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Shannon Enos is a wife, recovering Pinterest addict, and homeschooling mom of two young girls. Her hobbies include analyzing music with her husband, pretending she’s going to finish that crocheting project she started 4 years ago, and making lists of things she has already completed just so she can cross them off. Shannon values truth, education, the arts, open minds, humor, and “Nashville" binges on Hulu. She believes that learning happens everywhere, whether you’re paying attention or not.

 



It's All Learning

Great Wolf Lodge Review

Recently, my family and I had the opportunity to stay at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA. Great Wolf had been on our radar for some time, but having two reluctant swimmers always made us wonder if the water park would be too much for our kids. Since the water park is such a huge part of Great Wolf (and the cost can be significant), we have always put it off for later consideration.

Then our older daughter decided she was not scared of getting her face wet anymore. We have tried three different sets of swim lessons with her over the years and she had never made any meaningful progress. But my husband decided to try with her one on one and she suddenly bloomed! She still doesn’t “swim” exactly -- like using strokes -- but she will doggy paddle and is no longer afraid of getting her face or hair wet which was a huge barrier to her success in the pool. We have a ways to go before she can be considered a swimmer, but the progress is evident. My other daughter -- well let’s just say she’s not there yet.

We got a very discounted rate for Great Wolf Lodge through our homeschool group (REACH, which serves the Fredericksburg, Stafford, and surrounding areas), which was the impetus for us to give it a try. GWL also offers discounts through sites like Groupon and Living Social from time to time as well. We decided to keep it a secret from our kids because my older daughter Josie can be a bit obsessive and we weren’t really up for fielding five weeks of incessant questions about our trip. Plus, surprises are just fun.

We arrived at the lodge on Mother’s Day and the Grand Lobby was decked out in flowers for the occasion. There was a pretty long line for check in but my husband took the kids to look around while I waited. Fifteen minutes later, we were checked in, handed two pairs of wolf ears for the kids and surprisingly, our room was ready to go, two hours early!

hello

The room was great! We stayed in the Majestic Bear Suite, which comes with a kitchenette, two queen beds and a separate bedroom with a king bed and its own TV. We had a great double balcony outside and they put us on the top floor which thrilled my kids. The room was clean, comfortable, and there was plenty of room for everyone and all our stuff. The girls loved that they each got their own huge bed.

bed

We got settled, then they changed and hit the waterpark first. The first thing I noticed about the water park was its sheer size. It is manageable, but definitely large. There are tons of chairs but tables are less plentiful and we never managed to get a table at any point in the weekend. I have the feeling people stake them out right when the park opens, throw their stuff on them, and that is their table for the entire day. Most tables were devoid of any human presence, with just belongings on them. It was no big deal, since we weren’t planning on staying the whole day or eating in the waterpark. (Yes, you can eat in the waterpark, but you cannot bring in your own food. You can use the restaurant there, and there is also a bar right there in the waterpark!)

waterpark

Great Wolf does a good job of accommodating all ages in the waterpark and throughout the resort. They provide free lifejackets to use while you are in the park, which we took advantage of since my kids are weak/non-swimmers. They had a good sized toddler/preschool sized pool with small slides and equipment (my youngest used it even though she is almost seven, and I was worried the lifeguards would kick her out for being too big. Thankfully, they were cool about it since I think it was obvious she was timid in the water.) They have medium sized slides attached to a large fort, massive slides that operate independently from each other, a wave pool, a body surfing pool, a lazy river, an aquatic obstacle course, and aquatic basketball. They also have little geysers in a splashpad area, plus a giant bucket that pours a wall of water out once every couple of minutes. There is plenty to do to keep everyone busy, even if you just want to relax in one of the two hot tubs. The lifeguards were very attentive and plentiful... I always felt like they were in charge and thorough and it helped me not worry as much.

river

The waterpark is warm inside and humid, just as you would expect. Great if you are swimming so you don’t get cold, not so great if you are just hanging out in your regular old street clothes. Also, it is VERY loud. It was hard to hear each other talk unless we were right exactly in front of each other. After a couple hours, I started to not feel very good from all the noise and humidity and needed a break. The other thing worth mentioning is that I was very worried about slips and falls with all the little wet feet running around the park (and I threatened my kids’ lives if they ran), but I saw tons of dripping wet kids running and not one fell. I think the material the deck is made from and the way it is textured prevents slips and falls to at least some degree.

slide

The rest of the resort is also great. You can check out the entire list of activities here, but I will talk about a few we took advantage of. There was not time in the two and a half days we were there to do everything, but we had the girls choose their priorities and we got to do almost everything that was in their top three.

team

Magiquest - this was something I was hesitant to invest any money into at first. It is rather expensive and I wasn’t sure the kids would really get my money’s worth. The gist is that the kids buy a magic wand to unlock gold, treasures, and runes that they use to conquer bad guys and save the village. The game has stations all over the resort. My younger daughter was far more interested in Magiquest than my older one, and it was her #1 choice of activity. It did seem cool, so we decided to tread lightly and bought the basic wand ($16) and one game of play ($16) with a caveat that she had to share some with her sister if she ended up being interested in it (I made it sound more fun than “sharing” by telling her they were a team of two and her big sister was her assistant who she had to train). She ended up being a fabulous sharer and her sister got into it almost as much as she did!

wand

We played quite a bit and she still is less than halfway done with the entire game. If you bring the wand back to the resort, they can reactivate it and you can pick up where you left off, which will be great. The game can cost as much as $58 (per kid) for the fancy wand with special topper and cost of the game itself, but we got out of there for $33. Our trick was to get the basic wand, skip the topper (they don’t advertise this, but they actually give you a more simple -- but still cool -- topper for free if you skip a fancy one), and had both girls share the experience rather than just both of them running up to a station and doing the exact same thing as each other anyway. This made them feel more like a team, and my older daughter, who gets a little scared at intense scenes, could opt out of the big duels with dragons and trolls. Verdict: Do it!

ropes

Howler’s Peak Ropes Course - Ok, an animated dragon might have scared my older daughter, but she doesn’t shy away from heights! She didn’t waste a single minute getting strapped into her safety harness at this ropes course and started right up the stairs before I had even finished paying! This ropes course is great for older kids and adults alike. My husband wanted to try it but he forgot his closed toe and heel shoes, so it will have to wait until next time for him. This course has multiple levels, several options of ways to get from one platform to another, and even a zip line! My 8 year old was more nervous once she actually got up there, but with a little coaching from below, she did the bottom level of the course unassisted (she did skip the zip line though). There was a staffer near her the whole time in case she needed help, yet far enough away that kids feel like they are independent. This course is great for building confidence and practicing problem solving skills. It costs $13 but it was worth it, even for those who stay on the first level, which is still pretty high. Verdict: Do it!

arcade

tickets

Northern Lights Arcade - both my kids wanted to check this out. It is your typical arcade - bright, noisy and full of junk you would never buy with actual dollars but somehow it is ok if you pay with tickets. As with most arcades, the best game is air hockey, and this table was grade A! We all played that. The kids tried skee-ball and some other video games. My 8 year old, Josie, played a fishing game and captured some treasure bearing lobster or something and she won over 1000 tickets. Add that to the thousand they had been given by the staff when a game glitched and spit out an endless stream of tickets (my kids reported it to the staff), and they had enough to buy a couple of good-sized stuffed animals, a souvenir or two and some candy. My head was beginning to pound by the end and my husband had long finished his beer before the kids were ready to leave (many parents were coping by drinking enjoying a cocktail in the arcade), but it was a pretty good way to spend a couple after dinner hours. Verdict: Do it, but keep prize expectations low and bring aspirin.

The Great Clock Tower Show - this is a little song and story put on by the animatronic creatures in the Grand Lobby a few times a day. I cannot tell you what the story is about because it was so mind-numbing that I tuned out approximately 90 seconds in. The girls watched the show while Mom and Dad sat on the oversized hearth in front of the fireplace and planned our next move. After the show was over (it only lasts like 8 minutes), the girls came over and expressed how that was basically 8 minutes of their life they would never get back. Definitely designed for very little kids. Verdict: Skip it, unless you have toddlers or have a love for self-torture.

The Loose Moose Bar & Grill - full disclosure: We did not eat here, but I am including it because I am giving you some advice. This in-resort restaurant is $21.00 for ages 12+ and $9.00 for kids 4-11. It is all buffet style. They do have a full bar, which is cool, but unless that buffet is stocked with all sushi, lobster, filet mignon, caviar and champagne, I can’t see paying $21.00 for any buffet. Verdict: Skip it, and head out into Williamsburg for a more sensible choice.

Hungry as a Wolf - this loosely Italian, counter service restaurant was a good choice for our one meal in the resort. The last night, my husband was beat and suggested we stay in rather than leave the resort (that water park will do that to ya), so we opted for this easygoing spot. He and I shared a pizza (with some left over) and my girls shared a half-size fettuccine alfredo -- the half size was very large! We grabbed drinks from our room and ate at the little bistro tables outside the restaurant. The prices were reasonable seeing as the portions were large (our bill was $30) and everything could be shared. And it tasted pretty good! Verdict: Do it if you would like to try a restaurant in the resort.

room

Bear Paw Sweets & Eats - this is the dessert spot in Great Wolf Lodge. They offered all kinds of fudge, ice cream, Dippin’ Dots, and bakery treats. We stopped in here and each of the girls grabbed a treat to bring back up to the room. It was a great way to end the day, and the bill here was reasonable - I think it was $8 and change. Verdict: Do it!

Dunkin’ Donuts - I felt like I was saved when I saw a Dunkin’s in the lodge, and after braving the waterpark for two whole hours, I needed an immediate iced coffee. I was disappointed to find out that an iced coffee would take 10 minutes to make since an employee said “someone” forgot to make the iced coffee. Really? I got a hot coffee the next morning but thought it was not as good as regular Dunkin’s coffees (to be fair, my husband said his was fine). My girls liked their donuts but I am pretty sure they would eat one off the ground, so there’s that. Verdict: If you are desperate for coffee, sure, go for it.

Buckhorn Exchange Gift Shop - Moms, this one’s for you! This gift shop had all the usual suspects you’d find at a boardwalk shop at the beach: t-shirts, keychains, hemp bracelets with shells braided into them, etc. But they also had some very good quality clothing, bags and gifts. I am not much of a shopper, but I wanted a couple t-shirts for the girls, and they had a few to choose from, all pretty cute... but at $21.95 each, they were too rich for my blood. So I grabbed a couple color changing cups with the Great Wolf logo and a couple keychains for the kids and called it a day, but I could see dropping some cash in there if you are into that sort of thing. Verdict: Do it!

The Great Wolf Kids’ Store - this spot had stuffed animals, t-shirts and pajamas, color-your-own shirts, bags and pillowcases (adorned with the GWL characters), toys, and more... mostly junky stuff. My kids browsed around but weren’t into any of it really... until they saw the Jelly Belly fill-a-cup machine. At $11.99 for about a 9 or 10-oz. Cup, I told them no, but then surprised them with a cup to share on our way out. It thrilled the girls and even my hubby was happy about it. Who can resist Jelly Bellies? Verdict: Hit up the shop for the novelty of the candy cup, save your money on the junky stuff.

There are lots of other attractions, shops and activities to see and do at Great Wolf Lodge, but the ones I mentioned were all we had time for. The prices range from pretty affordable to really high, so go through the website and choose which ones are in your budget and which ones really spark your kids’ interests. You can use the resort on your check in day, even if your room is not ready, and you can also use it on the day you check out until I think 4 pm. The rooms are big and comfortable, and the staff is all very friendly. It is not a quiet resort, I will tell you that. There are kids running everywhere, and the water park is intense. But if you want an easy getaway with built in stuff for the kids, I would definitely recommend it. My daughter actually won another 2-night stay through our REACH homeschool group, so we will be going back soon... but I think we would be doing that anyway! It’s a great spot for kids, and they really try to accommodate the adults (i.e. booze) as much as possible. Ok, not just booze, but hey, it helps! Check it out!

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So Long Coffee, You Were a True Friend

Today is my last cup of coffee. This is its picture.

 

coffee

 

I am sad. I am scared. I am in mourning.

Why, you ask? Why give up something so vital, so imperative, so truly awesome? Something people claim they cannot live without? Something people spend small fortunes on at fancy coffee shops? Needing coffee in the morning (or afternoon, or after dinner) is a uniting, universal force many people can agree on. There are memes about it, clubs, meetups... people actually bond over this drink. It makes people’s lives better. So why would anyone elect to give it up?

 

shhh

 

Well, I have a liquid nondairy flavored coffee creamer problem. Back when I was beginning to drink daily coffee, I had half & half and sugar in my coffee like many people. I was happy and content. But then I decided to try something from that towering wall of liquid coffee creamers in the refrigerated aisle of the grocery. All the flavors beckoned me and called my name. It started with French Vanilla. Then came Hazelnut, my all-time favorite. Then Irish Cream, followed by Cinnamon Vanilla, then a little Cafe Mocha. I liked all of these. They were delicious. When they came out with Coconut Cream and Almond Joy, I was pretty sure I had died and gone to heaven.

 

first sip of coffee on a monday morning

 

At first I would swap out my regular half & half with the flavored creamers a once or twice a week, like maybe to celebrate the fact that it was Friday or to occasionally enhance a nice relaxing Sunday morning. Then it became my weekend habit, including Fridays. Then I was using it on Mondays because Mondays were -- well, Mondays -- and I wanted something to cheer me up. Then everyone knows Tuesday is the lamest day of the week, so I started choosing it on Tuesdays, too. Of course you need something to get you over the hump on Wednesdays, and Thursdays were really close to Fridays which were practically the weekend, so why not Thursdays, too? Pretty soon it became a daily habit. And sometimes twice a day.

I would play around with flavors and mix them. I felt like a mad scientist in her lab, adding a dash of this and a few drops of that, trying to make the perfect cup of coffee. I never had anything short of three different flavors at a time in the fridge. It took me five years to realize that I did not need sugar with the flavored creamers because they were already so sweet. So I left it out and patted myself on the back for making a “healthier” choice.

 

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Flavored coffee creamers became so much a part of my life that I joined a consumer “club” sponsored by one brand, where I could complete activities involving showing my love for their creamer in exchange for points to use toward gift cards. I have the branded mug they gave as a gift to prove it. I have rewards accounts at coffee shops. I am on email lists for coupons. I even made up a custom coffee drink at a chain coffee & doughnut shop that later showed up on the menu (although it is now premade, and sadly, it sucks).

So y’all, I was heeeeeaaaavvvy in the liquid nondairy flavored coffee creamer scene.

Then, I went keto.

For the uninitiated, keto is short for ‘ketogenic’ and is represents a lifestyle whereby one eats low carb, high fat, and moderate protein foods to gain or maintain health. It is somewhat similar to Paleo and Atkins, and there seem to be many definitions just how many carbs or how much fat and protein constitutes ‘keto.’ But the version I use is also sugar free (including corn syrups and most alternative sweeteners) and clean, meaning it cuts out processed foods entirely. You see where I am going with this.

No more of my flavored creamers.

Shockingly, I found it pretty easy to cut out the processed foods. The creamers were another story. I tried keeping them, since I had cut back to just a couple tablespoons a day. But I think they may be to blame for slowing my weight loss to a crawl, plus I know that makes me a total keto poseur if EVERY DAY I am consuming something that has sugar, unhealthy oils and several unpronounceable ingredients. I tried coffee with keto-approved sweeteners and a splash of heavy cream, but it just tasted like -- coffee. Bland, boring coffee. Flavored creamers have ruined real, regular coffee for people like me. I mean, eating an ice cream sundae or a slab of chocolate cake for breakfast would be ridiculous, but if we drink those things, that’s perfectly acceptable, right?

So the only solution for me is to go cold turkey. I am sad, but it is definitely necessary. I think I might switch to tea to get me through. They make a green tea with pomegranate that is so good, it doesn’t even need sugar. Then there’s the peach one, the cherry almond, the coconut chai...

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Allowing for an Allowance

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Allowance - yea or nay?

We have a balanced approach to this subject in our house. Some tasks are expected as a mere privilege of life in our house. You want to live here? Then every day, you will make your bed, pick up after yourself, put your dirty clothes in the hamper, and set and clear the table. If you don’t, you’re on the street. We don’t play.

But other chores earn an allowance. It’s not because I think my kids should get paid to help around the house, because I don’t. In fact, I struggled with the whole idea of allowance. No one pays me to clean up, make meals, or grocery shop for them. We all live here, we all have a responsibility to pitch in as appropriate. But then I thought about the financial side of it. I am pretty good with money now; I am a good saver and a smart shopper. I could definitely be better at long range financial planning, but it is on my to-do list. I shop responsibly and minimally, always look for the best deal, and ask myself “do I really need this?” before purchasing something. But I was not always good with money.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I was horrible with money. I rarely balanced my checkbook; in fact, I pretty much only did that when I had overdrafted. I couldn’t get a credit card, so I would borrow a friend’s when we were out shopping, and then when the bill came, I sometimes didn’t have the money to pay it (I’m sorry, Karen!). I always cashed my paychecks and kept much of it with me, which meant I was always spending it. I spent a lot of time at malls, in convenience stores, and in restaurants. I had nothing in savings. When I finally did get a credit card (a JCPenney card with a $400 limit) it was always maxed out. I was on a path to financial ruin.

My friend’s mother, who you would always see reading Kiplinger’s and Money magazines, gave me a copy of Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobliner. Here’s the part where you think I am going to say I read it cover to cover. I didn’t. I flipped through it, read some of the more interesting passages, and put it on the shelf. But it watched me and taunted me. I knew I was a financial moron, and the book knew it, too. Though I didn’t study the book like I should have, it did give me an awareness that I was doing it wrong.

It took until I went to college (when I was 26) for me to really realize how to save money, how to plan ahead, and how to be financially responsible. I had a minimal income, so I got pretty good at finding ways to save. One of the best compliments I ever received came in the form of my grandmother telling her sister that I could stretch a dollar further than just about anyone she knew. I remember feeling at that moment that I was finally beginning to get it right.

Recently, I got to thinking about how I didn’t want my kids to repeat my financial mistakes. The only way to really make sure that didn’t happen was to teach them about money early. I figured a three-pronged approach was the best way to get this accomplished: modeling good financial habits, having them learn about managing money through books, stories, and lessons, and then of course managing money themselves.

They get birthday money from family members sometimes, but other than that, their only method of earning right now is allowance. To assign a separate monetary amount to each chore seemed tedious, and we didn’t want them to get into the bad habit of picking and choosing what chores they would do based on what they would get for it. It was going to be: either you do your chores and earn, or you don’t. So we decided that certain chores would earn $3 a week IF (and only if) they were all completed with a minimum of reminding and zero complaining. We bought a cool chore chart at Target to motivate them and serve as a visual reminder, and we were off!

 

chart

 

jojovacuum

 

How has it been going? Well, I would say so-so. The girls are very motivated to earn and they typically do not mind chore-time, especially if everyone completes their tasks at the same time (for this, I take a page from my own mother’s book and turn up some fun music as we all go around the house armed with cleaning supplies). The remembering to do the chores is harder though. Part of this might be where the chore chart is placed, on the back door, which is the only place that was magnetic enough for the chore chart to stick. So we will be finding a way to move it to a more central location in the house, hoping that will remind them to complete chores without constant nagging reminding.

 

dusting

 

They have a few bucks saved up, but once they get a bit more, we will begin learning about how bank accounts work, spending vs. saving vs. donating, and maybe even some junior investing. My older daughter heard a story (that both impressed me and filled me with envy, alternatively) on NPR about a 24 year old who bought his first house in cash from investing his allowance, and later his earnings from shoveling snow and mowing lawns, starting at an early age. This got her really excited -- of course she has no interest in buying a house with it... she wants to use her dividends to travel the world! Sounds like a solid plan to me! I wish I had been more of a planner when I was younger and maybe I could have done the same. Both my girls want to experience the entire world, and let’s be honest, you need money to do that, so it would be great if they could make that happen for themselves. But they are never going to do it by maxing out a JCPenney credit card and spending all their money on restaurant meals. Hopefully by getting them started early, my kids will be smart with their money as adults!

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Public Service Announcement

Memorandum

 

To: People in society

Cc: All humans

Re: Common sense

 

This will serve as a public service announcement. Please consider all points and nod in agreement. Nodding will be considered nonverbal acceptance of these terms.

 

Effective immediately and in an effort to make society a kinder, calmer place to exist, the following will be Law of the Land:

 

Grocery Stores

 

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  1. Please treat grocery store aisles as two-way streets. If you would not park your car on the double yellow line and walk away, please consider not doing so with your grocery cart.

  2. Parking lot spaces are not the same thing as cart return corrals. Even if you put the cart as close to the front of the space as you possibly can. Still not the same.

  3. If you decide not to buy the 3 lb. strip steak, please do not put it on the Uncle Ben’s rice shelf. That shelf is NOT refrigerated. All dry goods shelves are NOT refrigerated. Please return to meat aisle and place on refrigerated shelf. Should you choose to ignore this advice, please do not be upset when, during clean up time, your three year old puts his slime back -- in your bed.

  4. If someone would greatly benefit from cutting in front of you in line, please let them cut in line. This includes people with five or less items when you have a cart full.

  5. Please discontinue your casual, loud cell phone conversations. No one needs to hear all about embarrassing Uncle Larry or the details of your child’s last vomiting session while trapped behind you aisle after aisle.

 

Driving

 

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  1. Please note the two sticks on either side of your steering wheel. One operates the wipers; the other operates your turn signal. When needing to turn, please use the stick designated for turning. Please activate it before turning or changing lanes. If you activate this stick and the wipers turn on, it’s the other one.

  2. Please apologize after a driving mistake. If you accidentally cut someone off, it is customary to wave ”sorry.” Using just one finger to do this is not customary and means something very different. If you know that and you meant to use one finger to gesture at the person you just cut off, then you are not taking responsibility for your actions.

  3. Painted lines in parking spaces are not intended as suggestions. Please park so that your tires -- all of them -- are within the lines. If you see that you did not pull that off the first time, please back out and try again until you are within the lines.

  4. Please, for the love of all that is holy, use the left lane for upcoming left hand turns and passing ONLY. A turn four miles down the road is not considered upcoming. If drivers are passing you on your right (and you are not about to turn left) that will serve as a signal to you that you need to move to the right. NOW.

  5. Please no texting and driving. Besides the obvious reasons, people will judge you and use you as the example to their children of a horrible person and I am pretty sure your thumbs will turn black and fall off as a karmic reaction.

 

Door-Related

 

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  1. Please HOLD THE DOOR for people behind you. This can be accomplished by 1) checking behind you to see if someone is there, 2) if someone is, pass them the door or hold it for them. If no one is there, you are free to let it go.

  2. In cases of double-door entryways, please use the door on the right. ALWAYS.

  3. If you see the following individuals approaching a door, please grab and hold the door open for them:

    1. Person on crutches

    2. Person in wheelchair

    3. Person pushing stroller or wheeled cart of some kind

    4. Person carrying lots of stuff

    5. Person who is elderly or has physical challenge

  4. After exiting, should you need to pause to consider something, please move to the side so that the people behind you can exit and not get crushed in the automatic doors. Same rule applies after entering.

 

Miscellaneous

 

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  1. Please be advised that your child’s teacher is NOT out to get your child. She is not. She just isn’t.

  2. Please remember that tipping in full service restaurants or for food delivery is not optional. Even if the food was late. Even if it didn’t taste good. Even if your server or delivery person rubbed you the wrong way. Did someone bring you your food when before you had none? Then you tip. Nine times out of ten, problems with the experience is not the fault of your server or delivery person.

  3. Please resist the well-meaning urge to help a child get down off the playground equipment/tie his shoe/carry multiple items a short distance/get her scooter or bike unstuck. And please do not shoot the parent a judgy look. Odds are the parent is trying to teach his or her child to become an independent problem solver. Trust that the parent will step in if necessary.

  4. Please drive the speed limit (or below) on neighborhood streets where children are playing. Children, even the good ones, can be impulsive. You don’t want to be responsible for injuring or killing someone’s kid because you were going 48 mph down a neighborhood street where kids were playing. You really don’t. You were a child once, too, and no one killed you with their car, so return the favor.

  5. Please note, pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks without signaling devices. if you are driving downtown or in a parking lot or anywhere else with a crosswalk with no signaling device, it is state law that drivers yield. This means YOU MUST STOP and let them go when you see them waiting to cross. Even if you are in a hurry. Even if there are a lot of them. Even if one is walking a pet turtle. Stop and let them cross. And smile at them. (Side note: Pedestrians, it might be nice if you use the aforementioned thank you wave here.)

 

Thank you for your kind attention to these matters. Feel free to comment with additional concerns we may have missed!

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Sometimes, You Yield

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I was thinking the other day about a fender bender I got into about twenty years ago (BTW, I don’t even want to admit it was that long ago). It was a gorgeous summer day. I was heading down a long, straight road towards a light, no one ahead or behind me (for once). I was doing my usual fifteen miles over the speed limit, because back then I had a really bad lead foot. From a side street, a woman in an older sedan pulled out right in front of me, cutting me off. I swerved to miss her as she hit the gas as much as she could to avoid me, and we managed to keep the damage to just my headlight that collided with her tail light.

 

As I got out of the car, I saw she had a very scared six or seven year old in the backseat. I looked up at the mother as she came around the front of her car and steeled myself for an upset momma-bear attack. Instead, she asked if I was ok. I assured her I was and asked if they both were as well. What transpired from there was nothing short of a delightful exchange, even in the face of a car accident. She apologized multiple times for pulling out in front of me when she could have just waited another few seconds; I apologized for speeding, which can make judging whether or not to make that left turn onto a main road trickier for other drivers. We both reassured her daughter, who calmed down quickly, and agreed to each just pay our own damages. In the end, we helped each other pick up red and clear plastic shards from the road, I gave her and her kid each a stick of gum, she gave me a hug, and we both promised to be more careful and moved on with our lives.

 

As I recalled this event the other day, I wondered why the tone of that encounter is so rare these days… both parties more worried about the other one, both taking responsibility for their part, no one putting their own needs first. I wondered if I would react the same way if it happened today, with my kids in tow, in my newer family car, rushing to a place where we would now be late. I really, really hoped I would. I resolved that I would.

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I try to teach my kids about putting yourself in others’ shoes. If I look around at just regular, everyday exchanges in public that I witness, so often I see people so very wrapped up in their own life experiences that they don’t realize there are other people alongside them, also experiencing life. None of us exist in a bubble. If I’m rushing around the mall because it’s my last chance to find that very specific gift for my niece before her birthday dinner that night, am I going to notice the grandmother who is panicking because she can’t find her wallet (which has dropped under the bench and out of her sight)? When I am frustrated because the store was supposed to be holding that birthday gift and it isn’t at the counter and I am running out of time and patience, am I going to slow down and be kind to the teenaged employee who is trying to find out where it is, but it is only her fourth day at the job -- at any job, in fact? When I am slowly backing my tiny Toyota Corolla out of the parking space from between two giant SUVs, is the person coming down the parking lot aisle going to angrily yell and honk at me when I edge too close to him or is he going to realize, “hey, she probably can’t see a thing until she gets halfway out of the space” and just give a friendly tap on his horn to let me know he is there?

 

Moreover, if we are frazzled or distracted or running late and we fail at putting ourselves in another’s shoes and we snap… are we going to fix it? Apologize? Learn from it?

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I find it a hard trail to traverse with my daughters sometimes. Do I groom them to primarily look out for others? For themselves? Both? Unfortunately, they do not fall far from the family tree in that they tend to be kind of wallflower-ish and often their needs are overlooked in a larger setting. They are not those kids waving their arms, yelling, “Over here! What about me!?” In the past, overworked teachers have not realized that they did not get pizza at the pizza party or were never called on to pass out their valentines. Birthdays have passed without acknowledgment from distracted family members (I'm sure many of us have been guilty of this one). Once, my daughter was asked to get a ball in a far-flung field at P.E. class and then literally left outside as the class returned to the gym, the building door locking behind them. It can be hard as a parent to watch, but helping them build those skills to take up and speak up for themselves when needed is important. However, we want to make sure they are looking out for others, too, and putting others first when it is appropriate. It can be a fine line. Of course I want them to be looking out for other people and to be the kids who will give up their spot in line for the person on crutches, give the last piece of piñata candy to a younger child, and give their chair to an elder. But I feel like we also need to make sure they know that it is ok to look out for yourself, too. In a world where people are on ‘Planet Me’ more and more, I need them to know it is ok to say, “hey, I matter, too.” There is nothing quite as soul-crushing as to realize that you have become, in no uncertain terms, a doormat.

 

So I guess we keep pressing on, shining a light on the nuances of daily interactions to see where we yield to others and where we stay put; modeling kindnesses to strangers; making sure we highlight opportunities to imagine someone else’s point of view in a shared experience. We try to impress upon them that taking responsibility for our actions (in a 6 and 7 year old way) is not an option, it is a requirement. We keep our fingers crossed that in the future our kids will be able to take the wheel and navigate what can be murky waters in a way that will be good for them and good for society, and that one day they will realize that sometimes, those are indeed the same thing.

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Pouches' Community Corner

Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (BACA) exists to create a safer environment for abused children by empowering children to not feel afraid of their world. Imagine how an abused child feels when a group of large bikers rides up to their house, inducts them into their club and then escorts them to court to testify against their abuser.

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