Ser-VICE! part 3

I went with my eldest, B, to a tournament in Nanaimo (2.5 days with no wee ones!!!) (too bad I had a lumpy bed… and bad pillow… and no sleep…). ANywhoo, there was this cool red “curtain” dividing two gyms and it was a very cool backdrop for taking shots against.

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It’s interesting how different all the girls serves are, and how wildly they contort their bodies to get that little white ball over that flimsy little net. Amazing.

But, alas, B does not get to serve (in Canada) as Libero, so here’s my “shot of the day” for her, too!

dsc_1406Fuzzy, but she made a great save here! Sorry, she made a great DIG here.
I forget my lingo sometimes.

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Other posts you might enjoy:
Manual Photography Selections #01
Food Photos
Ser-VICE part 1

Teenagers and MEDIA

Without the hardlined “Not in our house!” mantra, it’s pretty difficult to control teenagers exposure to all kinds of media that not only influence them and their actions/thinking, but also eat into precious family time. We’ve managed to find some happy agreements in our household, on most things. Here’s our take on it:

1. iPods : It’s “the thing to have” these days, and sometimes it’s hard to just say “no!” to these things, especially when they’re actually useful – and fun! My fear was that if we bought the girls their “own” iPods, they would be forever tuned out – headphones on, head down, no longer a part of this family (they have admitted they purposely do this to other people). Our compromise – a FAMILY iPod, that we can all download songs on (and Momma can keep an eye on what’s downloaded), and we can each take turns using when needed. Because seriously – nobody needs to be listening to anything all day long, every day.

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2. TV : WE CANCELLED CABLE!!! The girls both admit they actually don’t miss it at all. If we REALLY “need” to watch something, we can catch it on YouTube, get Gramma to “save” it on her Tivo for us or, in the case of hockey, catch it at a nearby pub. Otherwise, we buy a season’s DVD’s we think we’ll enjoy and watch it together, with NO COMMERCIALS – and actually turn it off when we’re done! The hours we save! We try to watch what the girls enjoy – Hubby even gets into Gossip Girl (what a trooper).

3. Movies : Well, the girls are getting older, and I can’t see every movie and rate it before they go. We’ve tried to teach them discernment early on, and now we just trust them to make the right decisions. At home, we have our own DVD library (some new, but most are off the “Previously Viewed” shelves) of movies we all really enjoy. Once a month or so we all sit down together and we make a huge batch of nachoes, fresh salsa and homemade guac and enjoy some family time. We used to call them “James Bond” nights, but we’ve since expanded our repetoire. Talking about movies you watch together can also be a great way to get into your teens mind and learn about them…

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4. Music : While I can’t oversee everything the girls hear, I try to listen to “their” radio station in the car with them, and I have my own favorites and talk to them about theirs. I think we have a very open communication about what we let our ears hear. I offer to buy their songs on iTunes (“we don’t steal, girls!”) and that way I can see what they’re buying, talk to them about it if it’s questionable, and REALLY talk to them about it if it’s just plain bad.

5. Facebook/MSN : We’ve had to, once or twice, put a time limit on “computers” for the girls. We reinforce that they need to make sure they’re balancing their life – time indoors, time out; time alone (computer), time with family, time with friends, time for homework. We’ve debated buying them their own laptops for their homework, but in the end I think that’s just giving them MORE ways to tune out from the people around them. We have a family laptop that is beside the kitchen, that we can see the screen of any time we happen to walk by. Done. And if I see the same boys name on the screen many times over, I know to start asking some questions…

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6. Cell Phones : The girls have each had their own cell phone since Gr.8, which admittedly has been very handy. I haven’t figured out how to control the texting, though… Not that I mind, but when I’m talking, I prefer to be listened to, not kind of heard while you’re texting someone else. That said, I probably text more with each of the girls than any of their friends… They’re simply not as interested in actual talking – other people might HEAR! Anyone have more ideas on this one??

7. Videogames : This hasn’t been an issue since Gr.7. We have a Nintendo Game Cube, and a Wii, but usually when the girls play it’s with their friends over, or we’re ALL playing (can you say ROCKBAND!?) together. Back in Gr.7, though, we had to put a time limit on it. We told them that if they could manage their time themselves, it wouldn’t be an issue, but that if they were spending too much time on the computer/videogaming and not balancing their time, we’d have to start making some rules. That was enough – it never became an issue again.

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8. Fashion Mags : A + I have a weakness for fashion mags! While I don’t get the impression she is overly influenced by body-type, it’s nice to sit together and read through the latest In Style or September Vogue and actually TALK about what catches her (or my) eye on each page. The 3 of us girls sit sometimes and we each pick a best/worst item (not person!) on every page.

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Best of quality-time-with-your-teens to you all!blog-signoff-215

Travelling with Kids – Italy

“Are you CRAZY???”

As I’ve said, I really hear that a lot, therefore it must be true. This past summer we decided, since it was potentially B’s “last” chance to travel with us for awhile, to take a big, BIG trip to ITALY as a family. With backpacks. With a 4 1/2 yr old, and a 14 month old. We visited 4 cities in 14 or 15 days and came home exhausted, but happy. We borrowed just about every penny and it’ll take us about 3 years to pay it off, but it was absolutely worth it. And, yes, we learned a bit more about travelling with Kids.

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1. Travel EARLY! It would have been far easier to travel with Boo BEFORE he was able to walk, as we had with Tt to Paris. BUT, c’est la vie – we weren’t going to NOT travel just because we had little ones. We bought and packed 2 umbrella strollers (the super cheap ones). Even though they both COULD walk, didn’t mean they WOULD for 8+ hours a day.

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2. Again (and again?), something for everyone. It was kind of hard to find things for Tt throughout Rome, Florence, Venice and London, but somehow we managed even if it was to find the ONE toy shop in town. He’ll never forget the Colliseum (of course – there was fighting there once!), the girls got to do some afternoon shopping every day in every city, Husband got to see some art galleries and we ALL loved the beaches in Lido (Venice). While I would have enjoyed an hour long afternoon latte each day, I’ll just have to catch that when I return ;-).

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3. Mix it up. Like our roadtrip to San Diego, and another trip I had taken to Paris 10 years ago, it seems to work great to mix it up – and in this order – big, stinky city first, smaller shopping town second and gorgeous beaches last. Ahhhhhh. We “accidentally” found Lido in Venice (via Expedia) and it was definately THE highlight of our holiday.

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4. Work your flights. We started out with flights around $9,200 for all 6 of us (yes, they charge something for under 2 yrs). They were on hold, but then I did more research and found flights for $8,800 or so if we left from Seattle. I figured it was a free nights hotel stay, so why not save a bit. When I told the travel agent about the flights, she did more research and came up with separate flights (return Vancouver-London Transat, return London-Rome BA) for $7,000 total. Next time I’ll really work the internet, then take whatever I find to my travel agent to make sure the flight is “good”. She just comes up with the cheapest things she sees, but once she knew I was working it, she worked a bit harder too. Our flight times/days changed off and on, but we were flexible within a day or two.

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5. Beware the European Hotel in your budgeting… I had a pretty well-researched budget going into this trip, and Husband had given me a specific overall “allowance” (then I added about $2,000…). That said, I didn’t realize that travelling with more than TWO people adds to every single hotel cost. (We weren’t staying in any one city long enough for apartments, etc). We ended up having to get 2 rooms in almost every city, PLUS pay an “extra person” fee in one room (Boo didn’t count in the other). It sure adds up when you’re not expecting it, but fortunately the savings in airfare covered most of the extra hotel costs.

dsc_2376(this was the one hotel all 6 of us fit in one room – we paid dearly for it (Lido, Venice), but it was a nice change and big and roomy for the boys to run about)

6. AND BRIBESĀ  still WORK! Tt again was allowed one new toy (again, around $5) every day. He found little Gladiators in Rome, Knights and a mini-soccer ball in Florence, double-decker bus and one of those guards with the funny hat in London – mostly little plastic figures that he collected and played with every day. It kept him entertained throughout the trip, and the only other “toys” we had to pack going was his blankie, a stuffed shark and a pad of paper.

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7. Plan on being in the hotel. With really small kids, sometimes the hotel room IS the holiday. To Tt nothing else really mattered but having time to run around and play in the hotel, as opposed to being told to “behave properly” amongst traffic, art galleries and unfamiliar places. And Husband always appreciated a nap – good thing we always had two rooms, one “quiet” and one “play”!. We spent at least 2 hours every afternoon before dinner just relaxing.

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8. Two words – RED EYE. We took a red eye that left Vancouver at 9pm on the way there and it was smooth sailing. Boo fell asleep before takeoff, and Tt, B + A slept on each other in another row almost the entire way. Bliss. The way back was not a red eye, and it was miserable for Boo. (Note – airplane creamers in a bottle cannot be substituted for a bottle of “real” milk. Lesson learned. Lap thrown up on. Noted.)

ya, I have no photos for that one.

9. Cameras for everybody! They might not be big photographers, but sometimes that one or two shots they catch are great and memorable. Plus, it means even the “trip photographer” gets to be in a few pictures! Tt took up a camera a few times and it was hilarious. Some trips I even buy a few waterproof disposables to hand around.

dscn2798(even a 4-yr old can catch some real memorable moments!)

10. Save a gem for your last night. Every time a holiday is about to end, we really just want to get HOME, NOW. A few times now we’ve treated ourselves to a really nice hotel on our last night, and it sure makes the wait to get home soooooo much more bearable. Nothing like a nice hot shower in a gorgeous, comforting bathroom and a fluffy fluffy clean bed to end a trip on a high note. Our last night was in London and we sure enjoyed the airport hotel – Sofitel – at Gatwick.

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Travelling with Kids – ROADTRIP to Cali

“Are you INSANE?”

Yep. Pretty much (I hear that a lot…). I must be, because that’s about all I heard when we drove to San Diego from Vancouver and back last – last summer (2007), in just under 2 weeks in our mini-van. I drove the 4 Kids (Boo was only 5 months) to San Francisco, and Husband flew in that night and drove with us to San Diego. BOY did I learn some more things about travelling with Kids!

1. Make LOTSA stops! Well, it was kind of forced – I had to stop every 3-4 hrs the entire way to SF to pump milk (too much info?!?). We left around 6am one day, and drove until late at night when we hit Yreka (top ‘o California). But, it was a good excuse for potty breaks for the little ones, stretching breaks for the teens and food for one and all. We did try to limit each stop to about an hour though… We made it into SF the following afternoon. Whew!

dsc_7838(I took my mini photo printer along to do our trip album “old school”, along with tape, scissors and markers. It was fun for everyone to contribute to our memories as they happened, and gave us something other than TV to do in hotel rooms at the end of each day)

2. Don’t be above bribery. The trick to a 3 1/2 yr old and what was basically a 13 day car ride is BRIBERY. Each day Tt got to pick out 1 toy (about $5) at whatever Wal-Mart, Tar-ghay or special entertainment place we stopped at. Kept him happy the whole trip long, and he’d started a rather nice Star Wars characters collection by the end of it.

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3. Take a huge cooler. The girls and I love Whole Foods, so we got groceries and hauled them around rather than stop at fast food too often. There are coolers now that plug in to keep cold – gotta get me one of them. We just used ice, which also helped keep Boo’s breastmilk cold (again, too much info?!).

dsc_7842(print and use even the crappy shots – later you’ll be glad to remember the moment more than you’ll be upset it’s fuzzy)

4. Again, something for everyone. We made sure there was something for everyone – San Francisco for me/girls, Disneyland for Tt (well, for all of us, actually!), Sea World for Tt, San Diego shops for the girls and Laguna Beach for Momma and the girls. I also tried to watch everyone – if B or A were starting to get bored, I’d suggest something quickly. While walking I would keep my eye out for shops that would interest them. If Husband was getting tired I’d take the wheel so he’d rest before we got somewhere to avoid having to deal with Mr. Cranky later on. We had a double stroller, so Tt or Boo could nap anytime they felt they needed it. (Seriously, was I the only one who didn’t get to sleep??).

dsc_7843(grab business cards from good restaurants or shops – it’ll help you pass on the info of a great find to a friend, or know where to hit when you go back)

5. Plan, plan, plan, then be spontaneous! I try on trips to be very planned, even for spontenaeity. I had a list and map of all kinds of options for things to do (with hours, locations, costs, etc) and as we went we picked one or two. We didn’t try to cover the whole list, but when travelling with teens who can get “bored” and small kids who can just get restless, you don’t want to waste time figuring anything out. Laguna Beach was a last minute decision while we were already in San Diego – we’d driven past on the way down and ended up cancelling an extra night in SD and finding a hotel via Expedia.ca. Best unplanned thing we ever did, and it ended up being a trip hilight.

We had planned out all our hotels ahead of time because it was summer, but in the end it wasn’t entirely necessary. Super 8 totally messed up our RSVP’s and we ended up with nothing but Disneyland Hotel booked (via Expedia). We had to be extra spontaneous! (Some hotels told us that if we had booked through Expedia it would have been cheaper, some said it would have been more expensive. In the end, it was always possible to find a room somewhere if you’re not on a super tight budget and have a laptop handy.)

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6. Take turns. Once or twice we split up, which was also nice. One fine Disney morning Husband and I took the boys into the park while the teen girls slept in. They found us later by walkie-talkie. Another time the girls and I did extra shopping while the boys hung out at the hotel. We don’t do too much apart, but I had realized that we could all, in turn, use a break from the work of being around a toddler and infant 24-7.

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7. Don’t be afraid to try something new. I actually got on a boogie board at Laguna Beach! I sucked at it, but I tried. And it led me to two of the greatest pics of the vacation – one of each of the girls. Neither of the girls had been to SF, and it turned out they quite enjoyed it. (On another trip my bro and sis-in-law took us out for Burmese food – it was new and great – and now a favorite).

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8. Ask around. Locals always know where the best (and most family friendly) places to eat are. We found a great surfboard place that had 2′ long pizzas in SD, and a nice family pasta joint in Laguna, just by asking locals where the best places were.

dsc_7847(take a few cameras – even 4 year olds can take some good shots, plus you might even get one or two of yourself in there. I always end up with dozens of photos of everyone except myself, then when we look back on the albums we wonder where I was…)

9. Take it easy. There were a lot of stops we didn’t make, in favor of just doing one or two things each day. It was actually a rather relaxing vacation in the end. Don’t stress out when something goes wrong – a vacation is rarely perfect, so just go with it rather than stress everyone out and ruin the relaxed vacation vibe.

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10. Movies, movies, movies. Actually, the car ride was only really painful coming home, when we just wanted to be back in our own beds. Otherwise, the time in the car passed ok and I can’t even remember what we really did. We switched up seats a lot, watched movies (we’d bought some new ones to see on our mini-DVD player), kept a journal, chatted, listened to the iPod, slept, played w/ Tt, gave Boo his bottles… I even brought our mini-photo printer in the car so I could do some scrapbooking during Husband’s driving shifts! It was definately harder to entertain all the Kids WHILE doing all the driving, but once the Hubby joined us it was much better.

dsc_7849(take lots of family pics! even if it’s not great conditions. it’s so easy to forget)

11. Take a big car! We took our 8 passenger mini-van, and removed one seat for easier in/out access and leg room. It was perfect. The extra rear seat was folded down for luggage. I’d recommend a mini-van for any group of 4 or more – the extra room on a long ride was so much more comfortable, and you don’t have to feel like you’re RIGHT in each others face the entire ride.

I’ve driven as far as San Fransisco again since, and plan to drive that trip as well as down to Laguna again next summer. I enjoy the car, and although I said I’d “learned” a lot about travelling with kids, this is all the stuff we did and I wouldn’t change anything (except book fewer hotels ahead so we can travel more flexibly) – it was a fantastic trip.