Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Practical Moms Unite

Nashville: A Surprisingly Family Friendly Vacation Spot

Contributed post

Straddling the Cumberland River in North Tennessee, Nashville has rightly earned its reputation as a thriving musical hub. The very name is synonymous with country music, gaudy neon, whiskey and downtown’s infamous status as one of the country’s premier party spots. It may not be the first place your subconscious mind would rush to when it comes to an ideal spot for a family vacation. But if you look beyond the shot swilling, guitar strumming Nashvillian stereotypes , you’ll find a whole lot to recommend as one of America’s most family friendly locations.

Image by Pixabay

Nashville has a surprising array of family friendly, fun and educational attractions that are ideally suited to moms, dads and kids of all ages. Here are just a few of the family friendly activities with which you can fill your Nashville Days:

Free Puppet Shows at the Nashville Public Library

If you have young children and a limited budget, then here’s a fun activity that’s completely free. Nashville Public Library is not only the perfect place for imaginative kids to lose themselves in the magical world of books, they also host a range of fun and imaginative puppet shows based on popular kids’ stories that are perfect for kids of all ages.

Experience the Musical “Petting Zoo” at The Country Music Hall of Fame

Whether they’re a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll or a little bit hip hop, musically gifted kids can literally get a feel for the music biz by trying out a huge range of new and familiar musical instruments. Aside from its ubiquitous Johnny Cash Museum, The Country Music Hall of Fame offers a fun and interactive experience for the whole family, giving everyone a chance to play instruments, sing, be a DJ or record their own track (a great memento).   

Learn and Have Fun at the Adventure Science Center

Kids learn best when they’re having fun, and there are few places more educational and fun than Musc City’s own Adventure Science Center. Hosting a wide range of year round exhibits that offer a fun and interactive experience for kids of all ages, the center features its popular Little Labs program in which children aged 3-5 can participate in age-appropriate lab activities, experiments and crafts. Kids with their heads in the stars can get to be an astronaut for the day by exploring the outer reaches of the universe in the Space Chase. They can even feel what it’s like to walk on the surface of the moon by taking the Star Walk, followed by a spectacular laser show at the Sudekum Planetarium!

Long Family Walks at the Cheekwood Botanical Garden

What better way to start the day or walk off a delicious meal than strolling the gorgeous grounds of the Cheekwood Botanical Garden? This 55- acre park has a spectacular range of trees and plants as well as hosting an award winning jungle gym.

When it comes to fun activities that the whole family can enjoy, you’ll be surprised at the quality and diversity of Music City’s family friendly attractions.

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Practical Moms Unite: Picking Your Parenting Battles (Guest Post)

I love this post about focusing on what is important to you and your kids when choosing your battles by my writing friend Jennifer DiCamillo. Jennifer is the author of 37 books and has won well over 200 writing awards. She is a mother of five and grandmother to 8. She lives and writes in a haunted hollow in the Missouri Ozarks. Her pets include a 4 lb Yorkie named Pixie and a blue eyed paint stallion named W.C..

Picking Your Parenting Battles by Jennifer DiCamillo

I am a mother of five. I grew up in the seventies when Daisy Duke shorts were in. However, for my four daughters, I preferred to keep their butt cheeks covered. That was my first rule. But my girls are really long legged, so I had to draw another line. Shorts must be at least three inches long from the center seam. At least, that insured covering of the buttocks and other private areas. But then I decided fingertip length was better. You see, as a parent, you have to be flexible. If something doesn’t work, try again, make a new rule.

Then came the prom dress dilemma. I’m frustrated by the strapless and spaghetti strapped formals offered, as if sleeves were not used on modern clothing at all. I fought this battle, made a dress from scratch that was perfectly modest; and when prom pictures came back, my daughter was the only one who didn’t have a dress to match EVERY OTHER GIRL IN HER CLASS. My daughter forgave me, but I haven’t forgiven myself. I stood strong on the basis of modesty, and the fear of her losing her virginity on prom night. When in reality, both issues were character issues, not reliant on the straps or lack of sleeves on a dress. So, I actually lost the battle that I won at the time. I’ve cried repeatedly over what I think was a big mistake.

In a similar issue, I inspected my kids before church, sent them out to the car, climbed in, and half way to the church one day, I looked in my rearview mirror to see one of my daughters, after inspection, had added a poofy ponytail on the center top of her head, and let her sister draw (with an ink pen) a rather stylish headband across her forehead. Complete with an impressive starburst in the center. I was livid. I ranted about respecting God and self and embarrassing your family on top of all else.

It so happened that my daughter had to speak in front of the congregation that day…on judging other people. Or rather, not judging. I learned that she’d been a victim of a very churchy woman who didn’t like the length of her dresses, or how she dressed, period. After she spoke, eloquently on the subject I must add, many women approached me, said they loved the example my daughters all set. I complained about the headband and ponytail, to hear woman after woman say, “If that’s the worst rebellion you have to contend with, thank God.”

So, I’m here to tell you, don’t let a hairdo, or even a funky headband be your undoing. Don’t let a dress become a mortal war between you and your daughter. Relationships are fragile and need nurtured. Pick your battles, give in a little, and maybe you’ll win the war and still be friends with your daughter(s) when it’s all said and done.

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Extreme Travel Gadgets to Improve Your Travel (Guest Post)

Perhaps you saw my post last month: “Practical Moms Unite: Traveling With Your Child” , which provided tips for traveling with a child that did not require breaking the bank or stressing yourself out AND did provide fun for EVERYONE.

Recently, I was contacted by a writer who provided me with the infographic below and I think some of these are pretty practical if you travel a lot with or without children. So, here’s a short, fun guest post courtesy of De Vere.

Extreme Travel Gadgets to Improve Your Travel  (guest post)

The rise of travel gadgets over the past decade has meant that whatever your reason for traveling, some tasks, such as staying in touch with people and recording your journey, should be much simpler than ever before.

But when you’re planning your next trip and wondering what gadgets are worth including, the sheer amount of gadgets available on the market can make it an overwhelming task. Luckily, we trawled through hundreds of potential gadgets to select just a few that we think are worth considering.

We focused on gadgets that should help across your whole trip, from your journey to your actual stay. Check out this great infographic put together by De Vere to discover some great travel gadgets you might not have seen before:

 

 

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Practical Moms Unite: Traveling with Your Child

So the 6-year-old and I went on a trip during spring break, and I’m just now posting about it. No, it’s not because I need to recover–it actually went quite well. But I thought now would be a good time to talk about some practical tips for traveling with your child or children with summer break just around the corner.

First, don’t go to Disneyworld. HA! Just kidding. My friend Camille is planning a huge family trip for her 2 kids and hubby this summer. Did you know you can get someone to help you plan your Disneyworld trip? I don’t mean a travel agent–I mean another mom who likes to figure out where you should eat dinner and what parks you should go to and when! Now, this is practical. If you want more information about this, send me an email, and I’ll put you in contact with Camille. (margolynndill@gmail (dot) com)

KT at Legoland

Anywho, here are my actual practical tips for traveling with a 6-year-old:

  • Don’t overbook your days: If you do, both you and your child will be exhausted and not have fun. In my opinion (since you are reading my blog, you’re gonna hear my opinion), you need one big thing on the trip (like an amusement park) and the rest smaller activities that don’t have a set schedule. Here’s what our itinerary looked like:

Leave St. Louis at 4pm on a Monday night. Drive 2 hours to Columbia, MO. Eat dinner that I packed in the car.

Go to the first hotel  and go swimming that night. (Because this is what kids actually care about –hotels and pools)

On Tuesday, eat breakfast and go swimming. Check out of hotel and drive to Kansas City (2 hours). GO to next hotel and take showers there after check-in. Walk around the Plaza in Kansas City since it is a beautiful day and eat dinner somewhere.  (We didn’t have a specific time we had to be anywhere, so no rushing.) 

On Wednesday, OUR ONE BIG DAY–eat breakfast and go to Legoland. Make the reservation around 10:30 am, so we don’t have to get up early and rush. Eat dinner in the hotel room with food brought from home. Go swimming that night at the hotel pool.

We sat outside here at Crown Center for a while. (photo by Mark Goebel Flickr.com)

On Thursday, eat breakfast, check out of the hotel, and go to Crown Center and Hallmark’s Kaldeioscope, which is free! Eat lunch and drive home. 

  • You need a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave when traveling with kids. You should also look for hotels that have free breakfasts and indoor swimming pools, so your child can swim regardless of the weather. After a long day at Legoland, being able to eat the food I brought from home and relax in the hotel room, as well as that night just go swimming for an hour, made both of us happy and not so tired or cranky!
  • Schedule activities as much as you can in advance and look for online coupons and deals. We got an amazing deal for Legoland because I had a buy one adult, get one child free Legoland coupon from McDonald’s. We saved $18 on Katie’s admission. We also would’t have been able to get into a session of Kaldeioscope if I hadn’t checked out online first how it all worked. Many children’s activities and events have special deals for people who buy their tickets online in advance. If you are military, you probably already know that you can get all sorts of deals on kids’ admissions to museums and other fun stuff. Check out the Blue Star Family website here.

Remember to ask yourself: What is your big goal (s) for this trip? These were mine:

  1. Take Katie some place for spring break, where she and I can spend quality time together and BOTH have fun.
  2. Don’t exhaust us.
  3. Don’t break the bank.

 

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Practical Moms Unite!

Here it is. My new series on the blog–Practical Moms Unite.

Every time you see this symbol, you will know that a Practical Moms Unite post is coming! 🙂

So what is a practical mom (parent, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc, etc)? I’m focusing on practical moms because that is what I know best. But this does not mean I am excluding any of these other most-important roles. Anyway…

The definition of a Practical Parent is:

An adult who cares for a child/teen 17 or younger and who also keeps the big goal in mind. It is a person who tries NOT to allow little, unimportant, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses details get in the way of everyday living. It is remembering what being a parent should mean AND remembering who YOU are as a person (and that is not just a parent).

Let’s break it down a little!

  • What is the big goal? I would guess we all have specific different goals for ourselves and our children. But most of them probably fall somewhere in the range of: We want our children to grow up to be productive members of society as well as being kind, loving and successful people.  For example: if this is the goal, is it really that crucial to get those Troll cupcakes for the 3-year-old birthday party if you can’t afford them?
  • What are little, unimportant, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses details? Anything that causes you great anxiety that does not fall in line with the goal. These are a lot of the unnecessary pressures we put on ourselves as parents, like instead of bringing a bag of cuties and cheese sticks when it’s your turn for the soccer game snack, you spend hours on Pinterest to find a cute idea for soccer snacks and stay up til midnight making them.
  • What should being a parent mean? Again, we all have different definitions, but my guess is most of you will agree that being a parent means loving your child with your whole heart, providing boundaries for them to learn and be successful in, and fulfilling their basic survival needs. Maybe that sounds too simple. There are thousands of children that don’t get those things, so it’s not that simple.
  • What does it mean remembering who you are as a person? This is the problem with social media. We compare ourselves to what everyone else is doing. When you look at your friend list, you can pick out the baker, the crafty one, the smart mom, the athletic one–this might be you, but it might not. SO then why do you expect to parent like all these friends? How many of us have seen a photo of someone doing something on Facebook or Instagram and thought: I should be doing that with my child. But should you? Do you like to bake? If yes, great, then make a birthday cake with your child. If not, then buy it at Walmart. You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be a good parent.

I don’t want to alienate anyone who loves to make crafts or throw themed-parties. If you LOVE that, if you get ENERGY from it, then my point is you should do it. But if you don’t, as a practical parent, don’t beat yourself up over it. Your child doesn’t have to have that to reach the big goal. 

So that’s a little take on Practical Moms Unite.

What’s your big goal as a parent or grandparent?

What do you like to do with your child? or for your child?

 

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Winners, Andrew McCarthy in St. Louis and Practical Moms Unite Update

Book Giveaway Contest Results

Thank you to everyone who entered the book giveaway contest for Claire Gem’s books. I have 3 winners, whom I am in the process of contacting:

  • Chynna Laird
  • Brenda McCommis
  • Jeanne Felfe

(contest graphic above by Angela Mackintosh from WOW! Women On Writing, a great resource for writers here. )

Andrew McCarthy in St. Louis at the Library

I saw ANDREW MCCARTHY (yes, 80’s heartthrob from Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire) at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters last night, and it was amazing! This is not because he was so charming and I have loved him since the 80’s. But it’s because he was inspiring as an author. Here’s the beginning of my blog post I wrote about him on WOW!: “I Heard Andrew McCarthy Speak at My Local Library” True story. (Doesn’t my blog title sound like one of those titles from a “true story” magazine?) I live in St. Louis, and last night–actor, director, travel writer!, and now YA novelist Andrew McCarthy gave an inspiring talk about being creative. Once I got over the fact that I was in the same room with this man I loved on the silver screen since 1986 as Blaine in Pretty in Pink, who starred in my favorite comedy Weekend at Bernie’s and my favorite guilty pleasure, St. Elmo’s Fire, I listened to what the man had to say, and I was pleasantly surprised.

As writers, we know that we sometimes look at celebrity writers with disdain. It’s true because we know what it takes to slave over a manuscript and try to get an agent and then hope for some kind of book sales if we are lucky enough to get published. Then there’s this celebrity, who already has all the connections, and probably on some whim decided to write a book, and now is living our dream. Writers can be a spiteful bunch. (winks)

But guys, Andrew McCarthy is the real thing! To find out how he is the real thing and the inspiring things he said, go here. 

Practical Moms Unite

I know you are all anxiously waiting for practical mom blog posts, so you can be a practical parent, too. No worries. They are coming–and I am currently working on two of them. If you haven’t signed up to have posts emailed to you when they go up, you should do so RIGHT NOW. 🙂 Look at the sidebar, scroll up just a bit, and fill out the very simple form titled, “Want new blog posts emailed to you?” to make this happen.

 

 

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Put the Parenting Magazines Down and Step Away Carefully

One day, my friend Julie said, “Have you seen the latest issue of (Insert some wonderful parenting magazine here) and their suggestions for back-to-school lunches?”

The funny thing is I had seen that article–I think it must have been a free issue sent to many houses, and I remember thinking: Do people really make these types of entrees for their child’s school lunch? Coconut and raisin pita roll up?  Almond butter and banana sandwich on 12-grain bread? Homemade minestrone soup? And do children eat these dishes? Where have I gone wrong?

Julie brought me back to reality. “My children basically eat cheese and crackers. Or their potato chips.”

Yes, now you are speaking my language.

I’m not sure who writes parenting magazine articles. Their bios state they are a parent of 12 or triplets, or they have adopted children from several different countries around the world, but I’m not sure if I believe them. Or maybe their bios are the only true part of the entire page, because really, who lives their lives like the parents in parenting magazines?

Let’s take a couple of headlines for example:

25 Ways to Make the Holidays Special 

First, no headline of any parenting magazine should ever have more than 5 tips for anything, and even 5 is semi-overwhelming. Do you really need to read a magazine article about how to make the holidays special? Aren’t they special all on their own? Isn’t it magical as a kid to think of the big guy in a red suit coming down the chimney, eating your homemade chocolate chip cookies and drinking your milk, and leaving you presents that you asked for? It’s also special that your entire family gets together and eats a meal, and maybe even plays a game instead of watching Netflix. Driving around and looking at Christmas lights or watching a Christmas movie snuggled under a blanket is special! Trust me. You don’t need a magazine article to tell you how to make this magical time of the year magical. You can figure this out all on  your own with the same things your mom did for you BEFORE there were articles like this at your fingertips or pinned to your Pinterest board.

Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

Please don’t read an article like this. If you are clicking on this article to see if your child is getting enough sleep, then the answer is probably that your child is not getting enough sleep. Enough said.

How to Play with Your Child

I am all for articles that might introduce new games or even craft ideas (if they are easy) for you and your child. But do you really need an article that tells you HOW to play with your child at an age-appropriate level? No, you really don’t. It will just stress you out. You will be ridden with anxiety after reading this article and wonder constantly if you are playing with your child correctly and stimulating him or her enough to become smart enough to get into the best preschool. And don’t worry, there are articles galore (10 Ways to Tell if Your Preschool is On the Cutting Edge) to help you stress out about this, too.

SO what should you read?

I really feel like Mommy blogs, such as The Tribe Magazine  or Scary Mommy , are much more realistic and helpful. Some of you may be shaking your head. But just like Pinterest and sometimes the Facebook fantasy world we all portray are too much for me, I can’t believe that people live their everyday lives like these writers for parenting magazines portray. I can’t believe that people need articles telling them 12 ways to diaper their child or 13 toys that help your baby reach super intelligence.

So please, do yourself a favor (and the rest of us, too). Step slowly away from the parenting magazines and love your child because you are the only one who knows how to do that the best.

 

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3 Ways to Make Your Life Easier as a Parent

We all know life as a parent (single or not) is NOT easy. If you think it is and you are doing a good job, then you should write a book or bottle your mojo because you’ll make a fortune. For the rest of us, and I know I’m not alone, despite what Facebook says, I have thought of 3 very simple ways to make your life easier as a parent.

1. Buy inexpensive trash cans.

I’m serious about this. Let me tell you why. Your bathroom or office trash can will at one point have child puke in it. Do you really want to clean that out? No, no one does. But if you only paid $1 or $2 for this trash can, you can just throw it away, and get another one from your stash in the basement. Because when you were buying your cheap trash can, you were smart enough to buy $10.00 worth, at least. This probably depends on how many kids or pets you have, but $10.00 on cheap trash cans (which means you should have at least 3 in storage and 1 in use) is a safe bet. If you’re wondering: how expensive can a trash can be? You should never wonder things like this in a world where we have celebrities who buy clothes for their babies who spit up and poop everywhere at high-end children’s boutiques. But I did a little online research, and the most expensive trash can I found with a quick search was a Harmony 737 Luxury Waste Basket made in Germany for $1,148. You, of course, would not even allow trash to be thrown in it, let alone your darling’s puke. Trust me, go get yourself a cheapo bathroom can, and make your life easier.

2. Don’t believe anything you read on social media, especially Pinterest.

Pinterest was created by Mrs. Satan. You are lured into her trap if you think it’s one of the best sites ever with all kinds of great ideas. Let me ask you this: before Pinterest, did you care if your child’s Toy Story birthday party had only the snacks with a Woody or Buzz theme? Of course not–sure the creative and talented among us might have made a Toy Story cake ourselves and maybe created some clever decorations or a space game, but that’s it. Nowadays, if your cake, child’s outfit, paperware, decorations, games, snacks, dog’s collar, mailbox, car, bathroom, and anything else DO NOT have a relation to the theme, you are slacking–you should have looked harder on Pinterest. I’m telling you TODAY, I am protesting against Pinterest. I’m sure it is a great site (I don’t want to get sued), but every time I’ve been on there, it makes me feel inferior and like I’m not doing enough for my child. Let me tell you, I love my child. I read with her. I cook her food. I don’t even make her clean the toilets–yet. So I don’t think I need Pinterest or anyone’s Facebook post to make me feel like I’m not doing enough. Stay off. Try it-even for a day, and see how free you feel.

3. Have low expectations

This is my favorite. As parents, we get all these ideas in our head about how an outing or a party or a playdate or a holiday is going to go and what a wonderful childhood memory we are going to create for our child, but then, something happens. For example, your child is 2 years old. I don’t have to say anything else. Or your dog ate something in the yard he shouldn’t. (Again, I don’t have to go into detail.) Or your electricity went out or your mom got sick or the 100,000 other things that can happen to take that perfect image you had of the day and wash it down the drain. Here’s what I do. Let’s take Christmas for example: what is important about Christmas? We are all together, Santa Claus brings some presents, and we don’t starve. Really, this is what’s important. Now, if we make it to the Christmas Eve service with my mom and a party afterwards–fantastic! If we open all the presents and there were no tears because something wasn’t the right color–super! If we eat turkey and stuffing that is cooked correctly–even better. But those are just bonuses. With low expectations, anything that happens above and beyond makes the holiday (outing, birthday, event) great, and you will probably be more relaxed and have fun, too. (Gasp! Can you imagine?)

I’d love to know if you have a tip for us. 🙂 Just put it in the comments below.

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