Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of The Breastfeeding Shop via SoFluential Media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Summer is a time of year that we all look forward to, but when you have little kids, it doesn’t always go as planned. Our summers have varied in that we’ve lived in different places and sometimes I’ve worked and other summers I have been home with the kids. It’s never easy with little kids and they tend to throw our plans out the window, so I’ve put together a few tips I’ve learned over the years.
Just Go With It
Some days will be great and you can do whatever it is that you have planned. Other days, the kids will be tired and cranky, you’ll be tired and cranky, and it might just be best to stay home in your pj’s. It’s perfectly fine if that happens. We all need a break. Don’t worry if all your crafting plans fail. Mine normally do. Or I think they’ll take up a couple hours when really it takes 10 minutes to complete. It happens though! At least those 10 minutes were fun.
We all want to keep those little minds entertained and learning, right? See what activities you can find for free or little money on base. My son was in EFMP when he was younger and we were in Okinawa. They offered summer camps that were so much fun and sibling were always welcome. I took advantage of that every summer. Discounted summer movies are always a hit. Libraries, on and off base, always have summer programs and activities. Enroll them in day camps, but try not to go overboard. They need to have fun and do nothing some days, just like we do. Pick the camps and activities they are truly interested in or you know, without a doubt, they will love. Too many and you’ll be broke and they’ll be bored.
Summer Reading Programs
I loved a good summer reading program when I was a kid, so I have always signed my kids up for them as well. Your library will have one, but if you are stateside, many other places do as well. Barnes and Noble, Half Price Books, Scholastic, Pizza Hut, Books A Million, and Chuck E. Cheese all have summer reading programs. Depending on the kid’s age, either you read to them or they read themselves and earn free books, pizza, and tokens for games. Reading and free stuff? That’s the like the perfect combination in my world.
Blue Star Museums
Military families get free entrance to Blue Star Museums between Memorial Day and Labor Day. These museums are nationwide and include everything from children’s museums, to art museums, to Presidential libraries. This is a great program and too good to pass up! We’ve done the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido, CA, the New Children’s Museum in San Diego, The Magic House in St. Louis, the Presidential Libraries of LBJ, George Bush, and George W. Bush, the National Museum of the Pacific War, and so many more.
Your mom friends know how you start to feel about summer after a few weeks, so plan play dates! It can give you adult time while the kids play. Even better, if your kids are little older, plan sleepovers. This will truly give you both a break and help each other. You might even be able to squeeze a date night in.
Keep a bag of essentials in the car. This way you can make that unexpected stop at the beach or let the kids play in a fountain or not worry when one of them falls in a creek. Pack towels, sunscreen, a first aid kit, a change of clothes, and snacks that won’t melt. Knowing you have it all will make the stress of the unexpected a little easier.
Summer’s go quick and we only have 18 with them, so make the most of it (without going crazy)! For the new moms, make life easier on yourself. The Breastfeeding Shop works with TRICARE to get you a pump at no cost. Check out their site for more details.
The Texas Hill Country is some of the prettiest land in Texas. Austin is in the Hill Country and San Antonio sits right on the edge of it. Besides the two cities, the area is full of little town, most of them being pretty adorable. While these towns are small, they aren’t too far from anything and they all have things to see and do in them.
Llano is the county seat and located west of Austin and North of San Antonio, straight up 281. Being the county seat, I was maybe a little excited to see the courthouse. A lot of counties around here have gorgeous, old courthouses. Like seriously gorgeous. None of that ugly, federal building, looking concrete box. The courthouse square is full of cute shops, antique stores, and a few restaurants. A block off the courthouse is the old jail, which is known as the Red Top Jail. The jail was built in 1895 and used until 1982.
Downtown Llano sits two blocks up from the Llano River. Around here, a river normally means entertainment, whether it’s swimming, tubing, kayaking, whatever. The river in Llano is no different. One side is dammed off and used for swimming. The river on the other side of the bridge doesn’t get as much water and has a park. Grenwelge Park. There’s not much here, but you can climb over all the huge granite rocks down to the river. The Llano Earth Arts Fest is in March and there was plenty left from that, including the gigantic LEAF spelled out of the earth, a very realistic face in a hillside, and tons of leftover rock stacks.
Cross the river and the Llano County Historical Museum is on the right. The building was once a drugstore and now holds county history. While the town isn’t big by any means, there is plenty to see over an afternoon stop.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I’d seen this all over the place, so I grabbed when the library had it. Some books that the blogging world raves about end up leaving me disappointed, but this one didn’t. After a year of marriage, Roy is found guilty of a crime that they both know he didn’t commit. He goes to jail and she goes home to deal. Jail, separation, and other things lead to issues in their marriage that they both have to deal with when he gets out of jail. I found this to be realistic. The indecisiveness on her part and how everything worked out may have not been the preferred, but it seemed like what would have happened.
The Winter Station by Jody Shields
I wanted to like this one, but if just bored me. I read another book and came back to it and it just couldn’t hold my attention. I made it about a third through. I liked the premise though. Told from the point of view of the medical commissioner, it’s the story of a plague that goes through a Russian run town in Northern China in 1918.
The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman
I had read The Hope Chest last year and liked it, so I picked this one up at the library. I liked this one more. Sam quits her NYC baking job and goes to home to the family apple orchard in Michigan to recover. She falls back in love with the family business and learns family history from her mom and grandma. This was definitely a woman centered book, but it was also one of those that was always cheery, even when things weren’t cheery. If that makes sense. Overall good, if not slightly annoying.
TheRules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
This one was really good. It followed two sisters and their brother from their childhood in the late 50’s through the present. They knew as children they were different and over time they learned about their family, the family curse, and what they each were capable of. This wasn’t necessarily a happy book, but they survived and used their gifts to keep going when tragedy stuck. There was so much too this that you almost just need to read it. It also looks like this is the first in a series, so I’ll be on the lookout for the next one.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I never read this when I was younger and since we had tickets to see the play, I figured it would be the perfect time to read it together. It was a good book and stands the test of time I think. It’s basically about good versus evil. Part way through I realized the evil was Communism. Seeing that the book was published in 1962, it fits. I wouldn’t have figured that out as a kid, but it’s glaringly obvious as an adult. Since the movie just came out, we’ll rent it too.
We are just crossing the State Parks off our list. They are great family activities to get us outside and we can take the dog. The park is in Bend, Texas, about two and a half hours north of San Antonio and a little less than 2 hours west of Austin. The park offers the usual – hiking, camping, swimming, mountain bike trails, and cave tours.
Summer kicks in early in South Texas, so the trail to Gorman Falls was the only thing on the agenda. There were only a couple cars in the parking lot before 8 a.m. (and the parking lot was full when I left), so it was perfect. The hike started off easy. It was flat and full of cacti. The path did start to descend at some point, but I didn’t realize it until having to come back up it.
Right before the falls though, when you can hear, but not see them yet, the path turns to rock and it is steep. Poles and cable were installed, otherwise my butt wouldn’t have gotten down or back up very gracefully. Since it was so early, there was only one other person down there. The falls weren’t crazy, but there was plenty of water going over. There were more falls too, I could hear them, but couldn’t see them.
After a rain, I bet it’s a gorgeous site. On the way back, we veered off the falls path and took the Tie Slide Overlook Trail which takes you to the bluffs over the river, then took that trail back to the parking lot. Let me just say, holy grasshoppers. Every step sent half a dozen jumping out of my way and they kept flying into me. It just seemed like an unusually large number of them. With the way I went, it was 1.5 miles to the falls, then 3.2 miles back via the two trails. We’ll have to go back when it’s cooler and do more trails.
Okinawa, especially the northern half of the island, is full of jungle covered mountains. There are lots of places to explore with trails and waterfalls (or taki in Japanese) in abundance. We had little kids while we were there, so we didn’t do much hiking. I can’t pass up a waterfall though, so I’ve put all the waterfalls we visited in one place. I know there are more though. I simply ran out of time to get to them all.
Part of the Yambaru National Park, this is a must visit if you go to Okuma, as it’s really close. The trail is about a mile long and pretty easy to navigate. We did it with a 2 year old and no had issues. There are a number of steps though. It’s quiet, peaceful, and full of wildlife, that we thankfully saw from a safe distance. There were lots of snakes sunning on rocks in the river, but we were way above them on the trail.
Adult — ¥500
Child (under 15) — ¥300
781 Hiji, Kunigami, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture 905-1413, Japan
Referred to by locals as the married couple’s waterfall, this is actually two falls. You wouldn’t know it’s there and it’s not one you would just stumble upon. It’s pretty far north, so we paid a visit after we went to the Azalea festival. The falls are located behind a cafe on private property, so you want to make sure you go during business hours. When we pulled up, the man who saw us instantly handed us over to another man who spoke English and he pointed the way. The path leads to a wooden walkway that takes you to the first falls. If you go past the wooden walkway, you’ll end up at the second.
Free, but feel free to stop for a snack at the cafe. They were super nice, translated everything on the menu for us, and gave the kids toys while we waited for our food.
519-1 Miyagi, Higashi-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa-ken 905-1202, Japan
The falls is one, but broken into two sections with how it travels through the rocks. Located on 58, it’s on the way to Okuma as well. The trailhead is flanked by a Torii Gate. Note that this means it is a sacred area, so be respectful, quiet, and no swimming. I don’t remember how long the trail was, but it was relatively short. I wouldn’t have attempted anything longer when the kids that were small. 58 has a Y turn, take the right side of the Y, then the first right. You’ll take another right (you might want to map this beforehand), continue on past the restaurant in the middle of nowhere and you’ll come to a parking area before the Torii Gate.
2363 Kijoka, Ōgimi-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa-ken 905-1303, Japan
This is the sister falls of Kijoka. We visited both of these in the same day, but this is in Nago. I recommend mapping this before you go. I don’t remember the drive, but I tend to look places up beforehand so I don’t have difficulty or get crazy lost. The trail is chained off at the start and it says no vehicles, so you’ll have to park on the street. There is about a 15 minute walk to get to the falls. The trail takes you through the forests and is quite pretty.
For mapping use, N 26 36.325 E 128 03.420
This was more commonly known as Tadake Falls a few years ago and it may be the best one on my list. The trail is the river. Follow it and you’ll end up at the falls. Parts of the trail involve climbing over rocks, but some kind soul added ropes at some point, so it was not hard. We did it with a 4 year old and with a little help, she made it just fine. The trail starts at a random place. There is a small area to pull off the road and park and the Y plates gave it away as the trailhead. It’s about a half hour to the falls. There is a trail that goes behind the falls, but it was too steep to do with the kids.
For mapping use, 26.634079, 128.09470899999997
The school year is almost over and it can’t be soon enough. It’s been a trying year at our house.
When my son started school, he never looked back. He was, and still is, one of those kids that always does their homework with no complaints and really does his best in school. He had a speech impediment and was in speech therapy from Kindergarten through second grade, but it never held him back. Now as a seventh grader, he is in pre-AP classes and pulling in straight A’s.
My daughter is another story. We have all known since the toddler days that she would always be a handful. She has all the attributes of a strong woman, but those aren’t the best in a child. She liked school the first couple years, but she never really applied herself. She was more of a B student and I was fine that. That’s how she is. She finds other things more important. This year, third grade, it all started to catch up with her and she started falling behind. None of her previous teachers ever really said anything about it. I noticed last year though that she was behind in spelling and couldn’t read/spell words that should have been easy at that point. For instance, my mom’s name is Connie. She made her a card last year and spelled her name Cone. It’s a family joke now and we call my mom Cone. I can see how she came up with that spelling, but she should also know that with the e on the end, it isn’t pronounced conn-ee, but cone.
At the parent teacher conference last fall, her teacher said she thought she might be dyslexic. That had never occurred to me, but I was open to looking into it. It took until April to get anything done, but the school finally tested her and determined she was dyslexic and she did need additional help. The tests they gave her where in reading, writing, spelling, and math. Some things she was fine in, while other areas she needed obvious help. We all know how much I love to read and she hates sitting down and reading a book. She’ll listen if I read to her, but hates reading herself. That breaks my heart.
I know next to nothing about dyslexia. Most people think of it as simply transposing numbers of seeing words in odd ways on the page. I know there is more to it than that, but I really had no clue.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability or disorder that includes poor word reading, word decoding, oral reading fluency and spelling
20% of school age children are dyslexic. I would have never thought it was that high.
Over 40 million American adults are dyslexic, but only about 2 million know it.
It has nothing to do with IQ. Einstein was dyslexic and over 50% of NASA employees are too.
It apparently runs in families, which means there is an adult somewhere in one of our families who doesn’t know they are dyslexic.
Dyslexics may struggle with organizational skills, planning and prioritizing, keeping time, concentrating with background noise. This is exactly my child.
Dyslexics may excel at connecting ideas, thinking out of the box, 3D thinking, and seeing the big picture.
People with dyslexia excel or are gifted in areas of art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales and sports.
My girl is not dumb. Everyone agrees on that, not just her parents. We all know she’s smart. I’ve explained all of this to her as we have gone through the process. I told her over and over again that she is smart, but her brain works different than my brain. By doing the testing, we were trying to figure out the best way to teach for how her brain works. She got it. I don’t want her to feel like she has a disability and get frustrated. The school said she has mostly likely been overcompensating for the past few years and it finally caught up with her.
In all my wondering around the Texas Hill Country, I’ve discovered crosses, placed on top of hills, is fairly common. Most of these have been discovered randomly, which makes them all that more fun.
Cross Hill, Castroville
Castroville is an adorable town and well worth a visit. The city park is located on the west side of town. Along with all then normal park stuff, there are a number of trails through the hills that one can take. Cross Hill trail leads you up the cross. It’s not a long trail, it was less than a mile round trip, but the views from the top are great.
Located in Castroville Regional Park, 816 Alsace Ave, Castroville, TX
The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden, Kerrville
If you’ve ever driven I-10 through Kerrville, you’ve probably seen the cross up on the north side of the interstate. The cross is 77′ 7″ tall and has a light on it, so it’s visible at night. There is so much more up there than the cross though. There are half a dozen large sculptures, all religious. Bible verses are on the walkways and prayer rocks border the paths. There’s actually a lot to see and more sculptures are in the works.
Located at 520 Benson Dr., Kerrville, TX
Cross Mountain Park, Fredericksburg
Located on the north side of Fredericksburg, the cross has been in the park since 1946. With an elevation of 1,951 ft., it was once used a lookout for Native Americans and when settlers arrived, they erected a timber cross and named it. There isn’t much to the park currently, but it’s an easy walk up to the top, if not a little steep, and offers good views of the town.
Located on N. Milam Street, Fredericksburg
Entrance is well marked with signs on both side of the road.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
I really liked this one. Anna lives alone. She became agoraphobic after an accident involving her, her husband, and daughter. Her husband and daughter no longer live with her, but she talks to them on a regular basis. She watches the neighbors out her window and sees a woman being murdered. In trying to figure out what’s going on, we learn more about her, as well as what happened to the woman. Super good.
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
Some of hers I love and some are just ok. This was good, but not as good as I was expecting. A family moves from rural Pennsylvania to Philadelphia in 1918. WWI is still ongoing and the Spanish Flu is on it’s way. The family deals with loss, but they also find a baby that gives them all hope. In then jumps to a few years later and we see how everyone coped with the loss and what happened with the baby. The book also tied up some other loose ends, which I was very happy it did.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Everyone raves about this book. Like seriously raves. It was good, but I don’t know that it was worthy of the accolades people have given it. Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl move to Shaker Heights, Ohio, the idyllic town. They rent a house from the Richardson’s, a family the complete opposite of their own, and Pearl becomes friends with their kids. Mia then starts to clean house for them as well. Elena Richardson is suspicious of them and starts digging around in Mia’s past. Things then happen in both families, that forever change them.
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
I really liked this one too. Nellie is about to get married to a wonderful man. Everything is perfect. Then there is Vanessa, who is recently divorced and trying to put her life back together. I don’t want to give it away, but when you get to part two and the light bulb goes on, a whole lot of things come together and start to make sense.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
It’s the 70’s, Vietnam POW with PTSD moves his family to Alaska. They are ill prepared, but make it work with the help of neighbors. They basically live off the grid with no electricity or running water. The dark winter days start to get to him and his wife Cora and daughter Leni are left to deal with surviving the weather and him. I thought the situation in the book would happen a lot sooner than it did. I like how it all played out though, even though you think it’s good, then it’s not, then it is, then it’s maybe not again. The descriptions of Alaska and how they lived were also really good.
The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson
I almost gave up on this about 50 pages in, but the reviews I read said the same and they kept reading and it got a lot better. And it did. Angie is married to Paul, who at my guess is almost 20 years older than her. He gets call from his niece that his brother is dead and sister-in-law missing, so they fly to New York. The story is told from Angie, the niece Ruby, and Ruby’s mother Silja’s point of view. This way, we get the whole story of what’s happening now, what happened with Silja to lead up to this, and Ruby’s side of then and now. In all this, Angie learns a lot about her husband and it’s not good.
Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah
This was super good too. Cara is British and in an effort to get a break from her family, she books a last minute stay at a resort in Arizona. She arrives late that first night and the desk clerk accidentally gives her keys to a room that is already occupied. The next day, she learns of a child that was murdered 7 years prior. The story was huge news in America, like Casey Anthony Jon Benet Ramsey huge, but being on the other side of the pond, Cara hadn’t heard about it. She realizes that the girl she saw in the occupied room the night before was the murdered girl. She then sets out trying to figure out the truth of the girl, while dealing with her own family drama.
Disclosure: Thanks to P&G for compensation for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Every few years, military families pack up and move. We leave behind what’s grown to become familiar – our friends, our favorite salon, our favorite restaurants, and all those little insider things one learns when they’ve lived somewhere a while. Then we pack our families up and start all over again. I always thought the service member had it easy when it came to moving. They knew going on that they had a job to go to every day. It’s the spouse who is left at home to figure out where the best preschool is, how the school pick up line works, and where the best dry cleaner is for uniforms.
We’ve come to rely on the internet for all this information. Facebook pages have become the default for questions, but wouldn’t it be easier if everything was contained in one place? You could just pick your duty station, whether current or upcoming, and look into resources like things to do, who to have take care of your lawn while your spouse is deployed, and to sell that car before you head overseas.
Procter and Gamble, in partnership with Operation Homefront, has launched Start Strong, Stay Strong. The free site is all about helping military families connect with each other in every way it could be needed. So much of military life is being strong – strong when they leave, strong when we leave others, and strong when starting over. P&G just wants to help us accomplish that.
In order to do this though, they need our help. They need us to post our items for sale and create groups to ask questions and find resources. We all know that no one knows all this better than either the seasoned spouse or the spouse who has been at the duty station for a while.
The site is super easy to navigate. Sign up (no twenty questions, just your name and email address) and choose your location. It filters by the nearest base to you or you can select any other base. I went with Joint Base San Antonio, since that encompasses Lackland AFB, Randolph AFB, and Fort Sam Houston.
From there, read through the stories that are posted, or add to the resources. If you want to start a group, you can start one for just about anything. Just click on the “Create a Group” button under Groups and fill out the questions.
There is also a section titled “Deals.” I’m always a fan of deals. Through April 28, when you buy $30 worth of your favorite P&G products at the Commissary, you get $10 back through either PayPal or a Prepaid Visa card. I like to plan my shopping trips around sales like this, so I like this!
Seriously though, a community like this is only as good as its members! Sign up and start a group or post a local base event. Want to find moms for a playdate? Start a group and find them!
Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
I feel like this was kinda YA, but not labeled as such. Merit is a teenage girl. She lives with her odd family in a renovated church. She doesn’t get along with anyone in her family and they don’t get her. Her step-mom’s brother shows up, then she meets her twin sister’s boyfriend and starts to like him, and then a big family secret comes out. She starts to figure out that how she sees the world isn’t how it really is. This was good, better than I thought it would be.
This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong
Third in the Casey Duncan/Rockton series. I basically ran to the library to get this because I loved the previous ones so much. It was a little anti-climatic for me, but still good. Rockton is an off the grid town where victims of crimes can pay to hide out at for a few years. It’s an interesting concept and it’s all be well thought out for the books. The town gets a new resident that they are told is a serial killer. They want nothing to do with him because they can’t protect the citizens with him there. He proclaims his innocence, so they start looking into what really happened.
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
I feel like this was hyped up and it wasn’t that great. A woman texts three of her friends and simply says ‘I need you’. They drop everything and go to her. As the story goes on, you start to figure out why she has this hold over them and what happened when they were teenagers. What got me though, was that they were all friends for like a semester of school. That’s it. Now, 20 years later, they drop their lives to rush back to her. What?? Also, the horrible thing wasn’t that horrible (it was, but they didn’t know the extent of it) and there were really just stupid teenagers. I hate when books make semi-bad things out to be horrible, life altering, no one will love me if they know the truth, kinda things.
Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra
Rose lives in a dead end town with a dead end job. Her mom and stepdad gave her an ultimatum to move out and she has nowhere to go. An arsonist is also making himself known around town, most recently burning down the courthouse and killing a boy that was trapped inside. Rose wants to be a journalist, so she starts sending stories to a tabloid like paper. In doing so, she stirs up trouble and starts to figure out what’s going on. I really liked this one. It wasn’t quite the typical who done it kinda thriller.
Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
A fictional story, but about a real person. I like these. I learned a ton about Andrew Carnegie and his family (which oddly enough, I Googled things and listened to a podcast about him a couple days after I finished this and everything about him was true). Clara becomes a maid in the Carnegie household and develops a relationship with Carnegie. She is smart and starts giving him advice on business matters. There relationship was inappropriate only because she was his mother’s ladies maid. And so on and so forth. Good book and quite interesting.
The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
1970’s Britain. Joanna’s father dies. She wasn’t close to him, but when going through the few things he had left, she finds a letter he had written to a woman in Italy during WWII. A letter that was returned unopened. She reads it and it references their boy, so she heads to Italy to figure out if her father had a child with a woman. A woman he had to have met when his plane was shot down during the war. She ends up in a tiny town, the kind tourists skip over. She starts asking questions and no one claimed to know anything, but then stuff starts happening. With the help of who she thinks may be her father’s child, they figure it out. I like the WWII books that don’t always focus on the obvious. The war was just part of the backstory here.
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
Another WWII era book with factual events thrown in. Hannah’s family flees Germany in 1939. Her parents managed to secure visa’s for them in Cuba. They bought a house there and helped a friend and his son get on the St. Louis to Cuba as well. Once they arrive, the entire ship is turned away and told they can’t dock. The authorites end up letting maybe 30 people off, of which Hannah and her mother are included. We jump to present day, with 12 year old Anna getting a present from her great aunt Hanna in Cuba. Anna’s father died when she was little and wants to know more, so her and her mom travel to Cuba to meet Hannah. Again, jumps between past and present. This was more about Cuba though and what happened there with the government and everything. It really wasn’t about WWII at all. Good book and interesting.
The Secret Place by Tana French
How can all her books be soooo long, yet cover so little time? I enjoy them, but I really feel like they are just too long sometimes. This involved an all girl’s school and a boy who was murdered the previous year. Some of the teenage girls in this book were beyond snooty bitches. I really hope I wasn’t half that bad as a teenager. Actually, I know I wasn’t. I would have been afraid of cops, not sassed them. The boys murder went unsolved until a girl brings a clue in. The detectives go back to ask more questions and in doing so, figure out what happened. The book jumps between the present with the detectives and the past with the girls and what happened.