Travel – Kids’ Fun Bags

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​For those of us in the US, the next two weeks have us frantically preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday. For a holiday that is supposed to be a time to settle in with our loved ones and reflect on our lucky we are, how grateful we are to have our needs and wants met as well as to think about how to help those less fortunate in meaningful ways, it sure is a stressful, anxiety-filled, busy time. For the US, with so many diverse cultures, ethnicities, and religions, Thanksgiving is one of the few things that we share. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but we can all be a part of the Thanksgiving mindset. We are all thankful for something, and one of those things is where we are privileged to live. Many countries around the world set aside a day for thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving in the US is also the busiest travel day of the year. We are waiting in lines at the airport, on the highways, at the convenience stores for that last cup of coffee to get us there. Those of us that travel with kids know how difficult it can be to map out the route, pack the snacks, and keep the kiddos entertained over hill and dale on the way to Grandma’s (or whomever’s) house.

While we were on vacation this past August, I set up a small paper gift bag for each of my children, a travel bag that they received once they were in the car and we were at least one hundred miles from home. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go over. Their ages at the time were 22, 14, and 13, and they each have their own phones that alternate entertaining them and boring them to tears. I did think that maybe they were too old for this sort of thing, but still, I thought it would be something different.

They surprised me. Even my oldest seemed to like his travel bag. He’s not one to complain anyway. I sneaked a look into the back seat, and saw him perusing each item curiously, and I knew that no matter what else, this was a success!

What did I include, you ask?

1. A small, plain, paper gift bag, about the size to fit a paperback book. I didn’t put their names on the bag so I could re-use them, but I did attach a colored paperclip to each one so I’d know who’s belonged to who since some items were child specific. The bag could also be used for their garbage that tends to accumulate on the floor at their feet.

2. Bottle of water

3. Small unlined notepad and a pen

4. Candy – M&Ms, Swedish fish, Skittles, something that came in a package with many small candies.

5. Package of Mini-Muffins.

6. Granola bar

7. A half sheet of paper with a list of apps they should download that were related to our destination. If Grandma lives in another state, it might be interesting for them to check out a few new apps, maybe a game too.

8. A folded paper with list for a Scavenger Hunt. They really (all of them) had great fun with this.

9. Netflix password.

10. Some things that I included for our vacation that I would not include for the Thanksgiving holiday were: a card with the hotel information on it, the phone number for weather information for my daughter who is interested in such things, Tim Horton’s gift card for $5 but any fast food gift card would do, and a packet of their vacation money.

What would you include? Share below!

Summer Scavenger Hunt

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​One of the things the past seven years of Gishing has taught me is that there are many ways to interpret something. It’s allowed me to rethink my concept of the scavenger hunt for one thing. Rather than collect things only to get rid of them at the end, I’ve really incorporated [th] the idea of re-purposing, finding and documenting, and being a force for good, whether that’s as a Good Samaritan, doing good deeds, or making the world better through my time, talent, and treasure, abd of course through civic responsibility. All of those things will be different depending on the hunter’s perspective.

I’m planning a mini Scavenger hunt for my kids for our upcoming vacation. This is not an easy task as they are somewhat spread out in age: 13, 14, and 22, as well as personality and tolerance for this sort of thing.

Some items will be for collection, although not many. Most will be photos or videos. I’ll share our specific ones when we return.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can add to your own scavenger hunt item list:

  1. On the first day, journal/draw: What are you most looking forward to?
  2. Draw something from your first day; then turn the paper over and draw something from your last day.
  3. Find a street sign with your name on it.
  4. Find a roundabout.
  5. Find a cow crossing sign. Bonus points for a photo of a cow and a cow crossing sign together in the same picture.
  6. Journal My Favorite Thing Thus Far (do this on or after the third day)
  7. Photograph or Draw (or both) a tower.
  8. If you are in a foreign country, try something different on the menu of a popular fast food restaurant (ie. McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks, etc.)
  9. If you are in a different state, try some local food. Write about the experience.
  10. Write down the date/time/town and take a photo or draw the following: Horse, Cow, Sheep, Moose, Beaver, Goose, Bridge, Flower, Water (river, waterfall, stream, etc)
  11. Pick a random day – Count the change in your pocket/purse.
  12. Nap Time – What did you dream about? Journal.
  13. Find a raccoon.
  14. Eat some poutine. Write about the experience.
  15. Find a waterfall.
  16. Take a picture of hockey equipment.
  17. Find and photograph a maple leaf
  18. On the last day, journal/draw: Did it (the first item listed) meet your expectations? If not, what surprised you?

National Hot Chocolate Day

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This was the lovely set-up my daughter did for her Secret Santa sleepover. This was the Hot Chocolate buffet: a variety of hot chocolate, peppermint candy canes, a wide range of marshmallows, and festive reindeer napkins. (c)2019

Hot Chocolate Gift Sets I put together for my kids. Penzeys Hot Chocolate Mix and a jar of mini marshmallows. Simple, cute, inexpensive, thoughtful, and delicious. (c)2019

December – Holiday Season – Reflection

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​December always comes raring in. Thanksgiving is over, our families have left, we’re still feeling a little full. The air is crisp, and snow can be smelled on the horizon. December first comes on suddenly amidst end of year projects and parties, holiday shopping and decorating, lists and more lists, oh, and Christmas cards. In that first week is my birthday, Chanukah (this year), the letter with the schedules from church, some sort of special day at school that I’ve already forgotten about, but need to buy something for, and in this year, two birthday parties for my daughter to attend and seeing Aquaman a week earlier (tonight, in fact.)

It’s not my least favorite month, but it’s probably one of the busiest, and I think I may have finally learned not to overschedule myself, although I do have many extra medical appointments before 2019 comes and resets my deductible. But the good news is I get one more hour of therapy (at no cost) and my mammogram and colonoscopy both came back all good, which I’m thankful for.

My birthday adventure began with mass and breakfast and then I took myself to the movies: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald, and then dinner and cake with my family. They don’t like when I say this, but I like when my birthday falls on a weekday when they’re all at school or work. It gives me some private celebratory time that I don’t have to feel guilty about. Some years I’ve gone to a upscale shopping plaza, twice I’ve gone to the movies, although usually I go to Starbucks to relax and write and then go ornament shopping for myself at Target. I think this was the first birthday in recent memory that I didn’t find myself at Target. I also get to do all of this while not rushing around like a chicken without a head, and I’m still home by the time the kids get home from school.

I also had two retreats, one letting go of clutter workshop, and one Cursillo group meeting. All of these set me back on a calming, spiritual path. Sometimes we all need that reminder, and the Advent reflections are perfect for that reset. Unlike Lent, the focus is on waiting and anticipating as opposed to the penitential aspect of Lent. Advent feels refreshing and uplifting; a new start, like the beginning of the new year, only weeks away on the calendar, but already having begun for the Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic liturgical calendars. The Cursillo group is new to me. After having been introduced to the idea and the local people (called cursillistas), I am very much looking forward to next fall when I will undertake my own weekend and join with the group. It had been mentioned to me last year, and when I looked into it a bit more I realized that it is exactly what my inner being is looking for. The local group is lovely and they’ve welcomed me to their monthly get-together, so I can start some of the prayerful parts.

Our tree is up, although no lights and no ornaments. I don’t mind the half finished way our decorating looks this weekend. Our house is always cluttered, and it’s gotten a little worse this month, but when the tree is half done and the ornaments are still in the box, and the lights are strewn around the tree, but not on, it makes the normal clutter look like decorating clutter, and it gives us a pass. At least in my head it does.

This year is also a little confusing. It’s the first year that my son will be living on his own, and will need to come visit for the holidays, so I’m not sure how decorating and celebrating will go. I’m trying to be open about schedules, but it’sw hard with the other family members who have been doing things the same way for the last twelve years (for my husband since his childhood since we’ve adapted most of his family traditions into our family). Last year, my son was working three jobs, and since he’s in public service (first responder) and is required to work the holidays with extended shifts, we moved everything up one day. We celebrated Christmas Eve the day before and on Christmas Eve we had our traditional Christmas dinner and opened our presents. By Christmas Day, we were not sure what we were supposed to do. We still had a wonderful holiday, and I have no doubts we will again this year because we’re working around the most important factors – our family time together.

I had a bunch of pictures that I wanted to share, but I think I’ll save them for next week’s post, and simply leave this one of the Blessed Mother. She has become one of my go-go patrons. She comforts and uplifts me.

Gold colored Christmas ornament of Mary the Blessed Mother. (c)2018


Have a blessed holiday, whichever ones you celebrate, and remember to take a few moments each day to reflect on where you are and where you are looking forward to going.

November – Gratitude – Reflection

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The last two years have been clouded with so many political things, and the next two will also have much more to come, but I am grateful for the outcome of the election, the blue wave, and the thoughts that maybe we can work our way back to where the country not only should be, but where the majority of the country wants it to be. I’ve been inspired by so many new faces and listening to many intelligent voices on my new passion of podcasts that I feel cautiously optimistic that we can get through this time.

While I haven’t written that much for Nanowrimo, I have still done a lot of writing for my space here, reading my good morning journal as often as necessary, and have some other ideas and writings plotted out in the bare bones.

I went on a beautiful retreat for Thanksgiving reflection and am looking forward to another on Mary the day after my birthday. 

I am grateful to be hearing better than I have in a few years. The number of times that I say “what” have gone down exponentially thanks to a pair of hearing aids. I’ve also gotten a lot of medical things taken care of with more to come in the coming weeks, including at a ridiculous early time tomorrow. I am still seeing my therapist and trying to use all the tools in my basket; my mental health is definitely stable and good. My kids are healthy and happy in school, and we have a home, heat, and food and with the snow starting early that is indeed appreciated. Whatever else we may want, our needs are well taken care of.

Looking forward to Thursday with our family and thinking about the family not there, whether too far away or no longer and especially that whether together or apart, we are still a we.

Wishing you many blessings at this holiday season, and grateful that you are all in my life.

September – Back to School – Recipe

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Lunch Box Snacks

It’s hard to believe that packing a lunch is the easy part. A leftover to microwave. A sandwich to cut – rectangles or triangles? Peanut butter or turkey? Jam or cheese?

Snacks.

Many schools have rules on snacks. Some depend on allergies if the snack will be eaten in the lunchroom or the classroom. Some list “healthy snacks”, which I always find something on the list or prohibited from the the list that I object to. One example is they’ll include raisins, but exclude pretzels. Not sure the reasoning behind that. Raisins are great, and healthy, but not good for your teeth if you don’t have the opporutnity to brush them.

Here is my top ten list (not in preference orderr) for lunch box snacks!

1. Raisins or Craisins

2. Pretzels (my favorite)

3. Baby carrots or carrot sticks. Celery. Broccoli. With or without dip.

4. Granola bars (read the packaging for allergies, though. Same with pretzels. You’d be amazed how many pretzels are made on machines that also manufacture peanut snacks.)

5. Baggie of cereal. Cheerios, Kix, Lucky Charms, whatever your favorite is really.

6. String Cheese

7. Crackers and cheese or peanut butter.

8. Graham crackers with cream cheese

9. Applesauce. (This also goes well with graham crackers.)

10. Apples, oranges, bananas. Fresh fruit is always a good option.

July: Sum Sum Summer: Reflection

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​July has sped along, and it hasn’t been bad, or terrible, or really all that hot. Some really hot days, and really hot steering wheels, but I can’t complain overall about the nights. I was just mentioning today that the last couple of years it seems that August is the hottest of the summer months, thank you very much global warming for screwing up the norms.

From the end of the school year until just after Independence Day, our family is in flux. Some days off from work, some, if I’m being honest, a lot of, lazy days, some pajama days, not always planned until we wake up and don’t feel like getting dressed, but it ticks along until we get into some kind of schedule that works for everyone. Usually after my husband’s birthday.

I have implemented a points system this year for my kids that appears to be working. More or less. They don’t know what they’re working towards or what the points can be traded for at the end of the summer yet. Neither do I. Yet. But with my husband working from home, it’s really helped them declare their own independence while letting me work in my bedroom for most of the morning. Instead of bothering him, they get their own breakfasts and set about doing their busywork, whether that’s YouTube or games or books. They quietly feed themselves with whatever we have, and they’re old enough to microwave or use the tea kettle and toaster, so their breakfast and lunches (peanut butter for one, Nutella for the other) gets them through most mornings without rancor.

For me…I just don’t want to do anything. I think it’s part of a mild depression. I don’t feel that things are impossible or that I’ve reached desperation, but there’s something just bleh that I can’t shake. I’m tired but not in the needing rest sense. I know that current events and politics are feeding that tiredness and anger and frustration. 

I want to be in church for mass, but I don’t want to actually leave the house to go to  mass. 

My husband organized a spontaneous road trip to Destiny USA on Cayuga Lake in Syracuse, and it was cheap, which is always a good thing. I mean it cost next to nothing, and it was fun. It was adventurous for the two of us in the family who need plans and lists and things. But it was still something of a struggle. It was a very conscious effort to be there for everyone and everything. And the amount of energy it expends to be that self-aware and that self-censoring is really quite exhausting.

I want to write, but I don’t want to sit down and get to the process of writing. I have so many things that need to be written and then posted or filed or edited, and I can’t decide on which is the most important, and then I get paralyzed with indecision and do nothing. I have yet to continue the journal I want to write for our family trip to Ireland. It’s almost a year since we went and came back. Part of that, I know is that we probably won’t get a vacation this year, but part of it is also that I want it to be perfect for posterity and summer at home is too noisy to just sit and reflect quietly on that very special trip. Unsure about a vacation this year with too many other monetary priorities plus a mistake with our taxes that refunded us significantly less than I had anticipated. Trudge along, though. That’s all any of us can do. Trudge along.

I did see my therapist a couple of days ago, and that helps; not just the going, but the anticipation of going. It’s like a balm. If I’m feeling anxious, I look at the calendar and see the appointment and I can get through a minor pang of anxiety.

I think July is just more of my cranky month than the others. The kids home more than usual, the air hotter than usual, less money, more expectations, anticipations of so many things to do, and then having to live up to those expectations.

Well, let’s think positively.

Let’s see what can happen.