Hello, dear readers!  While I am roaming around New England in search of some new digs, my good friend and neighbor Kerry Luksic was kind enough to fill in for me this week at Mothers of Brothers.  Like me, Kerry is actually a mother of sisters -three of them, in fact: Emma, Carly and Morgan.  Being the Wonder Woman that she is, in her “spare time” Kerry recently wrote and published a beautiful memoir, Life Lessons From a Baker’s Dozen.  Check it out!  And without further ado…..

While Jessie heads up to Massachusetts this spring break for house hunting and countless other families travel to sunny destinations, I can’t help but wonder—am I the only mom with no place to go? Are we the only family embracing a spring break staycation? My three daughters seem convinced.

Spring break— two words that conjure up lots of foggy memories for most people. Back at Rutgers in the early 90’s, spring break for me meant scrounging up a couple hundred bucks for a week of craziness in Cancun. To this day, I feel blessed that there wasn’t any Facebook, Youtube, or smart phones with video. My kids will never have any visual proof of mommy’s record-breaking speed of slamming down “Yards” at Senor Frogs.

Fast forward to 2012 and somehow spring break has evolved into a guilt-inducing motherhood experience. “Mom, why aren’t we going anywhere for spring break?” Carly, my nine-year old complained for the fiftieth time last week.

“Yeah, Mom, how come we’re not going to Disney World?” Morgan, my six-year old chimed in.

“And the McKeons are going to the Bahamas,” Carly added for good measure.

We’d been having this same conversation for weeks, when it suddenly hit me—since when did it become the norm that spring break automatically meant traveling to a sunny destination with school-aged children and dropping a boatload of cash? That was it. I was tired of feeling guilty about our lack of travel plans.

“Well, good for the McKeons. But guess what—we’re not the McKeons. We’re staying here and we’ll make our own fun,” I said.

“Our own fun? Staying here?” Carly whined with her hand flagrantly on her hip and in-your-face-attitude. Now, she had done it. She had given me the green light. As Dr. Phil would say, my kids needed to “get real” about spring break. My automatic defense mechanism kicked in—they were going to get a dose of my magic silver bullet—an anecdote from my wacky childhood.

“Well, if you don’t think we can make our own fun, we can do what I did when I was your age.” I said luring her into my trap.

“What did you do?” Carly innocently asked. I smirked—she had taken the bait.

“Grandma put us to work. We ripped up flooring, painted the house, tore off wallpaper, weeded our sidewalk—you name it, Grandma made us do it. Now doesn’t that sound fun?” I said with a subtle laugh.

Her jaw dropped. She stared at me in disbelief, then sheepishly grinned and said, “You know Mom, I think I can figure out something fun to do.”  I smiled and thought, another victory–courtesy of my mother.

Okay, before you jump to the conclusion that my mother was a child-labor-slave-driver, here’s the back story.  I grew up in family of 13 kids in the suburbs of New Jersey.

Yes, 13. I know..insanity.

But as any mother can attest, having a houseful of children for a week vacation with nothing to do creates boredom, whining, and in my case—an occasional fist fight with my sisters. Looking back, my mother was brilliant. Not only did she get us focused on a specific home improvement project, it was exhausting, back-breaking work. After a few hours working on one of mom’s “special projects”, we were often too tired to fight with each other. Pure genius.

I recently published a memoir about my childhood, Life Lessons from a Baker’s Dozen, which pays tribute to the phenomenal job my mother did in raising all of us. (Sorry for the shameless plug.) On the days that I feel like I’m at the end of my rope, I remember that somehow my mom managed to get through each day with ten extra kids. So if my mom could survive decades of staycations with 13 kids, surely I could manage with just three?

But don’t worry. No need to contact Child Protection Services—my daughters won’t be ripping up my kitchen floor over spring break. Instead, Carly will tackle a home improvement project of her own choosing. For months, she has been begging me to rearrange her room. I’ve hesitated taking this project for a big reason–she’s a pint-sized hoarder who specializes in crafts.  In our family, she’s known as the craft-MacGyver, transforming household trash, paper, beads, and tape into mugs, vases, necklaces, and other “treasures” and filling every square inch of her room with them. Don’t believe me? Here’s a sample of her work.

I made Carly a deal—if she wants to rearrange her room—she has to throw out several bags of stuff. She reluctantly agreed and is now on a mission—clearing the junk under her bed, dresser, and other mysterious hiding spots in her room. And she’s happy about it.

So cheers to the spring break staycationers. Enjoy a guilt-free week of staying local and when your kids complain about being bored or start fighting, have your to-do list ready, and let them pick one of mommy’s “special projects.”

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