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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Here are the puppet show pics...very nicely done!! The kids loved it!! πŸ’— #puppets #puppetshow #family #momlife #mommylife #lovemykids #blogpost #vacationtime #vacationmode #seasonalcamp #camping #berkshires


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#familyfun today started with a play group arranged by a family center in the area near our camp. Last night they had a puppet show at the pavilion at our camp, which is how I learned about the group. The puppet show was fabulous! My boys loved it! I will post some pics later. 😊 Anyway, today the family center had a playground play group time. There were toys and bubbles at the local playground for the kids to join in playing with, then a craft, circle time with songs, and a snack. We headed to a strawberry farm after that, where we ate more than we picked. 😜 Then I took them to a cute ice cream stand I had heard about. The kids are loving our week at #camp so far!! #theygrowupsofast #lovemyfamily #kidsofinstagram #vacationmode #vacationtime #seasonalcamp #familyadventures #berkshires #camping #explore #family #momlife #mommylife #lovemykids #blogpost


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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hidden Secrets: Surviving a Dysfunctional Childhood: The Middle Years Part 1

Dysfunctional Family


It's been a few weeks since my last post and I would like to apologize for leaving you, my loyal readers, hanging.  My fibromyalgia has been kicking my butt!  Between the fibro and the end of the year activities with my kiddles, I just haven't been able to write. 

In my last post in this series, I explained that at the end of my 4th grade school year, my family and I moved away from the town I had spent five years in.  My mother had just finished getting her college degree and had decided to pursue her Master's Degree at an esteemed college in another county.  She had also secured a job working for a man we will call Dave. 

So we packed up our belongings, cleared out the double-wide trailer we had been living in, and we moved into a big old farmhouse in the middle of the country a little more than an hour away from my grandparents.  It was about a 30 minute drive to her school from this house, and about a 5 minute drive to her job. 

We had moved in the summer, so my brother, sister, and I enjoyed countless days of roaming the property the farmhouse was on.  There was a big old bar, a pond where blue herons would bathe, creepy, old chicken coops to explore, and plenty of old scraps of junk that had been carelessly tossed into the woods many, many years before.  There was even a row of old, rusted out cars lined up just behind the wood line...Volkswagens, I believe, though my memory is sketchy on this point. 

The house was down an old dirt road and I can only remember one neighbor nearby.  At night, there wasn't any light pollution, so the skies were pitch black, but for the stars.  Bats, swooping down from above us to engorge on mosquitoes would occasionally frighten me as they rustled my hair with the breeze they'd create.

We lived in this child's paradise for just around a year, and in that time, I can recall a few things about my family life, but much more about being a student in the local elementary school.  This would be the first time I would have to start over as a new student, but it wouldn't be my last. 

As a child, I think the most challenging part of beginning the new school year in a new town and school was when we had to keep secrets about who we were and where we came from (just in case my biological father tracked us down and came looking for us).  Other secrets began to pop up, too, that at the time as a 10/11 year old didn't seem strange to me...because it was just more of the same.  The same strange life I had been living so far that somehow seemed normal.

Shortly after we moved here and my mother began working for Dave, she would need to go to his home (where his office was) to do work.  The three of us kids would tag along, and would even play with his own children at times (he had 5 of them).  They had a lot of property, too, which we would roam around on, playing with their pets, and climbing in and out of their parked camper.  I quickly became friends with Dave's daughter who was around my age (but possibly a year older because she wasn't in my elementary school). 

And then, more secrets evolved.  Dave would sometimes come over to our home to visit (or work or whatever) and before we knew it, he was destined to be our "new daddy".  I can recall many conversations around this...Dave and mom would marry, he'd take care of us, we would move into his giant home (though, who knows what would happen with his family?!) 

But!  We just needed to keep it a secret from his children and his wife...whom we spent time with!!!  I remember being in their home and thinking about how it would become ours.  I remember looking into the bedrooms as we played with his kids, making a mental note of which room would be mine!  And I remember negative comments about his wife (that didn't make sense to me, as I had experienced her as kind).  It was very stressful to me to be around these kids (even staying overnight once!) and thinking all of these things about stealing their daddy and home...and keeping these BIG SECRETS! 

As the year went on, there were many incidents that continued to add stress to our family, and me.  I recall a tiff between my mother and our one neighbor...and then we weren't allowed to speak to them again.  They had had a young daughter around my sister's age, but we were no longer allowed to play with her.  I am not sure what had occurred between our two families, but it must've been pretty bad if we could no longer play with their daughter, right?


Many of the details of this year, are of course long-forgotten.  But a few other tidbits do come to mind.  As children of a single-mother who is getting her master's degree and trying to support a family of 3 kids and a dog, responsibilities for the children become essential to survival as a family.  Often, we were responsible for packing our own lunches, helping with housework, doing laundry, stacking wood for the woodstove, etc. 

Those are all typical chores that any family would expect children to contribute to the family by doing.  And when you're in a single-parent family, not only is each child expected to pull more weight, but sometimes there are responsibilities that fall on the kids that are not within the typical purview. 

For example, I became much more responsible for my little sister.  I was like a second mother to her.  I helped her with her room, packed her lunches, and even helped her with homework.  I will never forget the one time when she was having a really difficult time with her homework and we had to keep erasing it.  We erased it so much that we accidentally tore a hole in the paper.  I felt so badly about that that I wrote the teacher a note on her homework to express my apologies...but I couldn't remember how to spell "erase" at the time.  I was a great speller...even made it to the district spelling bee that year...so this little mistake in spelling was embarrassing to me...and has always stuck with me.  In hindsight, it's kinda funny and cute.  As an adult now, I feel the enormity of what I had been tasked with...basically helping to raise my little sister.

There was always stress, frustration, and anger in our home.  But this year marked my first year of really feeling it to the point where I felt like I was "different" than other kids, and I really started noticing that I felt unloved.  I also had a harder time controlling my own feelings.  One day, I got angry with my sister and tried to hurt her. I pushed her...not paying attention to my surroundings...but we were at the stop of the stairs.  Luckily, she didn't fall down the stairs, but obviously she very well could have.  And she could have been seriously hurt.  The guilt doesn't ever go away.  Neither do the memories of the first time your own mother calls you a bitch.

I do not excuse my behavior in any way.  I'm incredibly grateful that nothing bad happened to my sister.  And as an adult I can completely understand that we were a family under duress, and that shit happens.  Your kid does something stupid and dangerous and you blurt out words you wish you could take back.  Knowledge and understanding never take away the sting of such hurtful words, though.  I hope with every passing day, that I do not hurt my daughter like that.  Oh gosh, believe me there are times when I am thinking it!  How could you not with a sassy tween?! But, I have yet to say it out loud, and I pray that I never will.  One can only imagine the hurts I've already caused her that she will one day blog about!!!

As our year in the farmhouse continued, at some point, we had to start going to my friend's house after school on the bus so that we wouldn't be home alone...for fear, once again, that our father would come kidnap us.  It didn't start out that way, but something must've happened to reignite the fear, because we were no longer latch-key kids.  I did like going to her house, though.  It was nice to have a friend to spend time with and she was one of 5 children, so there were a lot of kids around us.  They had a piano that I would sit at and pretend to play, and they ordered from the Schwann Man!  I loved being there when their frozen packages would arrive, especially considering that we were always treated to one of the ice creams they had ordered!

I don't recall when exactly, but somewhere in this year, we began doing drive-bys of Dave's home, and the other house he owned in town.  We even went into this second home using a key and checked it out.  I think this was going to be a new temporary home we were going to move to?  But I do remember for sure being told that Dave had brought my mother here on several occasions (hmmmmm....???). I know that I felt guilty for being inside this house...we weren't supposed to be there.  And it was another BIG SECRET we had to keep. 

I think that what had happened was that the relationship had soured and she may have been grasping at straws at this point, and probably also trying to deal with the rejection and broken promises of a man who, in the end, refused to leave his family, thereby also refusing to be our savior, her shining knight.  No white horse this time. 

Our landlord lived far away, but had a camp somewhere nearby. He would come up on the weekends (or something like that).  We would occasionally spend some time with him...going to his camp, riding his dune buggy, or going up to this other home (he may have owned??) where there was a pond with a dock.  I remember swimming there, in particular, because this was the pond where I almost drowned as a kid.  I had been swimming around but I wasn't a very strong swimmer at the time.  I was a bit tired, so I put my feet down to stand and take a break, but there wasn't any ground below me!  It was deeper than I had thought in that spot.  And that's when I panicked and started bobbing up and down in the water, gasping for air.  My mother had to jump in and come save me.  It was such a frightening experience that it definitely still colors my world. I am absolutely paranoid about my own kids being in water. 

Later on, there was apparently some kind of argument/disagreement/lack of payment or something like that with the landlord and he was deemed a jerk.  So, the summer after fifth grade, we packed up and moved from this home into another house closer to the city where my mother's school was.

It had been an eventful year in my childhood, to say the least.  In my next post (hopefully it will be much sooner!), I will continue on with my middle years...there's really so much more to come! 

Resiliently yours,
Marathon Momma





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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Girls Getaway to NYC 5: Goodbye NYC

Girls Getaway to NYC 5: Goodbye NYC #girlsweekend #travel #nyc #newyorkcity #travelvlog #timessquare #mommyandme #mommyanddaughter #travelwithfriends #mac #hersheysstore #familyfun #girltime #Tweensinnyc #momlife #tweenlife

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Girls Getaway to NYC 4

Girls Getaway to NYC 4 #girlsweekend #travel #nyc #newyorkcity #travelvlog #timessquare #mommyandme #mommyanddaughter #travelwithfriends #mac #hersheysstore #familyfun #girltime #Tweensinnyc #momlife #tweenlife

Girls Getaway to NYC

Girls Getaway to NYC #nyc #newyorkcity #travel #travelvlog #mommyandme #magnoliabakery

Girls Getaway to NYC 3

https://youtu.be/1H6G17ijgzE

Girls Getaway to NYC 2

Girls Getaway to NYC 2 #nyc #newyorkcity #travel #girltime #girlsgetaway

Girls Getaway to NYC 2

https://youtu.be/1CIa0Of-6Yk

Girls Getaway Weekend to NYC

https://youtu.be/D_c93ubAkQA

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hidden Secrets: Surviving a Dysfunctional Childhood, The Early Years Part 2

dysfunctional childhood


Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this post, which continues my story from last week, I really wanted to take a moment and say thank you.  Thank you to all of my readers for continuing to click on my links and spend some of life's precious time reading my words.  Thank you to my subscribers!  I am grateful to have you joining me on this journey.  And, especially, thank you to the readers who sent me comments and messages last week.  It was a difficult decision to put myself out there like that, one that I have struggled with for the several years I have been blogging.  But it was something I knew I needed to do...for me, and for others.  Having such supportive feedback actually made me cry a little bit.  Not much...I'm a tough cookie! 😜😜 But it was truly moving to hear from you about such a sensitive topic for me.  Thank you.  Much love to you all!

Sharing Hidden Family Secrets
Sharing about a dysfunctional family is tricky.  While it can be liberating and healing for you, it can be hurtful to other people.  My intention for writing about this is NOT to hurt anyone.  Inevitably, though, I am sure someone will end up hurt, and for that I am truly sorry. 😒 It can even be painful for my readers that I do not personally know who have experienced situations similar to mine--because it can make fresh again the old wounds; wounds that probably have not healed.  So, please know that if this is causing you undo stress or grief to read my blog post, I am sorry.  And I hope that if you think this post could possibly trigger harmful effects for you, that you will go ahead and sit this one out.  But it is my hope, too, that if this post (and the one before it) can help, in any way, to make you feel "more normal," then you will continue reading and possibly even join in on the conversation--when you are ready.

All week long, I have thought about how my sharing could also be painful for my family, too.  It might remind them of the past, a past that they are hurt, ashamed, or embarrassed by (and possibly do not want what is part of their history to be shared with the general public).  They may wish I could just keep my mouth shut and sweep it all under the rug like we've been taught.

They say that the truth, though, can set you free.  I really believe that.  And I really believe that there needs to be more dialogue about these hidden secrets that affect so many families.  Too, for me, this is what I need to do to come to terms with the pain of my past so that I can continue to move forward...for myself and for my family.

I have always purposely left out the names of my friends and family so that they could remain anonymous, and I will continue to do so.  I will also work very hard at being as sensitive as I can be with what I share.  I hope to accomplish what I need to...without doing any significant damage.  That is probably going to be very difficult, but I will do the absolute best that I can.

With all of these caveats in mind, buckle up everyone! You're in for a bumpy ride on the roadmap of my life.  Here we go...

A New Daddy in My Dysfunctional Childhood
To be completely honest, I don't really remember everything from my childhood.  I have blocked out a lot of it--probably as a coping mechanism.  But there are significant moments that do stand out for me.  In my last post, I ended the synopsis of the beginning of my childhood right after my kindergarten year.  This week, I will focus on the years where I was in first through fourth grades. 

I am not one hundred percent on the exact timeline, but somewhere between kindergarten and second grade, my mother met someone...we'll call him George. We moved out of my grandparents' home and into a house we rented in town, with George.  He was going to be our  "new daddy".  The house we lived in was very temporary.  It was old and needed a lot of work, which my mother and George started working on.  They soon realized that it was too much and they were in over their heads, so we moved again, this time into a double-wide trailer that had an addition built onto it. And my mother married George. 

I don't remember much about him at all.  I do remember, though, that he laid around on the couch a lot.  I also remember that he would beat on my brother.  Gosh.  Writing that is so much harder than remembering it, even.  This full-grown man would give my brother a "whaling,"  as he called it, when my brother was less than 11 years old, for doing things that were ridiculously small or uncontrollable.  For example, if my brother wet the bed at night...on accident, he would get a whaling.  I can still hear the sounds of my brother screeching and crying in pain.  I HATED George.  I remember thinking about wanting to go into my brother's room and help him...scream at George, hit him...do something!  But I was such a young girl.  And I was afraid.  I was afraid of this man who was hurting my brother.  I was fearful that he would hurt me, too.  Of course, realistically, there wasn't anything I could've done.  Still, there has always been this lingering guilt for not having done anything to help my brother. 

That marriage did not last very long, thankfully, but during the time George and my mother were married, he legally adopted us.  My biological father signed-off all of his rights to my sister, brother, and I, which made it legal for George to adopt us...complete with our "new last name".  Naturally, as a young student in school, having my last name changed had been confusing, but I had been happy enough that we had a "new daddy" because this was before I knew what a jerk he was.




Feeling Abandoned 
With regards to the fact that my biological father signed-off all of his rights to my siblings and I, now that I am a mother of my own precious little loves, I cannot imagine, for the life of me, how someone could possibly just walk away from their children...and not even just physically, but to legally give up all of your rights to your children...for life.  I cannot fathom it.  Of course, when you are a kid, knowing that your father doesn't want to ever see you again is painful...even if you are afraid of him
But I think it becomes much more than simple heartache over time.  I have a fear of abandonment, for example, and an innate distrust in men.  (Sorry guys!)  Knowing this about myself, I have to work extra-hard to not allow that distrust to color my interactions with other people...friends, family, and men in general.  But no matter how successful my life has become, this has always followed me...this complete abandonment.  It's not something you just forget, forgive, and move on from like you might from a soured friendship...this is your own flesh and blood rejecting you in the most basic form.  You are not worthy enough to be loved, cared for, or even thought about from your own parent.  And don't even get me started on Father's Day!  As a kid, Father's Day was always awkward and heartbreaking. 

At this point in my life (somewhere before 4th grade), I had had two different last names and lived in at least 7 different homes, and about 4 or 5 different towns.  In this town, though, where my grandparents live(d), I began to feel safer to some extent.  The trailer we now lived in was right down the road from my grandparents' house.  We spent a lot of time with them.  They helped us out when we needed it, and even when my mother and George split, we were still close to them. 

Public Assistance
We stayed in the double-wide for a few years while my mother went back to school.  And we went on public assistance.  I know that we received food stamps several different times in our lives, but I am not sure what, if anything, else there was.  These days, there is so much controversy over public assistance.  Well, as a product of the welfare system, I can tell you first-hand, that it helped my family out immensely.  My mother was a single-mother at this point, raising us three kids by herself, and trying to change our path in life by earning her college degree.  Without food stamps, we wouldn't have had food to eat.  It's just that simple.

I know that being a single-mom is extremely difficult.  I give all the credit in the world to single-moms.  But I want to say that being the child of a single-mother is not easy, either.  Her having gone back to school to change our lives for the better--it must've been wicked hard on her.  It was hard on us kids, too.  We didn't understand all of the ways in which that affected us at the time.  It's only in retrospect that you can see how and why things were the way they were.  We were a family under great duress.  We often arrived to school late and unkempt.  I even had a truant officer speak with me at school at one point, which had left me feeling guilty, like I was a bad kid. 

This, to me, is an example of where our society fails.  A single-mom, trying to make something of herself, needs more support from the community.  The overload of stress on her is too much to bear and can lead to negative outcomes for the whole family...emotionally, physically, and mentally.  Is it fair that other people should have to support a woman "who went and got herself knocked-up"?  Honestly, if she is trying to make a better life for herself and her children, all of whom will become stronger and smarter citizens of our communities, then, YES!  It is fair.  And it is right.  And it is just.  But I could go on forever about that topic...

In any case, although it probably wasn't quite enough help, I'm sure that having my grandparents nearby was very helpful to her.  It was incredibly important to us kids, too.  We loved our grandparents so very much.  They were there for us when she couldn't be there (for the most part).  We did have many different babysitters over the years, too, and for a while we were latch-key kids, as well.  But we still spent a lot of time with our grandparents.  They were a major part of our lives.

Another New Daddy
During this time when my mother was attending college classes, she somehow met a new man.  I don't remember much about him or the situation.  What I DO remember, though, was driving by his home...late at night...on several different occasions.  At the time, I had no idea what was happening, but as an adult, I've realized that we were stalking him. I do not know what transpired between them, only that he was supposed to be our "new daddy" and we were going to move away, build a house, and we could each have our own bedrooms.  We used to sit at the dinner table and fantasize together about what our new house would look like.  As an outsider, that may seem just like harmless creative imagining.  But to a young child who desperately wanted a "new daddy," the promise of him, plus a dream home was thrilling!  Reality, of course, crushed all of those dreams. 

Life-Altering Move
Once my mother graduated from college, she decided to continue her education and work toward a Master's Degree at another college...in another part of the state.  We moved away from my grandparents.  We moved away from our town.  Away from our friends, teachers, community.  And, as luck would have it, the threat of my biological father was still looming.  Because of this, we were not allowed to tell ANYONE where we were moving to.  We were also going to be changing our names again, and we were not allowed to share that with anyone, either.  We were adopting an assumed alias and going off-grid (sort of...not really).  We took my grandparents' last name and moved so far away from them that we rarely ever saw them much again.  We completely severed ties from everyone else and I never saw or spoke with any of my elementary school friends again (until the advent of Facebook, that is!😜).  It was, as a child...and to this day, still is, heart-wrenching. New county, new town, new school, new home, new job for my mother...and another potential "new daddy" promise...

All in my next blog post...where I will focus on the "middle years".  (Sorry for the cliff-hanger...I'm plain old exhausted!  Just another Fibro moment!) Until then, thank you for reading.  And may your coming days be filled with the love of your family and friends!  It's what makes this crazy-life-thing worth it!

Dysfunctionally yours,
Marathon Momma


    






Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hidden Secrets: Surviving a Dysfunctional Childhood The Early YearsPart 1



Dysfunctional Childhood


Life is Not Perfect
Life doesn't always wrap up in one neat little package.  We all know this.  Yet we strive for the perfect experience.  We want our marriages and friendships to be full of love, compassion, honesty...and fun.  We want our children to be wonderful little angels with a desire to please everyone (well, at least their parents, anyway), and a willingness to engage with and explore the world around them. We want our homes to be clean and neat, nothing out of order.  We want our cars shiny and new, running consistently and efficiently.  Heck!  We even want our dogs to play fetch or lay around and snuggle with us on our own time frame, no barking included.

But all of this perfection is not possible.  And if it were, our world would actually be quite boring.  Life is all about struggles that help make us stronger; challenges that teach us new things. 

As a young girl and eventually young lady, I had fully believed that when I became an adult, I could MAKE my life perfect like this.  Of course, having experienced many events in my adult life that I did not have control over, either, I have realized that this is an illusion; being able to MAKE life perfect. But it was an illusion I needed to believe in order to survive my childhood--a childhood marred with emotional and mental abuse, violence, fear, and uncertainty/insecurity.


I used to be embarrassed about my past.  I used to hide it from others because I was ashamed.  But I didn't have control over what happened when I was a child.  It was out of my hands. It was none of my doing.  I am a product of the choices other people made.  But I have always strongly believed that, no matter your early life circumstances, you have a choice in what you become.  You can choose to overcome your past.  Or you can choose to wallow in self-pity, head down a self-destructive path and do nothing with your life. It's up to you!

Over the next several posts, I will be sharing with you some of my imperfect past, with the hope that other people will learn that it's okay to talk about your childhood, regardless of how messed up or embarrassing it might seem.  You did not have control over how you were raised. And you are definitely not alone. There are so many other people that have lived experiences like yours, too.  And the power that comes from sharing those experiences is immense...Self-Empowerment Overload!  Without any further ado, here's what it was like to grow up...as me.

Violence in My Early Years
While I was growing up, my family faced challenges that most families never face.  Before I was five years old, I had already lived in several different homes and towns.  My biological father and my mother had separated and I clearly remember some scary moments from those early years. 

I can remember at one point, as a 3 or 4 year old, hearing my mother shrieking while I was upstairs.  My brother and I had raced down the stairs, crept into the kitchen and saw my father looming over my mother with her arm behind her back.  It was violent.  And it was frightening.  My mother has claimed that my father had been trying to break her arm.  My brother seems to remember my mother had a knife and my father was trying to get it away from her.  To this day I still do not know or understand the truth behind that event, only that it haunts the darkest recesses of my memory. 

At one point, probably after or somewhere around that time, my parents split up and my father had visitation rights.  One of the times I was supposed to go with him, I can remember that I was crying and afraid.  I did not want to go.  I'm not sure what my reasoning was at the time, but I did NOT want to go with him.  Was I scared of him?  Did I just want to stay home with my mother?  I don't remember what actually ended up happening that particular day...if I went or not.  But I do remember going on one visitation to his apartment.  I even remember the TV being on, and at one point, listening to Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl" on the radio.  It's funny because with what had transpired next, you might think that I would associate that song with negative emotions, but I still freaking LOVE that song!  I mean, who doesn't?!

Anyway, an adult's memory of an event that occurred under the age of 5 can be blurry.  But I will tell you, I clearly remember that we were supposed to go home.  He was supposed to take us.  But he didn't.  He told us that if my mother really wanted us back, she could come get us herself.  Well, she did just that. But she had to call upon the police to make sure she could get us back.  When they came to the apartment to get us out, it was terrifying.  My brother, sister, and I were ducking down, hiding behind the one side of the bed and I remember being afraid of getting shot by the police (I must've been some kind of big, bad criminal in those days of barely being able to reach the counter!). Of course, nothing like that happened.  But it DOES happen to other children in other families. Luckily, just not to mine. 

Moving to a New Town
We moved across the state and into my grandparents' vacation home after that.  This town is where we spent the next 5 or so years...one of the longest stretches we ever lived in one town.  So, this would also be where I began my illustrious education at the local elementary school, as a timid kindergartener afraid of the BIG, Scary World. 

On my first day of kindergarten, I climbed up the big yellow bus that would empty out into this new, ominous building with complete strangers.  When I walked through the doors and didn't know where to go, I stood in the hallway and began to cry.  My teacher, Mrs. Schuler, found me and put a loving arm around my trembling shoulders, guiding me into her classroom.  I loved her.  She was warm, welcoming, and always sang songs with us.  She had a piano in the classroom that she played "Suzie Snowflake" on, and she was simply glorious!

During that first year, I met many new friends...and even had a boyfriend!  Yup, that was me...the five-year-old floozy! πŸ˜†  His name was Jason.  And we played together on the playground a lot.  During nap time, we sometimes had our carpets (remember those?!) next to each other, too. 

This first year in my new town (my grandparents' weekend and summer town), we were always looking over our shoulders.  We were afraid of my biological father coming to kidnap us.  My brother, sister, and I overheard adult conversations, and were also taught all of the safety rules...don't go outside alone, don't tell anyone anything personal, and do NOT go with your father if he shows up to take you.  Also...he could try to take you at school, so the school knows that you are not to leave with him. But always be on the lookout for your crazy-ass father.

For the longest time, I never understood why my sister had a kindergarten graduation when she was finally in school, yet I hadn't had one.  And we had had the same teacher!  How unfair!  Yeah, well a few years back it finally, FINALLY dawned on me.  The reason why I hadn't had a kindergarten graduation was not because there wasn't one...it was because we were pulled out of school early that year to basically go into hiding.  After being picked up from school that day, us kids had to hide on the floor of the backseat of our light blue station wagon while my mother ran errands so that my father wouldn't see us, kidnap us, or shoot us.  (He was a sharp-shooter, you know.)

We lived in a world of fear. Which is why, one afternoon during my kindergarten nap, when a tall, strange man entered our classroom, went into the cubbies to grab a few things, and proceeded to remove my boyfriend, Jason, from the room, I thought he was coming for me.  It turns out that he was Jason's father, and yes, as the non-custodial parent, he actually did kidnap my friend.  He picked Jason up off of his napping carpet and carried him right out the door of the classroom, bookbag, coat, and shoes in hand. 

My teacher was clearly upset and worried, running out to the principal's office.  We didn't see Jason again for a very long time.  The local newspaper had run at least one story (that I remember) on Jason's disappearance.  Eventually, he was found and he returned to school.  But it was weeks or months later.  I cannot even imagine what his mother must've went through during this time.  To this day, I still think about how strange and coincidental it was that something like that happened to another child in my world, especially considering that it was a fear I lived every day.

In a nutshell, that's how my year of kindergarten shaped-up...fear of kidnapping, witnessing a kidnapping, missing out on my kindergarten graduation.  Were there good times/happy times?  Yes, of course there were!  Not having unlimited time to explore every single aspect of my childhood, though, I am focusing on the point of this series of posts.  Which, again, is to help other people realize that 1) childhood is a crap shoot...and you have absolutely NO say in how it turns out; 2) you have a choice in what happens AFTER childhood...what you become is all up to YOU; and 3) you are NOT alone...other people have grown up in messed-up families and have survived or THRIVED, so you can, too!  I am a prime example of that!

In my next post, I will continue sharing my early years with you.  I know that not everyone has experienced this type of childhood, but I hope some of you have connected with this post in some way.  Want to add to this conversation?  Feel free to write in the comments below!

No longer embarrassed,
Marathon Momma









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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hair Dye

Hair Dye Watch our silly video of my daughter and I preparing to dye my hair! Please like and subscribe!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Your Family Should Be Seasonal Campers!




Seasonal campsite


Have you heard of seasonal camping?  Have you ever wondered if seasonal camping is right for you and your family?  It is a wonderful experience for my family and me! Here's why I believe you should give it a try:

The Cost Value of Seasonal Camping With a Family
Because, let's face it.  That is one of the most important factors in family vacation decision-making.  So, let's talk about the costs of seasonal camping.  Seasonal camping can run you anywhere from about $1500-$5000 for a seasonal site, including additional costs of electricity, cable, Wi-Fi, and activities.  Naturally, the cost depends on what type of camping you wish to do, which campground you choose, the amenities that are available at the campground, and of course, if there are any available sites in the campground you wish to stay. 

At the outset, that's a lot of money to fork over all at once for a vacation.  And of course, you have to already own a camper in order to be seasonal.  I am not aware of any campgrounds that allow you to be seasonal in a tent...nor do I think most people would wish to be.  After all, we are an industrialized nation of people--used to our creature-comforts.  Wilderness camping might be great for a weekend, maybe a week if you're so inclined, but for an entire season with kids in tow, I don't think so!  In any case, most seasonal campgrounds have specific rules about what they will allow as a seasonal camping trailer.  For example, you aren't usually allowed to be seasonal if you are camping in a pop-up trailer.  And some campgrounds will only allow you to be seasonal if your camper is no older than 10 years old.  But not all campgrounds are quite that strict.  You just have to inquire about their rules as you perform your search.  I will talk more about the campground rules below, though, because it is pretty important to pay attention to them!


campsite


So, getting back to the cost...the average yearly family vacation budget is typically between $2,000 and $4,000. Naturally, there are many factors associated with the costs of a family vacation.  And there are so many options for what type of vacation you will take.  But, just for argument's sake, let's take the average and say that your family's vacation budget is $3,000.  What do you usually get for that $3,000?  You get your transportation, hotel or other type of accommodation, a few activities, and your food...for one week.  If you're super thrifty, you may be able to do it for a little less or stay for a few more days.  But ultimately, you have about a week-long respite from the daily grind for your $3,000.

When you are a seasonal camper, though, (at least in my experience in the Northeast) you can have a semi-permanent vacation home from somewhere in the middle of the spring, all the way through the fall.  Some campgrounds are open to seasonal campers from mid-April to mid-October.  Our campground opens up at the beginning of May, but it runs through the middle of October. So as long as you choose a campground close enough to your home, you could conceivably camp every single weekend, all of the major spring and summer holidays, AND your one week vacation for about the same cost as a typical week-long vacay!  And that even includes the activities! Plus...and this is a big one...it's all family-friendly! No worries that you've chosen the wrong destination to bring your children to.  Sure, there may be some partiers at a campsite near you every now and then, but from my experience, most seasonal campgrounds bill themselves as family-friendly and work hard to keep it that way!

Activities for Children
Most campgrounds and RV parks that offer seasonal campgrounds have ongoing daily and weekly activities for children.  Many campgrounds also offer theme weekends, which is super fun for the kiddles!  One of the campgrounds we used to go to frequently, for example, had a western theme on one of the weekends we were there.  During that weekend, they hired a company to bring in ponies for the kids to ride (which was included in the price of camping).  They also had a family dance with a dj and country line dancing lessons.  All of the other activities planned for the weekend were family-friendly games that revolved around the western theme, too.  It was really fun!


seasonal camping
Some of the other typical themes you may find at a campground are Halloween, Christmas, and Super Soaker weekends.  During the Halloween weekends, you will typically see campsites decorated, there's usually trick-or-treating from site-to-site, possibly a costume contest, and maybe even a haunted house...all in the middle of the summer!  The kids have a blast!  This theme and some of the other themes are very popular with families, and as such, book up early!  But when you are a seasonal camper, you are already set for each of those favorite weekends.  So you already know you will get to be there with your children!

Now, not all campgrounds that offer seasonal sites have weekly themes or activities.  Smaller campgrounds may offer activities and themes a few special weekends throughout the season.  The campground we are seasonal at fits more into this category.  There are occasional family dances with a dj, and they do have Halloween and Christmas weekends. There's usually at least a few activities like arts and crafts scheduled each weekend.  But there isn't a non-stop schedule of things for the kids to do...and I, for one, LIKE that! 

Our Campground
We have done all sorts of camping with the kids over the years (except wilderness).  We've gone to the fancy RV Parks with loads of activities, and we've camped at a state campground where the only scheduled activities were the ones you planned yourself.  For me, I prefer to have a mix of both scenarios as a seasonal camper.  I like having the activities for the kids as options to keep them entertained.  I like the community feeling of participating in the activities with the other campers, the kids making friends, and us adults meeting new people.  I like to have a variety of things to do with the children...especially when camping all season, because it can break up the monotony. 

nature at camp
But I also like spending quality time with my family where it's just us.  Hanging out at the campsite, going swimming, hiking, boating, fishing, or whatever strikes our fancy for that day.  Having a whole schedule of activities can be great, but there were times in the past where we went camping at one of the RV resorts and I felt rushed, too scheduled, and then ultimately frustrated because I wanted my kids to be able to participate in all of those fun activities.  I didn't want them to miss out.  But we couldn't always make it to the things we wanted to, for one reason or another. Too, if I was at the campground alone with the kids and my boys were napping as infants/toddlers, it made it challenging for Little Miss.  She wanted to participate in the activities for her age group, but wasn't quite old enough to go off on her own to be able to join in.

Too, I find that kids these days are so over-scheduled, and also so used to getting so much.  They get treats and enjoy special activities on a regular basis.  I think it makes it harder for them to appreciate those special moments that we create for them (like a family vacation) because they have come to expect all of these activities and treats we give them so often.  Sometimes you just need to take a step back and say enough is enough. So I LIKE that our seasonal campground doesn't have a bazillion way-over-the-top things to do...like blown-up waterslides, for instance.  Our campground has a lake with a beach, a couple of playgrounds, tons of hiking trails, a stream, a camp store, a pavilion, some theme weekends and activities, and the great outdoors.  It's perfect for getting the kids to play outside ALL day, make new friends, explore nature, and experience a childhood unplugged (at least when it's not raining, that is!).  And, yes, our campground does have electricity, running water, and WIFI!

Just as a side note to give you some perspective, our campground is on the lower end for seasonal fees.  We are actually less than $2,000 per season and that includes the electricity and WIFI.  So it really is a great value for the money.  Plus, you don't have to pay it all up front.  Usually you place a deposit down in the fall for your next year's seasonal site.  Then later in the winter or early spring, you have to pay the rest of your fee before the season actually begins. So that spreads out the total cost and it gives you some time to save up for the rest!

Bring Your Dog Camping
Another great thing about seasonal camping is that it is dog-friendly!  This is especially important since you will be away from home much more frequently.  It's one thing to hire a dog-watcher or kennel your furry friend(s) for a weekend or a week, but every weekend and many other days added in there could be hard on your pet...and EXPENSIVE!  But at a seasonal campground, Rover is welcome to join you!  We bring Kallie with us and she LOVES it!  She gets so much exercise and attention, how could she not?!  She gets to go on hikes, go swimming, be outside, and be with her family!  She's a happy little camper!

golden retriever by campfire

New Friends at Camp
One of the best parts of being a seasonal camper is that you get to know other people at your campground.  You see the same people at the beach or pool, at the rec hall/pavilion, during the scheduled activities, and at pot-luck suppers.  You meet your neighbors near you (especially when your kids run over to pet their adorable dogs all day long), and you begin to develop that sense of community.  These people become your weekend family.  And you can be as involved with other seasonal campers as you'd like (or just be a recluse sitting by your campfire...alone...every night if you wish).  It's totally up to you!  But most campers are a friendly sort of bunch and are also there for the social aspect of it.  They enjoy meeting other people, too!  Otherwise they probably wouldn't be there! 

campers
As a mom of three little ones, I have always appreciated this aspect of seasonal camping, too.  Because as you frequent a campground or become seasonal and get to know some of the other families, you don't feel quite so alone.  Whenever we have camped in a long-term type of situation, it is usually within an hour's drive of Prince Charming's work.  Typically that means that I am at the campground all day or for several days as a solo parent with the three kids while he is at work and then he joins me when he can.  Believe me, this is not an easy feat!  And throw in a dog or two--it can become overwhelming!  Yet, wherever we have been at a camp in this situation, people have been friendly and helpful.  And that makes it much better for me. Even if it just means I have another adult to chat with for a few minutes, those few minutes of kindness provide me with the energy I need to keep going until it's bedtime! 

Seasonal Camping Rules
Each campground has a separate set of rules for their seasonal campers.  Usually you receive a handout of all of the rules when you sign the contract for your site or at the beginning of the season.  The rules at each campground can be very different, so be sure to ask about them in advance.  You definitely want to know what you can and cannot do on your site before you jump in with both feet!  Some campgrounds, for instance, allow you to build permanent decks and other structures for your site, while some only allow for temporary structures.  Additionally, some seasonal campgrounds allow you to store your camper on your site all year long, while some (like ours) require you to remove your camper at the end of the season.  Some campgrounds also allow or limit the number of "buildings" or similar structures (think: gazebos, sheds, etc. here) you may have on your site.  There are all sorts of rules you will need to know about your seasonal site at your campground...so make sure you read through them thoroughly.  Any violations of the rules can get you kicked out of the campground (or not allowed to return the following year).

But do you know what's cool?  Most campgrounds do allow you to decorate your seasonal site.  Many will let you do some landscaping, and improve your site the way you see fit (as long as it doesn't break the rules or impinge on any other camper's experience there).  The kids and I always enjoy checking out other people's camp set-ups and decorations.  We love to see the cute garden gnomes and flamingos during the daylight and the lighted palm trees in the night.  We are actually going with a theme for our camp decorations this year...tropical!  Flamingos, palm trees, flip-flops, grass skirting on the tables, flamingo lights, and hibiscus and tiki decorations...super fun!  I can't wait until it is all set up!  I will post a YouTube video of a tour of our campsite when it's done! 


So that's a quick breakdown of why I believe seasonal camping is an awesome experience and an incredible value for your vacation dollars!  Feel free to ask me any questions you may have about seasonal camping in the comments below!

Yours in camping,
Marathon Momma




This Mother's Day, tell your Mom she's a Superhero because she's a Marathon Momma!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top 10 Reasons to Get Your Kids Running



Children learn to run

Running is a wonderful sport for anyone...men, women, old, and young.  It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it sure does keep you healthy!  As adults, we all know that we should be getting exercise and eating healthy.  But we are also responsible for our children's health.  All too often in our busy lives, children become sedentary, addicted to all things electronic.  Wouldn't it be great if you could channel that addiction into a healthy sport?  Better yet, one that you can join them in?  Running is the perfect sport for busy families! Here are my top 10 reasons why you should get your kids running!


1. It's great exercise for them.  It gets their hearts pumping and their muscles moving.  It burns calories and fat efficiently.  Our society is incredibly obese, and children are increasingly overweight.  Excessive weight, as we have all heard, increases a number of health risks for our children, including diabetes. The risks do not stop in childhood, either.  Children who grow up in a sedentary lifestyle with an unhealthy diet have a very difficult time overcoming the habits and patterns they develop as kids.  So, overweight children become overweight adults.  Obesity in adults greatly increases their risk of cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease!  But running (and other forms of exercise) can help your child learn to live a healthy lifestyle that will last a lifetime!
2.  It can be done any time of day, so you can work around your schedule/homework/dinner, etc.  If it's dark out, have them use a headlamp...but make sure they are with an adult, of course! You can buy headlamps in the sporting goods sections of big box stores.  They're pretty cheap...usually around $12-$20. This is one of the headlamps I have and it is perfect for my daughter!  We also use them while hiking, camping, and going on expeditions in our closets, like I wrote about in this post.

3.  They can run all year long, in all kinds of weather...as long as they are prepared.  You should always dress as if it is 10 degrees warmer out than it really is.  So, if it is 60 degrees out, have your child wear something that would be appropriate for a 70 degree day.  I also highly recommend technical clothing.  It doesn't have to be expensive...you can buy it at Wal-Mart for pretty cheap.  I usually get Little Miss's running/athletic clothes there when they are on clearance for around $3.00 each piece (tops or bottoms).  Of course, you can also purchase name-brand technical clothing for kids at sporting goods stores or online.


4.  It is a lifelong sport.  They will be able to continue running throughout their whole lives.  Many sports can be played for quite a long time through young adulthood.  And nowadays, you can find some adult leagues here and there of sports you play.  But with running, you can just step outside and go...no need for teams, membership fees, facility usage fees, etc.  And the best part of it is that it still can be social...if you want it to be!  You can join running clubs or go running with a friend. 
5.  They don't need a lot of expensive equipment to join this sport. Really, all they need is a pair of good running shoes.  I do highly recommend that you take your child to a running store and invest in a good pair of shoes that fits them properly.  But you don't have to!  That's the beauty of it!  You can have your child run in whatever shoes you bought them for gym class.  My daughter sometimes runs around in her Converse kick-around shoes.  Is it the best shoe for her to run around in?  Probably not.  But, if the alternative is arguing with her endlessly to put on her running shoes and/or not running at all, I will take the physical activity with the Converse shoes anytime! 

Other than that, the only necessary cost would be an entrance fee to a race, if that is the ultimate goal.  Entrance fees for 5k races can run anywhere from $5 for a very small, local race, to $30 or so for the larger, more well-known races in your area. 

Naturally, as with any activity or hobby, you can go out and purchase the best gear for your child.  Being the cheap-o that I am, though, I prefer to go to the clearance racks while my kids are still growing!
6.  It teaches them to get to know and listen to their bodies.  They will learn what their bodies feel like and how they react to different terrain and weather conditions.  They will learn to assess what feels right/wrong with their bodies, which can help them prevent injuries in running, as well as in other sports.  They can learn what foods and fluids best fuel their bodies for physical activities.  They will learn when they can push their bodies to perform at a higher level, and when they need to slow it down.
7.  You can join them in this sport...it's great for bonding or one-on-one time with your child, which, in turn promotes a greater overall well-being for your child.  If you are a goal-oriented, type A person, you may wish to get your run in before going out with your child, though.  Some children do not like to just go out and run.  They may prefer to run a bit, walk a bit, stop and do cartwheels, skip for a few steps, twirl around and then bend down to pick up rocks to throw (not that I have ANY experience with this, mind you 😜).  So if you need to accomplish a set pace or distance, it may be better for you to go out and get most or all of it done, then come back and get your child to go along with you.  It definitely relieves the stress of the stop-and-go-and-twirl method!
8.  It teaches them discipline.  If they want to accomplish their goals, they have to work hard at it.  They can't just show up on race day and expect to finish or finish well.  They have to get out there several times a week (I recommend 4-5 times).  It doesn't have to be every single day, but it should be pretty regularly in order to get them in shape and ready to run their 5k!
9.  It teaches life lessons:  They probably won't win.  Most races have hundreds of people running them (primarily adults), so unless your child is the Bionic Child, they don't have much chance of winning.  But, they do have to try their hardest...in training, and on race day.  They have to learn to be competitive with themselves, not just other people.  I think this is an important skill to learn.  One of the things kids are famous for is trying to be first.  First in line, first to the car, first with assignments in class, etc.  They want to beat everybody.  But that's just not the way life is.  Nobody is first all the time...like, in the history of EVER.  So, for them to have to focus on competing primarily with their selves, they learn this valuable lesson.  They learn that they can't always be first, won't always compete against friends and classmates (sometimes it's strangers), and need to strive to be better than the last time they ran.
10. It gives children a huge sense of accomplishment to train for and complete a race:  It's great for their self-esteem!  They will set a goal for themselves and see it through to completion.  They will run 3 miles!!! Most adults cannot even run 3 miles!!!  So for a child to achieve that is quite a feat!  And if you pick the right race, there will be spectators cheering them on, excitement everywhere.  Plus they will enjoy the comradery they will see on the course.  Runners are famous for it.  We adults all want to see each other succeed, but we have even a little more energy and enthusiasm when we see children out there doing it!  .   
You can start kids at a pretty young age with running.  Many local races have 100 meter dashes for little ones, and even 7 and 8 year olds can train for and run a 5k!  In this day and age, there are many, many race options to choose from...pick a fun one!  Then sign them (and you!) up, and get out there pounding the pavement!  Make sure you take it slowly...you should plan on about 2 months of training before the day of the race!  And know that there is no harm in walking during the race!  Whatever gets your child from start to finish is the ultimate goal...even if it means doing a few twirls, jumping, or pretending to fly like a bird! 

Yours in running,

Marathon Momma








Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spring Campsite Cleanup

Spring Campsite Cleanup #seasonalcamping #camping #glamping #camp #earthday2017 #childhoodunplugged #family #familytime #relax #outdoors #natureismyplayground #lovemykids #campdog

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How to be a Fabulous Mom of a Tween in 5 Easy Steps




So you have a tween now, huh?  Tweens can be tough to deal with and to please, for sure! And figuring out your best parenting strategies for this age group can be quite challenging.  But don't worry!  I'm here to help you navigate this stage with grace...and love.  I've compiled a list of 5 easy steps to assist you.  Take note and be sure to share them with your friends and family so that they're on the same page as you!

Step 1:  Make sure to have your tween clean.  All.the.time.  Clean their bedrooms, clean their bodies, clean the bathroom, the living room, the kitchen, etc.  Because we all know just how much they love to clean.  And we definitely do NOT want to deprive them of this pure joy in life.  Give them every opportunity to help out around the house that you can.  They will LOVE you for it!


Step 2:  When they are not cleaning (but the house is SPOTLESS), allow them to have their friends over.  Then teach them how to dance...your style!  This is especially important for the tween and teen children in your household, as they love being taught new things by their parents.  And, let's face it, you've got the moves!  So why not let them share the experience with their friends!?!?!

Step 3:  If your home can easily pass the white-glove test, and their friends are not available for dance lessons, plop them right down in front of the TV (but make sure the remote's batteries are dead first).  Then perform a concert for their listening pleasure.  And do NOT let them do anything else.  I mean, you certainly don't want them to use any of their valuable cleaning energy, do you?!?!  Besides, actually watching TV turns them into lackluster zombies.  And, you can't have them zoning out while you're singing your favorite songs for their entertainment, amiright?!


Step 4:  Take them shopping!  But...be sure to wear your comfiest clothes (like maybe the ones that you typically wear around the house while cleaning--because they feel so great!).  Don't worry if they're stained or mismatched...after all, the shopping trip is all about them, not you!  And why should you have to suffer in uncomfortable clothes while they're picking out the trendiest of outfits?!


Step 5:  Try super hard to be the "cool" mom...especially in public!  You want your children and their friends, heck--the whole world! to know how awesome you are at dabbing and that you are always on fleek (whatever the heck that means, anyway).  Another super easy way to show your coolness factor is to display your enduring love for them...ALWAYS!  Hug them, give them kisses on top of their head, hold their hand...Especially while at the mall. This will ensure that they will fully understand and appreciate your fabulous mom power!

Well, there you have it!  The 5 easiest steps to being a fabulous mom to a tween!  I hope you found these tips useful!  Do you have any other great tips for parents of tweens?  Comment below!

Knowingly yours,
Marathon Momma






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