I was half-baked (not an unusual look from them, but this time it came with the “you’ve got to be kidding us commentary”.  Even my husband, had the look that said, are you for real? “No, I shouted, I’m serious, this will be a blast!  Let’s pack the tent and get in the car, the park opens at 10:30 a.m.”

As the clouds darkened and a few sprinkles hit the windshield, I reiterated to my children my aforementioned expertise told them that this is the ultimate day for a water park adventure.  Teenage skepticism filled the car until we pulled into the deserted parking lot.  Acres and acres of empty spaces, we were like the Griswold’s pulling into Walley World!

Thankfully our experience was far better than the Griswolds!  The park was open and they even let us in early.  We parked in the front row so we could leave our dry clothes and lunch in the car.   We spent over four hours going on every ride possible, multiple times.  No lines, no waiting, no time to even catch your breath when you climb four flights of stairs.  No sunburns, no sweating, no standing on a crowded staircase for forty-five minutes to enjoy a 25 second ride (yes I did time some of them!)

Bathrooms and dressing rooms that were still clean and dry!  Our choice of picnic tables, lounge chairs, and life jackets for the wave pool.  When we finally decided to change and leave, our car was waiting by the door like we had our own chauffeur.  We drove home exhausted, thoroughly enjoying everything the water park could offer and not minding a few rain drops to do so!

I share my best kept secret reluctantly, as I do not want an onslaught of bathers running out to my water park the next time it rains.  We are however outgrowing these parks a bit and I feel it is my duty as an expert water park participant to share my vast knowledge on this topic.  I hope you find it helpful and let me know if you try it… you won’t be a Griswold!

PS For my New England AAA friends, you can save $8.00 a ticket if you are a member.  A quick stop on our way saved us $40.00!

2013 Summer Bucket List!

bucketclick below for your family bucket list form

2013 Summer Bucket List

Crazy as it may seem we are more inclined to do something, if we write it down.  Using this principle I set out to make our summers full of “doing”.  Since my children were very little we have had a summer bucket list.  We also go screen free from June 1st to September 1st hence the need for the list!
Some years the list had elaborate vacations while others focused on a theme.  There was the year of the sea shell, the year of visiting and last year was the year of travel. 
The list has space for movies, people to see, things you won’t do this summer and more.  Children love to fill this out and you would be surprised how simple and easy some of their requests are to fulfill.  I hope you enjoy this activity with your family.  Love to hear what is on your bucket list!
 Or you can view it on my website: http://lblivingbetter.com/LB_Good_Stuff.htm thanks to my techie teenage son!

Spin the Bottle….(i mean map!)

images (4) The Kids are Home, the Kids are Home…Spring Vacation in New England!

Here is a fun, simple game I have played with my kids for years, when we cannot think of anything to do! Get out a map of your town, state, local area and place on a table. Have your child close their eyes. Spin the map and have your child drop their finger to stop the spin. That is your new destination. If you have multiple children you can vote, fight, or debate the options after each one tries (good luck letting only one of them do it). In the meantime, take the opportunity to show your kids the different elements of a map and how to read it (bonus education points).

You can set parameters prior to the spin – we are only doing an outdoor activity, we have to stay in a 50 mile radius, we can only spend $20, it has to be somewhere we have never been, location has to be pet friendly…. you get the idea.

Don’t have a map? No problem, go to google images and type in “map of _____” you can get an image of anywhere in the world down to streets in your town. In less time than it takes to find a map, you are good to go. Even better, download the map to a tablet and spin the tablet (parental discretion is advised).  Have Fun!