Fall Family Road Trips: People Over Things

Family Togetherness This Fall With Road Trips

This year my motto has been People Over Things. I’ve wanted to connect with the people I love in new and different ways because frankly, life is just too short.  While the response to my proclamation of love and joy has sometimes caught  friends and family slightly off-guard, it has been well-received.

Even by my children. Even by the mood changes that are guided by the hormones of a 12, 14, and 15-year-old.

Two weeks ago, we set out on the open road (also known as I-20), and headed to Mississippi to spend time with family and friends. The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is big in our family, and although I didn’t go to a SWAC school, I do support their teams. And if you didn’t know, there is absolutely nothing in the world that can compare to an HBCU homecoming. Nothing. At. All.

Especially when you do it with family.

This particular homecoming was my cousin’s last year of eligibility to play for the Jackson State University Tigers. When he graduated from high school, I promised myself I would support him throughout his collegiate football career. As it sometimes does, life happened, and I wasn’t able to see him play most of his time in college. I was, however,  determined to see him play this year. In case you don’t know this already, I think my cousins hung the moon — all of them — but we can talk about that on another day.

People Over Things.

As a single mom, road trips have been our preferred method of travel. In 2008 we sought the open road over the course of a summer to help us heal and process the changes that were occurring in our family due to divorce. That 6-week adventure has led the way for smaller trips that allow us the chance to get away, think, talk, and explore. Because the kids alternate between sitting in the front and serving as my navigator with sleeping, I’m able to use driving time to listen to what’s on their hearts and minds. Somehow, the highway opens the door to honesty, trust. and communication.

Am I saying that I only get to talk to my children when we’re traveling? Of course not. What I am saying is that being away from their everyday surrounding sometimes will take them out of the judgement zone that we have all created with rules, schedules, and expectations. Usually after a road trip, I discover that I like them as people, and as the growing adolescents they are.

And it gives us the chance to think, breathe, talk, and listen. Four critical components of People Over Things.

So if spending needed quality time with my children wasn’t enough, we also spent quality time with as many cousins as possible. Because well, they really did hang the moon.

People Over Things, especially when it comes to family.
People Over Things, especially when it comes to family.

Not to soon after our adventure began, I was thrust back into the reality of traveling with three kids. Even if they are older than before. While driving though, I did make a mental note of valuable tips for any family road-tripping with older kids to share.

  1. Working technology is critical to the success of the trip, both in the car and in the hotel. Make sure everyone has their own charger for their device(s). Charger-sharing arguments are the worst to mediate. The worst.
  2. Develop a loose itinerary that includes a mixture of fast food and restaurant options. Vegetables are a must, even on vacation, so fast food can’t be the only place you eat. Tip: Stay at a hotel that offers free continental breakfast or has an option where kids of a certain age eat free. (Several hotels in the IHG chain offer free breakfast, and children under 12 eat free in the full-service restaurant at all Holiday Inns.)
  3. And yes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you are traveling, or sightseeing, or visiting relatives, breakfast sustains your necessary energy levels. A buffet or wide variety is probably best with older kids. Sometimes they are absolutely sure they know what they want, and other days they will ask for your guidance. Since those days are unpredictable, have options.
  4. Free hotel Wifi is a must. At the end of the day, all four of us used devices to share photos, plan activities for the next day, wind down. Spotty wifi will not work. The best and most consistent wifi I’ve discovered throughout my travels have been at IHG properties.
  5. Shopping plus adolescents equals a win. If there’s outlet shopping, that’s even better. My kids had money left over from birthday gifts and truly enjoyed the opportunity to shop on a weekday without large weekend crowds.
  6. Consider the IHG family. IHG has met our needs as a family for the past five years. The rooms are spacious, the beds are comfy, and the food is great. They even have a rewards program that gives you quicker access to benefits and free stay that other hotel companies. This fall, IHG is offering a Bright Nights, City Lights deal across the country with room rates as low as $63/ night.

And as I said to a friend last week, “Jackson, Mississippi does not owe me a thing!”

Does your family take road trips? What do you enjoy most about them?

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31 Days of Simple Social Media

Click here to read my series on simple social media

Welcome to October! This month I am joining bloggers from all over the world in a special writing challenge. The challenge, called 31 Days, encourages us to write about one topic for 31 days.

Can we be honest here? it is called a challenge for a reason.

Two years ago I started the challenge with the best of intentions and wrote encouraging words on the importance of smiling for 31 days. Until one of my kids fell ill and was hospitalized for a week. Because I stopped smiling, I couldn’t write about smiling. And well, you can imagine what happened with that series.

Last year I was nervous and ashamed that I couldn’t keep up. I was scared that something would happen again to derail my efforts and I would fail. At the time, I didn’t realize that to fail is okay, because it is your first attempt in learning.

So this year I’m back at it. We are going to try it! I’d like to officially invite you to join my journey as I write about 31 Days of Simple Social Media. During these days, I will debunk myths and just make social media easier for anyone to grasp. While many people in the world do not like social media, it’s here to stay.

If you have children who use technology, then you need to embrace social media. You really do. Because they will be exposed to so many things related to social media daily. Yes. they. will. Even if they don’t have a cell phone, even if you have rules, even if…

I’ve worked in marketing as a social media manager for about five years now, and I’ve learned a lot. I absolutely love the power that social media has to spark change in the world.

Join me as we explore and decode that power.

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Are your ready? Here we go!

Lessons Learned About Kids and Technology

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I can remember it like it was yesterday. My children were in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades when they received their first electronic devices as Christmas presents. CJ got an iPod Touch, Tyra got a Pandigital eReader, and Jada a Nintendo DSi XL. After their entry into the digital world, they have never turned back and at 7th, 8th, and 9th grades they each have a phone,  tablet, and laptop computer.

Through the years, I’ve learned a lot about monitoring my kids technology usage. It hasn’t always been easy, but each day is an opportunity to learn something new. Let’s start the conversation with some of the things I’ve learned.

  1. 12-year-old children really want a Facebook account. They’ve heard a lot of cool things about Facebook. Once they turn 13 and actually get one, they hate it. They hate it because their parents and their parents friends and their older cousins, and their aunts and uncles are on active on Facebook. A prerequisite for Facebook in my house is a list of about 30 family members and friends that the child needs to friend. I of course, have already sent those friends and family members a message asking them to extend their membership in our village to all things social media.
  2. Technology contracts are very helpful when allowing children access to devices. All three of mine signed contracts four years ago, and the contracts included a clause that said it was still binding if they got other devices. The tech contracts included participating in or witnessing cyber-bullying without telling an adult, hours for tech usage, rules for appropriate photos and content, and passwords — which always have to be kept on file with me.

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3. On any social media platform, we must all friend and follow each other. And we must also agree on how much information we share about our private family matters.

4.If there’s a social media platform that they want, but I’m unfamiliar with, I ask someone younger and smarter before I approve it. Last fall I had heard of SnapChat but I really didn’t understand it. The girls really wanted accounts. I asked my 25-year-old cousin about it and gave him the ability to say yay or nay. He didn’t know much about it, so he opted for nay. Meanwhile, I took the next three months to establish my account, learned how it worked, talked to older teens I know about using it, and by this February, they had the accounts and I knew exactly what to watch out for.

5. Use mistakes as teaching moments. Anytime we are watching the news and there is a story on regarding the dangers of naivety and tech usage, I make sure they understand in plain terms the consequences. If there are no news stories that week, I’ll find an old news story on the internet and we must discuss it. as a family. And even after all of that, they do make mistakes and I use those as teaching moments as well.

Do you want to receive a free copy of our kids’ technology contract? Click here to sign up! Let’s continue this discussion though…what are the tech rules in your house?