Sunday, September 30, 2012

Unbeatable Blanket Forts

When I was a wee lil lass I spent hours, days and even weeks making these amazing forts out of blankets.  No one could hold a candle to my interior decorating or architectural genius.  In fact, if I could have found a college that offered a fine arts degree in structural blanket design I would have gotten a doctorate.  But alas, I could not and now I am forced to live out my dream through my children.

Before I give you all of my boundless knowledge in this craftsmanship I must rant.  Besides lacking gratitude, I believe children today are depleted at birth of creativity.  I see this daily by the way children in our day care center play.  Or rather, try to play.  It is a sad state of affairs when you set a bucket of blocks and dinosaurs in a group of 4 year olds and they look at you in wonder.  They have no idea how to play and look for direction and approval at every stage of play.  Recently, I have had to do trainings with our staff on Purposeful Play/ Teaching Children to Play.  I am not kidding!  The lack of imagination and creativity literally has me at a loss of words.

So in honor of my second worst childhood epidemic I give you blanket forts.  If this can't teach your children to play on their own and use their imagination you might as well turn in your parental two week notice.  Remember, without creativity and imagination you would not have any right brained people.  It is worth the investment.  We all know that right brained people are the coolest kids at the party.

The supplies are simple...flat sheets or tablecloths.  Do not let the name fool you.  Blankets are way too heavy and not for the rookie fort builder.  You will also need tape (i prefer mahvelous tape....comes off of anything) rubberbands/hair ties and clothespins.  Don't have clothesline?  Stick with the ghetto build and use pant hangers...seriously, genius.  Now, the hard part.  Buckle up need to be creative.  Think back on your childhood Barbie house or GI Joe fort.  Think about the rooms you created.  Look around your child's room.  Find items that you can use to create rooms.  Yes, I said it rooms.

In the pics below, I have a variety of "rooms" for you to look at.  Nothing is fancy.  Nothing costs a dime.  But, everything has a mommy payoff.  For each room I have added I have just earned at least 15 minutes of mommy time.  See?  Mommy payoff.  We have the library complete with puzzles, games and comfy furniture.  We have the fort within a fort complete with nerf guns (oh cool your jets anti gun people.  I got 3 the handbook page one says..."must have a full supply of guns and ammo".  Don't believe me?  Have 3 boys).  There is the car track area.  The building block area.  The art desk (washable crayons!).  In total 5 rooms or 1 hour and 15 minutes of mommy time!

To begin start by connecting the highest parts of your room to other high parts with sheets.  I usually move their drawers to provide more height.  Closet doors are great surfaces to build off of.  Use heavy objects to secure sheets.  If using drawers, use the actual drawers to close in a sheet.  Attach sheets to other sheets using the clothespins.  Use the rubberbands to secure sheets to bed posts.  Use the tape if all else fails to attach the sheet to walls.  In my pics I used ALL of these methods.  Voila!  Bed Fort Fabuliousness!

The most important part of this fun event is the surprise.  I will guarantee you there may be dome cursing during the assembly.  To prevent damage to your child's ears let them watch a 30 min educational show while you work your magic.  DO NOT LET YOUR KIDS KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING.  Upon completion call your kids to the room.  Have them wait outside and knock on the door.  Open it up with much fanfare and say in your best English accent "good evening.  Welcome to your humble abode.  May I give you a tour?"  Then proceed to crawl with them through the fort and show them every magical nook and cranny. 

The best part of this idea is for one glorious moment your lil angels will look at you as if you hung the moon.  In that moment you will be there Da Vinci.  You will be there Wonder Woman.  In that moment you will be their hero.  These moments make up their memories.  Congratulations!  One of their favorite memories will now star you!

The Values of Window Shopping

I told you that many of my 365 ideas would be cheap and nothing can beat this one !   It is free.

First a small ranting from a crazy mom.  One of the worst character traits I see daily in children is the gimme's.  There is a very weird and unreal sense of ungratefulness and "I NEED that".  It is this self centered value system that we establish for our children that is, in my humble opinion, what will destroy this brilliant generation.  Parents taking the child's side NO MATTER WHAT.  Or, offering excuses for poor behavior.  Using those excuses to pass off the need for discipline and teaching the Veruca Salts of the world to be unaccountable and irresponsible.  So sad.  We all know the children who can't be in a store without having a coronary if they do not get that toy that they NEED!!!!  Such an ugly dilemma...not for the parents but for everyone else around them who have to hear the nonsense as the parent pacifies the child.

I work hard, daily, to help toddlers learn how to say my favorite line, "ok maybe next time".  I have even been known to teach children how to sing the Rolling Stones.  Not for their significance in rock n roll but because of their lyrics.  "You can't always get what you want.  But, if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need" (sung, by the way, in a rousing Jagger voice and lots of hip movements).  So, in the spirit of that rant I urge you to consider idea 2... Window Shopping!  It may sound contradictory but if you hang with me I think I can explain the value of this seemingly horrible event.

I take my youngest 3 to Toys R Us in preparation of their bdays and holidays.  There are of course some ground rules.  One, today is a looking day.  We are not buying ANY toys.  If we do not behave we will have to leave the store and will not be able to finish taking photos.  Two, we will go down every aisle so you will get to see everything.  You must use a whisper voice do we don't scare the babies.  You also will use manners and say, "excuse me mommy, look at this".  Three, if you ask nicely I will take a photo to add to our lists.  These are the simple rules.

Now, you should be aware that photos are key because they will allow your child to learn there is a time to buy  and a time to wish.  Plus, they will feel empowered by keeping an accounting of all the toys they want.  Of course, there is always a mommy word to everything I do.  I get to have a record, with price, for everything my children want.  It is exponentially a greater resource than the old list.  They won't get it all but I will remember based on their faces what they wished for most.

While we window shop i make sure to point out the price of each object that they want.  This way we talk about money but I am also teaching them to be smart.  For instance, matchbox cars cost $5 and fast lane cost $2.50.  If they get a fast lane car they can save up the money to purchase a superhero ball.  Or, if Kiley really wants to save up to purchase a motorized vehicle we try to figure out how long that will take and how she can save up her money.

I also talk about things we need to give to others.  Maybe neices and nephews or maybe each other.  This way they know how much to save up at Christmas when purchasing a gift for each other.  We usually choose a name of someone in need at Christmas.  The window shopping is a time to reinforce this as well.  I don't want to depress my children but it is a both priority for us to teach them about other people and children who do not have the blessings we have.

Rarely have we had to leave the store.  Even my youngest behave so incredibly and shockingly well.  I like to think they are finding things they want but also developing a sense of responsibility in regards to gifts and treats.  Hopefully, this teaches them we do not NEED to buy things in every store we go to.  Hopefully it teaches them to be excited about giving to others.  Maybe it will teach them the value of money and financial responsibility.  At worst, it is a magical way of spending a rainy day talking to my children and wishing together.  The power of wishes is what makes the magic of childhood.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Movie Night

I have decided to write a daily blog.  Writing makes me feel so creative and for those that care, I truly hope you will enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we love having them.

One of my greatest dreams come true is being blessed to be a mom of 5 children. With this enormous blessing comes extraordinary challenges.  However I feel very passionate about my belief that if you get off your tushy and spend some time planning activities for your hooligans, your day goes much better and the challenges are much less damaging to the soul. 

Writing this blog will challenge me to be a better writer but it will also challenge me to be a better mom.  So, for 365 days I will choose a daily activity to blog about.  My activities will be cheap enough and easy enough for any of my mom friends to try at home.  I hope you will find these ideas inspiring!

Tonight I will blog about movie nights.  In our house this is never "just a movie night".  This is a time to be in our comfiest jammies, have a special snack and bring ALL the mattresses in the family room.  Before I continue I will share that the mattresses are essential to fun.  It takes approx 10 min to pull out 3 mattresses.  It is also a wonderful time to quickly declutter under the beds.  Believe me, your children will be more than willing to lend a hand in order to speed up the bed process. 
On this particular night we took out the beds and chose the movie Clifford (not the big red dog....that is for lil ones).  Choice of movie is imperative especially considering all the ages.  Everyone has to agree and everyone has to participate.  The children all get their blankies and pillows to the family room and piled them up.  They know the rules...find a spot in 5 minutes and put your bottom glue on.  I usually repeat this no less than 100 times...c'est la vie.  The movie begins...

I will generally wait about 20 min before I get up to prepare a snack.  Tonight I made a smores trail mix.  I added pretzels, marshmallows, chocolate chips and teddy grahams.  I put it in a bag and pressed pause on the movie.  The kids came over to give the bag a good shake.  Each child got a cup of mix to bring out to the movie.  Again, there are well bred rules...if you make a mess, you lose the treat.  This does wonders for focus and attention!  Fyi...Tonight I also spent a lil extra ($1 each) to give the kids a glow toy.  This of course is always a hit! 

Throughout the movie I find a spot to snuggle.  Sometimes its with the child that needs extra attention.  Sometimes it is all of them in a great big pile.  Sometimes I am lazy and sit next to them trolling Facebook or writing a blog :)  Either way, movie nights are the time to cuddle, get comfy and close.  They are the days when I want to put a pause on life and freeze that love that won't last forever.

Some people can condemn TV and talk about the damage screens can do to young minds.  All I can say is that children are not damaged by screens, they are damaged by watching screens alone.  If they are loved, nurtured and played with it doesn't matter what you do.  It is the simple concept of quality time that makes every child feel loved and special!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Midnight Parties

There is an event in our home that is well known and coveted by the hooligans.  It is an event that happens on the rare occasion for each child without any warning.  They go to bed expecting a boring night of slumber until...BOOM!  A midnight party is in effect.

When we got married we were young and naive.  We thought all parents did was wait till they put the lil darlings to bed and then the wild rumpus begins.  We had visions of wild nights and fantastical parties.  We just knew all of the fun was happening after our bedtime.  That is until we became parents.

Sadly the reality is jack nothing goes on.  We can barely raise our arms to change the channel.  And, that is if we have the remote.  Sometimes we just stare at the news, too tired to find the friggin' thing.  There is no parties or fantastical adventures.  There is the pleasure of silence and mindless blather.  But, we wouldn't be awesome if our kids knew this truth. 

So, once in a blue mood a child is selected.  Usually the one most in need of believing our myth of awesomeness.  The child is gently woken up and we whisper "midnight party!"  They have heard of this mythical lore and can scarcely believe their luck at being the "chosen one".  We bring them to our room and jump on the bed.  We have a tickle fight until they are just awake enough to come into the family room.  Once there, we greet the child with cookies and milk or some such extravagance.  We cuddle up and tell stories or watch a forbidden show (nothing wacky). 

The best part is not the party but it is in the participation in the adult world forbidden to children that makes this event special.  The world that does not include children.  But, every once in awhile it should, if only to keep the dream alive!  Tonight I have chosen Dylan.  He has had some coke and m&m's, jumped on my bed and is now snuggled up next to me.  And this, my dear readers, keeps me awesome in the eyes of the people who matter most.

*Don't judge the picture.  He will get a good brushing tomorrow!