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Cheap Family “Adjacent” Vacation: Weekend Getaways Don’t Need to be Fancy

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It’s time to take a much needed break from this seemingly endless winter.  When I think about a vacation, I usually envision a sunny destination, beach, pool, a stack of new books to read and waitresses who bring me drinks.  While I might need/want that type of vacation, I think it bears reminding our kids don’t need a “fancy” vacation to have fun or be happy.   So if you can’t afford or don’t have time to go on that “fancy” vacation this year, there are other alternatives your kids will love!  I personally like the idea of a “staycation” and taking day sightseeing trips.  BUT, as the term implies, the staycation means staying at home.   For kids, staying at home ≠vacation.

So, let me tell you how you can plan an awesome weekend getaway that kids will love for under $100I’ll call it the Adjacent Vacation because you won’t go far away and your kids will have just as much fun as any fancy family vacation.  Remember, in order to qualify as a fun kids vacation, the following must occur:

1.  Packing of the Suitcase:  The ritual Packing of the Suitcase is a necessary component to any vacation.  They can start packing days in advance to prolong the excitement.  Parenting Advice #1:  Pick your battles and just pretend you don’t see the massive quantities of useless items included in your kids suitcase (because your son may just want to play with that Star Wars action figure that he hasn’t played with for years).

2.  A Road Trip:  No one ever said you had to drive far for a vacation but I would suggest that you drive at least 45 minutes so it feels like you are going to a “destination.”  Play car trip games like I Spy and spotting “landmarks” (it doesn’t have to be famous to be a landmark, it can be a church, a train station, even a funny looking sign), just point things out to make your kids feel like they are going somewhere.

3.  Hotel Stay with a Pool: Sleeping in a hotel WITH A POOL qualifies as a vacation in any kid’s eyes.  As parents we might be a tad bit jaded and “over” the hotel with a pool but you’re kids aren’t…far from it.  Bonus points if you can score a hotel with a game room and hot tub for when you can’t stand the “heated” pool for another minute (heated means two different things to kids and adults).  Don’t forget the noodles, beach balls and  pool toys!!  And, I haven’t forgotten about the adults, make sure to bring along a new book to read, beverage cooler, and plastic cups for bringing your own drinks!

Search for hotels within a 50 miles radius of your house.  There are bound to be a few to choose from and make sure you check for promo codes on sites like RetailMeNot or Coupons to help you save even more.  I just booked a stay at La Quinta outside Providence, Rhode Island that advertised for $79 on Orbitz but got it down to $67 a night just by getting a promo code and booking directly at the hotel website!  Yes, that is $67 a night for a nice updated hotel room with pool and breakfast for four people! Are you starting to like the idea of my Adjacent Vacation?  

4.  Breakfast at the Hotel:  What kid doesn’t want to make their own waffle, pick from a myriad of sugar cereal choices, try every muffin, donut, and pastry.  Parenting Advice #2:  Let your kids go wild.  Breakfast at a hotel=food freedom.  If they want to mix apple, cranberry and orange juice together, let them.  If they want to try peanut butter and scrambled eggs together let them experiment!

5.  Snacks, Treats and Other Goodies:   For a kid, nothing beats a hotel fridge and counter stocked with their favorite treats!  They get to salivate over them all weekend long.  And who doesn’t love a mini fridge? Let the kids pick the treats beforehand and stock the fridge when you arrive. Adults that fridge isn’t just limited to kids beverages!

6.  Board Games, Cards Games and other Non-Electronic Games:  Last but not least, I get to the fundamental thing required for making a memorable family Adjacent Vacation.  What do kids want more than anything else….YOUR TIME AND ATTENTION! Figure out some fun family games to play together or use some of your budget for new board or card games.  Leave the electronics at home!

Let’s see how the Adjacent Vacation budget stacks up:

One night accommodation with breakfast:  $67

Pizza or Subs for dinner:  $20-25

Snacks, etc:  $8-15

TOTAL:  $95-107

So, what are you waiting for, get going!!


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When Your Kid’s Friend Drops the “F” Bomb in a Homemade Birthday Card

cussing-7Parenting conundrum of the week.  It was my son’s birthday party last week.  He just turned 9 and we went to see the Lego Movie which, by the way, was completely awesome and a must see for kids and parents alike.  LOVED IT.  All of the kids gave him homemade birthday cards that were, for the most part, so precious.  The themes of the cards were all the things my son loves–Legos, Minecraft, video games.  

BUT one kid who I will give an “A” to for effort for including a comic style birthday card complete with the talking bubbles.  He gets an “F” (literally and figuratively) for his use of profanity.  One of the comic characters tells the other “F*** You.”  My jaw dropped and I yanked the card out of my son’s hand, hoping he hadn’t seen it.  Though, I’m pretty sure he saw it because he reads as fast as I do.  Which now leads to the conundrums:

1. Do I talk to my son about it ?  Meaning do I draw attention to it because I certainly don’t want him getting any ideas despite my good intentions.  I don’t know about the rest of you but sometimes my “heart to hearts” backfire on me by putting ideas into my son’s head that weren’t there before.

2.  Do I say something to the other mom?  I don’t want to come across as judgmental and I know she will be MORTIFIED.

What to do, what to do?

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Top 15 Children’s Books You Will WANT to Read to Your Kids Again and Again

Family reading.

Children’s books (especially baby books) we love em, we hate em.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration, we don’t really hate them, we just hate them if they’re boring to read.  We’ve all been there as parents.  The bedtime ritual, already brutal when you account for the whole teeth brushing requirement, gets even more tortuous when your little cherub wants you to read the same boring book night after night.  Shoot me now, the little voice in your head says.  Or, maybe you do rock, paper, scissors with your better half or make promises you know you won’t keep to get out of reading that book.

If push comes to shove, you dial it in, a monotone voice replaces the funny voices you managed when the book was still fresh, your mind on that episode of the Bachelorette or Walking Dead the DVR is recording.

I’ve wanted to do a blog post about great read-aloud kids books that adults will love too for awhile now.  The problem is narrowing it down.  I’m sure I forgot some gems (and that’s where the comment section is awesome for people to chime right in) or included some that you think don’t belong on this list.  Reading is like eating, you like what you like and no one can convince me that lima beans taste good (unless that person also likes to eat chalk then they’ve got bigger problems).

Without further adieu, here is my bulletproof list of bedtime books that is guaranteed* (standard exclusions apply) to NOT put you to sleep and will engage you night, after night, after night, after night…..forever, and ever Amen.  Sorry, got carried away there.      

Baby/Toddler Board Books  In this category engaging books are hard to find but I think these two are gems.

big red barn1.      Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown  My all time favorite bedtime book.  I could still read it to my kids if they’d let me.  The illustrations are so captivating as is the story about life for the animals on a farm and how they go to sleep at night.  Truly a special book.




2.     The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton A great book about bedtime routines.  If you do all the actions like brushing your teeth, exercise and rock to sleep it makes it fun and engaging for both you and your child.


Toddler Picture Books

246883.     Cars, Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry  You may be thinking we have plenty of Richard Scarry books at home we don’t need another one.  Let’s me explain something.  This is the ONLY Richard Scarry book you need (I’m not kidding!).  It’s that good!  The best part is finding “Goldbug” a little gold bug hidden on every page.  The adults will love looking at the hundreds of details that are packed into each and every page.  It will take MONTHS before you exhaust this book.


 knuffle bunny4.     Knuffle Bunny (and to a lesser extent Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free) by Mo Williams  Who doesn’t love a story about a child and their beloved stuffed animal.  After a trip to the laundromat, Knuffle Bunny gets left behind but Trixie can’t talk yet so she does all kinds of things (my favorite being “She went boneless”) to try to get her daddy to understand.


1911135.     Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus also by Mo Williams  A raucous read that will have your kids screaming (maybe not such a good thing but I still maintain that it’s better than boring any day!) “NO” as the pigeon begs to drive the bus.



7121006.     Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car by Eileen Christelow  There is a cadence to this book and once you find it, you will LOVE reading it to your kids.  Play around with it, you know you can do a great crocodile voice.



Best Books for Girls  (please pretty please with sugar on top don’t go all p.c. on me for calling something a “girl” or “boy” book.  I’ve found, in my humble opinion, that the following appeal more to my daughter than my son, enough said)


7.     Ladybug Girl by David Soman (also Ladybug Girl at the Beach and Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, I can’t really pick my favorite, I love them all for different reasons)  Lulu has her fears and insecurities but when she becomes LADYBUG GIRL she can do anything.  I love this empowering tale for girls about overcoming your fears.


4266268.     Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O’Connor (a close second would be Fabulous Fashion Boutique)  We are a Fancy Nancy family but this one is by far my favorite.  Nancy thinks she wants one kind of dog but discover that maybe the “fanciest” dog is not right for her family.  This is Nancy at her very best!


Best Books for Boys  (see above)

8390779.     Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury  This hilarious book where the pig is the bad guy will have your little boy grinning, especially when the TNT  comes out to blow up the wolves fortress.


Or on the same theme…

125507The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith  Hilarious story from the wolves’ point of view.




99937610.  Fix it Duck by Jez Alborough  All of the “Duck” books are great but this one has to be my favorite.  A great rhyming book that is so fun to read.  There’s a leak in the roof (or so Duck thinks) and he’s going to fix it.  But nothing good can come from Duck trying to fix things.  It’s a great read again and again.


Great Books for Big and Little Alike (ages 4+)

 14532511.  Take Me Out of the Bathtub (and other silly dilly songs) by Alan Katz (the follow up book I’m Still Here in the Bathtub is equally good if not a little better!)  Time to get silly.   This book takes your favorite songs like Take Me Out to the Ballgame  or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and sets silly songs to those tunes.  Your kids won’t care if your singing voice isn’t quite up to par.


29143012.  Magic Hat by Mem Fox (Sleepy Bears is a close second for me): This author has written so many great books and it’s hard to choose just one but this one stands out from the rest.  A magic hat floats through town and makes magic wherever it lands.  The illustrations are engaging and the story will captivate both adult and child.


7413013.  Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Book by Lauren Child  I’m not a fan of the Charlie and Lola books (sorry!) but this one is a gem!  When Herb falls asleep on a book of fairy tales he finds himself trapped.  As soon as he finds himself out of one story, he gets trapped in the next.



105115314.  Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman A listen to the audio reading of this book is almost a must to get the voices just right of the witch, mummy, ghost, vampire, and bat but I have faith that you will nail them without the help.  Once you do, you will love reading this book over and over no matter what the time of year.



40742915.  The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka (I love this author and luckily he’s prolific and writes for many age levels.  My 9 year old loves the Time Warp Trio series right now). As I wrap up this list, I see some themes running through it, humor and a heavy emphasis on fairy tales and when the two combine as this author does so well,it’s pure magic.



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