Backpacking With Kids: 5 Backpacks – 5 People

Hey everyone! The last two weeks have been a little crazy, but I think it proved that our family has moved into the next stage of traveling; backpacking. We went to London, Paris, Budapest, and a tiny village in Hungary called Vajta. Why Vajta? Some of the most amazing people in the world live there… but that’s for another post.

On our way from Paris back to London for our flight to Hungary. As you can see, one of the girls wasn't very happy...
On our way from Paris back to London for our flight to Hungary. As you can see, one of the girls wasn’t very happy…

Five Backpacks for Five People

That’s right, our family has been introduced to the world of backpacking with kids. We took two medium sized backpacking backpacks, one large school backpack, and two small school backpacks for our entire family of five. This was our first time traveling without any suitcases, and it was so much easier. The only catch was that we had to do laundry, but we had planned for that ahead of time. We knew there would be a washer at our Airbnb in London, and Travis found a laundromat in Paris where he went to do laundry while I read and the kids played on their Kindles. In Hungary, we stayed with friends and they let us do the remainder of our laundry. We also used vacuum bags to make everything in our packs more compact.

My New Purse Rocks

I got to test out my pickpocket proof purse (anti theft purse), which is a tutorial I’ll be doing in the coming months. It worked out just like I wanted it to.

A “Sprouts En Route” Book

We have realized that, as a couple, we are now on the tail end of traveling with small kids (since our youngest will be four this summer), and we want to compile everything we’ve learned into a book… I have no idea when I will be planning and writing that since I have a full writing schedule for the next few months, but it’s a goal.

Now that we are home we are all struggling with some kind of intestinal virus we probably caught on the plane (yay!), but once that is over, I should be posting on a regular basis again. I hope you are in the mood for many exciting posts about our trip, and traveling with kids in general. The timing seems perfect, as everyone is starting to plan for their summer vacations.

Happy travels,

Kristin

Raising Culturally Sensitive Children

If you are going to take your children to places where they will be exposed to different cultures, you need to prepare them. Whenever I run into Americans that are visiting Europe I get excited, but there are certain things that Americans do that break my heart. With a little bit more education on a parent’s part, we could take several steps toward killing cultural arrogance and ignorance. I hope that is a goal you have for your family. It is definitely a priority in our family. I am really open to your opinions on this topic, and I would love to do a follow up article with everyone’s input. Here are just a few things we can teach our kids (and learn ourselves) about how to be more culturally sensitive, especially when we travel.

Raising Culturally Sensitive Children

The Bright Side

There are aspects to every culture that we will see as negative and positive. Instead of constantly pointing out the negative things, encourage your children to look for the positive things that they see and learn in the culture you are visiting. Maybe it’s the culture’s sense of community that impresses you, or their dedication to wearing bright colors. If you lead by example and avoid complaining, your children will notice that. If you tell them not to complain while you are constantly complaining they won’t listen. It’s like any other principle of parenting, if you tell them to do something and then do something else, eventually they will come to resent that rule, even if it is a good one.

New Culinary Adventures

Don’t assume you know anything about the local dishes. Do some research, and prepare to be surprised. Looking at a plate of bright red paprika spiced sausage will not prepare you for how delicious it is. In fact, looks can often be deceiving. Be adventurous, and again, teach your children not to complain publicly about food. That is a good rule anyway, because at some point you will eat with your children outside of your house, and you don’t want them to seem ungrateful. Let me rephrase that, you want to raise them to be grateful, even if they don’t appreciate the way something tastes, smells, or looks. One time at a private dinner where our family were the guests of honor, I looked down and my plate of food was looking back at me, literally. I had been served the face of the lamb that was to be our dinner, and the eye was still in place. In the US, most of us are not connected to how our food gets on our plates. We don’t slaughter our own meat, so we forget that the animals we eat at one point had a face and eye balls. But the face meat on the lamb was delicious. I would eat it again. No I didn’t eat the eye ball, even though some consider that good luck. My kids definitely noticed the eye ball, but apparently our hard work is paying off because not one of them commented about how gross or weird it was to have one on my plate. Is complaining about being given an animal’s entire face on your plate considered rude? Yes, absolutely. Don’t do it.

Teach Them Why

The teaching process is long. We are constantly spending time explaining things to our children, and if you want to raise culturally sensitive children in this angry world, you must also spend time explaining to them how and why. As foreigners living in a place that is not our own culture, we are constantly having conversations about how and why we do things. My younger kids don’t ask questions about these kinds of cultural differences where we live now, but when we are back in the US, they ask questions constantly. My oldest remembers what it is like to live in the US and sometimes she has questions about why we do certain things certain ways in Greece. These conversations are worth having because they not only inform your children, but they shape the kind of adults they will become. If you teach your children to be curious instead of condemning, their whole outlook on life will change. Maybe you don’t like deep fried spider on a stick, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to eat. Maybe you don’t agree that your child will catch a serious cold if they don’t wear industrial boots on the first day of winter, that doesn’t mean that the other person is wrong in their opinions. This whole idea of right and wrong when it comes to culture creates unnecessary division.

A New Normal

Next time you are tempted to turn away in disgust when someone offers you a plate of food that appears strange to you, or they give you advice you have never heard before, stay polite. Don’t roll your eyes or look away in disgust. You wouldn’t want someone responding to you that way, would you? It’s common courtesy that isn’t all common any more.

What do you think? What are some cultural differences that have been difficult for you to address with your children? Is it your goal to raise culturally sensitive children? Why or why not?

Happy travels,

Kristin

Potty Training – Updated

A few years ago (I cannot believe this blog has been going for so long), I did a series all about my potty training adventures with my two daughters. I am thankful to say that my house is a diaper free zone, and that means that my littlest, the energetic little boy in our family, has finished his potty training. Since I have friends that are also braving potty training, many for the first time, I thought I would do an update post about potty training, along with specific tips for potty training little boys. If you want to read any of my original posts about potty training (which are way more detailed), click here.

potty training boys

When to Abandon Before You Begin

There are several instances when you should avoid starting potty training. If there is any major life change coming, for example. Our oldest daughter had been potty trained at 16 months, and then we moved. It was a disaster and back on the cloth diapers went. She didn’t end up being ready again until she was two. I guess she got over her irritation with the wet cloth diapers at some point after the move. That is just one example, but here is a quick list of times to avoid potty training (if you can).

-You are planning to move within three weeks.

-You will be traveling anytime in the next three weeks.

-The child has not exhibited any of the steps of readiness: waking up with a dry diaper in the morning, being able to go without liquids two hours before sleep, being able to communicate effectively to tell you when they need to go.

-You are not in a place mentally or emotionally where you can support them through accidents.

-You will not be able to be with them 24 hours for the next two weeks.

Prep Work

You will need to get the following items to prepare for your 2 week potty training adventure.

-2 waterproof covers

-Training underwear (7 pairs)

-Plain underwear (7 pairs)

-Character underwear your child would love (7 pairs)

-A reward system. I used gummy bears, but if you are anti sugar you could use craisins or something else that is tasty

-A reliable alarm of some sort (I use my iPhone)

-An extra sheet for their bed Read more

When Is My Child Old Enough To Pack By Themself?

When Is My Child Old Enough To Pack By Themselves

When Is My Child Old Enough To Pack By Themself?

I don’t think there is any one right answer that fits all children, but I will give you the answer that has worked for my family. We are transitioning out of the baby days, and my kids want to do a lot more without mommy and daddy’s help. So when we announced a 3 day vacation to Kalamata (one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen) the first question my girls asked was, “Can we pack our own bags?!” They are currently 8 and 6 years old.

I thought about it for a moment. The last time they asked me this question, I let them do it, and then I had to repack everything. They disappointed that mommy dared to undo all of their careful, mismatching and weather inappropriate work. This time, I had a flash of inspiration. My oldest can read in English now! I realized. So I made a specific list of the things they needed to pack. It worked out wonderfully.

So here is what I would say if you asked me how old your child needs to be before they can pack by themselves. If they can read and follow the instructions on the list, they can pack.

We are going away for three nights. Here is what the list for each girl looked like:

What To Pack

-5 pairs of underwear

-2 tank tops

-1 tee shirt

-2 pairs of shorts

-1 dress

-1 swim suit

-2 sets of pajamas

-2 pairs of socks

-2 books and a few small toys

We are going to a beach city, so why would my kids need socks? Always bring socks! You never know when a blister is going to pop up, and they always seem to wait to appear until you are on vacation. I suspect that it has to do with the constant walking we do when we are in a new place. We want to experience everything, and the best way to do that is to walk. It may take up a little extra room in our backpacks, but we always make sure to have a pair of normal shoes in addition to our sandals.

I hope you get a chance to get away this summer (if you haven’t already) and enjoy some quality family down time.

Happy Travels,

Kristin

When do you start letting your children pack on their own?

The Little Things – Thoughts For This Holiday Season

With the holiday season coming up, I have been thinking about ways to bless my kids. That has caused a lot of reflection on my own childhood, and the more I think about it, the more I come to one conclusion: It’s the little things.

This winter, as you are traveling or staying home, you can make this the best holiday season your children have ever had by doing small things that convey how much you love them. The key is to do things that your children will remember. As I look back at my childhood, I do remember a lot of the big things that my parents did. When I was 16 I got a drum set for Christmas, which was epic, because I was in drumline. My memories from being a small child are a lot different. I don’t necessarily remember the amazing gifts I got, or trips to Disneyland. What I really remember are the small, but genuine acts of kindness that were displayed to me by my family.

My brother and I as kids. Adorable, right?
My brother and I as kids. Adorable, right?

If I think about my own children and the things they remember, a private tea party with Mommy ranks way higher than a trip to the zoo (although they do love the zoo). Why? Because tea parties involve me spending time with them, baking cookies, making tea, and sitting around chatting about whatever they want to chat about. I know you are starting to get the idea, but to emphasize my point, I am going to share a few things that I vividly remember from being a small girl. They are in no particular order.

The Little Things

1. Uncle Mike drew hearts and smiley faces on my peanut butter toast.

2. Aunt Sherry never made me feel like she was watching me because my mom was working, it always felt like she was having me over just because she wanted to spend time with me (I actually never made the correlation until I was a teenager). She made me the BEST peanut butter sandwiches.

3. Aunt Stephanie let us all sleep over, like every Friday night, all through summer. In the morning she always made us heart shaped waffles!

4. Mom used to take us for walks around the neighborhood and we would all talk. That is one of my earliest memories.

5. Dad would drive me to far away practices, even though he was exhausted. One time he drove me to a hockey game, and it ended up being an away game. It turned into one of my best times with him because we spent the whole day alone, and he ended up teaching me how to drive.

6. My brother would dress us as an astronaut with me and spend hours playing space ship. Everything was made out of cardboard, including our helmets.

7. Uncle Dave singing. Him and my dad both have amazing voices. He also would give me the biggest hugs!

8. Aunt Ellen always made me feel important. She listened carefully to whatever I had to say. Plus she was the best preschool teacher ever! I hung out with her before class some mornings and she would make me oatmeal.

9. We used to have holidays where there were too many people were smashed into a small house, the more people the better. I always felt loved, and like I was part of something big that mattered. My favorite part was being around family and friends, the presents were always secondary joys.

Now look back at my list and try to find something that costs a lot of money. These memories involve time and sacrifice. That is what makes a child feel special. I hope during your big holiday plans, that you make time for big memories that won’t cost you a cent.

Happy travels,

Kristin