Category Archives: Family Fun

Shovel Your Way To Washington, D.C.

Usually when we have a snow day it is really exciting and there is cheering, cartwheels and confetti throwing. But when you have snow day after snow day after snow day . . .

By the eighth snow day my kids’ brains were beginning to atrophy. They were counting bricks in the dining room (there aren’t any) and chasing each other with kitchen utensils, while I was curled up in a little ball in my closet nibbling frantically on chocolate.

We had planned a trip to DC planned this weekend, but because of the snow we didn’t think we’d even be able to get our mini van out of our cul-de-sac. You see, we live at the bottom of a hill where even snowplows dare not go (at least for the fist two days after a storm . . . sometimes more) and we were stuck. Scott would still be going to DC (because he was going for business) in his 4×4 truck, but we would be stuck at home.

Stuck. At. Home.

To humor us Scott tried four times to get the van up the hill to prove that it was hopeless. “There is just too much ice on the road,” he said.

But Sophie was determined. She rounded up her sisters and they all took shovels to the top of the hill. And for the better part of an hour they cleared two tire tracks in the snow.

IMG_4825

 

Five hours later we arrived in Washington, D.C.

IMG_4844IMG_4882

We saw the White House. (Free)

IMG_4831

The Museum of Natural Science. (Free)

IMG_4840

IMG_4834 IMG_4837

The Library of Congress (Free)

IMG_4853

We surreptitiously ended up at Ford’s Theater. Not part of the original plan, but a great bonus. (Also free) IMG_4873IMG_4868

The International Spy Museum (A great hit, but not free.)

IMG_4879

And The Red Velvet Cupcakery (Not free but worth it.)

IMG_4888 IMG_4889

To end our whirlwind 2-day trip we stopped off at the temple.

We saw the model:

IMG_4892

And the real thing:

IMG_4894

“Did you learn as much as you would have if you had gone to school for those two weeks?” I asked the kids as we drove home.

“More!” They said.

All because a girl and her sisters were willing to shovel.

IMG_4826

Thanks, Sophie!

3 Comments

Filed under Family Fun, Parenting

The Only Six Toys You Will Ever Need

Toymakers are the world’s greatest fibbers.

All you have to do is go into the toy aisle, find a box that says “Hours of Endless Fun!” take it home, give it to your child and then start the timer.

It won’t be long before the toy breaks, runs out of battery power, or the child gets bored with it. In my eleven-year history of toy buying I have spent a lot of money on these kinds of toys.

Toy companies should understand that I only have four simple desires when it comes to toys:

1. It needs to be creative.

2. It needs to last. In other words, my kids need to be able to throw it, drop it, flush it, smash it, draw on it or leave it outside and still be able to play with it.

3. It needs to help them be self-sufficient, in other words, no mom required. Toys are for kids, not for moms. Moms do enough wonderful things with their kids all the time, so kids need toys that don’t need moms.

4. It needs to be able to grow with the child. You know a toy is a keeper when the child doesn’t toss it aside when they’ve grown older, but instead finds more sophisticated ways to play with it.

Here are the best toys in our house. They might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think “toy,” but these take the prize for being worthy of the label “Hours of Endless Fun!”

Numero Uno: Paper

IMG_6044

I’m afraid to say my children alone have probably contributed to the destruction of several forests. (But we recycle!) We go through reams of paper, using it from everything from drawing to writing to crafts to paper airplanes to origami.

Seven years ago someone told me that newspaper printers sometimes give away “end rolls.” I went to a newspaper printer who gave me THREE of these wonderful rolls, for FREE!

IMG_6124

photo by Danny Dyreng

This alone has been one of the best “toys” in our house. We use it for wrapping paper, car cities, big paper projects, banners, etc. We are now down to one roll, but I believe there is still enough to get Levi through childhood.

IMG_6115

2. Tape

IMG_6159

 

Duct tape: Good for making wallets, hair bows, fixing broken toys (the ones that require Hours of Endless Repairs), doll casts and neighborhood boat races. 

IMG_6108

IMG_6110

Painters tape: Good for hanging up pictures, creating barriers, bounderies, and indoor hopscotch games.

IMG_6100

Scotch tape: Good for everything else.

3. Cars!IMG_6051

Oh, how I love cars! I cannot say enough good things about cars. A car fits perfectly in the palm of the hand. Comes in any color, any style. Can be quiet or loud, depending on the driver’s mood. Can play with friends or alone. Can play outside or inside in water, mud or sand. Can fit in a purse, leaves no mess, and is virtually indestructable.

IMG_6058

I’m not reallly sure what boys played with before cars.

 

4. Dolls

Dolls will never go out of style.

IMG_6183

Girls love them at any age. IMG_3810

And dolls don’t have to cost $100.00 to be an excellent confidant and friend. Naomi still won’t part with Olivia.IMG_6182

Olivia is a $19.00 American Girl copy-cat with ratty hair and a lazy eye, and Naomi will not give her away. IMG_6193

Believe me, I’ve tried.

IMG_6198

“Olivia will never go to the thrift store. Ever.”

 

5. Balls

Now, balls are a little bit of a mystery to me, since I have never really understood their appeal. Watching a boy with a ball is like watching a cat with a semi-dead mouse. They go a little berserk. This toy does break my “no mom required” requirement but ultimately he won’t need me anymore, in fact, he will be glad when he finally gets a real pitcher.IMG_6064

 

6. Books

This is what my kids revert to at the end of the day. It is their happy place, and mine.

IMG_6102

Hours, ladies and gentlemen of the toy-making industry, hours and hours of endless fun . . .

IMG_6085

 

. . . and quiet.

There are other “toys” that didn’t make this list like sand, water, sidewalk chalk, sticks and string, but you get the point. There are a lot of great toys out there. A couple of them come from the toy store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Family Fun, Parenting

Quest for Eastatoe Falls

Scott and I had planned on going backpacking with the kids for several weeks. Scott spent three days preparing for our trip and carefully packed and weighed each of the children’s back packs to make sure they would be light enough to carry, but still have everything they would need. Then he divided their tent into three parts, having each of the girls carry a part. I went to the grocery store and bought enough food for three meals for six people that weighed less than fifteen pounds and could be easily reconstituted with water. We packed headlamps, a couple diapers, and swim suits.

Then, on the very last day of school, which was a half-day, we picked up the kids and headed out west. We were going to Eastatoe Falls, a semi-remote campsite in the mountains of South Carolina.

We drove for four hours in the car, and 15 minutes before we were to arrive at the trail head we were battered by rain,

then hail,

and then this: IMG_3934

Yes, we saw it fall, not 10 feet from our van. You should have heard the screams in our van! (And just so you know, Erin Newton, I was not one of the screamers.)

Here is another angle. IMG_3936

Perhaps this was a sign that we should turn back. Or perhaps it was just a stumbling block in our path to adventure! We determined it was the latter and 45 minutes later we arrived at the trail head via a back road.

Once there, there was a sign posted, telling us that the campsite we were headed for was closed because of, ironically, too many fallen trees. Could this be another sign that we were to give up our journey? No! Just another challenge in our quest. We must not give up! Onward!

We loaded everybody with their packs. IMG_3953

This is me hiking. I’ve hiked so much in my life I can do it with my eyes closed. IMG_3940

It wasn’t long, however, before we saw this:

IMG_3955

Now the kids, who can unfortunately read, were getting nervous. “Shouldn’t we turn back?” They said. “That is the second warning sign.”

“Nah…” we told them, “they just put up those signs for other people. Not for us.” See what great parents we are?

We directed them to keep moving down the trail, but the  joy of backpacking was quickly dimming for our young adventurers and keeping everyone optimistic was getting trickier.

IMG_3941

We tried to seem undaunted.IMG_3952

But by the time we passed the THIRD warning sign we reluctantly decided that perhaps we should go back. So with a heavy backpack and even heavier heart we turned around to hike back to the van. The kids were jubilant. Where we would spend the night we didn’t know. It was already 8 pm and soon it would be dark.

After looking unsuccessfully for a different campsite, we finally admitted defeat and began the search for a hotel. It must have been a busy weekend out there in the mountains because it took us stopping at SIX different hotels before we finally found a room in an Econolodge. I grudgingly admit that we probably slept better than we would have if we had been in a restricted campsite surrounded by widow makers. (Or, our case, orphan makers.)

But we still wanted to make it to the falls.

So the next morning we drove back to the trail head, and this time the kids could leave their packs in the car.  We walked the 2.7 miles down into the gorge, passed all the warning signs (there were four in all) and down to one of the most lovely places on earth.IMG_3957IMG_3958

IMG_3959IMG_3964IMG_3967

Our kids, who had been dragging their feet the night before, complaining and moaning, now practically ran down the path.

IMG_3961

It was clear when we arrived that this was not Eastatoe Falls, but the Garden of Eden.

IMG_3972  IMG_3992  IMG_3993  IMG_4018   IMG_4043 IMG_4048

 

IMG_4054

Three cheers for (safe) adventures.

IMG_4074

Three cheers for dads who make adventures possible.

1 Comment

Filed under Family Fun, Parenting

Strange Mormon Customs: Big Families

Once, when my husband told a co-worker that he had four children the man joked, “So are you Catholic or Mormon?”

Ha! And that was only for four.

It is obvious why devout Catholics end up with big families. But Mormons? What is their deal? Do they not use birth control either? Do they get a tithing discount for every child they have? Are they doing it for tax incentives?

Or are they trying to take over the world?

Perhaps.

Or perhaps it is because it makes us happy. My husband’s mother bore six children and my mom had seven. We both loved growing up in large families.

I have three amazing sisters to laugh with, cry with and swap kids with. I have older brothers who picked on me mercilessly but also stood by me when I was in trouble. Growing up, I adored my many cousins and still keep in contact with them.

As a child in a big, loving family I never even considered having less than twenty.

It is no secret that our church leaders tell us regularly to “multiply and replenish the earth.” The fact that we would take such counsel seriously makes some people squirm.

But before you think we are all just mindless rabbits, let me assure you that we are faithful people, not stupid people.

There is no quota. We are not asked to procreate at will without considering the mother’s health (physical, mental and emotional) and many other factors that may make it difficult to support a large family.  Whether or not birth control is used is up to the couple’s agency and discretion. In my opinion, to keep adding children into a family without thought and planning is as bad an idea as using abstinence (in marriage) as birth control. Having a child is a huge decision, but having a healthy relationship with your spouse is paramount.

Church leaders are simply asking us to not let selfishness or fear of the future overcome our desire to have children.  Once, when Scott and I were deciding on when to have our third child, it seemed as if there was always some impediment nine months away that would make it difficult to have a baby. But we decided that if we waited for the “perfect time” to have a baby it would never happen at all.

More often than not babies find a way to be welcomed, cared for, loved, and never regretted–even when at first it seemed like it would be impossible.

Many people who don’t have large families can’t understand the desire to have one. My grandmother, for instance. Each time my mother would call my grandmother–who was not a Mormon–and announce  she was again pregnant, my grandmother would tell her she was a “glutton for punishment.”

Since I am number six, I’m glad my mom didn’t listen to her.

I have found that the blessings of having a big family are innumerable. When you have a large family you are automatically part of something. You belong. (And if you have a big enough family you are sure to have at least one sibling that you like.) Everyone needs to belong, to be inherently admired and loved…not because they have done something special, but merely because they exist.

That is why people who don’t have supportive families join gangs.

When you have a big family every day is a party. There is always someone to play with, to serve, to talk to, to commiserate with, to make you laugh.

There is a reason why they call families of lions “prides.” You feel great pride when you are part of a large, respected family, headed by a matriarch and patriarch who lead and teach with love and a great affection for their posterity. You feel that you have a stewardship to your family and you are constantly encouraged to honor the family’s name, to keep it untarnished.

People who have never grown up in a family like this don’t think that it is possible.

But it is.

I do know of one Mormon friend who felt “lost” in her family. She felt like there were so many kids that she didn’t matter. She was one of 15. All the more reason for parents to be wise and thoughtful when making decisions to have another child.

Another reason we have lots of kids is because Mormons are alwasy on a quest for self-improvement. We have a great desire to become better, to refine ourselves, to achieve excellence. Is there no greater refiner’s fire than to raise a child? 

Peter de Vries wrote “The value marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults.”  I know of no other occupation that demands so much focus, creativity, endurance, wisdom, unconditional love, selflessness, generosity, humor, patience, sacrifice, kindness, innovation, organization, composure, self-control, cleanliness and tolerance. The more I try to “master” my children, the more I learn that it is more about mastering myself.

It is true that kids can be a pain sometimes, but they are also a lot fun.  They are fun to tickle, to teach, to hold, to laugh with, to cuddle, to sooth, to heal, to learn from. They each come with their own very unique personalities–even my identical twins–and it is fascinating to get to know them as they grow and mature.

As Latter-Day Saints we believe in the eternal nature of families. The family relationships we nurture here will be one of the few things we can take with us to the next life. If being with your family forever and ever and ever doesn’t give you motivation to get along, nothing will.

I used to think that the things that would give me the greatest joy would be to sing on big stage in front of thousands (which I’ve done) to go kayaking on a glass-smooth river (which I have done) or to publish a novel (haven’t done that one yet). But the greatest joy I have is to hear my kids laughing  together. To watch them playing together. To witness them doing something kind for a sibling without being prompted.

That is true joy.

Perhaps I will change my mind when I finally publish a book, but I doubt it.

 As I sit here and finish this post I am entering my ninth month of pregnancy.  I am large and so obviously pregnant that it is no longer taboo for perfect strangers to ask me how far along I am. And they almost always add, “Is this your first?”

I love to smile and say, “No, this is my fifth.”
This post was first published on February 26, 2013 on Turkeyboys Girls

1 Comment

Filed under Family Fun, Strange Mormon Customs, Uncategorized