10 Ways to keep kids busy during Spring Break

Spring break is almost here and for those of us who have school-aged kids, it could mean frustration. I am currently twenty eight weeks into my final (I swear) pregnancy. The weather here in Mississippi has been warming up and my nesting instincts have kicked in. I have been cleaning house and organizing baby clothes non-stop. While this is usually a good thing, I didn’t imagine having six kids cooped up in my clean house for a week! With that in mind, I have created a list of activities to keep me sane, kids busy and make a good spring break for us all.

  1. Plant flowers or a garden. I love planting things in the spring. My little ones seems to enjoy picking out their own seeds and joining in too. Pinterest has some cute ideas for fairy gardens too.
  2. Go bike riding. Riding around on bicycles with my older brothers is how I spent the majority of my childhood springs and summers. It’s not only fun, but great a exercise too.
  3. Have a picnic. You can have a picnic in your own backyard or go to a local park. Have the kids make their own sandwiches or snacks and have them clean up afterwards.
  4. Tell scary stories. This one is more for the rainy days where everyone is stuck indoors. You might be surprised with some of the things kifs can come up with!
  5. Crafting. Have the kids help craft something you’ve had pinned to your pinterest board and never got around to. Messier crafts like painting are best done outdoors.
  6. Board games. There are a ton of new and cute board games out there nowa days. Have your kids pick one out and everyone gather around the the table for some non-screen game time.
  7. Chores. This idea may not always be the most fun, but it will help your kids remember to stay on top of their messes. The quicker the chores are done the faster the fun can begin.
  8. Library. A visit to your local library can be a ton of fun. Let the kids pick out their own books. It serves as a bonus for something for them to read (or be read to) before bedtime.
  9. Dollar store. This idea can be seen as a big treat. Let each of the kids have a five dollar limit at the local “everything is a dollar” store. What they pick out could open up more activity ideas.
  10. Hide and seek. You can do this inside or outside, but I think outside is more fun. If you’re worried about running or rough-housing indoors you can change up the game. Each person can take turns hiding a favorite toy or object in one room and let everyone else try to find it. (It is almost like training for finding those always missing shoes!)

Whatever your plans for spring break are, I hope you enjoy it with family. Children only stay small for a short time, these are days to make some memories. Shut off the tv and devices and get out there!

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Is it normal to lose yourself in love?

Spring is coming up fast. The month of February is coming to an end and we have all survived Valentines Day. Some better than others. Browsing through my facebook newsfeed I saw an even mix of those in relationships appreciating their spouse and those who are single and longing (sometimes whining) for a love of their own. All those posts and the idea of Valentines Day and romance got me to thinking about love and all things related to it.

The problems in romantic relationships all seem to be the same. Granted, I mostly hear from other females in heterosexual relationships, but I feel blessed to get a glimpse into the lives of others. It gives me a chance to compare my own struggles against theirs.

I believe we all have experienced the type of love that makes us feel like we are crazy. We have all felt as if we have lost sight of ourselves by being so wrapped up in another person. When you’re sharing a life with another individual it’s easy to mesh and the only way to survive is to compromise. But how much is too much?

I have a friend going through infidelity issues with her (most likely) soon to be ex. He cheated, she caught him. End of story right? Not exactly. When he was caught red handed and there was no denying his misbehavior he somehow turned the tables on her. He broke it off with her before she could leave him citing her invasion of his privacy as the cause.

When she told me all of this I almost screamed out of disbelief at the audacity of this guy. Somehow, though, the more he was verbally abusive and cruel the harder she wanted to hold onto him. That’s how it goes sometimes, right? Confusing as it may be, it caused me to do some self-examination.

My marriage is far from perfect and it definitely didn’t start out on the best footing. We argued and he ripped our marriage certificate in half about two weeks after we had exchanged vows. We would break up, live separate a couple weeks and then get back together. We did this over and over to the point where it drove me nearly insane.

I got so caught up in the short cycle of honeymoon, normalcy and destruction and was living it in fast-forward on repeat. My mother kept asking me, “Why do you let him do this to you?!” I didn’t have an answer for her other than that I love him. My rational brain knew that our behavior was juvenile and completely inappropriate, but my emotional self felt crippled without him. He always seemed to know exactly when I would start to feel better and get ready to move on. He would come back, and we would go another round.

I totally lost myself. Finally, I had to get really upset and turn mean to stop things from continuing in that manner. Luckily, he was emotionally exhausted from how things had gone too. Since then, we have both been able to make small compromises along the way without one person sacrificing everything for the other. Our communication has improved and while we do rub off on each other habit-wise, we each feel established as separate entities. He no longer consumes me, or I him.

So, is it normal to lose yourself in love with another person? I am not sure, but if I had to offer anyone advice I’d recommend to do it at least once. There is pain like no other, but there is a passion like no other also. I don’t find it healthy, but it is an opportunity for a learning experience. I don’t think you can fully know yourself until you’ve lost yourself to another and fought to regain yourself.

Florida School Shooting from a Mom’s perspective

I know we have all seen the recent news out of Florida regarding the high school shooting. Seventeen young people lost their lives this week. A day that should have been like any other, filled with everyday struggles and triumphs, quickly became a nightmare for everyone involved.

I usually wouldn’t make a post or even bother stating my opinion on controversial subjects like this, but I can’t help myself. I was scrolling through my facebook news feed and videos start playing as I scroll past until I heard screams of terror. Maybe it’s because I am a mother myself, but that sound stopped my in my tracks. My heart literally skipped a beat and my adrenaline rushed as I saw the imagines from inside the school when the shooting happened. There was gunfire, screams, police officers and a still bodies.

My mind immediately went to my own children who were in school at that exact moment. I imagined Rebel, my oldest, screaming and clinging to her friends. Angel, my next oldest, I imagined would be frozen and silent hiding from the gunshots. I did the only thing I could, I cried. I cried impotent, rage-filled tears.

I keep thinking “if my kids were there I would have…” as if I have any of the answers. I’m a mom which makes me a protector. As much as I like to imagine myself as an immortal bad-ass rambo chick, when it comes to my kids I unfortunately am not. I am in no way able to stop an armed crazy person from hurting my kids, which is an unthinkable truth for me.

I’ve lived in Memphis, as scary as everyone makes it out to be I was never afraid in that city. I have never been paranoid enough to lock my doors at night. (Which usually doesn’t do any good other than the sound of breaking glass being a warning.) I’ve never locked my vehicles and have even forgotten to close my garage before going to bed before. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t believe crime would happen. It was more of me thinking there is nothing in this world that could hurt the people I love while I still breathe. In my mind, I would either rescue my kids from any disaster or would die in the attempt. I imagine myself fairly hard to kill I guess.

My heart breaks for the students who lost their lives. I can’t imagine what their friends and family must be feeling right now. I imagine all the students there that day will never forget the feelings of fear they felt. I bet parents of slain kids are wondering what they could have done to save them. I would. I hope with every fiber of my being this kind of tragedy never visits my door. If it should happen, I pray I am the hero my kids believe me to be and can somehow protect them.

I don’t know if gun control is the answer to the national problem. I can’t say it’s a lack of mental health resources and I am no expert in human behavior. I can say things cannot continue on the same. Maybe gun control won’t help, let’s try it and see. Maybe more mental health resources won’t help, let’s give that a chance too. No matter the direction we go, we can’t stay here.

Do you believe in luck?

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, as we all likely do. Recently, I have put a lot of thought into luck and similar pursuits. It’s so easy to have a string of unfortunate events happen and believe it’s “just my luck.” I’ve even developed a pattern of thought in recent years about how we pay for good luck with bad. It makes sense to me and it helps me stay on the lookout for good fortune even in hard times. That itself is probably not so uncommon, the human brain is designed to look for patterns in everything.

We all wish we could control our luck or fortune. I have even dabbled in spells and witchcraft in my younger years trying constantly to improve my lot in life. In retrospect, my efforts might have been better invested in career or educational advancements. Admittedly, I have spent a lot of my adult life pregnant. With pregnancy comes a feeling of being powerless and in a perpetual state of stasis, which likely contributed to my pursuits in luck and the like.

Most people will probably laugh at the idea of a magic spell solving a personal or financial crisis, but I am still a partial believer. The quantum physics behind our thoughts affecting reality is the basis if my belief. (But the theatrics of it all definitely makes it fun!)

The scientific community has even shown interest in luck vs odds and the true meaning of serendipity. A quick google search will find you multiple articles written on scientific studies done into the matter. Surprisingly, all the findings of these studies suggest luck is real, but not like you think.

People perform important tasks better when they believe themselves to be lucky. Wearing or having a lucky charm in your possession actually helps. It tricks your brain into putting more effort into achieving your desired goal.

We all know about “The Secret”, an insanely popular book and accompanying movie about positive thinking. With the research and accompanying life experience as evidence, I am definitely a follower. I have even gone as far as teaching my daughters to know they will be successful in their dreams. I told Rebel (my writer) to imagine giving an interview on national television explaining her massive success. I told Angel (future big cat documentarist) to imagine being in Africa, to feel the sun on her skin and see the lions she is filming. I told them to imagine those things as much as possible. I also, of course, taught them to make decisions today that will help them get to their destination tomorrow. I will let you know how it turns out when they are all grown up. (Wish us luck. Ha.)

Lately I have felt that my luck has been terrible. I’ve had a really tough time with my daughter moving to her dad’s house. Finances could definitely better. Honestly, like a lot of other people out there, I am eagerly awaiting tax return time. I have already spent it mentally to the last dime, all on necessities.

It is a struggle to stay positive for anyone. I plan to force my brain into positive thinking mode. Even in the worst of situations, there is always a silver lining if we look for it. Sometimes, that lining is only the fact that an ordeal has passed by. I hope we all have the chance to take deep breath, refocus and drive on knowing luck is on the way.

Finding Peace

This post will serve as an update to a previous post regarding my rebellious teen who is moving to her dad’s house to get away from me.

I am happy to report things have improved between Rebel and I. We have spoken very openly and honestly about how we feel and addressed some of the problems she feels she is facing.

Mainly, she is struggling with the new restrictions I have implemented. I have taken away internet access, cell phone and stopped any chaperoned dates. This has somewhat devastated her. I admit, it has to be quite a drastic change going from having a device that puts her social life in the palm of her hands to nothing.

During our discussion she mentioned feeling like I don’t trust her and she has no way to earn back the trust that was lost. This is a dilemma for me. I explained to her that “unplugging” her was never intended as a punishment. I had discovered some lies she was telling her friends, comments that bordered on inappropriate and even saw her referencing suicidal thoughts. The reason I took away her social devices was out of fear of her heading down a negative path and being influenced by peers more than home.

She has been through a lot the past two years. We moved from a big city to a small, rural town. She doesn’t fit in here. She is an openly bi-sexual, self-proclaimed atheist in the heart of the bible belt. When we lived in Memphis it was much more acceptable to be different. Everyone was different in one way or another and her school was filled with people of different religions, colors and economic class. Here, everyone at school is straight, white, and devoutly christan trump supporters.

Within the last two years I have given birth to a baby boy and am pregnant again with a baby girl due in May. She is not only having problems finding her place in her social circle, but the dynamics at home have shifted as well.

She also expressed to me feeling a void from her father which is led her to ask to move in with him. I reminded her that even if she is living with him the rules from home still apply and that he and I will be parenting together. She seemed to lose a little enthusiasm over the move after that discovery.

At the end of the conversation she and I told each other we love each other and hugged. I made sure to let her know that while she might not always like me or agree with my parenting that I do it all with her best interest at heart. She can be angry and hate me even, but I will always love her. I even said one of these days she will thank me, a line my mother once delivered to me. She didn’t seem to believe it any more than I did, but experience has shown me how true it really is.

Although we still have a long journey through the teen years that is sure to be emotional and crazy, I am sure we will all survive. Even in the moments I am uncertain of the right parenting choice, I know I will choose correctly. I just have to let my heart take the lead and be patient when she forgets that I have one.

Checkmate

I recently posted a blog about my mean girls. The pre-teen drama queens. I wish I could update and say that there has been a break in the clouds and I have been granted a reprieve from the constant battle of mothering people who believe themselves to be grown.

Unfortunately things have taken an even worse turn. My eldest, Rebel, (I’m completely regretting the name choice) came to me yesterday for a frank discussion. She was supposed to go spend the weekend with her biological father to take a break from me and give me one from her.

When she got home from school and packed her weekend bag she informed me she had more permanent plans in mind. She wants to go live with her father. She believes I put too much undue stress on her by asking that she do chores and help out with her younger siblings from time to time. (Her chores are dishes and we have a dishwasher. She always has help whenever she is asked to sit and watch her little brother as well.)

I was devastated. My eldest, the first baby I ever held, wants to leave home.

The situation with her father is a complicated one. He was seventeen when I got pregnant and I was sixteen. He did as many young men his age in the same situation would do. He broke it off with me, went into hiding and only popped in and out every now and then over the years.

He didn’t exactly have a stellar upbringing himself. His parents were extremely poor and on and off of drugs his whole childhood. They were prone to violence towards each other and their two sons. It isn’t too surprising he never finished school, lives with his mother and has extreme difficulty maintaining relationships or jobs.

I never asked for his help in raising Rebel. I never sought child support or stalked him to force him to be a part of her life. I didn’t even put his name on her birth certificate because he wasn’t ready for parenthood. I wanted him to have a chance to finish growing up.

About two years ago he managed to pop back into the picture. He was doing steady mechanic work, had gotten married and was raising his two other children together with his wife. So when he asked if he could start seeing her on the weekends I agreed. She was excited to catch up with him and meet her new siblings so I saw no harm in letting her get to know him again.

When she told me she wanted to live with him yesterday I was hurt. That was the way she wanted me to feel. I steeled myself and told her if she thought she would be happier, healthier and could achieve her ambitious goals easier with him than with me that I would pack her up and transfer her to her new school on Monday.

I was only half bluffing. I figured her father would say no or she would change her mind and back down from the threat. So far she hasn’t. I even went a step further and explained that if she switched schools now she would be forced to stay until the end of the school year. She still didn’t back down.

Now, I am completely soul crushed and realize that I have been playing an intellectual game of chess with Rebel that I was unaware of.

I hope with every fiber in my being that I am making the right choice by letting her go. She is already more intelligent than her father and sometimes, I suspect, me as well.

She knows how much I love her. I know this because I remind her all the time. I told her what it was like the very first time I saw her. Her head was cone shaped from the thirty two hour travel out of my, too young, body. I looked at her red squalling face, tears rolling down my own and told my mother she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. In that moment, the world stood still for us. My world had forever been changed. Never again would I be Misty, I would be mom instead. Every decision since that June day I have made, has been with her best interest at heart.

I’ve said it before and I will say again. Nothing my child could ever be or do could change how I love her. I hope she has fun with her dad and stays safe, but I also hope she learns to appreciate the things I do for her. I hope she misses me. Above all else, I hope she comes home.

Real Life Mean Girls

Pre-teen and teen-aged girls can be so heartless. I should know I live with two of them. My oldest daughter, Rebel, will be thirteen in four short months. She is so precocious that it is easy to forget she hasn’t officially reached the “teen” mark.

My second daughter, Angel, looks up to her big sis so much that anything Rebel throws at me she does as well. It’s a double dose of trouble for me.

I am guilty of having patted myself on the back for my parenting triumphs over the years. I am learning my lesson on that front now though.

On one hand, my girls are so bright, creative and ambitious that I am completely blown away by them. Rebel wants to be a famous writer and one day own a publishing company. Now that is dreaming big. There’s no doubt in my mind she can achieve her goals. I’ve read her work, and though I may be biased, I am a big fan! Angel wants to document the big cats of Africa for National Geographic when she grows up. She is just as ambitious and plans to take me on safari with her one day. Their dreams and goals are my dreams and goals. I can’t wait to see what life has in store for them

Although the future looks bright, now is a very tense time with my girls. They are struggling to discover who they are independently from me. Which means if I say left, they go right. If I say up they inevitably agree with each other down is the correct answer. I feel outnumbered and defeated sometimes. Not only have their sweet natures turned disagreeable, but they are down right mean girls when the mood strikes. They talk back with so much sass it catches me off guard. If looks could kill Angel would be a cold hearted murderer.

My parenting style has been very supportive and encouraging. When my eldest came to me and told me she was bisexual, I took it in stride. I explained that the same future dating rules applied to females as males. I’ve made sure to discuss how to act with class, demand respect and what is appropriate. I even gave speeches about how dangerous to their mental health doing things before they are ready can be.

I feel like I covered all the bases in regards to child rearing. From peer pressure to periods and body hair, I’ve been there. We even have secret codes to communicate a need for private conversation. So why have my girls become these secretive mean-natured strangers? I have literally sat and cried in frustration and self-pity from some of their unkind remarks.

My conclusion is this, it’s hard being their age. They say you always hurt the ones you love the most. I never truly recognized the validity of those words until recently. We have made some dramatic changes in my house. The girls are no longer allowed phones, internet access or chaperoned kiddy dates. (I snooped and didn’t like what I found.) I remind them that they are the children and I am the adult. If they need a pat on the back or applause for a job well done I will be the first to do it. If they need a shoulder to cry I have two they can always count on. Every now and then they will need to be reminded they are children, and I will be there to spank them and put them in time out like they were three again!

In my most frustrated and hurt-filled moments I always take a second to remind them. They can hate me, but I will always love them. Nothing they could ever be or do will change that. I am doing the best I can as their mother. It is the only thing in life to ever truly matter to me. I have days where I fall short and I wish there was a manual on how to do this “mom” thing right. I am doing the best I can.

Good luck out there to all my fellow parents raising mean girls of your own. I think we are all going to need it.