Mesquite and Justin, Cave Explorers, Valley of Fire State Park, Las Vegas Nevada
Twelve years of parenting has taught me that bringing the dog along is one of the best ways to get kids hiking. My friends and neighbors thought I was crazy to bring the dog on our last vacation, but Mesquite had an awesome time and provided the kids with motivation to keep moving.
Sniff Stop, Valley of Fire State Park, Las Vegas Nevada
My sweet eight year old puppy scaled rocks and hiked to the petrified forest at Valley of Fire State Park. She reminded us to stop and rest in the shade from time to time.
Even back at the swanky Oasis RV park, she motivated us to walk several blocks to get the the Doggy Park which provided an hour of kid friendly entertainment as the kids happily through ball and bones for the Doggy Park visitors while Mequite hung out in the shade and enjoyed being petted.
The great thing about Nevada State Parks is that they let dogs on almost all the trails as long as they are on a leash. Because of this liberal policy Mesquite was able to join us for most of our adventures. Something to keep in mind when planning a dog and kid friendly trip.
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!
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)
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.
Hot Dog Roasters, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
I did not grow up in a family of campers, but I have always loved the outdoors. Lucky for me my parents found a way that I could enjoy camping while they stayed in the comfort of their own beds. I spent my summers on YMCA campouts led by caring enthusiastic volunteers who loved to camp. These adventures were my first introduction to camping in California’s diverse state parks. I had the chance to visit Bodie State Historic Park and Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe. I rode horses, went river rafting, and even houseboated down the Sacramento Delta. On each of these adventures I learned a few new colorful swear words from my peers (sorry that I briefly brought them home, Mom and Dad). Much more importantly my experiences with the YMCA inspired my love of travel, my appreciation of the natural world, and my devotion to environmental advocacy. Trying adventure sports like waterskiing and river rafting increased my confidence as I mastered new tasks that were hard. These adventures also deepened my spirtuality. The first time I concretely felt the presence of God was sitting on a boulder watching the sunrise during a YMCA camp out.
As a mom I want to give my kids the gift of similiar experiences. I know that time spent in the outdoors will help them to learn and grow in ways that I will never truly understand. I want them to learn how to be self sufficient, to set up their own tents and cook their own food. Even though it is uncomfortable and exhausting for us to sleep together tucked in a single tent, I want them to have that experience as well. Frankly, I want them to be able to sleep anywhere under any conditions so that some day they can travel the world learning about other cultures points of view without always staying in the most comfortable American based hotels.
In theory, this is what I want for my family. In practice camping can be very tough, especially with a little one who thrives on routine and enjoys the unique smell of his own mattress as he lulls himself to sleep. That’s how I found myself in a tent in the middle of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parkwith two wailing children wondering if my commitment to giving my kids camping experiences was worth it. At the time I had my doubts, but with the benefit of hindsight it was worth every moment of adversity. Here are a few of the high points of camping alone with kids:
Hiker Boys, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Justin, my oldest showed off the amazing skills he has gained through his involvement with Boy Scouts. He lit all the campfires and set up our tent. He loaded up a heavy backpack and headed out on a hike. He was a shoulder to cry on when things got tough.
Destiny and Friend ,Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
We spent our first night camping with my amazing friend Joellen and her two kids. It was the first camping experience for the three of them. My kids had so much fun sharing their wealth of camping knowledge.
Destiny and Friend, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
The boys roasted hot dogs and the girls cuddled with their stuffed animals in the tent.
I had the chance to see that Gabriel, Justin’s best friend from kindergarten had grown into a young man. The two boys headed off for a hike in the redwoods with Gabriel’s dad. Gabriel’s mom helped keep Destiny entertained as I talked Jared down from a post nap tantrum.
A Tired Jared at the End of His Hike, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Joellen and I took a long “big kid hike” with one four year old, two five year olds, one six year old, and one eleven year old. We survived thanks to walking sticks, snacks, and a sense of humor.
Will I go again? You bet! Joellen and I are already planning a campout for summer 2011 and we are inviting more friends to join us. But here’s a thing, with the budget chaos here in California local state parks like Henry Cowell may not be open for camping adventures in 2011. If you live in California you can make a difference by voting yes on Proposition 21. Not only will you keep state park campgrounds open for camping adventures, you will also get unlimited day use parking at most Calfornia State Parks. Now that’s a travel bargain!
Family Adventure Guidebooks is so excited to be participating in the Trekaroo Spotlight Thursday Blog Roundup, Save Our State Parks edition. Please support my fellow travel bloggers by paying them a visit or even adding an account of your own state park adventures. Most importantly tell your friends about proposition 21 so all of our kids can enjoy camping in California State Parks.
I have been meaning to do this kind of tip post for a while now, but my friends at Twittermom finally gave me the excuse I needed to get it done. Here are the Family Adventure Guidebooks Top Ten Creative and Affordable Vacation Ideas:
Saving Money on Food:
1) Pack a Picnic. Whether you’re hitting a theme park or on a road trip, packing a picnic cuts down on the cost of overpriced, yucky fast food. I am always sure to include some special treats: berries, salami sandwiches, etc…something the kids don’t get to enjoy every day. Eat your picnic at a local park or rest stop. Your kids will make new friends and get their wiggles out.
2) Do it Yourself Room Service . Supermarket delis have fun, healthy take out. Everyone can eat what they want and if you get paper plates…no dishes. TV Dinners are a rare treat in our family so if there is a microwave and freezer in the room I sometimes pick some up.
3) Pick Hotels that Have Breakfast Included. Last summer our family stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Santa Cruz for two weeks. It was lovely to have a hardy breakfast (eggs or omlette, sausage, fruit,etc.) every day. Since we filled up at breakfast we were able to eat a lighter lunch!
Saving Money on Lodging:
4) Time Shares Don’t buy one…rent one…! Our latest discovery is renting time shares on a per night basis. With a family of five, we find that we all have a happier vacation if we are able to spread out. Renting a time share gives us extra space, a full kitchen, and privacy for Mom and Dad at an affordable price.
5) Join the Club. Join Hotel Chain loyalty rewards clubs and stay at only one or two chains when you can. Also keep an eye out for stay ___ nights get a night free promotions. Our summer Holiday Inn Express stay yielded a five day ski vacation in Lake Tahoe. We used our bonus nights at the Holiday Inn Express in South Lake Tahoe, and used the the money we saved to pay for ski lessons.
Saving Money on Themeparks and Attractions:
6) Do Your Research. Figure out how many days you are going to spend at a themepark, then look at all the admission possibilities including memberships. Sometimes buying a membership is the same price or even cheaper then a number of single day admissions. It may be worth buying a membership and making a return trip.
7) Keep an Eye Out for Discounts and Special Events. LEGOLAND holds a special fundraising event for the schools every year. They also invite people to a smaller section of the park at night to experience their Halloween festivities for less than the price of full admission. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers discounted weeknights during the summer. Our family never misses them when we go to visit. All rides are the cost of one ticket which adds up to significant savings if you want to ride the famed Giant Dipper more than once.
9) Hit the Beach. You can spend a blissful day (or two or three) with your kids entertained for hours. Just purchase a few cheap buckets and shovels, pack a picnic, slather on the sunscreen, and read a book that you brought from home or picked up at a local used book store. If you want to splurge you can rent surfboards or boogie boards from a local business like the one run by my friends at Concept Specialty Board Shop in Encinitas, California.
10) Play at the Park. Here in California playground safety laws were changed a few years ago so almost every town has had to update their playground equipment. This is a real benefit for travelers. No trip to Monterey would be complete without a visit to the famous Dennis the Menace Park. Our kids love to perch on top of the train. Even less famous parks can be lots of fun. Some other favorite California Parks are Cottonwood Creek Park in Encinitas, Louden Nelson Park in Santa Cruz, Holiday Park in Carlsbad, and Moonlight Beach Park in Encinitas.
“I wrote this blog post while participating in the Toyota Sienna and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $30 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”
OK, I admit it, this travel blogger will not be traveling during spring break this year. We had considered a vacation, but have a lot going on right now and decided that it would be wiser to stay close to home. My kids are actually quite happy about the prospect. We will attend an annual Easter Egg hunt tommorrow morning and enjoy a quiet Easter luncheon with the Grandparents and some neighbors on Sunday.
We will be spending our spring break being tourists in our own home town. Since I am starting a new guidebook there will be trips to the San Diego Zoo to check out the polar bears and to the Wild Animal Park to visit with the butterflies. I’m hoping for hike at Elfin Forest to or Mission Hills to see if the wildflowers are still out. We might head North to ride in the big orange balloon in Irvine.
I’m a little disappointed that there won’t be a hotel stay and new places to explore in our near future, but on the other hand:
Everyone sleeps in their own bed
DH and I can spend private evenings alone instead of sharing a room with three kids.
No waiting for food in restaurants.
We still have a great (albeit cold) pool to swim in.
Hope your spring break Adventures are just as fun.
Sadly, as my youngest turns five next month, our family is reaching the end of an obsession with trains that lasted more than a decade. However, a trip to Sonoma Train Town and a ride on the minature train there, showed me that even when kids “out grow” trains, there is something about a train ride that reawakens the kid in all of us. One of the highlights of our visit was a stop at a kid sized town. Here is some goofy moments from our layover.
Here is a glimpse of the village from the train.
Here’s the fun life sized rail car with old school video games:
If plan to visit the Wine Country with your family Sonoma Train Town should be at the top of your list for family friendly destinations. For more information on days Train Town is open click here.
Family Adventure Guidebooks is a proud participant in Delicious Baby’s Photo Fridays. For great pictures of her Seattle Halloween adventures click here.
Growing up in Marin County, one of my favorite family adventures was a Sonoma picnic. We would north, and stop by the Vella Cheese factory to purchase some of their famous Dry Monterey Jack. (This is not the Cheese Factory on the Sonoma Plaza. My family always considered that one more of a tourist trap.)
My parents and I would head for the beautiful green park in the center of town, and enjoy our cheese with salami, sour dough, and apple cider. Then, tummy full I would make friends at the playground or visit the rose garden. The rose garden has a lovely assortment of colorful roses and a sun dial in the center that has fascinated generations of young visitors.
This summer I had a chance to recreate this childhood memory when we met my Auntie Carol in the same Sonoma park. We arrived late in the day and didn’t have a chance to stop by the cheese factory, but my friend Joellen kindly found a gourmet deli that served delicious sandwiches. The kids put on an elaborate performance on the outdoor stage, and had fun at the play ground. They met a friendly laborador and worked hard to help him take a drink from the water fountain.
Our visit to this magical place brought back many joyful memories, and also gave me a chance to make some new ones.I enjoyed watching Justin, my ten year old transform himself into a goofy monster using the leaves he fund around the park. It was a treat for Auntie Carol to see Justin for the first time in nine years and to meet the “new” additions to our family who are now ages four and five!
What adventures do the Smith Family have planned for this weekend? I’ll give you some hints.
Here’s the Smith Family Itinerary for Memorial Day Weekend:
Represent Family Adventure Guidebooks preview event for the new Elephant Odyssey exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. I’m so excited to be invited, and the best news is I get to bring the whole family! I sure hope those preschoolers behave themselves. My son is a little disappointed that we won’t be sleeping over at Mataguay on friday night, but I’m hoping that a close encounter with an exotic animal will cheer him up. I’m also glad for an extra night in my own bed!
We will leave for Cub Scout Camp Mataguay at the crack of dawn. Mataguay is located near Julian in San Diego county. We plan to get really dirty, canoe, fish, look for lady bugs, climb rocks, and just have a generally wonderful time. The kids will just generally run amok like wild animals from dawn until dusk. Hope we will get some sleep after the campfire on Saturday night.
My kids love Camp Mataguay. Our trip last year was one of the best family adventures ever! The kids love the freedom of climbing on boulders, exploring new trails, and catching fish. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our 2008 camping adventure.
On Top of the World, Mataguay 2008
Mugging on the Mountain, Mataguay 2008
The big Boy Scouts and Venturers will make us a pancake breakfast. We’ll attend a sweet ecumenical morning prayer service. I hope that Jutin can squeeze in a little more fishing and fun before heading home.
Thanks for Bringing Us Mom! Mataguay, 2008
If you have a chance stop by Delicious Baby and see more great Photo Friday posts. May your weekend be filled with family adventures.
My journey to motherhood, was not a flat country road. It was more like the treacherous path up to a Yosemite waterfall. Justin was conceived without much effort, but as the years passed no little brothers or sisters followed.
Deep down we knew that God had a plan for our family. After much reflection Ken and I decided to start the adoption process. Four months after we completed our home study, we found ourselves the parents of a beautiful baby girl.
Since the process was unexpectedly quick, a newborn Destiny enjoyed several adventures that had been planned before she joined our family. When Destiny was just a few weeks old, we headed up to the Bear Valley to go skiing and sledding with friends. The grownups took turns staying home to cuddle the baby while the others hit the slopes.
A few months later, the Smith Family headed to Disneyland. By the Disneyland trip, I had discovered that I was pregnant with Jared. It was before my first ultrasound, however, so we didn’t tell Ken’s family. I hid out in my room at my brother and sister in law’s house and snuck crackers to keep the morning sickness at bay.
That spring we joined my brother and sister in law and their friends for a camping trip to Yosemite. It was quite a time. Several families had multiple little ones. My brother in law got the brillant idea to hike up to Vernal Falls. Most of the adults were carrying babies on their backs. Justin, age 5 was doing an amazing job hiking on his own. I was several months pregnant and trying to keep up with the steep climb. By the time we reached Vernal Falls, I was absolutely exhausted. At the top, I decided to fess up about my pregnancy. I wanted to make sure that my brother in law didn’t make us climb any higher! I think that this was the first time Justin learned he was having a new sibling. We didn’t want him to share the secret before we were ready. The climb down was a bit of a nightmare. We got very lost.
As you look at the picture above, note that there are actually five people plus one crazy puppy. We were all having a wonderful time!
Like all best stories, this one continued to be filled with suspense. After I returned from Yosemite, an ultrasound suggested that the baby was not a baby, but rather a molar pregnancy. A few weeks later, as the doctor prepared to perform an operation to resolve this issue, she discovered that I was indeed pregnant. Apparently that was the moment Dr. Muir started believing in a higher power! Six months later our third little adventurer was born.
I share this story with you to remind you that motherhood is an adventure. It is filled with tears, laughter, surprises…and yes even miracles. Enjoy every minute of it!
Our Happy Ending!
PS Hugs and prayers going out to my friend Deana who is fighting Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Please join me in praying that next Mother’s Day will be all about breakfast in bed with her boyz.
If you are planning to visit the Legoland theme park in Carlsbad, California, this book contains all the information you need to make the most of your family adventure. The book also includes information about other area attractions, local restaurants and hotels.
Bridget Smith, mom of three, loves to blog about everyday adventures. Her mission is to change the world; one kid, one destination, one effortless trip, one overworked mom, one frazzled dad... one day at a time! Come and join her.