2019 Bucket List

Lots of people have bucket lists for life. I’ve decided I’m going to have one for the year. I’m going to have one for every year. All the things might happen, and maybe they won’t, but at least I’ll have bucket list goals. These aren’t like resolutions. They don’t fall in the same category as “lose weight,” or “learn to knit.” They are one-time things…maybe places to visit, things to do, or dares…yes, dares.

Here are a few things on my bucket list for 2019:

  • Indoor Skydiving. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve done the skydiving over an outdoor wind tunnel, and it was great fun. I laughed and laughed, and my daughter and her friend laughed at how the skin on my face flapped in the wind. They did it too, but their skin didn’t flap…ahhh, youth. According to their website, IFly Charlotte is scheduled to open this spring in Concord. I’m looking forward to it! See their website here.
  • Sleep in a treehouse. A few years ago, my friend, Mary Ann, and I took our kids to Kentucky to sleep in wigwams at Wigwam Village in Cave City (see website here). In fact, Mary Ann turned 40 while we were there. Not many folks can say they turned 40 in a wigwam! This year, it would be fun to sleep in a treehouse, but the kids don’t have to go. They’re teenagers now, so they don’t want to be with us anyway. Maybe I can get Mary Ann to come up one weekend and go with me to Cherry Treesort in China Grove to stay in a treehouse. See their website here.
  • Swim with the manatees. Mary Ann has done this. In fact, there’s a manatee in Crystal River, Florida, that fell in love with her at first sight. Don’t ask me how we know he loved her…just trust me when I say he did. Hopefully, he won’t be there when I go, but just in case, I’ll take Mary Ann with me, so he will ignore me altogether. Of course, I haven’t spoken with Mary Ann about this, but I guess she knows it now. There are a few different companies that offer the opportunity to swim with the manatees. One is here.
  • Mother/daughter vacation with friends. We do this every year, but I’m keeping it on my bucket list, because I hope my friend, Jennifer, and her daughter will join us for a trip this summer. We started the new year together in LA, but I’m counting that as last year’s mother/daughter trip. We’ve been talking about what we can do, but we haven’t locked in reservations anywhere yet. Coming soon…
  • Big vacation somewhere new. I have a destination in mind, but since I’m not sure we will find the time to do it this year, I’m not going to name the place. It will take a lot of planning, and since a lot of summer is already planned, we might have to wait till summer 2020 for the trip I have in mind. If we can’t do that one, I’ll plan something else for a new destination this summer, but we are definitely doing something different. Fingers crossed. I’m looking at lots of websites for possible destinations, in case my first choice doesn’t play out. Some websites are Conde Nast Traveler for worldwide destinations and Forbes for US destinations.
  • Take a day off. I used to be really good at this. Every school year, I would designate a weekday that would be my day…no volunteering, no obligations, no doctor appointments, no hair appointments…just a day to do what I want to do. And it was awesome. I’m re-instating that plan right now, and my day off for the rest of this school year is Thursday. People used to think I was crazy when I first started telling them I took a day off, but then they realized it was genius. In fact, I was talking with a friend recently who said she is doing the same thing in 2019. Because I plan a day off in advance, it makes it easy to plan lunches or coffees with friends…something else I plan to do more of in 2019…time with good friends.

And that’s it. Nothing earth shattering. Just a few fun things I want to do in 2019…and maybe some ideas for you. They’re not resolutions. They are simply things I want to do. Well, maybe that last one about a “day off” is more of a resolution. Either way, these are things that will make 2019 more fun, and sometimes, I just want to have fun!

 

 

 

 

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Mother/Daughter Fun

I was talking with a friend in carpool today about my recent vacation with my 15-yr-old daughter. We met my friend, Jennifer, and her 15-yr-old daughter in Los Angeles for several days. Jennifer and her daughter used to live in Charlotte, but they moved to Ohio about 11 years ago. Luckily, we still get to see them at least once a year, when we go on a mother/daughter vacation with them.

While I was talking with my friend in carpool today, she said she had never gone on a vacation with just her daughter, and she didn’t know how her husband would feel about it. I said, “Call it a mother/daughter vacation, and it takes on new meaning!” And it’s true! There’s nothing wrong with a little special mother/daughter bonding time, right? My husband never seems to mind. Of course, he is probably grateful for some peace and quiet around the house. He’s probably thinking, “Don’t let the door hit ya in the …”

We’ve been lots of places on mother/daughter vacations…Los Angeles, New York, Upstate New York, Vermont, Maine, Puerto Rico, and more. Every trip is different, but my goal is always to have lots of opportunity for us to share some fun and chat too! For example, it’s fun to shop in Los Angeles, and it becomes a shared experience. On our last trip there,  Jennifer and her daughter introduced us to a new store, and it turned into an all-morning shopping experience! My daughter found a few things before heading to the fitting room, and I just kept finding more stuff for her to try on! We chatted as we shopped, and then we went to a nice, leisurely lunch…another good chat opportunity. When we’re home, going out to dinner or lunch with me doesn’t sound so appealing to my daughter, but on vacation, it’s fun, because we can try new restaurants and new cuisines.

In Puerto Rico in the summer of 2017, we bonded over climbing a waterfall and exploring a bioluminescent bay. At night, we always played games together…Scattergories, Spot It, Pictionary, etc. Great fun…and we made some awesome memories together.

But sometimes a vacation isn’t possible. Maybe there are time constraints, or it’s just not in the family budget. Maybe you need to have some mother/daughter bonding time near home, and that’s fun too. There are some things we can do without having to go on “vacation”:

  • Have a staycation together.  There’s something special about staying in a hotel and ordering room service. There are some great hotels for that in the Charlotte area. Our two favorites are the Ballantyne Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, but there are lots of options out there. Most cities and towns have relatively inexpensive places nearby, if that’s what you’re looking for. Maybe you don’t want room service. Maybe you want to order takeout through PostMates or bring in your own food? When we go for a staycation, we check in as early as possible. Sometimes we just hang out in the room and watch movies or football games together. Sometimes, we go down to the pool or spa. Sometimes we go out for dinner. But we always order breakfast through room service. Even a one-night staycation is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with my daughter.
  • Thrift store shopping together. This is a total bonding experience, because thrift store shopping is no fun alone. It’s a lot more fun to dig through all the merchandise with someone else. And when you find something absurd or interesting, it’s fun to turn to your daughter and say, “Oh my! Did you see this?” We love thrift store shopping. My daughter has purchased some of her very favorite t-shirts at thrift stores in the Charlotte area, and you know how teens love t-shirts. At the Salvation Army Family Store, located at 1011 Central Avenue, we have found some great items. Also, one of my very favorite pairs of pants, some cute stretch cotton camouflage jeans, came from Buffalo Exchange, located just down the street at 1521 Central Avenue. I get more compliments on those camouflage jeans, and I paid about $9 for them.
  • Binge watch a series together. Different people enjoy different series, but I have friends who have loved watching Gilmore Girls with their daughters. I will propose it to mine, but I’m not sure how much interest she will have. We used to watch iCarly, Zoey 101, and Drake & Josh together. And later, we would watch Pretty Little Liars together. Neither of us watches a lot of TV these days, but maybe we should schedule a TV marathon. Lots of series are offered on Amazon and Netflix. Find one you will both enjoy. Maybe we should revisit some of those old shows! My husband occasionally leaves town, so next time, I’ll let my daughter pick a series, and we can watch that and eat popcorn and Sour Patch Kids to our hearts’ content!
  • Spend time outdoors together. In Charlotte, we are fortunate to have the US National Whitewater Center nearby, but most cities have some sort of outdoor activities. Atlanta has Stone Mountain. Find an activity that would be fun as a mother/daughter duo or with another mother/daughter. We’ve done the Whitewater Center with friends several times, and it’s always fun! We love zip lines and ropes courses, so this is right up our alley. If you’re anywhere in the southeast, it’s pretty easy to get to Abingdon/Damascus, Virginia…bike the 17-mile (downhill) Virginia Creeper Trail together. It’s a little over three hours from Charlotte, but easily done with a one-night hotel stay in the area. And there are lots of inexpensive hotel options in and around Abingdon and Damascus. Or spend a night in Asheville, NC, and visit the Biltmore!
  • Take a class together. I have friends who have taken cooking classes or exercise classes with their daughters, and they loved it. If you live anywhere near a Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, it’s likely they offer one-day cooking events or classes. Just taking a quick look at the Sur La Table website (click on the name of the highlighted business), I see several upcoming opportunities, but you must sign up in advance. Same with Williams-Sonoma…check the website. Learn to cook a new dish or set a beautiful table! Cooking’s not your thing? Maybe try a spin class at Cycle Bar or Flywheel. Or learn how to knit together at a local yarn store. In Charlotte, my favorite is Charlotte Yarn on East Boulevard. If you don’t want to take a class together, maybe you take an afternoon to teach your daughter a skill you have or teach her how to cook a favorite family recipe.

So, if you can do a mother/daughter vacation, I highly recommend it. If not, maybe you just find some bonding activities to do. I love knowing I’m making memories with my daughter. She will be leaving for college in just 3 1/2 years, and I want to make sure we’ve done as much as possible before she flies the coop!

 

 

 

 

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The Perfect Christmas

Ahhh…the perfect Christmas.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, my friends.

What some consider “perfect” is completely different than what I consider perfect. Perfect family gatherings like we see in Hallmark movies? I’ll pass…they rarely measure up to the “perfection” they are meant to be. I’d rather gather with my family, friends, and neighbors over games and laughter, in comfortable clothing, with fifteen different conversations going on at the same time. I’m sure most of America disagrees with me, but apparently, I’m not like most of America.

My husband thinks I’m crazy every year at the holidays, but he goes along with me. I’m not into the “perfect” Christmas. I’m into the fun Christmas. Fun stuff to do. I’m not the person who has perfect bows hung on perfect chandeliers, perfect garland on the banister, mistletoe hung in the perfect spot, or fresh poinsettias perfectly placed all over my home. I’m not the person who prepares the perfect meal. I just don’t have the time or energy for that.

Today, we were watching football and talking, and my husband asked me why I like to do the fun/funny Christmas.

I had to think about that for a moment. And then, I answered, “I don’t do the perfect Christmas, because generally speaking, I don’t do perfect well. My strength is fun, not perfection. I do fun really well.” He looked at me, and then he laughed and said, “Well, you’re right about that!”

That tends to ring true with almost everything in my life. I don’t want to be the perfect mother…way too much pressure in that. I want to be a fun mom. That doesn’t mean I’m a pushover who lets my child run wild and unsupervised. That doesn’t mean I’m not checking up on her regularly. Our daughter is generally well-supervised, and we have a great relationship. We talk…and we talk…and we talk. But I remember fifteen, and I know fun is a lot more…well, fun. Do I strive for perfection as a mother? No. Perfection? That’s just not my strength.

Our vacations are fun. Are they perfect? Well, if they’re fun, they’re perfect for us! Do we visit every perfect museum tourists are supposed to visit when they go somewhere? Nah…we might visit one or two, but my teenager just isn’t impressed by museums. She’s impressed by fun places. She is her mother’s daughter. It doesn’t make us shallow. It’s just a different approach. I try to make sure we get a little culture on vacation, but we always want to have fun. Visit the hometown of John Mellencamp and try to find Jack and Diane’s Tastee Freeze when we’re passing through Indiana? Yep. Plan our dinners in LA and New York based on where we are likely to see a celebrity or two? Sure! Have lunch at places with gigantic mojitos and milkshakes? You bet! Struggle through a rock scramble and finish it by climbing straight up 60 feet and pulling myself out of a rocky crevice? Done that! Jump into a bioluminescent bay at night, not having any idea what the water around me looks like? Yes, I did. Climb a waterfall, including wading through murky chest-deep water? Check! Drive halfway across the country in 10 days with a friend and four kids? Yes…and we slept in a wigwam along the way! Volunteer to eat fire with the entertainment on stage? Pick me, please!

And so, I guess that’s why I go the fun route on Christmas. Maybe my love of the fun Christmas started when I was a little girl and my grandparents had aluminum Christmas trees with color wheels! I absolutely loved them…I was fascinated by them! Sure, I could be all serious now, but that’s just not who I am. I simply don’t take myself or life too seriously. My parents taught me many years ago that life is short. I remember Mother and Daddy telling me, “Life is not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy it.” And that’s exactly what I try to do…enjoy life.

If I’m leading a meeting of volunteers, there will be prizes at the end. Passing through a city with a great rollercoaster at a great amusement park? I’m in! Silly photo op somewhere? Get your camera!

So, if you want to drive past the perfect Christmas house, don’t drive past ours. If you want to see the perfect Christmas tree, chances are you won’t like ours. If you want to eat the perfect holiday meal, our house is not where you want to be.

But if you want to take photos with a leg lamp from A Christmas Story, come on over! If you want to see a 10.5′ inflatable Christmas elephant, visit us! If you want to dine on hamburgers, hot dogs, Cuban sandwiches, beer bread, spicy fiesta dip, buttermilk pie, and other fun food during the holidays, we’ll be happy to set a place for you. If you want to drink champagne with breakfast, drink up, baby! If you want to see our “perfect” artificial poinsettias, then we’d love to have you over. If you want to play card games on Christmas Eve or “Who’s Most Likely To…” on Christmas Day, you’re welcome at our house. Just bring a positive attitude and be ready to laugh.

Perfection is not my strength, but fun is!

 

 

 

School’s Out For the Holidays

Finally. School is out for the holidays. As a mother, I might look forward to it as much as I did when I was a kid.

Yesterday, I went to school to pick up my daughter, who is a freshman in high school. We had been told all students would be released at noon at her K-12 school. The break didn’t exactly get started on the right foot. I arrived early, so I was near the front of the carpool line, waiting for dismissal. I had texted my daughter, telling her to hurry when school got out, because I was near the front of the line. I was looking forward to getting out of there quickly, so I could meet some friends for lunch. I was listening to Dean Martin’s Christmas album in my car. I was happily waiting. And then…

At noon, the security officer came over to my car near the front of the line and told me the high school students wouldn’t get out till 12:20, because their testing was taking longer than planned, and he asked me to “park over in the lot or go back around.” You know that record scratch sound? That’s what belongs here.

Well, I got out of line (without grumbling) and drove toward the lot. I didn’t get too aggravated till I realized there were no spots in the parking lot, and I couldn’t possibly go back around to get in line, because the officer who was supposed to be directing traffic outside the school wasn’t there yet. Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see, and there was no way I was getting in the middle of that. No, really…there was no way I would have been able to navigate my way back into the line. Cars were bumper to bumper. I took a deep breath. I had made the effort to get there on time…there was no way I was sitting there waiting for someone in that cluster to have mercy on me and let me in.

I took matters into my own hands, and drove around to the other side of the building, where I’m not supposed to go for carpool, and after fighting a little traffic, I parked in one of the student lots…totally against the rules. Just call me a rule breaker…a maverick… a rogue parent.

While I was “going rogue,” my daughter, who had clearly been released at noon, texted me…at 12:05… “Where are you? I thought you were at the front of the line?” Fortunately, I parked in the student lot soon after her text, and I called her, telling her to walk back across campus in the pouring rain to the other side, where I was parked in the student lot. I think she knew not to give me any grief, because she could tell by the tone of my voice that I was not happy.

My daughter and her friend eventually made it to the car…soaking wet…but they seemed happy. I guess the fact that they were getting out for the holiday break totally made up for the fact that they had to double-back in the rain to get to my car.

I still don’t know why the security officer thought the high school students were being released late. There was some sort of miscommunication…not his fault. I feel sure someone somewhere gave him incorrect information, and for about ten minutes, I was really ticked off, because it was going to mess up my lunch plans. And then I realized something…

Getting upset about a little misinformation and a traffic cluster…well, those are first world problems. I also realized I had a cell phone, so I could call my friends and tell them I would likely be late. My daughter and her friend were happy to have school behind them for a couple of weeks, and even though it was raining cats and dogs, today was a good day.

It was a good day, because we all woke up. We have plenty to eat. We have a house that’s warm and dry, and we have cars that are in good working order, so we can get around pretty easily. We have a nice break ahead of us, and we will celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, with our wonderful friends and family.

Sure, life is full of aggravations. Life is full of real problems. But getting re-routed for no reason is not one of those real problems. It was a little hiccup, and I found a way around it…and I still made it to lunch on time!

Now…let’s get this holiday break started!

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2018, Part 5: Travel Stuff

I love a vacation or getaway, so nothing makes me happier than a travel-inspired gift, whether it’s something I can use while I travel or something that reminds me of travel. So today…GIFTS FOR TRAVEL AND AVIATION ENTHUSIASTS.

Away Luggage. It’s sleek. It’s durable. Away Carry-ons have an ejectable battery option. And best of all…it’s guaranteed for life. Away Luggage comes in 12 colors, and each piece is on durable wheels that rotate 360 degrees for ease of movement. Plus, if you travel with multiple Away Luggage pieces, they nest inside each other, so after you unpack, they take up less room in your hotel room. Starting at $225 for the carry-on, these are a great gift for travelers. You can also have it personalized by the manufacturer. Check out their whole website, as they also offer totes and backpacks made of water-resistant nylon. Shop here.

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Away Carry-on, $225

W&P Design Carry On Cocktail Kits. These carryon cocktail kits are small, but they contain everything you need to mix cocktails in flight, except the alcohol, which you can get from your friendly flight attendant, or purchase miniatures in advance. W&P offers kits for an Old Fashioned, a Bloody Mary, a Margarita, and more. At only $24, they make great gifts that will actually be used by the family member or friend who travels regularly! Or purchase the Travel Pack, which includes a small travel-size bag packed with three cocktail kits at $90. Don’t need the kit? Maybe your traveler would like five of the cocktail kits, called The Frequent Flyer, at $100. See slideshow below. Get them here.

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Seat For 1. This bag from Uncommon Goods gets a thumbs up from me, surprisingly. When I first saw it, I thought it was crazy, but after checking it out, it sounds awesome! The bag weights 2.6 pounds, and it’s small enough to carry on, but strong enough to hold an adult sitting atop it. In fact, it will withstand up to 330 pounds! Anyone who has ever had to stand at a boarding gate where there were no empty seats will appreciate this wonder! No more seats? Create your own with this bag! Priced at $65, it’s a great gift for a traveler. Get it from uncommongoods.com here.

Airportag.com I wrote about this one for home gifts, as well, but it’s worth mentioning again. This is one of those websites I could peruse all day. It bills itself as the “best aviation and travel gift shop.” It’s a great one, with airline and airport themed apparel and accessories…even featuring defunct airlines. Great for the aviation enthusiasts in your life, there are lots of customizable products. Personalized boarding pass-style pillows, mugs, shirts, comforters, totes, luggage tags, and many more…they have it all for the folks who love planes and trains. And the popular airport code apparel? They have that too! Prices start at under $5 for stickers. The airport codes duffle shown below is $64.90, while the airline “crew” luggage tag is $14.90, and the tote, bottom right, is $24.90. Shop airportag.com here.

O2 cool 5″ fan. Looking at this 5″ fan, you think there’s no way it helps anyone anywhere. Well, I think your traveling family member or friend will be surprised. I purchased one of these when I was in Vermont a couple of years ago, because I needed a fan on my face in the hotel room. It was the only one I could find in the local store, and I thought I would end up throwing it away. I didn’t throw it away. In fact, I used it for the rest of that trip and gave some to family members who also enjoy fans while they’re sleeping. It’s small enough and light enough to pack in a suitcase without adding weight or bulk. Priced at just $14.99, it’s a great buy at Amazon here.

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Amazon Fire Stick TV Bundle with Echo Dot (2nd gen). This is a great gift for the traveling friend or family member who loves streaming TV shows or movies. They can plug it into any TV’s HDMI port, connect to Wi-Fi, and continue streaming hit TV shows and movies…picking up where they left off at home. Pair it with the 2nd generation Echo Dot, making it even easier to use. Priced at $39.98 for the Fire Stick and Echo Dot, it’s a great deal from Amazon. Get it here.

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Mark and Graham Personalized Luggage Tags. Mark and Graham does these right. Made of quality leather in bright colors to help travelers locate their bags on the luggage carousel, these make great gifts. Priced at $55, you can get them here.

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Travel Diffuser Aromatherapy Kit. We love diffusers in our house. Sometimes, I walk into my daughter’s room and am surprised to find it smells like a posh spa, because she is using her diffuser with a lavender oil or some other great essential oil. Priced at just $30, the kit includes the small diffuser plus three essential oils: lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint.  Lavender is relaxing, while the others rejuvenate and refresh. I have my own essential oils from DoTerra I can use, as well, making it even more useful. Purchase the kit here.

Longchamp bags. When I travel, I often make purchases, and they don’t always fit into my luggage. A few years ago, a friend gave me a Longchamp Le Pliage bag, telling me she would fold it and put it in her luggage when she traveled. When it was time to go home, if she had made purchases, she could fit them in the bag and check it or carry it onto the plane with her. Made of durable nylon with leather accents, the bags fold flat and come in different colors and sizes. My favorites for travel are the Le Pliage Expandable Tote at $195 and the Le Pliage 21-inch Expandable Travel Bag, priced at $255. See them all at Nordstrom here.

Vintage Airline Gifts. OK, so it isn’t actually vintage, but a lot of the logos are at rebubble.com. I love apparel featuring defunct air carriers, and both of these sites offer plenty of options. Maybe you know someone who worked for one of the carriers, or you have a friend who is an aviation enthusiast. Or maybe your family member would love some airline-themed personalized stationery. The possibilities are endless.  Search for an airline name (National, Eastern, Pan Am, Continental, Mohawk, TWA, Braniff) and see the possibilities. Shop redbubble.com here.

Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Machine. I’ve had one of these for years, because sleep is important. I’m a light sleeper, so when I’m in a hotel, I hear the air conditioner turn on and off. I hear slamming doors. I hear people walking past my room. And sometimes, I hear traffic. I learned a long time ago that white noise is my friend. I purchased the Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Machine, and I carry it every time I travel. If you have a friend or family member who travels but complains about noise in hotels, this could be the ticket! Get it at Amazon for $44.95 here.

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LUSH Solid Shampoo/Conditioner with Tins. For travelers, it really stinks to arrive somewhere and discover your liquid shampoo or conditioner has leaked. Pressurized cabins can do a number on bottles of haircare products. When I was perusing the Lush website recently, I discovered they have solid shampoos and conditioners! No more messy leaks! And they’re priced right and smell great! Each item is priced under $15 for just under 2 ounces, and they come in a variety of scents. Make sure you pick up a tin for each product. Each tin is priced at $3.95. Shop Lush here.

Beautural Steamer for Clothes. I don’t always have time for the hotel to press my clothes when I’m traveling, so I love having a good portable steamer. With almost 600 reviews, this portable steamer is the highest-rated one on Amazon. It heats in 30 seconds and operates at 1200 watts, and it’s perfect for home or travel. Package includes a lint brush, fabric brush, and creaser. Your traveling friend will thank you. Purchase for $34.99 with free shipping here.

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Travel Listography. If you’re not familiar with Listography, you’re missing out. Listography Journals have been around a while. This particular one offers the traveler the opportunity to list travel-related things: places to travel, animals I’ve seen in the wild, people I’ve met along the way, etc. It makes a great gift for the traveler who loves to keep track of what he/she has done and keep a bucket list too. Purchase for $10.32 from Amazon here.

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And there you have it…a list of gifts for the traveler or aviation enthusiast in your life! Happy shopping!

NEXT TIME: Stocking Stuffers!

Parents’ School Year Goals?

Looking through “the Facebook” today, I came across a friend’s post asking, “Parents, what are your goals for this school year?”

Am I supposed to have school year goals? I’d never considered it, but maybe I’ve been missing out on something. Maybe, while teachers and students are setting goals for the new school year, I should be setting some goals of my own. I’ve asked other friends, and they looked at me like I had fourteen eyes. One of them said she has one goal: drink more wine. Another one said her goal is to keep her children organized for the school year. I told her, “Good luck with that.” I’m not a terribly organized person, so personally, I’d probably hurt my daughter’s organizational skills rather than helping them.

So, after talking with friends, I decided to make my own list of goals for the school year, and they are goals for me, not my daughter:

  • Family time. My first goal is to make sure we carve out some family time. Between school sports, school, real life, and social lives, this can get neglected. This school year, I will make it a priority…to make sure we have time to just be together…maybe dinnertime, maybe watching sports together, maybe vacations…whatever…I will make it happen.
  • Have fun. This is always at the top of my list. No matter what we are doing, we can make it fun. That doesn’t mean we don’t take things seriously; it means we approach it with joy. I’ll use my library volunteer job as an example. I volunteer every other Tuesday, and the job entails checking out books for students, shelving, reloading paper in printers, etc. Sounds boring, right? And I’m sure it can be, but it has always been fun for me. I look forward to it every time, because I became friends with the people who work there, and it’s always fun to spend time with friends. There’s nothing wrong with sharing jokes or life stories while you work! I try to become friends with people in my volunteer positions, so it feels like I’m hanging out with friends while we’re working.
  • Enjoy lunch with friend(s) at least once a week, and once a month, I need to try a restaurant in town I’ve never visited. My friend, Linda, and I meet regularly, and we tend to meet at the same four or five places. Next time, we are going to a new place, and I’ve found the perfect place for us to try. It’s easy to keep going to the same places, and I won’t abandon those, but if I try a new restaurant once a month, that’s twelve new lunch places in a year!
  • Laugh a lot…a whole lot. At the risk of sounding like a song from Mary Poppins, I love to laugh! Really…it’s one of my favorite things to do. I grew up with a brother who loves to laugh and naturally makes people laugh, so I’ve had a lot of laughing practice. It cures a lot of ills. Therefore, I’m going to try to keep myself out of non-laughing situations.
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  • Spend time outdoors…all year. I love being outdoors. I love sunshine. I don’t love camping, so don’t get any ideas about that. In spring, summer, and fall, this doesn’t take much effort. But winter? That’s another story. It’s exactly when I need to get outdoors…to avoid SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder…or what I call the wintertime blues. So this year, I am going to try to spend some time outdoors even when it’s cold. Brrrr.
  • Make some new friends. We have some new families coming to our school this year, and I plan to welcome them with open arms. You never know where you’ll find a friend…and I love fun, new friends…especially ones who like to try new restaurants and laugh a lot.
  • Travel when we can. High school means lots more time spent on homework, and it means lots more time dedicated to school sports. Whenever we can squeeze in some travel fun, we will do exactly that.
  • Exercise more. OK, I had to throw in one of those things that is a “must do.” I need to exercise more, so I added it to the list. If I can find people who want to laugh with me while exercising, that’s even better!
  • Watch more football. Yes, I’m putting it on the list. I watch a lot of football anyway, but I want to watch more. Don’t worry, Bama fans, because I am Schleprock, I will not watch Bama games in real time. I will record them and watch them after the fact. But I want to watch other games…a lot. Besides, this is a good way to fulfill the first goal I listed…spending time with family. How many more days till football season starts?

And those, my friends, are my back-to-school goals…nothing education-related at all. Sure, I could make my goals all about my child, who is now a high school student, but guess what…school is her job. Yes, if she asks me for help or I think she’s having issues, I will help her, of course. She knows that. But she also knows it is her responsibility to take care of school work. After all, I’ve already done 9th grade. It’s a lot more difficult than when I was in school, but she knows I will help her if she needs it, and she knows if I can’t help her, I will help her find someone who can. The one school-related thing I will do is continue to encourage her to establish relationships with her teachers…they can definitely help her if she needs help.

Let’s get this party started!

Making Airline Travel Easier

aeroplane air travel airbus aircraft

Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

Airlines have received a lot of press in the past year or two. From dragging passengers off the plane to perverts sitting next to unaccompanied minors…we’ve heard it all. The latest press is all about paying extra for good seats and having difficulty getting seats together without paying extra for them.

A lot of people travel more frequently than I do, but I used to work in the travel industry, and I fly pretty often. I’ve learned a few things along the way that can make your life easier when traveling by commercial airline.

TSA PRE-CHECK/GLOBAL ENTRY Travel a few times a year domestically? TSA Pre-Check is worth the money. Surely, you’ve stood in the regular line and watched people zip through the TSA Pre-Check line. For me, the biggest benefit, aside from expedited screening, is not taking off my shoes on that nasty airport floor, but there are others: you don’t have to remove your laptop or small liquids from your bag, and you don’t have to go through that body scanner. It costs $85 for five years of TSA Pre-Check. Apply online here. After applying online, schedule an appointment online and take documentation to a processing center to complete the process. When I went, I was there for less than 10 minutes. If you travel internationally more than once or twice a year, consider Global Entry, which is “a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports,” according to their website. It is $100; learn more by clicking here.

RESERVATIONS Two words: BOOK EARLY. It gives you the best possibility of getting a good fare and desirable seats and increases the chances of sitting with friends/family. Over the past few years, airlines have started charging extra for more desirable seats near the front of the cabin. I am most familiar with American Airlines, because they have a hub in Charlotte.

According to an interview (conducted in a Boeing 777) with American’s CEO in the Wall Street Journal, “American’s strategy now is to offer passengers more seating choices—a strategy seen clearly from Mr. Parker’s seat in the back of the reconfigured 777. Those interested in low fares sit in the back, where American has 146 basic coach seats. If you’re willing to pay more or have elite status, 66 coach seats provide extra legroom. You can pay several hundred dollars more and move up to premium economy: 24 seats that are 19 inches wide instead of 17 and have 38 inches row to row. Then there are 37 lie-flat business-class seats. Nearly half of the plane’s 273 seats offer extra room.” You can see the article here.

The lowest/most restrictive fares they offer are called Basic Economy. They are in the back of the plane. There are several restrictions, but the biggest one, in my opinion, is that you cannot get seat assignments till check-in, and for me, that is a big red flag. I don’t have a problem with American offering Basic Economy, but there is no way I would knowingly go to the airport without an advance seat assignment.  If you do not have an advance seat assignment, there is a greater likelihood you will be stuck with the “leftover” seats or be bumped from the flight. However, according to a friend who is an industry insider, airlines aren’t overbooking like they used to, so the possibility of being bumped is much lower. (If you do get bumped, according to my insider, you can get “sweet” compensation in the way of vouchers that are good for two years…can be used for flights or upgrades.) Traveling as a family and want to be together? Book Main Cabin or better. Whatever you do, get advance seat assignements or pick a different flight. If you are unable to book seats together, try to book aisle seats and/or window seats for leverage. Aisle seats are prized, and if you offer someone a middle seat in exchange for an aisle seat, the answer will be, “No dice.” That being said, here is a trick to use if your child is seated next to a stranger: Walk the child to his/her seat. When buckling up your child, get the airsickness bag out of the seat back pocket. Open it. Hand it to your child, and say, “Honey, when you get sick, make sure you use this bag.” Do not whisper it. You want the person next to your child to hear. They will likely offer to trade seats! Whatever you do, do not ask your flight attendant to assist you in trading seats with someone. People booked early and likely paid more for their seats. Usually Main Cabin seats are about $20-$50 more (on American and United) than Basic Econ. If you can do Main Cabin, do it. With Main Cabin, you get advance seat assignment, overhead space (none with Basic Econ), and you can change your flights for a fee…not with Basic Economy. I prefer to think of that additional $20-$50 as the regular price and look at Basic Econ as the no frills, discount price. You can see a great skit from The Carol Burnett Show about a No Frills Airline here. It puts things in perspective with humor. Maybe airlines should show that skit on a monitor in the gate area.

UNACCOMPANIED MINORS  Need to send your child on a flight unaccompanied? Arrive at the airport at least two hours before the flight. I’d have to be there three hours before for peace of mind. You will have extra paperwork, and you will need the full name (as it appears on ID), address, and phone number of the adult meeting your child. (That person must have ID.) You will be required to get a gate pass and walk the child to the gate. Before saying goodbye, remind your child to know where exits are, pay attention to the emergency demo, and if he/she is uncomfortable with their seat mate, let the flight attendants know. You can see me discussing this with my friend, Maureen, on Been There Moms here. Also, plan to be at the airport for a while; you are required to stay in the gate area till the plane is off the ground…not when it leaves the gate. You must wait until the gate agent tells you the plane is in the air.

CHECK BAG RESTRICTIONS before you pack. You already know there is a weight restriction for a checked bag, but did you know there is also a size restriction? Check your airline’s website. You do not want to be told at the airport your bag is too heavy or too large. While you’re at it, check carry-on restrictions. In American’s Basic Econ, you only get to carry on one bag that will fit underneath the seat in front of you. For Main Cabin, you can have two…one under the seat and one overhead.  ***And while we’re talking luggage, take a picture of all checked bags before you check them. If they don’t arrive when you do, you will have a picture to show the baggage agent. Also, hang on to your claim checks till you have your bags in hand. If you’re like me, it might help to take a picture of your claim checks too.***

CHECK IN EARLY You’ve heard it a million times, but people don’t take it seriously. Arrive early! I check in online, but still, I prefer to get there two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Folks may call that extreme, but  I’ve never missed a flight or panicked at security, wondering if I would make the flight. Make it easy on yourself; arrive early. You never know how long the lines will be. Why risk the stress? Using Mobile Boarding Pass? Take a screen shot of it beforehand, so you can access it quickly. I always print mine. My husband and I saw a couple in Miami struggle for five minutes trying to pull up their boarding passes on their phones. Once you clear security, it’s time to go relax and wait. I have TSA Pre-check, but I still arrive extra early, giving me time to relax or check email before boarding.

RELAX AND ENJOY YOUR FLIGHT Once your group number has been called and you have boarded, relax. Enjoy the flight. Maybe you try to sleep or catch up on emails (if WiFi is offered). It might mean playing games on your phone or reading a book or magazine. Just relax and let the professionals do the work.

***Does the idea of being in the air cause you stress? It’s likely the loss of control causing you anxiety. Check back soon. I’ll write about ways to empower yourself inflight.***