About Bigger Than Your Block

Shay Olivarria is the most dynamic financial education speaker working today. She has written three books on personal finance, including Amazon Best Seller “Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook”. The second edition of 10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money will be released June 2016. She's been quoted on Bankrate.com, FoxBusiness.com, and The Credit Union Times, among others. To schedule Shay to speak at your event or to find out more about her work, visit her at www.BiggerThanYourBlock.com.

American History: Forgotten Black Towns

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Exploring New Philadelphia founded by Frank and Lucy McWorter.

Allensworth.

New Philadelphia.

Greenwood.

These are all names of towns that were founded by Black people in the United States. There are others, but I’m sure you get the point. We’ve visited Allensworth National Historic Park in California, New Philadelphia in Illinois, and Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I want my children to know that our ancestors were smart fighters. The only reason we are here today, is because our ancestors knew when to pick up arms, when to be covert, and when to just leave.

These towns were created so that Black people could live without having to perform for the white gaze. Many of them were destroyed because the towns were successful. Too often, white people couldn’t stand to see Black people that didn’t live under their thumb. It didn’t stop us from trying to create societies where we could thrive.

There are other towns …  so many other towns. Perhaps my children won’t know them all but we’ll get to as many as we can. This is American history.

 

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Important Black Folks

I’ve been looking for a curriculum for my babies but I’m coming up with bubkis. If course I see the Martin Luther King Jr.s and the Rosa Parkses and the Harriet Tubmans …  of course I see the person that first created the ________ and first was able to _______ back in _____.

I often feel like the Black people that held up are the ones that are most palatable to white people, even if those histories have to artfully forget that in their heyday they weren’t palatable *cough MLK cough*

Anyhooo ….  as we continue on our worldschooling adventure, I’m looking to teach my babies about the folks that aren’t as palatable. The folks that didn’t ask for freedom are difficult to find but we run across them on our journeys. In Cincinnati we came across a whole slew of people that ran away from being enslaved (and didn’t use the Underground Railroad), on the drive from Chicago we found the first town founded by Black people (during slavery, mind you), in Kansas City we learned about the Black man that made The Negro Leagues decent …  and a money maker.

My kids are still young but they are getting older every day. I need them to know about the Marcus Garveys and the Fannie Lou Hamers and every other Black person that was amazing.

I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list, but my goal is to create a calendar so we can celebrate important milestones in Black history. If you know of any good milestones, please mention them in the comments.

Marcus Garvey born August 17th, 1887 in Jamaica

Fannie Lou Hamer born October 6, 1917 in Mississippi

Patrice Émery Lumumba born July 2, 1925 in the Congo

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela born September 26, 1936 in South Africa

Muhammad Ali   born January 17, 1942 in Kentucky

Ida B. Wells born born July 16, 1862

Shirley Chisholm

Mary Mcleod Bethune born July 10, 1875

 

 

I just found this article about the women in the Black Power Movement. I’ll keep looking.

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Self-Toilet Training Toddler

Our youngest is amazing.

We have been trying to get our oldest completely potty trained but …  it hasn’t been working. When he was young we did elimination communication, and it was working fine, until we disrupted his learning by taking two international trips back to back when he was around 20 months. Now he goes just fine with no pants on, but once anything goes on …   he thinks it’s time to let it go. Lol

As our youngest is getting older, I thought we would traverse a similar path. Nope! She’s a little over two and decided that she wants to use the toilet as well. One day she just asked to use the toilet. I thought she’d sit up there, giggle, and ask to get down. She actually went. Whoo hoo. At this rate, she may be potty trained by the time she turns three. They could possibly both be out of diapers in about six months! Whoo hoo!

New Orleans on the Cheap

We’ve been to New Orleans a few times but this is our first time here with kids. We hadn’t been to any places during the daylight so we weren’t sure where to start. Lol We decided that we’d:

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Grab a balloon animal while waiting in line at Cafe du Monde. The balloon artists work on tips so let the kids get a little something. We only had $2 so he said he’d make the simplest thing he could make.  It turned out to be a really cool twisty balloon with two little balloons inside of it. After paying him, he decided to make something for our other kid too. I didn’t have any more money (though he didn’t ask) so I asked if he’d take Mexican pesos (we’ve been three times in the last 5 months) and he said yes! Lol

 

 

Grab a beignet at Cafe du Monde. Remember that Cafe du Monde takes CASH ONLY, at least in the to go line. Three beignets were around $2.75 for all three but they do not take debit or credit cards. My partner had to run across the street and grab cash from an ATM really quick.

After doing all that to get the things, it turned out no one in our merry band liked them! Lol They are kinda dry on the inside and there was waaaaay too much powdered sugar.

 

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Wander Jackson Square (so named for the Indian killer President). We didn’t actually enter the park (bad vibes) but we saw it from the canon platform across the street.

Take a carriage ride around the French Quarter (didn’t wanna wait for a 30 minute driver so we missed out). The carriages we saw lined up in front of Jackson Square (right across from Cafe du Monde) wanted to do 60 minute tours for $40. I wasn’t sure my two little ones would last that long though they loved looking at the horses prancing down the street.

 

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Walk the riverfront across the street from Jackson Square (a pretty, if muddy, view). There’s isn’t really anything to do here (it works as a way to reach the Aquarium) but it was nice to watch the boats cruise by and stare into the muddy water.

 

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Visit the oldest bar in the US (couldn’t go in but the sign was nice. Lol). Apparently, it used to be owned by the pirate Jean Lefitte.

 

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See the Benito Juarez statue (a gift from Mexico since Juarez lived here … twice). Had no idea? Me either! If you want to read the short version it’s available here. The long version, with lots of good details, is here.

 

Watch a 2nd Line for someone’s funeral. People drove by on bikes blaring music letting the people know that a second line was coming. There was about a 15 minute lag between the bike people and the actual musicians. Random people danced and smiled. Periodically, the musicians stopped and various men’s groups danced around a bit. After that, a carriage was pulled along the parade route with horses. Thought it was a funeral, everyone seemed in good spirits.

 

Swamp Tour on the Cheap

We wanted to go on a swamp tour but we had two problems 1) they lasted too long. The shortest one I saw was 90 minutes and with two toddlers in tow, it just seemed too long. 2) The cost was $29 per person (I saw a Groupon for $17) and I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit the funds. It wasn’t until we were back in our room that we saw that the National Park Service provides 30, 45 or 90 minute tours (perfect!) of Bayou Vermilion for $8 per person. Yeppers, that’s EIGHT American dollars. It’s all part of the six park system called the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve. The National Park Service really does have everything. I wish we had seen this information earlier because boats only leave from the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center Monday through Friday. Since we found out about it Friday night, we weren’t able to take advantage of the cheap swamp tours. It’s on our list for next time though.

A Day Trip to Corpus Christie

We chose to stay in Shiner, Tx because it’s equidistant to San Antonio, Houston, and Corpus Christie. The original motivation to visit Corpus Christie was to pay homage to Tejano singer Selena but it turns out Corpus Christie had more to offer than I originally thought.

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After visiting the small museum located in the studio Selena’s father build for her to record in, we headed to the coastline to visit the statue. It’s a cute little statue standing on a small, ceramic, structure. Painted tiles created by children surround the structure. It’s right on the water. It feels warm and breezy. Parking was easy and I would have liked to stay there for a while and take in the breeze, but the family was waiting in the car.

After the statue, we drove down to the National Seashore. I didn’t know that the National Park Service had National Seashores so that was pretty cool already. Since we have a yearly pass, we didn’t have to pay. We started at the Visitor’s Center. It’s a cool space that was packed with visitors. We ended up walking down the ramp that led to the beach to get away.

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Turtle adoption pack.

The kids loved playing in the shore (it was too cold to get IN the water) and exploring the beach. After a while, the parents retreated to the benches to hide from the sun while the kidlets chased each other up and down the shore. Eventually, the toddlers found their way to the tables and dug in the sand.

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We headed back up to the Visitor’s Center and took a peek in the gift shop. There were tons of things to look at and buy. We ended up supporting the work of the turtles (laying eggs) by donating to the national park.

It was a cool, windy day in Corpus Christi but fun was had by all.

 

 

Fort Lancaster is AMAZING!

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The entrance to Fort Lancaster from the street.

We were driving toward San Antonio when we saw a sign for Fort Lancaster. We got off the 10 hoping to find a place to stretch our legs and instead found …  amazing!

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The brand new visitor’s center is wonderful! Stop by as soon as you can.

Amazing points:

They allow dogs INSIDE the museum.

They let you check out a golf cart to tour the fort ruins for free.

They have a great video that explains how the fort was the only one ever attacked and how the Buffalo Soldiers defended it.

They have an interactive dress up area for kiddies WITH accessories.

They have a cute camel that kids can climb on because the arm actually brought camels to use.

The bookstore is bananas with a great selection of books and a TON of cute toys.

The guy that works there LOVES his job and told us the story of the battle with a little diorama and emphasis on the dramatic parts.

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The fort is really spread out and Texas is hot …  so they let you drive a golf cart to see everything.

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Our family of four hopped on a FREE golf cart and even brought our boxer mix along.

We had such a good time running around. We didn’t expect much from Texas history but the museum was well-balanced and made a real effort to show the contributions of the Black soldiers.

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We continued on our way and then saw a car on the side of the road. We slowed down and saw an older, Black woman. We pulled over and offered assistance. My partner got the lug nuts off the tire and I used to jack to lift the car. We got the spare on and then followed them for about 30 minutes to make sure they were okay. We stayed in Junction, Tx right on a river. We grabbed some smoked turkey and brisket and drove over to the hotel. The kids ran around crazy all night and our youngest woke up twice.

 

Off to Shiner, Tx.

 

 

Big Bend National Park

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Since were driving east, we decided to visit Big Bend National Park. I really wanted to see Boquillas, Mexico and the Rio Grande. I was pleasantly surprised by how much there is to do at the park.

While only there for a few hours (we’ll have to go back) I learned the park has:

  • An exhibit on dinosaurs. Apparently, all the land used to be under water and they’ve found tons of fossils and whatnot to prove it.
  • Access to the Rio Grande and the Mexican town of Boquillos. You can hike down to the river and boat on it. You can also visit Mexico, as long as you have your passport with you.
  • Lots of visitor centers, but Panther Junction (named for a cougar named “Panther” *shrugs*) is the center of the park. Almost anywhere you’ll want to go will take you by this center.
  • A ghost town. Terlingua Ghost town is one of the only places in the park to rent an actual house. Most people seem to use campsites with RV hookups.
  • A great overlook on the Santa Elena Canyon. It’s supposed to be a beautiful drive and there are amazing photos of the canyon online.
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My son enjoying the River Grande international border. This is the US side.

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Boquillas is the only Mexican town for like 150 miles. It perches on a hillside a mile or so from the US border in Big Bend National Park.

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This is the path you walk to get to Boquillas, Mexico.

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See that big bird? I couldn’t even walk in the room! Lol

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Not sure why, but after I read this I was really creeped out.  I kept feeling like I was walking under water. Lol Perhaps I was a swimming creature a long time ago.

We didn’t get to see everything but not we have a game plan when we return. On this visit we only got to hike down to the Rio Grande. The park is HUGE and we will return. Here are a few things we learned about visiting and few snaps from our adventure:

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The sign as you enter Alpine, Tx  heading to El Paso.

Marfa has a fake Prada store and there is a fake Target store outside Marathon.

Alpine is a much better city to stay in because Marfa is small and far and Marathon seems to have nothing in it.

“The Window” is hard to find because the signage is bad.

The 1.5 hike down to the the Rio Grande from the trailhead is beautiful. My three year old did it with no problems. On the hike, we saw animals across the river. They were so close, I was afraid to walk to the river’s edge. In that part, the river is narrow and it makes you think a lot about international borders.

We really enjoyed Big Bend National Park and look forward to returning.