Thursday, June 30, 2011

Popsicles in Pools

The dust continues to settle on our most recent adventure—a whirlwind trip to the Midwest to participate in my baby brother's beautiful wedding. The trip odometer read 1,400 miles, 450 games of “I spy,” 125 rainbow goldfish crunched into tiny van crevasses, and 16 half-eaten sucker sticks melted into tiny teeth.

One thing that continues to amaze me about these trips is that no matter how I plan—I am a planner you know, there will be traffic in unexpected places, downpours in the middle of mountain driving and babies who wake up hours before they should. Flexibility is a skill that it forced upon us with the gift of motherhood. With each child there is another set of wants and needs, another hungry belly, another dirty face and another time frame that is not quite in sync with mine.

For the past two days I have had great intentions to unpack the bags, put the laundry away, finish organizing the toy room, take things to goodwill, mop the floors, put things away! The house seems to still be in post-adventure disarray and my little guy has done nothing but follow me around the house whimpering and clinging to my left leg.

Because of the whimpering and clinging we have spent the majority of the past two days outside in the baby pool where the sun is hot, and deep well water runs cool from green garden hoses. Today they ate Popsicles while sitting in the pool and the green ice melted down their chins and dripped into the water. I watched chunks of Popsicle melt into the pool and I watched Mason sift through the grassy water, find the chunk and shove it back into his mouth. It was a lovely summer day and as they splashed and played I stared at them—forcing a memory.

Then I was thinking about how even in the midst of lazy days where nothing is scheduled or planned, where the kids are deep in the land of imaginary play, the responsibilities of motherhood are there—lurking shadows that can instantly force a shift in fun:

  • Suddenly realizing that the baby is playing with a mysterious “log” in the sandbox = an immediate fun-ender. <Insert 20 minutes of child and sandbox clean-up>
  • Leaving the baby in the living room for no less than 60 seconds to retrieve a non-swimmy diaper resulting in an artistic display of some sort on the middle of the living room floor = a fun-ender. <Insert several minutes of child and carpet clean-up>
Long ago I willingly accepted these responsibilities: the constant hunger of bottom-less bellies, washing of sweaty kids and sweaty clothes, scrubbing of dingy baby teeth, driving to and fro and the immeasurable changing of diapers.  I can't take three small kids and plan a day-o-fun that doesn't involve an unexpected mess and needs that must be met immediately.  Instead of always worrying about all the hypothetical messes that could occur at any time during my day or tracking down that tricky fun-ender who is lurking in the shadows, I'm learning to enjoy the moment and clean it up when I can.  Sometimes it's best to just eat Popsicles in the baby pool and embrace the gooey melted mess that comes with lots of smiles and laughter.

On this note I am supremely thankful this week. 

  • I am thankful for the flexibility of my young kids. They show me how to relax.
  • I am thankful for a safe drive and a lovely visit with family.
  • I am thankful for cheap popsicles and sticky faces.
  • I am thankful for water splashes on the pages in my journal.
  • I am thankful for the fun sounds Mason makes when he impersonates a jet flying above us.

“The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be – unbelievably – possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.” 
~Ann Voskamp

“I don’t need more time to breath so that I may experience more locales, possess more, accomplish more. Because wonder really could be here – for the seeing eye.” Ann Voskamp

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I'm working on being more observant and thankful for the beautiful, everyday gifts in my life, but it is not yet an easy or constant practice. It takes deliberate effort to stop and see...with my senses and my soul. I want to have a truly thankful spirit...I know there are blessings and glimpses and all-out-wondrous-displays of God's goodness all around me, but I am so often blind in my rush and daily busy-ness.

Today I took some time to sit and purposefully observe.

I am thankful for the hundreds of shades of green I can see in my backyard.
...for the lulling sight of gently swaying treetops.
...for the delightful giggles of little children.
...for the interesting ants on my driveway as they scurry busy!
...for the sound of tires swishing through puddles.

...for that wonderful, earthy smell after a rain.
...for baby hair that is so soft and smooth.
...for the roses blooming on that random bush in my yard...that vibrant coral color!

The beautiful is all around...I hope you enjoy a beautiful day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adding a Little Drama to Reading Time

The bedtime ritual in our house pretty much always includes reading. When I had my first baby, a wonderful doctor told me how she read to her sons for 10-15 minutes before each nap and bedtime. She advised me to try it as it made naps a time children would look forward to, rather than dread. It has worked famously! My kids willingly run to the bedroom to choose their story before an afternoon nap. And they are verrrr-y disappointed when we get home too late at night and have to kibosh their story time.

We began this nap/bedtime routine by reading simple board books to our babies when they were 11-12 months old. Now with our two older children, we sit on the floor in their bedroom and read before bedtime. I don't think any of us will outgrow it anytime soon!

Having this routine in place helps this Not-so-scheduled-Mommy make sure we get around to giving our children those 20 valuable minutes of daily read-aloud time. Now with a more laid-back summer calendar, it's great to add a little more reading time some days. Especially with rewards offered through Summer Reading programs at the local library!

I was reminded this week of some dramatic enhancement I could bring to reading time. Most college notes have been long-since tossed, but one file I saved was from my Drama with Children class. Incorporating drama with children's literature helps children better understand and interpret what they are reading or hearing. There's lots more in my notes, but just know it's helping with Important Life Skills. I promise.

This is an easy technique that can be done with any short story that has several characters or important elements. You choose 3-10 words in the story (depending on how many participants you have) and make up a short phrase or action for each. Then assign each action to a child (or group of children). Have a practice time for them to respond to your Cue words with their parts, so they will be ready when you read the story.

We tried it with the story of Joseph in the Bible. I gave each of my kids a character, had them practice their lines, and then read the story aloud while they each did their part.

Joseph Sold by His Brothers – Genesis 37

Joseph hold pretend coat lapels, say “The Lord is good”
strokes beard, shakes head saying “Oh, my sons”

cross arms, scowl, and say “Not fair!”
Reuben shake finger, say “No, no, no”

point finger, say “Carry this, carry that”
Coat of Many Colors (ALL) stroke sleeve, say “Ahh, nice”

The book of Genesis tells the story of a man named Jacob who
had many sons. He loved his son Joseph the most and gave him a coat of many colors. The other brothers hated Joseph because Jacob loved him more. Joseph even had dreams that his brothers bowed down to him. When he told his brothers, they hated him even more. One day, Jacob sent Joseph out to check on his brothers, who were out in far-off fields watching the flocks. When his brothers saw him coming, they made plans to kill Joseph. But brother Reuben heard the plans, and he stopped them. Reuben told them to not kill Joseph, but rather to put him in a deep pit. When Joseph came close, they pulled off is beautiful coat of many colors and threw him down in the empty pit. Later, when the brothers sat down to eat, they saw some Ishmaelite people traveling by on camels on their way to Egypt. “Come, let us sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites,” they said. So they sold him for 20 pieces of silver. When Reuben later returned to the pit to rescue Joseph, he tore his clothes in sorrow, for the boy was gone! The wicked brothers then took the coat of many colors and dipped it in the blood of a young goat. They brought the coat to their father, Jacob, who thought an evil beast must have eaten his son. He did not know that Joseph had been taken to Egypt as a slave and sold to one of Pharoah's officers. But God knew, and He had great plans in store for Joseph.

This could be a fun technique to implement next time you are watching a group of children or teaching a class. For some helpful, easy-to-implement tips on guiding and improving your child's reading skills, check out the School Marm.

Bring on the drama, kids!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Play Kitchen Oven Mitts

The toy my daughter uses almost every day is her play kitchen. I thought maybe she could use some little oven mitts to help her handle her “hot” meals. These were quick and easy to make. I sewed mine, but you could use craft glue or a hot glue gun to put them together as well.

To start, I had her put her hand on paper and traced around it in a large oven mitt shape. Leave a good inch or more all around the hand and up the wrist a few inches. Then cut 4 of this pattern from felt. I used felt cut from a bolt at Hobby Lobby. It's a little thicker than felt squares, but the squares would work too.

Using a cookie cutter, I traced and cut 2 large flowers from white felt, then I cut 2 smaller flowers from pink felt. Stitch (or glue) the flowers onto the outsides of 2 of the mitts.

Put one embellished and one plain mitt together, and stitch. I used my sewing machine blanket stitch with contrasting thread. A simple zigzag stitch or even a straight stitch would be great too. Leave the end open where the hand goes in.

I had some white seam binding that I sewed around the hand opening. This is an optional step.

Once it overlapped I cut it, leaving a 4-inch tail, and kept sewing down to the end.

Then I formed a loop (for hanging) with the tail and sewed the end to the back of the mitt.

Finally, I sewed a little button on each for a flower center. Next time I would do this before sewing the mitts together—it would be a lot easier.

All set for some pretend baking!

These are NOT meant to handle actual hot dishes, but fabric stores do sell an insulated quilted-type material that is intended for real oven mitts if you want to make a lining to insert. Then they would be a great gift for a little girl with an Easy Bake oven.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thankful Thursday!

It has been a week of little sleep and lengthy to-do lists around here.  The long summer days are filled with big plans and the kids are filled to the brim with extra energy.  I am realizing that it is even more important to focus on thankfulness when the days are too full and fuses are shorter than usual.  It has been a week to purposely hone in on my true priorities even when other things seem more important; it is a battle for me!  

  • Today I'm especially thankful that we have all been healthy (no summer sickness yet!) 
  • I'm thankful for cooler days and thunderstorms.
  • I am very thankful that we will be spending a week with my family.
  • I am thankful to celebrate Father's day with a great daddy to our 3 kiddos.
  • I am thankful for random colored pen scribbles that I find mixed in with my "notes" in my journals.
  • I am thankful for big hugs from my super-affectionate little guy.
  • I'm thankful for throwing the baby into the air, and his squeals of laughter.
  • I'm thankful for a 4 year old doing jumping jacks.  It is extremely entertaining. 
  • I'm thankful for sweet, sweet baby words that I should correct but want to remember forever.

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."  ~ William Ward

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Road Trippin'...and Ways to Give the DVD Player a Break.

The Joy is in the Journey...hmmm. Can that possibly apply to a road trip with 3 young children?! To give our upcoming journey the best possible odds at being joyful for everyone, I am preparing a travel survival kit...of things that will keep car-seat-bound children entertained for long hours of driving or flying.

A couple of favorite toys that occupy my children during travel are AquaDoodle products...we have (and love!) the fold-up Travel one available here and a couple of smaller coloring ones like these available here. Just fill the pen with water and start drawing or coloring. The page has to dry before you can re-color it, but it doesn't take long if held up to the A/C vent. Great for ages 2+.

Another coloring activity that my kids love are these Crayola Color Wonder products for ages 3+. They are available at toy stores, drugstores, Walmart, etc. The pictures are really shimmery and cool. It's virtually mess-free since the markers color only on the special paper. Also, the markers last a long time...even when the lids are left off for awhile (not yet tested in a hot car!).

Magnetic Car Bingo is a great little game we found last summer for a 18-hour roadtrip to Wisconsin. It occupied my children for some long stretches of driving. The magnetic tin opens into 2 bingo cards with objects seen on a trip. There are little magnetic chips to put on each square. I can't remember the store where I found it or $5, but it's also available here. The game is engaging, fun for a variety of ages, and lasted for a good amount of time. However, the tiny magnets are easily lost in the car. Also, it must be meant for kids sitting next to each other...we had to pry ours apart with pliers so the kids in their carseats could each have one. For this time around, I'm thinking of picking up this better Melissa & Doug version here. I like the interchangeable bingo cards for more game options, and sliding windows instead of little game pieces.

You could easily make a paper version of the travel bingo and give each player a game card on a clipboard with a pen to cross off squares. Or make a tally game by dividing a sheet of paper into 6 boxes, with each box containing a picture of one object seen on a trip: Mcd's sign, airplane, motorcycle, etc. Make a copy or a variation for each player and have them put a tally mark in the box each time they see the object. They need to get 3 tally marks in each square to win.

Have your children tried lace and trace cards? This set is similar to ours, but you can easily make your own. Gather magazines, paper plates or posterboard, a hole punch, and shoe laces or colored laces found in the craft section at Hobby Lobby. Cut out large pictures from magazines, or use images you download and print off the computer. Glue them onto posterboard or paper plates. Take a hole punch and punch around the edges in one-inch spaces. Pack them with the laces for some carseat entertainment.

A tip I heartily recommend is wrapping up a couple of small surprises and stashing them away for when the kiddies have reached their limit of coloring books and movies. This was a lifesaver on that verrrry long trip last summer. After a pit stop, it was easy to get the kids to hop back into the car for another 3-hour stretch of driving if they had a little gift to open.

This brain teaser Peg game was one present...others included a disposable camera, the travel bingo game, and new sunglasses. Also, I had a few things I'd saved from yard sales and a dollar store trip. Speaking of brain-teasers, wouldn't these metal ones be great time-passers for older kids?

Finally, you could try a Car Game. An alphabet game that is a little different than the typical find a letter on a sign/vehicle is to take turns going through the letters and making up sentences. First person says: " name is Amy and I'm from Alabama and I came to buy Apples.” Next player is B and says “My name is Brent and I'm from Bolivia and I came to buy Binoculars.” Have fun coming up with hilarious sentences.

We'd love for you to add your road trip game or toy ideas as a comment below or on our FB page, so we can all be equipped for happy travel with our kiddos this summer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's Summer! Inexpensive Family Fun in Greenville, SC.

Are you looking for ways to make memorable moments with your kids this summer?  As moms, we are always on the lookout for free (or cheap!) deals in the upstate. There are lots of great things to do with your kids or your entire family in the area. If you are a new mom or a mom who is just starting to break into the social scene, here are a few options you might want to check out this summer. 

Free Stuff!

Stop in the downtown G'ville Starbucks Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. for a free kiddie Frappuccino, then head outside and under the bridge near the river where a Starbucks employee reads to all the kids. After Fraps and stories, we normally head to the outdoor fountains and play in the water. 

Great Harvest Bread (1467 Woodruff Road) also offers a free story time for kids on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. 

Barnes and Noble on Haywood Road has a free story time which is extra special this Thursday at 10 a.m. Check it all out here.

Fiction Addiction! This bookstore on Woodruff Road also has Children's Storytime Thursdays at 10:30. Here is the info.

You can also check out your local library for all kinds of free activities including the summer reading programs which reward readers of all ages! Here is the main site.

Other ideas (Movies, Hiking, Concerts and more)

Regal Summer $1 kid movies!  Check out all the details here for cheap summer movies when it is too hot or rainy to play outside! This deal applies to many areas outside Greenville, also. 

Shakespeare in the park! If you haven't been downtown to see a free play at the Falls Park on the Reedy, then check this out.  

If you are looking for a FREE family night Lakeside concert, check out the Furman schedule (Thursdays at 7:30here

The shops at Greenridge will be showing FREE Drive-in movies in August! Check it out. 

If you live in Greer, be sure to check out the listings for these FREE outdoor Moonlight movies listed here

If you live in Simpsonville, head over to Heritage Park for some great movies this summer. The gates open at 7:30 and movies start around 9pm on the lawn. This Thursday they are showing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Here is the rest of the schedule.

If you have never been to Paris Mountain, shame on you. Just kidding, but really, you should check it out. It is right in the heart of Greenville, it is inexpensive and a great family place to play. What kids don't love to hike, picnic, paddle-boat, swim, etc.?
Here is the main site.

Jones Gap is another great spot for a family day trip, as well as Table Rock, which is a personal favorite of mine.

There are two Water park locations in the area. Otter Creek or Discovery Island. In case you haven't seen the great deal floating around on Living Social, check it out! I think it expires in a week and I was unable to attach the link here.

Kylee and I are always looking for fun, inexpensive options to get out and about this summer. It's already hot, but we can still make some memories! If you have any other favorite spots to visit with your kids or a great deal that you are dying to share, please let us know about it here or on Facebook!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Making Homemade Stickers

I've seen several recipes around for making homemade stickers and finally got around to trying it. It's super easy and combines a couple of my kids' favorite activities: cutting with scissors and licking things. Sounded like a winner for a Monday morning craft!

We gathered a couple of magazines, animal wrapping paper, and some scrapbook paper & punches, and I set my children to work cutting out pictures.

Now we needed “edible adhesive” to turn the pictures into stickers.

I combined:
1 packet of unflavored gelatin
4 TBSP boiling water
½ tsp corn syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract (or other flavoring)
Another option: If you have a box of regular Jello around, try mixing 3 TBSP of the flavored gelatin powder with 1-2 TBSP boiling water. Add ½ tsp corn syrup if you like.

My kids used small paintbrushes to paint the gelatin onto the back of the stickers. We lay them on plastic cutting boards to dry. They will curl up a little. A half-hour later, they were ready to lick and stick.

We stuck the leftover stickers onto wax paper to use another day. Also, we found we could reheat the bowl of gelatin in the microwave or a double boiler when it started to get thick and gummy.

We'll definitely be doing this again some rainy day. It was a big hit at our house.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thankful Thursday!

It's Thankful Thursday once again! What am I thankful for today?

I think a key ingredient to the thankful pie is perspective.  Yesterday I was driving on the highway attempting to think about what I could write for Thankful Thursday. While I was trying to put two thoughts together my little guy was having a mini-tantrum in his car seat; he was exhausted and I couldn't drown out his screaming.  It was hard to be thankful for the dreadful noise filling my van, and it obviously wasn't the time for me to be thinking about anything other than getting him home to bed.

Some days are filled with kids who play happily together--kids who eat their veggies and don't spill cups of milk on the freshly cleaned carpets. Sometimes the kids sit quietly in their car seats and take long naps and sleep in late.  If my kids were always cherubs in the car and only slept all day and never screamed "that's mine!" to a sibling, I would probably take a lot for granted. And I would never have the opportunity to correct behavior; I would miss out on hundreds of chances to teach them that the world doesn't revolve around ME.

  • Today I am learning to be thankful for loud vans. 
  • I'm learning to be thankful for short naps and kids who don't require much sleep.  
  • I'm thankful that curious minds allow kids to make fresh messes when I have just organized the entire house.  
  • I'm thankful for the natural tendency to prefer Fun Dip over broccoli and carrots. 
  • I'm thankful for big brothers and a girl who only wears dresses and a little guy with tons of spunk.

"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Potato Stamps & Tea Party Napkins

My little girl loves a good tea party. She enjoys serving up delectable snacks on her play dishes, but doesn't have much of a linen closet to pull from when her dollies and bears come to tea.

If I was ambitious, I might have cut and hemmed some cloth napkins in little girl size. Instead I rummaged through a drawer to see what I already had around. Oh, happy day—the bottom back corner of a linen drawer revealed a set of 4 beige napkins that have not been used in ages. Umm, apparently because of the multitude of stains that were discovered in better light when I ironed them. Embarrassing!! Well, never mind, Sad Little Napkins. You're perfect for a potato stamping project, and you'll soon be party-worthy once again.

To transform our Tea Party Napkins, I gathered these other materials: paring knife (or exact-o knife), pen, cookie cutter (optional), potato, fabric paint (we used Tulip brand), craft paint brushes, paper bowls, painting clothes for kids.

The first step was to wash a potato and cut it in half. For one half, we pushed a metal cookie cutter into the potato and then used a paring knife to cut away the excess around the cutter, leaving a perfect heart shape. The other half we tried freehand. I etched a paisley shape on the potato with a pen and then cut away ¼-inch of the potato to leave a raised stamp. If you want to make a monogram letter or number, just be sure to draw it backwards since it will be mirrored when stamped.

Fabric paint is permanent and will bleed through the napkins some, so be careful to protect clothes and furniture. I put my kids in Daddy's old t-shirts, and the stamping fun began. To keep the paint even and the potato less messy, we brushed the paint onto the raised stamp. The kids practiced stamping on paper first, then worked on the cloth napkins.

The paint requires 24 hours to dry. Meanwhile, my daughter is anxiously awaiting...I hear her rustling through the pantry for some party food to serve up once her lovely napkins are ready for use.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Floss the Bottle

I had a couple of glass bottles awaiting their day of glory. The perfect complement? Embroidery floss. Hopefully resulting in a fun vase project. My children (who are game for any new craft) were happy to jump in and help me begin winding.

Wind, wind, wind the thread around the bottle, taking care to push it close together. To be fancy, we used 3 shades of green floss with white. It was a little tricky to get things going at the start...but once I spread a ring of craft glue (using a Q-tip) around the bottom edge of the bottle to hold the first few layers of thread in place, we were in business. Also, I spread a little glue on one side of the bottle (just a half inch line at a time) so each time the thread wrapped around, it was glued. The ends were secured with glue when we changed colors. It was a little hard to keep the thread tight together around the curved neck--needed to use a lot more glue and work slowly. We decided not to attempt our other very curvy bottle.

I recommend this project for ages 6+. It was a little difficult for my 3-year old and required my constant help. It does take some time...our bottle was 12 inches tall and took all 7 skeins of floss. Yarn would probably make the job go a little faster and result in a great-looking vase too.

We have big plans to make some flowers for our colorful new vase...another day. For now we'll let just let it revel in it's green, textured (and slightly gluey) new glamour.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Worrywart: Kryptonite for Supermoms?

Last week was full of many what ifs for me. While I may not look like your mainstream worrywart, trust me--the warts are there, buried under anxious mommy shoulders and buckling mommy knees.

In general, I don't lie awake at night biting my nails over my health, or gas prices or paying bills, or even death. I wouldn't say I spend a ton of time agonizing over what people think about me. You know, the average worries. I've realized lately that just because I don't brood about the popular worrisome issues, it doesn't mean I'm not a worrywart.

For me, as a mom, worrying and control seem to go hand in hand. I don't worry much about the things I know I can't control. But if there is something I think I can control, then my mind goes wild. For some reason, I usually end up worrying for my kids. I think it's natural to worry for our kids; we want them to be happy and healthy, we want them to have a million friends and never skin their knees. But I'm already realizing that even when I have the best intentions and try to do everything right, I will never control their fate.  My worrying causes needless anxiety for me, and in turn my anxiety is often reflected in my kids as well. 

In the past week, two prime examples jumped out and revealed that my furtive fears for my kids are often unwarranted and make me feel silly in retrospect. I am not proud to admit that I waste time thinking about things I can't control, but as a mother it is a battle I fight constantly.

Last week our family spent four days at camp with around 280 other friends from our church. I was very excited to go spend time away from routine with our family, to not worry about meals to plan, laundry to fold and I was especially excited about the luxury of having Daddy away from work and all to ourselves.

I must admit though, I was more than apprehensive about the schedule, which called for several hours of nursery time during each day. I have never been a fan of putting my little ones in the nursery, and no it isn't just because of the germs they might acquire there (although the germs are usually invited to the party!)

Call it a fault, but there is something gut-wrenching about dropping off a young one in the nursery while he is screaming your name and digging his nails into your arm. I don't enjoy it. The thought of my baby crying for hours on end while I am listening to a speaker or enjoying coffee with my husband is initially not my first choice; I have to step back and convince myself to do it after some anxiety and prayer.

The short end to this scenario is that my little guy was fine at camp. Did he love being dropped off for little bits at a time? No. Did he survive? Yes. (Thanks to great nursery workers!) Will he remember being left in the nursery for a few hours while I enjoyed some much needed adult interaction and lovely conversation with my husband? No. Once again I am learning perspective; in the big picture, the time I wasted worrying about the well-being of my little one would have been better spent elsewhere. We had a great week and spent scads of time together as a family of 5—little guy included. He may have even learned in a small way that our family dynamic doesn't entirely revolve around his little world; an important lesson that he might as well start learning now.
~ ~
While coming down from the fun of family camp, we returned to church classes that were promoting everyone up to their new fall grade level. Anxiety once again reared for me as mommy since we recently decided to keep our big guy back in Kindergarten, although many of his friends are promoting to first grade. I know he will be fine in his new class in his big school, but I thought the church transition might be tough. I tossed and turned about how this traumatic event might cause him pain and suffering and wondered if I needed to brace him for the change or pain that might ensue on Sunday morning. He is a pensive thinker and I wondered how it would all go down.

Sunday morning came and went. I carefully asked a few probing questions after his morning class; he shrugged his shoulders and ate his lunch. Later in the evening when I picked him up from his evening class, I was amazed to find him running around and actually leading a game in the gym. He can't wait to go back next Sunday and even enjoyed having his younger sister join him in class. Imagine that.

The thing is, “If anything bad can happen, it probably will.” Even if I am constantly afraid of running out of diapers or lacking a spare kid outfit or having a flat tire on the highway or running out of my morning coffee or milk going bad, those things are still going to happen. Because they can. I can keep my kids carefully buried deep under my wings, protecting them from every potential outside danger, but they will still fall down and get hurt when I'm not looking.

I can do my best to prepare and be organized and have a back-up plan, but I can't control it all, and I shouldn't control it all! If I never leave my house for fear of all the scary things I anticipate happening, then what am I teaching my kids? Isn't it better to teach them that bad things will happen and show them we can respond in a calm manner? Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

I'm not saying we'll never have another nursery meltdown or that I won't pick up the phone to call when I leave my kids for the night. I'm a mom. There are plenty of things to worry about as moms and dads because we are entrusted with a huge responsibility as parents; I'm hoping I can learn from moments like these and perhaps someday become as adaptable and flexible as my 5-year-old.

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Leave a Trail.

A favorite summer game at my house as a kid was following a Trail of clues that my Mom had set up in our farmyard. It always led to a reward of some kind at the end...a little treat hidden up in a tree or a snack all ready in the house for hungry trail-hunters.

I set up a trail for my kids to follow, and they loved the challenge of finding the camouflaged clues...they had to look carefully to notice the rocks, sticks, and other signs that marked their Trail. I placed small stones in the shape of an arrow, then hid a paper clue under one stone with the words “10 steps” under it. Following the direction of the arrow 10 steps brought them near a tree where there was another paper clue hidden under a rock. It said “Look Up.” Tucked up in a notch of the tree was another clue with a picture of our Mailbox...and so on.

Because my kids are young and my oldest is just starting to read, I used easy directions on my clues... some simply had a picture of a landmark in our yard. For older children, you could write riddles or nursery rhymes that they must decipher: Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your GARDEN grow? and Humpty Dumpty sat on a WALL.

Or choose a favorite book and make up clues to go along: Alice in Wonderland could prompt a trail to A Looking Glass (a car side mirror), a Cheshire Cat (pet cat with clue on collar), Croquet (ball or wicket in yard), Mad Hatter (hang a hat in branch of a tree), etc.

Some ways to hide clues:

~pierce a paper clue on the end of a stick that's pushed into the ground
~hide clue under a pile of pinecones or leaves
~bury a clue under the dirt a little (protected in a plastic bag) and mark the spot with a rock or brick
~arrange pinecones or rocks in shape of a number, letter, or object
~make a series of shapes out of various objects (leaves, dandelions, sticks) that can each be seen from the previous clue.
Never mind the muggy kids were enthralled and raced around the yard in pursuit of the next clue.

The treasure at the end was fun, but I think they liked the thrill of the hunt even more than the prize!