Sunday, April 12, 2015

Social Media and Kids. Tough Stuff.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how crazy, weird and out of control the world seems to be.  Everything moves at an intensely fast pace.  News on the front page of Yahoo changes by the hour, and most of it is either bad news or garbage. 

It’s frightening.

I think about my kids, and how different life is now as opposed to when I was growing up.  We didn’t have cell phones or computers, so when I went home from school no one could find me and bother me.

They had to call the house or come over.  That was it.  Only two options. 

My parents knew who was calling our house and if I wanted privacy I had to stretch the phone cord and sit in a closet.  Or around the corner.  My kids don’t have this issue, and I wish so badly they did.  My kids can have nonstop conversations via text and I have no clue what is being discussed. 

Yes I have passcodes for all their devices, but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t check them enough.  If there is a problem I am all over it, but by then the damage is usually done.

Kids don’t have the tools to navigate all the social media and online options they have today.  They aren’t capable of weighing decisions like we are.  They are inundated with messages and without a family watching closely over them, I wonder which message kids will identify with these days.  This goes for elementary school-ers, middle school-ers and high school-ers.

I know I did stuff I shouldn’t have done when I was a kid.  I was rotten to classmates for a few short years.  As kind as I was at home, and as good hearted as I know I was, I can remember things I did that make me shudder today.  I didn’t realize how my words could be so hurtful, and truthfully if there were social media in my heyday I am pretty certain I would have made some pretty shitty decisions.

Watch your kids.  Read their messages.  Limit their access to social media and other online forums.  They are KIDS.  They don’t have the tools to swim across the choppy, online waters.  We didn’t either, but we didn’t have to worry about it.  There is a chance your child is writing messages that are inappropriate; there is a chance your child is receiving them.  In most cases both children are good, it’s the decision making skills that are to blame. I work in a high school and over half the trouble kids get into is because of things they wrote online.  Or stuff they shared.  Or conversations they jumped in on.  

Be a parent.  Be vigilant and if you can’t be vigilant limit what your kids have access to.  I find the less my kids have as far as social media the less I have to monitor.  Which makes my life easier and keeps them out of trouble.

I have a friend who asks her kids, if they claim someone called them a name, "Are you?  Are you what they said you are?"  If they say no, she tells them not to worry about it.  We can't change what other people think and say. If they say they ARE what they were called, she tells them to either change it or accept it.

Period.

We all need to teach kids responsibility for their actions and their behaviors. Those tools will be useful well into adulthood.  What you teach your kids to put out into the world is what they are going to receive. This is true in everything, even online.  

Have a happy, safe and wonderful week with your kids. Check messages and social media, or even better, unplug.

Cheers!

Monday, April 6, 2015

5 Tips Save Money at Disney World

We just returned from a week in Disney World.  Well, 6 days.  We drove which really cuts into vacation time when you have to travel 16 hours in the car one way.

I have many Disney posts to write, because the parks are constantly evolving and this trip I experienced a few firsts.  We used the Magic Band system and we finally rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  I also paid $5.50 for a Churro, which blew my mind.

I’ve watched the prices inside the parks go up every year since I was a kid.  I remember when the Dining Plan was just $9.99/day for a child.  Truthfully it wasn’t that long ago.  I know this because I paid it for my kids on a few of our trips.  I was a tad disheartened to see how expensive the food inside the parks (and the souvenirs) have become.  A Disney vacation is many times a once in a lifetime trip, or at least a once every several years trip.  But seeing the current cost of lodging, tickets and food I wonder how many families will ever make the trip. 

We didn't do the meal plan, and we stayed in our Disney timeshare. We got a great deal on tickets through the DVC (Disney Vacation Club).  We are very blessed because all of these things make our Disney trips possible.  I've been there enough times (40+) to understand the system and save our family money.  We are a well-oiled Disney vacationing machine. 

There are many ways to vacation in Disney.  Packages, staying outside the parks and driving in every day, staying inside the parks and using Disney transportation, some families just do one park and that’s it.  Before I dive in, I want to add that if you are flying and staying in a Disney resort, the meal plan is really the way to go.  It’s not necessary, but food in the parks is expensive.  And if you don’t have a car, you’re stuck with what Disney wants to charge for a hamburger.  The meal plan is best value – by far- if you need to purchase most of your food in the parks.

To maximize savings, here are a few of my best tips for families:


1. If you are staying inside Disney World (at a Disney resort), flying and doing a package with the meal plan, you still need to pack dried goods in your luggage.  This is why:

The standard meal plan provides 2 meals – one quick service and one table service.  You also get one snack.  Families on the Disney Dining Plan should always maximize the dollar and book dinners for table service.  These meals are the most expensive (as opposed to using that table service for a breakfast buffett).  Let’s say you plan to eat quick service early (11am) for lunch in the parks and you book restaurant dinner for 5pm.  You get one snack a day.  Most likely, you or your kids will want a snack in between lunch and dinner.  Or after dinner before bed.  A hot pretzel, a bottle of water, a Mickey Krispy…you get the idea.

But wait, you haven’t had breakfast!

And your kids haven’t had breakfast! 

Do yourself a favor and pack granola bars, oatmeal packets, dry cereal and other easy snacks in your luggage. Even if you have to pay for that extra bag and fill it with snacks and juice pouches, and it costs $30 to get it on the plane, remember ONE churro costs $5.50. If you are a family of four, and you have to stop and buy a snack or a breakfast for everyone, you will spend at least $20 every time you whip out the wallet.

Bring snack food in your luggage, and pack a small soft cooler for the parks.

If you have a stroller, hang it on the back. If you don’t have a stroller pack a backpack.  Disney allows visitors to bring food in, so take advantage! 

The other option – if you really don’t want to bring food along, is to book a late breakfast (table service) and eat enough to get you to your quick service dinner.  Or vice versa. 

Just remember that after buying that dining plan you will cringe when you have to pay for any extra food at Disney prices.

Much more on packing in my Disney book, Walt Disney World Tips n' Tricks

2. If you don’t do the meal plan, and you have a car, GO TO THE SUPERMARKET.  Fill your room with groceries and pack a cooler every day for the parks.  Budget the kids and let them each buy ONE snack a day in the parks.  This is exciting enough and it won’t break the bank.  But for lunches?  Think peanut butter and jelly, apples, yogurts and even Lunchables.  The plan is to eat from your cooler. 

We have done this many times and it works.  We have gone to the parks and not spent a single dollar.  Pack your soft cooler before you head out in the mornings and eat dinners outside of Disney if possible. 

3.  The kids need to bring their own souvenir money.  Mom and dad pay for the tickets and the food.  But make it VERY CLEAR the kids spend their own money on stuffed animals and other souvenirs. Give the kids methods to earn spending money by assigning chores at home and saving birthday money.  Make this a big deal so they understand there are NO LOANERS from mom and dad.

4. Skip the extras.  Do not do the Memory Maker Picture package.  Bring your camera and ask the photographers by the characters to take a photo with your camera as well.  They will.  No need for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, bring Disney dresses and doll your daughter up in the hotel room.  I have a tutorial video HERE if you want to do a copycat boutique hairstyle. 

Truthfully, you don't even need a park hopper add on for the tickets.  Go to one park a day and enjoy your hotel when you are finished.  The less running the better with small kids, and everyone will enjoy the downtime.

5. Buy before you go! 

For families with kids who are Pin Traders, buy pins on ebay before you leave.  Kids trade away the pins they have, so what they start with shouldn't be their favorite.  The goal is to trade and find favorites. 

Before you leave for you trip, buy small souvenirs at Walmart and Target when you see them on sale.  If you see a small Mickey stuffed animal, buy it and toss it in your luggage.  Leave this for your child “from Mickey Mouse” in the hotel room.  Get one small surprise for every day of the trip and leave them for your kids to wake up to every morning.  These will keep your little ones from salivating over every toy in the gift shops.  They will love their gifts from Disney Pals and you will save tons on souvenirs.  Look for shirts, sunglasses, small toys, and stuffed animals.

Lastly, bring your own sunscreen and ibuprofen.  Pack hand wipes and sanitzers.  The less you need to buy on site the better.

Share your saving tricks in the comments section! 



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter Treats

I have Easter on the brain.  I’m busy stuffing plastic eggs and looking for goodies to fill those Easter baskets.  We like to celebrate holidays on a larger scale, since our kids don’t receive much throughout the year unless it is needed.  Their big chances for new anythings are birthdays, Christmas and Easter.

Oh, and of course back to school time. 

For us Easter involves plenty of sweet treats for the family.  We buy candy, make candy and eat candy.  We enjoy a delicious brunch with waffles and whipped cream.  We go 100% for a full day and worry about the calories on Monday.

Recently I had the opportunity to sample Sugarbowl Bakery, a family-owned bakery that sells products through retailers nationwide.  On their website you can find top quality recipes (love this!) and links with information on where to purchase their products.  I was floored with how rich and chewy their brownies are, and even more floored  they’re all cholesterol-free, have zero grams of trans fat, and have no preservatives.

As a parent I love knowing I can read all the ingredients on a box.  It definitely helps me sleep better at night.

Another favorite Easter treat?  The bunny cake.  We make one every year, and I’ve blogged about the cake before.  It’s a great family tradition that the kids absolutely love.



Happy Almost Easter!

Check out my other Easter posts: