Family

That time we drank the water in Mexico.

As one of our goals for 2018, we wanted to take our kids on their first international trip.  Growing up, our family traveled a little bit (mostly up and down the East Coast), but we never went international. When we were younger, it was not financially feasible for my parents to do this. And as we got older, we were three busy kids with lots of school and extracurriculars, so when we finally got away, it was usually to visit family or head to a beach somewhere.

My first trip abroad was the summer before my senior year of college and I headed to Australia and New Zealand for a month.  Getting to experience the culture and environment of another country was awesome and I decided it was something I wanted my kids to experience at a young age (as long as we could afford to do it).

Now that they are 6 and 8, we don’t have nap times to work around and they don’t have commitments they can’t miss, so we took them across the border to Cancun for Spring Break 2018!  They loved it.  Beach, pool, tons of treats – what’s not to love for two young boys!

(Dean and I enjoyed ourselves too, but it was definitely more stressful to travel international with kids.  It’s a little easier when it’s just the adults, but in the back of my mind I was always just a little on edge – listening closely at bedtime to make sure they didn’t sleep walk out of the room, worried when they took a bathroom break solo in the busy pool area, swimming and splashing a little too close to the college kids on Spring Break, etc.)

 

Now that I’ve done it, here are little tips I’d recommend for traveling international with your kiddos.

  1. Try somewhere relatively close to home.  While my kids have flown several times before, they’ve never flown longer than 2-ish hours.  It was only a 3 hour flight from Charlotte to Cancun, so it was manageable.  I didn’t want to test a 14-hour flight to Fiji for their first international trip.
  2. All-inclusive is awesome.  They loved that they could do anything whenever – go get a snack or tropical drink, join in kids club activities or just swim in the pools.  These places tend to have lots of things going on throughout the day so there is plenty to do.
  3. Let them try new things, or the same old.  We had our kids try some fruits they don’t often get at home and also some of the Mexican dishes at meals.  But they also went up and tried foods they were familiar with as well. It was fun to see them taste foods they weren’t used to and see what they liked.
  4. Adjust your expectations.  We tried the nice, dress up resort restaurant one night and decided once was enough. It’s meant to be an experience and sitting in a restaurant for over 90 mins just isn’t fun for my kids.  We decided to stay with the buffet – which changed it’s theme each night – that way they didn’t have to sit through such a long meal.  We’ll save the special resort restaurants for the times that Dean and I go by ourselves.
  5. Have fun.  Usually Dean and I sit by the pool or beach and relax when it’s just the two of us, and while we definitely did that, we also took our kids to the swim up bar, helped them build a sandcastle and hosted an Easter egg hunt in our room.  This trip really wasn’t about us and what we like to do on vacation, so it was important they enjoyed the trip as well.

Have you taken your kids on a big trip? Where did you go? Any best practices for traveling with kids?

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Landon’s Birthday

I can’t believe we’re nearing April.  2018 seems to be off to a great start for the Dean family.

At the beginning of the month, we found some ways to celebrate Mr. Landon turning 8 years old.  On his actual birthday, he picked his favorite restaurant – Red Robin – for dinner, then we took him out for some family bowling.

It was a late night – the bowling worker told us each game might take 15-20 mins so we signed up for 2 games.  Turns out he was completely wrong and it took us about 1.5 hours to get through 2 games.  (And Dean and I were both sore the next day from so many bowls!) Of course, we made sure there was still time for a cupcake before bed!

bday1

Then, because his birthday was on a Thursday, we spent the weekend making his special birthday cake – RED VELVET – and held a birthday celebration for Landon and his two birthday cousins (the three of them celebrate their birthday within 4 days – I know, crazy right?!)

We hit a local park for some soccer and a game of kickball – then ate some leftover cake from all the birthday celebrations from earlier in the week!

There were no Pinterest decorations or themes.  We didn’t have 30 kids come over.  It was so simple and perfect. Family, fun and beautiful weather.

bday2

What a fun way to celebrate this sweet thing!

Four Generations

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a picture of the 4 generations of our family.

What a special thing that my kids will grow up knowing and spending time with not just their grandparents, but their great grandparents, too.

These boys sure are two of a lucky few.

4 generation sm

Just spending time at their basketball games with Papa, Great Grandma and Great Grandpa.

Married at 19.

My parents got married at 19.

Today they celebrate anniversary #37.

MD37

This means they’ve spent 2/3 of their life together.  That’s a huge commitment.  I’d argue that it’s really hard/impossible for them to remember what life is like without each other.  When you get married at 19, there are a lot of years ahead of you, and you haven’t had many years to figure out who you are as an adult, separate of your parents. I think people change a lot from their teens to 30.  You face situations that change you and force you to grow into your own person.

I think one of the best lessons they’ve passed along to us over the years ties to that.  That although they got married to each other at 19, they’ve remained married into their 50s.  To do that, you have to be willing to give your mate the freedom to grow and change.  They aren’t the same person they were standing at the end of that aisle.

So often, the reason listed for a divorce is “irreconcilable differences” – which basically means, we were once compatible but one or both of us has changed to the point where we are no longer a fit.

My parents have worked through a lot of differences over the years.  However, they’ve made the choice to make them reconcilable differences.  My mom’s had to loosen her expectations on punctuality and organization.  And my dad’s had to tighten his priorities in these areas.  They’ve had to find a tender balance between kids/grandkids, marriage, work and fun.

They’ve also had to give each other grace and room to grow as individuals at age 20, 30, 40 and 50.  Allowing their spouse room to change.  When you wait to get married until you are 30 or 35 – you’ve had the opportunity to discover for yourself who you want to be without having to worry about how this might impact your marriage and your spouse.  Instead this discovery was something they had to do together.

I’m proud of the way my parents have made their marriage work, by accepting (and even appreciating, at times) the way their partner is changing and evolving.  It’s a lesson to me for how I need to treat my own marriage – giving room for Dean to change and not expecting him to be the same Dean I met when I was 20 years old or who I married when I was 27 years old.  Giving him grace for the gaps in our expectations of each other.  And supporting him as he grows into the person he’s becoming.

So cheers to you mom and dad! I hope Dean and I can rock it at our #37 the way you have!

2018 Goals & Resolutions

I love having goals.  And to-do lists.  It just makes me happy to have something to strive for and then to accomplish it.  I’m one of those crazy people who has about 6 to-do lists running at any time and if I do something that isn’t on my to-do list, I’ll write it on there and then cross it off. There is such a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to strike through an items that has taken a long time to complete or was harder than expected (I’m looking at you half bath redo of 2017!).

My husbands goal is “to never have goals”.  So when we headed to the mountains last week to celebrate Brooks’ 6th birthday with some time on the tubing hills, I had him confined in a small space for about 5 hours – plenty of time to push him to set our goals for the year!

And so I have something to check throughout the year, I’m going to share them today:

FAMILY:

  • Complete 6 one-on-one dates with our kids – 6 for me and 6 for Dean.  I feel like we do a decent job of doing these now and want to continue it. I think it’s important for our kids to get special, individual time with us.
  • Start a non-sports activity for each kid.  Whether it is music, dance, theatre, martial arts, boy scouts, chess – I’d love for my kids do some individual activity that is more than be on a sports team.  Expand their interests and hobbies.
  • Take some vacations –
    • An international trip with our kiddos.  We went and got their passports ordered this month, so we’ll be ready to go somewhere fun.  And I really enjoy traveling, so this is something I want to start doing for my kids so they have tons of cool adventures in their childhood.
    • 10 year anniversary trip.  We will hit the decade mark in October and I’d love to do a bigger trip to commemorate with my favorite husband.  Hawaii is a top contender on our list right now, but we’re still very early in the planning process.
    • Vacation with Dean’s family – My family tends to do a pretty good job of trips together (we’re headed to Maine this year and we also received an amazing Christmas gift from our parents – a siblings/spouses weekend away/no kids), but this is something that my husband’s family doesn’t do as often. I’d love to make sure we see his brother and their family – maybe meet at a beach for a long weekend together. And also to make a better effort to see Dean’s dad when he comes down to his Carolinas condo.  I know the kids grow so fast and soon enough they’ll be teenagers who have no interest in family trips together, so let’s take advantage while we can!

HOUSE:

  • Get a couch for our living room. Our couches have been around for about 20 years, they were passed from my parents to me when I bought my first house about 10 years ago.  I’ve been waiting for my kids to be old enough to let me have a nicer couch 🙂 It’s time.
  • Get rid of our playset.  When we bought our house in 2013, our kids were the perfect age (1 and 3) for the big playset in the backyard.  Now, they’d rather spend their time playing sports in the front yard, not sliding and swinging.  I think it will free up a lot of space in the backyard for extra play area.
  • Furnish our living room.  First up, curtains!  Second, there is a really large blank wall in our living room and it just needs something on it.  I’ve been waiting until I bought a couch to decide how to decorate (should it have a little sitting area in front of it, or just artwork?) All that will depend on the size and layout of our couch.  Since we’re planning to do that this year (see house goal #1), I should be able to finish off this room.
  • Hang a light fixture over our kitchen table.  We have a few “builder” looking chandelier light fixtures in our house and this is one of them.  It just doesn’t go with the rest of the house and the changes we’ve made.  I’d love to find something that fits our style a little more.  (And as my husband has requested – not from World Market – I’ve bought two chandeliers from them and both times we had a heck of a time installing it.)
  • BONUS GOAL (this one is of course contingent upon having a solid year financially):  Do a large project.  A master bath upgrade (I want a bigger shower and smaller tub!) and an outdoor pergola/dining area have been on our house wish list for the past few years.  Either of these projects would cost $5,000-10,000 so we’d have to make sure it made sense in the bank account.

FINANCIAL:

  • We always like to stretch ourselves on saving, tithing, college funds and retirement contributions so we’ve earmarked some goals here.
  • Is 2018 the year of the car?  My car is 11 years old and while the mileage is good (only 85k miles!), I don’t want to get stuck with a car that starts having problems and it seems this is around the time they start to happen.
  • BONUS GOAL: Pay down mortgage principal. I’d love to be completely debt-free in the next 10 years and our mortgage is standing in the way.

PERSONAL:

  • Dean’s goals:
    • A full knee recovery.  He’s looking at another possible knee surgery (we’re at the point where he needs some “buy two, get one free” surgery coupons!) and so he’ll need to work hard to rehab and get himself walking without a peg leg.
    • His workout goal is 225×5 on the incline press. Whatever that means!
    • Plan 3 entire date nights this year (picking the activity – can’t be just dinner (that’s our default), coordinating the date and babysitting, etc.)
  • Ginger’s goals:
    • Read 25 books. I’ve been on a reading kick for about the past year, so I think this should be do-able.
    • My workout goal – do PiYo 2-3 times per week for the next 3 months so I can get more flexible and stronger. Also to be able to do 15 good push-ups.  I am upper body weak!
    • Go to counseling 3x this year. I feel this one has been on my list for several years, but I need to do it. I guess I’m just afraid of what will come up when I start.  I don’t like feeling that vulnerable and open.  Being a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend – there are so many things I worry about and that stress causes friction in my closest relationships (Dean and the boys). I want to do better about this.

Well, I can’t wait to get to work and start crossing some of these things off my list!  It will be a challenging year, but I know we can hit every single one of these.  And now that I’ve put them out there, it makes me feel a little more pressure to get them done 🙂  #accountability

Recap of 2017

Hello blog… it’s been a while.  2017 was a crazy year.

In the summer we spent a ton of the time at the pool watching those boys master things like dolphin dives and backstroke. We also hit the road for our annual trip to visit Dean’s family in Baltimore.  Of course this included an O’s game.

swim

Brooks graduated Pre-K in the spring and got lost in the exciting world of elementary school this fall. Here is his last week with his cousins and his first day.  Yes, Brooks is definitely the extrovert in our family.
kinder

To celebrate his new status as Kindergartener… we took Brooks on his special “mom-dad-Brooks” trip right before school started.  What can I say, it was a blast – water park, swimming, beach, donuts, ice cream.  We did it all and Brooks got to run the show, picking everything we did.

kinder trip

(Side story: Dean lost his wedding ring at the water park and someone found and turned it in at the end of the day.  Talk about a miracle!)

We also took a mini vacay in September with Dean’s brother and his family.  The kids loved all the cousin time and we had a great long weekend.

vacay

In the fall, the kids played baseball again. Both of their teams did really good. Brooks played rookie machine pitch and loved playing catcher and started getting a few hits each game by end of the season.  Landon played machine pitch for the second season in a row and his team lost in the championship game.  Landon also hit his first (in the park) home run.

fallball

With school starting, we got into our groove in September and October. I even got to chaperone Landon’s field trip to Panther stadium.  But then, we got to Halloween and it was a rapid blur until Christmas.

We also had a few visits from the toothfairy… look at this smile (or lack of smile with that big gap in front 😉 )

tooth

That brings us to the holidays.  For Thanksgiving we went to Asheville with my dad’s entire family (including my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins kids). There were about 50 of us! My mom coordinated a great weekend where we had plenty of family time, but also time to do whatever everyone was most interested in…. great since there were so man of us.  We did the Polar Express with my sister, brother and cousin who has kids.  We also hit the Biltmore House to see it all gussied up for the holidays. I’ve always wanted to do that, and it was great to visit it again – the first time I saw it was the day Dean proposed about 10 years ago.

tgiv

(While every other kid told Santa what they wanted out loud, Brooks insisted on whispering in Santa’s ear because he wanted to ask for Pokemon cards which is something mom banned from our house the second half of 2017 – too much fighting, leaving them all over, and not doing chores, homework, etc. because they were busy trading. The boy is ballsy – isn’t he 🙂 )

One thing that was nice this year is that we tried to take a step back and not force so much at the holidays.  We still did all kinds of fun activities like building gingerbread houses, visiting Santa, lots of Christmas movies and hot chocolate, driving to see Christmas lights in nearby neighborhoods, but I feel like we are often traveling or trying to fit in other extras and we really took a lot of that out and it was just Dean and I with our boys.  Another really special thing at Christmas this year is when we went to the Christmas Eve service, Landon raised his hand and committed his life to Jesus. That was the biggest highlight of the holiday for me.  I definitely cried when he said his prayer.

xmas.jpg

 

santa
So that was our 2017 in a single blog post (from where I cut off last Spring.)  Of course, I missed so many of the details of each month like weekends away with friends/family and special cousin activities throughout the year, but I think the highlights cover it pretty well 🙂

The cost of my yes.

I’m reading a book with my women’s bible study called “Present Over Perfect” and while I’m only halfway through, generally the premise is that so often we get stuck trying to be everything for everyone, except for those we really need to be there for.  We’ll bend over backwards for those who are in our “outer circle” (your happy hour buddies, friends I see 3x a year) but they aren’t really our “people”.  My people are my family, my closest friends… these are the people that I’m going to call when I get crazy news – good or bad.

And as a result, we live this frantic life trying to do, do, do.  We leave no margin in our life and so we are exhausted and overrun. We keep ourselves busy doing unimportant tasks for people who really aren’t that important to us.  We’ll cancel our family plans because our boss’ boss asked us to start a huge project at 4pm on a Friday (due Monday morning).  Or we’ll try to take on the Team Mom, Room Mom and PTA Coordinator roles – but by the time our kids get off the bus, we’re wiped out and angry because we’ve been stretched too thin trying to be too much for everyone else.

I can completely relate to this.  I often say yes to too much and then our family life suffers.  I sign us up to volunteer for events, or to host friends on the same day we have back-to-back sports activities.  I find I either say YES to everything, or YES to nothing.  It’s hard to find that happy medium.  So our life will be crazy hectic for 4-5 weeks and then completely dead for a month or two so we can recover.

Even when I’m resting, I’m not really resting.  I’m mentally planning my kid’s upcoming birthday party or I’m folding laundry while I relax and watch a show. I think mom’s are especially guilty because we take on so much when it comes to our children. I want to be super mom and working mom and helper/volunteer mom and party planning mom and playdate mom.  I want it all.

But at what cost?  That’s what I’m trying to figure out.  How can I really find the balance that we need for our family?  This book has really helped me remember that sometimes saying YES to something only feels important for a moment, but when I look back at my life, does my YES really matter.  I want to do things that make our family better.  That give us more margin to do things God might spring on us.  Not to have us suffering as we run from one activity to the next, one to-do list to the next.