Saturday
Sep072013

Get your family out of a bubble- just explore!

boy in the bubble by traveling.lunas (CC-BY)

Lucy the elephant is no ordinary pachyderm. In fact, my kids and I have climbed inside her. Built in 1881, Lucy is the oldest example of Zoomorhpic Architecture. Over the last 130+ years, Lucy has served citizens and visitors of Margate, New Jersey as a tourist attraction, hotel, a tavern and even a home. Lucy is just one of the quirky attractions I was able to experience with my kids because I made the choice to set my inhibitions aside and go exploring. 

We Have All Been There

For the 10 years my husband was in the military, I was a stay-at-home mom and during that time we lived in 6 states, from Ohio to Texas. With his profession of choice, we didn’t have the luxury of deciding where we were going to live. Each time he got his next assignment, it was hard not to judge the city we would soon call home. My first thoughts were: New Jersey is dirty, South Texas is hot and Ohio is boring. My husband’s working hours were long and often unpredictable, and he spent a lot of time away from us. I had two choices during those tough times. I could: 

1. Be apprehensive about exploring a new city with three kids, decide to stay inside my own little bubble in the immediate vicinity of our house, and drown in my own boredom and misery,

Or,

2. Be brave. Get out of my comfort zone and take some chances, finding more smiles and fun places to discover with my kids than I did meltdowns and regret.

The Choice

My only sane choice was the latter, and it was the best decision I ever made. Was I nervous about going on exploration missions as the only adult with three kids under age 6? You bet. Did I sometimes make the plans and then cancel at the last minute because I didn’t think I could handle it? Absolutely. But I took it slow. I started with our neighborhood and slowly traveled a little farther away each time. 

Because I decided to bravely explore our new cities, I can tell you about the time my kids and I saw baby sea turtles getting released into the ocean on South Padre Island, TX. I know exactly where to go in New Jersey to get some good pizza (don’t even think about going to a chain restaurant), and learned not to judge a diner by its looks. I learned that Ohioans are perhaps the most friendly, thoughtful, down to earth people I’ve ever met.

Each time you go on an adventure you’ll learn something new, and before too long, you’ll be an expert Mom Explorer.

You Can Do It: Tips for Getting Out

My bravery has only grown over the years. It has taught me that with a little planning and preparation, getting out and going on an adventure doesn’t have to send you into a panic attack, dreading long lines, big crowds and little fun. Here are some tips that helped me learn to take chances, and I hope they do the same for you.

  1. Start small. Don’t over-schedule yourself or try to tackle the biggest places first. Crowds can often mean stress. Start with the local strawberry patch, or library story time, then work your way up to the big popular attractions that draw crowds. When you get adept, you may even find yourself venturing across state lines with renewed confidence.
  2. Do your research. No matter what city you live in, you’ll find a hyper local publication that can help you find the right place for you to visit. Just search online for “(city you’re exploring) kids things to do.” Don’t be afraid to go through a few pages of search results to find some local blogs and websites.  If you can’t find anything that way, try Facebook and Twitter, and you’ll be surprised at the resources you find. Once you’ve found some good resources, ask the locals where they go. You may end up going off the beaten path a little to find the small family owned restaurant with a special kids’ dessert menu, or the pool that has the best water slide in the county. Once you’ve found some good resources, find out where the locals go. Go off the beaten path and find the small family owned restaurants or find out which pool or park is the best from people who have been to them all.  
  3. Be prepared for disaster. There is a happy medium in between expecting your family to act like the Cleavers, and expecting them to act like the Simpsons. Find that happy place and embrace it. You might have to deal with an explosive diaper in a restaurant with no  changing area, or the king of all temper tantrums in the middle of a crowd, but don’t let that deter you from taking a deep breath, and moving on.
  4. Slow down, and don’t over-schedule yourself. Make a plan for what things you would like to see and do, and then be ok with the idea that you might not be able to see and do them all. Take your time and let the kids set the pace. You’ll have a much more pleasant experience.

So my final tip is this: just get out! Get out of your bubble. You can do it! Each time you go on an adventure you’ll learn something new, and before too long, you’ll be an expert Mom Explorer. You may smile one day when someone asks you, “What is there to do around here with kids?”. You will know just what to tell them! Looking back on your adventures, the disasters and the triumphs, what will stand out is the incredible memories you’ve made because you learned to take chances. And someday, your kids will thank you for teaching them to not be scared to explore this great big world we live in. 

by Debbie Aiken

Debbie Aiken knows both sides of the coin.  She began her adventuring mom journey as a military wife and stay-at-home.  11 years later, she graduated from Oglethorpe University and started a new adventure.  As Assistant Communications Director of Oglethorpe University, Debbie has now turned her love of words into a thriving career. Her passion for family adventure still remains and keeps her constantly finding new ways to make memories with her husband and three children.

Sunday
Aug252013

Why travel makes a better family: a mom's perspective

I’m a wife. I’m a mom. I have a full-time job. I volunteer at church, my child’s school, and her acting studio. To say I’m busy is an understatement. I love each and every (well, maybe not EVERY) minute and am blessed beyond measure with all that I get to do and see and be. 

But sometimes, yes sometimes I want to take a break from it all. I want to just take time to look into the eyes of the man I love and hold my not so little girl’s hand and just enjoy them. Only them. You know those moments when you truly pause, step back from the crazy that is life and breathe in their scent and feel the touch of their skin. That’s a little slice of heaven here on earth. 

Those moments—they center me. They ground me. They remind me of who I’m truly made to be. 

And, they can’t happen in Cumming, GA that’s for sure. Cumming is home for me, my awesome hubby, David, and our precious daughter, Maggie. I’ve learned that to capture those moments, to really pause and take a break, I have to be out of town. I have to be gone to a place where my computer doesn’t ding, the dishes don’t haunt me and the laundry doesn’t call my name. 

So, the House of Hills packs their bags, and we travel. We have developed a routine of sorts—standard places that we visit every year where we can reconnect, enjoy the sun, invest in relationships both within our core family and with our extended family. When we are away from home, we are away from the distractions that pull at us in our everyday lives. 

I’m able to lie on the bed cuddled with my daughter reading and talking and then talking and reading. I hear stories of her life that I wouldn’t have heard at home because we’ve got nowhere to be but with each other. We’re able to try new adventures together and laugh until our bellies hurt as we retell how mom and dad attempted to kayak down the river together. I’m able to curl up with my sweetie after an amazing meal at a new restaurant and just enjoy being in his arms. 

When we travel, whether as a family or as a couple (and believe me the couple trips are even more important than the family trips), we pull ourselves away from the hustle and bustle and take time to truly focus on one another.
And that focused time, that family time, it’s priceless.

by Kathy Hill

Kathy Hill blogs at House of Hills where she shares about family, recipes, and a family favorite...Disney.  Her daughter Maggie has even joined in the action and contributed to the Radio Disney Blog at "Ask Maggie".  Kathy works as Editor in Chief of First Look at Orange Leaders.  Her servant's heart is a driving force for Serving My BFF, a developing site dedicated to help others serve their friends in need.  Look for her as a regular contributor each month as we re-launch Expedition Mom in September 2013. 

 

Monday
Aug192013

Why do we travel as a family? It's a gift.

 The gift of storytelling, a passion for travel, and a desire to share with others- Andrea Botham is a formidable force and resource for our readers. Her goal is to not only encourage other parents to travel but to inspire them to show their kids the World, one city at a time. Look for her contributions each month as we re-launch Expedition Mom in September, 2013. In the meantime, You can read her blog at passportsandpushchairs.com, or find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

I was born to travel, born to parents who vowed when living in a small town in Arizona that they would show their kids the rest of the world. By the ripe old age of 10 I considered myself a pretty seasoned traveler, having been to Canada, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong and China. So when an opportunity presented itself for me to spend a Summer in Spain alone with my older brother my parents jumped on it, knowing it was a chance to give us a gift bigger than just a vacation. We lived with a family, I spoke next to no Spanish, I knew no one my age, but every night we would head out to the plazas, or the playgrounds, and I would find a friend, one who didn't speak English, and we would play, without abandon, without conversation, with simply our age as the link that tied us together.

Traveling is in my blood, in my heart, in my dreams, and, fortunately for me, a huge part of my marriage. My husband and I knew when we had our kids, Finn, 5 and Lila, 2, that our sense of adventure wouldn't diminish but would, perhaps, take on a different form. What we didn't expect was that it would stay almost exactly the same, with only a bigger urge to explore outside the boundaries of our own world, to use our explorations with our kids as a way of teaching them about the differences, and similarities, in the world around us.

Travel doesn’t have to cease because your family expands – and while it may take on a different style, with strollers instead of high heels and early dinners instead of nights at the pub – there is definitely no greater gift you can give your kids than to teach them about the world through travel.

We travel for so many different reasons. We travel to see family. We travel to see friends. We travel to explore, to sightsee, to take amazing pictures and to create incredible memories. We travel to eat great food. And we travel so our kids will always know there is more than what is inside the four walls of our home, more than the people and things that surround us on a daily basis. We travel so our kids learn how to behave on planes and how to sit at restaurants and how to walk through museums, although we have succeeded with some of those more than others (a certain trip to Biltmore Estate with a 3 year old still makes me cringe when I remember it!), but if we don't give our kids the chance to have these experiences and to learn how to behave in these situations then how else will they learn?

While we fill up our days seeing the major sights of any destination we go to, we also like to take some time to find the kinds of places where our kids can be exactly what they are, which is young children, where they can run around, where they can slide and swing and, most importantly, where we can show them that no matter where we are there is one simple fact that always stands true - kids are kids are kids, the whole world over.

A few months ago we were on a spring break trip to Spain and England, and we took our kids to a playground, one of the very same ones I ran around in 20 plus years ago, where they met, for the first time, the grandchildren of the family I lived with. They are the same age as my son, and, despite the lack of a common language, despite the fact they had never met before, despite the very many obstacles that should have made forming a friendship difficult, in a matter of minutes they were running around, chasing birds, speaking the universal language of play, the sounds of their giggles echoing through the air.

My heart, and my traveling soul, couldn't have been more proud.

Travel doesn’t have to cease because your family expands – and while it may take on a different style, with strollers instead of high heels and early dinners instead of nights at the pub – there is definitely no greater gift you can give your kids than to teach them about the world through travel.

 

by Andrea Botham

 
Saturday
Jun152013

Family Summer Fun in Atlanta 2013: Arts and Entertainment Edition

School is out; the days are longer; and the temperature is rising, along with the humidity! All things point to summertime in Atlanta. Join Expedition Mom and Atlanta With Kid as we celebrate ‘120 Ways to Enjoy Summer in Atlanta With the Entire Family’.

Get armed for fun and learn how to mix-it-up this summer. For 6 weeks we will highlight a section from our guide, with even more details and ideas on how to celebrate summer with ENTIRE family.

You can download our complete summer fun in Atlanta guide here.

Our fourth edition of Family Summer Fun in Atlanta 2013 Guide features ‘Arts and Entertainment’ in Atlanta. Story times, musicals, movies, puppet shows and comedy opportunities abound in Atlanta for the entire family. Atlanta With Kid has all the details for you. Click here for all the scoop from Atlanta With Kid.

Don’t Wait! Download our guide to start your summer fun in Atlanta today!

Wednesday
Jun122013

Family Summer Fun in Atlanta 2013: 'Outside Things To Do' Edition

Join us each week as Atlanta With Kid and Expedition Mom celebrate 120 ways to enjoy the summer in Atlanta with the entire family. For the next 6 weeks get armed for fun and learn how to mix-it-up this summer.

You can download our summer fun in Atlanta guide here.

Outside Things To Do: Summer Fun in Atlanta 2013

Our third edition of Family Summer Fun in Atlanta 2013 Guide features ‘outside things to do’ in Atlanta. The dog days of summer are approaching fast, but you still have some time for agreeable weather. Pack your sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses...oh, and your adventurous spirit!

Visit a farm, discovery trail, and quarry garden at AHC

If you frequent our website or have heard us speak, you know this is our ‘secret spot’. While I would love to keep it to myself, I just can’t. Atlanta History is the best kept secret for outdoor fun for kiddos. Yep, a history center for a younger one might throw you off. I get it! To be perfectly honest, I don’t know much about the inside of Atlanta History Center, BUT the OUTSIDE...it is a plethora of diverse and engaging environments. Exit out the back door and you are met by the Smith Family Farm, an 1840s plantation house surrounded by a dairy, vegetable garden, smokehouse, blacksmith shop and more. Catch the Connor Brown discovery trail as it’s seven interactive stations weave through the quarry gardens, past the elegant Swan House, and through the Swan Woods trail. Pack a lunch and spread out on the expansive green lawn, with the tiered terraces and fountains.

Watch an airplane takeoff from playground park at PDK

What makes a playground even better? One situated adjacent to a runway certainly fits the bill. If your child is anything like mine, the thrill of spotting a plane involves excitement and sounds similar to that which might emanate from me if I won the Mega Millions. So take this opportunity to ratchet up your “cool Mom” or “cool Dad” factor. Pack a lunch for landing-strip side picnics, or check out the onsite restaurant. Either way, your little aviator will have reached new heights on their PDK playground park escapades.

Play frisbee

Planned or spontaneous, frisbee can be hours of fun. A frisbee is a normal inhabitant in the trunk of our car, during the summer time. Teach Fido some tricks, throw it about with the family, or take on a frisbee golf course...options abound!

Take Fido to a dog park

Even the four-legged members of the family can join in on the summer activities. Parks all over the Atlanta-metro area offer areas with dog-friendly amenities and off-leash areas to run about. If your pooch is well mannered and loves a little canine interaction, then grab the leash for some fun of the furry kind.

Pick your own blueberries

There is just something special about knowing you are indulging in a delectable treat that you picked with your own two hands. Somehow it tastes even sweeter! June in Atlanta signals the start of blueberry season. Grab the kiddos and head out on a unique expedition. This is an activity where messy blue fingers are a requirement. Before heading out, be sure to check with your local u-pick farm. Many are reporting bushes are full and expecting pick times to start around the second or third week of June, but this will vary slightly from farm to farm.

Cheer on the Atlanta Braves

Summertime and ballparks go hand-in-hand! Have a slice of quintessential americana; grab a hotdog and a cold drink as you cheer on your hometown favorites. Yes, you can even start ‘the wave’! Many family-fun options exist at Turner Field. A Kids Club Membership for $25 scores you a voucher for two (2) tickets, FREE admission to the Braves Hall of Fame, VIP access to Kids Run the Bases, voucher for two (2) tickets to the Gwinnett Braves, and even more. Have a special night with your kiddo at Father-Daughter Day or Mother-Son Day. Check their schedule for fun activities such as fireworks, music, base runs, and promotional nights. Yes, you can even bring Fido to the park for their Bark in the Park night.

Explore the children’s garden at ABG

I know what you are thinking, because I once thought the same thing. How exciting can botanical gardens be for kids? Beyond your wildest imagination!! Atlanta Botanical Gardens has a 2-acre interactive children’s garden that springs to life with color and possibilities; inviting kiddos young and old to run and play. Vegetable gardens, dinosaur digs, ‘storybook time’, ducks, caves, and water....all beckon your young one for a day of imaginative discovery. Bring a picnic or check out their MetroFresh cafe (worth the admission just to try their unique soups, sandwiches, and salads).

Have a picnic dinner

The sky is the limit for your dining preferences. Go fancy with an upscale picnic basket and dining ware; catch a movie and dinner at one of the many outdoor screenings; order takeout and indulge at your local park; or simply grab a blanket and dinner as you head to your own back yard.

Discover a new playground

Tired of being in a rut and going to the exact same place every time? From Expedition Mom’s playground guide to the May edition of Atlanta Parent, there are great resources to find a new adventuring gem. Massive wooden play fort structures; wading creeks; swings and docks by the river; and even bears to climb -- all options for Atlanta-area playgrounds!

Climb Stone Mountain

Follow the painted yellow line, for one-mile, up the mountain and be rewarded with spectacular views of downtown Atlanta and even the North Georgia Mountains. On a clear day, you can see out almost 60 miles!

Got wee ones in your group, this is the time you want to strap on your kiddo-carrier. This is not a stroller or wheelchair friendly hike. No worries though, there are options. Instead of parking at the base of the trail at the Confederate Hall, drive about a mile farther to the Summit Skyride Area and take a high-speed Swiss cable car the 825-feet up the mountain. Summit Skyride is included in Adventure Passes and Mountain Memberships. Roundtrip prices: $9 for adults; $7 for children 3-11. Lots of options abound at Stone Mountain, packed full of fun and adventures for any age and disposition.

Disclosure: Some links on this page may be affiliate links, or paid placements. Expedition Mom tries to only bring deals and special offers we feel to be helpful to our readers.