Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Internet Speed Tests - Do They Work?

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spring Break: Lava Hot Springs

*This post was originally published on Mom It Forward. I have been working for them as a Virtual Assistant since November. I am loving the job. I have been writing a few blog posts here and there and I wanted to put my blog posts here as well. This post was written and published in February 2014. I have changed it slightly so I can re-post it here on my blog. Feel free to go and look at the original post here: http://bit.ly/1bJQAiV

Growing up, Spring Break was always a vacation week for my family. My dad was in the Army and he would take leave from work while we had the week off. We would load up the car and drive somewhere to visit for the week. Some of the places we were able to travel: a small town in Iowa to visit family, Washington DC for museum time, and the coast of Spain for a beach trip. No matter how big or small the trip was we made great memories that I still cherish today.  Now that I am a parent I want to make the same type of memories with my children. Due to my husband’s job we can’t always take a week of vacation when the kids have off school, but he can usually take a day or two. So last year we decided to surprise the kids and make the two hour drive north and visit Lava Hot Springs in Idaho. Lava Hot Springs is filled from underground pools with pure all-natural mineral water. No chemicals are added; there is no sulfur so there is no odor like other hot springs. The natural temperature is 102-112 degrees. They have 5 outdoor pools (with natural rock floors) that vary in temperature; depending on how close you are to the fault where the water comes up from the ground. My kids called them giant hot tubs.

Tips for Visiting Lava Hot Springs

Make Reservations in Town 

There are a couple of hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, tent camping, and RV camping sites in town. When we went for Spring Break it was quiet in town, and there were plenty of rooms. All of the winter ski tourists (there is a ski resort locally) were gone and the summer tourists don’t show up until it is warmer. We reserved a couple of rooms in one of the hotels across the street from the hot springs. It ended up being a perfectly placed hotel. Once we arrived and parked, we didn't drive again until we left to go home. We were able to walk everywhere we wanted to go.

Be Prepared for the Beach, and the Mountains 

We found that even though it was early in spring, the kids still needed sunscreen since we were outside in the sun most of the day in the water. You will also need beach towels while you are swimming, and the hotels do not like you to take their towels (trust me!). If you forget towels, they can be rented from the store at the hot springs for a couple of dollars a day. On the flip side it is still chilly during the spring, so there might be snow on the ground. We had a little snow, but at 60 degrees during the day (and buds on the trees) my boys were comfortable throwing snowballs at each other while wearing shorts. The girls did want coats and hats in the evening when we went to dinner. It got cold once it was dark - so be prepared.

Bring Cash (but just a little)

We found everything in town to be surprisingly inexpensive. We did go during off-season so that made it nice. Entrance to the hot springs varies by visitor’s age. $1.50-$9.00 for day passes. Wednesday is family day, at $16.50 for a family of 4, it is a total deal. We just happen to be there on a Wednesday too. Dinner was at a family owned Pizza restaurant just two blocks down from our hotel. They also had dinner specials, and family deals. After dinner we walked down the street to the local grocery store and bought fruit, snacks, and treats for the night. We passed an arcade that looked fun, but the kids really just wanted to put their suits on and go back to the hot pools.

Night Activities

Once we were done swimming in the hot pools all day, and then again all evening, out girls were exhausted. We decided to stay in and play games. Our hotel had tables with chairs in each room so we set up a game table with snacks and played games late into the night. Swimming late into the evening was an option since they stay open until 10 or 11 (depending on the day) but since we are split having two “little” girls and two “big” boys staying in was a better option for us.

Sometimes making amazing family memories over Spring Break doesn't have to cost a lot, or take you far from home. Sometimes all it takes is a tank or gas, a hotel, swimsuits, treats and a board game.

Monday, March 3, 2014

If Life Is Just About Competition, Then I Would Rather Not Play.

My daughter. She is 11. She is sweet. She is kind... to everyone. No matter what. She plays the flute in her school band and sings in a choir program through a local university. She played volleyball for several years, and excelled in the game. She is on the math team for her school. She gets straight A's, and is a teacher's best friend & best helper. She is also shy and very nervous about trying new sports, or any physical activities.

She came to me last week and asked if she could go to the local softball tryouts. I was thrilled. We have been looking for a spring sport that she enjoyed enough to want to participate in. We recently moved to a much less populated part of the country this past summer so we asked around and found the only softball league in the county. There was a set of try-outs and then they split the girls up by ability. It thought that sounded perfect.

She practiced, she stressed, she was excited. She wanted to try something new.

So we went to try-outs. As soon as we walked in the door I knew we were in over our heads. Apparently the only way to participate in softball here is through a competitive sports team group. As Lewis filled out her paperwork, I took her over, got her a try-out number and we went to watch the girls warm up. As soon as that first ball was thrown I thought I was going to be sick. Right then they called all 11 & 12 year old girls up, paired them off and had them start throwing to one another. I encouraged her to go and I turned around and ran back to get Lewis. From the second that we walked back into the gym I knew we had made a huge mistake. Most of the girls were huge! You could tell that they played softball, it was their thing. Each throw was like a freight train. Each time the ball hit and bounced off of her chest, her arm, her thigh, I flinched. She kept going. She caught a few but quickly lost any and all energy that she had. One look into her eyes made my chest get tight and my eyes well up with tears. Even though I am a mother of four, I am not a crier. This, made we want to cry.

After 20 agonizingly long minutes the adults in charge (who had been standing in a circle pointing, grimacing, and making notes) called the girls into a huddle. Haley came straight to me and asked for the restroom. I hurried her to get her inside before the tears could start, as people (adults and kids) were pointing, smirking, and asking what her problem was. The second we stepped inside she was bawling... uncontrollably. She was hurt, both her body and her feelings. I felt completely responsible. How did I let her even try?

When we left the restroom a man called me over:
Random Small Town Man: Tell her to suck it up. Rub some dirt on it and stop the blubbering.
Me (smiling but uber annoyed) : Thanks, but she is fine.

We finally just walked out of the try-outs. Lewis took her to the car and I went to get our money back and explain. The lady gave me our money back but also wanted to give me her two cents worth of insight:

Random Small Town Woman: Some kids just can't handle the pressure. Maybe she is just soft. Maybe you should have started her playing when she was younger.
Me (sounding slightly annoyed) : She didn't want to play when she was younger. She wanted to try playing now.
Random Small Town Woman: How did you expect her to be competitive in a sport if you wait until she is grown to put her in it?
Me (sounding extremely annoyed) : Why can't she participate in it without it having to be competitive?
Random Small Town Woman: But that's what life is about. Competition.

That is when I walked away. I got in the car, hugged her and told her that we were proud of her no matter what.

If life is just about competition, then I would rather not play.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

5 Winter Gardening Tips

*This post was originally published on Mom It Forward. I have been working for them as a Virtual Assistant since November. I am loving the job. I have been writing a few blog posts here and there and I wanted to put my blog posts here as well. This post was written and published in January 2014. I have changed it slightly so I can re-post it here on my blog. Feel free to go and look at the original post here: http://bit.ly/LoZkkQ

You might not believe it but January is the perfect time to start thinking about gardening tips. Even though it is the coldest month of the year, there is still lots to do to get ready for the planting and growing season. Starting now will get you in a good place so that in a couple of months when the ground thaws you will be ready to plant your bounty.

5 Winter Gardening Tips


Clean and repair your garden tools. If you paint the handles of garden tools (rake, shovel, hoe, etc.) paint them red or orange. Painting them a bright color will make it easier to locate the tool this spring and summer when you lay them down on the lawn or in the garden. It also helps to preserve the wood and extends the life of the tools. Make an appointment to take in your lawn mower, weed whacker, and edger for a service during the off season (it is usually cheaper and less busy). Take inventory of your tools. Check out your tools all over for rust, dents, and breaks. Make a list of the tools that are fine, and what tools need to be replaced.


Watering is very important during the winter months. Watering right before a predicted freeze helps the plants. It will help potted plants and annuals make it through a hard freeze. It allows plants to take up moisture before the ground is frozen. You need to be sure to water the above-ground shoots as well as the roots.


After the soil freezes apply a 3-4" inch layer of mulch to your garden. This keeps the soil cold, rather than protecting the soil from becoming cold. This will help keep the roots from a constant freeze/thaw, freeze/thaw, which in turn helps against continual freezing and thawing.

Seed and bulb orders

After you decide upon what you want to put in your garden this year you need to be sure and order your seeds and bulbs by the end of January. You can order from a catalog, your local greenhouse, or online. By getting your order in early it will help insure that you get the seeds that you want and that you have them in time to plant them in early spring.

Snow and Ice on Trees and Shrubs

During the winter, the threat of snow and ice is always near. When ice accumulates on branches it is best to let it melt naturally. If they are covered with snow gently brush the snow off. Do not shake the tree limbs as this might cause cracking of the branches. If a limb does break, it is best to remove it as soon as weather allows. This will keep damage to the tree to a minimum.

Hopefully these tips will help get you excited about starting or continuing on your garden during the winter!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

5 New Year’s Eve Activities

*This post was originally published on Mom It Forward. I have been working for them as a Virtual Assistant since November. I am loving the job. I have been writing a few blog posts here and there and I wanted to put my blog posts here as well. This post was written and published in December 2013. I have changed it slightly so I can re-post it here on my blog. Feel free to go and look at the original post here: http://bit.ly/1ikMB0g

You know what they say... out with the old, and in with the new. Families like to celebrate New Year's Eve by throwing a party for/with their family and friends. Coming up with activities that everyone can enjoy together is a difficult task,especially when you mix all ages, kids to grandparents. We wanted to take the work out of planning your get together. Here are 5 family friendly New Year's Eve activities that you can use to help ring in the start of a new year and create memories that will last a lifetime.

5 New Year’s Eve Activities For Families

Progressive Dinner

Whether you have a huge kitchen or just a little nook, this is the activity that suits everyone. All you need is three or four families that are within walking or driving distance from each other. Family 1 starts the evening off at 6 pm with appetizers consisting of cheese and crackers, and small bites that can just be eaten by hand with a napkin. Move onto the family with the largest home and a formal dining room with room to sit for the main meal. Finish the evening off at a third home for dessert and backyard space so the kids can do sparklers. This works for families of two or ten! 

Bucket of Surprises

Each New Year’s Eve when I was growing up my mom would do this for our family and anyone that came over for the night to celebrate with us. She would get an empty bucket from the local home improvement store and fill it with six wrapped boxes of surprises. Starting at 5:45 pm the kids would get to reach in and pick a box to open. Each box contained enough “prizes” for all of the people at the party. She would wrap things like noise makers, party hats and necklaces, treats, and sparklers. We would open the last one at 11:45 just in time to hand out the last prize before it was midnight. It was always a blast for not only the kids, but the adults too. 

Movie Marathon with Popcorn Bar

This past year I found myself leaving the New Year’s Eve activities until the last minute. I had also invited over a few neighborhood families for the evening to celebrate with us. I needed a quick and easy night that could be enjoyed by all. I decided to do a movie marathon. I sent an email to the families to have them vote and a certain “Middle Earth” trilogy was unanimously chosen. We timed the start of the final movie so that it would end at midnight. For treats I did a ton of air popped popcorn and bagged it beforehand. I then set out bowls of chocolate chips, coconut, marshmallows, and candy of all kinds to be mixed-in. 

Make a Time Capsule

This idea is great for a family who has grandparents and other relatives visiting for the night. You can spend the evening putting together a time capsule. All you need is a shoe box, empty five-gallon bucket, or plastic bin. Have each child draw a picture of their favorite family activity from this year. Parents can write letters to the kids about the year. You can add pictures, video, movie tickets, or a scrapbook from a family vacation. Once everything is finished, pack up the box with all of the mementos of special events and put it away. You can open it up in 10 years on New Year’s Eve and do it all over again! 

“Drop The Ball” Early

Sometimes celebrating New Year’s Eve can be hard when you have little kids. If you have little ones that can’t stay up until the wee hours of morning (or maybe mom and dad need a good night’s sleep) try having an early midnight. All you need to do is make your own ball to drop. You can buy a large Styrofoam ball at the craft store. You will also need craft glue, and sequins. Let the kids decorate the ball with sequins and ribbon. Attach a ribbon to the ball and hang it from the ceiling. You can cut the ribbon at the stroke of 9 pm and celebrate the “dropping” of the ball with the kids. You are then free to tuck everyone into bed and nobody missed a thing!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

5 Family Hikes in Washington DC Area

*This post was originally published on Mom It Forward. I have been working for them as a Virtual Assistant since November. I am loving the job. I have been writing a few blog posts here and there and I wanted to put my blog posts here as well. This post was written and published in December 2013. I have changed it slightly so I can re-post it here on my blog. Feel free to go and look at the original post here: http://bit.ly/1kqjXKs

My family recently moved to the east coast after spending over 12 years in Utah. This move has been a huge change for all of us, especially the kids. We were worried with the move that we wouldn't find the same sort of outdoor adventure activities that we loved doing in Utah. We definitely were wrong! Within days of getting settled in the new house we were hiking The Appalachian Trail. With over 2,000 miles spanning from Maine to Georgia, we choose an easy family friendly four mile hike right around the corner from our house. We found The Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry which is just over an hour outside of Washington DC. They preserve and manage the care of the Appalachian Trail year round. They were able to give us all kinds of great information on hiking with the kids and where to go. The kids had a great time and can’t wait to do a lot more hiking. We have already made a list of hikes that we want to try this winter.

5 Family Hikes in Washington DC Area 

Here are five hikes that are within driving distance of Washington DC. 

1. Compton Gap to Compton Peak in Front Royal, VA. 

This is a moderately difficulty hike. It is 2.4 miles round trip, with a climb of 835 feet but the hike is worth it when you get to the beautiful overlook at the top. Parking is available at Compton Gap, which is located at mile 10.4 on Skyline Drive. 

2. C&O Canal Towpath in Harpers Ferry, WV. 

This is an easy hike, great for families with little ones. It is a 1 mile to 5.4 mile round trip hike. It is great because you can backtrack at any point. On this hike you can experience a little civil War history. You will walk right through Historic Harpers Ferry. There are many places for food and drink stops on this hike which makes it idea for a family day excursion. 

3. Crampton Gap Burkittsville, MD. 

This is a very easy hike. It can be as short as .5 of a mile to 5 miles round trip. It is a backtrack hike so you can turn around at any point when the family starts to get tired. On this hike you will see historical buildings and monuments. It also has picnic areas for rests and a picnic lunch. 

4. Washington Monument Burkittsville, MD. 

This is an easy to moderate hike for older kids and parents. It starts at .4 of a mile and goes about 8 miles. It is a very popular day hike. This hike starts in the Washington Monument State Park. You can hike to see the first completed monument that was dedicated to the memory of George Washington.

5. Keys Gap to Harpers Ferry, WV. 

This is an easy to moderate (mostly downhill) hike. It is 6.1 miles all the way through. This is a perfect day hike. This hike takes you through woodlands and then descends into Harpers Ferry. You cross at the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. Whether you are looking to entertain the kids on a summer day off of school, or for a Saturday afternoon during the fall these hikes are sure to do the trick. I don’t know what I was worried about; there is more than enough to keep us busy here outdoors for years!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Christmas Day

Christmas morning started like it always does. With a hallway picture! I told my kids last year on Easter that it would be the last time we would do a picture... in that hallway. Well, we moved. Plus we spent Christmas at Lewis' mom's house so it was her hallway and her picture. I had no say (but don't tell them, it was my idea). 

This guy hung around all day. 

The little kids enjoyed the mask and loved "picking" the horse's nose.

We played reverse charades. Somehow the only embarrassing pictures we have are of the boy team. I am not sure how that happened, but it did!

The kids got to their stocking just after 7 am. Most of them slept in until almost 7, but the little boys were up talking with Adam at 5 am.

 After all of the presents were open we all went to Katie's house and gave the pet's a feast. they shared a big bag of ham. Oh they loved Allison for that! Then the dogs got to open their stockings. I know, stocking for dogs? Who knew? I didn't know, but Santa was sure good to Mojito! 

 Everyone had a great holiday. Adam got clothes and money. Jason got computer stuff and money. Haley got art supplies and money. Abigail got American Girl Doll supplies and, you guessed it, money.

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Christmas Week

We spent Christmas with part of my my husband's family this year. The girls got to see their cousins and play in and around DC for a week. We went to the National Harbor and froze, ate lots of food, ice skating, shopping, movies, bowling, and lots more. Here are a few pictures of the before Christmas activities:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

4th Grade Choir and 5th Grade Band Concert

I have finally found something to LOVE about my teeny tiny east coast town. The Christmas/Winter/Semester performances are short and sweet!
Don't get me wrong. I know we all love to see how hard our kids have worked to learn the viola, to do a back-flip, or chop a board in half, but good grief if the recitals don't go on forever!
I have sat through my fair share of 45 to 60 minute (OR MORE) lower school chorus Christmas recitals that I wish I had been wearing earplugs for. What about beginning band recitals? Oh kill me now! They last forever!
But not anymore. I swear this school district should have the motto be "Make It Short And Sweet".

Here they are at home before going to the school. The dress code was "Festive Wear" with black, white, and red.

Such a poser:



And Silly:

5th Grade band:

Haley was chosen to introduce the flutes:

4th Grade Choir:

Abigail introducing the next song:

They both did great. I am so glad that they enjoy participating in these kind of activities. Now if only we can get the boys to do something!