Spring Break

I only have two more years with our eldest daughter under our roof.  To say that I've been rather contemplative and reflective of late, would be an understatement.

I don't think I actually noticed the "parenting" seasons changing as the years passed...you sort of slide into each one in the frenzy of it all...

Oh sure, she had younger sisters, so there was a bit of lag time with Sesame Street into High School Musical...but, as with any family, there are ebbs and flows, and sometimes the youngest gets to do things wayyyy ahead of when the oldest was allowed.

Baby years were HARD...as in, lord-have-mercy-I-need-toothpicks-to-keep-my-eyes-open-because-my-darling-children-won't-sleep! Not to mention the CONSTANT of the discipline and guidance and "oh my lands, get away from that outlet"!

Each stage offers difference challenges and I assumed that as they grew more independent, that my "role" would lessen in a way...

I.WAS.WRONG.

It's gone from no sleep due to crying/colic to no sleep from emotionally-drained-worry...

The fact of the matter, parenting is a tough job...and there really isn't a specific rule book that gives you guaranteed results for all the bazillion different personalities and temperaments of each unique child!

That said, I DO know that above all else there is relationship!

Sometimes relationships are strained and sometimes things are awesome...I lived with toddlers at one point and the roller coaster doesn't necessarily change as they hit teen years either! #goodluck #callmeoptomistic  However, I think what has made some of the biggest impacts for me, as a mom and in relationship with my girls, is the fact that we stuck with it.  We don't give up, we practice patience and forgiveness...my husband and I took turns during those physically draining years, so that our kids knew that we were their "go-to" people above all else...and we know that we are "FOR" each other...we make the time to be with one another, amidst the busy.  It sometimes means saying no to good things, but it's definitely worth it in the end!

So, in honor of Spring Break this week and "what-in-the-world-am-i-going-to-do-with-the-children-its-not-summer-yet" I thought I'd bequest a few ideas for those of us staying home to enjoy the Midwest's definition of Spring: rain & cold...

1. Find the least expensive or FREE things.  We call this sort of thing Day O' Fun.  This is where we give the children a specific amount of money (i.e. $50) that has to feed and entertain all of us all day.  I typically give them a couple days heads up notice so they can research...often this consists of obtaining coupons or researching establishments (for example: what's the typical time of day that the Krispy Kreme light comes on? Which day is "kids eat free"? An example of our Day O Fun can be found HERE  Other ideas might be the Meijer Game (you can email me for details on that one) or scavenger hunts in the library. The idea is to see how long you can make the money last and how much fun you can have in a day for the least expenditure. If nothing else, it's a lesson in money management ;)

2. Have a READ IN:  This might work better with younger elementary kiddos, but my favorite times with my girls typically centered around stories...We LOVE a good read-a-loud or audiobook.  If you didn't catch my Book Nook #1 blog post about read alouds and book choices, you can read it HERE
But, here are some of my favorite Audiobook selections:
*Anything read by Jim Weiss: Fairytales, Animal Tales or American Tall Tales
*Novels by E.B.White: Trumpet of the Swan or Charlotte's Web (his novels are read by himself)
*American Girl Stories (our favorite is Felicity)
*Frog and Toad
*Classics (The Secret Garden or Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Instead of having a movie "Drive In", do a Read In, where you pop popcorn, have blankets and pillows...provide coloring supplies for them to doodle or play with kinetic sand or playdoh while they listen.

If that doesn't suit, you can always get the CDs or reserve mp3s on Overdrive and play them in the car while on a long drive.  We listened to all 7 hours of Felicity on our way to Williamsburg one year.  It was glorious!

3. Make movies with iphones.  Kids already do this and are quite adept...they can't seem to keep their rooms clean or remember to change out toilet paper, but by golly, they can make pretty cool "mockumenteries" We typically have saved this for Christmas time where the kids dress up and recreate the Nativity story...but, why wait until then! Sit back in the evening and watch your kids perform on the big screen! HERE are some FREE movie making apps.


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Last but not least...our school district's Spring Break has lined up with Easter this year, so I started collecting fun ideas for Easter baskets (for those that do that sort of thing) along with a fun "gift" idea for littles that brought hours of enjoyment and relationship time during their younger years.

HERE is a pinterest board I put together with "basket" ideas such as Ball caps, Wellies, Beach towel bunnies, Tumblers/Water bottles, and even Umbrellas!

My last little "idea" has to do with something homemade, inexpensive and something that has stood the test of time...

If you are from my generation you will remember well the "flannel graph"...mostly seen in Sunday Schools across the Bible Belt of America...they were a JOY to the preschoolers that attended church each weekend.  Ohhh to be chosen to put the flannel character onto the board to represent the next part of the story...pure exhilaration and a sly smirk to all those that weren't chosen...apparently we were a tad pious back then...

Anyway, I recently uncovered the flannel board that I made back when my eldest was a toddler.  It is easily manufactured, by covering one foam core board with black felt and then covering another board with blue & green (for sky and grass).  You then glue the two board together so that you have a two-sided feature! (I'm cool like that!)

At your local craft store you can purchase all sorts of colored felt for nickels and dimes.  I started off with just cutting out my own shapes in all different colors.  We would have counting games or "find the color games", or just make colorful houses out of different sized geometric shapes.  I would even cut out leaves to count on trees, or ducks or birds...anything to count and name colors.


As my girls became more verbal, I found online stores that sold Flannel Bible stories that they could use in the same way I was taught "back in the day"

I found some that went along with the Beginner's Bible HERE, HERE, and HERE but, I'm sure there are many more!

My girls' favorite story was of Moses:



After awhile, as with all things, you may want to change things up a bit...that's when we started getting really creative.  Back in that local crafts store again, you can find stiff flannel with a sticky back.  I would make photo copies of book characters on cardstock, from my daughters' favorite books, cut them out, and adhere them to the stiff flannel...WALA, we had a brand new flannel graph story.

Below is a video of my youngest at age 3 retelling the story of The Gruffalo by Julianne Donaldson


However you spend your time this spring break, I hope you'll enjoy and remember to soak up the moments with your kiddos...whatever age!



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