If your sister asks your 17-year-old daughter to do her hair for her wedding in Las Vegas…

and if your daughter does your sister’s hair so well that your sister asks her to do her hair for the reception the next weekend…

and if you make the 30 minute drive back to your hometown the next weekend so that your daughter can do your sister’s hair for her wedding reception…

and if you arrive on time, only to find out that none of the veggies for the reception have been sliced by those who said they would do it…

and if you decide to pitch in and help by slicing cucumbers…

and if your daughter leaves with your sister to go back to her house to help her do her hair for the reception…

and if you rush to get all the veggies over to the wedding hall only to discover that those who said they would help in the kitchen aren’t going to do it after all…

and if you decide to be nice and stuff the chicken salad sandwiches so that your sister will have chicken salad sandwiches for her guests at her wedding reception…

and if you get the sandwiches all stuffed and placed on the buffet table and then look around to find your sister, the bride, and your daughter who did her hair, missing…

and if you find out that they haven’t arrived yet because they have been pulled over by some cop…

and if you hear that they were pulled over because they illegally crossed a yellow line…

and if you hear that your sister’s car registration is expired…

and if you hear that it was your daughter that was driving the car so that your sister could sit in the passenger seat to prevent her wedding dress from getting wrinkled…

and if you hear that your daughter didn’t have her driver’s license with her because she’d left it in your car…

and if you hear that your daughter crossed the yellow line because your sister told her to do it so that they wouldn’t have to wait for a stopped train…

and if your daughter and sister, the bride, finally arrive at the wedding reception 45 minutes late…

and if you learn that your daughter will have to come back to your hometown, which is 30 minutes away from where you live, some time during the following week to show her driver’s license to the powers-that-be in City Hall…

and if the day she needs to go back to your hometown, which is 30 minutes away from where you live, to show her driver’s license to the powers-that-be in City Hall, is a day you had 1 million other things planned and so it is inconvenient for you to take your daughter back to your hometown which is 30 minutes away from where you live…

And if the inconvenience of it all makes you grumble to your husband…

And if you hear your husband say, as you are walking out the door, “Turn it into something fun!”  Maybe you should pause, take a deep breath, and do just what he says.

Then you will be able to smile at your daughter when you pick her up from school, and you will be able to tell her a funny story as you make the 30 minute drive back to your hometown, and you will be able to show your daughter the picture of her great-grandfather that hangs in City Hall as one of the former mayors of your hometown, and you will be able to show her the plaque that has his name showing he was the Mayor who built the City Hall that you are visiting so that your daughter can show her driver’s license to the powers-that-be in the City Hall…

and the two of you will have created a new memory to be written in your journals…

and your daughter and her aunt, your sister, will have had a shared moment that helped them to bond. 

Something they can laugh about years down the road.

Last night in the adult session of our Stake Conference the time was turned over to the congregation to share ideas on how they have kept their families strong.  Here are some of the ideas presented:

*Time.  Make time for your family.  Have parent/child dates periodically.  Don’t let the family get over scheduled.  Too many activities take away from family time.

*Don’t allow certain words to be used in your family.  Decide as a couple what words you consider hurtful and make it a policy to never use those words in the marital relationship nor in the family as a whole.

*When the family is getting together in the evening after a day of work and school each person can look for ways to serve another family member.  Dad or teenagers can take a turn fixing dinner.  Mom can clean the windows on Dad’s car.  Kids can do chores for each other.  The ideas are limitless.  Even if your family is reluctant to adopt this idea, you can make it a personal policy to do on your own.  When one person makes the effort to change, others often follow.

*One older gentleman shared his tradition of “Grandpa G’s annual sleepover with the grand kids.”  All fourteen of his grand kids get to come to his house for a giant sleepover and breakfast in the morning.  One activity he likes to do with them is to have them each draw pictures of a favorite memory they have of their grandparents.  Even the teenagers draw memory pictures.

*Have Family Home Evening every week.  Have one night a week that the family stays home together with no distractions (tv, phone, computer).  Have a spiritual lesson or talk about the values you want your children to learn.  Play games together.  Make a treat together.  Sing, joke, laugh.  Just spend time together.

*One lady told of her family’s 50 year tradition of a family reunion every summer.  She also told about quarterly firesides her extended family members have in which they get together and have a spiritual meeting and bear testimony.

*Play good music in the home.  Find music that has a calming influence.

*One woman shared how she helped her kids reconnect with their dad when they were younger.  He had to travel a lot for his job.  She had a separate folder for each of her kids that she would put school work, award certificates, and even photos in.  When her husband came home from a business trip he would have “Daddy’s Interviews” with each of the kids.  Each child got to take their folder into Daddy’s room and have some one-on-one time with him showing him everything in the folder.

*Husbands and wives still need to do things together even after the marriage ceremony.  Go on a weekly date.  Pray together.  Talk about the welfare of the children.  Take weekend getaways.  Take walks.  Cuddle.  Meet for lunch.

*Hug your kids every single day.  Do it several times each day.

*Instead of dreading the teenage years and viewing those years as tough and challenging for parents, parents can send the message, “We love having teenagers.  We love to have you here.”

*Celebrate motherhood.  Yes, there is some drudgery when taking care of a sick child or doing mounds of laundry, but remember that your children are a blessing.  Be grateful every day for the wonderful individuals that they are.  It is a joy to be a mother.  Celebrate fatherhood.  Embrace being parents.

*One lady shared her family tradition of having a lunch at a local restaurant as a family two days before Christmas Eve and taking turns to vocally share their love and bear testimony.

*Husbands and wives should try to not lose the friendship.  Try to see your spouse as your best friend.  Treat them as you would your best friend. 

*One lady shared an incident from her childhood.  As a young girl she had some fears.  Her father didn’t dismiss the fears as childish.  Instead, he listened to her “as he would an adult” and helped her to work through her fears.  Validate your children.  Listen to them.

*Share spiritual experiences with your family.

*Teach children from a young age what your standards are.  Begin teaching them honesty, modesty, the value of a work ethic, whatever your personal beliefs are, as soon as they are able to understand.  Continue those teachings through their youth.

There are many ways to strengthen your family.  These have been just a few ideas.  You may want to try some of them.  You may have ideas of your own.  The important thing is to make your family your focus.

One of my earliest memories of my school years is returning home after the first day of school and smelling the wonderful aroma of my mom’s homemade applesauce chocolate chip cookies.  It is a tradition she began on my first day of kindergarten (I’m the oldest of eight) and continued until my youngest brother finished school.  There were always homemade cookies waiting when we got home from school on the first day.  We would snack on warm cookies and cold milk and tell Mom about our new teacher and the things we did.

I loved the tradition so much that I decided to continue it with my own kids.  On Huh’s first day of preschool I made applesauce chocolate chip cookies.  I have continued baking on the first day of school ever since.  Yawlin started third grade on Monday.  (And, yes, he felt like a victim because he was the only one in the house who had to go to school the day after returning home from family vacation).  I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for Yawlin’s first day.  Most of the family had already grabbed cookies and dashed to destinations unknown before Yawlin walked in the door from school, but the two of us were able to have cookies and milk together as Yawlin told me about his day.

Squid has decided to live at home and attend the community college for a year before he goes on a mission for our church.  Today is his first day at the college.  I will be baking again today.  On Monday the rest of the kids start school.  I will bake yet again.  Three “first days”, three times to bake.  And the kids have all come to expect it.  It is tradition.

This year is actually an easy year.  In 2005 when Hub and I got married, Shroom, who was a 6th grader in a year-round school, was the first to have his first day of school.  Then Hoob began at a different year-round school on a different track.  Yawlin had kindergarten testing before he started, so his first day of school was a week later than Hoob’s.  Huh and Mack had decided to stay with their old school in another school district.  Their first day of school was next followed by Squid and Juju a week later.  There were five “first days” that year.  Five times to bake.  But I had to do it.  It was tradition.  It had never been a tradition for my step kids, but they liked it and look forward to it now. 

The next school year Huh and Mack switched to the school district in which we live so I thought baking for first day would be easier.  But, that was the year Juju’s mother decided to put her in a private school and we invited a foreign exchange student from Vietnam to stay with us (he arrived two weeks into the school year) so I ended up still having four “first days” to bake for.

I’ve changed the tradition a bit, it is not always cookies that I provide.  With so many “first days” I decided I wanted a little variety.  So, instead of cookies, I sometimes bake brownies or cake.  Today for Squid’s first day I am making chocolate zucchini cake because the zucchini plant in our garden is doing very well.  Zucchini anyone?

For any who know me, spending a lot of time in the kitchen is not my activity of choice.  But, the eating of baked goods while hearing about the new happenings at school is worth the effort.  Mom, your tradition lives on!

Vacation Goals Update:

Family goal – Each person was asked to find at least one person to help or show kindness to while on our trip.  Helping a family member counted.  There were many little kindnesses performed, almost too many to write.  Here are the ones I personally noticed:

HUB – Gave Ryan our contact information and told him that if he ever desires to come to Utah he can stay in our condo in Moab or in my parents cabin in the Uinta mountains and that we will be his personal tour guides.  The offer is a standing offer.  Also, when we discovered too late that Yawlin wasn’t tall enough to go on Dueling Dragons, Hub stayed with Yawlin so that I could go on the ride with the rest of the kids.  Hub was very attentive to ALL of my needs on the trip.

ME – After getting caught in a downpour walking back to our hotel room one night and ending up soaking wet, we decided to order the old fashioned chicken noodle soup from room service to take the chill off.  The lady who brought our order was so kind and had decorated the table in such a pretty way that, even though there was already a 22 percent gratuity added to our order, I decided to tip her in addition to the gratuity.  We loved the flowers she had provided.  I also allowed Hub to use my travel pillow on our flights so that he could be more comfortable.

SQUID – Helped Yawlin lift his luggage up to high racks whenever we had to ride a shuttle at airports.  He also allowed Yawlin to bury his feet in wet sand at the beach.  Squid celebrated his 18th birthday on the day we left for the trip.  On a layover in Atlanta we rode a train to an underground mall and ate lunch at a 50’s style diner.  We informed our waitress that it was Squid’s 18th birthday and she brought him out a huge ice cream sundae and four helium filled balloons.  As we left the restaurant Squid spotted a group of mom’s with four kids.  He gave the balloons to the kids whose eyes lit up upon receiving the free gift.

HUH –  Was very attentive to her little brother.  She gave Yawlin a piggy back ride as we walked through one of the theme parks because he was getting a little tired.  She also took him to the hotel pool and played with him there while the rest of us rested in our hotel rooms.

JUJU- Held the pool gate open for a lady in a wheelchair.  She also stayed with Yawlin twice while the rest of us went on rides he was unable to go on.  She went with him on one ride that could be considered “boring” for a teenager.

MACK – At the car rental counter she saw a woman’s overloaded suitcase about to tip over.  Mack held it up for the lady until she was finished filling out her paperwork and was able to take control of her suitcase herself.  Also, we all witnessed a worker at Islands of Adventure get yelled at by a woman for something that wasn’t his fault.  Mack waited for the lady to leave and then she went and apologized to the worker in behalf of the lady. 

SHROOM – Held a door open for some people at one of the attractions and then got stuck there holding the door because people kept coming.  And coming.  We had a good time teasing him about getting stuck holding the door.

HOOB- Stayed with Yawlin closer to shore while the rest of the family tried body surfing in deeper water at the beach.  She also helped him build things in the sand according to his specifications.  Hoob also held a few doors open.  

YAWLIN – There was a boy at the beach who had been floating in a tube.  Somehow the tube got away from him and was floating out to where he couldn’t reach it.  Yawlin grabbed the tube and brought it back to him.  He did the same thing with a ball that another little boy had at the hotel pool.  Yawlin also held doors open a few times.

*One funny way our teenage daughters showed kindness came after they had caught a seagull.  At Cocoa Beach they concocted a wild plan.  Huh was buried in the sand except for her head which was covered by a towel.  The other girls then placed pieces of nectarine and bread on Huh and the towel.  Huh had to be patient and lie there for quite awhile.  There were a few near misses and then one seagull landed in the perfect spot and Huh rose from the sand and trapped him with the towel.  It was actually pretty hilarious.  The girls were ecstatic that their plan had worked.  Others on the beach, especially kids, wanted to pet the bird and get pictures.  The girls happily obliged before letting the angry bird go.

My personal goal:  I wanted to spend some one-on-one time with each member of my family or to at least make each individual the focus for a time.  We did most things together as a family (which is the point of a family vacation), but I did manage to squeeze in some “focus time” with each person:

HUB – There was one morning that we woke before the kids and were able to sit and quietly talk about trip happenings and make plans for the new day.  We also held hands whenever we could, which prompted the kids to make the “Awww, lookit” comments.  Hub listened to the comments for awhile and then planted a big fat kiss on my lips.  The kids reacted by running away and yelling, “PDA!  PDA!  Ewwwww!”  🙂

SQUID – At the 50’s style diner that we ate at on our layover in Atlanta our waitress gave us some nickels to use in the juke box.  I invited Squid to come with me to choose songs to play.  He didn’t know any of the old songs so he ended up choosing by how interesting the song title sounded.  

HUH – During our flight home the two of us were seated together but across the aisle from the rest of the family.  I used that time as our one-on-one time.  We looked at all the pictures from the trip on my digital camera and we did cross-word puzzles together.

JUJU – The two of us volunteered to be a part of the Fear Factor Live show at Universal Studios.  While the rest of the family left to go on the Simpson’s Ride the two of us had to fill out paperwork in order to be participants.  We were able to use the time to visit and to take pictures of the two of us together.

MACK – We were on the Jimmy Neutron ride together and laughed hysterically at the rest of our family’s reactions to the ride.  We were both wiping tears from our eyes.

SHROOM – Had to leave us a day and a half early because of football.  Right after going on his final attraction of the trip I made him the focus by having the family give him a big group hug for a picture.  I told everyone to have sad faces.  There were people walking by who were wondering what it was all about.   

HOOB – While at the beach she asked me to bury her in the sand and take her picture.  I happily obliged.  We also walked over to an empty lifeguard tower and I took pictures of her posing on it.

YAWLIN- After we’d experienced most of the attractions at both theme parks together as a family we split up so that the teenagers could continue doing thrill rides.  Yawlin and I got to spend a lot of time together trying attractions that were more appealing to him.  I watched him play in water in two different kiddie areas, we took pictures of each other in different spots in the parks, and we visited some gift shops.  At the beach I buried Yawlin in the sand and then took a picture of him and I helped him build a castle with a moat that kept getting washed away in the surf.

The two goals I’d set (one personal and one for the family) were fulfilled.  The main reasons for taking a family vacation were to create memories and do some bonding.  Mission accomplished!

GOALS FOR THIS FAMILY VACATION:

A personal goal for myself is to spend some one on one time with each of my family members during this trip.  Eight people.  Eight times to seek some one on one time.  I may have to get creative, but I think I can do it.

The goal I am presenting to my family is for each person to find one person to help while we are on the trip.  Helping a family member will count, but I am hoping everyone will look beyond our family and reach out to a stranger.  Something as simple as holding a door open or carrying a heavy bag will count.

And so, with those goals in place, we pack today and leave on a 6:00 a.m. flight tomorrow to Orlando, Florida.  Hub cashed in all of his SkyMiles to take us on this trip.  We’ve been planning it since February.  Hub is bringing the laptop so he can check in with some clients, I might find some time to post.  But, if I don’t, I will begin posting again on Monday or Tuesday after we return home.

Universal, here we come!

I recently had a reader named Michelle post a question on my blog that I felt needed a bit more than just a quick response in the comment thread.  I am going to post the question here, give some of my thoughts, and then open it up to suggestions from others who may also have some ideas.

“My husband has adopted my two boys, 7 and 10, and he has a 17 year old girl and 14 year old boy from his first marriage.  With my husband recently adopting our younger boys, it has definitely affected his 14 year old son.  They do not live with us or in the same area, so visits are few and far between.  My husband has always had a difficult time relating to his son.  The son is much closer to his mom.  The kids are coming to visit next week, and lately the visits are so strained that the son won’t participate in any activities, he just wants to play his PSP or video games.  He is now suffering in school as well and his sister told my husband that he doesn’t have as many friends anymore.  Depression?  We know that seeing his dad raise younger boys must hurt, especially since the boys play sports and the 14 year old hates sports.  I am trying to help my husband open up to his son and just talk, but my husband is so nervous.  They have a few things in common, but over the past few years they have grown apart.  I am hoping this is just the teenage years that we just experienced with his daughter, but I don’t know.  Just seeking whatever guidance anyone may have.  We have spent enough money on books, etc.  I thought it time to talk to the experts.  Our peers.  Thank you. 

When we first got married we experienced something similar.  When two households combine there is bound to be some “stepping on toes.”  With my divorce we have the standard visitation set up.  My kids live here full-time.  They have dinner with their father on Thursdays and they stay with him every other weekend.  Hub’s divorce is different.  He and his ex split the week with their kids.  It’s a little strange, but we have all adapted.  Everyone struggled in the beginning.  Hub’s youngest son, Shroom, was 11 when we got married.  He was the one who struggled the most with his dad sharing time with other kids.  He got angry once when Hub called my son “buddy.”  Hub had always called Shroom “buddy” and he didn’t like hearing his dad call anyone else that name.  He was also jealous that Hub built my son a bed.  He pulled away from my husband and wouldn’t talk to him.  The mother called and claimed that Shroom wanted to live with her permanently.  It broke my husband’s heart.  We got through it, Shroom stayed with the schedule, and he no longer seems to have those issues.  Here are some ideas that have worked for us.  Maybe they will work for you as well.

*Have your husband spend one-on-one time with each child.  He should give them his undivided attention.  Turn off the cell phone.  Listen to what they have to say.  Let them pick an activity they would like to do with just the two of them–a movie, lunch, playing catch–whatever, but let the kids do the choosing.  Have him try to get a few minutes alone with each child every day.  

*Driving in the car sometimes helps kids relax and they are more apt to talk.  Maybe Dad and son could run errands together and talk in the car between stops.  Or a long drive somewhere may help facilitate a conversation. 

*Another idea might be for him to take a one-on-one trip with each child.  My husband has told me to do that with each of my children (what a gift from him!).  I took my oldest daughter to San Diego last summer.  She picked the destination and the activities.  We toured the city, played on the beach, visited Sea World, and did a snorkeling excursion.  We took lots of pictures and I wrote about it in her journal.  She had been struggling with some personal issues and the trip helped us grow closer and helped her to open up about some of her struggles.  The rest of the kids can’t wait until it is their turn and Hub plans to do the same with his own kids.  If time or money is an issue, day trips in your area could be an option.  Since he doesn’t live in your area, visiting some of the sites near your home might be fun for your step son.  Show him a list of options and let him choose a few for some one-on-one time with dad.  Also, a camping trip with just the two of them might be something they would enjoy.

*Does your husband keep in contact with his children when they aren’t with you?  Regular positive phone calls, emails, and snail mail can help keep the relationship intact.  Does the son have a cell phone?  I have found that texting my kids occasionally has helped us to bond.  They really like it when a parent takes the time to send them a message.  Just last night my kids’ dad sent them a picture text of himself because he’d just shaved his head.  They burst into laughter and begged for me to let them borrow the car so they could go see his new ‘do in person.  Texting is big with teenagers, parents can join in and connect with their teens.

*Since your step son likes to play his PSP and video games, maybe Dad could play the games with him.  The son might enjoy teaching his dad how to play.  When I was a single mom we had a Nintendo gaming system.  My kids regularly invited me to play with them because they knew they could always beat me.  They loved it.  Whenever we played Mario Kart together they would pass me up then turn around and nail me with a turtle shell, or they’d just run over me.  We had a lot of laughs playing that game.  Maybe you could buy a new game for them all to try.  Rock Band and Guitar Hero seem to be big with kids right now, maybe your husband and his kids could play those games together.

*Since your step son is so big on his PSP and video games, chances are he likes the computer too.  Maybe your husband and his son could spend some time finding things to view on You Tube.  That is something our kids like to do.  They really like to view clips from the 80’s because that is when we were teenagers.  They love to make fun of the 80’s.  But there is so much more to view on You Tube then stuff from the 80’s.  There is bound to be something the two of them connect with.

*You mention that your husband and his son have some things in common, perhaps your husband needs to focus on those things and plan some activities around those common interests.

*Does your step son like to read?  Maybe your husband could read a book that his son is currently reading or has read in the past and then they could discuss the book together.  I just finished reading a book about vampirates because my daughter had read it and wanted me to read it too.  I have connected with my kids and my step kids by reading what they read.

*Make sure there is “family time.”  Studies show that families that eat meals together regularly are closer.  The kids also eat healthier and make better choices.  Make one night a week your “family night.”  On that night spend time as a family playing games, or watching a video to discuss later, or go out for ice cream, or roast marshmallows, or visit a park, the ideas are limitless! 

*Taking family vacations together is a great way to bond.  Make sure every person has a responsibility to carry out and some choice on the activities.  Take lots of pictures and allow the kids to choose their favorites to keep for themselves.

*Friends are an important part of teenagers’ lives.  Is it possible for your step son to bring a friend with him occasionally?  Having a friend around may help him to loosen up.

*Even though your step son doesn’t enjoy sports perhaps there is something physical your husband and his son could do together that they would both enjoy.  Maybe they could go rock climbing, jogging, hiking, or swimming.  Even a simple walk together through a canyon, around the neighborhood, or in a park could provide some bonding time.

*Maybe your husband could take his son with him to work one day.  Dad could show all about his career and tell what he did to prepare for his career, which may spark an interest in his son towards that career, or at least it might start a conversation about career choices in general.  Maybe the son will share his thoughts on what he wants to do with his life.

*Have the two of them learn a new skill together.  Do they both have an interest in photography?  Learn it together!  Any new skill is game:  swimming lessons, creative writing, computer skills, riding a unicycle, doing tricks with a yo-yo.  The point is that they do it together.

*Doing chores together is a great way to get them talking.  Cook a meal together.  Do the dishes.  Yard work.  Time is spent together.  Work gets done.  Skills are learned.  And bonding occurs.

*While your step kids are with you, make sure that they get some choice on how they spend their time.  Let them choose some of the family activities and let them choose some activities they can do on their own.  Kids tend to be more cooperative if they feel they have some control over their lives.

*Dad can look for the good in his kids and make sure to verbalize it.  Notice what their interests are.  Notice their clothing choices.  Notice their choice of tv shows.  Kids like to be noticed.  Don’t make an issue if some of the choices would not be your choices.  Just notice, and if they choose to share with you the reasons why they choose some things, then listen.

*Has your husband and his former wife discussed the school and friend concerns?  They may want to do that and come up with a plan together on how to help their son.

*Some things you as the step mom can do would be to allow your husband and his kids to have some time together without the “other” family.  It isn’t personal, it’s about preserving relationships.  You can do things to bond with your step kids.  The ideas above can be adapted for step parents and step kids.  Look for the good in your step kids and be sure to verbalize what you see.  Remember that they are part of the person you fell in love with.  Do what you can to make them feel welcome in your home.  Buy their favorite foods, provide a place they can be alone when they feel that need, initiate conversations with them, let them do chores–chores are part of being a family.  Display pictures of them in your home.  If you have access to it, display some of their outstanding school work or art work.

There are many other ideas, but I am already over 1900 words with this post and I am anxious to see what others have to suggest.  Thank you for your question, it gave me the opportunity to evaluate how we are doing in our own family.  Good luck!

A quick tip on a busy day:

On occasion view You Tube videos with your kids.  It can be a great way to bond with them.  My daughters recently found a You Tube video that was a compilation of old 80’s music videos.  They called me into the room to watch it because they thought I “might like to take a walk down memory lane.”  It was fun to watch, but the fun really began when I started naming songs and artists that weren’t a part of the compilation and they typed the names in to view whatever videos might be available.

There was laughter when they saw Boy George and shrieks when they saw Twisted Sister.  We took a look at Devo, Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Duran Duran, Oingo Boingo, Queen, ZZ Top, Kiss and many more.  We laughed so hard at some of the videos we had tears coming out of our eyes.

“O M G Mom, the 80’s were hilarious!”

And it isn’t just music videos we’ve viewed together.  We have been struck by the talent of a six year old guitar player.  We’ve wondered how another little boy can know so much about vacuum cleaners.  We have been touched by stories of people overcoming great odds.  And we’ve laughed at a sneezing panda. 

One video of a guy driving down a highway on a motorcycle while texting prompted a conversation about what NOT to do while driving.  So much of what the kids find to view on You Tube can be a conversation starter. 

I don’t advocate spending hours and hours on the computer.  I prefer my kids and step kids to choose other activities, but I have learned that if I hear, “Hey Mom, come look at this,” it is something they really do want to share with me and I should take the time to go see.  It has been a safe way to bond with my stepkids.  Sharing a laugh about something builds good memories.  And I don’t always wait for the kids to find things to show me.  Sometimes I find things that I think are worth sharing and then I call everyone in to see.  We based an entire Family Home Evening lesson on a You Tube video that I found once.  Another time I pulled up Blue Man Group so the kids could see parts of a show that Hub and I had attended but the kids hadn’t.  It piqued their interest and if Blue Man Group ever comes back into town they may want to earn some money for tickets.

Embracing what kids today are interested in can help in forging a bond and in building a relationship.  I once wrote a post about texting teens as a way to bond.  Joining them on You Tube occasionally will do the same thing.  Laughing at those old 80’s videos with my daughters is now one of my favorite memories.  I hope they can say the same.

IDEAS FOR BONDING WITH YOUR KIDS WHILE ON VACATION:

*Do something that sets you apart from the crowd.  Before our trip to Kingfisher Ranch last week my daughters, step-daughter, and I all painted our fingernails and toenails in the same bright colors.  Doing it before we left helped the girls anticipate the trip even more and it created a feeling of “belonging.”  When my extended family went on a cruise in 2006 Hub and I made t-shirts for everyone that showed a sinking ship and the words, “Judy’s worst nightmare” (because a sinking ship really is my mom’s worst nightmare).  We picked one day for the entire family to wear our shirts as we left the ship for an excursion.  The kids, especially, enjoyed the comments and questions we received about our shirts.  Twenty six people wearing the same shirt was quite a sight.

*Once you reach your destination take a walk with your kids to explore the area.  I walked with two of my kids around Kingfisher Ranch which is how we discovered the fire pit, the volleyball court, and the pond.  Even a walk around the area of a hotel can provide information about activities to do or shops to visit.  Walking is a great way to begin a conversation as the kids show their excitement about things they discover.

*As much as possible let your kids try new things.  While at Kingfisher Ranch I let my eight-year-old son use the oars the entire time the two of us were kayaking on the pond.  He became quite skilled at maneuvering us through the water and even helped us win a couple of races against his step-cousin.  If your child has never done it before, any activity can be exciting–putting out a campfire, miniature golfing, making a craft, horseback riding, trying seafood, hunting for giant moths, snorkeling, etc.  Your excitement will feed their excitement. 

*Bring games and activities for some of the “down” times.  Some of our fondest memories are of playing rowdy games at my parents’ cabin.  Between horseback riding and kayaking at the ranch my son enjoyed coloring in his coloring books.  And kids really like it when an adult or teenager joins them in coloring.  My sister-in-law brought a new card game to the ranch and some of us enjoyed playing it in the evening as others began quieting down for the night.  Playing a game, reading a book, or playing with toys can help younger children calm down after a day full of activities.   

*Try to get some one-on-one time with each of your kids during the vacation.  My son and I both enjoyed our time in the kayak together, just the two of us on the water.  My thirteen-year-old daughter liked being the only kid on a horseback trail ride with me and four other adults.  A walk together, reading a storybook, trying a new game, souvenir shopping, talking on the balcony–any “alone” time with mom or dad will be treasured.

*Activities in the car to help fight boredom are a necessity.  Singing, listening to the radio, playing games and these activities all help.

*Make sure everyone in the family gets to help with something on the trip.  While at the ranch our kids were all assigned to help with something.  Shroom helped make pancakes; Mack helped prepare a lunch; Hoob helped prepare a dinner; Yawlin got to wipe off tables and counters; Squid and Juju did the dishes one night.  Everyone helped with the final clean-up.  Mack took it upon herself to play with younger step-cousins so that the parents could have some time to do some activities.  There should be no excuses for not helping.  Older kids can help younger kids pack or play a game or make a craft.  Younger kids can help pick up toys, put dirty clothes in a bag, or wipe toothpaste off the sink. 

*Take plenty of pictures of the trip.  Make sure every person is in several of the pictures.  Include posed pictures and candid pictures.  Let the kids take some of the pictures; if they don’t have a camera of their own let them borrow yours (if they are responsible enough) or buy them a disposable camera.  My thirteen-year-old daughter took my camera for awhile at the ranch and took pictures of the kittens in the barn, a two-year-old cousin trying to open the door to the lodge, some of the horses, and the Bear River.  Her pictures added a flavor to our trip that I would have missed. 

*Allow your kids to choose some of the pictures that will be put in a scrapbook or posted on family websites or displayed at home.  As pictures are chosen, make sure to reminisce about the fun times on the trip.  Remembering the good times about trips is the best part.  Kids don’t mind the same stories being retold and they will enjoy telling their own adventures.  On the anniversary of the trip pull out the old pictures and relive the trip, it will solidify the memories.

The most important thing to remember about vacationing is to relax and enjoy being together because that is the reason you took the trip in the first place!