Saturday, November 30, 2013

Handling Holiday Stress

Do you find yourself, your co-workers, and family a little stressed out during the Holiday Season?  There is a lot going on including the preparations, parties, and anticipation of that Big Bearded Elf we know as Santa!  If you find yourself trying to control and manipulate children because you think you can make them behave by calling Santa or telling them they won't get Christmas, I would like to challenge you to think differently!  How about helping yourself and your children handle the stress differently by giving the gift of Conscious Discipline?

If you live in Indiana, consider attending the workshop I am offering on December 6th. Now through Tuesday I am offering a special BOGO free so you and a friend can attend together!  You can't beat this price at $75 for two people for a full day training!

If you don't live in Indiana consider visiting the Conscious Discipline website where you can learn more about the program through books, resources, videos, and MY favorite--"Shubert's Classroom".

There are several new products that were recently released.  I LOVE this new Perpetual Flip Calendar.  Since it is not dated, you can use it over and over again!  It is the gift that keeps on giving as you are inspired daily by the work of Dr. Becky Bailey and her  program Conscious Discipline.
These Sophie Board Books are the simplified version of the Shubert Series.  Sophie is Shubert's younger sister and she helps us learn about the Seven Skills of Conscious Discipline.
Finally, are these adorable little plush pillows with each of the breathing icons on them!  They are perfect for your Safe Place, bed, car, or couch!  What a great new tool and reminder to keep breathing!
Whatever you choose to do, my hope is that you and your family will have a Holiday Season filled with peace, love, and the kind of happiness that money can't buy!  Happy Holidays!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Favorite Finds: Great Christmas Gifts for Preschoolers

When I was a classroom teacher parents and grandparents often asked me about what toys I would recommend for their preschoolers.  I have always been very passionate about finding toys for children that give them opportunities to increase their language skills, motor skills, social skills, imaginative skills, and creativity.  This year I sat down at my computer and tracked down 10 of my favorite toys (from my favorite store Target) for preschoolers.  I don't like toys that take all the thinking out of play and include lots of lights and noises so you won't find them here!  Most of these toys can be played with for hours with no need for batteries!  I also looked for great deals so all these toys are under $25!  All of these recommendations are based on years of observing young children and what I know to be best practice in early childhood.  Hopefully you will find this to be a helpful resource.

When asked about my recommendations, often my first response was Play-Doh (one of my all time favorite toys).  Guess what their response was!  "Ugh, Play-Doh?  I HATE Play-Doh!  It gets in my carpet and makes such a mess!"  Of course I was ready with my response.  "Play-Doh is a wonderful toy that helps develop imagination and motor skills.  When given guidance and direction (such as staying at the table in the kitchen and an adult joining them in their play) the possibilities are limitless!"  :)  This fun Play-Doh Perfect Twist Ice Cream Playset has so many possibilities for imaginative play and developing fine motor, language, and social skills!  There are many other fun Play-Doh products available or you can even make your own dough at home!  Maybe you could give a child a package that includes some homemade dough as well as some additional recipes, rolling pins, and some cookie cutters!  One of my favorite ways to help children to learn to use scissors is by cutting Play-Doh! (I prefer plastic scissors)
I once read some research that said that children who play the most board games do the best in math and social skills later in life.  Therefore, I try to include board games on the Christmas List every year!  There are many great board games out there, but this is one that my own children as well as my preschoolers loved!  Zingo is similar to Bingo, but it is very easy to play and great for vocabulary development as children are recognizing and naming pictures in the game.  What is your favorite board game?  What games do you remember playing with your family and friends when you were growing up?  Many of the best games are still around!  Board games are timeless gifts when you make sure that they are not based on movies, TV shows, and other animated characters!
The next toy on our list is a timeless classic!  I remember playing with a doctor kit when I was a child and I see children use these tools over and over again today!  Each week I provide childcare for a group of preschoolers and this is by far their favorite toy!  They play doctor with the babies, on each other, stuffed animals, and ME!  It is amazing to watch as children replay their experiences with the real caregivers in their lives!
I recently returned from the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) Conference in Washington DC where I attended several sessions about music and movement with young children.  I heard over and over again how important it is to get real music into the hands, ears, and hearts of young children!  This is the best technology you can give your child--a musical instrument in their hands!
Our next gift is a toy that children AND adults enjoy!  Do you remember Lincoln Logs?  We had a set when I was a child and my brother, sister, and I played with them over and over again!  In fact, we still have those blocks!  In my experience, Lincoln Logs are a little too technical for most 3-4 year olds.  They are more appropriate for children that are a little older.  Bristle Blocks, on the other hand, are the perfect block for preschool children.  They are also a winner with boys and girls alike!  This particular set is recommended because it includes some people and accessories that can be used as wheels all in a nice carrying case!

Of course anything Lego makes is going to be a hit with kids (big and small)!  The set listed below is a great option for preschoolers because they are a bit more chunky for smaller hands.  It also comes in a great carrying case!  My sister and I used to dream up ways to organize all the Legos our kids had, but this has a built in storage case!  That is so helpful!  Now you can take them anywhere!  Instead of putting your kids in front of a screen while they ride in the car or wait at the doctor's office you have an opportunity for play!
Another favorite toy for preschoolers is anything involving dramatic play!  In my classroom the two favorite play areas were blocks and dramatic play!  Children love to pretend to do the things they see adults do!  My daughter loved having tea parties with all her favorite animals, dolls, and people when she was younger.  Who ever really outgrows tea parties?!?  This is a nice little tea set from Fisher Price that gives lots of opportunity for pretend play along with a fun little stand for the perfect tea party spread!
When my daughter was turning three years old we had a Teddy Bear Picnic for her birthday party.  All of the children loved getting their own little picnic spread and pretending with their teddy bears!  This Leap Frog Shape and Sort Picnic Set is super fun and educational!  It includes some shape and color sorting activities as well as several different foods children can play with in this adorable picnic basket!  Who wouldn't love those eyes!!!
Do you have one of those kids who has "everything"?  My favorite solution for children like this is BATH TOYS!  Bath time is one of my favorite play times!  You can sing songs, explore, and get creative!  All while you get clean too!  :)  This little Seahorse Pump offers many opportunities for children to observe, explore, and ask questions!  There are many commercial products for bathtub play, but one of our favorites was a cup and a spoon!  Maybe you could personalize a set for your favorite child and set it aside for bathtub play!  Remember, bath time is about more than just getting clean, so play, explore, and HAVE FUN!
Christmas wouldn't be complete without at least one great children's book!  Last year my preschoolers and I absolutely LOVED the newly released Pete the Cat Saves Christmas book.  In fact, they wanted to read it all year long!  If you have been around my blog for very long you know that Pete the Cat is one of my very favorite characters!  His books are always full of fun rhythms, rhymes, and lessons to be learned!  The Christmas book is about giving and the fact that no matter how small you are there are lots of ways you can give and help others.  Why not pair the book with the Pete the Cat plush doll?  Snuggle up with your favorite little preschooler, Pete the Cat, and a cup of hot chocolate and make some memories!  Your time and presence while creating memories and reading with a child are the best gifts you can ever give!


As you may have noticed, most of the toys in this list are open-ended and don't require batteries!  They are an invitation to play, but the "batteries" are provided by the child.  Keep that in mind when you are purchasing toys for the children in your life this year!  You don't have to spend a lot of money or buy the "latest and greatest" in order for them to be truly happy.  The happiest memories I have from my childhood were the times that involved play with the people that I loved.  Whether it was reading stories with my mom, playing games with my dad, or building and pretending with my brother and sister, the lesson I learned was that the relationships I have are priceless!   You can't wrap the things that matter most...your relationship with your children.  This Christmas Season, take time to create memories, play, and be present with your child.  That's the best gift you can ever give! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


(clipart by Kari Bolt)
 Our family created this fun little project that has turned out to be a HUGE blessing!  Back in the beginning of November we started what we called "Baskets of Blessings."  We wanted a way to express our gratitude to our neighbors for helping to create a great community!

Under the cover of darkness (sounds daring doesn't it!) we headed out armed with three baskets full of "blessings" for three different neighbors.  We said a little prayer that our neighbors would be embraced by the warmth of our gratitude for having such wonderful people to live near.  The best part was that this was a legitimate reason to ding dong doorbell ditch someone!  Ha!
We included some homemade apple pie filling, a note, and a poster in each basket.  You can find the note and poster here.  Below is a picture of the note.
It was such fun watching people throughout the neighborhood post on Facebook about how delighted and blessed they felt when they received the basket!  Even though we posted the sign in our window to let our neighbors know we had already been blessed we were TRIPLE blessed!!!  Here are some pictures of the blessings we received!
 Our first basket arrived in the early morning with fresh chewy brownies!  YUM!

Our second basket had all sorts of fun little toys and treats that you might find in the Dollar Store.  We had lots of FUN with this basket!

Our third blessing actually came in the form of a bag!  It was a bag full of blessings including homemade candy and Christmas treats!

You could adapt this activity to use in your classroom, school, or workplace.  It's not so much about what you put IN the basket as it is about showing your community that you care. 

This Thanksgiving we are counting our blessings.  We are a richly blessed family and living in a community that is safe and caring is just one of our many blessings!  It could be so different for our family and it is for so many.  Don't take for granted the blessings in your life.  How will you show others your gratitude this Thanksgiving and beyond?  




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Wonderful Woman Lived in a Shoe

I love Nursery Rhymes!  When I was teaching preschool I tried to include at least one nursery rhyme in our lessons each month.  As a child I loved it when my mom would sing or recite old rhymes and songs for me.  Nursery rhymes bring so many rich opportunities to teach and make learning connections with children.

I had quite a collection of nursery rhyme books, posters, songs, puppets, and activities that I used to help children gain phonemic awareness and enjoy playing with words and sounds.  I was super excited when I started using Conscious Discipline and discovered that Dr. Bailey has modified many of the old nursery rhymes into loving rituals for children and adults to enjoy together.  The whole collection is published in her book, I Love You Rituals.  

Do you all remember the old Nursery Rhyme about the "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe"?  Let's admit, there are times as teachers and parents that we just don't know what to do!  In Dr. Bailey's version of this rhyme which she calls "The Wonderful Woman", children and adults are wrapped in a sense of safety as are assured that the Wonderful Woman knows exactly what to do. 

A Wonderful Woman Lived in a shoe.
She had so many children,
She knew exactly what to do.
She held them,
And rocked them,
And tucked them into bed.
"I love you, I love you," is what she said.
(From:  I Love You Rituals by: Dr. Becky Bailey)
We did so many different activities in our classroom with this nursery rhyme.  I'd like to share a few of my favorites with you!
I have had this old "shoe house" for YEARS!  I use it over and over again for many different activities.  I even had to trace it with a black marker because the lines are so faded!  You know what they say about old shoes!  Nothing fits better!  :)
We used this to have the children practice fine motor skills by lacing the shoe string in and out of the holes.  We had the children look through magazines and find a picture of a woman to cut out and glue to the shoe.  Then we had them either cut out or draw pictures of many little children hanging out around the shoe. 
When I introduce the "Wonderful Woman" I like to use pictures of the students in my class to represent the children and pictures of the teachers in the class to represent the wonderful woman.  One classroom I visited used a large shoe that hung on the wall.  There were pictures of all the children and teachers that were attached with Velcro to the shoe.  Children could retell the rhyme and use the photos to help them act it out.  You could attach the written names as well and children could match the written name to the correct photo.
One of my favorite books to read that goes along with this nursery rhyme is If the Shoe Fits by: Alison Jackson.  This is a cute story about a mother that wants to find a new house for her children since things are so cramped in the shoe.  Throughout the story, the family learns through trial and error, that the best place to be is home.  There are so many fun activities you can do along with this story.  One thing we did was bring in different objects that the family could live in such as a shoe box or a teapot.  We used people from our dramatic play center to act out new versions of the rhyme.  An example might be, "There was an old woman who lived in a box...."  Then we would think of different words that rhyme with box and twisted the words of the rhyme to include new words.  I had the children imagine what it would be like to live somewhere else.  If they could live in a different house what would it be.  We drew pictures and wrote about our answers.
The discussion from this story lead us into more conversations about houses.  We looked at pictures of various types of houses such as apartments, trailers, condos, etc.  We did various activities related to house, but I will have to share those later!  ;)
One thing I always did with my nursery rhymes was to make a poster that we could hang at circle or in the literacy center.   The children love the opportunity to come up and use the pointer to read the rhyme.  They also like to highlight various letters or words they know.  I always have props available for them to use as they act out the rhyme with classmates.  You should check out the website for Dade County Schools from Miami Florida.  They have a lot of free resources available to use along with nursery rhymes and Conscious Discipline.  Loving Guidance has also just released a new set of "I Love You Ritual" posters this fall.  Each ritual has motions that you can do with the child or children can do with each other and include eye contact, touch, presence, and playfulness!  Building neural connections and wiring the brain for success!  It's like two for one! 
For an activity that helps connect home and school I sent home some construction paper and asked the children to trace the shoe for each member of their family.  When the children brought the shoe prints back to school we let them cut them out and put them in order from smallest to largest then we used a little ring to bind them in order.  We talked about what each person in the family does to help keep the family safe and I helped them write it on the shoes.
I hope this inspires you to continue the tradition of using nursery rhymes to enrich the lives of children!  What is your favorite activity to do with the "Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe?"  Share your ideas in the comments below!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Family Night Activity: A Committment to be More Loving

Every once in a while our family needs a little reminder to be more loving toward one another.  We get busy and off track and then we start seeing a lot more hurtful behavior from EVERYONE.  This season of Thanksgiving is a good time to remember to focus on family and having hearts that cultivate love.

To help us out I created this fun little family night activity.  Here is a printable that you can use with your family too!  We want to create a home where love is able to grow and in order to get there we need to remember a few things. the base of our tree you see that it says "be thankful".  We believe that what you focus on you get more of.  Our family has a lot to be thankful for!  When we remember all that we have it helps our lives to feel so much more full and satisfying.  We also added the word "breathe" to one of the branches because we all have to work very hard to pause when we get upset and sometimes walk away from a situation until we have calmed down and are able to be more loving.  As you see, smiles, hugs, listening, waiting, and helpfulness are hanging out in the tippy tops of our tree.  These are all practices that create deeper connections among us and bring us closer together as a family.  The more time we take to listen to one another, notice the need for help, and give warm embraces, the less time we spend arguing and upset.  Of course, in order to be gentle, kind, and forgiving, you have to practice all these other disciplines mentioned above, but above all else, prayer is what will get you there.

During Family Night we discussed all the words on our tree and how they help us cultivate love.  We gave lots of examples and even did some role playing to help use see how we can do things differently and be more loving.  To help use symbolize our family commitment to be more loving we put colorful fingerprints on the tree as leaves.  We used washable markers and colored the tips of our fingers to made fingerprint leaves around the top of the tree.

It was so easy to do and everyone in the family participated!  We had fun seeing all the different fingerprints and comparing the sizes of each person's fingerprint.

When we were finished, we put it in a nice picture frame and hung it in our dining room as a reminder of the love we want to grow in our family.

Once we were done decorating the tree, each family member chose one word or phrase that they were going to focus on in the coming week.  We wrote our commitments on a dry erase board that hangs on our refrigerator as a reminder for the week and so we could help hold each other accountable.  The following Sunday during Family Night we pulled it back out and reflected on how the week went.  We discussed what we could do in the coming week to make a new commitment to help love grow here.

Everyone had a ton of fun completing this Family Night activity.  We discussed how we could continue focusing on being a loving family throughout the year by pulling it back out with each season and making changes to our tree to represent winter, spring, and summer too!  We want to remember that love grows through all seasons in our family and this will help use focus and sometimes refocus our attention to our commitment to being more loving!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Creating a School Family: A Climate of Caring

Have you ever been in a group of children or adults where everyone wanted to talk at the same time?  Did you like the way it felt when you couldn't get in a word edgewise and you really wanted to be heard?  I remember a time when I was in a group of adults that were all very caring passionate people who wanted to be heard, but because everyone was talking at the same time no one could really speak.  In a situation like this, chaos usually ensues!  There have been many times when I have been in staff meetings where someone was leading a discussion and there were many little side conversations going on while the speaker had the floor.  I realized recently what a trigger it is for me when I feel like I have no voice.  Imagine how that feels for a five-year-old!

The more you understand about human behavior and child development, the better you will understand why people get chatty sometimes!  For young children, one reason they have difficulty waiting quietly is because they are still in the process of developing their impulse control.  Another reason is that when an idea comes to a young child (under age 8) they see it in pictures.  They don't think in words like adults do.  So, they see the picture and want to verbalize what they see!  That's why they often blurt out!  It takes a lot of self-control not to say what comes to your mind, especially if you forget what it was if you don't have the chance verbalize it right away!  Creating a School Family where everyone has a voice and feels safe and connected is the best solution for this problem! 

When I am coaching teachers in the classroom one of my favorite tools to add is what I call a Talking Stick.  The purpose of the Talking Stick is to give everyone a visual reminder of where to focus their attention during the group discussion.  When they are holding the stick it is their turn to talk.  When someone else is holding the stick then they focus on that person and use their listening ears.

Look how engaged the child is in the picture above!

When introducing the Talking Stick, we begin by discussing the problem that our School Family has been having with listening while other people are talking.  We can also be proactive and introduce the Talking Stick at the very beginning of the year to head off any problems before they begin.  (wink, wink)

I like to use a star wand as my Talking Stick, but you could use any object that you feel your class will connect with.  The reason I use a star wand is because it is a good visual reminder to be a S.T.A.R. (Smile, Take a deep breath, and Relax) while the group discussion is going on.  If someone begins to talk out of turn it will help them remember to take a deep breath and wait until later.  I know some teachers use a toy microphone, megaphone, or even a stick from outside..  Once you decide what object to use help the class decorate it to represent their School Family.  This brings a sense of unity among class members.  We used colored ribbon and the children choose a pony bead that they liked and tied it on the ribbon of their choosing. 

Now, back to those staff meetings and group discussions among adults!  Don't you think it would be helpful for adults to practice what they preach?  Conscious Discipline is an adult-first approach.  If you expect your students to sit and listen quietly while others are talking you need to do the same.  That means that when you go to that next staff meeting or someone walks into your classroom while you are having a group discussion you have a great opportunity to model the skills you are teaching to your children.  It will raise your own awareness of how difficult it is to wait your turn, especially when you have something that you believe is really important to say!  Heck, maybe we need Talking Sticks in staff meetings too!   

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Family Vacation: Reconnecting and Writing Our Story

What's your family story?  When you look back on your childhood what do you remember?  I realized recently that due to the level of stress in my life I had lost access to some of the happy memories of my childhood and young adult years.  Since quitting my full-time job back in May and following my passion to teach Conscious Discipline and ignite a passion for learning in others, my stress has decreased tremendously!  I have begun to remember little things that I haven't thought about for years! 
I was out at my mom and dad's house recently helping them with a rummage sale and began to get feel very sad.  I saw them giving a price to things that I thought were priceless (although I know you can't keep everything).  One particular item was a plate that my Aunt Nellie had purchased when she took my dad and his siblings on vacation out West.  I also saw items that my Grandma and Grandpa had purchased when they had traveled abroad.  They loved to travel!  Suddenly, I found myself deep in the memories of my childhood and how I couldn't wait to hear the stories and see the pictures when Grandma and Grandpa returned from another vacation.  It seemed like every time I turned around another memory came rushing back.  I wanted to soak it up and bask in the warmth of those days of my childhood.  I began to feel such joy as those memories flashed by so vividly and I remembered my roots.  These people have created a legacy for me and my family and stories that will continue to be told over and over to future generations. 

Do you love to travel or would you rather just stay home and stick to the routine?  In October our family took our first BIG family vacation.  We were gone for 7 days, flew, and even went international!  We had been planning the trip for months, but I have to admit that all the details involved stressed me out just a wee bit!  :)  I want to share this story with you today because we learned some very valuable lessons on this vacation and made some memories that I hope we will never forget! 

(Ik-Kil Cenote in the Yucatan)

Back in December 2012 I was flying home from a training in Florida and was given the opportunity to bypass my overbooked flight in exchange for 2 fee air tickets anywhere that the airline flies!  I jumped on the chance!  In my mind this was going to be a great chance for hubby and I to get a much needed vacation away by ourselves to relax and have some fun together ALONE!  :)  When I shared the news with hubby his mind instantly went to the possibility of a FAMILY vacation!  AHHHHHH!

We started looking for possible destinations and found a great resort location in Cancun, Mexico through an online travel agency called Government Employee Travel Opportunities.  Since I was a teacher and hubby works for local government we qualified for this great program!  They give you deals at unused time shares and the prices are unbelievable!  The resort we ended up booking was all inclusive and the kids got to stay and eat for FREE!  We couldn't beat it!  I was convinced that it would be a great experience for the WHOLE family and began finalizing the plans.  Our whole family was so excited about this trip (including my husband)! 

With tickets and passports in hand I began researching information about traveling with children.  This was going to be the first time my children had flown and my husband hasn't flown in over 20 years!  I know them well enough to know that it is best to prepare them in advance for new experiences to help them handle the anxiety of the unknown.  One thing I kept reading over and over again was that no matter what happens when you are traveling with children ALWAYS KEEP YOUR COOL.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, not so much!

Here's a couple of things I did to help everyone prepare:

1.  I showed the kids and hubby several short videos and photos of what it's like to fly.  I also showed them what it would be like to go through security and check-in.

2. I started packing about a week before our departure so I could have a clear mind while packing.  I know from past experience that when I pack at the last minute I tend to throw in unnecessary items just because I am so anxious.  When I am anxious I tend to over prepare.

3. We looked at pictures of the resort and the activities they offered so we would know what it was going to be like when we got there.

4.  We packed several snacks, some gum, and stocked up on iTunes songs, games, and videos for the kids to entertain themselves with while we traveled.  My daughter's favorite activity was drawing and playing games on a small dry erase board we brought along.

5.  I sat down with my husband and discussed the importance of the two of us working as a team and keeping a handle on our anxiety and stress levels while we were traveling.  We needed to be a united force.  :)  Hubby was definitely on board as usual!

When the big day finally arrived I was prepared mentally and physically (with everything but the kitchen sink) and yet, I found myself feeling very anxious and stressed.  I was trying to breathe and stay calm, but my heart was racing and the clock was ticking.  Here I was, the experienced traveler, and my family was depending on me to answer their questions and get them to their destination safely.  There were so many unknown factors along the way and I could feel my stress level rising.  I kept thinking in my mind "stay calm, stay calm", but I felt very edgy and snippy (as my husband would say).  Even though I didn't reach my goal of staying "completely calm no matter what happened" I did do very well at redirecting my thoughts and keeping my cool much better than I would have in the past.  I found it very helpful to have the mantra that I have learned in Conscious Discipline to help me adjust when I felt stressed.  "I'm safe, keep breathing, I can handle this."  It really helped me accept whatever came my way, adjust the sails, and keep going!

We arrived in Mexico and honestly, the first 3 days of our vacation were VERY stressful.  We were in a foreign country, didn't speak the language, learning to use a different form of currency, and trying to figure out which food was safe to eat and what to steer clear of.  Dinner the first night in the resort was a disaster!  The food was served buffet style and the staff was super generous with drinks and service, but by this point everyone was hungry, tired, and pretty stressed from a day of travel.  The table manners that were displayed that night seemed like a circus side show at best.  It was out of control!  I have to admit, I was questioning my decision to even leave the house!  LOL!  I took a lot of deep breaths and tried to empathize with my children knowing how different and stressful this was for them too!

(Here they are a few days later...perfect angels!  Aren't they cute!?!) 

The next morning, once everyone was rested and fed, we had a family meeting and let them know what was expected at the table for the rest of the trip.  They did very well from that point on.  In fact, our son told us on our last night how proud he was of himself for keeping his knees off the table all week!  He set a goal for himself and reached it!  We were even able to enjoy a fancy 5 course lobster dinner on the last night of vacation in a relaxed, fun, loving environment!  What a difference from the first night!  It really helped to lay out our expectations and create a relaxed environment to help everyone feel comfortable and enjoy the meals.

 (Look Mom!  Flaming zucchini!)

By day three of our vacation we were all much more relaxed and really enjoying our time away.  We knew we had made the right decision.  Everything was becoming more familiar and safe.  We knew the routine at the resort, found some foods we loved, and met many friendly and helpful people.  My husband and I agree that one of the best things about this trip was truly having no real responsibility.  The biggest decision we had to make was where to eat, whether to go to the beach or pool, and when we had all had enough sun.  Everyone was laughing more, cooperating, and eager to try new things.  There is something to be said for getting away from it all!  In the absence of stress we were able to relax, enjoy one another, and rediscover our playfulness as a family.

Our trip didn't go perfectly.  There were definitely some lessons learned along the way.  For example, we caught the bus one day to take us to the mall.  We didn't have enough pesos to get us back to the hotel without breaking a $100.  We figured it was only about 2 miles so we decided to walk.  That was an interesting walk back to the hotel.  Along the way we laughed about how this would be one of our memories from this trip and how it adds to the stories of our lives.  It will be interesting to hear how the kids tell THIS story when they are older!  It included more than 2 miles, heat, and a surprise appearance of Mexican officials bearing machine guns and motioning for us to move aside while they passed in their official vehicles!  I could have spent two days beating up myself and my husband for making the decision to walk, but instead, we adapted and moved on!  How do you handle mistakes?  Do you beat yourself up about it or do you forgive and move on?  Our response to the things that happen along the way help our children learn how to handle their upset.


 (Riding the City Bus is quite an adventure!)

It was so magical to see the transformation that happened in our family over the course of seven days.  Our relationships were strengthened, we had new found confidence, and we rekindled our love for one another!  It would have been so nice if I could tell you our trip was all sunshine and roses, but the reality is that it wasn't.  Honestly, in hindsight I don't think I would want it to be!  Through the struggles we faced, mistakes made, and frustration we handled we became stronger as a family.  I wouldn't trade it for the world!  It may have been a big financial investment on our part, but the memories that were made and stories that were written are priceless!  Now we're ready to start planning our next trip...a weekend away for mom and dad ALONE!  ;)

Now that we're back home and we hit the ground running with the things of reality, we have noticed that we are changed.  We love each other more deeply, want to spend more time together, and value the bond we have as a family more than we ever have before.  Our story didn't end when we came home.  Now we begin the next chapter!  We loved the mariachi band in Cancun so much that we decided to be a mariachi band this year for Halloween.  We had a blast as we pranced through the evening singing silly songs, trying to speak Spanish, and making people laugh! 

I love hearing the kids tell stories about our vacation when people at home ask.  It's like getting a little glimpse into their stories.  What kind of stories are you helping your children write?  What memories will they have from their childhood?  When we went to swim with the dolphins while in Cancun, they wanted an outlandish price for the pictures of us with the dolphins.  We quickly decided that it was not a good choice for us to spend that kind of money on a photo when we had plenty of pictures in our minds of this experience that will last a life time!  Like the stories of the Mayan ruins from long ago, I hope your stories are monumental and worthy of being passed down from generation to generation!


 Cheers!  We wish you well!