I haven’t felt Christmas-y since 2013. In 2014 I was incredibly pregnant with Squeaks, in 2015 Poke and I had been split up for five months and I was dealing with JI’s behaviour, and this year we don’t have our own home and I don’t have any money to buy new presents for the boys or gifts for anyone else. It sucks. I’m so happy to not be homeless, and I am so happy that I have Squishy in our lives. I got a job and I’m only part time for now, but I am happy to be employed. Overall, things are fine. Nothing is terrible.
I feel terrible though. JI keeps asking why we haven’t decorated, why there is no tree, why we have no lights. He wants to know if he is going to get a lot of boxes on Christmas morning. This is the second year he has been interested in Christmas, and I feel like I am going to fail him. I know that it is not all about the gifts, but when I have practically nothing to give but some old hand-me-down playsets, I feel like a bad mother.
In addition to feeling badly about not having enough things for the boys, I feel bad for just not being in holiday spirit. I have been trying very hard, but things have been rough around here lately, and I just don’t have it in me to be jolly. I am tired and stressed all the time. I have $40 to last me two weeks. I have no idea when my first paycheck will come. I feel like I am hovering over an abyss that could suck me in at any time. It’s so frustrating. This headache hasn’t gone away for almost a month.
But damn, as happy as I am for the things mentioned earlier, it would be really nice to get a break. I’ve been busting my ass for these kids and my family and our lifestyle for so long, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it. JI tells me that he loves Squishy more than me, and he wishes I would go away. Squeaks went from being a great sleeper to some kind of 3rd shift monster. Very little of the furniture and stuff in the house is mine; I’m simply existing in someone else’s world. It hurts.
There’s nothing to do but carry on, so carry on I shall. Keep smiling, keep being cheerful, fake it til I make it. Right?
Send the Oreos through the food processor until fine. Melt butter + marshmallows in microwave 1 min + 1 min (2 min in a row will make them puff up over the edge!), then fold the Oreo crumbs into the marshmallows/butter. You can flatten out like a bar, roll into balls, or make into coal shapes!
I know that Halloween is all about Candy CANDY CANDY, but I like for the kids to get something else too, something that will enhance their minds rather than just rot their teeth. Something educationally healthy! I know, I’m a nerd. Either way, I gave Squeaks a bib and two Halloween outfits, and JI got a decorated box full of Halloween books.
The past two and a half months have been a whirlwind of emotions for myself, my family, and my bio family. Mostly they have been positive emotions, except on the side of my (adoptive) family. I have continued to build a relationship with my bio family, and I have never been happier in my whole life. I finally feel like I am somewhere I belong naturally, rather than somewhere I am forcing myself to try to fit in.
Back in May, the weekend after Memorial Day, with the help of my siblings, I drove to Akron on a very stormy Sunday afternoon and surprised my bio mom. I met BD, his wife, and Texas at the restaurant around 3pm, and Sissy brought mom once they texted her to say I’d arrived. I could see out the window into the parking lot, and when I saw them walking in, I thought I would faint. Sissy walked over to our table, with bio mom in tow. She stopped, and bio mom kinda looked around like “Why did you stop?” Then she looked over at the table, it took a second for her to realize who I was, and then she put her hand over her mouth and just said “Oh my god oh my god oh my god” over and over. I got up and gave her a hug, and it felt so comfortable, and in the back of my mind I was thinking that the last time she gave me a hug was 33 years ago. I wondered what it felt like for her, and I imagine she must have been thinking the same thing.
We had a lovely meal, Mexican of course, and a good time catching up. We were at the restaurant for about three hours! Afterwards we went and visited my bio grandma (Gigi). She was very surprised to see bio mom, and even more surprised to see me. It was an interesting visit, to say the least. Finally we went back to bio mom’s place. We sat and talked with her housemate, talked about everything under the sun, and I finally left around 10:30pm. It was the craziest twelve hours in my recent history! Ranked right up there with Squeaks being born ahead of schedule!
Because they weren’t able to come to the baptism, bio mom arranged for the boys and me to go up to Akron for the 4th of July weekend. She came down and picked us up on Friday afternoon, Poke came up on Sunday afternoon, and we headed home on Monday.
Friday we got delicious authentic pizza, and Sissy brought her girlfriend to the hotel to meet us. JI acted like a maniac after the car ride, and bounced all over the place. After a couple of hours they left, and somehow I got the boys to sleep! Saturday was the big day – meeting ALL the family. Bio mom picked us up in the afternoon, and we headed to my aunt’s house.
Have I told you guys yet how big my bio family is?! It is HUGE. My family always consisted of me, Scrod, and my parents. My dad has two brothers, one who was never married, and one who passed away, but his wife still comes to family holidays. I have no cousins. My grandfathers died in 1977 and 1981, and my grandmothers passed in 2001 and 2007. So for the past few years, it’s only been the four of us plus Poke and the kid(s), and occasionally my uncle and aunt. That’s it. My bio family? Completely different! My bio mom has three sisters and a brother, and I have nine cousins. There’s also four spouses/fiances with the cousins, three of bio mom’s siblings are married, and bio mom’s mom is still alive as well. Not everyone was at the 4th of July party, but it was very much a culture shock.
Despite being in a totally new situation with a whole crowd of people I’d never met (except my sibs, bio mom, and Gigi), it was awesome. From the very first minute, I was completely at ease. My bio aunt was worried about JI, the first wee little kid to be around in a while, getting into trouble or in a dangerous situation. They live on a big plot of land with lots of holes and trees and rocks and dog piles, so I got it. JI had a blast though, playing with my youngest cousin, who is twelve. They chased each other around, they chased the dogs, and thankfully they stayed out of trouble! Everyone wanted to hold Squeaks, but he was mostly comfortable in bio mom’s arms. He didn’t even want me! While JI ran around like a crazy man and Squeaks charmed everyone with his flirty faces, us older kids played cornhole, drank beers, and ate tons of delicious picnic food (which just happens to be my favorite food to eat in the summer!). It was the perfect day, culminating in a huge bonfire at the end of the night. So happy!
Sunday Poke came up around 1pm, and we met up with bio mom for some different authentic Italian food…. unfortunately the restaurant was closed due to the holiday, so we ended up at a Chinese buffet. Holy cow, it was great! Poke and I used to take JI to all these different Chinese buffets around Columbus, but most of them have closed or the quality has gone way down. The one at Chapel Hill was so so so good – quality food and lots of variety. I could have stayed another hour! Afterwards bio mom drove us around North Hill, the section of Akron where she and my siblings grew up. I got to see the house where I lived for a month after I was born, the houses where my siblings lived/live currently, and a few other landmarks, including the hospital where I was born. It was really special, knowing that all these spots had a real meaning in my life.
When we got back to the hotel, JI and I went in the pool for a little bit, and then we all headed out to watch BD’s volleyball championship games. He is really good! I never thought volleyball was interesting until I watched these amateur (professionals?) play. It was fast paced and really fun. Even JI, who hates sitting still, sat and watched most of it! We went simple and hit up Applebee’s for dinner, which was actually pretty tasty! I don’t think we’ve eaten at Applebee’s for about two years and their menu has changed a lot.
Monday was checkout day, and I was up by 9:30am to get everything ready to go. Poke loaded up the van while I got the kids ready. Bio mom came by around 10:30am to check us out, and then we went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Poke had never been to a Cracker Barrel before! I love it; one of my favorite breakfast places. JI was a bit salty for some reason, and actually broke a plate when he pushed it off the table. I had to draw on all my woo-sah and calmly implement the 1-2-3 Magic system that we’ve been using. After a four minute time out, JI was back in business and ended up being a lot better after that. Kids are so weird sometimes.
I was sad to leave, but I had such an amazing time that I know I will be able to get through the next few weeks until I see my bio family again. JI’s birthday is coming up in mid July, so we will probably head up there to celebrate. I can’t wait!
So, I didn’t just make up that 72 item list, I’m actually going to try and check off all those summer fun ideas! I’ve already made ice cream, popsicles, drawn a road on the driveway, had a yard sale, gone to the zoo three times (we go about once a week!), and hit up the Ohio Historical Society. It’s been super hot here lately, therefore I’ve also had JI in the pool just about every day. In fact, we’ve been using the pool way more than last year, and in order to save a little money on water, I went and bought chlorine and a test kit. This way we don’t have to dump out 500+ gallons every single day!
JI likes to have the slide in the pool, and it’s always very hot to the touch, so I rigged up the hose and sprayer to shower water down on the slide and cool it off, as well as make it nice and slippery to fly into the pool. When he’s not in the pool, JI is flying off the slide and down the slip’n’slide. The only downside to all this outdoor waterplay is that I can’t leave him alone. It would be great if I could safely leave him out there to play while I did chores or tended to Squeaks! I’ve heard way too many tragic stories about kids drowning in backyard pools, and even though the water isn’t deep and I know CPR, I don’t want to take that chance.
Backyard Waterpark– Set up a slide into the kiddie pool and turn on the sprinkler, hang a sprinkler from a tree and drive cars through it, your imagination is the limit!
Driveway water darts – Draw a bullseye on your driveway with chalk and use wet sponges as the darts
Waterballoon or water gun fight– Once you get hit, you’re out! Team with the last man standing wins!
Ice block – Fill a container (I use a plastic shoebox sized one from the dollar store) with water, food coloring, and trinkets like dinosaurs or cars or whatever tiny things you have lying around. Freeze and let the kids go at it until all the tiny things are free!
Amp up the slip’n’slide – Dish soap, shaving cream, no oil!
Car wash – Do a real car wash with your neighborhood, or set up a kids’ car wash with sprinklers/hoses and dish soap.
Plant seeds – You can get a packet of seeds for less than $1 in some places; plant in a clear cup to see how the roots grow!
Play ice cream – Empty a can of shaving cream into a container and freeze until hard. It melts quickly and has a weird texture. You can add colored rice to be the sprinkles! Give the kids scoops, bowls, etc. Not for consumption!
Salt sculptures– Combine 3c salt + 3T water, mix until every grain of salt has gotten damp (add more water if necessary), dry for at least 18 hours. Use sand castle molds, deep bowls, etc. to build shapes.
Find a new playground – Pick a random park from the map, or stop at one that you always drive by but have never visited.
Picnic – Pack sandwiches, tea, and cookies. Find a cozy spot away from the ants.
Bonfire – Roast hot dogs, make s’mores, tell stories, and enjoy the evening.
Yard sale – Gather up all the stuff you haven’t touched in the past year (or longer!) and sell it at low-low prices. Buy something for the family with the proceeds! Donate everything that doesn’t sell – once it’s outta the house, don’t let it back in!
Lemonade stand– Make homemade lemonade and give the proceeds to a children’s charity.
Feed the ducks – But don’t feed them bread! Get some duck food from your local pet store, or opt for veggie trimmings, cracked corn, rice, oats, or thawed frozen peas.
Go camping in the backyard – Build a tent from branches and a sheet, or just rough it under the stars.
Backyard obstacle course– Jump over the rock! Go through the sprinkler! Hop on one foot down the path! The possibilities are endless.
Draw roads on the driveway with chalk– Make a huge street for bikes and trikes, or make tiny streets for toy cars.
Flashlight tag– My version: Everyone has a flashlight. One person is IT, and has their light on – everyone else has theirs off. IT counts to 50 or 100. Everyone else hides. IT has to find each person and shine the light on them. Once you have been found, you join the IT team and turn your light on, and you find the rest of the people. Last person to be found is the next IT.
ABC treasure hunt – Make an alphabetical list of things to find in nature or in the house or backyard.
Texture/nature rubbings(please, no gravestones) – All you need is paper and a few old crayons!
See the fireworks– Lots of towns have them near the 4th of July, and you could easily see fireworks every day for a week!
See a concert in the park – Many places offer free or very cheap concerts in the evening or on weekend afternoons.
DIY projector for outside movie night – Add popcorn, a blanket, and some wine for the parents!
In the Kitchen
Bake cookies and make ice cream sandwiches – Homemade chocolate chip + vanilla ice cream.
Learn a new recipe– Let the kids go through your cookbooks and pick something fun.
Make popsicles – You can simply put juice in a popsicle mold, or get a little funkier with fresh fruit combos!
Homemade pizza – Buy a premade shell or dough to cook, or make your own. Top with anything you can think of.
Homemade Ice Cream– It’s way easier than you think, and healthier than the store bought stuff (even if you make it with candies and chocolate and all that stuff!)
Visit an ethnic grocery store– Make dinner from the interesting things you find there.
Make smoothies – Take all your fruit, mix it up with milk and yogurt, and bam! Smoothies.
Root beer floats – A classic summer treat! Invite your grandparents over and have them tell you stories about their childhood while you sip on a brown cow.
Places to Go
Summer reading club – Most local libraries have a program for school-age kids and grown-ups too.
Museum – Art, History, Science, etc.
Visit farmer’s market– Usually on weekend mornings, Google “your town name + farmer’s markets”
State Fair– The Ohio State Fair is HUGE and super family friendly! Check out a county fair if the state one is too far away.
Zoo – If you have a large family and no membership, it can be pricey. Try to make it less expensive by packing snacks and drinks for everyone, and make sure you wear good shoes!
Mini golf– Winner gets an ice cream sundae! Losers get ice cream cones! Hehehe 🙂
Amusement park – The cheaper, the better! We have a few tiny parks here in Ohio, and in some places those carnivals in parking lots still show up from time to time.
Waterpark – This can be an investment, just like the zoo. Once again, bring everything you need (towels, snacks, etc.) and try to resist all the souvenirs and extras!
Local pool – Our parks & rec has a system of pools that only costs $1/person admission. Check your local community boards to see if there’s anything similar in your area! Sometimes the local pool is only $3-6/person, which isn’t too bad anyway.
State park– There are so many parks to visit in our country. Try to see all the ones close to you!
200 mile road trip – For us, this would be Columbus to Cleveland or Columbus to Cincinnati, or Columbus to Pittsburgh. Go for a day or overnight, and check out how the other half lives!
Camping in nature – As in real nature, not the backyard 😉 Get a cabin, rent an RV, pitch a tent at a campground.
Do a kids’ workshop or class – Lowe’s, Home Depot, and local rec centers always have interesting things happening for people of all ages.
Go to a baseball game – Minor League, Major League, Little League, Geezer League… tons of baseball in the summer!
Go to the dollar theater – See that movie you wanted to see back in January!
Go bowling– Especially good for a rainy day.
Bring Your Friends
Talent show – Everyone can showcase their special or hidden talents.
Visit residents at a nursing home– Put on a show with karaoke, play the piano or another instrument if you know how, or just sit and visit and let them enjoy your company.
Wii Sports Challenge – Who in the family is best at Wii bowling? Which one of your friends can kick butt at Wii Tennis?
Scary story scare-off (or silly stories for little ones!)– Tell the scariest or silliest story you can think of! Or, one person can start the story and each person adds two lines. Go around the circle until someone says “BOO!”
Ice Cream Social – Invite your friends and have everyone bring one ingredient to make sundaes. Syrups, berries, sprinkles, jimmies, nuts (if you can), cones, waffles, anything you can think that might be good with ice cream!
Volunteer – At an animal shelter, soup kitchen, YMCA/YWCA, food pantry, etc.
Friends parade– Get everyone together and decorate your bikes, trikes, and other ride-on toys. Go through the neighborhood playing music on your mp3 player (back in my day, I had an FM radio on blast!)
Funny dice – Make two large dice out of styrofoam blocks (get them at a craft or hobby store). On one die write verb phrases such as “play like”, “dance like”, “jump like”, etc. and on the other die write silly nouns like “a dog”, “an alien”, “a purple people eater”, etc.
Streets on the carpet– Use painter’s tape to map out a city on the rug for your toy cars.
Fingerpainting in the tub– Buy soap paint, or make your own with liquid food coloring and white liquid soap (add a few drops of coloring, stir up, enjoy!)
Learn a skill – Bike riding, rollerskating, tying shoes, etc.
Learn sign language – It is easier than you think! There are tons of videos on YouTube, or check out some books from the library.
Build a bird house– Out of scrap wood, or popsicle sticks, or half a 2-litre, or any crazy thing you can find online!
Sock puppets– Make them the kind that eat dust! Use old socks and draw on faces – if you want to get fancy you can add yarn hair and googly eyes.
Write a book (or comic strip!)– Make your family the stars of your book.
Castle/playhouse/fort out of cardboard boxes – The sky is the limit on this one. Give the kids all the art supplies and let their imaginations run wild.
Pirate Day – Talk, dress, eat, and otherwise act just like a pirate all day. Rum for the parents after your little mateys hit the hay.
Make bird feeders– Use pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed. Hang them near the windows so you can watch your new feathered friends feast!
Establish family game night – Pick a night and time that everyone can come together. Make a special snack, and get those old board games out of the closet!
Yarn lasers – String yarn between four chairs or down the hallway in a laser pattern. Touch the yarn and you have to go back to the starting line!
Giant board game(could also be an outdoor activity!) – Make letter tiles out of cut up boxes and play Scrabble, spray paint Twister on your lawn, make a huge hopscotch with painter’s tape, etc.
Dance party – Kids are sitting are BORED, turn on the music and start busting out those moves!
Life size paper dolls– Have the kids lie on large sheets of newsprint or butcher paper and trace around them. They get to color in their faces, clothing, hair, etc.
Pet rocks – Collect the craziest looking rocks from outside. Paint them and decorate them, then name them!
I had eight or ten tomato cages that had been wandering around my yard for the past four years. Finally, I decided that enough was enough, and I put them all on the curb – except three. Those three I made into super cute, funky little light up trees!
Maybe some wire or twisties
Turn the tomato cage upside down. Bend the stakes inward so they make a point. Wrap the lights around the tomato cage. Secure lights with wire/twisties if necessary. Enjoy!
You could even make these and put them in your yard just for the holidays. I think I might leave mine up all year! They’ll make the deck so festive!