family summer travel nature

What should families do this summer? Let literature take you on a trip!

The school year is coming to an end. Travel plans are on hold. Summer camps are still in question. What should families do this summer? 

While international travel may not be an option just yet, what about a road trip? What about good ‘ole fashioned playing outside? In the ocean, in the woods, on the mountain trail. Whatever nature you are near, it calls. 

You can get the kids excited with a book about a great wilderness adventure! Read it out loud as a family or listen to the audio version together. You could choose a classic wilderness adventure book, such as:

Your kids will be inspired to play outdoors; maybe you’ll visit a local nature preserve. State and national parks are in the phasing-in process of reopening. Check out the the National Park Service’s website. They have many great resources, such as:

National Parks Family Travel

For my local Florida friends, or anyone planning to visit, check out these books to inspire your next road trip:

  • Scat by Carl Hiaasen. Set in the Everglades, perhaps you’ll be ready to visit Everglades National Park after reading. 
  • Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. Another story set in Florida, this one in Coconut Grove.
  • The Last Wild Place by Rosa Jordan. A story about the Florida panthers being driven out of their Everglades home.
Florida family travel

What other books do you love that inspire travel? 

I’m putting together a list, and would love to add your favorites! Please leave a comment with your favorite books that have inspired trips!

In addition to the above, I also suggest:

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Visit Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, where Little Women was written. They offer guided tours and innovative educational programs, including summer camps and special events.
  • Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Visit the town of Chincoteague, Virginia, including Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island where you’ll see the wild ponies, just like in the book. Enjoy the beaches, lighthouse and museum.
Travel inspired by children's book Misty of Chincoteague

The majority of the books listed here are appropriate for ages 8 and up (check individual titles; The Hobbit recommends age 12+)

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raising-global-citizens

Raising Global Citizens

Alexandra Tyson is a traveler, an elementary school teacher and the founder of the website TGC: Travel for the Global Citizen. Her husband, Chris, is the in the Navy and they have three grown children. In 2008, when their children were school age, the family was transferred to Atsugi, Japan. Alexandra and Chris thought about what skills their kids would need to be successful while living overseas. The five years spent in Japan and the decisions that came along with this experience led Alexandra down the road of global literacy.

Alexandra and I met through the Wanderful community, which is a network of women helping women travel. I was curious about global literacy and what it’s like to raise children abroad. Here is Alexandra’s perspective on travel, raising global citizens and the inevitable question of home.

photo: Tammy Ward

Tell us about your personal high points and low points of living abroad. What are your memorable family travel moments? 

We had delayed going to Japan until the kids were older. We’d been regional travelers, not necessarily intentional travelers. We were living in Florida and I had a second, third and fourth grader when we decided to take the orders for Japan. Our kids, who have four sets of grandparents, were raised seeing these four different views of the world; each view being important. They had many experiences learning things with their grandparents. One night, we were in a restaurant—one that does not host children often—and the waiter said to me, “Your kids know how to order off a menu!” That waiter gave me confidence. Living abroad was something we could do. This was the moment we chose to parent through experience; it became intentional to live overseas. 

The military affiliation was the springboard for everything we did. The Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) office on base brought in local tour guides and we were able to do anything from spending three days in China to overnights in Korea visiting the night markets. There were day trips to the strawberry farm. It was a lifestyle. I don’t remember many weekends without sports or travel. One of our favorite trips was to see the snow monkeys in Nagano. Our guide told us, “Now remember, don’t look the monkey in the eye!” My son asked, “What will happen if we do?” And she’d answered, “They’ll scratch your eye out!” Still to this day, our family will say, “They’ll scratch your eye out,” anytime ‘what will happen?’ comes into question. Travel also taught us to roll with the punches, like the time we were supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving on the ship and it was unexpectedly cancelled. Things happen that are out of your control. The kids kept travel journals, keeping track of their memories, which persist now. As adults, I see them using skills from that time. The best decision I made as a parent was taking them overseas and living like that.

Why was it important to you that your kids were raised with a global outlook? 

I find that it is so important that kids understand the past and the other point of view before they can develop their own opinion. Those are the things that go into forming an opinion: understanding the past and another point of view. That’s what my motivation was. I was raised that way. I was in a military family. We moved around and I knew I had resiliency. I wanted that for my kids.

Your website is titled TGC: Travel for the Global Citizen. Can you describe global citizenship? And can you share your top tips on how parents can nurture this in their children? 

A global citizen is a person who realizes learning about others helps them learn about themselves. Exploring other places helps them define where they put their own boots (in the military, we say: home is where you put your combat boots). My biggest suggestion for parents is to read. Read like you’re traveling. Read with a globe or a map in front of you. Second, we have to be intentional with kids when explaining why something is important. We can’t expect them to think it’s important just because we say it is (I wrote about this in an article that tells the story of how my first graders were not impressed with some of the wonders of the world). And third, be authentic. It’s great to see the Eiffel  Tower type attractions, but you also need to show them poverty. Know the greatnesses but also know the reality. TGC is offering a private group called Learn Global, where you can get all kinds of great information for this era of distance learning. You get access to live teacher help, storytime, access to resources and more. 

What does global literacy mean to you? 

Global literacy means that you have a true idea and understanding of the destinations you visit . . . what their triumphs and failures are, so you have an authentic read of what your going into. We see the surface, but we can dig deeper. We can be well read on a place and be informed, remembering that we are active participants. So if you want to learn about the water system in the Netherlands, do so while paddling in a canal. If you want to taste a pierogi in Poland, take the cooking lesson and make it. With kids, they want to know what’s going on, they don’t like surprises. They might’ve seen a picture in a book, and when they see it in real life they get excited! Let them see it before they go, so that it’s not an overwhelming thing that they weren’t emotionally prepared for. 

How do you think family travel will evolve post-COVID? 

I think travelers who are confident and well versed will probably be the first to jump out into that world again. I agree that the age of the road trip has come back. The great American road trip exists and it’s going to take on a whole new meaning. My hope is that everyone understands now is the time to give your money to anyone named mom and pop. We just have to think in those terms. Now’s the time for every small town in the U.S. to attract more tourism. That has to be the thing we spread the most.

Travel puts home into perspective. As you said, it helps us define “where we put our boots.” What does home mean to you?

That’s a powerful question and I have a powerful story. It was 2011 and we were due to leave Japan. Fourteen days prior to leaving, the great tsunami and earthquake hit. We’d just packed up all our things. We had no idea if our things were at the bottom of the bay or on the way to America. We spent the following days in a hangar. Fourteen days of taking care of people and pets. We slept together in one bed. We worried, we communicated. We took care of a search dog at night so the handler could sleep. Our base was like ground zero for first responders. We were helping with water, food, diapers, whatever people needed. And then we got on a plane. We landed in Washington, D.C. It was my first time home; we’d been in Japan five years and had loved every minute. As the plane was landing, we passed the Washington monument, Jefferson Memorial, the White House. I saw the Potamic River and an American Flag. Waiting outside, were my parents. Just crying. Home is not where I put my feet but where I feel most grateful. The Japanese had named our efforts in the aftermath “operation tomodachi.” It means operation friendship. 

“Home is not where I put my feet but where I feel most grateful.”

And are your kids still traveling?

They are all wondering gypsies, I’m proud to say. 

Want to keep up with the happenings at TGC? Follow them on FaceBook and/or subscribe to their blog

You can also join our mailing list to hear more in this series where moms talk home and world connections. When you join, you receive the free guide: Create a Memorable and Authentic Family Travel Experience.

Family RVing: living well while traveling the country

Have you ever had the urge to sell the house and go explore the world? Chances are, you know a family doing just that. We often think of these families as being extraordinarily brave, but my friend Rachel, who spent two years traveling the U.S. in an RV with her family, says, “You can totally do it. It’s not like we’re special . . . we just sold our stuff!” That was how it began for this nature-loving family: they listed their stuff for sale. 

Rachel is a coach and meditation teacher. She is married to Adam and they have two children, Caelan (eight) and Ellie (four). The kids were five and two when they purchased the RV and set out. Now, they have been settled in Salt Lake City for just over a year, but their travel days are not over. With the sale of the RV they spent two years in, they purchased a smaller one, and plan on doing more off-grid travel, visiting national parks without worrying about hook-ups . . . “a closer-to-nature experience,” says Rachel.

Rachel and I talked recently about family, travel and balancing it all: 

Tell us how you came to the decision to sell your house, buy an RV and hit the road with your family. 

A friend of mine said she was going to travel and I thought, ‘Gosh, I wish we could do something like that!’ I had just sold my acupuncture business, our pets had recently passed. It was a culmination of things. Before, there was never a reason to leave. We had businesses, girls in school. But then we had this thought: We can figure out where we want to live by city-shopping our way around the country. We were very intentional about where we wanted to go based on criteria for living there. 

So what were you looking for in a town? 

We had four criteria. We were looking for a small town; it had to be under 100,000 people. We wanted progressive education options and accessibility to nature. We wanted to be on a trail within thirty minutes of home and be within driving distance to a national park. And the fourth thing . . . it must have been mountains! We wanted to be in the mountains. We soon realized that no place had all four things. I thought we’d have that knowing, like . . . this is the place. But it didn’t happen like that. 

What else surprised you? 

Right away, we understood that the trip was going to take longer than expected. We thought we’d RV for a year. But it was going to take at least one and a half to two years to see what we wanted. We needed to stay in places a little bit longer. We realized we needed, on average, two weeks per place. Another surprise came after just a few months, when I went to the grocery store by myself. I came back and looked into my husband’s eyes and said, ‘Honey, we have to get away by ourselves!’ We needed time to connect as a couple. I wondered how we’d let that go for months at a time. And I had forgotten what it was like to have a minute to myself, to have my own thoughts. We have to have that time. When my door is closed, the girls know. I’m meditating; I need twenty minutes.  We also now have one-on-one time with each kid, giving them even just ten minutes that is completely theirs. They love it. 

What did you learn about yourself and your family? 

The first six months, I put so much stress on myself as far as homeschooling. I compared myself to the Waldorf schools we were touring, and I almost quit. It got easier after I let go of the “compare-itinitous” and focused on what’s really important. Friends encouraged me to “just live well.” This permission to just live well changed things. We were going on hikes, and doing all these things. There is only a certain amount of bandwidth for a six year old. Actually, my favorite moments were always in the mundane. Out of two years of travel, the things that stick out the most are simple moments in nature. Just being. We had a picnic lunch one day and Caelan was walking across this log. There was this big mountain behind her and she’s just walking across the log. It happened in a flash, but it’s one of those memories forever ingrained—the colors, the grass, the warmness of afternoon sun.  

Can you talk about balance? Your need to be in your family, and out in the world? 

When we were traveling, I felt like I was buzzing. That was because I wasn’t meditating. As the conscious creator of your reality, you have to take responsibility for being solid. It’s a choice and responsibility. It’s not like it’s easy. It’s a matter of showing up. The world isn’t going to invite you—you have to take initiative to show up how you want to show up. I work to slow down my inner metronome. The rate at which the world is moving is always faster. When we were RVing, I was working in a different career path and it wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I have seen a shift now because I’m doing what my soul is here to do. Now I’m finding it’s much easier to balance family life with my work. Because it doesn’t feel like work and I can weave it in and out in different pockets of life. It’s not work, it’s just me. There is no separation. 

I love that! It can now weave into the whole of your life. It’s not a push and pull! 

Yes. It all comes through who we are as people. How do I do everything? I don’t. I’m focusing on living well. As a family unit, being happy and healthy. I do my stuff while the kids are having their rest time or I’ll wake up early. You have to do what works for you and your family and your values.

What does home mean to you?

The first thing that comes to mind is the sacredness of the family. You have this relationship with yourself, your surroundings, a heartfelt space you can hold. And you can create a physical space . . . it has to come from inside. I want to be intentional about my thoughts, words, actions. If things aren’t aligned with my values, then it’s easy to get outta whack. That sacred solid ground comes from within; it has to radiate out from us. At the end of the day, it’s really all about love.  

To keep up with this family’s adventures, follow Rachel on Instagram. If you’d like a community of support through meditation, breathwork and journaling, check out Rachel’s FaceBook meditation group

This is the second article in a series where we hear from moms regarding family, travel and home. You can keep up by following the the blog (and receive your freebies, including how to create your own unique family travel experience).

Why this family was social distancing before social distancing was a thing

For me, the conversation around family travel inevitably collides with the conversation of home. 

  • How do we create the home we want in the world? 
  • How does travel inform our home processes and can home influence our travel style?
  • What does it mean to be a home-maker in the 21st century? 
  • What has been gained and what has been lost in regards to our most basic element of society: the family, the home? 

I thought I’d ask around. What follows is the first in a series of articles in which I speak with moms about these connections between home and world. 

My friend Michelle runs a birth business in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Jim and they have three children: Jimi (15) Raina (12) and Luna (9). Five years ago, the family found what they were looking for in the Georgia woods: acres of land in the middle of nowhere that included a half-built home for a bargain price. They finished building the house and now they visit on the weekends and holidays. They were social-distancing before social-distancing was a thing. 

Here’s what Michelle has to say about their unique travel style and home life. 

What inspired your family to purchase a vacation home in the Georgia woods? 

Michelle: “Jim and I were longing for land. We wanted our kids to have the freedom to roam. We love our beach town, but we wanted to be able to get away from cars and fences. We both grew up with land. I was raised in an orange grove where I biked and played. I spent summers in Virginia with my family. My cousins and I would spend all day in the creek. We’d come home and make a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and not return until dinner. No one knew where we were, except that we were somewhere in the holler. That’s where I learned to love the outdoors.”

(Jim, who also grew up on a dirt road and rode dirt bikes, later told me: “I wanted the kids to experience freedom . . . fewer rules. And for Jimi to know what it’s like to pee off a front porch. No one cares.”) 

How did you find the perfect place? 

Michelle: “Originally the idea was to find a camper or shed and maybe purchase around five acres. Through LandWatch, we ended up finding an already half-built home on thirty acres. It was a great deal and I fell in love with the wrap-around porch. It’s in White Oak, Georgia, outside of Woodbine, only an hour from Jacksonville. We can be door-to-door in an hour and fifteen minutes—it’s a perfect amount of time. It makes day-trips doable and weekends easy. We go about twice a month.”

What are some of the best parts of having time away in the woods? And hardest?

Michelle: “It’s a place to escape with our family. There are less distractions there. We have no TV, no Wifi. We play board games and ride four-wheelers. We have campfires. One of our favorite family games is hide-and-seek in the dark! We spend holidays there. The only fears we have are of snakes and wild boar, so we wear snake boots and the noise of the four-wheelers scares off boars. It’s also seasonal—in the summer, it’s too buggy to spend time there.” 

What do you hope your kids will gain through these getaways? 

Michelle: “I want them to have fond family memories. I want them to enjoy quality, simple family time. At home, there are always distractions, whether it’s the phone, the dishes or the laundry. We can shut these things out and focus on enjoying family. And secondary to that, I want them to learn an appreciation for the outdoors. We live in a concrete world, and to get away from that is like a breath of fresh air, literally. It truly feels like a breakaway from our normal lives, like a re-set. I feel refreshed, and I see that in the kids.” 

And when parents say their kids wouldn’t know what to do (without their tech) . . . 

Michelle: “You put them in it and they’re ok. You sit on the front porch and rock in rocking chairs together. You can see them soften a little bit, because there’s no distractions there . . . they’re immersed in all those distractions too usually. We have to be intentional about disconnecting so that we can re-connect.” 

“We have to be intentional about disconnecting so that we can re-connect.”

What does home mean to you? 

Michelle: “Home is where my family is. That’s the main thing. When the housing market crashed in 2008, we thought we were going to lose everything. We were at a music festival camping—five days in a tent—when I had an epiphany. I looked around and thought, this is the most important thing . . . if I have my family with me, I’m grateful. Nothing else matters. We have a limited time with our kids. Five years ago, Jimi was just ten, and we thought, ‘if we don’t do it now, we’ll miss a lot of opportunity,’ so we sold a rental property in order to purchase the Georgia house and land.”

This is the first article in a series where we hear from moms regarding family, travel and home. You can keep up by following the the blog (and receive freebies!). 

To be human

“Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human. It is to transcend not only national limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter into the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value.”

-Thomas Berry

During this time, I am feeling some of my deep fears while also experiencing a rousing of my deep impulse to connect. To wake up from all the ways I’ve been asleep, to enliven my connection to the whole of Everything. 

The origin of the word heal literally means “to make whole.”

Our question is: how can we make ourselves whole? 

It’s a personal question. 

But it can’t just be personal. As soon as we begin to look inward, we are at the same time looking outward. Everything we do for ourselves, we do for the world. 

So the best place to begin is to look within.  

Sometimes it takes a crisis to realize we are broken. I remember when I was a new mom, struggling with sleep deprivation and falling apart at the seams, thinking “this is just life, I should be able to handle it.” My avoidance only thrust me deeper into a pit of depression, a dilemma of identity. 

But something called me—it was my own siren song of wholeness. Yet all I could feel was its absence. Its terrible, terrible absence. 

This is where I had to begin. In that abyss of absence. 

To be human is to feel all the feelings. 

I learned to sit. And when I was quiet, I could hear something other than the thoughts, “I should be this . . .” “This shouldn’t be happening . . .” “I am confined . . .”

I learned to hear my inner wisdom. Over time, I learned to be with this wisdom. To trust it. To keep making a space for it until it became my natural place of knowing. To relax my mind (the hardest thing of all . . . because it’s so used to being in charge).

To be human is to hold head and heart. 

We, humans, have the unique position of following intuition and using our brain power. Now, to evolve our humanness we need to understand ourselves as a part of the whole, and play our part in keeping the balance (within ourselves and within the world).

When I look at what this virus is doing to our world, I get scared. To be human is to be vulnerable. It is to live and to die. 

We don’t just want to live, we want to live fully, to be alive—this is human. Can’t you feel that right now? There is a shift, a turning towards home, to what matters. 

When I look closer, I can see our vulnerability collide with our power to change. Our creativity rising, our connectivity spreading. I just returned from a bike ride round the neighborhood with my daughter. She will be thirteen next week. She loves riding with no hands, it’s her new thing. She made it two blocks! On our ride, we saw a dad and his teenage son tossing the ball in their front yard.

More for the suddenly at-home-schoolers

You’re working from home. You’re managing meals and your kids’ education. You are socially isolated and figuring out how to live in this uncertain time. Of course you are overwhelmed! 

Here are the tips I covered on the previous blog for new homeschoolers:

  • Create a rhythm or schedule (without trying to turn your home into school)
  • Add warmth to your home

Today’s tip:

  • Set up space

Creating individual work space is nourishing and will help everyone function better. Your kids may have fun finding an area where they can easily store and access materials they need. 

For our mental and emotional well-being, I think it’s also important to make a place where you can go to nurture yourself—a place free of clutter that allows you to connect to your inward home, a safe sanctuary inside of you. Maybe it’s just the window in your bedroom, or a bookshelf where you light a candle—anywhere you can let go of fear and allow higher thoughts to be heard. 

Rhythm, warmth and space—it’s not all going to come together overnight. Give yourself time and grace. Give yourself time and grace. There is no falling behind. 

For day-to-day managing, create the schedule with your kids and tweak as needed. Everyone contributes to household tasks (even kids as young as two-years-old). My daughter and I like to write down a list of work choices in her calendar/agenda at the beginning of the week. She is then free to choose when and how those things get done (during our “work cycle” mornings). Sometimes she completes them all by Friday, but not always. 

If you’re juggling multiple kids, plus your own work, maybe this schedule from my friend Jamie Sheils of 18 Summers, will help (the family consists of two parents running two businesses, two young children and two teens): 

Mom & Dad’s schedule
Younger kids’ schedule
Older kids’ schedule

Also, Khan Academy has sample schedules for ages 4-18 with some helpful links. But here is the caution: do not judge your own schedule against someone else’s. It is okay to spend an entire day in the kitchen/garden/hammock/couch/etc together. Really, it is okay to forget about “schooling” as you know it. Sure, the kids need to complete their requirements, whether they are getting assignments from teachers or doing online school. But HOME has much to teach. 

Maybe there is a garden that could be tended. Maybe there’s a family recipe that could be cooked (and passed down). Maybe there’s a backyard full of flowers and plants and bees ready to be investigated. Maybe your kid has a passion he/she can now fully tend to, or the whole family can learn something new, something you all can’t wait to learn! Maybe there’s a craft you learned as a kid that you could now teach your child. An instrument to play? 

Or maybe not. That’s okay too. Maybe, right now, the kids will do their online school while you work, and you will focus on creating the smooth flow, the rhythm of your days. This builds a strong home. I have found that in tending to home—my inner and outer spaces and rhythms—home teaches me what’s most important. 

There is no falling behind.

To the suddenly at-home-schoolers

Are you homebound with your kids and wondering what in the world to do? My number one advice is this: Don’t try to turn your home into school. Seasoned homeschoolers know this, and I learned it right away when we started our home-education. It’s especially true right now . . . take a deep breath, don’t stress about academics at the moment . . . we are mentally and emotionally strained as it is. We are uneasy and uncertain as we navigate this time of confinement due to COVID-19. 

What we can do is give our home the attention it may need. We can give our life a slower rhythm (that it may have needed anyway). We can focus intently on the energy we want to bring into the home.

Schoolwork is one thing, but does your child know how to prepare a homemade lunch? Do they know how to silently observe the bugs in the backyard? Now’s the perfect time to learn! 

When you are educating at home, life and learning are all mixed together. Start with creating your own daily rhythm. As an example:

  • Breakfast & cleanup (everyone contributes)
  • Work choices (could be academic work or drawing or playing while the parent does their own work)
  • Snack
  • Walk outside or play in nature
  • Lunch & cleanup
  • Quiet time (audio books, or nap for younger children)
  • Walk outside or play in nature
  • Arts and crafts
  • Dinner 

Next, adding warmth to your home can do wonders! When the outside world is chaotic, cleaning out a drawer or a closet creates a clean mental space and can be a balm for the soul. Light some candles, put essential oils in the diffuser, bring in some cut flowers from outside. Clean a room and get a big psyche boost! 

There is so much learning that happens in just doing daily life together. Focus on that, not what you think is missing. And then be sure to find support in your friends or online communities where you can vent and get ideas—because we’ll all bump into our limitations. One thing I’ve learned as a homeschooling mom: things don’t always need to happen as I think they ought to. The relationship is more important than getting an assignment done exactly when and how I think it should. 

Ideas for things to do at home:

  • When the kids are occupied, limit social media scrolling. Do what nurtures you (rest, meditate, enjoy free yoga on the Down Dog app, etc.) 
  • Take nature walks if possible
  • Listen to audiobooks individually or as a family (your local library should have a platform; we use Hoopla)
  • Let your younger child listen to Sparkle Stories while you do your own thing 🙂 
  • Kids can listen to podcasts such as Brains On! 
  • Bake, garden, sing, play, learn a craft, get bored (that’s when ideas can come from nothing!) 
  • Take up the project you’ve been meaning to do

And resources for online learning:

What not to pack (the night before a family trip)

This is the story about a man who had an impulsive idea the night before he and his family took off on an extended overseas trip. 

First of all, you must understand this is a smart man. He’s an entrepreneur who started his own business from a home-office that paired as a guest room, and which was sandwiched between his young daughter’s bedroom and the master. The cacophony of shouts, singing, crying, stomping, et cetera, could have thwarted his enterprise, but he prevailed. Soon his business grew, and his home-office moved to a new part of the home, separate from the bulk of noise and activity. He got himself a nice workstation, including a moveable desk and an oversized monitor.

This man who can take his business wherever there is Wifi, is doing final packing for the family’s big trip. He will be bringing his work with him, of course. With this in mind, he is suddenly prompted to pack his 24 inch monitor—he can be much more productive this way, he reasons. He lugs the big green suitcase down from the attic. The monitor fits in easily. He shoves in a couple of pillows for protection. “It’s worth the risk of it breaking,” he says. 

The monitor cracks on the first leg of the trip. It may have been due to an overzealous Uber driver swinging and slamming the suitcase into the trunk of his car, but who’s to say? On the next portion of the trip, the suitcase loses it’s handles. The only way to pick it up is for two people to lift each end. Twice, at two different airports, the family waits over an hour for the hideous green bag to appear on the baggage carousel. 

Well, obviously, we are not going to make this mistake! There will be no checked bags on our upcoming trip to Central America. My daughter will use a rolling backpack, and my husband and I both have wheeled carry-ons with detachable backpacks. We can fit seven days worth of clothes and toiletries in our carry-ons. Backpacks, while unable to contain 24 inch monitors, can easily accommodate laptops. 

Sometimes you’ve just got to learn things the hard way, but if you are planning a family trip, there are tons of tips that can help prevent common mistakes! You can find packing tips (with links to luggage options) and much more in Practical Tips for Planning a Family Trip. This is a FREE guide when you purchase a Learning Resource product. I’m very excited to make Learning Resources for a Central American Trip available on the website this Spring! 

In the home, in the world

I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. Back in 2006 when I was pregnant, I resigned from my teaching job, lucky that I had the choice. I didn’t know, really, what I was choosing. I didn’t know that my baby wouldn’t sleep anywhere other than in my arms or attached to my side. I knew that I’d be breastfeeding, but I didn’t know that it’d feel like that was all I’d be doing. I had never discerned the extremities of love and loneliness—not like this. Not until I sat, trapped, on my couch, holding the whole world in my arms. 

I loved being with my daughter and I felt confined by my circumstances. It was like the name stay-at-home mom became a life sentence: Stay at home! Mom

Now, here I am thirteen years later, home-schooling. My young-mother self never would have guessed it! She needed space and time. She needed to be held in the arms of time, rocked and soothed . . . loved. She would need to be placed, over and over again, into the space she’d made. 

Reconciling my need to be at home and in the world began by creating a nurturing space—a physical place in my home. This led to a spaciousness in my heart. I wasn’t being given a house-arrest sentence, I was being invited to be at home. To build a strong inner place of love. To connect to the whole world that is inside of me. To make a home for my family to live and be fully, wholly. 

I didn’t “wait” until the time was right to travel. Not in the normal sense of waiting as an inactive state. I was practicing an active form of patience—moving toward an unknown destination. My desire to learn and be in the world is now intertwined with my family life. Side by side with Elle, I want to learn about the world we live in, how humans have inhabited it in the past, and how this relates to how we live in the twenty-first century. 

We are strengthened by the years of active “waiting.” Our travel experiences are informed by the time spent taking a real look at home. I’m a be-at-home mom, even when I’m traveling! 

Are you, like me, drawn to being in the world in new ways? Do you want to connect with others and allow travel to transform you? Do you say yes to this, but feel overwhelmed by this? Maybe my free guide—Create a Memorable and Authentic Family Travel Experience— can help. I’ve put together some resources along with questions for you to consider when thinking about an authentic family trip. Leave your email address here and I’ll send it to you. Meanwhile Mom, be at home, be wherever you are in the world (and the world will be in you). 

What to do when you’re a tired mom

Last week was a bit bumpy in our household and homeschool. Between sickness and lack of sleep, tempers were lost. I should mention that I was the first to lose it. 

I get triggered when I don’t feel valued. Wouldn’t it be great if my twelve year old could read my mind, and then go, “Thanks for doing all those dishes, Mom! Now that you’ve created a clean workspace, I’m going to get started on my work right away!” 

It’s probably more accurate to say that I get triggered when I don’t value my own worth and my own needs. Instead of expecting my daughter to be a mind-reader, I could say to myself, “You’ve worked really hard. You need rest and some quiet time.” But this is where I’ve often struggled: putting my oxygen mask on first. I want to make sure everything is taken care of before I’ll go check-in with myself, before I’ll take the breath I need, say hello to my essential self.

In this instance, I was worried she wasn’t going to do her work. And the thoughts spiraled: she’ll never have a strong work ethic, she won’t learn anything, she’ll fail, I’ll fail. None of these are true, but it is crazy how they can control a moment—a terrible moment when I’m an angry mom. 

Wouldn’t you know I’d just written a blog on patience! However, it wasn’t about what to do when your kid says, “I hate you!” into an already mom’s about to explode atmosphere. It was about staying in the process; how patience is about milestones. So I was challenged to look at our breakdown as part of our process . . . to see ways we can readjust, create new boundaries and better routines. This week, we’ll recommit to some structure around our work cycles. I will speak my needs instead of expecting people to read my mind. 

A few months ago, we had a similar breakdown concerning getting to dance classes on time. Instead of issuing punishments for what happened while she was hotheaded, we decided (once we were all calm) to matter-of-factly discuss expectations. We wrote down a list of things that need to happen (or not happen) in the hour before dance class and who is responsible for each task. Things have been running smoothly since then. 

Similarly, I’m not going to punish myself—I’m not an “angry” mom, I’m a mom that needs to be well-rested and needs to have time to create and to connect with herself. 

So . . . What to do when you’re a tired mom of a preteen? Let everything be as it is in the moment, it’s not perfect and it sucks. But go do something to take care of yourself. When you are ready (it may not be today) talk about expectations, small adjustments. Write it down, commit to it.