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Sometimes I wish we could flash forward and talk to our grown children asking them about their favorite family vacation memories. Then go back into real time and do more of that.

It’s not always the big things that are the most memorable. Sometimes we create the most awesome memories when we allow ourselves to leave an event early that is not working for us and just head back to the pool or to give ourselves more time when the planets have aligned and everyone is relaxed, laughing and having a good time.

One of our favorite family memories was a day spent in a tropical rainforest. On that vacation we spent a lot of time body surfing in the ocean and swimming in the pool. We played ping-pong, ate great food, and had a lot of laughs. One day we rented a car and went out to explore waterfalls and botanical gardens. This was the day that I thought the kids would have to just endure because it was something that my husband and I wanted to do. But we didn’t want to make it too painful for them so we figured we would just stop by, check these places out and then we could get back to the water.

It turns out we had picked a less frequented garden on the off season. We got to the entrance, paid our fee and the person at the gate quietly gave us a map. My daughter took the map and immediately went into tour guide mode. The kids pretended they were the experts and explained every plant we passed. Most of the information was either on the map or on a plaque located near the plant. If there was no information about something we were looking at, then the kids would just make it up.

They followed the map as it guided us up a steep hillside to what was supposed to be the ruins of the Old Fort. When we finally reached the top of the hill I looked around and saw what looked like some old volcanic rock that sort of ( sort of ) formed the outline of what could have been a house. The rocks didn’t go up any higher than 6 inches at any one place. In my mind I was thinking “Ugh! We have just walked all this way and there is really nothing here. The kids are going to hate this”. All of a sudden my son says in an enthusiastic voice “This is Great! Look at this! They had to carry everything by hand all the way up that hill. This must have been their lookout point. Wow! No one could get past anyone here.”

We spent hours that day at the Botanical Garden. It was completely unexpected. It was beautiful. It was educational. It was a ton of laughs. It was everything a parent could want out of a day on vacation. And there was ice cream.

Our favorite travel memories have been the most unexpected. Our happiest travel memories have been on those adventures when the kids imaginations were our tour guides.

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Great Family Travel Ideas

Yes, Thanksgiving is just days away and then we’re full on into the holidays.  So, why am I even talking about New Years?

Two reasons:

1. I just re-watched While You Were Sleeping.

Great chick flick where Sandra Bullocks character saves someone’s life and then is mistaken for his fiance and the hilarity ensues.  But the point is that she has a passport that has never been stamped.

2. I was just reading a news article online about how people are already lining up for Black Friday.

While I love supporting our local retailers and I am all for a great deal, the thought of camping out through Thanksgiving and missing out on family time to save a few dollars on a gift to give to a family member seems a little out of alignment to me.

The time to get your passport is when you don’t need it.  If you have the opportunity to travel somewhere you don’t want the added stress of wondering if your passport will arrive in time before you are scheduled to leave on your grand adventure.  While you are out and about these next couple of weeks pop into a photo center and get a handful of 2 x 2 pictures of yourself and your family members.  They can come in handy for alot of things not just passports.  Then go online and fill out the passport form and print it off.

Even if you have no plans right now for any grand adventure in 2012 it is a good thing to have and you save money by giving yourself the money to go through the standard Passport processing time.  It will take about six weeks to process.  If you find you need a passport faster than that they are happy to help you for additional charges.  Save that money for yourself and get your passport now while you don’t need it.

Then on New Year’s Eve you can dream big and think about that vacation to Paris.

The Face Place

On a recent trip across the country we made a couple of stops that were essentially going to be bathroom breaks. First a quick visit to Old Faithful and then on to Cody Wyoming. The next day we worked our way over to Rapid City South Dakota where we had planned to make a quick stop at Mt. Rushmore.

We picked up a Jr. Ranger handbook at the rangers station and the kids set off in search of the the clues to complete the tasks outlined in the book. They spent hours in the museum and walking along the pathways under the faces. They loved every second of their search. It cooled down pretty quickly as it began to get dark. Fortunately we were ready for that. We bundled up and continued exploring the park. Not long after sunset there was a flag ceremony in the main amphitheater to retire the colors. For several hours it had seemed like it was just us and a dozen or so other people at the park but all of a sudden the seating area was packed with what must have been over 1000 people. I’m not sure where they had all come from but apparently the park is more spread out than I had thought. We sat there and watched as members of the military that were visiting that day walked onto the stage and a troop of Boy Scouts from Minnesota filed in to provide the manpower for the actual lowering and folding of the flag for the evening. A slide show played above the stage and the lights on the faces came began to glow. As the flag was lowered the entire audience joined together in singing the national anthem. There were people there from all over the country and possibly even the world. We had never met. We had never sung together. But on this evening it was one of the most beautiful choruses I had ever heard. I could feel tears start to well up and I almost wasn’t able to sing the whole song because it was so moving.

Later that fall, when my kids, who were 11 and 13 at the time, would tell people about their summer they would talk about their favorite day at Mt. Rushmore. There were no roller coasters, there were no video games, and this was their favorite stop on the trip.

Sometimes we have to remember that one of the best gifts we can give to our kids is the time for us to be together in a place where their imaginations can run wild.

Join the team at TravelingMom.com on Monday October 24 for a twitter party all about meaningful travel. I’ll be there! You can Win an iPad2 and talk meaningful travel on #TMOM Twitter party RSVP HERE http://bit.ly/nwVFbm #TAUCK

I’m looking forward to talking with the folks at Tauck travel and other moms about the Cowboy Country Northbound adventure which covers Yellowstone to Mt. Rushmore. CLICK HERE  for more details.

For more information on Mt. Rushmore visit the National Park Service Page

There is an old adage that goes “When Life gives you Lemons… Make Lemonade”. If you have kids you know that you are going to be drinking a lot of lemonade because life comes at you from unexpected directions all the time. It might involve having to run all around town late one evening to look for a blue T-shirt that your kid needs for the assembly at school the next day. Or it might be baking those 36 cupcakes at 11pm at night because your kindergartner is supposed to bring the snack the next day and they LOVE your cupcakes and only your cupcakes (store bought cupcakes just won’t do).

There are also the unplanned events in your life that require you to think a little bit out of the box and re-frame your point of view. For me that came in the form of ripped curtains. We have a new puppy in our house. By puppy I mean a two year old big dog that is still in puppy mode. So, technically she is more of a toddler. She is in her Terrible Two’s. And her name is Zilla (short for Godzilla).

This summer we put a new area rug in the living room and we have been training her to stay off the rug. The kids put a dog bed by the window so that the Puppy could still be in the room with us but would know where she was supposed to be. This was working out great. Unfortunately, she still gets very excited (as puppies do) every time a car drives by and jumps up to peak out the window. This has resulted in a couple of pretty good gashes in the curtains.

Point of Reference for this story: Not only do we have a puppy but we also live in a gigantic “fixer-upper” and we are 10 years into a 20 year project.  New curtains were not on the To-Do list for this year.

By mid September the curtains were pretty ghastly. But what do you do? We re-framed the point of view and have declared them “Halloween Decorations”. Of course this does put us in the position of having to deal with the curtains around November 2nd. But at least it has put that expense off for one more month giving me time to shuffle the To-Do list a bit.

Now you’ll have to excuse me while I get back to my lemonade.

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Everything in this post is true – it was not something I had initially intended to share with the world.  I have not received any promotional material or sponsorship for the posting of this mom moment. Let’s face it – those curtains are really terrible and even calling them Halloween Decorations is a bit painful.  The post was inspired by my friends at Lifetime Television’s Balancing Act who shared a link with me this morning to an upcoming segment they are planning featuring the Official Curtain of the National Sleep Foundation, SoundAsleep™ Room Darkening Curtains that will be appearing on The Balancing Act on Oct 24th & Nov 21st. You know for sure that I will be tuning in to watch the Balancing Act on the 24th.  In the meantime, you can check out the SoundAsleep sweepstakes facebook page right now.

I’m feeling a little nostalgic. Feeling a little bit like an old lady. I remember when people used to have the conversation about whether the book was better than the movie or the movie better than the book.

Click on the movie poster for more info on the Three Muskateers.

How do we get our kids excited about great literature when there are so many other books out there for them to read. While the Harry Potter series is a modern classic there are still so many great books out there and great stories that may go unread if we don’t help our kids find them.

So many stories today take their roots from these great classics. Many kids never read these books or even see these movies unless they have a book report to write. And more and more book reports are becoming a thing of the past.

One thing we can do is bring back some great movies based on great classic literature. Maybe this next family movie night watch a classic. Who knows? Perhaps it will inspire your kids to read the book. It might even inspire you to read it with them which would be a double bonus.

CLICK HERE for more info on The Secret Garden

Full Disclosure: Thanks to MoovidaDB for sponsoring today’s discussion. Content and ideas are my own and literacy is an important subject to me so I appreciate MoovidaDB’s support of this conversation to encourage our kids to learn about the great classics through movies.