Monday, August 7, 2017

What I Will Tell My Child About Junior High

The Headlines:

We all remember Junior High sucks.

Can it ever be good?

It can.

I sit here quietly in my home for the first time in months.  Summer is over and the kids are back in school.  But this year is different.  This year my daughter starts Junior High.

She's a 6th grader.  Back in my time, when I went to JUNIOR HIGH it didn't start until 7th grade.  I'm not sure what's better but that's not the point.  Here's the point: we're at the point of no return.  It's big time from here on out.  Life is no longer as simple as it once was... and she knows it.

The other day she said, I kid you not:

"I think when I was "little-er" things were more fun.  Now everyone's on their phone."  

WOW.  As I listened to her make that slightly profound statement I may have been texting someone.  That's a whole other subject we should delve into but for now... she's right.  And it's not changing anytime soon.  Because with a locker, no recess, algebra and lunch time tutoring comes a whole lot more.  Stuff they can't really teach you at the best school... like hormones, relationships, "mean" girls, make-up and yes everything that comes with that darn phone.

So what do you tell your child?  I say this:  Junior High is tough.  Ask anyone.  You will not get out unscathed.  Because everyone has something.  The prettiest girl gets a pimple.  The smartest boy blows a major test.  The mean one gets bullied.  Make-up runs.  Pick 6's happen.  People say awful things.  It is complicated, it's difficult and it can be down right devestating at times.  But you will get through it.  Right alongside the rest of your friends.  You all will be going through the same kind of crappy stuff together.  You can trust that.

But while there will be many bad things that happen... there will also be bright spots.  

You will ace a test you studied for.  The girl or boy you smile at will smile back (even if it's just on the inside).  Your team will win.  You will walk into a room one day and everyone will turn.  Your birthday will be big.  You will meet a best friend.  Someone will vote for you.  You will be a part of a group/club/sport that matters.  People will laugh at your joke.  You will get a compliment.  All these things will happen... just not at once.  Everyday you will not hit the jackpot - but that will make the winning days even sweeter.

I tell my daughter she has to be strong.  And on the days she's not, her father and I will be strong for her.  I remind her that she can lean on good friends but that she needs to let them lean right back.  I want her to know if she's helping others more she may care about herself a little less.  I assure her tears will come and she can grab a tissue or even better yet.. someone may hand her one.

Because even though Junior High may feel like the end of the world... it's just the beginning.

No, I'm not a psychologist or a counselor, I'm not a doctor or teacher of any kind.  But I am a mother who remembers being in Junior High, like all of us were at one point.  It was exactly all of the things I mentioned above and more.  It doesn't make me an expert but it does qualify me to remind my pre-teen, we've all been there.  While it feels super big - it's just a moment in time - and everyone's standing in that moment with her.

Junior High will not define her... but it will begin to refine her.  She just needs to remember to toss the phone aside.  Here and there.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How to Plan a Trip to the Redwood National Forest (and Mendocino)!

The Headlines:

The time has come.

Vacation Creation.

Here's why (and how) we did it.  

During the Summer, when I was a little girl... myself, my mom and my Dad would all pile in our Volkswagen (Pop Top) Bus and drive for miles.  We would drive, stop, camp and then drive, stop, camp some more.  Four weeks total.  Every year from the time I could remember... until I was in high school.  For it was at that time, we no longer had the time to pile, drive, stop and camp.

Because, like all kids, I grew up.  More on that later.

Since we've had our own babies we've definitely gone on vacations.  But mostly to relaxing resorts, beach destinations or family visits.  Traveling with "toddlers" is never easy.  I remember once we got on a plane, my son was maybe 2 years old, shortly after take off he stands in the aisle, points to the door and says: OFF PLANE NOW.   At this point, we've certainly turned the corner so it's time to do something different.

BP (the husband) and I made a pact last Summer to take a break once a year and do (at least) one real family vacation.  Preferably not the resort kind.  I just think more unique memories can be made when you hit the open road.  So, we decided our first go-round would be The Redwood National Forest.  For those of you wondering... that's at the very tip top of California near the coast.

It did not disappoint.  In this post, I'll tell you what we did, how it was so special, where you can do it and why the time is now.  I'll highlight the 5 Most Important Tips.

I have no known trip planning skills but turns out I didn't need any after I found this place:

TIP #1:
Redwood Coast Cabins & RV Resort (click the phrase to their website).  I basically wanted to go "glamping" without paying like 5 hundo a night!  At RCC, you can get a camp site for under $20 or you can stay in their "Deluxe" Log Cabin (with basic bath and kitchen) for under $150.  That was exactly what I wanted.  They also have really rustic log cabins (without the bath or kitchen) for under $100.  It gave us the feeling of camping, complete with pool, play area, giant chess and mini golf (all with the cost of the site).  Perfect.  I recommend highly.

But then what RCC also did, was give us a list of things to do while there.
TIP #2 Check it out here: Redwood To Do List

We started by going to the old, historic Samoa Cookhouse, which I did as a kid...

and it hasn't changed a bit.  Family style cooking.  Great for breakfast.  It was tasty as well as historic.  Don't miss it.  Read about it here: Samoa Cookhouse.  Then we headed up to the Trees of Mystery (click the phrase for more info).  There, we saw spectacular trees, Paul Bunyan and took a gondola ride.  It's just interesting.  You can spend hours reading and looking at all the stuff.  It didn't disappoint.  It was a little under $50 for the 4 of us... but worth it.

We also checked out the Avenue of giants, the Grandfather Tree and the Visitor Center (which obviously has tons of ideas too).

TIP #3
The National Park has a cool "Quest" series for kids.  The quests, essentially require the child to go searching for something, via clues given to them, at a certain hiking spot.  At the end, they discover the code which they turn into the visitor center and get a "prize".  My kids LOVED IT!  And it was FREE.

After 2 nights, we drove down to Mendocino.  ***Warning*** this drive is not for faint of heart.  I got incredibly car sick, there are very windy roads here.  At one point, I had to get out of the car and lie on the side of the road.  Memories were definitely being made.   But once we made it... there was this... bliss.

TIP #4
We stayed at the Little River Inn... which had a view of the water and it was breathtaking.  This property is just really precious.  See for yourself here:  Little River Inn

We were so close to the beach, Medocino and Fort Bragg.  Plus my kids could play some football on their lawn overlooking the ocean.  It was heavenly.  While here, we went on a "Skunk Train" ride... (in my opinion kind of expensive and a little over-rated for a family of four) and we hunted for
TIP #5 Seaglass at "Seaglass Beach"... it's a real thing.

After a recycling plant was located in the area, it left behind legit Seaglass.  But Beware: The city does NOT want you take the little treasures.

We also hiked the beach, dined overlooking the ocean and browsed their many roadside stores.  Two nights and we moved on.

From forests to cliffside beaches to the farm lands of the wine country.  On our way back to the airport we decided take a quick, final jaunt through Napa.  We stopped at a park, ate at a favorite,
BONUS TIP: Gott's Roadside (formerly Taylor's Refresher) Grill and took some pictures.  Nope, no wine tasting on this trip but it was just what we needed before hopping on a plane.

The odd thing, we were only gone for 4 nights and 5 days.  But it was just enough.  We packed a lot into our little trip.  And we'll do it again.  Not the same thing.  Something totally different.  I'm up for suggestions.

Because the fact is, time doesn't stand still.  I wish it did.  I wish we could pick a moment in our lives and just live there forever.  But sooner than later, as I often write in this blog... my kids will no longer WANT to be on vacation with us.  Let alone be able to...

When I started going to high school... "responsibilities" kicked in.  Sure, they were Cheer and Student Government responsibilities but they were mine and they were important to me.  The family vacations, like the old days, stopped.

So friends, we have a window.  A small window to enjoy the moments that become so very fleeting to us all.  Use it up.  DO things.  Not just resort things.  Go places that don't require a ton of money... camp.  Or glamp.  Pack your own food... but get out there.  Before the window is closed for good.

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