Let me take you waaaay back to 2012 for a moment... We were traveling every other weekend for the first half of the year, then in May 2012 we had a baby, went on a family vacation to Colorado, came home, packed up all of our stuff and moved out of our apartment, drove across the US for a couple months, until we finally "settled" in our new home overseas when baby was 4 months old. Since then we have been traveling at the very least every six months, not to mention little mini-trips to the beach or weddings mixed in between.
All this to say, I should be an expert packer. Should be. But during last year's trip to Singapore, I still managed to forget the sunscreen I had bought on sale and had to spend loads of extra money buying some there. And then there was that recent wedding trip where I forgot Luke's shirt and he had to buy a new one he definitely didn't need. And overpacking? At the end of a trip I hate packing up and realizing we didn't use half of the things and could have had a lighter load for the trek home or more space for good souvies.
We all get excited about vacation and usually want to start prepping early. This is the time to start your packing LIST. You can start it as far in advance as you want. A year? A month? Go for it. But start it at least one week in advance.
I am a pen and paper kind of girl. I hate making lists on my phone. I like to use a notebook, not a single sheet of paper or I will definitely lose it in an hour. I get sharpies, glitter pens, whatever is close by that I can doodle with and make the list pretty. Its not required, but you might just have more fun if your list is pretty. Make categories of items - Clothes, Toiletries, Accessories and Essentials. Essentials are vital things that you CANNOT leave home without, like passports and child's blankie. Start listing everything you can think of. Then leave it out in the open so you can easily add items as you think of them.
To prevent overpacking, you should find out from your accommodations what they provide for kids. Many hotels have pack-n-plays, high chairs, pool floaties and laundry services. If you are staying with friends/family, they may also have these on hand or be able to borrow them for your stay. The less gear you have to lug around an airport or stuff in your car, the happier everyone will be! While I was packing for our last trip, my friend recommended having diapers shipped directly to the hotel - BRILLIANT! Diapers can take up a huge amount of luggage space!
DON'T PACK AHEAD
Approximately one week before your trip, people might start asking "Have you started packing?" Certainly within days of your trip, they will be shocked if the answer is "No!" But let not this societal pressure deceive you. Packing ahead can actually be a huge inconvenience.
1. Its a Mess - You can only do a partial job here. You will still need your toothbrushes, and may still want to wear some of your clothes before the trip. You will end up with half-packed, open suitcases that have been dug through intentionally by you or playfully by a curious toddler.
2. You will forget stuff - That curious toddler will probably take some stuff and run, and you won't realize what went missing until its too late. Its also harder to remember what you have put in or left out if the packing is done over the course of several days.
3. It will take a whole lot longer - You will pack and re-pack and the total time you spend, in my experience, will be about double that of packing at the last minute.
HOW TO PACK
Now that your packing list has been thoroughly thought through for at least a week, all of your laundry is clean, and you are within 24 hours of your departure time - you can let loose the luggage.
1. Clothes - This trip, I made neat piles of clothing for each family member to ensure I had the correct number of everything on my list. My list looked like this.. "4 shirts, 3 shorts, 5 undies, etc." I simply told the kids "Go pick out 4 shirts. Done. Go pick out 3 shorts. Etc. They will probably want to help and this is a great way to let them. Once I was sure I had all of the necessary clothing items, I put them in the suitcase, person by person. This also makes unpacking super easy.
2. Be Patient - Don't cross anything off the list until it is in the suitcase. And putting something next to the suitcase doesn't count. Wait until it is INSIDE the bag. If it is something like a stroller, that won't go in a suitcase, cross it off only once it is next to the front door.
3. Leave it - Once the bag is full, you can zip it up and put it by the front door, confident that you will not need to open it again until you are in paradise (or your friend's basement, wherever you might be headed).
4. Essentials - Do a last minute double check of your Essentials category right before you walk out the door. This will be easy because they will all be in one organized place on your pretty little list.
If you plan ahead and do the packing all at once, the packing should only take a couple hours, max. Have your own packaging tips or strategies? Let me know in the comments section.
Now, as daunting as it might feel, packing up a big family for vacation is probably the easiest part. Check out my post on 9 Tips for Vacationing with Kids.
We are moving along in the Graphic Design 101 Series. You can catch up on any posts you have missed, or jump right in with us as we explore the amazing world of Typography! This is absolutely my favorite. In college I was fascinated by the personality of letter forms and how much amazing design could be done with the basic alphabet. But remember, this series is for grades 4-8, so we'll just be scratching the surface with some fun exercises that will introduce the basics to our students.
A bit of background
Start by showing this great video on the history of typography. It covers what might normally be considered "boring" to kids, in a unique, fun and equally informative way.
"You know what, Fonts are really a lot like people!" They come in different shapes and sizes, have personality and purpose, have "body" parts, and even belong to families!
We'll look at the families first, which were already introduced in the video.
You can do fun activities with the font families, like matching upper and lowercase letters or having the students write their name to fit in each family. I've uploaded worksheets at the bottom of the post that you can print and use for your class.
I wouldn't expect the kids to memorize or be quizzed over these terms, but they are usually surprised and tickled to see how many parts are comparable to a person. It helps them to see that typography is more than just picking a crazy font that you like. There is a science to it.
Fonts with a Purpose
Lastly, look at the personality of fonts. Just like color, fonts can dramatically affect the message that your design is communicating. Fonts evoke emotions or the lack of! They can communicate professionalism, silliness, elegance, horror, old school, modern and so much more. I showed them side by side samples of designs using different fonts. I asked them which sample looked better and why. For the most part, they got it. But I think the fifth grade boys actually thought I should switch to the logo with the dripping wax font. Gotta love 'em! :)
Of course the last assignment was to have everyone design their own font. There were two steps. First, they had to write the letters in alphabetical order. Second, they had to write the sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog", which, I explained, uses all of the letters of the alphabet. The kids always have a lot of fun with this. Let them get as crazy and creative as the want!
Feel free to download the worksheets and use them for any non-commercial purposes.
We have a lot of birthdays around this house! I celebrated mine last week, which means that little Marie's is just around the corner. Except she isn't so little anymore, she is turning FOUR! When we first moved overseas, Marie was just four months and my oldest was four years. I found out I was expecting Marie right after we made the decision to travel across the ocean, and it terrified me to think of adding a newborn baby to the mix. But she has been an absolute joy to our family and I am so glad God sometimes gives us good gifts that we didn't ask for or downright didn't want!
Now, the birthday rule in this house is that you get to pick whatever you want for your birthday cake. Since the only thing my girls really know to ask for is princesses, we have done Snow White, Rapunzel and are continuing the tradition for this party with Sofia the First. When I look into one-year-old Libby's eyes and see the adoration for her big sisters, I know that this will not be the last princess party.
I was determined to come up with a cute invitation for Marie's party that hinted Sofia the First, but that I could also actually sell in my Etsy shop. Don't get me started on all the licensing transgressions that are out there. I won't be a part of it! Here is the finished product! It is simple, graceful and can be color customized for any little girl's princess party. Check out the listing here, or contact me about making a custom invitation for your next even!
Up Close and Personal
By far, my favorite part of the whole thing was getting to touch the elephants. After the show, the trainers and elephants play with the crowds, giving out elephant hugs and kisses and tons of photo ops. You are expected to tip them for this, by giving the money to the elephant, who passes it to the trainer with his trunk. I was happy to pay a little extra for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Is it Ethical?
As much as I enjoyed seeing the elephants, I did wonder what goes on behind the scenes and worried that the elephants might not be treated fairly. I mean, is it really right to train them for all of these gimmicks and make them walk around all day with tourists on their backs? But then, is it any different than using other animals for labour? It is certainly preferable to some zoos where I have seen elephants chained by the ankles. I truly hope that the elephants are treated well when the customers aren't there. I came away from here with a greater appreciation for these amazing animals and I think that is worth something. However, if I wasn't traveling with my kid crew, I would probably prefer one of the less touristy elephant sanctuaries.
After the trip I was motivated to redesign my elephant baby shower invitation, especially after seeing the cute little six month old elephant at Maesa. You can check out these designs and more in my Etsy shop!
Happy Mother's Day to everyone!!
When my friends at Crestview Bible Church asked me to design something special for their Mother's Day give away, I had just had one of those days. The kind where I was not sure if I was really cut out to handle this mothering thing, especially 4 times over. This was the verse on my mind, because Luke lovingly reminded me that the frustrating situation was just normal parenting life... what our parents dealt with... what our grandparents dealt with... and so on to the beginning of time. So while fiery trials might not be typical content for most Mother's Day cards, it is certainly applicable for the job description. And likewise are the wonderful promises that He is using it all to refine us into something amazing!
Download the free 5x7 printable and share with all the special people in your life today!
Our bookshelf is filling up! That is both our Reading Challenge bookshelf and our actual real-life bookshelf at home. Luke brought back over 100 books from his recent trip to the US. Some were free giveaways from the conference and others were generous gifts from friends. He also bought some awesome children's books. When I commented on how amazing all the illustrations were, he admitted he hardly read through them but bought all the ones with nice colors and designs. He knows me too well! We made good progress this month. We currently at 33/104. Here's what we read.
The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz (Book about Money) - This was a pretty interesting read about new ways of thinking about and doing philanthropy. The author has been very successful in investing in socially beneficial businesses throughout Africa and Asia.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (Author with Initials in their name) - I enjoyed the second book as much as the first, maybe more. Now that the characters are getting more developed, I can understand how the cult obsession grew with each book release.
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (Book by Jane Austen) - I feel that I am finally a woman for having read this book. I can see why it is so well loved!
Mrs. Funnybones by Twinkle Khana (A Humorous Book) - She is the wife of Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar and writes for a major Indian newspaper. She is lighthearted and makes fun of mostly herself. I was always excited when I understood her obscure Indian references and therefore understood the joke. I think she wants to relate to the common wife, mom, woman, but she is after all, very much a part of the Indian elite.
Day of War by Cliff Graham (Book Your Pastor Recommends) - This is the first in a series of dramatized accounts of David and his mighty men. It painted of picture of what their day to day life might have looked. It made me think more about David as a real person and how his contemporaries would have viewed him. It definitely brought these stories more to life.
Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller (Book by a Presbyterian) - This is a book about the Biblical understanding of work and how we really can do everything for the glory of God. Keller reminded me that every job, whether having the nobility of a doctor or the shame of a garbage man, is of equal value in the sight of God and should be so in our eyes also.
Happiness by Randy Alcorn (Book about Joy or Happiness) - My biggest take-away was how all the words in the Scriptures - joy, rejoice, gladness - all stem from the same idea of being happy. We have really let the culture and false teachers hijack the idea of happiness from us. But God does want us to pursue happiness, it is all about where we look for it. The book was over 600 pages, and I think he could have said all the same things in way less space. Towards the middle and end it was very repetitive.
If You Bite and Devour One Another: Principles for Handling Conflict by Alexander Strauch (Book that gets its title from a Bible Verse) - The book offers exactly what the subtitle says. He takes verse by verse, reminding us mostly of the attitude we are to have during conflict. If we stop and ask ourselves this crucial question - "Am I acting out of the flesh or of the Spirit", we will be able to deal much more wisely in conflict.
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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