7 Ideas for Making Spring Break Quarantincation a Blast

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Spring Break is next week for our school and many surrounding counties. Normally this is one of my favorite weeks of the year. For years, we have headed down to the Gulf to camp on the beach. It’s idyllic.

This year? Well, let’s just say not much in life right now would warrant the term idyllic, would it?

However, my family, much like yours, I’m sure, has more reason than ever to seize a week off and make some great family memories. I’m incredibly proud of how hard my kids have worked each and every day of virtual learning. Work hasn’t let up for my husband or me either, so we are both very much looking forward to taking time off and just enjoying some simple pleasures.

But what are simple pleasures when you’re stuck safe at home? I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and here are some ideas I’ve come up with for my crew. I thought I’d share them in case they help anyone else. I’d love to hear your ideas too! Together we can make this a glass-half-full Spring Break!

1. Backyard camping

This is where it all began for our family anyway! Before we took the girls out to the woods, we first took them to the backyard. It’s time to revisit that first trip, complete with grilling out, roasting s’mores and games by the campfire. Bonus: Showers and bathrooms readily available

Don’t have a tent? “Camp out” in your living room! String some lights for ambience (Confession: our white lights from Christmas are STILL up and will be until this mess is all over), and fall asleep in front of your favorite movies.

2. Inflatable pool

Once again, this is returning to our roots. We’re lucky enough to have a lovely neighborhood pool, but when the girls were younger, we often found it easier and more relaxing for us to just set up an inflatable pool in the backyard. We’re bringing it back! Don’t have a pool? Hook up the sprinkler and let your kids run up your water bill! 😉

3. Games, games and more games!

Target currently is offering a buy 2, get 1 free promotion on board games (and video games, if that’s more your style). We’ve also had puzzles going on since this isolation season began, so we’ll keep working on those!

4. Baking

This one assumes you’ve had more luck finding flour than I have! If we can’t find it before next week, we’ll have to get more creative… but currently we plan on making some Easter treats, including spring-colored Rice Krispies treats and egg-shaped cake pops! We also hope to try our hand at making homemade soft pretzels, and I will also likely bake some banana bread to enjoy for breakfast while we’re camping. Baking is something I don’t do very much anymore except the holidays, so I think it will make the week seem more festive!

5. Disney+, Netflix, etc.
We are personally going to try to take a big break from individual screens. But we plan on indulging in lots of fun family movies and shows! Now is a great time to introduce your kids to an epic series like Star Wars, or binge a season of Master Chef Junior on Hulu. Pop some popcorn or use a muffin tin to fill with snacks to last through your family binge session.

6. A family home improvement project

This assumes your kids are old enough to actually help out, of course. We have had “paint the dining room” on our list for quite some time, and we’re going to make it happen over Spring Break! We purchased the paint before things closed down so much, but you can still order supplies online!

7. Unplanned time

This might be the most important one to me. Our kids have reached the stage of having multiple commitments, and our schedule tends to be go, go, go… we love it, but we also all need a break from it. Well, this virus has given us that break, so we aim to enjoy it. While we will enjoy some planned activities as a family, we also will just sit around and be silly, let the girls continue to make an elaborate fort out of boxes, read lots and lots of books, and generally just be lazy without any guilt.

 

What do you have planned – or not planned – for Spring Break? Whatever it is, I hope it is the respite your family needs!

 

There’s more: Getting off the sidelines and onto the slides

“Are you going to do it, mommy?”

“No, sweetie. I’m not really dressed to go sledding.”

“Awwww.”

Then I remembered. I am doing two separate studies right now. One is about replacing stress and anxiety with positive rhythms in your life. The other is about achieving higher creativity. Guess what each of these very different studies, yet both grounded in spiritual truths, have revealed is lacking in my life?

Play.

I know that may seem odd if you see my social media feeds. Our family knows how to have fun. We camp, we travel, we go to movies, we go to concerts, we see musicals, we’re IN musicals…

But when I look back at so many of the things we do, I’ve realized that more often than not, I am on the sidelines, watching my people have fun. I do truly love seeing them laughing and having the time of their lives. As a parent, there’s really nothing better than seeing your kid living their best life and having a great time doing it.

Except.

Maybe there’s more. Maybe there’s jumping in the ring with them.

Maybe instead of holding the bags, there’s getting on the coaster and throwing your hands up.

Maybe there’s dancing yourself silly instead of Instagramming everyone else.

Maybe there’s closing the computer and having an afternoon jump session on the trampoline.

Maybe there’s getting out from the umbrella and into the waves.

Maybe there’s getting on the sled, whether you’re wearing the right clothes or not.

Maybe there’s more.

And so, I stopped taking photos and videos for a few minutes (and let the previously-disappointed-in-me daughter take them instead), and I played. Not for long, because, well I’m 40 and my back hurt.

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But, danggit, I played.  And I remembered why it’s more fun to play than to just watch people play.

And as I heard my girls cackling as I slammed into their daddy at the bottom of the hill and he fell on top of me, I remembered that it’s more fun for all of us when I play.

Yes, maybe there’s more.

Let’s play.

On rescue and honest prayers

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Parenting always has its ups and downs, but lately in our world, there have been a lot of downs. We’ve been dealing with some tough stuff with a child, and it’s left us feeling discouraged and overwhelmed.

We’ve sought outside counsel, and are continuing to fight for her heart, but in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been dealing with my own heart issues when it comes to this situation.

Because at a certain point, I realized I’ve been asking God to take away this problem, to make things “all better,” but neglected to ask what He might be doing in all of us through this situation.

And even more humbling, I realized that many times, I’m asking Him to make it all better so that it’s easier on me as a mom. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with asking our Heavenly Father to lighten our load, but doing it under the pretense of “help her” instead of “help me,” isn’t being honest with God or myself.

This morning I read this in a devotional by my favorite author, Shauna Niequist:“I prayed for the waiting to be over, instead of trying to learn something about patience or anything else. I prayed for it to get easier, not that I would be shaped in significant ways. I prayed to be rescued, not redeemed.”

I still want God to make things easier, and I’ll keep asking that. For her, and for me. But as of today, I’m doubling down on my prayers for transformation in my own heart, believing that rescue might actually look a lot more like redemption.

Advent Activity Calendar (alternatively titled, the tradition your kids won’t let you quit)

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Once upon a time, I had a family blog. You know, the kind where you post daily pictures of your cute kids and chronicle their every move, even when they’re too little to do much of anything. It got overwhelming, and I got behind. Then add in a crazy woman in another country stalking my kids online, and I promptly pulled the plug.

But that also means that some of my favorite posts are no longer accessible, and one in particular that I get a lot of questions about is our family’s tradition of an Advent activity calendar. So I decided to do an updated post. Give the people (all five of them) what they want, right?

But first, a disclaimer. If you are the parent of littles, now is your chance to close your browser, back away slowly and pour another cup of coffee as you take deep breaths and give thanks that you dodged a bullet. Because here’s the truth: this is a lot of work. And once you start it, your kids will NEVER LET YOU QUIT. Why? Because it’s FUN. And it’s memories and traditions and LOTS of hot chocolate. Ha! Also, if you’re a parent of littles, PLEASE give yourself a break and just a pat on the back if you manage to even get up a tiny tree with all the ornaments on the top half, or wrap one present this year. Because littles.

In all seriousness though, I’m truly thankful I started this tradition for a lot of reasons. For one, I had kids 12 months apart. So much of their early years is a total blur for me. But I remember so much about the memories we created in December.  And I’m certain if I hadn’t started this tradition when they were young, there would be a lot this overly sentimental girl would look back on and regret that I didn’t do.

Also, I’m a do-er. I’m a check-the-list-off and THEN we can have fun kind of girl. So sometimes I need to put the fun ON the list. And let’s be honest, I’m happiest when there’s a plan.

One more disclaimer: If you’re like me and you like a plan, you also have to recognize that when it comes to KIDS and DECEMBER, you have to be flexible with that plan. Sickness, bad weather, even the bah humbugs, can all intervene and throw off the plan. A couple of pro tips for building flexibility in your activities:

  • Make a spreadsheet. I suggest Google Sheets, that way you can share your spreadsheet with your partner. Save each year’s list as a separate sheet so you can see what you did in previous years and not always reinvent the wheel.
  • Write the activities on sticky notes that you insert inside your calendar. That way you can easily edit the plan when life happens. Because, it will.

And one last pro tip: When you’re creating your list of activities, pull out your family calendar and include anything you were already going to do. Adding “while sipping hot chocolate” to ANY activity makes it an Advent activity.  Addressing Christmas cards sounds like a chore? Add in hot chocolate (or listening to Christmas music if you’re afraid of spills on those lovely envelopes that you most definitely spelled your loved ones’ names WITHOUT using apostrophes). Buying gifts for charity? Get your kids involved and put it on the list! Your kids will love getting to pick out toys for other kids, even if they also use it as an opportunity to try to sneak in last minute additions to their own Santa list.

Okay, without further ado, here is a list of things we’re either doing this year or have done in previous years (with pictures from the somewhat recent past):

Town tree lighting
Make treats for Christmas party
Volunteer as a family (for us, this is with our favorite nonprofit)
Record a Christmas single (for the musically inclined)
Read all the Christmas books we own (We add a new one to the collection every year. This is becoming an epic night of reading – ha!)

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Open one Christmas present (we do family Christmas PJs)
Send Christmas cards to all our friends while sipping hot chocolate
Jingle Jam (church activity)
Make Christmas ornaments (we love these cinnamon ones)
Eat a red and green dinner (older kids can get in on the planning and cooking!)
Make Christmas cards for our community helpers (we attach candy canes!)

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They say this is one of their favorite Advent traditions, and I would think they were trying to sound pious, except they embrace it with such gusto. My favorites this year (2015) were Lily’s little fireman casually putting out a fire while someone is trapped upstairs and saying, “I love this job.”  😳😁😂 Second favorite: “Dear grocer, thanks for letting us buy food.”

Go buy presents for Advent Giving Tree
Do a Christmas craft with grandma (or babysitter)
Evening in Bethlehem (church activity)
Have a family dance party with Christmas music

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Christmas caroling with the neighbors
Drive around and look at Christmas lights with peppermint shakes
Make a winter wonderland window
Go take Christmas picture in your Christmas dresses (the collection of these photos is my FAVORITE Christmas decoration)

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Watch a Christmas movie (either as a family, or on the ipad in their rooms – bonus: Mom and Dad date night in!)
Make a gingerbread house
Attend a Living Nativity

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Read the Christmas story and make a video acting it out with the nativity set
Roast marshmallows in the fireplace
Make Christmas cookies for the neighbors

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Deliver Christmas cookies
Surprise family sleepover by the tree (I don’t put this one on the calendar, but we put the girls to bed, and then bust into their room… It’s always a hit!)

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Make cookies for Santa
Make a Happy Birthday Jesus cake

If you’ve got any ideas to add, I’d love to hear them! Happy Advent activity-ing!

P.S. Feeling overwhelmed by Christmas anyway and thinking there’s no way you could do this? Here’s something to remember.