Going on a scavenger hunt can be a great way for you and your kids to explore an area.

Through April 7 with scavenger hunt and NOFO 075  Through April 7 with scavenger hunt and NOFO 071Through April 7 with scavenger hunt and NOFO 074

Last week, the girls and I did a scavenger hunt in New York City. I created a list of 50 items I thought we might see. We had a really fun time on our “hunt”and we took pictures of many of the items we saw. I thought I would share the scavenger hunt I created:

NYC Scavenger Hunt for Kids and Adults:

  1. Water Tower
  2. Taxi
  3. Empire State Building
  4. Macy’s
  5. Trash Can
  6. Dog
  7. Tree
  8. Ant/Bug
  9. Food Street Vendor
  10. Statue
  11. Slice of Pizza
  12. Street Musician/Acrobat
  13. Stairs
  14. Street Lamp
  15. Graffiti
  16. Scaffolding
  17. Time/Temperature Sign
  18. Little Bird
  19. Building between five and ten stories tall
  20. Grass
  21. Double Stroller
  22. Fire Truck
  23. Police Car
  24. Mailbox
  25. Family with 3 kids
  26. Park Bench
  27. Yellow Flowers
  28. Person wearing Sunglasses
  29. Person speaking a Foreign Language (not English)
  30. Bus (extra point for Double Decker Bus)
  31. Fruit Stand
  32. No Smoking Sign
  33. Outdoor Table with Chairs
  34. Billboard
  35. Cash Register
  36. Person wearing a Baseball Cap
  37. NYC Souvenir Vendor
  38. Church
  39. Starbucks
  40. Escalator
  41. Bathroom Sign
  42. Red Car
  43. Someone wearing Orange Shirt or Sweater
  44. Suitcase
  45. Subway Sign
  46. Flag (extra point for American Flag)
  47. Bagel Store or Person eating a Bagel
  48. Sign in a Foreign Language (not English)
  49. Person Drinking a Soda
  50. Sign which has the words New York or NYC on it

This past weekend, I created another scavenger hunt for our weekend in NOFO (North Fork, LI).

Through April 7 with scavenger hunt and NOFO 127

NOFO Scavenger Hunt for Kids and Adults: 

  1. Carousel
  2. Croteaux Vineyard
  3. Aldo’s Coffee
  4. Goat
  5. Ferry/Boat
  6. Lavender Farm
  7. Fruit Stand
  8. Firewood for Sale Sign
  9. Seagull
  10. Beach
  11. Ice Cream
  12. NOFO Sign
  13. Playground
  14. Fish (real or picture)
  15. Wine Bottle
  16. Green Car
  17. Gazebo
  18. Real Estate Sign
  19. Map of North Fork
  20. Dog
  21. Oyster (real or picture)
  22. Anchor
  23. Grapes
  24. Flowers
  25. Lighthouse

Some of you may be on spring break and I wanted to share this quick and easy activity you can do with your kids when you’re on vacation or even locally in the area where you live. Have fun exploring!

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Family and “me” time vacations are important to help you recharge your batteries.

Recharge Your Batteries

Between the holidays and our end of the year family vacation, I took a bit of a longer break from writing posts. Vacations are an important way for people to relax and recharge their batteries.

Top 5 Reasons Vacation is Important:

1- Quality Family Time: School, work, after school activities keep us so busy that we don’t get to spend quality time with the family. Be present and shut off those electronic gadgets to create some lasting  memories on your family vacation.

2- It Destresses You: It allows us to take a break from the everyday stresses of life. I remember reading somewhere that “Stress is related to 99% of all illness.” So relax, catch up on sleep and exercise a bit more (going for long walks count too).

3- “Me” Time: While family time is important so is “me” time – girlfriend weekend getaway anyone? A weekend of sharing, laughing, eating, drinking and focusing on ourselves and not our family can be very reenergizing. This is important for guys too; everyone can use a break.

4- Exploring New Places Is Fun: You can also have a “staycation” and explore places which are not too far from home. This past weekend, we decided to go on a BA (I just made that up) – Brooklyn Adventure (BA). We walked on the promenade in Brooklyn Heights, asked the girls to identify NYC landmarks and had a delicious pizza lunch at Dellarocco.

5- YOLO (You Only Live Once): “Work to live, don’t live to work.” is one of my life mantras. As I tell my daughters all the time, “Life is not a dress rehearsal, enjoy life.”

Keep in mind, vacations dont have to be 1-2 weeks at a stretch, a 3 day escape from your daily routine can refresh your mind and body too.

So what is the parenting life lesson here? Parenting is hard work! Take some time off/vacation to recharge your batteries to help you with the ups and downs of the wonderful parenting “rollercoaster” and enjoy life!

10 Tips to Keep Parents Sane over the Holidays

Stay Sane

I posted this last year and the tips are definitely worth repeating….

1. It’s ok to say no : Everyone knows the holidays can be hectic. My husband always says “Less is more”. You don’t have to justify why you can’t make it. You just can’t – end of story.

Wait a minute… I just had a funny Marcia Brady flashback – Click here to go to the utube video clip (and yes, Doug Simpson is Friedrich from the original Sound of Music movie)

2. Order online : This is a no brainer and I have posted about this before. Amazon Prime is the way to the go. Many items will be at your door step within two days and you will never even have had to leave your home.

3. It’s not about the gifts : Don’t make this holiday so commercial. It’s not what it is all about… Keep Christ in Christmas. Go to your “new toy” closet (you know you have one) and give gifts to those who are less fortunate – Toys for Tots, church drives, etc.

4. Send out “Happy New Year” cards : So many people stress out about getting their cards out before Christmas because they don’t have the perfect picture where everyone is smiling. I personally really enjoy getting cards with the kids and family on them, but you don’t have to send them out before Christmas. In order to remain sane, you may need to send out Happy New Year cards or don’t send any out at all – who says you have to?

5. Have the kids make gifts: Make Rainbow Loom bracelets, pictures, ornaments, etc. It will keep the kids busy and out of your hair while you are trying to get things done at home. Who doesn’t like to get a handmade gift from a child?

6. Give gift experiences : How many gifts can Santa really bring? I have posted about this before for birthday gifts. Gift cards are an excellent choice for massages, restaurants, movies, ice cream, carousel rides, Chuckie Cheese, nail salons, etc. How about cooking, wine or cheese classes? Tickets to the theater or the circus? They are practical and fun gifts the person on the receiving side will enjoy and will not take up a lot of space in the house.

7. Break down your “things to do” list : We all have huge lists of things to do, but breaking the list down into small bites makes a list of twenty items seem doable. I take a piece of paper and write down three things I have to get done and it helps me focus. Once I have completed those items, then I tackle the next three items on my list. Try it. I really think it helps you feel you are in control and getting things done.

8. Ask for help : Car pool, get a babysitter, have your significant other/grandparents watch the kids while you run around to get everything done.

9. Be satisfied and enjoy the present moment : Enjoy the smell of your holiday wreath and/or Christmas tree, cookies baking in the oven, watching Christmas shows on TV, holiday lights, the sparkle in your childrens’ eyes because they love the holidays as much as you do. That is what it is all about. Enjoy the moment!

10. Laugh and have fun : Laughter is a great stress reliever. Enjoy the holidays! If it’s not “perfect”, there is always next year!

Teach your kids to be grateful: Create a gratitude tree.

A gratitude tree

With the Thanksgiving holiday this week, it is the perfect time to talk to your kids about being grateful and thankful for the many blessings in their lives.

My friend and fellow YOLO mom, Denise, shared a wonderful idea with me. She created a gratitude tree (picture in this post). This can be a fun way to share blessings your family is grateful for and is also nice decor for your home during the holidays.

It’s very simple and inexpensive to make:

  • Take some small tree branches from your backyard or your local craft store and put them in a vase
  • Cut some leaves out of construction paper, punch a hole in them and attach a string/ribbon to the leaf
  • Ask your kids/family/friends to draw pictures or write about things they are grateful for on the leaves
  • Hang the leaves on the branches
  • Now you have a beautiful gratitude tree 🙂

Here are few other ideas to help your kids to continue thinking about what they are grateful for:

1 – Play a “gratitude” game: My husband, girls and I kept going around table saying things we were grateful for. I would say we did about 10 rounds and I was taking notes to help the girls write these items on leaves for our family gratitude tree.

2 – Thanksgiving dinner table – As you go around the dinner table, have everyone talk about one thing they are grateful for this year.

3 – Letters to Santa – As the kids are writing their wishlist to Santa, have the kids include a “PS” which lets Santa know what they are grateful for this year.

Thanks for reading my post!

YOLO Bear – Celebrate your accomplishments!

Fall 2014 026

A little over a year ago, I set a personal goal for myself to launch a parenting blog and post at least 52 times over the next year. Today is my blog’s one year anniversary and with 70+ posts, I accomplished my goal and want to celebrate, but how? I would love to travel around the world for a year, but that is not realistic. But perhaps someone can go in my place – YOLO Bear! I can have friends and family take YOLO (You Only Live Once) bear to fabulous local and far away destinations, take a picture with the bear and keep celebrating the one year anniversary of my blog for another year. For my second blog year anniversary, I will make a photo book of YOLO bear’s travels.

What is the parenting life lesson? Work with your children to set goals and celebrate their accomplishments. Work hard, play hard! My daughters’ goal will be to read for 20 minutes for 20 days next month and we can celebrate this accomplishment with an overnight hotel stay locally with an indoor pool. Sounds like a nice way to celebrate, doesn’t it?

Develop a work and life mantra.

YOLO

I have shared my work and life mantra with many over the past few weeks. It reminded me of one of my earlier blog posts which I felt was worth repeating:

At some point everyone should develop a general mantra for their life…Mine is pretty simple and revolves around the following:

1– “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Perhaps you are a working mom and you want to work from home a few days a week to be able to balance your work and family life, but no one in your organization has done it before. Someone has to be the first one. Don’t be afraid to ask! All your leader can say is no, but if you never ask, how will you know?

2– “You have to look out for number one… if you don’t, no one else will.”

Even though one would like to think everyone is kind and thoughtful and looking to do the “right thing”…let’s face it, many people follow the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me?) factor.

For example, you may want to get promoted and have a leader or mentor looking out for you, but don’t count on it. You have to put in the effort to make it happen. Others may be supportive, but don’t expect them to make it happen for you. You have to work hard to get something you really want for yourself!

I’ll repeat…You have to look out for number one (which is yourself) because if you don’t, no one else will (some things are worth repeating).

3– Work to live, don’t live to work.

This gets back to my overall YOLO (You Only Live Once) philosophy. No one on their death bed says they wish they would have worked more. Since you spend so many of the hours of the day at work, there should be some level of enjoyment, but don’t let work consume you. Getting paid for work should enable you to enjoy life and have fun… A Ferris Bueller movie quote comes to mind…”Yup, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Life moves pretty fast… If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.”

NOFO (North Fork, NY): Road trips should have fun activities for adults and kids.

nofo

As summer is just around the corner, I am going to stick with the road trip theme and elaborate a bit on a fantastic road trip we took in the spring. It was a perfect mix of fun for adults and the kids… I am a big fan of TripAdvisor and am always gathering tips on my smart phone when people I meet provide recommendations.

Here are the highlights of a perfect day trip with the kids to NOFO:

  • Catapano Dairy Farm– Peconic, NY – This is a goat farm and they make a nice assortment of goat cheese and other gift items also. This was the first stop and was fun for the kids since they could pet and feed the goats.
  • Croteaux Vineyards– Southold, NY  Our next stop was our favorite vineyard in NOFO – When you enter the tasting room area outside, it is magical. It is like taking a mini vacation to Provence. While children are welcome, they are asked to stay close to their party to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone. This vineyard specializes in Rose wine which is light and perfect for the summer. Note: Limousines and buses (large parties are not welcome) which provides for more of an intimate setting from the other vineyards.
  • The Lunch Truck – Southold, NY – After our wine tasting, we were hungry and stopped at the food truck located behind the famed James Beard award winning North Fork Table and Inn. We grabbed some yummy pork pulled sandwiches for the adults and the kids enjoyed some fancy hot dogs with fries. We sat outside on a picnic blanket and enjoyed the afternoon sun.
  • By Aldo Coffee – Greenport, NY – By now we needed a little caffeine hit and this coffee house with actual coffee beans roasting in the front of the shop did not disappoint. Delicious coffee and cappuccino and the best biscotti ever .
  • Carousel – Greenport, NY– The kids were looking for some fun again so we visited this old carousel built in the 1920’s located close to the water. You can catch the brass ring and catch a free ride – $2.00/ride
  • R/T Boat Ride to Shelter Island from Greenport, NY – We could see Shelter Island in the distance and decided to take a R/T trip boat ride as foot passengers. $4 R/T per adult for the boat ride and the kids were free. It was a beautiful day and it was just about a ten minute ride with a nice breeze in our hair and the sun starting to set. It was fun for the kids (like a train ride to the city). It was getting a bit late, so we decided to immediately turn back and return to Greenport. Today was more about the boat ride vs exploring Shelter Island.
  • Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices – Greenport, NY Before our trip back home, we loaded up on some Italian ices which were a delightful way to end the day.

PS – Other great places to try: Eriks’ in Southold, NY for breakfast or lunch – tasty food, reasonable prices and kid friendly; Lavender By the Bay, Marion, NY – we picked up an English Lavender plant and it is doing very well in our backyard. They provided great planting and care instructions.

So what is the parenting life lesson? It’s all about balance. Road trips and family vacations are not all about the kids. If the kids want to have fun, the adults need some fun too. YOLO (You Only Live Once)

 

It is important to take time for yourself and to be “present” when you are spending time with your children.

A smart phone

I am so happy to have fellow YOLO mom, Kristen, as a guest blogger sharing some of her parenting life lessons. Kristen has been temporarily relocated to North Carolina these last 4 months for a lung transplant. As she prepares to return home, she has been reflecting on this time she has spent away, separated from her daughter all this time and these are some of the lessons she has learned:

Take a time out every day. Our lives are so busy and we’re always on the phone, computer, texting, etc. Spend 15 minutes every day and just pay attention to what the kids have to say. Sometimes conversation with a 7 year old can be like pulling teeth. We have been doing nightly phone calls and I ask her to tell me the best and worst part of her day. It opens the line of communication and gives me an idea of what makes her happy and what’s going wrong in her life. They’ll talk if they know you’re really listening. (Thanks, Kristen. I really like this one. I have now started to incorporate this one in my life.)

It’s ok to take time for yourself. Four months is a bit extreme, but for me there was no other option. We toyed with the idea of bringing her down to North Carolina, but I would have never been able to focus the energy I needed on myself to heal – mentally or physically. I never left her for more than a night before this…she “needed me” too much. Going forward though I know it’s ok to take time for myself – she’ll be ok with grandma & grandpa and I’ll be an even better parent for taking the time for myself. A girls only trip to the Bahamas is being planned for next year – I’ve been away enough this year! ( I really agree with this one also – YOLO (You Only Live Once!)

Kristen’s parenting life lesson should remind us all about the valuable commodity of time. It reminds me of the following quote: ” Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That’s why it’s called the Present” – Take time for yourself today and make the most of it! The summer has officially begun! Enjoy!

 

 

 

It’s usually better to be early rather than late.

A Clock

There are so many expressions around this: the early bird catches the worm; first-come, first- served, etc.

I will share some personal examples with you of why it’s usually better to be early vs late:

Kids do remember: Last week, my younger daughter had her spring concert in the morning. My husband was traveling on business and could not be there. I wanted to make sure I was there as early as possible to get a good seat. One of my friends who came later was amazed that I was able to get the first row. “I hopped in the car to drive to school shortly after my daughter got on the bus.”, I told her. My daughter’s smile was all worth it because she should see me and knew I would capture the video for my husband to see.

Sitting at the airport is less stressful: I will never forget the time when my husband and I were leaving for our honeymoon to Greece. We lived in the city at the time and left the house at 2:00pm for 5:30pm flight. It seemed like we had enough time, but it was raining, taxi shift turnover (which means no one wants to drive to the airport) and it was a Friday. Long story short, it took us a while to get a cab and we had lots of traffic. The cab driver kept on saying “I don’t think you are going to make it.” over and over again. My stress level was high. We did make it, but I think it was because the plane was delayed. After this experience, I now always make sure I leave even more time to get to the airport. I would rather just be there early, sit around and relax.

First impressions do make a difference: It is always better to be early for an interview. This is a no brainer. Make sure you know how to get there and leave enough buffer time. No excuses are acceptable showing up late for an interview.

I can’t say I am perfect with being on time, but I try to teach my kids it is better to be early rather than late (or call to say you will be running late): be respectful of other people’s time, be less stressed and make a good first impression.

Learning a foreign language at a young age is important.

A foreign language picture

Having grown up in a in a dual language household, I understand the importance of learning languages at a young age. When I found out last week that the FLES program (Foreign Language in Elementary School) program was going to be cut from the school budget, I had to spring into action. Two other moms and I started a grass roots online petition campaign through change.org to see if we could save the program. After 5 days, we were able to gather 500+ signatures from residents within our district to have our voices heard. It goes along with my motto of “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” All the Board of Education can say is no, but if you don’t ask you will never know if your efforts could have saved this very important foreign language program in your school district. We are hoping for the best.

OK, but let’s get back to the importance of learning a foreign language at an early age. Source:www.thelanguagelinkllc.com

Young brains are hard wired to acquire language. Research has shown that young children have a unique ability to absorb a second language naturally. Experts estimate that by age 8-12, humans already begin to lose the ability to hear and say new sounds. Taking advantage of the window of opportunity that exists between birth and adolescence allows a child to optimize his or her learning potential, and speak the second language with a native accent and absorb grammatical structure naturally. In addition, studies show that young children who learn a second language enjoy many additional cognitive benefits:

  • They do significantly better at tasks requiring divergent thinking, problem solving, and figural creativity (Landry, 1974);
  • They score higher on standardized tests in language arts, reading, and math than students not enrolled in foreign language programs (Rafferty, 1986; Garfinkel and Tabor, 1991);
  • They score higher on the SAT and ACT than students not enrolled in foreign language programs (Cooper, 1987; Olsen and Brown, 1989);
  • They have the ability to excel in the pronunciation of a foreign language (Dulay, Burt, and Krashen, 1982);
  • They show greater cognitive development in higher order thinking skills (Foster and Reeves, 1989);
  • They are more open to cultural diversity (Carpenter and Torney, 1974; Hancock and Lipton et al., 1976); and
  • They have an improved self-concept and sense of achievement (Masciantonio, 1977).

Thanks for reading this post! A heartfelt dankeschoen, merci, grazie and gracias to all of you!