School is officially out. I know this because it is already Wednesday and my children are ready to lose their minds.
E: Momomomomomomom. We should go outside and play ball.
K: What kind of ball?
E: We can just throw a ball.
K: Sorry, bud, but not today. It's raining.
I'm just going to take a little time out to discuss the rain. Global warming, global cooling, global climate change, cyclical climate change, I don't care what you call it. You know what I care about? The fact that it has rained so much in the last few months that the second the sun comes out, we all act like lunatics. I imagine this is how you people in Ireland and the Pacific Northwest feel. Of course I'm not saying that you are lunatics. I'm just saying that if this rain keeps up, we are going to have a house boat and we are a good 1/4 mile from the water. But back to my errant children.
We moaned about the rain and I went to make dinner. Not two minutes later I heard a baseball hitting my newly painted wall. This was actually a slight step down from the handstands he had been doing up against that newly painted wall. I ordered everyone outside. Rain, schmain.
First I had them dig this hole. Okay, their father dug this hole but I put them in the hole with two shovels. Then I brought their wagon over and instructed them to carry gravel in it from one side of the yard to the other. For no reason whatsoever. Did they know that? Nope. Did they care? Nope. In fact, they very cheerily worked together.
A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to protect her walls. Even if it means getting a little wet.
It's the first day of summer break, the kids slept in late and the house is remarkably quiet. All this will change in five more minutes, I'm sure, but for now, I'm taking in the luxurious silence.
One of the casualties of a tenuous economy is the luxury of summer camp and paid childcare. When budgets are tight and you're a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom, activities for kids can sometimes be the first to go, especially when there is a price tag attached. Almost every mom I know--working or not--is feeling the pinch, and I dare say there was actual panic being exchanged from eye to eye yesterday as we waited for the bus one last time for this school year.
Lucky, lucky for me, my friend Lourdes has a work schedule almost completely opposite of mine. We've worked it out so that her daughter is with me most mornings and that she'll come over and keep an eye on mine while I hole up in my office on her available afternoons. With three kids between us, it doesn't feel like too much--especially since in many ways our kids have grown up together. I'm happy to have Moira along with my kids--and my kids consider Lourdes a lifelong friend.
Do you have a summer sister? Someone who's willing to be there for you in the in between times when you need an extra hand? Someone whose kids you feel are in some way your very own? Tell us about your summer sisters in the comments below.
It is day two of summer. Are you going crazy yet? If you aren't, it is inevitable that at some point your kids will be bored and all up in your grill. Here are five tried and true activities to keep kids happy and get a few moments to yourself. Or maybe just make dinner.
1. Spray paint- I know, you are worried you are creating incredible future graffiti artists but you won't. I keep a couple cans of cheap bright paint around for very special occasions. Throw some newspaper, cardboard or an old sheet down in the back yard and let them at it. What to paint you ask?
Old cheap happy meal toys- check this out
Boxes to keep stuff in
Sculptures of recycled stuff- paper tubes, cereal boxes, egg cartons, etc.
Murals can be made on rolled kraft paper
I lay down the ground rules and let them do this pretty much unsupervised. The sheer excitement keeps everyone focused. I think it's something about the holding the big can and pressing down the nozzle at the same time.
If all of this makes you extremely nervous, or you are thinking I have completely lost my mind, substitute paint for silly string.
2. Water play- Grab an under the bed container and fill with an inch of water and cups. Use small paper cups and poke holes through the bottom. Throw a drop or two of food coloring in the bottom. Kids also love tiny plastic animals in the mix. Even older kids are still mesmerized by water play. Let kids get completely soaked, throw towels down. Feeling brave? Try shaving cream instead of water.
3. Clean something- Kids love to clean when there is way too much soap and even more water. Give toddlers a spray bottle and sponge. Let older kids wash the car.
4. Flip Video Fun- This awesome little video camera turns kids into instant film makers and artists. How to Lego videos, awesome skateboard tricks, intense Polly pocket dramas, stuffed animal comedies, all of it can be captured on these hand held wonders. The camera is surprisingly inexpensive and even easier to use.
5. Just Wanna Dance- When nothing else works, just stop. Throw on some music (Pandora rocks!), set the timer for 15 minutes, and shake, shake it! Sometimes a short burst of direct attention meets the need and allows everyone to move on to their own activities after. Surrender to connection works wonders and prevents bigger struggles later on.
Book breaks do the same trick if dancing just isn't your thing.
Do you have any tricks to keep kids busy at your place? What activities wow your crowd? Do tell in the comments.
Josiah has a knack for finding cool crafts from various places. The penny launcher has to be one of my boy's all time favorites and great for boredom blues. Here is what you'll need:
toilet or paper towel rolls
electrical tape or duct tape
a pen (Josiah insisted you need this to write your name on your launcher so you don't lose it)
Cut the balloon in two. Throw away the bottom half.
Place the top part of the cut balloon over one end of the paper towel roll.
Wrap the electrical tape around the tube to secure the balloon. Cover the entire roll.
Here's what it looks like when it is all finished.
Drop your penny in the bottom, pull back and let her fly!
Jack always likes to show me how much hot air he has after.
Pure launching joy!
Father's day is right around the corner and what better time to throw some link love in the manly direction. Here are some fatherly picks worth checking out:
Wanna shock Dad with a super cool gift this Father's Day? How about this awesome shirt telling the truth to the world. A cold one in his hand should follow.
These got the Dad seal of approval from Jorge (who peeks over my internet shoulder) while I was shopping on etsy at our house.
Got a green dad? Check out this awesome repurposed gift. Fashion rules!
I spent the better part of last night getting lost in Matt's world. Any parent feeling alone will be inspired by his resolve and love.
Dad Gone Mad is fresh, funny and will remind you to not take anything too seriously, especially yourself.
Did I tell you about the time I interviewed my mom for a speech class in college? The assignment was to give a compelling arguement on why I deserved an A. I got the A. Kevin interviews his dad to take his youtube popularity to new levels.
Let the memories of your dad fill up the comment box. Send us your best links to anything and everything dad related too. For just one day, it is all about the guy who loves you no matter what.
Since we are admitting to swearing and other parenting taboos, can I have just a moment to vent? You can join me if you like.
Here is my current parenting pet peeve: It drives me absoutely nuts when my children sit on the floor and wrap their arms and legs around my leg. Where did this come from? Who taught them to do it? Is it a game I am unaware of?
How about the constant wardrobe changes of three year old fashion divas? More and even more laundry. Let's not even discuss leaving barely used towels on the floor.
These sort of activites send me straight to my guilty pleasures. See that cake above? I am dreaming about it today. What are my other guilty pleasures you ask?
Reality televsion- please don't tell anyone
Obsessively checking facebook
Large slices of pie or cake
Listening to extremely old cheesy love R&B music
Please feel free to confess both your parenting pet peeves and guilty pleasures in the comments below.
I live in this fantasy world that the reason my children are so poorly behaved in public is because we are "old" parents. I tell myself and everyone else that will possibly listen that I'm sure I would be more strict if I had had kids in my 20's. I wouldn't be so tired. I wouldn't be so cranky. I would have more patience.
Guess what? Here it is. The honest to goodness truth. I imagine that I probably would have allowed my children to continuously throw each other over the side of the booth if I had them ten years ago.
Derek and I sat across from them on the 80 minute ferry ride. They did the best they could. We let them run around and around and around and around. Then we gave up because they have more energy in one pinky than we have in our entire bodies. So we sat inside at one of these booths and we watched in horror as they took turns shoving each other over the side of the booth. I looked around and no one in the Saturday crowd was even paying the slightest bit attention.
I was all geared up for my false apology for the behavior of my kids. My kids who were having the time of their lives. My kids who were doing no harm to anyone or anything.
And I just let them do it.
If your house is like my house, there are as many opinions as there are people when it comes to deciding what to do. What one person considers to be fantastic fun, the other considers a drag, and on and on it goes. How to get the whole crew on the same page when everyone has so many varying perspectives on what makes for a good time?
I have yet to completely crack this code, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that seem to work, especially when it's just me and the kids. I'll be offering a little series this summer of suggestions for those summer standoff moments. Here's my first:
At the beginning of summer have everyone (littles included) sit around the table. Help each child make a list of their absolute favorite summer activities. If you have a wide range of ages, ask your bigger kids to be sure to include some items even the little ones can do. Let everyone pick their personal top five (repeats are fine) and write the selected entries on little slips of paper. Add in your own essential sanity savers ("30 free minutes of screens" or "Watch a quiet movie") and throw all the papers in a bowl you can keep somewhere safe.
This is how it will work. Each kid will take a turn pulling an activity out of the pile, knowing that sooner or later their absolute fave will be the choice pick. If you're kids are really, really into it, you can take the list one step further and add some qualifiers. We marked some of our favorites with a little drawing of the sun to signify that that particular activity required good weather and others with a dollar sign to show that this activity would only be possible if mom had cash on hand. That way when "bike riding" comes up on a rainy day, there's no drama and everyone understands that (of course) we have to draw again. And one more thing--make sure that the slip of paper doesn't go back into the pile after your outing--that way you'll be sure to do everything on everyone's list, at least once this summer.
You'll note this is really just a glorified way of learning how to take turns, but that's exactly the point. Some sibling sets need one more layer between themselves and the decision making process and a tiny slip of paper in a bowl is sometimes just the right thing.
What do you think? Would it work at your house? Why or why not?
In case you are one of the moms out there saying, "But, but, but, how do you deal with _______?" or "What about __________?" I'll be happy to address your questions or objections in the comments below or even a future post.
Jack has a fear of certain bugs, like high pitched screams are reserved for such encounters. I asked him to crawl under the bed when I was cleaning the other day only to place him right in the path of a spider cricket. He was completely undone. I have to admit those little suckers are quite jumpy and unpredictable.
The experience made me think of my friend Jess. Science lover, friend to bugs, photographer extraordinaire, and she is a mom to three amazing boys. Jess and her crew actually hunt for bugs, all together, for fun. So I wrote this fellow supersister and asked if she would guest post to tell us how she cultivated this love of bugs, wee beasties and all living things. Welcome Jess!
Facebook status update, Sunday, June 7, 9:19am: "discovered the source of the backyard stench. An impromptu lesson on the life cycle of blowflies followed."
Gross, right? I'm beginning to think that perhaps we're not normal over here. My six-year-old and I got enthusiastic yesterday over frass. What is frass? Caterpillar poop. On the other side of the yard, my patio is torn up, partly because maple roots pushed the slate all around, but partly because we just plain couldn't control ourselves when we figured out that there were bugs underneath every piece - ant tunnels! Termites! Crickets! Bigger ants! And not too long ago, my 4-year-old kissed a cockroach. Not normal.
How did we end up this way? My best guess: a mix of ADD and the scientific method. We are constantly distracted by tiny turtles, tinier mushrooms, pill bugs, and caterpillars - then drawn in to investigate them and find out what they are and how they work. Of all the bits of nature we enjoy, bugs get center stage, perhaps because they let us get closer than larger animals, and do more (or at least do it faster) than plants, but also because, well, they are just so cool. Did you know that ladybugs develop from these freaky looking things? Or what a click beetle is? Have you ever seen a giant American millipede? Or an assassin bug? I love what we find and how it teaches us to notice more and ask better questions.
What if you're just not a fan of all creatures great and small, especially not some of the smallest and leggiest ones? No worries. Everybody is entitled to their own personal phobias and creepy-crawlies, and there's a whole world of vertebrates out there, not to mention plants and fungi. Or rocks! (But can I confess something? I hate touching bugs and have been known to shriek when surprised by a spider. So maybe see if you can push our own boundaries just a little, and see if your kids will follow suit.)
Are you ready to explore? Where to start?
1. Go wild. We're hearing a lot these days about how fundamental outdoor experience is to childhood. Don't fret if a camping trip isn't in the cards - the wilderness can be as close as the edge of the playground, or your own unweeded veggie garden.
2. Follow your bliss. Be willing to get sidetracked and go wherever your wandering attention leads you. You don't need a lesson plan. You don't even need to look for any particular thing. Just see what finds you, and share your discoveries with each other. Enthusiasm is catching.
3. Everybody starts somewhere. I only learned the word frass last year. You may not be a walking field guide - hey, I'm not a walking field guide. I share the knowledge I already have and to the rest, say "let's find out."
4. Details, baby, details. Take note of what you see and use your resources. What stands out about the critters you saw today? What were they doing? Where were they? You might want to keep a journal and a field guide; I use my camera and my skills as High Priestess of Google. Hmmm, black, yellow, and green caterpillar on parsley? Could it be a black swallowtail? And what was that orange stinky thing coming out of its head when I poked it? An osmeterium, you say?
5. Keep asking questions! What hypotheses can each member of your family come up with? How can you test them? What will you discover tomorrow?
What are you noticing, and where is it leading you?
Jess Lucia is a relentless idealist, perpetual dabbler, and slightly-crazed mother of three boys. She doesn't believe there's any such thing as "overthinking," loves learning new things, and sporadically shares parts of her journey on her blog, Spark. She's pretty sure nobody in her family has kissed a cockroach in at least a week.
all photos by Jess Lucia
The kid only wants to eat junk. As a junk-food-junkie myself, I get it. As a mother, I just want to shove broccoli down his throat.
Ethan: I'd like marshmallows for dinner.
Nathan: Me want 'em too.
K: I don't think so.
Ethan: I think that is a GREAT dinner, Mom.
K: I don't think so. There is no nutritional value in marshmallows.
Ethan: But they are SO good.
Nathan: Good, Mama.
Ten minutes later I caught him sneaking into the marshmallows. He and his brother had at least three a piece before I found them. I got mad. Really mad. I threw them in the trash and put them in time out.
Time out being a time-honored tradition of useless discipline. Or maybe I'm doing it wrong.
While they were in time out, I dug the marshmallows out of the trash. I squirted a little Dawn Dishwashing Detergent in the bag and threw it back in the trash. I covered them up with more trash. Sure enough, three hours later I heard a hacking in the kitchen.
K: What's wrong?
Ethan: These marshmallows taste TERRIBLE.
K: Did you take them out of the trash?
Ethan: Um, yes?
K: You dug them out of the trash. You ate garbage.
Ethan: I didn't eat garbage. I ate marshmallows.
K: They were in the garbage.
Ethan: Why would anyone throw good marshmallows in the garbage?
K: Because people were TAKING them when they weren't allowed.
Ethan: They tasted horrible like soap.
K: How do you know they tasted like soap?
Ethan: MOM. I know what SOAP tastes like.
I don't know what disturbs me more. That fact that he ate marshmallows out of the trash or the fact that he correctly identified the soap taste in his mouth. Either way, here's hoping he won't dig food out of the trash again.