Travel


WordCamp, that is.  I’m all signed up and anxiously awaiting my trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas to attend WordCamp Fayetteville.  WordCamp is a small conference for people who use the WordPress platform to blog (and/or do other more techie stuff that I don’t understand). WordCamps are held all over the country, but this is the first one in Arkansas. Other than clues that the names of the conference sessions give me, I have no idea what to expect.  I won’t know anyone there. That really doesn’t bother me, except that I just hope I’m not the only one that doesn’t know how to code in HTML or why I get 20 hits a day on my blog for people searching for “fire ant”.  I also hope no one laughs when I ask about the “fire ant” search issue.

I’m really quite excited. I’m looking forward to learning more about blogging and WordPress, and for the prospect of connecting with other bloggers.  I am also pretty stoked about getting away for a couple days.  Hubby booked my hotel room for me, and got an upgrade to business class.  I don’t know what that means, but maybe I’ll get some free chocolate or something.  Either way, hopefully the end result is that I will come back from WordCamp Fayetteville with some new tricks up my sleeve to try out here on the blog.

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MOMcation 2010 wrapped a week ago.  So, I’ve had a whole week to ruminate and reflect.  If you want it in a nutshell, MOMcation turned out as close to how I had imagined it as possible.  Minus the tornadoes.  But then, it’s really fitting that Mother Nature would come and show off her skills, talent, and personality at MOMcation too.  It was, after all, a retreat for every MOM.

The longer version, for those of you who like details and pictures, starts with the fact that 18 wonderful women showed up to Heifer Ranch, near Perryville Arkansas.  Some of them had friends in tow, and some of them didn’t know a soul.  We had young mothers and grandmothers, working moms and stay at homes, single, married, and things in between.  The only thing, really, that we all had in common is that we are mothers.  And that’s all we needed.  You can say in spite of, but maybe we should say because of our diversity, we meshed wonderfully.  No cliques or hurt feelings, no alienation or obnoxious-ness.  And when it was all done, the MOMcationers were feeling renewed and headed home with at least a handful of new friends.  Some moms came with trepidation, with a self-consciousness, or a pre-determined idea of who wouldn’t like them.  It was amazing to see that all fall away through the weekend, with this being the end result:

MOMcation 2010 attendees

MOMcation 2010 Attendees

As one of the event planners, I had a different perspective on the weekend.  At the outset, I was nervous too.  I wanted everyone to be comfortable and have fun, but more than that, I wanted these MOMs to learn from each other, and to see that sometimes taking time away for yourself has benefits that reach far beyond just a couple days of goofing off out in the boonies with some other women.  But as things got rolling, I quickly saw that all was well and good in the land of MOMcation.

We had tons of activities; some group oriented and some self-starting.  One of the more popular group activities was yoga.  Some of the moms were experienced in yoga, and some had never done it before, but everyone who tried it seemed to like it.

Yoga and Nap time combined - MOMs are always multitasking!

Photo Credit: Greg Benenati

There was also jewelry making, deal finding, and two great cooking sessions.

Tammy Felder teaching Bruschetta and Shrimp Bisque

Christie Ison, The Fancy Pants Foodie

We had nightly get-togethers.  One of my favorite things was getting the camp fire started with Stephanie (aka The Park Wife) sans lighter fluid…Ok, maybe she mostly started the fire, but I threw a few kindling sticks on.  We made s’mores and huddled around to tell tales of mommy life.

Photo Credit: Christie Ison

We also took a tour of Heifer Ranch and learned more about what Heifer International and the ranch itself does.  The covered hayride was both relaxing and educational. I was really impressed by the fact that many of the MOMcationers took time to explore the ranch on their own and to really think about Heifer’s mission of ending world hunger and building peace.

On the Hayride

The icing on the cake is that thanks to the four awesome members of the planning committee* and some really awesome sponsors, we were able to give away some really great stuff, including spa services, gift baskets, books, locally grown food, gym memberships, and even a couple weekend get-aways.  Overall, MOMcation 2010 was  a huge success, and there is already high demand for a MOMcation 2011.  So stay tuned for a date announcement.  If you’re on Facebook, you can “like” the MOMcation page to stay up to date.

*The four awesome members of the planning committee will be showing up in a later post, after I force them to take a group photo. But truly, I cannot say it enough times, MOMcation 2010 would not have happened without them. Thank you Valerie, Nicole, Liz, and Ashlee!

If you like to eat out, shop, or travel (who doesn’t like at least ONE of those things?)  then it’s time to get your copy of 2010 entertainment bookthe 2010 Entertainment Book.  The Entertainment Book contains over 400 coupons, many of which are BOGO for restaurant entrees, specifically for your local city or region.  I picked up my 2010 Entertainment Book last week, and was happy to find that there are 13 coupons for $5 off at Kroger again this year. Those coupons alone more than pay for the book.  In addition, we often turn to our Entertainment Book for discounts on last-minute hotel bookings, venue tickets for places such as museums and plays, car rentals, and the occasional online shopping venture.  All in all, my local book (Little Rock) offers over $12,000 in coupon savings, separated into the categories of Fine Dining, Casual and Family Dining, Fast Food and Carryout, Entertainment and Sports, Travel and Hotels, and Retail and Services. The book has two indexes, one sorted by location and another sorted alphabetically, that make using the book really easy.

On the downside, the cost of the book went up from $20 last year to $35 this year.  However, if you use at least 5 of the BOGO coupons, you should earn your cost back.  If you can find someone selling the book as a fundraiser, you can get it for $30.  I picked mine up at Barnes and Noble.  You can also order the book online at http://www.entertainment.com. When you order online you get a $25 restaurant gift certificate with your purchase. However, I will say that I experienced some really terrible customer service from this company when trying to order my book last year, so it was worth it to me to buy from somewhere else.

What?  You don’t want to pay for your Entertainment Book?  Well, then, I have a contest for you.  Coupon Cravings is giving away an Entertainment Book here.  Good Luck!

Once you buy your book and register your membership on the website, you can also print more coupons online.  This includes coupons for other cities, which is great for when you travel.

The kids and I just returned from four days and four nights in Branson, MO.  We were house and dog sitting for Grandma and Papa while they were on vacation.  It seems odd, but I’m fairly certain that this little trip was the longest I have ever been “alone” with my children.  The idealist in me thought that this might be a sort of mom and kid retreat.  We would spend our days visiting friends and doing fun activities, and I would have the evenings to myself to write, read, or maybe even get a workout in on Grandma’s Wii Fit.  This  setting would allow me time to really focus on my kids and my mothering skills, allowing me to practice yelling less and laughing more. When I first had this thought, I couldn’t actually hear my inner realist laughing at my inner idealist, but by the end of day two in Branson, the knee slapping and hysterical cackles coming from my inner realist were ringing in my inner ear.

This trip was less retreat and more boot camp.  The visit to the science museum ended after two and a half hours of trying to chase two kids in two different directions while also trying to visit with my friends and former colleagues who work there.  My back hurt, and we were all tired and hungry.  To complement the fast food that I had bought them when the snacks ran out on the way to the museum, on the way home the kids each had a strawberry ice cream cone.  I began to question my retreat idea when I realized that I was buying my kids ice cream to keep them from screaming in the back seat, which they were doing because it was bedtime.  By the time we got home, wiped the sticky mess off of all of us, and I got the kids to bed, it was 9pm and I was fried.

Visits to the homes of friends and family were much nicer and less stressful, although my mothering skills were still tested by disrupted eating and sleeping patterns that left the kids begging for dinner at 4pm, taking 20 minute cat naps in the car, and screaming-fussing-whining their way through several hours of the day.  Callen woke up at 5:30am every morning.  One day Carina refused to take a nap, and woke Callen from his nap during her protest. Grandma and Papa’s  house is full of fun toys and is surrounded by acres of garden, yard, and farmland to explore, but that didn’t stop the incessant need to play with all low-lying breakable objects, and to climb things that weren’t meant to be climbed.  My quiet evenings never materialized, as I was usually too tired to focus on anything by the time the kids went to sleep.

In the end, we had a great trip, filled with the normal amount of non-scheduled, chaotic fun and resulting meltdowns that we get when we travel. Instead of yelling less, I yelled more, because there wasn’t a second parent there to pick up the slack. But, I learned that I can manage two kids on my own for a semi-extended period of time, even with two high-strung golden retrievers added in.  I found ways to think creatively about the nutritional merits of strawberry ice cream.  I realized that the witching hour, that late afternoon time when we all drive each other crazy while waiting for Daddy to get home, never really arrives when there is no one to wait for. I upped my already high level of respect for single parents.  I reconnected with many old friends, and the kids did too.  We all missed Daddy.

The retreat finally did happen.  It only lasted a couple hours, but when we arrived back in Little Rock, the kids played nicely and happily together and with me.  We  re-familiarized ourselves with our home and its accoutrements while we waited anxiously for Craig to get home from work.  When he finally did get home, we were all happy together, and I marveled at the way our children teach us about ourselves.