MOM I'm BORED!

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Summer is here and parents everywhere live in fear of hearing the two most dreaded words in the English language: “I’m bored.” 

My daughter, Vivi, has 73 days between the last day of first grade and the start of the new school year. That doesn’t sound like much time to fill…until you break it down to 105,120 minutes of free time. If you’re lucky, there’s a weeklong family vacation in there to break up the monotony. A day camp here, vacation bible school there. That still leaves you with 95,000 minutes. 

The temptation is certainly there to schedule every moment for your children to keep them physically active, mentally stimulated, and perhaps most importantly, out of your hair. However, there is a growing movement advocating for a blank calendar.

Ask any grandparent and they will quickly tell you that their parents did not view their entertainment as a requirement of being a good parent. Instead, with a twinkle in their eyes they will tell you stories of summers spent making mud pies, catching caterpillars, and building forts. If your parents grew up in south Georgia like my mom, you might even hear about the strange practice of strawing June bugs. Don’t ask. 

If you don’t believe the old timers, maybe listen to some of the great creative minds on the subject of boredom.

Famed writer Dorothy Parker said, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

Philosopher and author Robert Pirsig of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance fame wrote, “Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.”

And Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell said, “A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase.”

I know, pretty heady stuff when you’re just trying to get your kids to leave you alone long enough to do a load of laundry and pay the bills. But you have to admit they have a point. If your child doesn’t learn now how to be alone with his or her thoughts and feelings, what happens years from now when they leave the nest as young adults? Learning to be alone and to work things out for themselves is an important step in their development into fully grown, functional humans. Imagine what your relationship would be like if your spouse or partner constantly looked to you for entertainment. Yikes!

Psychologists have been studying boredom for decades, and there is a growing body of work that agrees with the grandparents and great minds. Boredom is good for kids. 

A Canadian study in the 1980s revealed that children in a town without television showed greater creativity than children who watched television regularly. I would love to see a similar study today with our exponential increase in available screens and time spent starting at them. A more recent study out of Texas A&M University endorses letting children be bored. Psychologists Shane Bench and Heather Lench concluded, “[Boredom} serves to encourage people to seek new goals and experiences. Boredom provides a valuable adaptive function by signaling it is time to pursue a new goal… we propose that boredom will motivate the pursuit of new goals as the intensity of the current experience fades.” In other words, kids who are given the wonderful opportunity to be bored will find a way to fill their time on their own.

Some of the benefits of boredom are increased creativity, developing problem solving skills, becoming comfortable with being alone, exploring varied interests, and making new friends, possibly even with their siblings! 

I need to wrap this up now because I have to pick Vivi up from music camp and drop her off at a golf lesson then go shopping for new shoes for next week’s dance camp. If y’all see us at Big Kahuna’s, be sure to come over and say hi. We’ll be there approximately 2,036 minutes this summer. 

What Moms Want

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As Mother’s Day approaches, the stores are overflowing with mugs, chocolates, flowers, and candles, almost all of which are some shade of pink. Moms are ladies and ladies like pink, right? It’s cute when the kids are little and dad takes them to the store to let them pick out something for mom from the pink pile. But has anyone thought to ask moms what they really want? Relax, dads and kids. I did a little research for you.

In my unscientific poll of mothers, a very clear pattern emerged. Moms of teens and adults just want the opportunity to spend some time with their busy offspring – a shared meal if they live nearby or a simple phone call if they live further away, maybe a FaceTime session. 

It’s no surprise that moms of younger children – these are the women who are currently in the trenches of parenthood 24/7 – are more interested in the gift of time away from their children. When you have a baby or toddler relying on you every moment of every day or an elementary school kid who asks dozens of questions each hour, gifts like a massage, pedicure, or solo beach day feel like a refreshing vacation. 

Across the board, moms just want to feel seen and appreciated. Tell her thank you for all she does for the family. Take over some of her duties for the day so she can relax. Give her a card, either handcrafted or store-bought, and write a thoughtful message inside. Another popular option for all ages is brunch. No matter how many kids a woman has or how old they are, she has earned the right to day drink. Nothing says we understand how hard you work for us every day better than bottomless mimosas.

If you have any single moms in your life, please remember them on Mother’s Day. Depending on the age of their kids, they might receive no gifts. Offer to take their kids shopping to pick something out for mom or watch the kids so she can go practice a little self-care and come back renewed and ready to get back to the business of parenting.

As my own daughter grows and gains more independence (Vivi is 7 going on 17 this month), I have been thinking a lot about the last time you do something with your child and not knowing it’s the last time. Before you start spiraling thinking about how long it’s been since you picked up your child or held them in your lap, let me get to my point here. If you are fortunate enough to still have your own mother in this life, know that she went through those same painful lasts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you gave her a big bear hug or an exuberant kiss on the cheek? If you can find the time, how about curling up on the couch to watch a movie together. Imagine how happy it would make her if you put your head on her shoulder. You can give her the gift of one more last time. Just don’t sit on her lap – we don’t want to break mom on Mother’s Day.

This year put some extra thought into what you’re getting the woman who gave you life on her special day. If I spot anyone over the age of 10 shopping from the pink pile, I’m going to give you that look that only a mom can – that look that tells you I know you can do better. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Last-Minute Spring Break Getaway

By Laura Lucy

We’ve done it again. Spring has sprung and we didn’t plan ahead for spring break…but we still need a break! If you can’t imagine another day at a crowded theme park and the thought of staying in town with thousands of tourists gives you anxiety, check out these last-minute mini-getaways. They are all family-friendly, require four hours or less in the car, and are ideal for a few days away if you can’t miss a whole week of work.

Mobile, Alabama

Head west on I-10 for a couple of hours and explore Mobile. It’s close enough that you could make it a long day trip, but there’s so much to see I would recommend staying a few nights. Start with the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education is all the rage these days, and your kids will get plenty of hands-on learning at the Exploreum. With more than 50 fun, interactive exhibits, the kids won’t even realize they are learning about electricity, mechanics, magnetism, and more.

If you have a budding botanist in the family, you cannot miss a stop at Bellingrath Gardens to experience spring in a 65-acre garden. I have been to the spectacular Magic Christmas in Lights here, but seeing the garden in daylight in its full blooming glory is high on my spring to-do list. You can check out the What’s in Bloom? page on their website before you go.

Baseball fans will want to take in one last Mobile Baybears game at Hank Aaron Stadium. The team moves to north Alabama in 2020, but you can catch them close by this spring and summer. The city that gave us Hammerin’ Hank really knows how to put on a game. There is no chance the kids will be bored here with non-stop entertainment throughout the game. When we went last year, my daughter, Vivi, was delighted to snuggle up with the mascots, chase the Geico gecko around the field, and win some Subway gift cards in a dance contest.

No trip to Mobile is complete without a visit to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. The 45,000-ton ship was home to 2,500 crew members during World War II as it saw plenty of action in the Pacific. Upon the ship’s retirement, forward-thinking Mobilians saved it from being scrapped and turned it into one of the country’s most unique military attractions in 1965. At the park you will also find the submarine USS Drum, aircraft, tanks, war artifacts, memorials, and a picnic area, all with views of beautiful Mobile Bay.

There is no shortage of good food in Mobile, with ample seafood and southern options. You can opt for fine dining, but with the kids along, my choice is the Original Oyster House. The original Original Oyster House opened in 1983 in Gulf Shores, with this location on the Mobile causeway opening in 1985. It’s a straightforward seafood joint that simply does everything right. The service is great, food is yummy, and the views are breathtaking. If you are a fan of baked potatoes, theirs will change your life. Try it.

Rural Northwest Florida

Don’t be fooled into thinking the big cities are where it’s at for a quick getaway. Just up the road a ways you will find an exciting, albeit slower-paced, destination in Washington and Jackson counties. Ecotourism enthusiasts will feel at home in the natural environs of this region. Falling Waters State Park boasts Florida’s tallest waterfall. Who even knew Florida had waterfalls! Enjoy hiking trails through verdant forest and learn about the history of the area, with a grist mill dating back to the 1860s and Native American artifacts from 5,000 years ago. Hurricane Michael damaged the park’s lower observation deck at the falls, but most of the park is fully functional. Sadly, Florida Caverns State Park in nearby Marianna had more severe damage from the storm and has yet to reopen at the time of this writing. But it will be back!

Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Chipley allows you to get up close and personal with Gray, Arctic, and British Columbian wolves. This is not your average petting zoo. Reservations are required, the dress code is strictly enforced, and children under 10 are not permitted. You enter the wolves’ natural habitat and interact with wolf ambassadors. Adventurous types can even camp out at the preserve and howl all night.

Ghost hunters and nature lovers alike will enjoy a walk down the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail in Marianna. Be on the lookout for birds plus rare and endangered plants as you wander down the path that has been referred to by some as Florida’s most haunted spot. Visitors have reported seeing the ghost of a moonshiner who died near the bridge in the 1800s, a headless wagon driver, and hauntings by Elizabeth Jane Bellamy, who died either by fire on her wedding day or by fever as a young mother, depending on which legend you believe.

Don’t head back to the coast without loading up on fresh produce to bring home. If you don’t see any roadside stands where you can buy direct from the farmer, stop off at the Brickyard Market or Piggly Wiggly in Chipley. Both of these grocery stores have prices on produce that Destin probably hasn’t seen since the 70s. Plus, it’s all fresh off the farm and tastes like real food. So good!

Columbus, Georgia

When you think of road tripping, Georgia, Atlanta or Savannah probably come to mind. But you’re missing out on a gem that’s a little closer to home. Columbus is only a four-hour drive from the Emerald Coast through some pretty scenic countryside. You might be surprised by what the city has to offer. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center houses more than $17 million of Space Shuttle era artifacts from NASA. There are also flight simulators and many interactive displays that will keep the kids in a STEM state of mind even when they’re out of school. You can look at the stars during the day at a planetarium show in the Omnisphere Theater. There are even special shows tailored to kids. If only the real thing will do for you, check the schedule online to see if they are having a free public night at the Westrock Observatory while you’re in town.

About 40 miles north of Columbus is where you’ll find yourself taking a walk – or rather a drive – on the wild side at Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain. This drive-thru animal park gives you the option to drive your own vehicle through 3.5 miles of animal adventure. You can also choose to go on a bus tour or rent a Zebra van. On the tour, you will get to see more than 550 animals, 75 different species, throughout the 500-acre spread. Expect to have a close encounter with camels, zebras, and bison, to name a few.

The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center located at Fort Benning was the highlight of our trip to Columbus a few years ago. I know some of you might groan at the thought of a military museum, but this one is truly impressive. My dad is a Vietnam veteran, and he met my mom while he was stationed at Fort Benning in the 1960s. Upon hearing that the museum had been voted USA Today’s Best Free Museum, he wanted to take the whole family. That included my daughter who was only three at the time. I worried that she would be bored or even frightened by some of the depictions of war. Instead she was intrigued by everything, especially since she knew her Papa had been a soldier in the infantry. She went through the simulated Vietnam jungle at least three times. Once was enough for Papa. The museum takes you through galleries with artifacts and interactive exhibits from every era of the infantry, from its formation in 1775 right up to the ongoing global war on terrorism. If you visit on a Thursday or Friday, you might even catch a basic training graduation ceremony in the field outside the museum.

Columbus is home to a shockingly hip and eclectic district known as Uptown. The area along the Chattahoochee River, once known for industry with spewing smokestacks, is now home to beautiful parks, trendy boutiques, and happening restaurants with food to please any palate. I highly recommend The Black Cow. How can you go wrong at a restaurant where the appetizers include lobster tots, fried bacon, and fried green tomatoes stacked with goat cheese? And their burgers were voted Best in the South by Garden & Gun readers.

No matter where you find yourself this spring remember to have fun, be safe, and don’t act like a tourist. See you on the road!

Keeping Your Resolutions

By Laura Lucy

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The Christmas decorations are back in storage, and the champagne corks have already been popped. That can only mean one thing – it’s time to write your New Year’s resolutions. These commitments to do better date back 4,000 years to the Babylonians who made promises to their gods each year. Ancient Romans and medieval knights also vowed to straighten up and fly right as they ushered in a new year. Today, most of our resolutions are internal, promises made only to ourselves, rather than to the Man upstairs (or men and women upstairs in the case of the Babylonians). While we don’t have any data on the stick-to-itiveness of our ancient friends, modern studies show that of approximately 40% of American adults who make resolutions, fewer than 10% keep them more than a couple of months. With that depressing statistic in mind, perhaps we should look to the past for inspiration. Share your resolutions with family, friends, coworkers, and yes, even God, or gods for the Babylonians reading this. We all know about accountability partners to keep your exercise and eating plans on track. Why not enlist their help for resolutions too? The people who are most successful in keeping their resolutions are the ones who make them specific and tell others what they are doing. Commit to doing a little work toward your goal every day and find others who are heading in the same direction as you, or at least people who are willing to encourage and support you on your path. Whether you want to exercise more, read a book a week, or organize your closet, identify your tribe and ask them to help you persevere. Here are a few of the resolutions I’m making so my 2019 will be one for the history books:

Give Thoughtfully

We all have limited resources – money, time, talents. How much and where we invest those resources should be an important consideration when planning our year. Does that mean increasing your charitable or religious giving? Does it mean rearranging your schedule to fit in time volunteering at a nonprofit? For me, it means planning more and reacting less. I have a hard time saying no when there is a need. Outlining how I will spend my resources this year will help me focus on giving more to the causes and organizations that I most want to support. Part of this plan is finding regular opportunities for us to give as a family. In recent months, my husband, my six-year-old daughter and I have volunteered at Crop Drop, worked at a hurricane relief food panty and given time to our church. I have no doubt that these will be some of our fondest memories when we look back on this period of our lives.

Prioritize My Husband

When you become a mom, it can be all-consuming. In those first couple of years, this tiny human is literally attached to you almost 24/7. The changes to your body, and more importantly, changes to your heart make it hard to put anything but your offspring first. Intellectually, we know how crucial it is for our kids to see a healthy relationship between mom and dad. Practically, it can be a challenge to put energy into the relationship with your spouse when you are so fixated on the children. Patrick and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and 14 years together. I’m lucky enough for him to still think I’m cute. I think it’s time for me to brush up on his love language and get to work. My daughter, Vivi, might grumble some now about me giving Daddy more attention, but she will appreciate it in the future when she has a healthy relationship of her own.

Have More Fun

Between a full-time job, side business, volunteer work and being a mom, I am overcommitted and stressed out. This year I will carve out more alone time to recharge my batteries so that I can relax and have fun with my family instead of fretting over the next item on my to-do list. This resolution MUST include at least two road trips in 2019. We have never had so much fun as a family than last summer when our road trip included real mermaids, dolphins, whales and Florida’s best cheap motel. I hope my words have inspired you to do more than buy a gym membership in January that you will abandon by March. Put some thought into your resolutions and put them out there. If you see me around town, please ask me how I’m doing with my resolutions and I’ll do the same for you. Cheers to a fabulous 2019! Is it too late to add “Drink More Champagne” to my resolution list.

Happy Haunting

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Fall is here! While all the other moms are going on about pumpkin spice everything and finally getting to wear boots, I’m over here pondering Halloween costume ideas. My six-year-old daughter Vivi expects something epic for every occasion. For a girl who has found a reason to wear her dance recital costume in public at least once a month since the performance in May, a Halloween costume has to be a little bit extra. 

Last year, my mother-in-law was visiting from New York and let Vivi talk her into buying a Rey (Star Wars) costume from the Disney Store. But in years past, we’d gone a little craftier. We are fortunate to have my mom close by, and she is a whiz at whipping up any costume her only grandchild desires. 

When Vivi was 4, she wanted to be Peppa Pig. My mom sewed a red dress for her, and we added ears, a tail, pink makeup and a snout made from a fabric-covered Gatorade cap. The year before that, we went as the Scooby Doo gang. My little redhead was the perfect Daphne, while my husband Patrick and I had to work a little harder to be Velma and Shaggy. I have blonde hair and he has no hair, so we relied on cheap wigs and thrift store clothes to pull off the transformation. Two-year-old Vivi wanted to be Elsa like every other girl. I like to think the combination of her red hair with a blonde braid made her unique. When she was just one and a half, I was in charge of all the costume decision-making and dressed her as her own superhero – Ginger Snap! 

Back in the day, Halloween was a one-day event. We donned costumes, went door-to-door collecting candy, returned home and ate it. The End. Now Halloween is a month-long extravaganza of festivals, trunk-or-treats, crafting and elaborate decorations. And we are all in. 

The Emerald Coast has tons of Halloween and fall-themed family events, many of which you can find listed in the calendar section of this issue. We live in Destin, so some of our favorites are BooLu’s at Lulu’s, Fall Fest at Destin Community Center, Halloween Haunt at Destin Commons and the Destin Elementary School Fall Festival. During this week, Vivi has more costume changes than a Beyonce concert. Best of all, these events are all free or super affordable for a family on a budget. For little kids, the action-packed week leading up to Halloween can feel like a trip to Disney World! 

Another place we love to go in October is the Halloween store. Spirit usually has a pop-up shop in Fort Walton Beach/Mary Esther and another in Miramar Beach. It’s like going to a haunted house without having to wait in line or pay admission. Their creepy animatronic characters can keep Vivi entertained for close to an hour. Fair warning though, if your kid is even the tiniest bit jumpy about characters DO NOT ENTER! There is no way to get to the cute kid costumes without encountering some seriously frightening stuff.

As I write this, we are in final deliberations over this year’s costume. Some options still on the table are a pilot, Wonder Woman, Jojo Siwa (she of the giant bows) or a granny. I am certain we will run through a few more ideas before we come to an agreement. It remains to be seen if Vivi will rope us into a family costume.  

Best of luck to all you parents as you run the Halloween marathon that the month of October has become. Happy haunting! 

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Wondering what to do with all the candy your little goblins collected at the 20 fall festivals you attended? Here are some ideas!

Send It to the Troops
Check out organizations like Solders’ Angels, Operation Shoebox and Operation Gratitude. Both organizations collect your unwanted candy and send it to our military around the world for a sweet treat.

Candy Buy Back
Be on the lookout for local dentists offering to collect your candy and stave off cavities. Many will offer kids toothbrushes, floss or other trinkets as incentive.

Give to Other Kids
There are some kids who were not able to go trick-or-treating. Check in with the Ronald McDonald House or other local charities that serve kids to see if they can use it.

Save Some
There’s nothing wrong with having a secret mommy stash of candy. You earned it, girl!

Avoid the Summer Slide

By Laura Lucy

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We are smack-dab in the middle of a long, hot summer. The kids are whining about being bored, and parents are counting down until we can send our precious little angels back to school. As tempting as it is to plop the kids in front of the television until the first day of school, we need to keep their minds and bodies active to avoid the dreaded summer brain drain. Brain drain, also known as the summer slide, happens when children forget much of what they learned during the school year over the summer break.

According to the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) at Johns Hopkins University, most students lose two months of math skills over the summer. Low-income children can fall behind up to three months on reading skills. This means teachers spend the first month of school reteaching lessons, and students risk falling further and further behind each summer. Some children also gain weight over the summer without the discipline of daily school and physical education.

This information is alarming, but don’t let it ruin your summer. Combating brain drain is easier than you think. You don’t have to get a tutor or enroll your children in summer school. There are plenty of fun ways to keep their brains active until the teachers tag back in.

Lean on the Library

There is so much more to do at the library than check out books – though we do plenty of that too. We have fantastic libraries across the Emerald Coast with fun and educational activities happening almost every day throughout the summer. On a recent trip to Destin Library, my six-year-old daughter, Vivi, checked out books she can read on her own and chapter books for us to read together, played a coding game for kids, signed up to attend a Pete the Cat extravaganza, and stumbled upon a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) workshop for kids. She loved it and was even more excited when they told her she can come back next week and build a robot. I highly encourage you to check out the library closest to you.

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming

With the Gulf, bays, bayous, lakes, pools and waterparks, we are literally surrounded by water. Learning to swim is not just fun for local kids, it’s necessary. The good news is swimming is healthy for the mind as well as the body. A study of children in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand by the Griffith Institute showed that children who started swim lessons earlier had better visual motor skills in addition to gains in language, math and writing. We kicked the summer off with a fast track class at Emerald Coast Scuba in early June. This was Vivi’s fourth summer with Coach Mary and her crew. She already swims like a fish (or mermaid if you ask her), but this summer she improved her freestyle form, learned to do the butterfly and is spending the rest of this summer practicing her dives in Mammi and Papa’s pool.  

Mini Golf = Maxi Learning

You can find a way to make any fun outing an educational experience. Take miniature golf as an example. Younger children will naturally learn deductive reasoning as they play the course – if I hit my ball in this hole versus that hole, what happens? You can be a bit more explicit with older kids, talking about the angles and physics involved in the sport. This works for billiards too. Keep it light and fun so you’re not forcing the educational component. If they realize you are trying to teach them, they might tune out. Think of it like blending green vegetables into spaghetti sauce – what they don’t know could help them.

Technology Isn’t Evil

The kids likely want to spend every waking moment with a screen in their faces. Zoning out to endless YouTube videos isn’t the only way to utilize these devices. There are plenty of educational apps out there, both free and pay. ABCmouse is a fun learning app for pre-school and elementary school children. Even video games aren’t all bad. Playing games can teach kids how to be good winners and losers, problem-solving skills and creativity. Chances are they are better at the games than you are. Let them teach you how to play the game and explain how it works. This is a great brain-building exercise for them and a wonderful way to improve the parent-child bond.

Our favorite discovery this summer is the Art for Kids Hub channel on YouTube. This channel has more than 1,200 videos with easy step-by-step instructions on how to draw everything from animals and ice cream to Hatchimals and LOL Dolls. Trust me, your kids will sit peacefully for large chunks of time while following along with these videos. You will be shocked by how quickly they will create some pretty awesome drawings while using both sides of their brains.

Chill

The most important thing to remember is that schools give kids a summer break for a reason. They need time to rest, relax and recharge. Let them have that time without stress, without pushing them too hard. I hope these tips will help you find sneaky fun ways to incorporate learning into your summer fun. Vivi and I will see you at Big Kahuna’s. We’ll be the ones talking about velocity as we fly down the Tiki River Run.

  

 

DAD'S PLAY

By Laura Lucy

 

Motherhood is having a real moment right now. You can’t sling a bottle of Pinot – Grigio or Noir, whatever your preference – without hitting a mommy blogger, vlogger or activist. After millennia of toiling and suffering in silence, women are finally being acknowledged for the hard work and challenges of mothering. As a mom who struggled with just about everything when my daughter was first born, I’m incredibly grateful to live in a time when women talk openly about their struggles, share advice, attend mommy groups and regularly schedule moms’ nights out. 

But where does all this new mommy reverence leave dads? Unfortunately, the rise of moms coincides with a strange decline in respect for fathers. Watch most any sitcom, comedic movie or commercial with a dad in it, and you will see a bumbling, befuddled caricature of a father. Sure, I laugh along most of the time, but is this representation close to reality? Not in my world!

My husband, Patrick, also known as the father of my child, has been a super dad from the very beginning. In those early days of sleep deprivation, sore nipples and C-section recovery, there is no way I or my newborn would have survived without Patrick’s daddy game being on point. And it was. He diapered, shopped and bathed while I tried to work through pain and doubted my parenting skills. He just got it done. 

Over time, the roles shifted as I healed and became more confident, but that never meant Patrick’s role was at all diminished. My days were filled with attending to my daughter Vivi’s needs, but Patrick was there to love her, support me and give me a break when I got overwhelmed. 

One of my greatest joys in motherhood doesn’t even involve me. I love to observe the special bond between daddy and daughter. My husband does all the activities with Vivi that I either can’t or don’t want to do. I love our weekly trips to the library, chauffeuring Vivi to ballet class, shopping and going to the movies. Patrick teaches her to play golf and soccer, they go hiking at the state parks, he takes her to the arcade, he trails behind her on endless loops around our cul-de-sac on her bike. It also helps my mood when the two of them give me a few hours alone in the house so I can catch up on laundry, freelance work and the DVR. 

Aside from the warm and fuzzy feelings Vivi hanging with Daddy brings me, there is also evidence that children receive many benefits from spending time with their dads that are different from the benefits of being with their moms. 

Dads don’t play the same way moms do. In The Art of Roughhousing, Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D., and Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., cite several recent studies indicating that roughhousing makes kids more intelligent, builds their socialization skills, increases their ethical standards and improves their ability to bounce back from adversity. Dads also encourage kids to take more risks but without going too far. He will throw you higher, encourage you to climb that tree and let go of the bike with no training wheels. 

I think most kids (and society) expect moms to always be present. It’s a given. When I was growing up, my dad worked long hours in retail, but he was always there for me. He never missed a dance recital – and there were many – and his only complaint was that he had to sit through “everyone else’s no-talent kids” before he could see his baby girl perform. He was right beside my mom for spelling bees, band concerts and pep rallies. 

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but my father’s presence and encouragement had a profound impact on the kid I was and the woman I became. According to Linda Nielsen, Ed.D., Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology at Wake Forest University, whose research on the relationship between fathers and daughters helped inspire Mattel toy company’s “You Can Be Anything” campaign, girls with involved fathers are more likely to achieve financial success, have long-lasting marriages, flourish in demanding male-dominated careers and are less likely to have a teen pregnancy. 

Dads, if you aren’t already spending time with your kids without mom, start now! 

Moms, the next time you feel yourself getting anxious about your husband playing too rough with the kids, take a deep breath and give him some space. He is busy creating confident, independent, brilliant, resilient kids. 

Happy Father’s Day!

It Happened To Me!

By Laura Lucy

 

When I was a kid, we would take a weekly trip to K-Mart. My mom is an expert discount shopper who needed to shop the sales on the regular. It was the 1980s, the glory days of K-Mart, when you could still get an Icee and popcorn and wait with great anticipation for the manager to announce a blue light special. My older brother went with us unless he had football practice. My grandmother never learned to drive, so we usually picked her up to tag along too. 

On one particular shopping trip when I was in third grade, one of the outings my brother missed, I stayed behind on the book aisle while my mom and grandmother went two aisles over to look at something else. This wasn’t common practice, but we lived in a fairly small, quiet town, it was a slow night at the store and they could hear me if I called out. The Mr. Men and Little Miss books were my obsession at the time, and I needed another minute or two to check out the latest titles. 

As I perused such classics as Mr. Happy and Little Miss Tiny, a man came down the aisle. He had a cart with a two-year-old little girl in it. Just a dad looking at books with his daughter, nothing to worry about. He reached in front of me, I thought for a book, but then grabbed my vagina. It wasn’t a violent attack, but it was very confusing to me. I froze for just a moment before calmly replacing the book I was holding and walking away to find my mom and grandmother. 

In short, what I’m trying to say is…#MeToo.

I told my mom what had just happened. She immediately went to the front of the store, found the manager and told him what happened. He was young and had no idea how to handle the situation. Just then we saw our former neighbors walking in. I had pointed out the man who touched me. By this time his wife was with him; she had been in another part of the store when I first saw him. My mom dispatched the neighbors to follow them to the parking lot and get his license plate. 

We reported to the police. I had to tell my story in the district attorney’s office but not in court. When the man was confronted, he confessed and ended up serving two years in prison. In my kid’s mind, I thought that was the end of it. It wasn’t until recently, some thirtysomething years later, that I realized the impact it had on me at the time and even now.

Looking back, from third through fifth grade, I recall going home early from school often because I had a stomachache. I was a good student and no one ever accused me of faking it to get out of work. I was quiet and teachers always loved me, but I remember my third grade teacher being especially solicitous, even buying me gifts when my classmates got nothing. Now I realize that my parents had told her what happened and she was going out of her way to let me know I was in a safe place where I was loved when I was at school. Thank you, Mrs. Taylor. 

As far as sexual assaults go, mine was minor. I’m allowed to say that because it’s mine. No one else can make that determination for a survivor. Even so, it still had lasting effects. I cannot begin to imagine the emotional scars survivors who know their abuser have, and those account for the vast majority of abuse.   

Over the last several months, we have seen a dramatic change in how sexual assault and harassment are viewed and talked about in public. Long-hidden secrets are being revealed by Hollywood actresses and Olympic gold medal gymnasts are speaking out. What started as a handful of women exposing the bad behavior of one powerful movie producer turned into the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, empowering thousands of survivors to share their stories. It didn’t take long for #MenToo to gain momentum as people began to realize that men and boys can be victims of sexual violence too. 

Seeing this topic all over the media dredged up memories of my own incident, but some things were fuzzy. I sat down with my mom over the holidays to get some clarity on what happened. My memory of what he did to me in the store is completely clear, but I couldn’t remember what came next. I knew he had been convicted, but I didn’t remember testifying. At times over the years, I even worried about him, knowing that the accusation of an eight-year-old girl had sent a man away for two years. I hadn’t recalled that he admitted doing it. That gave me some peace. I even asked my mom if she remembered his name. She did. Of course she did. I googled him and found he is a registered sex offender living eight miles from that same K-Mart. Seeing his photo was hard, and I cried for the third grade version of myself. But you know what? She was way tougher than anyone could have imagined. Way to go, me! 

As the mother of a five-year-old girl, I want to protect her from the Harvey Weinsteins and Larry Nassers of the world. I want to slay every dragon and chase away the boogeyman. As a survivor, I know the strength of #MeToo and the power of #TimesUp and #MeStronger. It is my job to equip my daughter with the knowledge and confidence to stand up to any would-be abuser and to be a safe haven for her if anything bad does happen. I’ll wrap her in my arms and say, “I understand, Sweetpea. Me too.”

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There are no guaranteed safeguards that will protect every child from predators, but these tips can improve the odds:

  1. Tell it like it is. Cute names for private parts seem like a good idea when kids are little but can actually confuse the matter if they need to disclose abuse. One family’s cha-cha could be another family’s hoo-ha. A teacher hearing these terms might not even realize a child is attempting to tell her about abuse. It can be uncomfortable for adults to hear a preschooler say “vagina” or “penis,” but no one is confused about their meaning.
  2. Hugging is not required. Empower your kids to take control of their own bodies. That means hugging relatives is not mandatory. You can intercede, particularly with older relatives, to let them know your child is not being rude with a handshake, high-five or fist bump.
  3. Identify trusted adults. Talk to your kids about which adults they can turn to if someone hurts them or makes them uncomfortable. Teachers and school counselors are required to report suspected abuse.
  4. Be a safe place. Maintain a good relationship with open communication so if something does happen, your child knows you will believe them and love them no matter what happened and no matter who harmed them. 

A Locals Guide to Surviving Spring Break!

By Laura Lucy

Here on the Emerald Coast, we love tourists. No, really, we do! Without them we would likely have higher taxes and fewer restaurants. Plus, living in a small community where you know everybody, it’s nice to meet people from other places.

As much as we love our visitors, it can be a bit overwhelming during spring break when thousands of them clog the roads, crowd the restaurants and stand four-people wide in the grocery aisle. So, what’s a local to do during spring break? The obvious answer is LEAVE! If you have a good reason to stay – a restrictive work schedule, limited finances, family obligations – read on for tips to surviving spring break in town. You might even enjoy it.

Avoid the Rush

Let’s start with the basics that will help you maintain your sanity. We have to eat, but no one wants to get caught in the madness of packed grocery stores and two-hour waits for a table at restaurants. Locals all know that Saturday is vacation rental check-in day. That makes Saturdays and Sundays the busiest shopping days at the grocery store, largely because our visitors are not only stocking up for a week but they also bring their entire family to have a heated debate about which chips to purchase. In the olden days (way back in 2016), your best option was to do your grocery shopping early in the morning and not on the weekend. Now, you can use services like Shipt to deliver groceries directly to your home, or Walmart’s new online ordering system that lets you stay in your car.

If you opt to dine out during spring break, try to go during off times. Arriving at a restaurant on or near the beach at 7 p.m. all but guarantees your stomach will digest itself before you are seated, much less receive your food. Instead, go for a late lunch/early dinner between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. When you simply must go out for dinner, aim for an early week meal. The tourists are most likely to eat out at the beginning and end of their weeklong stay. Destin and 30A are typically the most crowded. Try out some of the fantastic restaurants in Niceville, Fort Walton Beach or on Okaloosa Island. Several have water views too!

Catching a movie during spring break is totally doable. The trick is to go in the middle of a sunny day. Conversely, hit the beach early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the biggest crowds. Bonus: this strategy makes it much easier to avoid that dreaded first sunburn of the season. 

They Go South, You Go North

While our visitors are primarily traveling here for our unparalleled white sand beaches, we can enjoy them all year. Most visitors don’t realize there are more wonders of nature within a short drive. Go spelunking at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. Find the fountain of youth and walk along lush forest trails at Ponce DeLeon Springs State Park. Let the kids get up close and personal with more than 100 animals including Florida natives and exotic wildlife at Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park in Crestview. Head up to the Blackwater River for tubing or canoeing. Check out the free Air Force Armament Museum just outside the gates of Eglin Air Force Base for a walk through history starting with World War I. 

If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em

Navigating your own town when it’s so crowded can trigger stress in anyone. That’s when you should take off east or west to annoy locals in another town! Panama City is home to plenty of daytrip-worthy attractions such as Gulf World Marine Park, Dave and Buster’s, ZooWorld and WonderWorks. In Pensacola, you can visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Historic Pensacola Village, Pensacola Children’s Museum, Fort Pickens, Pensacola Lighthouse or downtown for a historic walking tour.

Mixing it up with the tourists can actually be fun if you let go of the us-versus-them mentality so many of us locals have. Strike up a conversation with someone new, and you and your kids are likely to make friends and learn a little something about another part of the country or the world. As the mom of an only child, I relish the high season because we are guaranteed to run into other kids on the playground at Chick-fil-A who can keep my daughter entertained. 

If all else fails, hunker down at home and wait for the brief respite between spring break and Memorial Day. You’ve earned it. 

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 Community emerald coast wildlife refuge Spring Break Emerald Coast Vacation Florida Caverns State Park Ponce DeLeon Springs Blackwater River Air Force Armament Museum 'Naval Air MuseumPensacolas Childrens Museum Natioanl Museum of Naval Aviation Historic Pensacola Village Fort Pickens Pensacola Lighthouse Chick-fil-A

For the Love of Dogs

By Laura Lucy Day

This Valentine’s Day while everyone is gushing over chocolates and roses, I will be cuddled up with the newest love of my life. Now don’t go getting excited and tattling on me to my husband. He already knows and is equally smitten with the same girl. Her name is Pippa and she is a lemon hound/pit bull puppy we rescued back in September.

I love this girl so much, but it took me a long time to prepare my heart for another dog. You see, I have always been a dog girl and grew up in a dog family. My first dog, Rascal, was adopted from some kids in my parents’ neighborhood. My parents were praying for human children and struggled for a few years, but Rascal filled the gap beautifully until my brother was born and then me. Rascal wasn’t the family dog. He was my big brother. 

After Rascal, we adopted Prissy. Now Prissy was not as easy to love. She was like an ornery old lady even when she was young. As a Corgi mix, she felt it was her duty to herd everyone every single time they tried to walk anywhere. Carrying a big pile of laundry or getting a hot pan out of the oven? Prissy was right there to bump your leg and tell you exactly where she thought you ought to go. I think she held on her last couple of years just because she thought we’d be lost without her. She didn’t always make it easy on us in her 15 years, but Prissy was family and we loved her.

Then came the love my life. I was fresh out of college and working my first real job. I wandered into a pet store one day to look at puppies because puppies are cute and make me happy. I would never dream of buying a “manufactured” dog from a pet store but just wanted to look. That’s when I spotted her – a sweet little eight-pound fluff ball with a pink and brown speckled belly. The salesperson asked if I wanted to hold her. Uh, yeah! I walked all around the store with that sweetheart and instantly fell in love. I went back to the clerk and asked how much. She told me someone had been too lazy to drive to the pound and had just dropped the puppy there. They couldn’t sell her, but I could take her for free. I still faced one more hurdle. I was struggling to pay bills, and my apartment was directly across from the management office. There was no hiding a new puppy and getting out of the pet deposit. I went out to the car and pored over my checkbook before figuring out that I could take the puppy and just barely squeak by that month. It was the best decision I ever made.

Piper was the product of forbidden love - the love child of a farmer's prize hunting beagle and the neighbor's rogue escapee pit bull. She turned many heads, and I often had to answer the question, "What kind of dog IS that?!" Piper didn't know if she should howl like a beagle or bark like a pit bull, so she kind of did both, but not often. She wasn't the fastest or smartest dog, but she was sweet and cuddly and soulful. She lived with me for more than 14 years in six homes and snuggled with me through many tears and celebrated many triumphs with me. 

When I met my husband Patrick, Piper loved him instantly. She even tolerated the crazy cat he brought into the relationship. The cat was less tolerant of Piper…and me. He terrorized both of us incessantly. After five years together, he was finally starting to calm down and realize that having a mom is a good thing. And then he ran away on my birthday. Hence, me=dog person for life.

Piper’s health declined in her last couple of years, which coincided with the birth of my daughter, Vivi. She was too old to play by the time Vivi came along, but she accepted her and let her pet her and feed her and point at her. That's as much as you can ask from someone who was an only child for 13 years. My heart was completely broken when I said goodbye to her. I think I still hold the record at the vet’s office for crying the loudest and the longest. I knew I wanted another dog someday, one for Vivi to grow up with, but it hurt so much to let Piper go that I knew it would be a while.

More than three years after Piper passed, I started following several rescue organizations on Facebook. I would oooh and aaah over all the cute faces, but I just couldn’t make a move. And then came Pippa. Sunshine State Animal Rescue posted pictures of a tiny little puppy that was struggling to stay alive. She had Parvo and was vomiting worms. The vet guessed she had less than 12 hours to live when her former owner brought her in. They planned to euthanize her, but the rescue stepped in when the woman dropping her off said she could not afford the $15 to have it done. Thank God they did!

In her first month as part of our family, Pippa put on 12 pounds, more than doubling in size. She is now a happy, healthy, rapidly growing puppy.  She escorts her five-year-old big sister to the bus stop every morning and crawls in bed with the whole family each night for story time. She gets to play with her cousin, a 100-pound service dog named Otto who very sweetly tolerates her puppy-ness. She mostly looks like a pit bull but gets her coloring from the lemon hound side. People even comment that she and my strawberry blonde daughter “look related” because of their hair color. She just fits.

As happy as I am to have Pippa and as much as she loves her sister, this dog is 100% a daddy’s girl. It makes me happy to see Patrick so happy with Pippa. He still talks about his beloved Sandy, a dog his family had for only one month when he was a boy before his mom’s allergies forced her out. Bless his heart. He loved Piper, but Pippa is like his own child.

Pippa has brought us all so much joy. Sure, there have been a few puddles, missing toys and stolen socks, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. So, this Valentine’s Day, Pippa the rescue puppy who is so loving her nose looks like a heart, will be our sweetheart. If you are feeling lonely, go get yourself a rescue dog. No man will ever listen to you more intently, judge you less or snuggle with you more than a dog. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Destination My House

By Laura Lucy

 

 

When you live near the beach, your home can become a hot destination for friends and family. Summer is prime time to head to the Emerald Coast, especially if you have a free place to stay. The good news for us is that we get to live in paradise all year and enjoy the beauty. The bad news is we have jobs and responsibilities that don’t go away just because our guests are on vacation. So how do you balance real life while hosting people on holiday?

Planning Ahead

Taking a little extra time before your guests arrive will save you much more time and headaches later. Ask them a week before check-in what their preferences are for beverages and food, including any allergies. That should give you plenty of time to go grocery shopping during off-peak hours. Having easy-to-grab foods, like fresh fruit and individually-bagged snacks, in plain sight on the counter will make your visitors feel welcome and saves you from constantly having to prepare something. 

Make a meal plan for the week. Last-minute trips to the grocery store or hours spent in the kitchen will take away from quality time with your guests. Keep meals simple, like grilled proteins with salad and watermelon or s’mores for dessert. What could be easier or more delicious than that?

Leave a note with your WIFI password on their nightstand. Include any other must-have information such as your house security code, neighborhood gate code and pool entry code. Give them a few restaurant and entertainment suggestions and connect them with a few local websites and apps that list events and more. Some of our favorites are the calendar at www.OntheCoastMag.com (obviously) and the 30A app. 

Be sure your guest bathroom is fully stocked with shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash, towels, wash cloths, toothpaste, floss, extra toilet paper, tissues and bandages. Bonus points if you provide your guests with sunscreen and aloe. Our non-Floridian friends might not properly apply sunscreen or remember to apply it on cloudy days and end up with a sunburn. 

Anticipating their needs may also prevent texts and calls to you during work hours.   

Set Expectations

Before your guests arrive, spell out what your schedule and commitments look like during their stay. If you must be in the office all day every day, they need to know that. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. 

I am very fortunate that my husband and I both work from home and have flexible schedules. That doesn’t mean we get to completely put work on hold when friends come to stay with us. Our guest room doubles as my husband’s office, so we always hope our visitors are early risers. And I’ve been known to escape to Panera, the library or some other quiet corner with WIFI when I really need to crank out some work.

Setting boundaries for work time and work space will allow you to do what you need to do while preventing your guests from feeling like they are overstaying their welcome.

Make Time and Have Fun

Yes, your friends and family are thankful to you for the free accommodations, but chances are they really want to spend time with you too. Do your best to free up some time to be with them. Maybe you can’t take several vacation days while they are in town, but you might be able to slip out of work a little early a few days or take a long lunch. 

Guests will often want to repay you for your hospitality by treating you. Don’t argue with them. Just graciously say thank you. You might have the opportunity to eat at a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try or play tourist with a game of miniature golf or bust out of an escape room. 

Let your kids stay up past their bedtime and forget any food rules you usually enforce (other than those for allergies, of course). My favorite memories from the first half of this summer are of my daughter playing with the children of my best friend and my husband’s best friend – night swims in the pool, walking on the beach with glow sticks late at night, eating ice cream whenever. With no siblings or even first cousins, my daughter is often stuck in the company of adults. The opportunity for her to bond with the offspring of some of my favorite people in the world is priceless.  

You don’t have to put a mint on their pillows and provide turndown service (although, my sister-in-law does this at her house and it is fabulous) to make your guest feel welcome. Quality time and a relaxed environment are the best things you can offer your guests. Do that for all of your visitors and you’ll have to start using a booking system for reservations by next summer!