“I’m Bored”

They’re coming…

With summer looming, here are 10 free, kids tested activities I used to keep my kids occupied. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, they worked for me.

HINT: I outlawed TV and the computer during summer daylight hours.  I found my kids to be more content when they didn’t have a screen competing for their attention.  They were “totally bored” for a few days, but boredom breeds creativity. Try it!

1. Frisbee Golf.  Stick up a bunch of numbered paper plates around the yard and you’ve got a course. Make sure you’ve included a couple of “around the tree and under the picnic table” type shots to make it challenging.

2.  Make Butter.  Put some whipping cream and a marble in a clean jar and let them shake it.  Eventually, the cream will separate and there will be a small quantity of butter. This is a good time to talk about the “olden days”.

3. Bug Safari.  I saved peanut butter jars for bugs and other critters. They are light weight and don’t break when dropped.  To put air holes in the lid – heat a length of wire (clothes hangers work well, make it long enough so you don’t burn yourself) over the stove burner and melt it through the lid.

4. Public Library. I pay kids to read. OK, so this one is not free, but it’s money well spent.  Bribery has it’s place, people.

5. Timed Races. Get out the stop watch and time your kids running around the house.  This can be accomplished while sitting in a lawn chair.  Write down their baseline time and challenge them to break it.  Occasionally, I let them time me so they could marvel (laugh) at my athleticism (lack of).

6. Twig Furniture.  I bought a book, Making Twig Garden Furniture, by Abby Ruoff, and put my thirteen-year old son on the task.  If you don’t have access to twigs, you probably know someone who would be thrilled for your kid to come cut and haul some from their yard. My son got so good at furniture making, he actually sold a few pieces to neighbors and local garden shops. The book, or one like it is probably available at the public library.

7. Corn Starch.  Mix a very small amount of water into 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, just until it liquifies and let the kids play with it. Is it a liquid or is it a solid?  I did this outside so I didn’t have to clean up.

8. Car Wash.  Great fun on a hot summer day.  Get out the hose, some sponges and  bucket of soapy water and call the neighbors. Who knows, maybe they’ll make some tip money!

9. Four Square.  The concrete on our driveway is conveniently divided into squares, but chalk or some string will make lines.  All you need is a bouncy ball and lot’s of rules. The more rules the better.  Does a liner count?  Ankle shots?  Back stops?  We sometimes played word four-square.  Say a different state, fruit, boy’s name etc. each time you hit the ball.  If you repeat, your out.

10. Paper Mache.  Another outside activity.   Here’ a link for  home made Paper Mache paste. We used balloons and painted them when they dried out. If you’re really nice and want to buy a bag of candy, you can make a pinata, giving you yet another day’s fun.

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Five Times My Kids Made Me Cry…Incident #5

This incident involves all five children in a craven act of destruction and sibling solidarity.  It also involves me and the telephone – a bad combination when paired with parenting.

It was an ordinary day.  I sent the children to the basement to play while I cleaned up lunch. Sometimes it’s lonely in Mommy Land so I decided to call my friend for a few minutes of adult conversation.  I guess I lost track of time.  It was getting along towards nap time and I hadn’t seen or heard a kid for a while. Better check on them.  With my friend still on the line, I went down the basement stairs and landed in three inches of standing water.  I’m not sure, but I think my friend heard my scream without the aid of the telephone.

The children, squealing with glee, didn’t even see me. Two were having a water fight with bathroom cups. One lay with her arms and legs in the water doing the elementary back stroke.  One ran in from the other room, flying feet first through the air and landing with a splash on his butt.  And the final insult … one was sailing a boat.

The bathroom faucet was running full throttle with a sock plugging the drain.  Water spilled over the counter and into the hall.  Splash and play time! Who needs a water park when you can make one in your own in your basement?

Thankfully, their beds were above the water mark and they spent the afternoon on high ground.

Motherhood is filled with life lessons.  That day, I learned to use a shop-vac.

Five Times My Kids Made Me Cry…Incident #4

While on vacation this past week, my mother-in-law reminded me of this repressed memory.

One of the kids outgrew his shoes and needed a new pair. Grandma was out for a visit so we loaded up the kids in our 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon for a trip to the mall.  (The Vanagon alone is sufficient material for a future post. Stay tuned.)

I wheeled the baby and the two year-old in the double stroller and the other three kids, seven and under, held on the to sides of the stroller as we made our conspicuous way up the mall. The nice lady at the shoe store fit my six-year-old with a gleaming new pair of tennis shoes.

This intolerable turn of events was unacceptable to his four-year-old brother.  He took one look at his brother’s fantastic new sneakers and let out a howl that stopped the mall traffic in their tracks.  He proceeded to throw a screaming tantrum of epic proportions.

“ME get new shoes.  Me no WANT him’s old shoes  ME WANT NEW SHOES!!!!”

With the exit door in my sights, I continued my slow and steady procession towards the Vanagon.  I could see the glares, the shaking heads, the tsk-tsking in my peripheral vision.  I pressed on.  Finally, we made it to the parking lot.  As I strapped and buckled the kids into their assorted seats, I noticed the perp wearing one shoe.

“Where is your other shoe?”  I asked

“Me thwew it away” he said with pride

I refused to be defeated by this brilliant yet diabolical move.  I squealed the Vanagon around and sat rattling at the curb while Grandma entered the mall on a search and recovery mission.   She successfully secured the sneaker from the third canister.

This child is now 6’6″ and a college track athlete. He receives an endless supply of new athletic shoes which he frequently gives to his older brother, further proving that God has a sense of humor.

Five Times My Kids Made Me Cry…Incident #3

For those dear souls in the throes of potty training, or for those who are still traumatized by it.

It was the perfect storm – lack of brain cells due to child-birth, talking on the phone to my mother and attempting to home school the children –  all coming together in one fateful morning to create a playroom disaster of epic proportions.

After breakfast, I brought my little guy downstairs to watch Sesame Street .  He was proudly sporting a pair of “big boy pants.”  I pulled out the potty chair and placed it in front of the TV.  I instructed him on what to do if he had to go potty.  We even practiced a few times for good measure.  With a (false) sense of security, I went back upstairs to feed the baby and get the older two kids started on their lessons.

With the baby fed and down for a nap and older kids working quietly, I decided (recklessly) it was a good time to call my mother.  I (responsibly) forgot about the time and didn’t notice the older kids abandoning their school books and wandering downstairs.  Then the words no mother ever wants to hear:

“Mom?….MOM!!!!!”

Phone still in hand, I rushed down the stairs.  Horror.

The two older ones were standing there pinching their noses.  There stood the little guy –  naked.  He’d had an accident – #2 variety, not solid.  He had taken off his big boy pants (trying to be helpful?) and had tossed them on the carpet beside his potty seat. His subsequent activities were clearly marked.

He had slid down the plastic slide and scooted in and out of all the little plastic holes on the play structure.  He had built a beautiful Lego house, while sitting in the Lego box. He had somersaulted across the carpet and ridden the spring horse. Ride ’em cowboy!

I think I blacked out.  I don’t remember hanging up on my mother.  I vaguely remember spending the day with a bucket of bleach water but I’m not sure about that.

I do know we took an afternoon trip to the store to buy a truckload of diapers.

Five Times My Kids Made Me Cry…Incident #2

Syringe 5 with drops.

This one’s a doozy.

One morning, I returned home after a PRAYER MEETING (this fact gains significance after you hear what my kid did) to find my ten year-old daughter sitting on the couch.

“Where’s your brother?” I ask

“He’s out riding his scooter” she replies

I think this a bit strange as it was 40 degrees out and not the best scooter riding weather, but whatever… he’s a kid right?  So I go into the kitchen to do a little cleaning.  As I am taking out the trash, I see the scooter leaning against the wall in the garage.  Hmm.  I go back to the couch-sitting daughter.

“When did you last see your brother?” I ask

“I don’t know.”

Detective Mom springs into action. Let’s see, I left for my meeting at 8:30am, it was now 10:30am. That means he had been MIA for 2 hours.  I started to feel a little nervous and called the neighbors to see if he was there.  Nope.  I rode my bike around the neighborhood calling his name.  Nothing.  I called Hubby at the office.  After some heated deliberation, (my crying, him saying “he’ll turn up”) we decided to call the sheriff.

The deputy took a full description and requested a recent picture of our son. They instructed me to stay at home by the phone.  My neighbors and their kids took to their bikes scouring the neighborhood and nearby library.  My husband, dressed in his suit, walked the small paths in the woods as the police cruiser drove up through fields and open areas.

I sat on our front step, praying, trying not to imagine the worst.  In 1989, Jacob Wetterling was abducted while riding his bike in a town just north of us.  He was never found.  Jacob was eleven, our son had just turned twelve.  I felt a rising panic.  I didn’t want to become a news story.  After an agonizing two hours, the sheriff called.  They had spotted our son walking along the highway near our neighborhood.  He was on his way home. I cried with relief as the police car pulled into our driveway with our son in the back seat.

The story he gave us was that he had decided to go for a hike.  He planned ahead and packed his school back-pack full of water bottles. Hydration is important, right? After a stern lecture from the cop, yelling from Mom and Dad, laughter from the neighbors, and sneering from his sister, we resumed our daily life.

I returned to the kitchen and noticed my calendar, open on the counter. A large SHOTS with the perp’s initials was clearly written in for 1:00pm.  It was now 12:45pm and we could just make it.  As I mentioned this fact, the perp went ballistic.

“NO, NO!!! I DON’T WANT SHOTS!!! NOOOOOOOO”

Ah, now it all made sense.  He had hatched this diabolical, yet poorly executed plan to avoid getting his shots. Well, not on my watch, Mister.

I hauled his sorry little butt to the car and turned up the radio to drown out his cries. I dragged him through the lobby of the clinic and into the exam room, ignoring the wide-eyed stares of the other mothers.  I sat, reading a magazine, as he quivered and pleaded for mercy. Innocently, I asked if they had a few more shots they could give him.  Unfortunately, the perp was up to date.  Too bad.

This incident inspired me to form a new calendar code system.  Now, no one knows what’s about to happen but me.  It’s better this way.

Five Times My Kids Made Me Cry…Incident #1

The perpetrators in these stories will remain nameless.

I had almost finished loading the car for a two week vacation in California.  We were flying instead of driving so timing was important.  My husband was at the office handling some last minute details while I packed for him and the five kids, loaded the car, made sandwiches, checked-in for our flights, made sure every one had something to entertain themselves, arranged for the pets and the yard and cleaned the house. Get the picture? We had five minutes before we needed be in the car and make the one hour drive to the airport. The kids were wild so I banned them to the back yard and and told them not to show their faces until Dad was in the driveway.  Mother of the year.

Hubby screeched in with three minutes to spare.  I greeted him in the driveway.  We locked eyes.  I think I saw him shudder as he pulled past me and parked his car in the garage.

I fumed by the car as he rushed in to change his clothes. It was then that I heard the pandemonium erupt in the backyard.

Four kids barreled around the side of the house, a churning mass of shouts and pointing fingers.  A fifth child came more slowly, dripping, shoes squishing, hair sopping, algae clinging to his clothes.  His older sibling had shoved him headlong into the pond.  We had one minute.

After a moment of stunned shock, I sprung to action. My husband herded the dry kids into the car while I stripped the wet one.  I bagged his shoes, wiped the pond scum off his head and hung over the back seat, digging for some dry clothes as we rocketed down the highway.  We made it.  Barely.  Frazzled mothers should be upgraded to first-class and given complimentary cocktails.  I also recommend a special section in the back, by the bathrooms, for procrastinating fathers and unruly children. Just sayin’.

The perp in this case just got married.  I’m still not over it.

The Daddy Doll by Blogger Awanthi Vandaraj and Uncertain Crossroads

This is a beautifully written story of one daughter’s longing for her father – after reading this I am profoundly thankful for my father and for my husband who loves me and our children so well.

 Please read

The Daddy Doll.