Monthly Archives: May 2009

Today’s Tip: Vacation Rhymes With Education

IMG_0692School is almost out, but that doesn’t mean that your kids have to stop learning. Today I’m giving you an excuse to hit the road or board the plane: it’s for your kids’ education. 

It’s a well-known fact that traveling equals learning. Anytime you travel with your kids, you’re giving them experiences that will help them better understand the world they live in. Are you planning on taking a family vacation this summer? Then, you’re already guaranteed to give your kids a bit of summer education. But there are some of you that are overachievers and will want to know how to squeeze as much learning into your vacations as humanly possible. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Here are some ideas on how you (I’m talking to the mommies in the front row taking notes) can make education the focus of your vacations.

  1. Get acquainted with what your child will be studying in her next few years of school. You can consult with your child’s teacher, your educational parenting books, or you can Google it. For example, if you’re a California parent just type in these search words: California content standards.  This will lead you to the California Education Department website page listing all the different subject standards for kindergarten through 12th grade. Don’t be alarmed by the sheer wordiness of these documents, you can easily interpret their meaning. Just don’t read them too late at night, I can’t guarantee they won’t put you to sleep. Pay particular attention to the social studies and science standards, these are naturally the easiest subjects to learn while on a vacation.
  2. Pick at least one standard that your child will find interesting and will be learning about the next school year. So if you child digs all things dinosaurs, you can work on second grade earth science standard 3d: “Students know that fossils provide evidence about the plants and animals that lived long ago and that scientists learn about the past history of Earth by studying fossils”. He doesn’t have to know that you’re secretly teaching him something so wordy, all he has to know is that fossils are real and not some figment of his teacher’s imagination. Last summer I purposely planned a stop at the La Brea tar pits while we on our southern California vacation because I knew that my son would study all about fossils in second grade. I’m sneaky like that.
  3. Make it seem effortless. The trick for making education the focus of a trip, is to make it fun. If your kids hate museums, don’t force them to march through historical exhibits. Maybe, they’ll be more excited about finding the constellations-while gazing at the sky with bellies full of s’mores-on your next camping trip. 

Just remember that summer is supposed to be more about relaxing than completing tasks. There will be plenty of homework to do come fall.


Postcard From Yosemite

It’s been kind of quiet around here lately, but that’s because I’ve been busy getting ready for my trip. This weekend we’re at Yosemite National Park. We waited an hour just to get in to the park, then we found out the valley was so crowded that it was closed off. We knew what the Griswalds felt like when they found out that Wally World was closed. Luckily, we didn’t have to get too nutty about it.



How can you feel down when you have views like this? I haven’t been to Yosemite in almost 10 years, and I fell in love with it all over again. The minute you get your first glimpse of that glacier-cut valley, your jaw drops. We came to Yosemite in May, to catch the waterfalls at their peak. We are not disappointed. I’ll be spending the rest of my weekend snapping away photo after photo in a feeble attempt to capture the beauty of it all.


The Boys of Summer at AT&T Park

b.gameThis weekend we went to our first Giants baseball game of the season at AT&T Park here in foggy San Francisco. Well actually it was actually quite sunny and unusually hot this weekend, so we thought there would be no better way to spend our Saturday than by eating garlic fries and watching some baseball.

This isn’t just one of my son’s favorite summer pastimes, but mine as well. We both love the game, the food, and this fabulous stadium. AT&T Park is one of those newer, fancier stadiums with some great view of the San Francisco skyline and the bay. Don’t worry if you can’t afford the club seats either, I think some of the best views are from the top seats. Another good place to sit with kids is in either the arcade or bleacher section. Both of these sections make it easy to get up during the game and take a break at the trolley car or the kids’ area by the Coca-Cola bottle.


Most of the cheap seats go for between $20 and $25 dollars and on Monday through Thursday they have some $10 outfield tickets available. You’re allowed to bring in your own food and drinks to the park (no glass allowed). If you’re just passing through town as a tourist and want to check in on a game without actually having to buy tickets, walk up to the open archways of the right field wall and watch the game free of charge.

Photo Friday: Brought to You By Mom



These lovely photos were taken in Santa Fe and Taos by my mom. I came across these as I was cleaning out the ol’ photo boxes, and just had to give them the grand scanner treatment. So I bring you my mom’s Photo Friday debut.

I’m linked up to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday. Head on over there to check out all the travel photos.

Today’s Tip: Rethinking the Bribe

I’ll admit it. Sometimes I bribe my kid to be more cooperative with my travel plans. He has never loved being in the car for long periods of time, so you can see how this might make road trips a bit excruciating. Luckily, I’m not one to throw in the towel. We do get to go on many a road trip, but it takes a bit of persuasion. It goes something like this:

Son: How long is the drive to San Diego?

Me (mumbling): Oh, about 8 hours. Depending on the traffic.

Son (wailing): I hate driving that long. It takes sooooooooo long. I don’t want to go. 

Me (I hear this before every road trip, so I’m gritting my teeth): But we’re going to LEGOLAND, and you like LEGOLAND, and you like to go to San Diego. We’re even going to Sea World this time. Shamu’s there. It’s so much fun.

Son (wailing harder): I want to go to LEGOLAND, but I don’t want to drive. It takes soooooooo long. I don’t want to go.

Me: Stop it. You’re lucky you get to go to LEGOLAND, most of your friends have never been there. So stop it. (Pause, let it sink in) And….you can choose a new LEGO toy from the gift shop.

Son (wails subsiding): OK mami. But it still takes soooooo long.

This is just one example of my many award-winning parenting techniques. I deal with a whiny, uncooperative child by saying: 1. Get over yourself, 2. And if you get over yourself, you’ll get a visit to the gift shop.


But I’ve started to rethink my bribery techniques. No, it’s not because I might be raising a spoiled child whose cooperation must be bought. It’s because the gift may end up being itty-bitty pieces of colored plastic that my child will want to play with in a hotel room. So before I leave said hotel room, I will have to scour the dark-patterned carpet for said itty-bitty pieces of plastic. Sometimes my parenting techniques come back to bite me in the a*#.

Travel Bookshelf: Fun With the Family Northern California


Fun with the Family Northern California, 7th: Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids (Fun with the Family Series)What’s on my travel bookshelf? There’s probably more travel books than one woman should own, but I swear I read them all the time. Though, there’s some books that are definitely more thumbed-through than the others. Fun with the Family Northern California, by Karen Misurca, is the book I most use from my collection. It’s been a great investment, because of how often I travel in my home region of northern California. In fact, I just took it off the bookshelf to plan my upcoming Memorial Day weekend trip. 

The book is very detailed, because it only covers northern California. It’s broken up into twelve regional chapters: from Redwood Country and Shasta Cascade, to the Central Coast and High Sierra South. The central coast is the one region of California that’s most hard to categorize. If you’re traveling as far south as Big Sur, then this book will help you plan your trip. If you’re traveling further south to Pismo Beach and Santa Barbara, then you’ll need to pick up the Fun With the Family Southern California edition.

You’ll find that pretty much every family-friendly attraction in northern California is reviewed in this book. The author also includes a few restaurant and lodging choices. I like that there’s also small sections devoted to specific topics in each region, such as the section “Underground Adventures” that lists the caverns in Gold Country. There’s also some “Top Ten” lists that highlight the more popular attractions in certain cities or regions.

Deals and Links for the Cool Moms

What are all the cool moms doing this weekend? Trying to milk all the the Mother’s Day love thrown their way. Go ahead ladies, put your feet up, let them make you breakfast, and have some quiet time with your laptop. Check out these deals and links I rounded up for you:

  • When I was in my teens, I asked my parents to get me a magazine subscription to National Geographic. Seriously, what kind of nerd was I? So I was thrilled to hear that National Geographic Traveler was offering a special subscription rate for Mother’s Day: $7.95 for a year’s subscription. I can’t pass up that kind of deal, so I got myself a little Mother’s Day gift.
  • If you live in the Bay Area, you will love this: 17 museums and zoos are offering free admission this Sunday, May 10. You can take a day out by yourself to soak up the art scene at the DeYoung, or spend time with the kids at the San Francisco Zoo. 
  • There was so much mom inspired blog reading this week, I could barely keep up. Here are some of my favorites: 
  1. Travel Savvy Mom had a whole week series entitled Before We Were Moms. Pure awesome.
  2. The Mother of all Trips shared a bit about her travels with her mom in Florence.
  3. This is one of my favorite mother and son travel stories I’ve read recently. This mom takes her son to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. This is at the top of my travel wish list.

If you have any other cool deals and links you’ve found recently, go ahead and share them in the comments.

Today’s Tip: Learn From My Mamá

DisneyI didn’t become a family travel goddess without a little help. Even before I became a mom, I had years of family travel experience behind me. What I’m really trying to say is that many of the tips I write about, I learned from my mom. Now that the secret is out, I’m giving credit, where credit is due.

Today, I’m sharing the most important thing my mom taught me about family travel: fish hatcheries are cool. It was a running joke in our household, that there wasn’t a fish hatchery in the west, we hadn’t visited. I sincerely hope we didn’t see every fish hatchery in the west, but I know we came pretty close.
My mom was the mastermind behind this aspect of our family’s travels. She embarked on every trip with guidebooks (borrowed from the library) under her arm, and the desire that our family learn everything there was to know about our new homeland. hp_scands_95422212759We emigrated to California, from Argentina, when I was seven years old. My mom was a teacher in Argentina, and went through all her schooling again, to become a teacher in California. Teachers have this habit of trying to make everything educational. While it seemed funny (and a bit excruciating) to my teenage self, to spend countless summers exploring the wonders of fish spawning, I now realize that I really learned through our family’s travels. My mom’s goal was for my sister and I to experience the world by taking us out to see it.
When did I come to this stunning revelation? When I became a mom myself. As I started planning travels with my own son, I realized that many of our trips involved educational detours. I have take my son to nature centers, visitor centers, museums, campfire programs, wildlife talks, and even the great Kokanee Salmon migration at Lake Tahoe every year. Yes, my son knows all about the tragic, but triumphant life cycle of salmon. He still hasn’t been to fish hatchery, but that’s in the plans for our trip to Oregon this summer. He might not appreciate it all now, but he’ll thank me later. Much later.
If you haven’t checked out Travel Savvy Mom’s series of post this week, go check them out. There’s many more inspiring moms.

Kids Love The Getty Museum of Art

img_0722_1There are only two reasons my son will get into the car for the six-hour drive to Los Angeles: 1. Disneyland, 2. The Getty Museum of Art. That’s right, my son loves an art museum as much as he does Mickey-shaped ice cream. So maybe he’s not your typical kid, but I think his love of the Getty has a lot to do with how this art museum gives families the red carpet treatment.

Here’s why your kids may grow to love The Getty as well:

  1. There is a ride. To get up to the museum, you can choose to walk or ride the Getty Tram. I’m guessing that most kids (and tired parents) will prefer to ride up. Plus, you can convince your kids it’s almost like Disneyland.
  2. There is a room just for them. The Family Room is housed in it’s own small building, and is obviously the most kid-friendly place in the museum. This room looks more like a discovery museum than an art gallery. It has at least five hands-on activity areas, where kids can make a mask, play with mirrors, look through “art” peep holes, and decorate an illuminated wall with their own manuscript designs. My son’s favorite area was the tube sculpture cove. He spent almost half an hour trying to make the perfect sculpture, but realized he had to share his sculpting space with other kids who didn’t necessarily share his vision. In the end, he did get a bit of uninterrupted play time to finish his sculpture. Because this room has limited capacity, we had to wait about 15 minutes to get inside. It was definitely worth the wait though. tube sculptures
  3. They will find engaging art galleries. The summer we went, they had a special exhibit about science and women, with paintings of flowers and insects. Inside the special exhibit, there was an area for kids to color their own flower prints. There was also Art Detective cards available, with clues that kids had to look for in the paintings. These cards are great because they provide kids with a way to actively engage with the art, and parents don’t have to come up with the activities themselves. You can use  Art Detective cards for other areas of the museum-pick one up outside the Family Room.
  4. They can roam the gardens. Art can be appreciated outdoors as well. Kids like to check out the garden paths and the sculptures of the Central Garden. Parents will appreciate that they won’t have to keep tiny hands away from any valuable art. Oh, and did I mention you can catch some of the best views of Los Angeles? The grounds, architecture, and scenic location of this museum are what make it such an unique experience.sculpture at the getty
  5. So many activities, so little time. There’s so much for families to do at the Getty, that we didn’t get a chance to try it all out. I would have liked to try the Family Art Stop to get a “hands-on gallery experience with a single work of art”. The workshop is free, but you do have to sign-up at the Information Center. Check their website for days and times, depending on the season you’re visiting. If you like to do the audio tours, there is one available just for families. You can rent the GettyGuide audio player at the museum’s entrance hall for five dollars.

I love the The Getty Museum of Art for all of these reasons and for the fact that admission is free. You will need to pay $10 dollars to park your car. The cafe has plenty of kid-approved food, and a beautiful outdoor eating area to enjoy some of that southern California sun. You are allowed to bring your own picnic to eat on the lawn next to the Central Garden, or any of the public seating areas.


Family Travel Tips
Los Angeles

The Best Travel Companions


I’ve been lucky in my travels, because I’ve always been blessed with the best travel companions. A trip is always better if you have good companions to share it with. In the picture, are my two favorite travel buddies: my son, and my sister. They’re always ready for a good trip and a good laugh. Most importantly, they let me know when I need to relax and loosen my death-grip on the travel books. That’s what my son is trying to do, by showing me his bottom, after five minutes of posing for this picture. I got the point.

Location: At Kualoa Park with a view of Chinaman’s Hat (also known as Mokolii) in Oahu. 

My buddies are linked up at Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.