By Marlena Rice
My nearly two-year-old son, Beaux William, tends to wake up with demands on Saturday and Sunday mornings. His first words to me will either be “juice” or “milk,” or, if I awake to a pair of his tennis shoes on my face, I know that immediately after milk, juice and breakfast, there will be a walk, a wagon ride, or a trip to the playground in our near, early-morning future.
One morning, I noticed something just a little bit different. After our typical exchange of baby demands (and Mommy accepting and meeting said demands), my little man handed me my glasses – and my cell phone. As I thanked him, I immediately began the internal parenting skills debate all mothers have: Have I done something wrong? Have I ignored him too many times in lieu of a cell phone conversation? No. But it’s easy to question these things. Our little people are impressionable and, as their first teachers, we teach them some of their most important lessons.
Since that moment, I’ve made more of an effort to make sure that my social media posts, text messages and calls are kept to a minimum during family time. And I’ve also taken note of what other parents are doing, sometimes with great dismay. One recent morning, I watched as a father took his child out of the backseat of his car – a normal thing to see. What was unnerving, was that the father was talking not to his child, but into an ear device that seemed to be attached to an even larger device protruding from his pants pocket.
Today’s new generation of parents are extreme multitaskers who thrive in a fast-paced, online-centered and social media-driven world that our parents didn’t have. Our time is limited, and in an attempt to live “full” and do all of the things we aspire to do, we do it all at once. We go to work and work, talk with old friends on Facebook messenger on our smartphones all while watching, responding and fielding texts from our children’s teachers as they notify us about school things. And let me tell you, it is exhausting.
Cleary, this is a problem. What’s the solution?
Here are some tips on how to multitask and stream your two lives together – and I’ll keep it brief, since we’re all busy enough!
Start rebuilding “old-fashioned” relationships
The next time you think about beginning a stream of social media conversations with your friends, ask them to meet you for lunch. It will save you some email time, and you can have an interaction with another human being that isn’t family or work-related.
Limit your time on social media
If you’re addicted to reading Facebook posts about what your friends are going through in their daily lives (minute by minute), let it be something you only do during your alone time: on your lunch break or right before bed.
Incorporate your children in your online expeditions
If you like to shop online, let your children shop with you for some of their items and you will kill two birds with one stone; spending time with your babies while getting your shopping fix! Also, if you like to listen to music, juice up your iPod or cell phone and play it for everyone. Move furniture around if you have to, but DANCE! Little ones love this because not only does it shake away any and all structure for a few minutes but its good exercise, and it’s fun.
Maximize your car rides
When you have little people, driving them around is a great way to make them listen to you. The next time you’re headed to the grocery store, or school and work, sing together, ask questions and just talk without worrying about making that telephone call or checking that email. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn, and how many laughs can come of it.
Turn it off
This is hard for some of us because our work is not the typical 8-5 but is more like the typical 24/7. But, if you have the opportunity to turn off your device without worry that you’ll miss something more important than the people you love, turn it off, enjoy the internet silence and make noise with the people in your life instead.
Photo: Marlena Rice
Beaux William is learning to use his play time wisely.
By Tori Linville
Summer is already half over and time is running out. The family is restless and all the hometown haunts are getting old. The fix? Climbing in the car for a road trip to change the scenery. Check out some of the top road trip destinations we’ve listed here to switch up your summer.
(via I-65 N, about four hours)
Nashville is best known for its musical roots and cowboy boots are easily seen on tourists everywhere. Whether it’s catching a show at The Bridgestone Arena, visiting a famous restaurant on Broadway or downtown, there’s something worth checking out in every corner. Promising tunes flood the streets as songwriters and singers try to make a name for themselves. If that’s not enough, The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium beckon music lovers to walk through the storied buildings. Though music is king in Nashville, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Tennessee State Museum offer up their own slices of history and art.
(via I-59 N and I-75 N, about six hours)
The scenery alone is worth the trip to east Tennessee’s entrance to its Great Smoky Mountains. As one of the most visited vacation spots in America, it’s easy to find something to do as soon as feet hit the pavement. The tiny town of Gatlinburg boasts beautiful downtown riverwalks, the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community and a night life that is hard to forget. The arts and crafts community alone is home to an eight mile stretch of specialty jewelry, scented candles and other hand crafted items. The Gatlinburg Sky Lift and the Space Needle are must-dos and catching a magic show, comedy show or any other kind of show is never hard.
(via I-20 E, about seven hours)
Heading even further east, more mountains and good times can be found only car drive away. Perhaps the most well-known destination of Ashville is the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home that swells with a historic 250 rooms and an 8,000-acre backyard. Beautiful views, horseback riding and other activities can all be found at the memorable estate. Ashville’s music scene can be found around town in places like Isis Music Hall. And if the itch to drive lingers, the Blue Ridge Parkway is always a great way to catch some breathtaking drive-by scenery.
(via I-20 E, about three hours)
As one of the largest cities in the South, Atlanta definitely has no shortage of things to experience. Atlanta’s Six Flags Over Georgia visitors from all over the region to ride its crazy coasters. Closer to the city itself are experiences such as the Atlanta Beltline, the College Football Hall of Fame and more. Sports fans can also head over to Turner Field to see the Atlanta Braves. Handfuls of museums and tour providers focus on topics from puppetry to dinosaurs to the movies and television filmed in Atlanta. If you aren’t having fun in Atlanta, it’s probably because you’re still in the traffic.
(via I-10 E, about nine hours)
Orlando screams Disney World, so there’s no problem finding some family fun here. If Disney has already been done, don’t just cross the city of your list yet. There’s Universal Studios, Sea World and more. If you’re not in the mood for theme parks, ghost adventures, shopping and even a Shakespeare theater await. Dolphin watching, whale watching, kayaking and canoeing are all open to wildlife lovers. Home to some of the most family oriented places, Orlando never runs out of things to do.
(via I-59 S, about four hours)
New Orleans offers so much visually, that you could drive right through the city without stopping and still feel like you’re on vacation. But stepping out on to the famed Bourbon, Frenchmen and Royal Streets, among others, is only the start. The French Quarter alone offers unforgettable food and shopping that is worth the drive. Branching out into the Big Easy only gets, well, easier. Jazz clubs like The Bombay Club offer a musical tradition synonymous with NOLA itself. If sports are more your thing, head on over to Smoothie King Center to catch a Hornets game, or check out one of the many golf courses and racing tracks. Good times are to be had in New Orleans and having the good times roll is just a side effect.
All times and routes were taken from Google Maps. Google uses real time traffic information and the times above do not account for specific rush hours. Travel times will vary based on your day, times and other factors.
from Birmingham: via I-65 N, about three hours
from Huntsville: via I-65 N, about two hours
from Mobile: via I-65 N, about six hours
from Birmingham: via I-59 N and I-75 N, about five hours
from Huntsville: via US-72 E and I-75 N, about four hours
from Mobile: via I-65 N, about eight hours
from Birmingham: via I-75 N and I-40 E, about five hours
from Huntsville: via I-20 E, about five hours
from Mobile: via I-65 N and I-85 N, about eight hours
from Birmingham: via I-20 E, about two hours
from Huntsville: via I-75 S, about three hours
from Mobile: via I-65 N and I-85 N, about five hours
from Birmingham: via I-75 S, about eight hours
from Huntsville: via I-75 S, about nine hours
from Mobile: via I-10 E, about seven hours
from Birmingham: via I-59 S, about five hours
from Huntsville: via I-59 S, about seven hours
from Mobile: via I-10 W, about two hours
By Tori Linville
If you don’t have the vacation time saved up for a trip to some far-off destination, water parks are quick weekend mini-vacations that offer something for the whole family to enjoy. Whether it’s the lazy river or a stomach-turning slide, water parks are known for having a little something for everyone. We’ve listed a couple of Alabama’s top rated water parks for you to visit and decide for yourself.
Alabama Splash Adventure
Free unlimited soft drinks for the 2015 season is just one reason to visit Alabama Splash Adventure. This water park sits in between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in Bessemer and offers a variety of services and freebies for visitors. The more than 15 attractions include a 5-story water ride drop and a 50 foot plunge into a splash pool. Season passes are on sale for $69.95 plus taxes.
· Free parking, sunscreen, inner tubes, WiFi and life jackets
· Snacks from Fin’s Surfside Grill, Mama Lizetti’s and Chubbies offer American and Italian foods
· General admission for adults from 18 to 54 is $29.95
· Seniors are $24.95
· Children are $19.95, two years and younger are free
Visit alabamasplash.com to find out hours and directions for your visit.
Spring Valley Beach
Spring Valley Beach just opened and the ratings are just right for your next water park experience. In between Huntsville and Birmingham, Spring Valley Beach boasts a collection of mind-blowing slides sure to make any drop worthwhile. The Kid Zone is perfect for family fun and the Spring Valley Beach pool is the largest in the southeast. General admission rounds out at around $25 and season tickets are on sale.
· Concessions offer burgers, hot dogs, etc.
· Visitors are allowed to bring their own food, non-alcoholic drinks, picnic baskets, grills, etc.
· Clothing must be family friendly
· Pavilions are available for rent starting at $25
· General admission parking is free, but parking by the pool area is $10
See springvalleybeach.com for more information on hours and ticket pricing.
Point Mallard Park
Point Mallard Park offers more than just a water park in Decatur. The year round park has a golf course, ice complex and more for visitors to enjoy. With many different attractions to enjoy within Point Mallard, it’s prime water park season in the summer. The relaxing lazy river, the speed slides and kid area are just a few of the things to visit at Point Mallard. Season passes start at $100.
· Rain checks and refunds are not issued at Point Mallard
· General admission for adults is only $20
· Free soft drink and water refills are available for the entire season upon purchase of a $25 season cup.
· The Hard Duck Café, Point Pizza and Icy Oasis offer food and beverages for visitors
· No outside food or drinks are permitted
To plan your next party or to see water park hours, visit pointmallardpark.com.
The combination amusement and water park that makes Waterville USA is hard not to be excited about. The park sits in Gulf Shores and is perfect for a day away from the beach. Water park attractions include a 60 foot drop slide named the Screamin’ Demon and other rides designed for a chillin’ or thrillin’ time. The amusement park features rollercoasters and mini golf to round out the experience at Waterville. Water park season passes start at $150.
· Free parking, tubes and life jackets
· No cash refunds are given for inclement weather and rain checks are not issued for season pass holders
· Nascar Go-Carts, House of Bounce and Trampoline Thing can all be found at the amusement park.
· No outside food or drink (even water) allowed
Check out watervilleusa.com for contact information and pricing.