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On this 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, today is the day that we as Americans show our respect and honor all veterans who have given their lives to preserve, protect and defend our freedoms. Memorial Day is a time to truly appreciate and reflect on the sacrifices of war.

The Washington D.C. area is home to a majority of the USA’s top war memorials. No land in America is more sacred than Arlington National Cemetery. Our family had the chance to visit our Nation’s burial grounds during our motorhome journey around the United States. The 150 year old cemetery, across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families.  “Service to country” is the common thread that binds all who are honored and remembered here.

Arlington Cemetary

Did you know that…

  • Arlington is the only national cemetery to hold the remains of those who fought in every war in U.S. History.
  • Americans everywhere are encouraged to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance. Take one minute to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.
  • Nearly 4,000 former slaves are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • There are only two U.S. presidents who have been laid to rest here- John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft.
JFK

The eternal flame denotes President Kennedy and wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ gravesites, about halfway up the hill on which Arlington House stands. The grave was placed so that it had a view of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, and was aligned with them. (You can see that view in the last photo in this post.)

  • Arlington House, at the top of the hill, is currently a memorial for Robert E. Lee and run by the National Park Service. Junior Ranger booklets are available for children.
  • The partial remains of the seven astronauts who died aboard the Space Shuttler Challenger are buried here as well.
  • Soldiers plant flags in front of every tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend. The tradition is known as “Flags-In.”
  • Nearly 5,000 unknown soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days per year by The Old Guard. There is an elaborate ritual to change the guard every 1/2 hour (every hour beginning Oct. 1).

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Arlington National Cemetery is a beautiful, yet solemn place to visit. If you are taking the kids, remember that there are sections of the cemetery where they will need to be completely silent out of respect.  The cemetery is very large and the main sites are not right next to one another. Wear comfortable shoes and plan to spend a few hours walking along paved roads and sometimes up hills. You may purchase bus tour tickets at the welcome center if you’d rather get around that way. Before your visit get the ANC Explorer App for a self guided tour or to locate gravesides and places of interest.

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At Arlington National Cemetery, we Americans are reminded of the service and sacrifice of those who have defended and protected our freedoms. Happy Memorial Day to all of you!

It’s hard to believe that yet another school year concludes for our family on Friday.  I’m not sure where the time goes, but I do know that it certainly seems to be moving at rapid speed.

I was waiting on my passport photos to be developed at Costco last week, when I noticed the lady next to me looking over her son’s high school graduation announcement. I could feel pain tugging at her heart so I said, “Oh, is that your handsome son? How great!” And she turned to me and said “Yes. No one tells you that one day they are going to leave you though.” And I replied, “yes they do, but we just don’t want to believe it.”

I don’t know this woman’s story and that literally was the extent of our friendly exchange, but I definitely felt regret in her words. All parents know under normal circumstances that we have approximately 18 years with our kids at home under our roof. What we choose to do with those years is up to us. That being said I am already 2/3 of the way through my major parenting journey.

I want to have no regret when it comes time for my four children to leave this nest. And most likely I will lose all of them to the real world within a year. My goal in raising them has never been about doing it perfectly but by all means raising them intentionally.

One friend was telling me her desires to go on a family vacation to Washington DC, but that All-Star baseball and other kid activities once again weren’t going to allow the time. Let me ask you something. If you knew you only had a month left with your kids, would you change your priorities? Would you choose to take that crazy vacation you’ve always wanted to instead of signing up for yet another activity? I would have to think so.

MASK

I wrote an article in the new issue of MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-Aged Kids) about our six month family sabbatical by motorhome around the United States of America. The issue is all about time and the importance of taking it while we have it.

Taking a family time out and removing yourselves from all the sports, school and even your jobs, definitely takes a lot of courage and determination. But, if we don’t take the time now to stop and enjoy one another, when our kids are young, we may just end up full of remorse when they head out the door into adulthood.

I don’t want to look at my son’s graduation announcement with any regret. Of course there will be natural sadness but that hopefully will be overshadowed with pride and excitement because we’ve all done our best. I’m here to tell you that your children will leave you one day, so you won’t be able to use the excuse that no one told you so!

Time is ticking and the time is now. Enjoy it while you’ve got it!

Where can you take a well-traveled girlfriend to celebrate a milestone birthday?

Charleston, South Carolina proved to be the perfect place! Spring in “Chucktown” is fabulous as the weather is gorgeous and the city is bustling.

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Charleston is simply charming with its cobblestone streets, carriage lanterns and colorful, centuries-old homes. Loads of shopping, visiting historic houses of worship and eating fresh seafood along the harbor are also perks to coming to the Low country. Charleston is an amazingly walkable city too.

Here are 6 must do’s when you visit this city of southern sophistication!

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1. TAKE A CARRIAGE RIDE

Begin your visit to Charleston by taking a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city. Don’t be overwhelmed with the number of companies to chose from as they seem to be on every corner. We were very happy with our tour with Charleston Carriage Works. A one hour tour will cost $25 a person but you can always search for deals and coupons online.

2. BROWSE THE CHARLESTON CITY MARKET

Walk through this historic market as it is the cultural heart of the city. As one of the nation’s oldest public markets, you will find everything from local produce to antiques. It would have been the perfect place to buy my friend her birthday present from, but I had already chosen from a range of beautiful necklaces I’d seen at Adina’s Jewels before the trip. She loved it and that’s the important thing. It’s fun to hear the dialect of the Gullah ladies as they weave and sell handmade sweetgrass baskets here. We enjoyed sampling different treats and loved our time wandering around the Charleston City Market! The Market is open every day of the week from 9:30-5:30 and it’s also open on special evenings as well.

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3. TAKE A HISTORIC PLANTATION TOUR

History buffs will relish all the choices of historical plantations to visit in Charleston. We chose to tour Middleton Place which is a preserved 18th-century rice plantation on the Ashley River and is also home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America.

Ticket prices are $28 for adults which includes admission to the National Historic Landmark as well as self-guided tours of the Gardens and Plantation Stableyards, a guided Garden Overview, “Meet the Breeds” and “Beyond The Fields” walking tours.

From experience, we recommend renting a car for the day you want to visit the Plantation. We took a cab to Middleton Place and it was very difficult to get one to come back out and pick us up. We had to wait awhile plus we spent more in cab fare than it would’ve cost to rent the car. Renting a vehicle for the day is easy at the Enterprise not too far up the street from the Visitors Center. You can head over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to explore Mt. Pleasant and fit in beach time if you rent your own wheels for the day!

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4. BOOK A COOKING CLASS

Our Taste of the Lowcountry lunch class at Charleston Cooks was a highlight to our time in Charleston. Neither of us is a gourmet chef but we had a lot of fun watching, learning and especially tasting the meal of shrimp and grits followed by banana cream pie. Tickets for this are $29 and can be booked online.

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5. STAY AT THE HARBOURVIEW INN

I will be honest the HarbourView Inn was not my first or even second choice for our lodging while in Charleston. We happened to have planned our girlfriend getaway on a very busy weekend and lots of places were already booked. My friend and I couldn’t have been happier with the HarbourView Inn, even though it was a little more costly than where we originally had planned to stay. It was worth it as our room was spacious and the beds were extremely comfy.

We started every morning off on this rooftop deck where our breakfast, which was included with our stay, was delivered to us. We also enjoyed the complimentary happy hour each afternoon as well. The location was perfect and we were able to walk to everything that we wanted to from here.

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6. SHOP and EAT ‘TIL YOU DROP

OK, so maybe eating and shopping should be number one on the list because it is a big reason why we came here to Charleston. King Street, in historic downtown, has been named one of the 10 Best Shopping Streets in the Country and I have to agree. There are so many unique boutiques as well as some of the mainstream favorites to enjoy. If you need a sugary pick me up, stop in Glazed Gourmet donuts on north King. I had the most amazing Salted Carmel Apple donut here and I’m still dreaming about it!

What do you recommend to do when visiting charming Charleston?

You have so much potential.

A more accomplished blogger, journalist and author said this exact statement to me during our meeting at Mom 2.0 Summit this past week. We talked of my past and where I want to go now with my writing. We talked of working with brands and me becoming a speaker. I was ready to take on the world when I walked out of that conference room.

A 40-something Mom still has potential? 

I positively knew the sky was the limit when I was 19 and it was easy to act on that then. I went for jobs over my head, got them and succeeded in the positions. Recognizing what you are capable of and going for it is much easier when you’re living life just for you. Then one day you become a Mother and you start to question all that you are and who you should be living for.

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The beginning of my writing career at the Southside Challenger back in the day!

How come we don’t encourage our fellow moms with the powerful phrase- you have so much potential? My new friend and her statement really stood out to me. It was different. She was authentic and empowered me. She gave voice to what I feel inside.

Because you know what happens when you become a Mother…. 

Your potential now becomes their potential, if you let it. 

Being a Mom has never really defined me. I guess it did for those years when I had four in diapers and gates on every room in my house. I had little choice but to dive in and solely focus on my little offspring. Need I say that I love being a Mother more than anything? (Us Moms always gotta clarify that, whenever we voice that our sole existence isn’t Motherhood, right?) I’m just saying I’m not the Mom who puts stickers of my kids accolades on my car or gets all worked up at their sporting events every Saturday. (Did I mention that I love them more than life itself? Just making sure you got that.)

I hope that my kids are succeeding in school and at their activities because it makes them feel good, not because it gives my life meaning.

It’s so easy to talk about how much potential our kids have, isn’t it? They are young and have the whole world ahead of them. The world is their oyster and boy do we want to see them be their best. But what happens to our belief in that same potential for ourselves once we become mothers?

In the process of getting caught up in our kids potential, we fail to recognize our own. 

A lot of times we are just too busy and it’s just easier to let our family members do their thing, while we take care of all the daily maintenance behind the scenes. Walking around with the ability to do something fulfilling, feeling it inside, but not investing the time to make it happen is a disservice to everyone. It’s tough to sometimes know exactly what we’re meant to be doing. It can feel overwhelming as we’re pulled in all directions. But, we have been put on this earth to use our God given talents and to do something with our one precious life. Because I know that you have the potential to do anything your heart desires.

Watch out world. I may be a woman past my prime but I have potential and who can stop a woman with that?

 

 

Dear Teacher of my Beloved Middle School Student,

I understand that it’s that time of year that I have been asked to send in daily treats of Monday’s flower, Tuesday’s favorite snack, Wednesday’s gift card, Thursday’s school supply and Friday’s personal note all in the name of National Teacher Appreciation Week. I thought that in middle school perhaps I would be free of this daunting schedule, put out lovingly by our APT, but obviously that is not the case. The problem is, I’m in the business of picking parental battles and asking my almost 14 year old son to carry a flower for you on to the bus, isn’t one I’m willing to fight for. Please don’t take this personal.

Unlike the elementary school days, you and I don’t know one another. We wouldn’t even recognize each other if we passed in the grocery store. Now that I’m no longer needed in the classroom, our relationship is pretty non-existent.

But I do want you to know that you are appreciated every day.

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I am grateful that you have found it in your heart to come to this wonderful school and teach our children. God Bless you for that. In celebration of this special week for you as a teacher, I wanted to share with you how I try to honor you in our home each and every day.

  • I teach your student about personal responsibility and doing his best, in the hopes that he can come to school prepared and make your job perhaps a little bit easier. We talk about kindness and compassion and the importance of treating you and his classmates with respect.
  • I expect him to comb his hair, put on clean clothes, get all the leftover breakfast out of his braces and remember the deodorant, all to help make your classroom a little more pleasant. If you happen to have him after PE, I apologize and can’t be held responsible for that.
  • When he complains that the school work is boring or that you weren’t at your best that day, I stand up for you. I tell him that you have the toughest job on the planet, for very little pay, and that I could not imagine ever having to do what you do. That’s right, I’ve got your back. You never have to worry about that.
  • We have not given our child a cell phone so that you may have his full attention. With Clash of Clans beeping in the backpack, you may stand no chance otherwise.
  • I don’t hold a position on the APT because I frankly don’t want to. But, I do volunteer my time and work hard to help our school earn money because I know it is important for you to have technology, aides and supplies in order to do your best.
  • I thank you for allowing my darling to grow and learn under your daily care and for reaching out to me when I need to know that he has crossed the line. Your understanding that this is the time we want him learning from his mistakes is appreciated. When my child pleads his case on why you may have it all wrong, I explain to him that perception is reality. You win.
  • I believe in you and will not question what you do or why you are doing it the way you are. And I assume that you feel the same for me as a parent. We are both doing our best.

Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week! It certainly takes a village and I’m so lucky to have you as a part of ours. Oh and your gift card is on it’s way…..

Sincerely,

Mom of your Beloved Middle School Student

 

Looking for an inexpensive outdoor family activity? 

Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt that gets the kids outside discovering new places. As a believer in the importance of family playtime, Geocaching is a perfect excuse to have a little fun competition together.

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What is Geocaching? 

It is simply a fun, contemporary take on treasure hunting. Geocaching is the perfect solution for those in search of a family-friendly hobby that’s high on both fun and outdoor activity.

Basically you just search online by location to find hidden containers, called caches, and then share your experiences online. People of all ages are enjoying geocaching all over the world! It sounds easier than it is, but I have to say my kids are much better at finding these than I am!

What do I need to begin Geocaching?

Geocaching is a great activity to get us all outdoors but the kids will also enjoy it because it does take a little technology! Instead of using a treasure map, you will need to have an IPhone or other GPS capable device to locate your treasure. Geocaching is free to begin, but if you enjoy it you will want to purchase the almost $10 App.

Log onto geocaching.com for free access to nearly 2 million cache coordinates. Geocache sites range from easy to challenging, and list their level of difficulty.  If it’s your first time out on the hunt, go after caches that have been logged most recently to ensure that there is actually something still there to find.

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What does this word “cache” mean?

Caches are various containers of all shapes and sizes that usually contain a log to sign and possibly a little treasure. Remember to stash your pockets with trivial trinkets of your own if you plan to take anything as a souvenir. Geocaching etiquette dictates that you leave something behind if you take anything out of the cache! I bought a lot of personalized pencils and sticky hands from Oriental Trading to have on hand at all times. Once you’re done with the geocache, remember to return it exactly where you found it.

Remember the goal, and treasure, of geocaching is the fun of the hunt – not the acquisition of the cache contents.

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What is a Travel bug or Trackable?

Travel bugs are different than trade items. Sometimes called “hitchhikers,” these are often intended to travel the world. They are fine to take as long as you promise to put it in another geocache. Be sure to log the travel bug number online so its owner can trace its travels.

Trackables are always an exciting find! It’s fun to log them and see where all they have been before they reached you. Before heading out on our big adventure around the USA I had some family trackables made with our family photo on them. I had these made by Darick who was fantastic to work with and he has a really fun Geocaching website as well! He’s got free printable logs and lots of other neat things for you, so check it out.

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Are you a Geocaching family? Perhaps you will be now…. Happy treasure hunting!