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Dance with Your Children!

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Guest blogger Blythe Newsome: This past weekend, the kids and I packed our bags and headed to St. Petersburg, Florida, for a family wedding. The kids were thrilled to get to miss a few days of school, and I was looking forward to a few days without so much running around. I was a little scattered in the days before we left, trying to wrap things up with work and get things ready. I would have been fine with throwing everything into laundry baskets to make packing quick and efficient, but since we were headed to a very nice, posh hotel, I decided against it. (I can only imagine the horror on my daughters' faces as the bellhop unloaded laundry baskets from the car ....) Instead, I decided that maybe it was time to give the kids a little more responsibility and let them each pack for themselves.

mom dancing with daughter
I tend to group my six children in pairs. They share rooms in pairs, they do chores in pairs; at times, it seems like they get in trouble in pairs. There are the "older" girls, the boys and the "little" girls. The day before we left, I made each pair a precise list of what to pack. Not quite ready to relinquish my role as "Queen of Packing," I decided to take a quick peek into the suitcases before we left. It took only a second before I found myself thinking that maybe my directions hadn't been quite specific enough. Next time, I am going to write it this way: 

Dear Children, 
Please pack clothes that match -- items that you didn't find in the dirty-clothes hamper. I need each girl to pack ONE nice dress. This means that each of you needs a dress. I do not want to hear you say to me, "No worries -- we will take turns wearing the dress!" We are going to a formal wedding, which means that if you pack one dress to share, then one of you is going naked. 

Anyway, I finally got everyone packed and the bags loaded. I will never understand how a four-hour trip can take ten hours. I guess when you have children, you might as well add one hour to the car ride per child. Normally I don't use GPS, because the last thing I want is one more person ordering me around. But after this trip, I am seriously rethinking that. 

The kids were really excited about the hotel we were going to be staying at. Thanks to the Internet, they'd gotten to see pictures of the beautiful hotel, the huge pool and other amenities. Thanks to the Internet, they also found out that the hotel has a history of being haunted. All of the ghost sightings and strange occurrences have happened on the fifth floor -- room 521, to be exact. To say they were freaking out would be an understatement. So I made a deal with the older kids: If they promised not to tell their younger siblings about the ghosts, I would promise them that we would not stay on the fifth floor. (I mean, really -- what were the odds of us ending up on the fifth floor?)

Well, as luck would have it, not only did we get on the fifth floor, but we got room 519 -- one room away from the haunted room. I started laughing as the hotel clerk told me this news. The older kids immediately started freaking out, saying they were going to sleep in the car if we had to stay on the "ghost floor," and the little ones started crying, asking me if there are really ghosts. (Was I on "Candid Camera"??) But a promise is a promise, so I had us moved to the third floor. 

We spent a wonderful day relaxing by the pool, and I loved every minute of watching the kids swimming and playing with their cousins. I hate being cold, so I am not a huge fan of getting into the pool. So I just sat and watched. The sun was starting to set, and it was just about time to go inside and get ready for the rehersal dinner. Suddenly, eleven kids started screaming and swimming towards me, saying, "Finn is stuck!"

I was a little confused. I could see Finn in the water with his head out of it. He had a panicked look on his face and was screaming, "I'm stuck!" My mind raced, and I thought about a story I'd seen on "20/20" about a child getting stuck in the pool drain. I threw my phone down and jumped into the freezing water, fully clothed, ready to fight the drain for my son. To get to my baby, I swam at a speed that would have put Michael Phelps to shame. That was when I realized that the water was three feet deep. Finn is four feet tall. Really? Didn't anyone think to tell him to put his feet down and touch the bottom? 

With mascara running down my face, I asked him why he'd said he was stuck when he could have touched the ground. He told me he doesn't like the way the concrete in the pool feels on his feet, so he didn't want to touch it. You have to love these mommy moments!

The wedding was beautiful, and I am happy to say that everyone had something to wear. At the reception, I finally took a minute to look at my children and breathe. The kids were out on the dance floor having a blast. I joined them and took my 7-year-old into my arms. Her little face lit up,  and she was beaming as we spun around. As I danced with each one of them, there was nothing on their faces but pure joy. That was when it clicked: I have been so caught up in the day-to-day activities and stress of life that I have forgotten to stop and dance with my children. 

We arrived home with lots of happy memories. I confess that the suitcases have not all been unpacked. There is a still a ton of laundry that needs to be done. But each night in the kitchen, we have turned on the music and I have been dancing with my children.

next: Do You Get What You Pay For?
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