It’s Summertime!

The coats and thermals are now all packed away into hibernation. Shorts, tee shirts and tank tops, swimwear, sneakers, and flip-flops are the everyday fashion trend once again. Oh, and let’s not forget plenty of water, sunscreen and sunblock, hats, and sunglasses as well.

But what do you plan do during the summer? Kids are out of school, the weather is more inviting, and there are events taking place just about everywhere all season long, from fairs and carnivals to outdoor movies and conventions.

Need ideas?

If you haven’t already, take a look at our Idea Bandages page. Not only will this provide you with many ideas for you and your family, but this will also give you locations and other search sites for the activities and ideas listed.

Maybe you would benefit more from the list of activities on our Extra Aid page. Whether you’re looking for ebooks, a list of summer activities, or summer reading resources, you’re sure to find it here.

Perhaps you plan to spend most of your summer outside. We usually do! In that case, check out our GYFO Initiative. If you’re not yet aware of it, familiarize yourself with it and discover why it’s different from other outdoor- and activity-enthusiast websites and efforts. Then take a look at the tips and ideas to make the great outdoors great and enjoyable for you as well.

No matter your choice for summer fun, remember to be and play safe. Dehydration is a problem in the heat. Eight glasses of water per day is what’s recommended when you’re not active, but when you are active or outside, it’s usually necessary to at least double that recommendation. Caffeinated, sugary, and alcoholic beverages can actually exacerbate and speed up dehydration. Teas, sodas, and beers may sound refreshing, but they’re actually quite the opposite.

Sunburns and skin cancers are also concerns. Sunscreens and sunblocks are not the same. As the names suggest, sunscreens screen you from harmful UV rays, while sunblocks are formulated to block UV rays. And make sure you reapply every hour; one application will not cut it for a full afternoon at the beach or playground. Increase your protection from UV rays by wearing sunglasses that provide UV protection, hats (the wider the brim, the better), and even clothing enhanced with UV protection (you can find these at regular stores like Target now). If you do get burned, use aloe and/or cold cabbage leaves to relieve the pain and heal your skin.

Get outside and enjoy the summer. You don’t need to fear the sun or avoid it altogether; just be prepared and use caution.

Stay safe,

Family Bandage

Special Appreciation and Recognition on Father’s Day

All parents have a tough job, whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, grandparent that takes on a parenting role, adoptive parent, step-parent, or a parent that works daily, nightly, or sometimes both.

It’s not fair to say this type of parent works more or harder than that type of parent, or is more loving, or cares more. Every ounce of parenting is difficult and challenging…yet each also has its own rewards and benefits.

In our house, we have what many would consider an old-fashioned home life and family: we have two kids, Mom stays at home, and Dad is the sole bread winner. We have debts, a mortgage, and car payments. We live paycheck to paycheck, have our concerns and worries as well as ups and downs, and make memories living our day-to-day life.

Yes, Mom’s “job” is difficult and generally thankless, but let’s not forget how challenging and full of stress Dad’s job is too.

He gets up early or late, works long hours and overtime, stresses constantly about keeping his job (especially in this economy), and misses out on a lot of what is going on with his family, especially in terms of how his kids are growing up and what they are experiencing. There’s a lot of pressure put on fathers/step-fathers/grandfathers/father figures, yet they somehow do it, day in and day out, taking it in stride…at least on the outside. (Remember our hormones, ladies? Yeah, guys tend to not have those emotional swings and moods due to a lack of those.)

He misses most of those special “firsts.” He’s not able to kiss away a lot of boo-boos and tears or soothe fears. He can’t be present for many outings, adventures, and experiences. It’s not that that’s how he prefers it; that’s just part of the “job” as a father. And we shouldn’t think for a moment that it’s easy on him.

No, I’m not forgetting about stay-at-home fathers/grandfathers/etcetera. In homes where the roles are reversed, those stay-at-home dads have it tough: constant stress, being pulled in a multitude of directions, worrying about who’s doing what, wondering why everything is suddenly quiet in the house, and so on.

Each type of parent has it tough and their role has daily challenges. It’s no walk in the park, and one doesn’t have it easier than the other. Having kids and raising a family are (generally speaking) two-person jobs. Neither parent does this or that more, has an easier time at “work,” or deserves a break or recognition more than the other.

As a stay-at-home mother, I tend to forget that Bandage Dad doesn’t have it easier because he “goes to work” while I stay home. That he would prefer to be with us than work extra hours or fly to New Jersey on a business trip. That he does wish he was going with us to the zoo for the umpteenth time already this year. That he would rather stay at home to take care of the boys because I can’t shake a cold that I’ve been battling for weeks.

My “job” is entirely different from his, yet it’s also very similar. We both miss out on things, we both worry and stress, we both work long hours, and we both would rather switch roles just for a day for a break in the monotony and routine.

Then again, we also wouldn’t change the way things are, simply because we’re working together to raise this family, in very different ways, that are so far successful and advantageous to each one of us.

So on Father’s Day, let’s remember that, no matter how it may appear or what we may think, Dad’s job is just as difficult as Mom’s, even if those challenges differ and vary. His job isn’t easy. Be sure to thank him.

But don’t just thank him on Father’s Day. Thank him periodically, for no apparent reason, as well. He may not gush about it, his eyes may not swell up with tears from his appreciation, but it will certainly make him feel…amazing.

Happy Father’s Day,

Family Bandage

Vacations Are For More Than Fun

Summertime is here. This means traveling, adventures, and loads of fun to be had by many. While vacationing, be sure to focus on more than just having fun though.

Relaxation is important, but that doesn’t mean doing nothing. People find relaxation in many ways. It can be attained in hiking the mountains, going on a tour, visiting a historic village or location, or camping. When you relax, you have an opportunity to take a break from what is considered your “normal” day-to-day activities and events. It doesn’t necessarily equate to nothingness.

When you get the chance to relax, you also de-stress. You almost don’t even need to try; worries and stresses just seem to melt away. Sure–getting ready for a vacation could be stressful; after all, there’s so much to do to get ready. However, even if you do stress while getting ready, you certainly get a chance to relax and unwind once vacation begins.

With relaxation and de-stressing comes a boost in your immune system. Daily stresses, deadlines, and so on wreak havoc on you, both physically and mentally. On vacation, you don’t need a schedule, you don’t have to be anywhere, and there are far fewer demands. There’s a reason you feel more energized when you return from vacation: your body and mind have had an opportunity to simply chill out and regroup.

Finally, you get precious family time. Shut off or get away from phones. Avoid the computer, emails, and social media–or at least cut down drastically. Focus on the here and now, the time you’re with family that you probably don’t get most days. If you have young kids or grandchildren, remember that they’re only this size and age once. The last thing you want is to look back and say “I wish I would have…” or “I really should have…”

When all is said and done, nobody ever wishes they spent more time at work. Vacations are invaluable. Take full advantage of it, as often as possible. Don’t think you only need one vacation per year or every couple of years; take them when you can, multiple times per year. The only regret you’ll ever have is having not taken vacations and spending extra time with loved ones.

Best wishes,

Family Bandage

Thank A Veteran Every Day

Today is Memorial Day. Many don’t realize what that means and believe it’s National Barbecue Day. We’re not saying you shouldn’t get out and enjoy the day with your family. We’re just saying it’s sad that so many Americans don’t fully understand or appreciated Memorial Day.

This is a day to thank and remember to all those men and women that are the reason for our continued freedom, those who fought for us and lost their lives, and those families that lost their loved ones as a result.

“All gave some, but some gave all.”

We’re not saying America is perfect. We’re not saying America isn’t going through some rough times right now. We have been to other countries, and Bandage Dad is from the former USSR. We know first-hand that America is privileged and special.

If you appreciate your American rights and freedoms, please stop and thank a Vet. Whenever we are out with our boys, no matter where we are, if we see somebody in fatigues or wearing a hat, jacket, or shirt that displays veteran status, we stop them, we all shake their hand, and we all thank them. Our boys don’t fully understand why yet, but they know that when they see an individual in uniform, they are special and deserve attention.

It doesn’t matter your political affiliation. If you live in the USA and are fortunate enough, then you are American. It doesn’t matter your political party; that’s just a label, and, frankly, labels suck. Three of us are American-born; one of us earned American status in 2005–16 years after coming to this country (he even relinquished his former citizenship; he only wished to be American and not retain dual citizenship). We are all proud and grateful to be Americans, and that’s what matters. That’s why we proudly fly our flag.

Happy Memorial Day!

Family Bandage

Should You Let Them Be Eaten By Bears?

In a word, yes.

I don’t mean literally! I’m actually referring to Peter Brown Hoffmeister’s latest book, entitled Let Them Be Eaten By Bears: A Fearless Guide to Taking Our Kids into the Great Outdoors.

Just released at the beginning of this month (May 2013), I recently received this book and had the privilege of reading it. If you’re looking for a fun, down-to-Earth, personable book that will help you discover ways to get your family outside, whether for the first time or to ease you into new outdoor experiences, this is it. It’s a long book (the paperback boasts 214 pages, not including the references, reading suggestions, acknowledgements, and index), but it’s a very easy and enjoyable read.

Many books like this more-or-less talk down to its readers. This one doesn’t. Hoffmeister wrote this book as though he was talking to friends and fellow outdoor enthusiasts. He has experience–a lot of it–which he refers to often, but not in a look-at-me-I’m-boasting kind of way. He’s very relateable, as a parent, spouse, instructor, and all-around fun-loving individual.

I enjoyed both the way the book was written and the structure in which it was written. The table of contents makes finding what you’re looking for easy. If you’re just looking for safety tips, see chapter 13. Need ideas for outdoor games? Check out chapter 15.

And he doesn’t just throw material out at you, expecting you to willingly accept it and step outside your comfort zone, no holds barred. He eases you into everything. He did not design or write this book to belittle you if you’re not yet enjoying the outdoors. He truly wants to make your experiences easier and fun. He wants to ease you into it, and the way he does it would convince just about anybody to try camping, whether it’s simply in your backyard or on a multi-night excursion in the wilderness.

I genuinely enjoyed this book, and I really believe anybody that reads it would love it too. It’s available right now on Amazon.com, or check out your local bookstore. Nature is healthy and a necessity for life, and that is one reason we feel Let Them Be Eaten By Bears is a must-have for any family. His book plays right into our GYFO Initiative and will become recommended reading as well.

Happy Reading,

Family Bandage

*NOTE: At no time are we compensated for any reviews that we write. All reviews are at our own will and in our own words.

Do We Push or Support?

Our boys will be three years old and five years old in June. Yes, we homeschool, and not for religious reasons–we’re actually not a Christian family, and we are truly very accepting of all beliefs (or lack of). We enjoy the flexibility of homeschooling, the bond forming in our family, and how our boys are growing and shaping.

Based on some of the judgments by others–including family–I am sometimes left wondering about the choices we’ve made in raising our sons. We don’t force anything upon them. We encouraged our oldest to try taekwondo, and while he was very gifted at it he asked to take a break after 6 months of training because he was uncomfortable with it (namely the forced stretching and the sparring). We’re not sure if he’ll return to it, but we’ll support him no matter his decision.

At their very young ages, our boys love and are interested in martial arts, camping, fishing, wilderness, engineering, baseball, hockey, football, gardening, trains, construction, books, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, animals, bugs, birds, dancing, and archery. The only one of these that we’ve remotely pushed upon either of them was martial arts; our oldest showed our youngest some moves, and while they know how to defend themselves and some of the drills, they’re not interested in much of anything else to do with the art–at least right now.

As for their other interests, they got into those on their own and we went along with it. When we took them to an outdoor supply shop and an RV lot, they expressed interest in camping, fishing, and archery. Anytime either of the boys hear music–since they were around six months old–they start dancing and will even request that we play certain songs for them to dance to. My husband and I are football and hockey fans, so those interests were basically inherited by exposure, but their desire to learn baseball formed entirely on their own–we just bought the soft-strike T-balls, bat, and gloves so they could practice and play. Both boys perk up and take notice of and interest in airplanes, helicopters, trains, trucks, and construction sites (and my parents–their maternal grandparents–work in the construction field). For more than a year they’ve requested a place of there own in our yard so that they could grow vegetables and flowers, and now we have a garden that they help care for. Bandage Dad and one of their uncles are engineers, and both boys love museums and science centers. Since the boys were tiny we’ve read them books, and we make it a point to read at least one book, story, or book chapter every night before bed. The boys love the menagerie of animals, birds, and bugs attracted to our home and the canal behind our house, in addition to what they see at zoos, aquariums, and while camping.

We don’t feel it’s necessary to push or pry things onto them. Their interests are wide, and when they tell us about something they like or enjoy or are interested in, we pursue it with and for them. When I was little, I liked to dance, so my parents enrolled me in ballet. I’m not entirely sure why I quit, but I do know that I stopped when I was five or six…only to continue country line dancing (which I still do) and develop an enjoyment of instruments (namely the flute and piccolo, which I played for nine years). Bandage Dad was pressured into choir, ballroom dancing, and piano–all of which he disliked and quit as soon as he was able. He loved skiing, soccer, tennis, swimming, and hockey, which were hobbies he became interested in on his own.

As kids, we noticed how we felt when we were pushed into something and when we were allowed to do what and as we enjoyed. We wish that for our boys as well. We will support their decisions and introduce them to new things, but we decided a long time ago that we’d never push or pressure them into anything.

We have no plans of having them join a little league or softball team; we bought them bats, balls, and gloves because they tired of their plastic set and wanted to try something that felt more grown-up. If they become interested in joining a team, then we will let them, but we won’t drag them to try-outs because other parents have their kids in sports. Besides, baseball is something else that we get to do with them. And we have no intention of sending them off to camp or into Cub or Boy Scouts, especially when we love and enjoy camping, hiking, and fishing right alongside them and it gives us something more to do as a family.

We genuinely feel like we support their decisions and interests. We don’t push or influence what they do or take part in. We know plenty who would disagree with us and say we should get them into this club or that sport or what-have-you, as though kids can’t make decisions for themselves. Infants have the capability of deciding what music they respond to, what positions make them comfortable, and what foods they prefer. Kids–including toddlers–definitely have the ability and the right to choose what they like and want to do in terms of interests, sports, hobbies, and extracurriculars. It’s true that they don’t know what all is out there, but it’s our responsibility as parents and guardians to introduce things to them, not force them to like or do what we think they should.

As for homeschooling, this was and continues to be a unanimous decision among the four of us. Our boys get to learn how and what interests them and in what style of learning fits them (right now it’s learn-through-play), and daily we’re praised by strangers about our boys’ behavior and manners. Despite disapproval by others, we love the decisions we’ve made, and as long as our boys are safe, healthy, growing, and thriving, then we’ll continue along the course we’ve been on so far. No single method works the same way for any two families; our method is what works best for our family, and that’s what matters to us.

Pleasant journey,

Family Bandage

Celebrate you on Mother’s Day

As a mom, we tend to think of Mother’s Day as a time for others to celebrate and show appreciation towards us. After all, being a mom is a challenging, thankless, stressful job. It’s nice to be the center of attention and receive treatment on this one day each year. I enjoy it as well.

However, moms should celebrate themselves too. It’s not so much in an effort to improve self-esteem or a feeling of self-worth either. It’s about taking care of yourself and building self-compassion. Remember: you and what you do are not minor, small, or insignificant. How would you encourage and cheer up a friend in need of a boost? You’d tell her she’s important, she’s loved, she’s appreciated, and so on. This is what you should tell yourself too.

Your child(ren) need and appreciate you more than they could ever verbally express, and if you look at all the little things–how they cry for you when they’re sad or hurt, how they act out around you, the hand-made cards and pictures, etcetera–they actually show you daily how very much they love you, how important you are to them, how comfortable they are with you, and how much they need you.

Moms are irreplaceable and invaluable to their kids and husbands/partners. Sometimes we sell ourselves short, but we shouldn’t. We must remember that without us, there wouldn’t be them, and then this world would be emptier without them…and you. We gave and give them life and meaning every day, not just on the day they were born or adopted.

Whether you’re a mom, step-mom, grandmother, or adoptive mom, you are irreplaceable. And that is why you need to take time for you as well–if you don’t, they won’t have you, and their life would be a whole lot emptier. So remember how very much you are loved and appreciated, especially today, because no matter how you feel or sometimes think, you really are loved and appreciated more than you will ever realize.

Happy Mother’s Day,

Bandage Mom

There Is Nothing Like Family Closeness

This has been a rough week for us; Bandage Dad has been gone since early Monday morning on a business trip and will return tomorrow (Thursday) night.

What–that doesn’t sound like a big deal? For us, it is.

This is only the second business trip to take him away from his family. The first one was when our oldest was only 13 months old, and since he was so young our oldest doesn’t remember it. Essentially, this is our boys’ first time away from Daddy, and since they’ll be 3 and 5 next month they fully understand and feel Daddy’s absence. And yes, since we’ve been married this is also only the second time we’ve been apart for more than a day.

We didn’t anticipate he’d go on another business trip without us, but after weighing options and taking a look at finances, we determined a solo trip was the best option. Perhaps it was the best choice financially. However, we now feel it wasn’t the right choice overall.

We are an extremely close family, and we’re also a rare breed. We have every breakfast and dinner together, and on the weekends we also have lunch together. We do family story time every evening before bed, and when Bandage Dad isn’t at work then the four of us are together, whether we’re camping, doing housework, fishing, going to the zoo, shopping, or whatever the case may be.

We are always together and we love it, so we have a closeness and bond that most don’t understand.

This week hasn’t been hard only on the Bandage Boys either. Bandage Mom and Dad don’t like time apart. We cuddle at night and are that ridiculous couple that displays public affection. Many look at us and think we’re newly-weds, but in June we’ll be celebrating 12 years of marriage. We love each other truly, deeply, and infinitely. Yes–love like that does still exist even in today’s world.

Okay, right about now you’re probably thinking this is all a bit too mushy and silly. You are entitled to your own opinion too. We believe families that don’t have mealtimes together or do just about everything together are really missing out on what truly helps define what “family” means.

We really can’t wait for Bandage Dad’s plane to land tomorrow evening. We’ll be there to pick him up from the airport, and I anticipate a very emotional reunion. The Bandage Boys have cried every day, several times, missing and longing for their Daddy. Our oldest has trouble going to sleep, and our youngest wakes up crying for Daddy.

No, there’s nothing like family closeness. Being apart hurts beyond words, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That pain means we’re doing something right and that we all have a bond and share a love that stands the test of time and distance.

We love and miss you so much, Bandage Dad!

Family Bandage

April Showers in the Form of Tears Can Teach the Importance of Family Bonds and Traditions

Bandage Mom’s (my) grandmother passed away on April 1st. Yes, just last Monday.

Grandma had been suffering for some time, especially after she fell and broke her hip at the end of January this year. Two years ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Due to her age, her doctor gave her no more than 6 months to live. Again, that was two years ago. Due to the love and support of family–namely her daughter (Aunt Janet) and son-in-law (Uncle Bob), who became her caregivers–she lived a much longer and very full final two years.

The entire family is traditional and close, although not nearly as close as it used to be. Until Grandpa passed away 10 years ago, our (very large) family gathered every Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving at their home. After he passed, the get-togethers decreased, mostly because Grandma was aging and now alone and unable to make the preparations for the holidays on her own. Attempts at having holiday gatherings at other homes were made, but that didn’t last. After a few years, the gatherings stopped completely and extended family saw one another rarely…and never again all at once until.

Easter weekend (March 30-31), we knew we were losing Grandma. She hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink in over a week, her condition didn’t allow her to get an IV for fluids or nutrients, the pain from her broken hip had become overwhelming, and she was so weak that she could no longer function or communicate. We visited her and family that weekend and then returned home late Easter evening. Very early the following morning, Grandma passed away. That was also Bandage Mom’s brother’s birthday.

We are all glad she is no longer suffering and in pain. However, we’re all still healing from the hole in our hearts. She was not only Mom/Grandma/Great-Grandma/Great-Great-Grandma; she was an angel, an inspiration, a friend, and the glue that held the family together.

The services to celebrate her life were on Thursday, and there was so much pain and so many tears. Once again, Grandma had brought the family together, though not in a way any of us wanted. Many were meeting our boys for the first time, and our boys had so much fun meeting and playing with their “new” cousins (the children of my cousins).

But it shouldn’t take the death of a loved one to reunite others, and many of us realized that. We saw how much we had to talk about, how we were there for each other, and how we cried and laughed together. So then why had it been years since our family got together? And why does it take death to wake us up?

Sure, there are reasons…or excuses. Time. Work. Family obligations. Frankly, those “reasons” suck. Nobody will ever look back and be grateful for not making the time, not rearranging work, and not working through obligations to see family. Family is the one constant in your life, even if it’s inconsistent. That may not make sense, but no matter what may be going on with family–feuds, jealousy, problems, or whatever–family is always there. Family is consistent even in inconsistency.

Bandage Mom and some of her cousins vowed that night to figure out a way to keep Grandma and Grandpa’s traditions alive. We all grew up playing and celebrating together, and all of our kids should be so blessed. Family is so important, and we miss getting together. Our first step was creating a Facebook group just for the family, and that’s now been done. Now we need to establish a family get-together that doesn’t involve tears and farewells.

Although March was difficult and April started off (and has so far been) very painful, we can at least take away from it the very valuable lesson of family bonds and traditions. Don’t wait until something like death reunites family. Keep bonds and traditions alive and going for as long as the family surname lives on. You’ll never regret doing it, you’ll only regret not doing it.

Live, laugh, and love,

Family Bandage

Spring Into Spring of 2013

A lot of North America is still covered in the white stuff, but Spring is officially here. Fortunately, the ground can’t be covered in snow forever. Whether or not it’s still cold where you are, now is a good time to find out what types of things you and your family can do or look forward to doing during one of the prettiest seasons of the year.

Yes, we’re well aware of “Spring cleaning,” but we tend to not be traditional in that sense. We pick up, declutter, and clean up year-round. Easy to accomplish? No, but when you have two quickly-growing, highly-energetic little boys–as we do–it’s necessary…otherwise things just take over.

So we’re looking past Spring cleaning.

There are so many things you and your family can do together, even if you’re not planning on going anywhere for Spring Break. Sometimes it’s best to have a stay-cation and avoid the hustle and crowds of Spring Breakers. There’s a lot going on right where you live, and if by chance you live in the city of ho-hum or don’t like what is taking place in your area, you can still make it a great season.

Scavenger hunts are great, and almost everybody regardless of age enjoys them. For those who can read, write down clues from one location to the next. For those unable to read (such as very young children), take pictures of clues to take them from one place to another. How you end it is up to you. A surprise picnic? A new book? Maybe the car, all packed and ready for a little road trip?

Planting a garden is beneficial in so many ways, and most flowers and edibles need to be planted during the early-to-mid parts of Spring. What’s great is there are as many ways you can plant a garden as there are lessons and benefits. By growing your own vegetables, you can save money and rest assured your produce doesn’t have pesticides and isn’t GMO. Kids can learn so much from gardens, from taking care of something (if you don’t or can’t have a pet) to experiencing first-hand how important and worthwhile it is to have patience. And if you plant flowers, you’ll be amazed at the types of butterflies and birds your garden will attract, and the bees and all of nature will thank you and benefit. Hey–was that a hummingbird?!

Go camping…even if it’s just in your back yard. Many stores are discounting outdoor equipment such as tents and sleeping bags right now because the season for hunters is winding down. You don’t need anything fancy. If you really want to get adventurous, experiment building a tent with a tarp and twine. If you’re thinking about a campfire, however, make sure your area isn’t in a burn ban right now due to drought.

Slow down, literally. Go to the park and feed the fish and ducks. Toss around a flying disk or ball. Draw out some chalk squares for a game of hop scotch. Take advantage of that windy day and go fly a kite. Check out a book about animal tracks from the library and go exploring. Try out a GPS adventure, like geocaching or tourality (you can find out more information about those and others by clicking here). The bottom line is to just get outside. Follow your child’s lead because they’re very curious and adventurous, not necessarily being easily distracted. So when he stops mid-walk to admire an ant mound or bird, don’t hurry him along; join him…and savor that moment.

These are just a few ideas. There are so many, so don’t stop here. We have ideas on Pinterest as well as our website too. Take advantage of this season; it’s a short one. It’s also a sign that we’re already 1/4 of the way through 2013. Where have the days gone? There’s no point in looking back now. Look forward and enjoy Spring with your family.

Enjoy the season,

Family Bandage