Parenting On The Road: How To Connect With Your Kids When You’re Traveling

Parenting is a tough job. It’s even tougher if you have to travel a lot for work. Being away form home doesn’t mean that you have to be away from your child’s life, however. Here are eight tips on how to keep connected to the rugrats while you’re on the road.

Skype. The greatest aid for the wandering parent ever invented. Why miss story time when you can pack a few of their favorite books and read to them over the computer? One guy I know even puts on puppet shows for his two boys. There’s also a fun coloring tool where you and the little one can paint each other’s faces.

Email. If you want something more old school, get them an email account and send them messages. Attach some photos of yourself on your travels. You can stay current with their schedule too. If you know they have a history test coming up, send them an email the night before wishing them luck (and reminding them to study).

Postcards. Or go classic with postcards! Nothing is more personal than getting a handwritten note from mom or dad with a cool picture on it. Once you’re back you can share your own photos with them.

Studying Maps. Show them where you’re going with an atlas, globe, or Google Earth. My son loves Google Earth and likes to zoom in on the places I am, and he often goes to sleep with his illuminated globe shining Africa or Asia over his bed. You can also use programs like Tripit to show your itinerary so the kids know where you are. One friend also shared that her son has a “huge world map and every time I take a big trip I text him often on the way and he marks my progress. This was a lot of fun when I circumnavigated the globe. He learned about flat maps in a round world!”

Planning for the future. Figure out what to do together once you’re back under the same roof and mark it on a calendar in their room. This gives the kids something to look forward to.

Online Games. Hey, you know they’re playing tons of video games while you’re gone anyway, so why not join in?

Hide things. Gadling’s Chris Owen shares, “I hide things for them to find later, when I am away. Once I folded very tightly a permission slip one of them needed for school and put it in their cereal box..” Libby Zay says, “My mom and I used to tuck notes into each other’s bags/coat pockets/lunch box/purse/wherever. To this day she’ll sometimes put a coat on that she hasn’t worn in awhile and find a note in the pocket from little Libby!” My son does this to me too. I always end up finding one of his toys hidden in my bags. One has even made it onto Gadling!

Put them to work! Give them a complicated puzzle or Lego set to work and challenge them to get it done before they come back. Dave Seminara’s two boys like to be given titles. “Leo, 5, is the man of the house while I’m gone, and James, 3, is the ‘associate’ man of the house. They like these roles and if they do a good job they get souvenirs. Actually, they get souvenirs either way.”

What do you do to stay connected with your kids? Share your advice in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy user woodleywonderworks via Flickr]

New stretch of Great Wall of China found using Google Earth

A British researcher scanning through images from Google Earth has discovered a new section of the Great Wall of China.

Surprisingly, this part of the famous wall isn’t in China, but rather Mongolia. The Great Wall is actually comprised of several walls built in various centuries by several different rulers starting in the fifth century B.C., or perhaps earlier.

When Great Wall expert William Lindesay spotted what looked like a wall cutting across a remote part of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia’s southernmost region, he headed out with a team to follow along 60 miles of it. This photo, courtesy Alec East, shows the kind of terrain these modern-day adventurers had to deal with.

The wall varies in construction depending on the terrain and resources. In some parts it’s made of local volcanic basalt, while in others it’s a simple berm of sand and shrub cuttings. Lindesey believes this new portion of the wall is part of the so-called Wall of Genghis Khan, which, despite the name, is not considered a project by the famous conqueror but actually the Han Dynasty of China in 115 B.C.

Lindesay says this is the first time part of China’s defenses has been found outside of the modern boundaries of China. A journalist for the New York Times may have discovered a portion of the same wall in Russia in 2001.

Track Santa’s progress tonight courtesy of Google and NORAD

Once again this year, Google and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) have teamed up to help eager girls and boys the world over track Santa’s progress throughout the day. What is new this year is that you’ll also be able to follow jolly St. Nick using Google Maps and Google Earth, as well as your mobile phone.

As you read this, Santa has already set off on his appointed rounds and begun delivering those all important presents to children across the globe. You can follow his progress by going to the official NORAD Tracks Santa page, which is available in a variety of languages. You’ll also find information on how to track him in Google Earth by clicking here.

For the first time ever, you can track Santa while on the go as well. Google Maps for mobile users can launch their app and do a search for “Santa” to get the latest updates on his progress and you’ll also be able to receive reports via Twitter and Facebook too. Twitter users will find tracking info at @noradsanta and Facebook fanatics can click here for updates on that site as well.

Modern technology has made it easier than ever to track Santa’s sleigh and prepare for his arrival. Now you’ll know exactly when to take the cookies out of the oven and pour the milk, so they’ll both be as fresh as possible when he gets to your house. It never hurts to put the big guy in a good mood when he’s delivering the goods!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Ayn Rand fanatic travels to send GPS message

In today’s politically polarized climate, die-hards will do anything to get a leg up in the battle for communication. Larger crowds are sought, along with bigger signs, louder voices and greater media play. The days of slapping bumper stickers on random cars are giving way to more sophisticated stunts, and Nick Newcomen just set the bar higher with an unusual road trip.

Newcomen put 12,328 miles on his car while crossing through 30 states to write “Read Ayn Rand” on Google Earth with his GPS device. Mashable writes:

Newcomen – who explained to Wired that he undertook this mission simply because he is a Rand fan – took more than 30 days to execute this task, using a GPS logger (Qstarz BT-Q1000X) to create the letters. He started in Marshall, Texas, where he began writing out “Rand,” and then drove on (turning off the GPS whilst not writing) until the entire, “Reading Is Fundamental” sentiment was complete.

Ayn Rand’s (rather anemic) philosophy puts forth the primacy of the individual over the group and believes that merit should be the sole arbiter of success. She was also a big fan of keeping the government out of just about everything, which is why many are using her words and works as a rallying cry against the current administration in Washington.

Of course, I’ve always wondered how Rand herself would have felt about the cult of personality that has evolved around her work. She had no shortage of lackeys while she was alive – including Nathaniel Branden and Alan Greenspan – and she seemed to be pretty happy to be lauded. On the other hand, a fairly strict interpretation of her philosophy would result in the criticism of efforts such as Newcomers, as it would encourage people to go accomplish stuff on their own and give up the fanboy fawning.

One final criticism: if he were a real fan, he would have ended his trip to Colorado with a bracelet made from Rearden Metal on his wrist.

[photo via World’s Biggest Writing]

Track Santa’s Ride Tonight!

Tonight’s the night that every kid, big or small, has been waiting for since this time last year. It’s the night that Santa takes to the skies and delivers toys to the world, and this being the 21st Century, it is now easier than ever to track the jolly man in the red suit. A host of high tech gadgets will be employed to make sure you know exactly when he’ll be paying a visit to your neighborhood.

The ever vigilant team at NORAD will once again be keeping an eye on the skies this year, tracking Santa and his sled as he makes his way across the globe. They’ll be using a combination of radar, satellites, fighter jets, and special “Santa cams” to keep track of his progress, and capture ole St. Nick in a variety of famous locations around the world. Of course, they’ll be posting updates all day long on the NORAD website, so check back often to see where Santa is at.

That’s not the only way you’ll be able to follow Santa’s epic ride however. You’ll be able to get updates via Facebook and Twitter of course, and photos from the Santa cams will be uploaded to a special Picasa web gallery as well. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll be able to follow the sled’s trajectory on Google Maps and within Google Earth too, making it easier than ever to know when the Big Guy will be paying you a visit.

It seems Santa, and his eight magical reindeer, won’t have an easy time eluding all of the high tech surveillance devices that will be keeping an eye on them through the his journey, but something tells me he still has a trick or two up his sleeve. And no matter how sophisticated our tracking systems get, he can depend on Christmas magic to quickly and quietly slip in and out of our houses, delivering the gifts in the blink of an eye. So keep your eyes peeled. You just might catch a glimpse of the man himself. That is, if you don’t blink at the wrong time.