Traveling with Kids. Why You Should Go For It.

As someone who’s had the blessing of two sets of children in two distinct phases in my life, I wanted to share a few thoughts about why traveling with kids is a pretty great idea. In fact, if travel is in your soul then you’re going to want to find a way to make it happen, even if you think that having children means your travel plans have been shelved. Here’s why.

summer travels || traveling with kids || travel ideas for families || 24cottnwoodlane.com

I had my first set of children fairly young, during my early to mid twenties, when time and money were in short supply. I was building my career and raising a young family. Who had time to travel? Not this girl. And I sure as heck didn’t have the money. When the girls got a bit older, I made it a point to start taking a vacation each year because travel had always been on my bucket list. We started small by renting a cottage a few hours from home for a week each summer. When that worked well, I added a second week. And then we started camping because we couldn’t afford much more and I still wanted us to get away on the weekends.

When the girls were a bit older, I made the time and saved the cash to take road trips to Florida, South Carolina, and other southern destinations that took us out of the suburban Canadian world we lived in. We even flew to an all inclusive Jamaican resort one year where I had the opportunity to learn that I don’t like all inclusive resorts. Not as adventurous as I wanted to be but at least we got out there. And those trips were amazing even when the girls drove me nuts. Because they were teens by then and they drove everyone nuts.

Thinking about traveling with kids. Here's why you should.

Once they grew up and didn’t want to go anywhere with me anymore I continued to travel by myself. And then I suddenly became a parent again in my mid-forties to two tiny little boys born 12 months apart. I cried a lot because I was afraid life was going to go back to the same mind-numbing way I had been living when my first set of kids were younger. Until one day I decided that I wouldn’t let that happen.

So we traveled. Always by car for the first couple of years so I could feel somewhat in control (ha!) and always around my work schedule. By the time the boys were 3 and 4 they had been to Florida 4 times, hung out in downtown Nashville on a Friday night, been on a pirate ship in the Gulf of Mexico (twice), and spent every weekend one summer camping in a glamper on the shoreline of Lake Erie. Still pretty safe and predictable but I liked the fact that we were getting out there.

Since then we’ve been back and forth to South Carolina, to Cuba twice, and we’re currently planning to spend the summer in Europe and South Africa where the boys will turn 5 and 6,

There were meltdowns and tantrums and all sorts of chaos. And I know there will be lots more to come. One kid forgot to get off the elevator after the doors closed. The same kid cut his face and blackened an eye in Alabama. The youngest fell asleep standing up in an elevator after a particularly late dinner one evening. By late, I mean dinner ended at 9:30 pm. He’s a good sleeper and enjoys going to bed. Bless him.

traveling with kids, single parent travel, summer travel 2017,
This is Aiden eating alligator sausage. 3 years later and he only eats PB&J sandwiches.

But we mostly laughed, spent time together on purpose (as opposed to just existing in the house at the same time), and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. On our last trip to Florida, I had the luxury of three weeks which means there’s a whole lot less pressure to do everything in a week before rushing back home so I let the rule book fade away. One day we hit up a beach bar right on the Gulf coast where I ordered a daiquiri at lunch, we ate whatever we wanted without worrying about nutrition, and I let the boys dance to eighties rock music out on the dance floor. I use the term “dance” kind of loosely here. Best day ever. We made friends everywhere we went, not just because the boys were cute, but because people love kids. Even wait staff in the most obvious tourist places who were exhausted with people loved to hang out and chat because of those little boys.

Then there was the time in Panama City Beach two years ago, where Liam told all the young ladies his name was Ricky Bobby and became the most popular guy at spring break. Even Aiden, who had some serious shyness issues back then, waltzed off into the deep end with his date that day without looking back. Best half hour of free babysitting of my life. I actually closed my eyes for a few minutes that March afternoon and just relaxed.

Why you should travel with kids.

I learned something on those trips. Kids are the ultimate people connector. Even the hotel/condo staff or most aloof server, cracked wide open when the boys showed up. They wanted to chat about their own kids, or their relatives kids, and I got to know people in a very different way than when I traveled with adults. Kids, I realized, are your ticket into the local culture and for someone who’s kind of shy and introverted, they’re a ticket to conversation and immediate camaraderie. Which is pretty cool when you’re socially awkward and introverted like I am.

Before Liam was born, I went to Hawaii on a solo vacation. I think I spent that entire week in Oahu with my head buried in a book and not speaking to anyone because of that whole shy/introvert thing. And in doing so, I lost a huge opportunity to connect with local people.

summer travel 2017 || traveling with kids || hawaii || waikiki

Assuming they would have me since that tourist thing is huge in Hawaii and all. But kids are never going to allow you to bury your head in a book and ignore what’s going on around you. Everyone wants to chat to the boys, and by extension, to their mom. Sweet. Mostly. Because, shyness, and all.

Everyone has choices and there a lot of them to be made once you have kids. Should I take that job even though it’s farther from home? What car should we buy? Do we need a minivan now? Breast or bottle? (Although that’s thankfully off the table when you’re not the bio-mom!)  Soccer or baseball? Girl scouts or ballet? Buy a bigger house or travel more? I’d rather the questions in life be more along the lines of Bali or Thailand?

If you’re at all interested in travel and worried that it can’t be done with kids, stop freaking out and go do it! The older they get, the harder it gets. Do it before the kids lose interest because they will and that’s going to suck. Or before they need to be entertained all the time and don’t know how to just enjoy being somewhere different. Because kids do that.

Why you should travel with young children

Have you successfully traveled with young children? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below or email me at Jenna@24cottonwoodlane.com and share your story.

Summer Travel Series 2017

It’s June and you know what that means? It’s time to talk summer vacation and all things related to traveling with kids. Because let’s face it. Your standard for what makes a great vacation on a girls trip is probably a little different than what you’re hoping for when you travel with kids.

summer travel 2017, travel ideas for families, single parent travel

I have loved to travel as long as I can remember which is one of the reasons I struggled at the thought of raising another set of children after my older girls were grown. As a single parent, no less. I was always looking forward to having grandchildren some day. You know, to play with them and do fun things. I didn’t actually have plans to raise them but here we are.

And if I’m going to see the world, I’d better get on it which means the boys are coming along. Cuz I ain’t getting any younger or any less high maintenance as I age. The amount of money I spend on high thread count sheets is pretty ridiculous, just as one teeny tiny example. Along with the number of hours it takes me to actually fall asleep these days, but I digress.

We’ve had great success most of the time in our travels since these fellows came along. We’ve made numerous road trips to Florida, starting when Liam was just 2 months of age. We actually managed to spend the last 6 weeks of my parental leave with Liam in beach house on the Gulf Coast of Florida, which was a lovely break from our crazy Canadian winters.

panama city beach, florida with kids, travel with kids, beach trips
Panama City Beach, Florida

I’ve done road trips alone with the boys and one solo trip to Cuba last spring. I took them back to Cuba again last fall with my oldest kiddo and we had the best time. All inclusives are great when you’re not looking to do much but eat, sleep, and beach. (And the all you can drink buffet really seems to buffer the sounds of kids fighting with each other over who’s coconut is whose. I kid you not.)

Varadero, Cuba

 

The only epic fail I’ve had was the time I totally overstimulated my guys and forgot about their disabilities in my effort to educate them and do all of the things I wanted to do in South Carolina last spring.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Alligator adventures #fasd
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

My bad. They literally kicked the front seat, and either shrieked from manic outbursts or were crying hysterically most of the way home. For the entire last day of the trip. That’s right. For 10 freaking hours. You can read about that fiasco here. If you’re parenting a child with FASD, you’ll know what I mean and probably don’t need any further explaining lol.

However, I haven’t given up on the travel plans and I’m finally adding a travel section on this site. Because travel is about experiencing life differently. It teaches you to live big and live in the moment.  It also teaches patience, compassion, and it pushes you out of your comfort zone. For me that’s huge since I like to be comfortable and I’m starting to get pretty complacent on my pretty grey sofa. Which is why I’m kicking of this June with a summer travel series.

So in 8 days, we’re leaving on our big summer adventure!! We’re traveling to Paris, Germany, Amsterdam and South Africa this summer. We’ll be sharing our stories here, and our photos on Facebook and on Instagram so come follow us and we can be travel buddies. Well, cyber travel buddies but that’s cool, too.

I’m also in the process of combining my travel website with this one, so there will be lots of other travel inspiration as the sites merge over the next few weeks.

HAPPY TRAVELS! PIN IT FOR LATER!

summer travel 2017, travel series, traveling with kids, single parent travels, fasd

 

 

From Blog to Business, Our New Shop, and Other Updates

Hello, hello, hello! Apologies. This is a long post but I feel like I owed our readers a bit of an explanation.

First, I know I’ve been absent lately (like maybe for months on end except when I pop in now and again) and I wanted to explain that. I also want to chat about blogging and share all of the exciting things that have been happening behind the scenes around here and where we’re going next with good ol’ 24 Cottonwood Lane.

For those of you that are new here, I started this blog way back in 2012 right after my second grandson was born and placed in my care. That made two little tiny babies, born 12 months apart, and me all living in our new house along with one rather surprised Lhasa Apso.

babies born 12 months apart || irish twins || total shit show

 

This little blog gave me both a creative outlet and something that was just for me when everything around me was about babies, even though I was primarily focused at that time on doing yet another nursery and sharing the process on line. Wow. Things have come a long way since then. Kinda blows my mind sometimes that this little hobby blog has actually turned into a career.

Now, you must be wondering how it’s even possible to make a career out of blogging since I’m hardly ever here lately. Maybe you wonder if I’ve been cheating on you. Truth? I have. With multiple blogs and websites. And since things have gotten a little crazy, I figured it was time to come clean and tell you what’s been going down. Because there’s a lot!

From blog to online business || passion business || make money online || creative || start an online business || an update || 24cottonwoodlane.com

24 COTTONWOOD LANE & COTTONWOOD LANE DESIGNS

I named this blog 24 Cottonwood Lane because that was my address back in 2012 and I like cottonwood trees. They remind me of Alabama where most of my family lives. Also, I was major sleep deprived, homesick for Alabama, and just drawing a blank. Really, it was the best I could do at the time and I’ve occasionally regretted the name. But….

That blog eventually led me into my side business of Cottonwood Lane Designs which is where the majority of my blog turned business is now funneled through. I started by painting and flipping furniture and doing interior design consults, DIY projects, and style boards. It was super helpful at keeping our single parent family afloat when I quit my social work career in 2015. And at the time I loved creating DIY posts, painting furniture and doing interior design.

Loved. I still swoon over all things interior design but as I began to build other websites and blogs, I realized that’s really one of my passions. Building websites…#nerdgirl alert.

So I got on with the business of learning to build and design websites. I’m currently taking some coding courses at Udemy and I can’t believe how much I get excited by HTML5 and CSS and that it all actually makes sense to me now. Truthfully, I’ve become a bit of a coding course addict and an Udemy addict. I feel like I’m learning all the things all the time and my brain is both tired but very, very happy.

(This from the person who had to hire someone every time I needed to change anything around here and lost half my work when I jumped from Blogger to WordPress a few years ago. Ha. Not any more!)

Udemy.com Home page 728x90

 

THE NEW VENTURES

FASD FAMILIES

I added FASD Families to my blogging portfolio in December 2015 and while I haven’t kept up with it in the way I had hoped, it’s been a pretty darn big success despite my inconsistency. I have every intention of continuing to build that site as a resource for parents and caregivers who are raising children who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, just like my two little boys.

fasd strategies || special needs parenting || fasdfamilies.com

Seriously. FASD sucks and anyone who’s in the trenches deserves good solid information and resources and tools that work. I’m on it. In the meantime, I continue to add to the site when I find resources that families have shared with me that worked for them. Or I magically stumble on something that worked at home.

TRAVELING SINGLE MOM

Our travel site was born when our foster care agency was trying to force me into adopting my grandsons and they were hitting us hard for a few years with that agenda.  Adopt them or lose them.

I didn’t know how to make ends meet once our foster care days were over as I had to quit my job to care for the boys and the boys would no longer funded by the agency post adoption (which is why they were so keen on adoption).  I figured we would likely need to relocate somewhere post adoption where we could afford to live on just my blogging income and we were considering Nicaragua and Panama at the time.

Which is how and why I came to launch Traveling Single Mom. For some reason, the agency just decided to stop fighting me and the kids last fall and we’re now able to remain in Canada with many of their needs still being funded.

travel tips || traveling with kids || where to go and what to do with kids

Can I get an Amen? Whew. I will likely list that site to sell in the near future or simply close it down.  I’m adding a travel section to Cottonwood Lane because, well, travel. We love it and we try to do it often.

Just as an aside, we’re heading to Paris and Germany next weekend and then on to Africa for most of the summer. We’ll be back in Europe in August to stop in the Netherlands before heading home. Yes, you can travel with kids as a single parent. If there’s wine. Lots and lots of wine. And hopefully some good wifi so I can keep up with everything.

 

SCARLETT + CO DESIGNS

Affordable home decor, accessories and home design ideas. || online home decor shop || buy furniture online

You guys! We opened an online shop!!! Isn’t this what all home decor and design bloggers dream about?

Well. Maybe not for everyone but it was for me and for my good friend, Pamela. While we are fairly opposite as people both in how we approach tasks as well as our taste in home design, we’re perfect in business together. I’m the creative and Pam is amazing at getting down to task. Me? Not so much. I’m all ideas, branding, styling and marketing. Pam’s the source and the solid work between connecting with suppliers and negotiating pricing. Stuff that I’m kind of shit at. I find what she does agonizingly dull and she thinks I talk nonsense, spouting off about coding and hex codes and content writing.

Pam’s taste in home design is much more mainstream than mine is, which I think appeals to people shopping online. Mine is all vintage and mid-century and kind of bohemian something. With pink. Lots and lots of pink. (Why yes, I do have a background in interior design. I just can’t figure out what to call my style.)

Which means you won’t come to our store and find wildly ridiculous things that you really can’t figure out how to use or things that are completely unaffordable. Nothing makes me crazier than finding something I love and learning that little ol’ chair costs $3500. Awww, hell no! You’ll still find some really glam and fun pieces however, because when I see the orange slice chairs or green velvet sofa, I can’t let those pass. Even if I’m the only one buying it. #sorrynotsorry

blue sofa || vintage design || mid century modern sofa || retro sofa || shop furniture online || free shipping
Mid-century modern blue loveseat. $589.00 + free shipping.

 

We had a soft launch last week to get the site live and to start building our product line. (insert squealing here!). Visit often as we’ll continue to add to our collection regularly and, of course, we’re just getting started.  As our shop continues to grow, we’ll be looking for affiliate marketing influencers. If you’re interested becoming an affiliate with Scarlett + Co Designs, just shoot one of us an email at scarlettandcodesigns@gmail.com and we’ll add you to our wait list.

THE SINGLE MOM COLLECTIVE

This is absolutely the most exciting thing I’ve ever done because it’s the culmination of all of my education, training, and my own passion all in one place.

Every time I wake up to work on this project, I feel like I’m high or something. In a good way. Not that I would know high personally, but I’ve consumed a fair bit of wine in my days (like perhaps on Saturday) so I’m going on that.  Like I’m floating on this magic cloud and everything is amazeballs.

The Single Mom Collective || single mom supports and resources || start an online business || make money online || start a blog

 

 

When I started teaching college last year I began with asking my students about why they were taking the program I teach in (Social work and Native studies). At the time I was asking because I wanted to gear my teachings towards where they wanted to be after graduation rather than just delivering curriculum that didn’t connect with them.

As time rolled on I got really interested in helping each student (most of them single mothers by the way) find their own personal passion. Separate from their families or society’s expectations, separate from what the college said, but what really moved them and what skills they had that coincided with their interests. These women are incredible and it’s amazing to help students find their passion and steer them in the direction of making it happen. I was so inspired that I started to create more of my content in the counselling courses to be about setting goals. Not just “I want to lose 5 pounds stuff either”. But setting goals based on what you’re passionate about. The more I did this, the more I saw people stepping in to their own light and the feeling that comes from knowing you’re on the right track, finally.

In the meantime, I continued to struggle with this site and the others, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with all of them. And then one weekend, I decided to actually work through my own curriculum and take myself through the exercises I was doing with students.

And BAM! There it was. I love blogging, I love writing, and I love teaching. I also love working with women and I’m a trained therapist with a Masters degree. I’m a hardcore advocate for kids and families (or a pain in the ass if you ask the agency that has to deal with me), and I believe in women helping other women. I mean, just cuz I quit my day job doesn’t mean I lost my 6 years of post secondary education. Although for some reason, I maybe thought that for awhile.

You know what else I love? Writing in my pjs, working from home, getting chores and errands done during the week so that I can spend my weekends with the boys, and never having another micro managing supervisor to answer to. When you realize that’s what building an online business means in terms of freedom from the 9-5 craziness, you’ll wonder why everyone isn’t doing it.

The Single Mom Collective will launch in July and is geared to helping single mothers or anyone really, build an online business or blog, and earn an actual income online while having more time to spend with their families. All mothers are torn in multiple competing directions. I remember the relief I felt when I stepped out of my career and watched my family become a hundred times better simply because the job didn’t suck up all of my energy and attention. I firmly believe you can have a thriving business career and still be able to spend more time with your family and the internet is the answer, folks.

It’s been a crazy time. But so seriously fun which is what I think work should be. Social work was fun for me in the beginning until standards, mindless forms, procedures and endless meetings took the place of really working directly with people to help them make positive changes. Because most of the time you aren’t even allowed to do that.

The Single Mom Collective is my passion and I can’t wait to launch. I really do believe that we can be so much more when we realize that we don’t need a job as much as we need to find our passion and work with it. Every single one of us has something wonderful to contribute and this is my tiny contribution to the world. Or will be in July!

 

find your passion || build an online business || live your best life || thesinglemomcollective.com
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Whew! Crazy, right? If you made it all the way to the end of this very long article, I’m glad you’re still with me. If you and I were chatting in person, I’d totally pay your bar tab right now!

Have you ever gone way out on a limb and made a leap of faith like I’m about to do? I’d love to know how it worked out for you! Leave me a comment here or on our Facebook page and tell me all about it 🙂

And don’t forget to Pin it for later!

from blog to business || creative business ideas || our story || start an online business || make money online || passive income || an update ||24cottonwoodlane.com

 

How to Find Your Purpose In Life

How to find your purpose in life. Lessons from an Indigenous Elder.

Let’s be clear right off the bat. I’m not an Elder. But I wanted to share some words of wisdom that I received a few years ago from one of mine about understanding your life’s purpose.

Understanding how to find your life's purpose! Hint. It's not what y ou

As a former social worker and a college instructor in the same field, this is almost a regular conversation for students and colleagues. It’s easy to say you’ve found your purpose in life when you’ve signed up for a career that focuses on helping other people. But what if you  have a yearning to help or provide something “bigger”  (that’s in quotes for a reason, y’all!) and you feel like your “menial job” (which provides for your family and all) isn’t the kind of profession where you’re giving.

A few weeks ago I had breakfast in town at my favorite poached egg place (because I can’t cook an egg to save my life) and wound up chatting with two construction workers who were taking a break from fixing the roads in our county. We were chatting about work and what we did and one of the fellows said it must feel good to make such a contribution to society all day long. Sometimes it feels great and sometimes it sucks beyond reason but that’s okay. He went on to say that he’d love to figure out his life’s purpose and do something meaningful besides fixing roads for the rest of his life but he had to provide for his family and had obligations.

Oh, man! I get that feeling. I work two part time social work jobs and this blog along with my other websites. Half the time I feel like I’m running in circles just trying to keep up with the electric bill. (Yay, Ontario for doubling our rates this winter!!) And, at the same time I’m trying to launch a shop.

It bugged me so much that this fellow felt like he should be doing something bigger with his life but couldn’t’ find a way to do that. And then, two days later, I hit a pothole hard and blew out my front tire. In Canada. In February. Here’s what I’d like to be able to go back and say to this fellow:

“Dude, you’re already providing the most wonderful and loving service by keeping our roads safe. If you don’t think that matters, think again.”

I think it’s pretty clear most of us are looking to fulfill our purpose in life. This drive is what keeps us moving forward. Going to school. Getting married. Having children. Working.

Here’s  where I’m going to get a bit radical. What if we defined our purpose in life as separate from our day jobs?

I know, right? So not the North American way of living where work is our identity.

A few years ago I was struggling with the same “find your purpose” thing while working in the helping profession, of all things. So I got quiet and settled in for some reflection. Because my life was, and still is kind of nuts, that meant in fifteen minute increments before one of the boys cried or I fell asleep on my notepad. True story.

Now, I’m a spiritual kind of gal so I went with what I understood which was looking at my “Divine purpose”. If you’re not into that, go with life purpose. If you’re a Christian you know what to do… God’s purpose.

So when I got quiet, I went back to my Indigenous roots where I’d been taught that my work was to love Creator  (God, for the rest of you) and to be of service.

How should I be of service? I remember asking the Elder who was kind enough to talk  to me about this life purpose thing. He laughed and said “Well it doesn’t need to be as a social worker if that’s making you so resentful and tired all the time. ” He was an observant fellow. And then he went on to say something along the lines of “if your being of service job is driving you to neglect your family or other parts of life, who are you serving?”

Wait. What? In my culture, there are tons of us that are in the helping profession.  Teaching, healing, social work, counseling. It’s part of our teachings. So while I sat there, just kind of staring and trying not to cry as I remembered yelling at the boys the  night before because I was exhausted and needed them to just be quiet, he gently reminded me that you bring love and service to every job you do if you’re doing it to serve our Creator.

Back to the construction guy. You fix roads? You’re already a hero who’s of service. Do it with love and you’re there. You’re serving humanity. I don’t really care what you do or where you “work” because this applies to everyone. You  make widget in a factory all day? You’re being of service. Serve Big Macs? Do it with love, and you’re being of service. A person’s gotta eat afterall.

See where I’m going with this? Do your work, “menial”, or otherwise with love and you’re of service. I know that’s hard. It’s hard to get excited about slinging eggs, or making parts for a car, or picking up garbage. But you’re serving humanity and Creator in doing so. Bam.

How to find your life's purpose. Hint. You alrea

 

Which brings me to my own struggle.

I was taught not to self-promote because no one likes a bragger, right? And, in my family, being an entrepreneur, isn’t something that’s done. Hell, I had a hard enough time explaining social work to my peeps. So I’ve struggled with feelings of guilt as I’ve moved out of helping people for a living and trying to work my online business and blogs.

But I remembered the words of my Elder recently and started to refocus on building our shop, the blogs, and my side business as a form of love and service. And suddenly, everything came into focus. If our purpose is to love and serve others, (which I believe it is), then it doesn’t matter what you do to fulfill that calling. For me, at the moment, it’s helping bloggers and online biz owners build prettier websites.

Now, if you take a moment to picture my Indigenous/social worker guilt about just wanting to make the world and web prettier instead of more just and equitable and you’ll know what kind of guilt I’ve been struggling with! Huh. Enough of that.

Loving and serving people doesn’t require that we all be Mother Theresa. Which is great because quite frankly, most of us would look terrible in that nun habit and don’t really want to move to India. Finding your life’s purpose, in my humble corner of the world, is far more about love and service than about how you get that done.

Kind of like my breakfast eating road warrior hero, no? Because two days after my tire blow out, most of the potholes on that crazy road have been filled. That road repair is a beautiful gift to humanity, Construction Guy.

 

Big News! We’re Making Some Changes!

You guys! I’m so seriously excited to announce that there are some big changes coming down the lane. Cottonwood Lane to be exact. 😉

Cottonwood Lane Designs- shop, trends, online resources, and interior decor ideas.

For those of you that have been here for awhile you’ve probably noticed that things have been pretty quiet for the past few months. I talked about some of the struggles afew weeks ago but I’ve finally figured out what’s been dragging and where we’re going from here.

In the next few months, the site is going to undergo a re-design while we update and pull our site together to make a better user experience for our readers.

 

 

We’re plugging away with a new landing page, better categories so you can find your way around and we’ll be adding a few sections including a travel section, trends in interior design, as well including a link to our brand new home decor store, Scarlett + Co Designs, that launches in early June!

So excuse our mess in the next few weeks as we fiddle around with layouts and customizing this site to make it easy to use and find what you’re looking for. Once everything is in place, I’ll update with where we’re going from here and what to expect over the next little while

We want this site to be as much yours as it is ours and to do that, we’re looking for input. What do you want to see more of? Less of? Let us know by shooting an email or find us on our Facebook page and leave a comment. It’s right over there to the right 🙂

See you on the other side 🙂