Sharing Gratitude

THE LOST ART OF THANK YOU

I can remember it fondly. My three sweet children used to skip through our house chanting “Please and thank you, they’re the magic words…please and thank you, ’cause they’re the magic words.”

Those words were indeed magical and fun. Now that I think about it, I owe a lot to a certain purple dinosaur for introducing that song in our family. Unfortunately, though, as the kids got older, we stopped singing – and sometimes saying – those words at all. Continue reading “Sharing Gratitude”

Unplugged!

unplug

My plan for the holidays is to be unplugged from Tuesday, December 22 until January 13.

I’m assuming if you know me, you probably started laughing at that sentence. After all, just look at the shock on my kids’ faces when I told them. But I am really serious. I plan to unplug from daily posts, but I will be working on awesome content for the blog, promo items for my new radio show, and new features of both the Twilli Media website and the My Life With Him and Them website.

But I want to let you in on a little secret. I will be unplugged, but it will look like I am as active as usual on the web.

The wonders of automation allows bloggers and social media addicts — scratch that, social media professionals like me to schedule our posts ahead of time. So I will be here, but not really live and in color.

I hope you that you and your family have an awesome holiday. As you may know, I’ve created a few printables about the holidays over the past month or so. I’ve gathered them all  right here for you. I hope you enjoy it as you are putting the final touches on your holiday experiences.

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And here’s some other items you may find interesting:

Read this post to see how one family celebrated Thanksgiving and college football.

One blogger has listened to Adele's new LP repeatedly since it was released.

A review of the book Dancing Through Life by Candace Cameron Bure.

The Passport Dilemma

PASSPORTS

They prove our citizenship. They protect us while visiting another country. They serve as a valid form of identification.

They can also be a hassle to obtain. 

Unless you know the rules, follow the rules, and be patient with the rules.

So to save you all the drama that can be associated with the afore-mentioned learning, following, and being patient, I’m here to spill the beans on what you need to know about getting passports for your kids, or yourself for that matter.

Here’s everything I learned during a long, tedious 24-hour period one day last week. With three tired and hungry kids. With an ex-husband. In a place that seemed so very far, far away.

  1. Gather the documents. We are going to be traveling next March. As soon as I knew we were going, I decided to order all of our birth certificates. An original certified copy is required, and not returned to you. You will need to order new copies for your passport application so that you can still have at least one official copy with your household paperwork.
  2. Don’t waste time. While I ordered the birth certificates, once they arrived I took a deep breath. I figured that since the trip was almost a year away, we had plenty of time. Before I knew it, it was October and our tour group is requiring passport numbers by the end of November. Valuable tip with a hint of sarcasm: you don’t have the passport number until you have the passport, which can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to be delivered.
  3. Know before you go. Passports application offices are located within some, not all  U.S. Post Offices.To find the office nearest you, go to http://www.usps.gov. That search will also tell you if an appointment is required or not. If an appointment is required, understand that you should allow 15 minutes per each person in your family. Since it’s four of us traveling, we needed to understand it would take at least an hour to process us. And the appointment thing is serious. My local post office as booked for appointments until November. Remember that little bit of information I must provide to the tour group? However, there are a couple of post offices that process passport applications on Saturdays and are available on a walk-in basis. You can also check this information on the USPS website. For us, this meant traveling to a suburb about 30 miles away on Saturday morning.

That alone made me think about Puerto Rico instead of South America as a possible destination for our next vacation.

4.   It’s a family field trip. All family members who are getting a passport must appear in person. For any child under the age of 16, both parents must also appear in person. There are a few exceptions to the two-parent rule but it involves copies of court orders and such. If you are a single parent and you and the other parent have joint custody of the kids, you both have to go and show your government-issued picture ID. Fyi, this also means that if there is a 3-hour wait at the passport office, you are spending those three hours bouncing between awkward silence, miscellaneous small talk, and randomness about deals on local grocery stores and cell phone companies.

5. Don’t forget the photos. We had our passport photos taken at Walgreens. The passport office does have a camera and can also take photos for you. Ours cost about $13 per person. Y’all, the passport photo regulations are not big-hair friendly. I have big curly hair and CJ has a rather large afro. The lady taking our photos was a little perplexed at the size of our hair. I would even venture to say she became a bit frustrated. So much so we had to contain our hair with elastic headbands and it took several tries at photos. If you have big hair, beware.

My big, curly hair caused some problems with my passport photos.
My big, curly hair caused some problems with my passport photos.

This is the first post in what I imagine will be a series of posts in the coming months about international travel with my family. It’s been about 25 years since I travelled out of the country, and my kids have never travelled outside of the U.S. We are looking forward to this trip…join us on the journey!

 

A Tale of Two Cities: Part Two

Two cities that have my heart are Chicago and Dallas. I know that Chicago is unbearable in the winter and Dallas is unbearable in the summer, but I love them both. My friend Kendra lives in the Chicago area and is a travel expert and writer. We thought it would be fun to put our heads (and blogs) together and feature a two-part series on two of my geographic loves. The third love, Mississippi, will be featured later this spring on my blog. If you’re planning to visit Dallas anytime soon, this is a must-have for sights to see!

A Texan Travel Guide to the Best Vacation in Dallas

By Toni Williams

Many are familiar with the Texas slogan, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas,” and visiting Dallas is no different. From the food to the friendly hospitality to the hotel accommodations to fun things to do, this city has your vacation covered! As a matter of fact, the Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau launched a BIG campaign across the city and encourage visitors take photos in one of several life-sized sculptures proving that they did it big in Big D!

Longhorn Fun

Texas is famous for its cows, and Longhorns rule the town! While grazing cattle is a normal fixture when driving down Texas roads, it’s fun to know exactly where some of the hot spots are to see them for yourself. I-35 and Riverfront Blvd in downtown Dallas is the most popular place to see the longhorns grazing, and if you pull into the Fuel City gas station, you’ll be able to get a great view (and some of the best tasting tacos ever!)

If live cattle is not your thing, take a quick visit to Pioneer Plaza near Dallas City Hall and you will see why Texans love these beautiful and statuesque creatures. Take photos with the many Longhorn Statues on Young Street and you’ll see what everyone loves.

Presidential Facts & Figures

Dallas holds significant memories in the lives of two U.S. Presidential administrations. In 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas as his motorcade drove down Elm Street. An x marks the spot where the President was shot in front of the famed grassy knoll. History buffs will enjoy a visit to the Sixth Floor Museum, which is in the exact room that the fatal shot originated from.

Most recently, Dallas has enjoyed being home to the Presidential Library for former President and Dallas resident, George W. Bush. The Bush Library is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, where academics and sports reign supreme.

A View From Above

A quick stop at Reunion Tower is a must for visitors to Dallas. Known to the locals as “The Ball,” this tower stretches 560 feet in the sky and gives impeccable views of the city from its newly renovated Geodeck. The top of the tower is also home to Wolgang Puck’s 560 revolving restaurant and the Cloud Nine Café is closer to the Geodeck for casual dining.

Best Place to Hang Your Saddle or Catch Some Shut Eye

Adjacent to Reunion Tower is the Hyatt Regency Dallas which does not disappoint. Within walking distance and a relative newcomer to downtown Dallas is The Dallas Omni Hotel, home to Bob’s Steak & Chop House restaurant.

What About the Kids?

In recent years, the City of Dallas built Klyde Warren Park along the overpass of Woodall Rogers Freeway. Today it is home to Dallas’ only outdoor skating rink in winter, and yoga, Zumba and awesome trucks during warmer weather. While kids participate in some of the many activities offered at the 5.2 across park, parents find it easy to relax and enjoy the free wifi. Other awesome parks for kids to explore include Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park, and Rory Myer Children’s Adventure Garden (also known as the park without walls) at the Dallas Arboretum.

Dallas is full of fun and adventure, and quite affordable. Admission to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center are both free daily and can easily be added to you list of things to do. Another museum on the list for families is the amazing Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Victory Park.