Earning Our Way to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach

Earning Our Way to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach

If you know me, then you know I am a big proponent of fun. I want to go everywhere and do everything. I’m always looking for the next adventure even when I’m already in the middle of the fun. It’s hard for me to really tone it down but ultimately I don’t want my child thinking he can just wish for something and it happens. I want him to understand that we must work for the things that we want. They just don’t magically happen.

Last year my son really wanted to go to Legoland. We already had Disneyland passes so I felt it was hard to justify taking him to Legoland “just because”. Instead, I made a plan. I told him that for every good choice he made he could put a mini lego in a mason jar. For every poor choice he made we had to take a mini lego out. Once the mason jar was filled up, he earned his trip to Legoland! It was such a satisfying experience for him. Especially it being something tangible and visual rather than just words floating around of “keep working on earning your trip to Legoland.” And honestly, it truly made the day at Legoland THAT much more enjoyable because he worked so hard for it.

I haven’t done anything since then because Summer came and behavior wasn’t such an issue as before. But now we’re halfway through the school year and truthfully my son has great days at school and some not so great ones. He came from a little tiny preschool where everybody wanted to be his friend. Now he’s at a school with so many kids that somehow already knew each other and it’s been a bit of a struggle for him.

His class has a system in place with a colored chart that reflects their behavior throughout the day. At the end of the day his teacher hands out “golden tickets” for those that earned them, and for every 15 they get to go to the treasure box. I have been trying to encourage making smart choices and being kind to everyone but of course my son isn’t perfect so some days he doesn’t receive one.

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I’ve decided to incorporate a similar plan to what I had last year but instead of a jar with legos I made a chart. I know similar charts can be found at Target or most any store, but I wanted to make ours unique to our goal.

Braden knows that  school is his job, so I have made the “golden tickets” his currency. Once he has received 25 “golden tickets” he can “buy” his ticket to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. I LOVE the idea of having a visual that he can look at on his wall every day  for every ticket earned he can add a sticker to a square (there are 25 squares). Once he has filled in all of the squares – he will be on his way! Having something tangible he can add to it so he knows where he is on his journey to the aquarium is so helpful. Also this way we are focused more on the positive behavior rather than the negative. Which is where my energy needs to be focused as a parent in this season of our lives.

I’m attaching pictures below of what our chart looks like. It was super easy to create and not to mention a great project to work on together.

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Do you have any reward charts in your help? What has helped positive behavior in your house? Would love to hear in the comments!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Are you ready for 2019?! Well, ready or not here it comes! As you’ve noticed, I took some time out of blogging during this last quarter of the year. Between B starting Kindergarten (and homework!), my new job, teaching more and trying to be more present, it was a struggle to find the balance with it all. Writing and sharing my experiences was so heavy on my heart – especially during the holidays. I had so many things I wanted to share with you! But truthfully, I was having a hard time adjusting to our new normal and could never find the time to sit down and write.

That’s the thing with writing (or really anything), time is not going to find you. You have to seek it out. You have to make the time. As hard as it may be, you are the only who has that power.

Can you guess what my resolution is this year? YEP! MAKE TIME. I have unwritten screenplays, pieces of choreography in my head, unfinished films, unedited photographs, half-written blogs, that ALL need to put to use. I’ve promised myself that I will do one piece of something every day. So here is my start to the New Year with this simple post as my re-entry in the blog-o-sphere.

Where will 2019 take you?

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Apple Picking in Oak Glen

“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” -Mark Twain

When I was a child, every year my family and I would go apple picking in Julian, CA. I loved it. We’d wake up really early, gather our warmest clothes, load up the car and drive (what felt like hours) out to Julian. Some years it was hot, others it was cold, but it didn’t matter. We’d walk the orchards and scour the trees for the BEST apples to take home so we could make apple pie. Once we finished picking apples we’d spent the rest of the day enjoying the small town. Going in out of the historic little shops, eating lunch, maybe taking a horse-drawn carriage ride all nestled under the blankets, and of course eat some fresh baked apple pie.

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As I got older we stopped going, but I couldn’t wait until my son was old enough to start this tradition with. Except when the time came, I was torn…Julian or Oak Glen?!  I had never heard been to Oak Glen, much less heard of it! So, I did some research, asked a lot of questions and 2 years ago I drove my son and I out to Oak Glen to start our new Fall tradition.

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This was our third year going to Oak Glen and every time I go, I find something new to do there! Below you will find my tips & tricks for apple picking in Oak Glen:

Oak Glen vs. Julian

Truth be told, I haven’t been to Julian since I was a kid so I can’t really speak on what they have there now. But, from what I’ve read, Oak Glen has a lot more activities for kids. Besides apple picking there is; pony rides, corn mazes, u-apple cider press, hay rides, petting zoos, apple tastings, and lots of games!

The big number one factor for me is the drive. Driving to Oak Glen is SO easy. I personally have a fear of driving windy roads (due to being in a car accident in Laguna Canyon several years ago). When I learned that the drive to Oak Glen was mostly on the freeway, I was sold. I took my son to a camel dairy farm 3 years ago, and it was just 20 minutes south of Julian. I wasn’t even thinking of that terrifying drive until I was in it, and I just can’t ever do that again. Oak Glen is freeway, streets, and then maybe a 15 minute drive up the mountain – no cliffs! If I can do it – you can do it!

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Go Early!

I personally have never experienced traffic on the 2 way highway, but I know that some people have. The main reason I say to go early is because there is so much to see and do. This year we couldn’t go up as early as I would have liked to. Parking was a little bit of an issue but not terrible. We had to park off the road a little further down from the orchard. But it was a totally doable walk. If you have littles, bring your small stroller. If you park on the street, you won’t want your big stroller taking up the road. Bottom line: go early and just enjoy the whole day! Which brings me to…

Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho

Yes, there are two Riley’s. No, they are not the same. Well, the Riley name is the same, but the owners of the property are different. This was our first year spending the entirety of our day here. It was amazing. We picked our apples on the Botanical Garden side this year. Truthfully, next year we’ll park on this side, but go pick apples across the street at their bigger property as they have a bigger variety of apples over there.

I will go into more details about Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho in another blog post, but here are just a handful of things you can do here:

  1. Apple Pick / Pumpkin Pick (depending when you go)
  2. U-press Apple Cider
  3. Eat at their Restaurant (we didn’t eat here this time as the line was down the road, but it smelled delicious!)
  4. Shop all kinds of yummy treats (even get a fresh baked apple pie to bring home)
  5. Taste different varieties of apples
  6. Petting zoo, pony rides, hay ride, corn maze, horse shoes and corn hole

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Bring a Picnic!

Like I mentioned above, the line for the restaurant was incredibly long and I’m sure it’s amazing. But if you have kids that are anything like my son, he will not want to wait an hour for a table. We always bring our lunch with us and luckily there is a HUGE grassy area to throw down a blanket and eat. There is not a lot of shade so either bring an umbrella or a big hat. They do have a few picnic benches under some trees but those get taken up quickly. You’ll see tons of families with their coolers and kids playing catch. It’s so awesome!

What Time of Year to Go

Personally, *HOT TIP* I would go as soon as they announce it’s time to pick apples. This year apple season came really early so you may have missed the initial announcement, or maybe you didn’t even know they made an announcement. Follow Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho on Facebook and you’ll never miss it again. This year I saw the post but I couldn’t make it out for a couple weeks. By the time we got there, a lot of the bigger and better apples were already gone. The trick is to try and go within a few days of when they release a specie of apple so that you get the first pick.

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What to Bring/Wear

  1. Depends on the weather, but most likely you’ll want to wear a hat and definitely bring sunscreen.
  2. Closed toed shoes. I know you can get hot, but you’ll come home with the dirtiest feet if you wear sandals.
  3. An ice chest/cooler with all of your food, water and snacks. The property is not that big so you can easily just slip back to your car to grab some food or more water.
  4. Backpack. You’ll definitely want to keep your wallet, water and sunscreen on you at all times,
  5. Cash. They do take credit/debit cards. But a couple of food booths only take cash. However, you can purchase with your card inside the store and bring them a voucher. But just bring the cash – it’s easier!

Those are my biggest tips for apple picking in Oak Glen. I’ll be sure to share in more details about Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho on my next blog post.

Do you go apple picking with your family? What are some of your Fall traditions?

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Will You Be Friends With My Son?

Will You Be Friends With My Son?

“Before you speak, think and be smart, it’s hard to fix a wrinkled heart.”

It’s the second week of Kindergarten and my son already got his feelings hurt. I knew it was coming because well, kids can be mean. But it didn’t hurt my heart any less – and it very obviously hurt my sons. So much so that he pushed the little boy that said ” I don’t like you. We’re not friends….I don’t like you – double.” Should my son have pushed? Absolutely not. But should he have stood up for himself? Absolutely yes.

My son is an innocent. He wears his heart on his sleeve, is built with happiness, and loves everybody. I honestly don’t think there’s somebody he’s met that he didn’t like. He thinks everybody is his friend and he can’t understand why somebody wouldn’t want to be his. In theory this sounds like an amazing human. But in reality, it’s hard putting somebody like that out in the world, knowing not everybody works like that. Heck, I don’t even work like that! I am perfectly content not making new friends and just going about my day. I have to work really hard to make conversation and build new relationship; especially when it comes to the parents of my sons friends. It’s so hard for me and I feel like it’s affecting my sons friendships. But, I’m working on it…

Little kids can be cliquey and a lot of the times I don’t think it’s intentional. It’s like they have blinders on and can only see what’s directly in front of them. They have a neighbor friend and that’s all they need. Why would they look around and try to be friends with the person next to them? The majority don’t have the instinct to do that. And that’s fine. But it’s hard to watch when my son is standing in front of a group of kids smiling, thinking he’s part of the group too. I know that they don’t notice him and it breaks my heart. I want to scream, “BE FRIENDS WITH MY SON! HE’S FUN! AND KIND!” But, I can’t…this is his journey that he needs to be on. Not mine, not ours. His.

For me this is the hardest part of parenting: letting our kids just figure it out. We can’t make all of the decisions for them, even as young as 5. I can’t be with him at school to guide him. All I can do is teach him at home, give him all of the resources and tools he needs so he can go out into the world and be successful. But, that’s not easy.

So what did I do after I heard my son got his feelings hurt and he made the poor decision to push? I wanted to cry. My son cried. His heart was sad but he also was worried that he wasn’t a kind person anymore. But, I reminded him that he was kind and he just needed to remember to use his kind heart. And I also let him know other acceptable forms of standing up for himself that didn’t involve hurting other people. He cried some more and said, “Mom, I just forgot to turn my heart on, that’s all.” We decided to pray. We asked God to help remind him to turn his heart on every morning.

I know I can’t be naive and think that this is the only time his feelings are going to be heart. But I wish it would be. I’m not asking for my son to be the most popular kid in school, I just hope and pray that he finds his little community of friends he can call home.

How are you adjusting to your kids at school? Have they had problems making friends? Would love to know your story – leave me a comment!

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Why I Chose To Work From Home

Why I Chose To Work From Home

Growing up my mom didn’t have to work. She took my sister and I to school and picked us up every single day. I never had to go to any after school program – I never even went to daycare! I was really blessed. I didn’t think much of it as a kid because I didn’t know any different. It wasn’t until I had a son of my own that I really realized that I took the presence of my mom for granted.

When my son was just about 2 1/2 I had to go back to work full time. It was so hard. I hated leaving him every morning. I had to be at work really early in the morning so some days I wouldn’t even see him before I left because he would still be sleeping. Luckily enough in the few years that I have been back working full time I was able to have a job with flexible hours or really close to home! However, it still lacked the one important thing I was wanted the most: to drop off and pick up my B from school.

At the beginning of this year I started praying for a job that would allow me to do this. I had friends and family kind of laugh it off…I mean where was I going to find this job?! I searched; interviewed; and prayed some more. Nothing was coming up. At one point I just let it go and realize it just wasn’t going to happen. I had a great job that I wasn’t going to leave for something mediocre. But then just when I wasn’t looking any more, the perfect job (for me) landed in my lap – working from home!

Actually when this job presented itself to me, I said no at first! I was really worried I was going to put myself in a position where I wouldn’t thrive. Being a single mom, I just don’t have the luxury of taking any job. I need to make sure it’s a right fit for not only me, but for my little man. Would I like working from home? Was there growth within this company? So many unknowns left me a little anxious and I was comfortable where I was. But, an old co-worker (who got me the interview!) kept pushing about how wonderful this company was. And of course how great it would be for my son. After a lot of prayer and mindful thinking, I accepted.

I’m only on day two, but it is such a dream! I get to wake up every morning with my son, make him breakfast, get him ready for the day, AND take him to school! GAME CHANGER! I already see such a difference in his happiness and all of my anxiety has gone out the window. I really love connecting with his teacher, peers and their parents every day. I’m looking forward to the school year and being able to be more present in my sons life. I don’t get the luxury of being a stay at home mom, but this is the next best thing and I’ll take it for all it’s worth.

Did you make the decision to work from home? How has it changed your family dynamics?

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Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach

Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

-Thomas Merton

Growing up, every Summer my parents would take my sister and I to the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach. We would look in awe of the glassblowers, get a new toe ring and maybe share a scoop of ice cream. Although I would never classify my parents as artists, their appreciation for art was always unintentionally present.

This year I decided to incorporate a visit to the Sawdust Festival in our Summer plans. To be honest I was a little apprehensive, as my son is only 5, but today we went for it and had a blast! We made a full day of it by stopping for lunch at Avila’s El Ranchito on PCH, caught the free shuttle in The Village and headed straight towards to our destination.

I am shamelessly the mom who is always thinking of what activity we can do next. I love being active. I love being creative. I love learning experiencing new (and old) things. And I really love taking my son along for the ride. Admittedly, it’s hard for me to slow down and remember it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Today was about the journey- and it was perfect.

The shuttle ride was fun in and of itself. We don’t get to experience the shuttle in our day-to-day lives, so it was a treat to walk to the stop, wait (somewhat patiently), check the shuttle on the tracker, and then FINALLY seeing it arrive. We really only went to two stops, but again, it’s about the journey 🙂

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The Trolley Tracker is really user friendly and such a great tool to use if you want to travel through Laguna Beach without the hassle of driving and parking your own car. I actually didn’t really need to use that much. We just walked around until we found the Free Shuttle sign, but we weren’t really in a rush so that worked for us.

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Once we arrived at The Sawdust Festival we jumped in line to purchase our tickets. You can purchase them online prior to arriving, but I opted to just pay at the door. And great news: kids 5 and under are free! I mean…does that ever happen!? You can check out the rest of the prices right here.

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The Sawdust Festival was everything I remember it being. Winding alleys leading down different paths, live music, and lots of art. Our first stop was at the Pottery Wheel where B got to make his own clay bowl. What an experience that was! I am so grateful to the young college kids who really take the time to help guide the kids as they mold their own creation. Once finished you have the option to take it home as is (once dried) for free! Or you can pay $25 to have it glazed and shipped to your home. We decided to have it glazed that way B can eat “cereal, oatmeal or fruit” out of it – B’s words 🙂

After that we made our way through all of the beautiful art. We saw; a man painting a picture of the ocean, the infamous glassblowers, and so many unique creations. Dip n’ Dots were calling our name so we took an ice cream break under the shade. Once our bellies were full we headed over to the kids art corner for a Rhyme & Drawing Class. I think this was the highlight of my day!

This art class was completely free and the man (Brent Kreischer) teaching the class was so incredible with the kids. He asked each kid to name their “favorite things” and then collectively name something that rhymed with each item, even if it wasn’t a word. His philosophy was: “Dr. Seuss made up words and followed no rules, and everyone enjoys Dr. Seuss.”

B was enthralled. I was impressed. Brent went around to each kid and they created a rhyme that complemented the picture that they drew. It was really wonderful.

Once we finished the class it was time to head back. On our way out we were stopped by a charismatic woman who offered to make B a balloon animal – he chose a Stegosauras.

As a whole I was really impressed by how kid friendly The Sawdust Festival was, and how attentive all of the artists were. We left with big smiles on our faces and B even asked me if we were going to come back next year. I think that is a big yes!

Have you been to the Sawdust Festival this year? What is your favorite thing to do there?

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I’m not ready for Kindergarten

I’m not ready for Kindergarten

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” 

~ Dr. Suess

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Motherhood is such a wild ride. You wait in line for months just waiting for this adventure to begin. Then suddenly you’ve fastened your seat belt, braced yourself, and GO. Unlike a real ride, this one doesn’t slow down and you never get off. You may break down from time to time. You might even have to tighten your seat belt every now and again. But from the moment it’s GO time – you go, and soar, twist and turn, and try to hold on for the biggest adventure of your life thus far.

I look back at when B was first born and remember discussing how school seemed so incredibly far away. I didn’t put thought to what school he would go to, other than I wanted him to go to a public school. I didn’t go to public school and I feel like I missed out on building a community. I didn’t have a tight knit group of friends growing up. The school I went to was really small and I always felt like an outcast. Not because anybody picked on me, I just didn’t make any deep connections to my peers. I had a really hard time adjusting to high school when I finally got to attend a public school. I was in such culture shock I cried on registration day. When I think about it now, I probably had an anxiety attack and didn’t know how to cope.

It has always been in my mind that if I had went to a “normal” school my whole life, I would have built relationships with my classmates, created a group of friends and made a community I felt safe in. I drifted through a lot of groups in high school trying to find where I fit in. I did cheer, and dance and drama. But none of those groups overlapped and I still felt like an outsider. Who can really say if it’s all because of where I went to school or if it’s just who I am, but it is something I’ve held on to. Because of this I promised myself my kids would always go to public school when it was time.

My son went to a private little preschool the past two years that I just loved. He loved it! We were both really sad when it was time to move on. Now that it’s time to venture into Kindergarten  I am having a really hard time. I visited B’s school and met all of the kinder teachers. They were wonderful. The school is wonderful! But, I’m nervous.

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Because I didn’t go to a public school I don’t know what to expect. It seems so big for such a little guy. And I understand people go to school every day and he will be fine. But now I also understand the decision my parents made to send me to such a small private school. Sending your kids off to school can be so daunting. And to be perfectly honest? I’m not ready for Kindergarten. Some nights I lay in bed awake and worry about all of the things that can happen to him: bullying, getting lost, him being scared, not being safe. The list goes on and on. I don’t really know how to navigate my fears as we are both venturing into the unknown.

But I do know this.

As much as I would give anything to stay home with my little guy and teach him everything he needs to know. I know that I can’t do that. I know that the best thing I can do for him is to send him off into the world so he can learn all of the tools he needs to succeed in life. The world can be such a scary place (trust me, I know!) and my job as his mom is to help him learn how to adapt and grow into himself with confidence.

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I wish that parenting was easier and that kids never grew up and they stayed little forever. But babies don’t keep. And all I can do is breath, pray, and love on my little man as much as I can. It is quite amazing how his precious smile and contagious giggle fills up my heart with love and the confidence to know that he’s got this. Because he does. They all do!

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Are you nervous about sending your kids off to school? I’ve love to know how you’re coping in the comments!

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All pictures taken by the incredible Reams Photo