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Archive for January, 2011

Packing Tips for Moms and Dads with ADD

January 26th, 2011 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Uncategorized

Looking back on my previous blog posts I have to marvel at the fact that, until a few months ago,  I had no idea that I might have ADD.  The title of my first post was “Don’t Forget Your Shoes!”.  So far in the history of our family travels we have forgotten: the clothes we were planning to wear to a wedding,  shoes, a wallet,  cell phones, power cords, and the list goes on.  Now I do not claim to be an expert in packing with ADD and there are no guarantees that I will be able to avoid all packing mishaps in the future. However,  here are a few strategies that have reduced the number of trips to Walmart and Fed Ex packages filled with wallets for our family.

Start  Early With Clean Clothes and a Detailed Shopping List

If I want to be successful at packing I need to start early with all of my family’s clothes clean.  That way I will be able to pack what I have, then can put together a detailed shopping list for anything I need.  Without the list, impulse buying can go a little crazy.  I try to limit last minute additions and wash to only a few items even if that means we look scruffy the week before a trip.

Create and Save a Detailed Packing List

Every ADD family should have a detailed packing list with all the things they usually pack  for vacation saved on their computer.  For each trip you can add or subtract items.  Be sure to cross out items  as you pack them, then have another family member take a separate  copy  and double check your work.

When Possible Multiple Small Suitcases are Better Than One Big One

When we get to the hotel, keeping track of everyone’s stuff is almost as challenging as the packing itself.  One way I solve this problem is by packing multiple suitcases.  Depending on the trip, I pack a suitcase per person or a suitcase per hotel.  This makes the initial packing process simpler (It’s much easier to “check my work” e.g. count underwear, socks, etc. in a small bag rather then a big one).  The suitcase per hotel model also helps keep the dirty clothes separated from the clean clothes.  If we do a suitcase per person, then that person is responsible for getting clothes out and returning them to their own bag.

Let the Kids Pack Their Own Stuff

For the little guys this means being responsible for putting together a tote bag with their lovey and a few  books and toys (Be sure to be clear about number and size!).  For bigger guys try the whole packing list, with a double check from Mom or Dad.  My eleven year old is a Boy Scout, and I have him pack for every campout all by himself.  If he forgets something he deals with the consequences.  After seeing my son come home as a lobster, I now double check for sunscreen!  I am always amazed by Justin’s self sufficiency and his tendency to pack light!

Staging is Key

EVERYTHING should go directly by your front door in one place.  We have forgotten everything from tent poles to pillows when we have neglected to use this technique.

In a few weeks I need to start packing for a ski trip in Vegas.  (I’ll probably start inventorying our ski stuff this week.) Let’s see if I can follow my own advice ;)

Happy Trails,


P.S. Anyone else have packing tips for absent minded travelers?

P.P.S. For more info on the Smith’s Family forgetfulness check out “Don’t Forget Your Shoes…and Your Wallet” and of course Family Adventure Guidebooks inaugural post, “Don’t Forget Your Shoes!


Move It Monday: Kinect Dance Central Marathon

January 24th, 2011 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Move It Monday

Destiny Gets Down to Dance Central

The boys in our family headed to a Monster Truck Rally, so Destiny and I were left to decide what to do with “girl time”.  Foolishly I proposed we try to dance all the dances in the Dance Central  game.  More than two hours later we are still going!

If you haven’t tried out Microsoft Kinect go visit a friend who has one!  It is one of the best investments our family has made.  No matter what the weather the kids have an excuse to move.  Kids of all ages can play most of the games. Still,  be prepared for some disappointments since Mom and big brother usually win due to their larger size and greater experience.  With Destiny I have been trying to focus on beating her individual score.  I’ve also promised her  I would play the last dance on hard, to give her the advantage.

Dance Central has upbeat dance music (a few with questionable lyrics, but it seems to make it over kids heads).  The choreography is realistic.   Every time I do a jazz square  in the game I give a grudging thanks to my middle school P.E. teachers Mrs. Briggs and Ms. Cuppola.  I hated that class, but ironically they some of the few middle school teachers whose names I actually remember!    I wish I had learned the choreography  to “Pump Up the Jam” when I was in high school.  I would have dazzled my high school boyfriend with my moves.

Finally video games that the whole family can play!  With Dance Central I’m out of breath and not quite ready for my debut on Glee, but I’m having fun exercising.  Let’s see how I feel tomorrow after over three hours of dancing ;)

Happy Trails,



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Honor Martin Luther King: Teach Kids about Racism

January 17th, 2011 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

At my oldest son’s Back to School Night his wonderful first grade teacher Ms. Flora announced that her class would be doing a musical about Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement.  She then uttered words I will never forget, “Parents sometimes ask me whether their children are ready to understand such a heavy subject, but first graders are very concerned about fairness. So, yes, they can certainly understand.”

Before that night, although Justin had many “aunts and uncles” of different cultures who were friends of the family, I had never really thought about talking to a six year old about racism and discrimination.  Thanks to Ms. Flora I now try to tackle this subject on a regular basis.  I have found that both travel and good literature present some of the best ways for kids to learn about racism and how we can overcome it.

Some people would say that thanks to the Civil Rights movement we don’t really have to talk with our kids about racism.  No one has to sit at the back of the bus anymore. Everyone drinks from the same water fountain.  We are all equal.  Still, I hear my son’s classmates say “Mexican” like it’s a dirty word.  I watch my friend who is an actor in Hollywood  be offered a series of roles that embody the stereotypes of his race for comic effect.  It saddens me greatly, especially as the mom of a biracial daughter that we live in a world that has not yet truly realized Martin Luther King’s dream.

So, I do what I can to raise kids who will work for that dream.  We read and discuss historical fiction that deals with this subject.  In our travels I try to call attention to historical exhibits that help my kids to understand the struggles of the many racial and ethnic groups that make up our great nation.  I have come upon a few such exhibits  in trips I have taken with my husband, and I hope to take the kids as soon as I can.  When we see racism or stereotypes out in the world,  we talk about them.  I try to consistently share and model the value of respect and compassion for all people.

Before bed tonight  I read my two youngest a book called The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.  It’s about two little girls in the Deep South, one black and one white who have been told not to play with each other.  The children’s librarian had called it an upper grade book, but my kids got the message almost immediately.  We read the book, and I asked them why the girl’s parents had told them not to play with each other.  “Because one had black skin and one had white skin, Mommy.”  Then I asked them to look at  how old fashioned the little girls’ clothes were.  We discussed that these children were probably growing up about the time that Dr. King was working for civil rights and that because of Dr. King’s work, all children can be friends.  We talked about the kid’s friends from school and celebrated the fact that we are all different. 

I went to church today and was disappointed that on Martin Luther King Day the subject of King never came up.  Not during the sermon nor in the prayers of petition.  With my wiggly six year old beside me about to explode and an eleven year old who would have been embarassed if Mom had spoken out, I didn’t add my own prayer.  I’m very disappointed in myself .  If I had it to do over again, I would say something like this, “Dear Lord, thank you for the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King.  He has given so many the gift of dignity and the freedom of civil rights.  He changed the world and changed our hearts.  Lord help us never to forget King ‘s sacrifice.   Help us honor his legacy in our words and actions as we go forth from this place.”

Happy Trails,


P.S.  This summer I discovered that the Washington D.C. area is a great place for children to learn about African American History.  Check out my post “Exploring African American History in Washington DC and Mt Vernon” on UPTAKE.COM for some suggestions.


Happy Adoption Day!

January 14th, 2011 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Smith Family Adventures

Seven years ago today, we brought Destiny Marie Smith home from the hospital.  The finalization took a few more months, but as you can see she was a part of our family from the moment Ken first held her. (I think Ken was talking with the social worker in this picture)

Daddy Meets Destiny

Justin was so excited to bring his new little sister home!  He could hardly wait to share her with his friends.

Welcome Home Destiny!

The road to the finalization of Destiny’s adoption had some potholes, but finally we were able to make things official! (Yes, I was about 10 months pregnant with Jared at the time!)   Justin returned to kindergarten after the finalization ceremony and reported to his class, “The judge said we can keep my sister forever and ever!”

Destiny's Adoption Day

I’ll never forget the day I first held Destiny in my arms.  I am very lucky to be her mom.  Today I pray for all children around the world who are waiting for their forever families and parents who are considering adoption.  May God bring these families together as beautifully as he did ours.

In the word’s of folk singer John McCutcheon,

So here’s to you and three cheers to you! Let’s shout it, “Hip, hip,hip, hooray!”  For out of a world so tattered and torn, you came to our house on that wonderful morn, and all of a sudden this family was born. Oh, happy Adoption Day!

Happy Trails,



State Park Thursday: Celebrating California’s Underwater Parks at the Sea Life Aquarium and Beyond

January 13th, 2011 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in California State Parks, Sea Life Aquarium, Uncategorized

A little known fact about California’s State Parks is that our state has several state parks that are underwater!  These have been set up to preserve the ecological and cultural heritage of California’s marine areas.  Once California’s Coastline was teaming with sea life and our economy benefited from it.  Whether sardines in Monterey or California lobsters in San Diego, the fisherman reaped the bounty of California’s waters.  A few months ago I had the opportunity to view a You Tube lecture by UC  San Diego Researcher Dr. Milton Saier on “Our Oceans: a History of San Diego Sea Life”.  The entire lecture is twenty minutes, but even in the first few minutes Saier gives a powerful description of the tremendous impact that over fishing has had on the San Diego Bay.

These protected park areas also include historical artifacts like shipwrecks and Native American midden sites.  Divers  are encourage to respectfully  explore these underwater historical wonders.  Look, but don’t touch!

California’s Underwater Parks are protected areas for fragile marine ecosystems.  Visitors can still swim, surf, and dive in these areas, but fishing may be restricted.  If you visit and plan to fish be sure to research  the rules of that particular area.  Families should take care to respect these protected marine  areas by  observing the animals without removing them from tidepools , staying off the dunes, respecting historical sites, and packing their trash.

Building a Lego Sand Castle, Sea Life Aquarium Carlsbad, Ca

This Saturday the Legoland California Sea Life Aquarium is celebrating “Underwater Parks Day” to educate families about California’s underwater parks.  Kids will have a chance to create their very own marine habitat to take home.  Families can attend a mini Conservation Expo and interact with local marine protection organizations including  I Love a Clean San Diego, San Diego Coast Keeper, and the San Diego Oceans Foundation.  Be sure to catch the 11 am dive show and learn about San Diego’s Underwater Parks from a Sealife diver!

Artist Teresea Espaniola who created the amazing mural that you see above in collaboration with the students of Jefferson Elementary School will have her “garbage art” on display.  Ms. Espaniola does amazing collage/paintings to raise awareness about the impact of marine trash.  If you can’t make it to the aquarium be sure to visit her gartbage site and take a look.

Last  night I was reading Sweet Thursday the sequel to Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.  What I love about Steinbeck is that his deep understanding of America and Americans made him a something of a prophet.  So many things that he predicted for our country ring true today.  I leave you with this quote the stresses the need for protected areas off of our California shores and gives us something to think about in terms of other ways that we impact our environment.

The canneries themselves fought the war by getting the limit taken off fish and catching them all.  It was done for patriotic reasons, but that didn’t bring the fish back.  As with the oysters in Alice, “They’d eaten every one”.  It was the same noble impulse that stripped the forests of the West and right now is pumping water out of California’s earth faster than it can rain back in.  When the desert comes, people will be sad; just as Cannery Row was sad when all the pilchards were caught and canned and eaten.  The pearl-gray canneries of corrugated iron were silent and a pacing watchman was their only life.  The street that once roared with trucks was quiet and empty.

We have a lot to learn from the ecological mistakes of the past.  Let’s teach our children to respect California’s Underwater Parks so these marine treasures can be shared with generations to come!

Happy Trails,


Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursdays.  This week Trekaroo is featuring activities that honor Dr. Martin Luther King throughout the US.  I am hoping to honor Dr. King’s Legacy this month with some posts on how to use travel to teach kids about the roots of racism as well as attending an event at the library.   How will your family honor Dr. King this month?


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Move It Monday: Moving it at LEGOLAND, California (Plus how to get a discount ticket to LEGOLAND)

January 10th, 2011 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in Legoland, Legoland bargains, LEGOLAND Brick or Treat, Legoland Discounts, Uncategorized

Destiny Boogies Down at the Brick or Treat Dance Party, LEGOLAND, CA

Most theme parks are pretty good places to get your family moving.  After all,  by the time your family makes it to all the attractions you have hiked several miles.  LEGOLAND, California however goes above and beyond with great play ground areas, self propelled rides, and special events that integrate movement and fun.  Here are some of the ways that a trip to LEGOLAND California will get your family moving:

Rides  That Encourage Movement

Families work together to make the fire engine go at LEGOLAND, California

Two of my favorite rides at the park are the Fun Town Fire Academy and Kid Power Towers.  Both require families to work together to propel themselves on the ride.  Hopefully LEGOLAND will consider the importance of  ”kid power” when designing future rides.

Fun Play Grounds for all Ages

Whether its the semi enclosed Duplo themed playground for toddlers or the daring Hideaways area complete with rope ladders and slides,  these playgrounds are great for kids and relaxing for parents.

Water Slides Galore

LEGOLAND has a really fun water slide in the Pirate Shores area and has also opened a separate water park.  With lots of stairs to climb, these wet and wild attractions keep kids moving.

Special Events

LEGOLAND incorporates movement into many of their special events.  At Halloween, the Brick or Treat Dance party was a big hit with my kids.  The first Thursday of the Month LEGOLAND has free stroller strides classes for visiting moms as part of their Model Moms Club Program.  Coming up in a few weeks is the Kids Marathon Mile.  Kids get to run a mile at LEGOLAND (a diaper dash is also offered)  then are given a ticket and enjoy the park that weekend.   Kids entrance fees are only $20 making this a true LEGOLAND bargain. (The park hopper ticket offered is usually $69!).  Register soon. Spaces are limited.

Happy Trails,


(Most Pictures courtesy of LEGOLAND California)


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Beach Birthday Adventure 2011

January 9th, 2011 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in At Home Adventures, San Diego Beaches, San Diego State Parks, Smith Family Adventures

Jared Strikes a Pose, South Carlsbad State Beach

Only in San Diego can a January birthday be celebrated with a trip to the beach!  On this sunny Carlsbad day Jared and Destiny joined me for an outing to South Carlsbad State Beach.  The kids braved the frigid water in their swim suits.  I preferred to wade in rolled up jeans.  Here are a few highlights of our beach adventure:

Watching the Waves

Rock Collecting (A few of our favorites came home with us)

Wave Dancing

Wave Jumping

Leaving Footprints

Time to Go Home, South Carlsbad State Beach

Time to Go Home, South Carlsbad State Beach

I often forget how little I need to pack for a trip to the beach.   Here is what we brought.

Don't forget the water bottles to wash off sandy feet!

I should have left the chairs at home.  With no lifeguards on duty and two active kids, I didn’t get time to sit and read my book. We survived a small tantrum from Jared when he found out he had to leave his baby clam at the beach.  ”But he’s an orphan, Mama! ”  Jared cried piteously.   Still, I wouldn’t have traded a moment of my beach birthday adventure.

Happy Trails,




Photo Friday: Take Your Kid to Work Day, LEGOLAND Edition

January 7th, 2011 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Legoland

Justin in Gary's LEGOLAND Master Builder Workshop

In October 2009 I had the privilege of interviewing LEGOLAND Master Builder Gary McIntire  for a profile for Boys Life Magazine. LEGOLAND graciously agreed to let Justin, then age 10, join us for the interview.  Gary is an amazing craftsman and an even better human being.  He patiently answered all of our questions and swapped LEGO building tips with Justin.  We even found out that Gary was an Eagle Scout!

If you want to see more of Gary’s amazing work of course you can visit LEGOLAND, but Gary’s Flicker Stream has some additional LEGO projects and great behind the scenes shots.  To learn more about how Gary’s appearance in Mythbusters and the road to his success as a LEGOLAND  Master Builder, you’ll have to pick up the January issue of Boys Life Magazine or find a scout and borrow theirs.  (All cub scouts and boy scouts have a subscription).

Happy Trails,


P.S. Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.  Love her post this week on Vancouver Dim Sum.  Wish I was having Dim Sum for lunch!


Family Adventure Guidebooks 2011: Beyond the Travel Blog

January 6th, 2011 by bsmith | 6 Comments | Filed in Family Adventure Guidebooks

Carolina at one of my favorite blogs, Kids Go West, inspired me to write this “state of my blog” post.  For a while now, I have been reflecting upon my life as a “travel blogger” and the direction of my blog.  Here’s the thing, I love to travel and love to write about it.   However sometimes I think I fall into the easy trap of doing writing that is less authentic and more P.R. oriented.  I also look at my friends who have “arrived” as travel bloggers.  I see the amount of time they spend on the road, sometimes away from their families, and I know deep down that both my kids and I would not be able to handle that kind of schedule.  As I stand of the verge of my 38th birthday, I think life’s too short  not to write  authentically about subjects I care about without limiting myself to  a single facet of my interests and of our family’s adventures.

Here’s what you can expect from this blog in 2011:

Travel Writing with a Twist:  I am going to try to be more honest about the challenges of traveling with three kids.  I will still write a lot about travel, but hopefully I will be a bit more reflective about our adventures.  Plan to see travel in the larger context of raising great kids,  being the best parent I can be,  and teaching my children about what I value (nature, history, faith, service, and maintaining an active lifestyle).

San Diego Adventures and Events: Although I don’t want to be too PR oriented, San Diego has a lot to offer and I’ll still keep my readers up to date about fun activities and events in my home town and beyond.  I love this place  and hope you will grow to love it to.

Adventures in Motherhood: I have found that some of my favorite non travel blogs are those that give an honest look at parenting, where mom’s share their experiences in a thoughtful way.  I’m not a parenting expert.  I won’t give rigid advice, but I will  share some of my parenting adventures with you, and hope that  through comments you will do the same.  Want to read some blogs of this genre?  Check out Stark Raving Mad Mommy and San Diego Momma .

Coping with ADD and the Search for a Balanced Life: This past year it came to my attention (pun intended) that I may have Attention Deficit Disorder.  At first the news really through me for a loop as well as explaining a lot about who I am and some areas of life that have truly been a struggle for me  (being a first grade teacher, keeping a clean house,  establishing family routines and enforcing consequences).  As I have done more reading and thinking about ADD, I have become thankful for the gifts that this condition has given me including:  creativity, inspiration, impulsivity/spontaneity, a sense of humor, empathy, and the ability to hyperfocus on things that I am passionate about.    ADD has also presented many challenges and has caused disruptions and even grief in my own life and that of my family.

Therefore after my year of reflection, I am determined that 2011 will be a year of action.  I am going to dedicate myself to finally learning to be an organized parent and human being.  I will give my children the gift of routines and limits that they need to thrive.

I don’t know how much my adventures as a mom with ADD transforming her world will factor into this blog this year, but I just wanted to give you a heads up that perhaps  they will.

So my friends and readers, here’s what’s in store for 2011.  If you are among my travel blogging friends and colleagues I hope you’ll still stop by. As I said travel writing continues to be my passion, and you will still have much to read and explore.  For all my readers, if you like what you read, please pass it on to a friend who might appreciate it .  As someone who is easily distracted, social networking is a slippery slope I can not slide down, but I would love to have some new readers.  Although I mostly write this blog for myself, a few comments every once and a while make feel that I’m not the only one who reads it and that is something that truly makes me happy.

Happy Trails,


Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday is a great way to learn more about Family Travel.  They have a great post on Winter fun up this week.  Check it out!



Family Adventure Guidebooks Welcomes 2011!

January 4th, 2011 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in At Home Adventures, Family Adventure Guidebooks

Jared Welcomes 2011

The Smith Family said  goodbye to 2010 on Friday night  with a good old fashioned New Year’s Eve  party at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Then Justin, age 11  and I rang in the New Year with party poppers at midnight.  (Everyone else in the house refused to wake up for the celebration).

Yummy eats, New Years 2011

Our little party reminded me of the importance of family traditions.  The foods we ate were the same that my parents and I shared with neighbors over thirty years ago.  The funny party hats reminded me of past holiday parties with my own grandparents.  The confetti poppers were Justin’s idea, perhaps the start of a new traditon.

Princess Destiny in her New Year's Tiara

My dad, John Gillin takes holiday traditions  seriously.  From See’s Irish potatoes to chocolate Easter bunnies, we always celebrate holidays with joy and lots of chocolate.  He has baked special cookies almost every Christmas and made home made peach ice cream at the Fourth of July.  Dad has a card for every occasion, Easter, St. Patrick’s day…you name it!

The Life of the Party, New Years Eve 2011

Now it’s my turn to keep those traditions alive.  This year I made the New Year’s Eve clam dip and found the funny party hats.  Next year, I will tackle my grandma Lue’s black walnut cookies and mint chocolate chip kiss tortes.

I love you Dad.  Thanks for inspiring me with your family traditions.  I promise to keep them alive, and even create some of my own!

Happy New Year to All!

Happy Trails,


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