Monday, September 23, 2013


Sometimes kids come up with the craziest ideas.

Can I clean out the gutters?
Can I jump off the roof into the 1/2 inch of snow?
Can I build a house out of cardboard around the kitchen set?
Can I create a giant functioning clock out of paper to hang on my wall?

A lot of these ideas that they come up with are amazing.  However more often than not, what I actually hear is:

Can I
- make a mess?
-use all the construction paper up in one afternoon?
-use all the tape in the house on this one piece of paper?
-completely dry out all of your dry erase markers in one hour?

That makes saying "yes" hard.  I want to let them create, have fun, and explore.

  But it doesn't come without pain.  The pain of the money wasted, time cleaning up, and knowing that eventually they will need me to help them with part of it and I will have to stop whatever task I am doing, however noble, and come to their aid.  I will discover things they have done that I had not anticipated. Sometimes I'll get mad about it.  And often I'll discover that something I liked is ruined or gone as a result of their creativity.

But oh the fun of exploring!  Of creating and imagining and enjoying it together.   As much as the mess drives me bonkers, the joy of their play makes me say yes again another time after just enough time has past to dull the nerves from the last venture.  Sleep in a rocket in outer space?  Yes. 

Today was different though. I got to have my cake and eat it to and I just relished it.  Mariah is here staying with us this year as a live-in helper.  I keep pinching myself to see if I'll wake up from this dream world of assistance, but so far the dreaminess continues.  One way she helps is to facilitate some of these crazy ideas and help make them happen.  It still uses supplies, sometimes things get torn, and things get a little messy, but then there is a grown up there to help clean up, watch out for safety issues, and take joy in their ideas.  Ah!  And I get to come in and say, YAY! This is amazing.

Mariah and I were talking recently about the kids and I mentioned that I think I say no a lot.  I mean, playdough, paint, cutting and pasting giant poster board, etc. is a lot of time and money!  It also means investing a space to the project.  But she said, "Mary, I think you say yes more that you think you do."  It got me to thinking about it.  I do say yes a good bit- otherwise there wouldn't be MARKER ALL OVER MY FURNITURE! But every time I say no, a little guilt pang stabs me and says, "Maybe you aren't a very good mom."  Now that I'm noticing more of the times I say yes and the times I say no, I think maybe I do say yes a good bit. 

For example,
Rachel fell in love with the computer room of Flint Lockwood from the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and gradually taped notebook paper with colored buttons all over her walls.  I think it's hideous, but she loves it and plays in there.  Certainly wasn't the vision I had for her pink room with hand-painted butterflies.

Jefferson took a green room that I intended to make a tractor and cars themed room and gradually added more and more space stuff until the entire room is covered in planets, stars, and rockets.

James has a collection of sticks that he uses for various weapons.  And he's allowed a big pile of them.

They come up with all sorts of crazy things, from jumping on the trampoline with their blankets to taking a bath with their Legos. Many things have gotten a yes.

But they are enjoying life.  I fight against wanting to keep my house cute and picture perfect.  I want things to match and coordinate and stay organized.  There are some places in my house that look cute- I just fixed them last week. :)  But I want them to live and create and feel at home in this space too and that means letting go of some of my grand plans for the cuteness in their rooms and even some of my visions of having furniture that is well polished, clean, and shining.  All too soon, they will be grown, out of the house, and moving on.  I hope they leave with a love for exploring rather than sitting in front of video games all day.  I hope they leave with a firm conviction that they can try anything and that I support them.  And I hope they leave feeling like they can come back and feel loved and comfortable in our home. 

The only way to get there is to say yes to the messy sometimes.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Real life has it's ways of making things interesting. 

This morning I knew the kids were feeling icky.  They snorted and sniffed and coughed periodically through their breakfast.  They are grouchy and hard to get along with.  But today is the day for Church.  And no one has fevers and all of them have gobs of energy.  So into the church clothes they went.

Half way through, Jonathon reminded me of the last time I took the family to church with a cold.  Let's just say it was VERY obvious that the people in front of us were convinced we would send them to an early death.  It was so obvious and distracting that I picked the whole family up and we left half way through the service.

This morning Jonathon pleaded, "Mama, please let's not do that again.  It was awful."

I agreed.

We stayed home.

Real life comes whether we are ready for it or not.  I was expecting to see people, teach Sunday School, visit, get out of the house, but today, instead, I'm at home.  Sort of resting.  Keeping a finger on the pulse of their attitudes and behavior.  Paying attention to needs- our needs rather than my desires.

It catches me off guard sometimes, the way my desires play out.  They become evident in places I don't expect to find them.  Glad I had a chance to stop and notice today.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Vacation Planning- The Little Things

It's vacation time again and I feel compelled to document some travel ideas I've been working on for this years trip.  Traveling with kids is stressful and traveling with 7 kids while on a budget and trying to relax is downright impossible without some significant planning.  So, I figured I'd hit some high points in my packing tips at the beginning of the summer for anyone out there wanting new or fresh ideas for ways to be frugal, pack light, or be prepared for anything.

I'll start my series of traveling with kids posts with a fun couple of cheap and small ways to entertain children that are great for trips.

 First, I scored a great yard sale find last week!  I absolutely LOVE putting a small bag of surprises together for each child for a long car ride.  Our car ride from NH to FL will be 24+ hours straight and so it's important to have some things that will hold their interest.  For my artsy kids a small pad of paper and some colored pencils are a perfect addition to the bag.  But keeping things compact is key, so this fun trick worked wonders and I can't wait to try it out. 

At the sale I found this box of regular Prismacolor colored pencils.  Those of you in the art world know that these are really nice.  $1 for the set!  I also picked up this cute little blue pouch for 50 cents knowing it would come in handy for something.  I wanted to stretch the pencils a little for my larger quantity of people so I took each pencil and cut it in half with a bread knife and sharpened each half.  That gave me two sets of nice mini pencils and with a small white pad creates a perfect way for kids to color a picture in the car or during a rainy day.  I think a white post-it note pad could be awesome with this idea as well.  They would be able to easily hang their artwork on the car window or in your hotel room or cabin, or wherever.  The small tin that houses the other pencils was some random little metal tin I had laying around, but I was quite tickles at how well the pencils fit inside.  So, these are going in a couple of car bags for my kiddos next week.

 Next budget friendly idea is go to the library!  The children love to read books at night before bed, or during rest times and I enjoy having new things to read on a trip because it holds their interest longer.  But seriously, who has money to go out and buy a slew of new books just for a trip these days?  When I had one or two kids, I could spring for a couple of books each, but with seven- no way!  So, to the library I went.  Took my handy purple milk crate and loaded up with some goodies.  Picked up a couple of audio books for the car ride as well.  Good news? We can check out books for a whole month at our library!  So, I was able to check them out a week and a half before the trip and not wait till the last minute.  Then I still have plenty of time to return them when we get home.  Only trick is we have to make sure we bring them all back.  Some of you probably have tablets, or whatever that your kids read books on, but I'm telling you, there's nothing like a good paper copy of Calvin & Hobbes to keep my kids entertained for hours!  All for free!

I found this trick online several places and have tried it at home.  It's painter's tape and cars.  This is a great activity for a rainy day backup plan- especially for boys.  Simply put your tape down wherever you want a road and let them drive all over.  I recommend trying a small piece of tape on various surfaces before you go haywire with it- especially on other people's property- for instance, we discovered that when applied to microfiber covered furniture it leaves a very obvious line when removed.  But for floors and hardwood you should be good to go.  You can also use a permanent marker to draw lines, stop signs,  and all sorts of traffic things on the tape, making it as interesting as you want.  This takes almost no space in your packing, but can provide a fun last minute activity at a moment when you desperately need a distraction.

 This year we are headed to the beach and that means sand and that means castles and building.  I grabbed a pile of these cheap sand pails at the Dollar Tree in our area and love that they stack together very efficiently.  But those little shovels that come with them?  They last about 30 seconds before breaking and scoop only about a tablespoon of sand at a time!  For those mega builders, skip the baby scoop and go to the kitchen section and get a flour scoop.  Much sturdier and will be far better for digging trenches, filling pails, and flinging random sand into the ocean.

This is another part of a car bag I'm working on.  My Grandmama picked up these adorable bumblebee pouches that have zipper openings for the kids several months ago and I am excited about putting them to better use.  In several of them I put three little action figures and a couple of dragons.  This one has a deck of cards from our games at home as well.  I think this little pile cost me about $5 as I had more than half of it already at home and just put it to better use.  The action figures are new and the boys love to have little wars in the back seat of the van.  We don't do a lot of reading in the car- too much car sickness, but this and some audio stories solves worlds of issues.

So, those are some of the little things that are going along to keep things fun this year.  I'd love to hear from you! What things keep your kids entertained while they are waiting, riding, or resting?