Saturday, June 24, 2017

Vacation-YayCation! 5 Steps to a Happy Family Summer Vacation

     "I love it," the dad said with a laugh as he walked past me on Main Street in Walt DisneyWorld. "We've only been here an hour and I'm already fussing at the kids!" He hugged his wife and they both giggled.This particular dad was obviously joking around. But traveling with young children can be no laughing matter! Over-the-top excitement, fatigue, hunger, and heat can propel the kids into CrankyLand and cause parents to say, "Now, remind me again why we decided to do this?"
     On the other hand, summer vacations can provide parents and children with excellent opportunities for creating happy memories and for strengthening relationships. Here are five ways to turn your family vacation into a Yay-Cation that you will remember fondly for years to come.
     Feed your faces. Be sure everyone eats breakfast. Don't let the rush to pack, load and check the list "just one more time" distract you from eating at least a light breakfast (looking at you, Mom.) You need fuel for the day. Not only does a healthy breakfast kick-start your metabolism, studies show it improves your mood! Include protein, dairy and/or whole grains. Hungry kids are cranky kids, so munch on high protein snacks during the day. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Staying hydrated can give you more energy and regulate body temperature. Hot kids=hot mess. Drink water.

     Slow down. Don't overpack your daily agenda. Your kids may want to be the first ones in and the last ones out, but remember the "eyes are bigger than the stomach" saying. If you spend the day racing from points a to z, you will just "see" things instead of experience them. A slower pace encourages conversation with the kids. It's better to do less and do it well. Take leisurely water and bathroom breaks. Stop on the road or the trail for a picnic lunch. Sit by the lake and feed the ducks. The idea is to create memories instead of a timetable.

     Embrace your inner child. We are so used to adulting, it's hard to let go on vacation. Just do it. Cannonball into the pool, throw water balloons on the beach, build a sandcastle, ride the darn rollercoaster for crying out loud, wear a cowboy hat, do the line dance, buy the t-shirt, eat the ice cream, conquer the water slide, take silly selfies with the kids. You can go back to adulting on Monday. For now---let loose! Your kids will never forget the fun that they, and you, had!

     Conduct a daily debriefing. Everybody get together at the end of the day, after bathtime and before bedtime to talk about the day. What worked? What didn't? What was each one's favorite part of the day? What's the funniest thing that happened? What do you want to do again? DOCUMENT. Record the debriefing on your smartphone or video camera. These are moments you will never be able to recapture. Let the kids lead the conversation. They will always remember it! And they will love you for letting them take the lead.

     Sleep. It's tempting at night to Just.Keep.Going. Resist. If everybody sleeps (looking at you, Mom) everybody stands a better chance of waking up refreshed, happy, and ready to tackle the next day. 

      Here's to YayCation! Safe travels!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Relationships Ain't For Sissies

     I was scanning through the channels on my car radio when a sad song about a breakup came on. "Nobody Wins" laments the loss of a relationship and, with apologies to Brenda
Lee, there's nothing really remarkable about the lyrics. With the exception of one line. 
     "The loving is easy, it's the living that's hard."
     To misquote Bette Davis, "Relationships ain't for sissies."  Too many of us enter into relationships believing those sappy sayings such as "all you need is love, "love conquers all," and "love means never having to say you're sorry."
     I hate to be blunt, but.... bull.
     Love, real love, is not just about the feelings. Don't get me wrong! Those feelings are great! They make you go all gooey on the inside when you see your honey and they touch you in just that right spot on the back of your neck. But, feelings come and go. The fairy dust (as one of my girlfriends calls it) can fly away at a moment's notice in the face of a disagreement, financial difficulty, acts of mistrust, or just the daily responsibilities of life. That's when "it's the living that's hard." And that's when the act of love, not just the feeling of love, can make or break the relationship.
     What do you do when the living is hard? Here are five suggestions:

     *If you are married, remember your wedding vows. You know the ones: "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others be faithful only unto you." Made you all mushy the day you promised those things. But, they can be hard to live out. When the living is hard, perhaps you and your spouse can repeat your vows to each other. If that's uncomfortable, write them out and say them aloud to yourself. Remember why you said them on that very important day. Ask yourself, "what is the one thing I can do today to act out my vows, regardless of my feelings?"

 *Say "I'm sorry." I adore the movie "Love Story." I cry every time Jenny tells Oliver "love means never having to say you're sorry." Then, I wipe my eyes, blow my nose, look at the screen and say "baloney!" We all do and say hurtful things to the people we love, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. Saying "I'm sorry" is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. It demonstrates your depth of character and your commitment to making the relationship work. Warning: Be sure you MEAN IT when you say those important two words. Saying them, but not living them, will spur mistrust and resentment.

      *Talk it out. The "silent treatment" is a popular maneuver in too many relationships. Silence may be golden in church or the library, but in a relationship it's worthless. Learn how to talk through your issues in a calm, logical way. Perhaps each of you could take a piece of paper, write down three things that are bothering you, then take turns talking about them. Did you catch that? TAKE TURNS. It's a conversation not a lecture. Time yourselves if necessary. Acknowledge the other person's feelings and words. You don't have to agree with them, but try to see their perspective and find common ground.

     *Never go to bed without kissing your mate.Someone told me one time of a couple in their 80's who'd never gone to bed without a kiss. The husband said sometimes the bed would be shaking because of the anger of the moment. But in the light of day, they found the desire, will, and strength to make amends and move the relationship forward. BTW, kissing burns calories. So, go "work out." It will make your body and your relationship healthier!

     *Bring back romance. Take steps to overcome the disagreements and difficulties that threaten your "fairy dust." Decide to infuse some romance into your relationship. Go for a long walk or a drive. Hold hands. Dance in the kitchen. Kiss your partner when they walk out the door in the morning--- not a peck on the lips, but a hot-and-bothered can't-wait-til-you-get-home kiss. Rub your partner's feet when they get home. Go on a picnic. Take a bubble bath. Light candles and play love songs from your courtship. The idea is to WORK at your relationship.
Brenda Lee had it right. Sometimes, "the loving is easy. It's the living that's hard." But nothing worth having comes easily. Or so I've heard. 

*For more ideas on how to bring romance back to your relationship, check out
"30 Days to Better Love"