Category Archives: Parenting

Teaching Children Obedience and Other Great Mysteries

If there is one thing that gives me panic attacks it is reading parenting books.

Once I read one about raising sons. In it the author encouraged mothers to develop a Look. Some kind of glance, some sort of frown, some frigid, I-am-this-close-to-mailing-you-to-Australia facial expression that would strike instant repentance in the heart of even the most mischievous boy. I practiced The Look in the mirror until I scared myself, and then vowed to incorporate The Look into my parenting as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Recently I took my kids up to D.C. to see the sights with my sister. My husband had a business conference and could not join us, so it was I, the single mother, who felt the awesome responsibility of preserving her offspring from a myriad of metropolitan dangers.

I wasn’t worried about my three older daughters (a mistake, as you will soon see), since it was my two younger sons (ages 6 and 2) that were the main source of my anxiety.

The Look was a major part of my method.

First there were the metro trains. (Don’t get too close to the tracks–you’ll get electrocuted. Hurry on, hurry off–you don’t want to be left on the train by yourself! Don’t stick your hand out and touch the trains while they are moving, unless you want to look like a pirate for the rest of your life. STAY RIGHT HERE ON THIS LINE until I am done with this gosh-dang-it-ticket machine.)

And there were the streets. (Get off that ledge. Look both ways. Just because you can see the car doesn’t mean it can see you. Hold my hand. I’m serious, you have to hold it or your head will be smashed like a pumpkin.)

And there were the museums. (Stay by me. Don’t get separated. Don’t climb on the statue. Wash your hands. Don’t crawl under the bathroom stalls! Wash your hands again. Please.)

All the while The Look was heavily employed.

Then we went to the International Spy Museum, and while I was engrossed in Looking at my two younger sons, my phone buzzed. It was my 9-year-old daughter calling from a stranger’s cell phone, informing me that she had been lost . . . .for the last 45 minutes.  I eventually found her, teary and trembling, in the part of the museum called “Behind Enemy Lines.”

After that I hovered over everyone, slathering The Look over my children like poisoned peanut butter, and after three days of non-stop anxiety in Washington DC The Look had become my face. I felt like was trying to gather my children like a protective hen gathers her chicks, but to my children I seemed more like Cruella DeVil trying gather puppies. It is no wonder that when we got on the Metro my kids fanned out among the seats to be as far away from me as possible. At one point my six-year-old son turned to me and said, “Next time we come to D.C. I want it to just be me and DAD.”

 

Another Reason to Hate Little Dogs and Love Little Boys

A couple weeks after the Washington D.C. Naggathon, it was Sunday and time for church. It was a rare morning when my husband didn’t have early meetings and we were going to go to church together as a family in one car! Yippie!

Normally I leave for church 45 minutes early, even though the church is 15 minutes away. Why? Because it takes 15 minutes to get from the door of our house into the car. I’m not sure why, but everyone, myself included, has to go back and get something, and sometimes several somethings, before we are actually settled in the car. And what about the other 15 minutes, you say? I also have to allow 15 minutes for the ritual “dog escape” that happens Every. Sunday. Morning.

Inevitably, when the door of the house is opening and closing so many times in succession the dog will find an opportunity to escape and then we have to catch him. The dog was getting faster and faster and running further and further until this particular Sunday when I had not allowed for my extra 15 “dog escape” minutes, and on cue, the dog escaped. There was no time for this circus, so I told everyone to get in the car anyway, the dog will just have to face the consequences of running away: abandonment. No food. No water. No love. For five hours. Because that is how long Mormons are at church. (We tell people it is three, but that is a lie.)

But my son didn’t listen. “I’ll get him!” He shouted as he ran after the dog down the driveway. “No! Stop! Come back!” I called. I put my hands on my hips and gave him my most deadly Look but he was already gone, running across the street, up the hill and disappearing into the trees.

Now I had a runaway dog and a runaway son. Nothing obeys me!

Alas, we would have to take two cars after all. I took the rest of the kids to church, and left my husband to stay behind and find our son and dog.

Eventually my husband and son made it to church, and I silently noted that my son was wearing a different set of clothes than the ones I had ironed and put on him that morning.

When I got home and found the original set of church clothes, caked with mud, on top of the washing machine, I couldn’t suppress my smile and admiration for a son who is willing to chase down a runaway dog no matter what the distance or terrain. What determination. What tenacity! What a great sense of responsibility. With all of those great virtues, who cares about obedience?

Kidding.

We recently went to Kohls and found the perfect shirt for Danny: IMG_8400As you can see, he was totally excited about it.

But we ended up getting him a shirt that says “Nothing But Awesome,” which is more his style.

As for The Look, after much experimentation I have found it is not very effective, for, not long after I had started using The Look I found that my son developed his own Look, so that when I narrow my eyes and draw my lips into a tight line, his smile widens, his eyes sparkle, his cheeks get all rosy and, ever so slightly, one eyebrow lifts.

Do you know how hard it is to glare at someone who looks at you like that? Especially when he has golden eyes and long black eyelashes?

So now here I am typing this at the foot of my son’s bed. He is asleep now, and since one cannot disobey when they are asleep, it is most likely he will live for at least another 12 hours.

How do six-year-old boys ever make it to seven? To ten? To sixteen? But then, when I am around people who have sixteen-year-olds it makes me oh so grateful Danny is still little enough that when we are mad at each other I can pick him up and flip him upside down and hold him until he is laughing.

Perhaps I am making this too complicated. Maybe instead of giving The Look I need to focus on giving The Smile.

Luckily, tomorrow is a new day. Tonight I will review my parenting approach, amend it, refine it, rehearse it, pray over it, etc. Perhaps I will even spend some time in front of the mirror and practice my smile. And tomorrow I will try again.

And if you see happen to see a child running though the streets after a dog, please send him home. You can keep the dog.

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under Parenting, Uncategorized

The Lost Art of Concentration

When I was in college I had a good friend who was very tall with sandy brown hair and a delightfully dry sense of humor. Like most of my college friends, he was a musician. He played trombone, and was probably the best trombone player at BYU. His name was Ryan, and he was such a great musician that, when I knew him, he was getting invited to solo with symphony orchestras around the country. I felt honored to be his friend.

One day he took me aside and asked if I would help him prepare for the solo he was about to perform with the Denver Symphony Orchestra.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

“I need you to try to distract me,” he said.

I gave him my best evil smile.

So one evening we met at a practice room (fyi, practice rooms are teeny-tiny) and he said, “After I start my solo, and I want you to do anything you can to get me to make a mistake.”

“Anything?”

“Anything.”

This is too easy, I thought.

He began his solo.

My first object would have been to cover up his music, but of course, he had it memorized.

So I waved my hands in front of his face . . . but he closed his eyes.

I strobed the lights on and off. . . .he played on.

I banged on the piano, I clapped my hands, whistled, I sang in his ear, I blew in his ear, I even sprayed him with a spray bottle . . . I did everything I could think of (within reason and decorum) to take his attention away from his music, but he did not even flinch.

After a cycling through these same things several times I finally ran out of ideas so I sat down, defeated.

When he finished he flashed a triumphant smile. He had not missed a note.

Of course.

Although I didn’t get to see him perform in Colorado, I’m sure that if the chandelier had fallen, the emergency sprinkler system had gone off, or if the conductor had decided loosen his tie and leap out into the audience mosh-pit style, Ryan would have continued on, unaffected, and given a flawless performance.

I will never forget that experience. I will never forget the frustration of getting someone’s attention who is completely committed to his task.

For me, being a music major was just fun. But for many of my classmates being a music major was how they were planning on putting bread on the table. Hence the reason why they excelled, and I eventually changed my major to something else.

The desire to excel in music was so important to Ryan that he dedicated hours to not just learning his pieces, and not just memorizing them, but being able to play them no matter the distraction. As the saying goes, “don’t practice until you can get it right, practice until you never miss.”

Ryan married my cousin’s wife’s sister, so luckily I can still keep tabs on him. He played trombone in the Air Force Band of the Golden West and then become a chaplain. Now he is a chaplain in the Navy and is going to be deployed this May for six months on the USS Mercy, a humanitarian ship. He still performs often.

So what did I become? I became what I wanted to be: a mom. Just a mom, folks. I didn’t want to be an airline pilot or a doctor or a lawyer or even a musician. I’ve only ever wanted to be a mom. And here I am, living my dream.

And yet, I am so distracted. I have church stuff, school stuff, writing stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff that could fill up and does fill up every moment of my day. I don’t feel productive unless I am doing several things at once. My great weakness is that I am the kind of person who likes to be good at everything. Must accomplish. Must succeed.

But sometimes being excellent at everything really just means being excellent at nothing.  And when I fall short I get down . . . I am a mediocre pianist, a mediocre singer, a mediocre writer, a mediocre friend, a mediocre everything.

I’m sure no one else has ever felt this way.

The other day I went to the park with my two-year-old. We were only going to be there for 15 minutes. As always, I had the choice of having him play while I got “important stuff” done on my phone or I could focus my attention on him.

But then that experience with Ryan popped into my head, and I thought about his ability to concentrate on the one thing that was most meaningful to him, regardless of all the other tempting, enticing, or annoying distractions around him.

And the most meaningful thing to me at that moment was (and is!) my two-year-old boy. A two-year-old boy that won’t be two for very long. So I deserted my phone and my text messages and my fb feed and all that other blah, blah, blah that can wait, and that probably isn’t that important anyway, and would lead me down the slope of feeling even more mediocre.

And we just played.

I don’t want to live in my phone.

IMG_4929

Whatever you decide to do, do it well.

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Parenting

When a 12-Year-Old is in Charge of a House Full of Dying People

I heard the rumors.

Something was going around at school. Also at church. They said it attacks like lightning and leaves you feeling like a grenade just went off inside your body. The only merciful part of the ordeal is that it only lasts for 24 hours.

Perhaps my home will be spared, I thought.

But then, last Wednesday, just after lunchtime, the school called.

It is never a good sign when the school calls. And somehow I knew before I answered what it would be.

It was one of my daughters. And she had it. (She will hereafter be known as THE FIRST, since she was the beginning.)

I went to the school and picked her up, spoke comforting words, and brought her home.

Later I waited for the bus to come, bringing home my younger kids. I waited and waited. Strange, I thought. This bus is never late. All of the sudden I had that terrible premonition again: the bus is late because of my child.

Sure enough, when the bus finally arrived and my younger two children got out, one of them shouted up the driveway, pointing to her brother, “Mom! Guess who just threw up on the bus!” (She will hereafter be known as THE TATTLER and he will be known as GUESS WHO.)

But I didn’t have time to answer her because just then, THE FIRST threw up again. She had almost made it to the toilet. Almost.

THE TATTLER and GUESS WHO walked into the house, and GUESS WHO told me, “Mom I’m not sick. I just don’t feel well.” After which he went to my bedroom and threw up on my gliding rocker.

I put GUESS WHO in the shower for safe keeping while I attended to the messes. Meanwhile THE FIRST was now curled up in a ball on the couch, while THE TATTLER  told me in detail about what happened on the bus. “We had to climb over the seats to get off!” But in less than an hour the dreaded plague hit her, too.  At least she made it to the toilet.

Now even I was starting to feel woozy. Would I be next? But I couldn’t get sick–I had a critical rehearsal that night in preparation for a huge multi-denominational concert and I was the director. My choir was not yet ready, and there would be hundreds of people in attendance. I couldn’t back out and no one could take my place. But how could I go when my children were unraveling before my eyes? My only comfort and hope was that soon THE SPOUSE would be home and he would be able to help me fight this battle.

In between washing and sterilizing and more vomiting (from all three) I went outside to get some fresh air and lo and behold THE SPOUSE rolled up in his truck! Salvation! He got out, his shoulders slumped, his feet dragging, his face as gray as a sidewalk. “I don’t feel well . . . ” he said.

So now there were four. If they were not vomiting they were writhing in pain or moaning into their pillows. At one point there was a line for the toilet.

Yet there was still one more child left to arrive home. When she walked through the door she gazed in astonishment at her deteriorating family.

“What’s up with everyone, mom? They all look sick.” (We shall call this child THE LUCKY, for the Black Angel of Gastrointestinal Rage had saw fit to pass her by.)

I could only give her a look of desperation and go back to my work of caring for the sufferers.

For the next two hours the battle raged. The horror! The horror!

Finally the time came for me to leave for my rehearsal. I knew I needed Extra Help to get through this rehearsal, least I be victim #5. When I finally found a room where there wasn’t someone laying on a bed groaning I hit my knees and asked God to preserve me for the next two hours so I could direct this choir. After that He could do whatever He wanted with me. Just please help me make it through this rehearsal. I got up feeling a little better.

Now there was just one more thing to do.

I located THE LUCKY who was trying to escape the horrors of reality via a computer and headphones. I took her headphones out of her ears. I grasped her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes and I said:

“I am leaving. You are the only one in this house who can help people. You need to take care of everyone. If someone throws up while I am gone, you have to be the one the help them. I am counting on you.”

She looked afraid.

And I left.

I conducted the rehearsal without an incident, though it went longer than I anticipated. Afterwards I thought I better go to the store and get Gatorade to help replenish dehydrated bodies. When I got back it was very late. As I turned off the car I sighed. I would have a lot to do when I walked in that door. I had left the house in shambles. I hadn’t fixed dinner (what was the point?) and I knew that dishes and cups and crumbs littered the counters. I knew I would have to start the laundry, especially if there had been more accidents while I was gone. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Miles before I sleep, miles before I sleep.

The house was dark and—mercifully—quiet. I walked into the kitchen and received the shock of my life: The counters were clean. The table was clean. The dishwasher had been emptied. The kitchen was spotless. Not only that, there was this on the counter:

IMG_7233

It was hot chocolate–still warm–covered in marshmallows. The living room had also been tidied and put in order. Had THE SPOUSE done all of this, even in the throws of his tribulations? Since my last memory of him was staring at the ceiling moaning, “Death come quickly,” that seemed unlikely. Did he somehow rally the other suffering souls into making an effort to clean the house?

I crept into the bedroom where THE SPOUSE was resting uneasily on the bed.

“Thank you for cleaning the house,” I said.

“The house is clean?” he croaked.

“Yes. It wasn’t you?”

“No. But I know THE LUCKY was doing something in the kitchen for a long time. And when GUESS WHO threw up in his bed THE LUCKY took his sheets down stairs and put them in the washer and started it.”

Really?

As I lay down to sleep that night I couldn’t help reflecting how often we underestimate the potential of others. Especially those who are young. I have asked, begged and pleaded with children many times to clean this and clean that, watch out for your siblings and take care of each other, and there are times I feel like I am shouting into the wind. “Mother deafness” I think they call it.

But when a person, even a child, knows that they are depended on, that they are counted on, that all hope is riding on their shoulders, they find an inner motivation . . . not from obligation or force or even a sense of duty. But a motivation of pure love. That is when someone goes from being THE LUCKY to becoming THE HERO.

Thank you, Sophie.

15 Comments

Filed under Parenting

Teaching Kids To Love Books

I feel that sometimes I am a lost soul on the spectrum of good parenting, but I know how to do at least one thing right: I know how to get children to love books.

You see, I don’t just want my kids to be taught that they ought to read. I want it to be part of their very heart and soul. I want to inject their DNA with poetry. I want them to need words as much as they need water. I want ABCs and XYZs flowing along side their white and red platelets in their blood. Or should I say read platelets.

Ha! I am so funny.

In my previous life (before kids) I was a librarian. And before that I was a reader. And even before that I was a lover of stories, as I think all children are at the very beginning. Your task, as your child’s very own book whisperer, is to coax that natural love of stories into a love of books, and guide the love of books into a love of reading, and snowball that love of reading into a love of knowledge. And isn’t that what we want our children to have?

Here are some things you can do to whisper the love of books into your children’s souls.

1. Start “reading” early.

SONY DSC

Okay, at the beginning it isn’t “reading” at all. Just take five minutes before you put them to bed, find a colorful board book, and point and turn the pages. That is it. No Ivanhoe, no Sherlock Holmes, no Shakespeare. Just your voice, your finger and a picture. Then, after they go to sleep, leave the board book in their crib so they have something to look at when they wake up. This is like “review homework” for infants. When they wake, they will look at the pictures and remember your voice and your warmth. Seriously. And this is the first step to becoming a book whisperer. Also, do not underestimate the power of nursery rhymes. True, the words don’t make sense, but they can feel the beat. This folds into the wrinkles of their developing brain the rhythm of language and the cadence of words. Which is important when your children are going to grow up as smart as yours will be.

2. Provide lots of books

Cover your home with bookcases.
IMG_7342

Have books spilling out on to the coffee table and in stacks on side tables and piled near every child’s bed. With books scattered all over creation like this, somebody is bound to be curious. At the very least they will see how important books are to you.

3. Read books to your child every night, even after they start reading on their own.

The only thing better than curling up with a good book is curling up with a good child and a good book. Hold on to this ritual as long as possible. When you do this kids associate books with warmth, love and safety. Even though I think I have spent 75% of my life reading to kids, I sadly do not have a photo of me doing it . . . so you’ll have to settle for this tranquil scene instead:IMG_2940

4. When you go to the library, check out LOTS of books.

IMG_0169

Twenty books for one child is a good start.

Load ’em up and read them all.  Library fines are overrated. I have paid enough library fines over the years that I am pretty sure I pay the salary of at least one part-time librarian, but it is still worth it. It all goes to a good cause. Consider it your quarterly donation to public literacy.

IMG_6318

5. When your children are in school, go to the library for them.

Find books you know they would like but that they might not get for themselves. Especially non-fiction. Then lay out the books in an eye-pleasing way to greet them when they come home, as if they are walking into their very own customized bookstore. If your kids don’t squeal with delight when they come home, you can have your money back.  How could a child not squeal, when, after a long hard day at school they come home to this: 

IMG_6179

Your kids will grab books and park themselves all over the house and everything will get really quiet.

IMG_4403

6. Show them YOU love to read by reading.

IMG_7336

Share with them the books you are reading and tell them what makes that book interesting to you. Mention to them what your bookclub is reading. And if you really want to get on their good side, read some of their favorite books. My kids love it when I take book recommendations from them.  After all, every parent should know who Percy Jackson is. When they see you sharing books with them they are more likely to pass this love of books on to their younger siblings. Soon you will have a whole house full of book whisperers.


IMG_1582

7. Leave books in strategic locations

IMG_6627

Especially books they *think* they are not interested in. They might just pick it up on a whim. Good locations: breakfast table, coffee table, on their pillows, and in the back seat of the car (where they are trapped with nothing else to do).

IMG_3251

8. Make book-giving traditions
(Shhhh! These beautiful new books are for a soon-to-be nine-year-old!)IMG_7345

Birthdays are obvious times when you can give books, but I always try to give my kids a new book when we are going on plane trips, too (which we do a lot of). It becomes a quiet travel companion that does not require batteries or cords and when they are finished they can trade with their siblings.

9. Ask children what books they’ve been reading lately.

It is a great way to start a conversation with a child you don’t know well or whom you haven’t seen for a while. It is also a good way to find out what is on their mind, and to find something in common. I have already decided that I am going to be the “Book-Giving” Grandma for my grandkids, which will be really cool because by then books will be antiques. (“Wow, Grandma! It has real pages!”  “Yes, my dear, made of real paper. And look how easily they turn!”  “Oh, thank you, Grandma!”)

IMG_3486

There are your nine steps to becoming a book whisperer. I could probably think of ten, but I am tired and I have a good book whispering to me from my nightstand. I’ll leave you with these last words:

When my children were small, I would often read with my eldest daughter tucked in by my side, the boy draped like a panther half across my shoulders and half across the back of the sofa, a tiny daughter on either knee, and the baby in my lap. If we happened to be on one of our cycles through “Treasure Island,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling classic, my husband would come to listen, too, and stretch out on the floor in his suit and tie and shush the children when they started to act out the exciting bits.

This is from a beautifully written Wall Street Journal article entitled “The Great Gift of Reading Outloud.” I love the picture it puts in my mind. I recently heard an elementary school principal say that if your kids can learn to read, they can learn how to do anything else. For sure, it is the gateway to knowledge. But not just knowledge, it is a refuge, a friend, and a connection to those who loved you first.

img_6085
You may have tangible wealth untold; caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be. I had a mother who read to me.

Strickland Gillian







5 Comments

Filed under Parenting

Blue Ribbon Bathrooms: Getting Kids To *Really* Clean The Bathroom

IMG_6957

When a parent says “clean the bathroom” they have something very specific in mind. They want to see smooth counters, a sparkling mirror, hair-free floors and a pristine toilet. When a child hears “clean the bathroom” they have a vague impression that they are supposed to take the cleaner and spray as much as they can, and then take a rag and wipe as much as they can, and when their arm feels like it is about to fall off then they are done and it is time to play.

Let’s just say that for children, cleaning the bathroom is not intuitive.

Over the years I have had many informal training sessions with my kids, teaching them how to keep the mirror streak-free and how to keep the counter from getting sticky and to always remember that little forgotten ledge at the back of the toilet. But even after all this, when I told the kids to “clean the bathroom” it never seemed to meet my hopeful expectations.  Sometimes the bathroom looked worse after they had “cleaned” it than before.

I have realistic expectations, I know they are children and that they shouldn’t be expected to clean as well as an adult. And that I should keep my standards low.

. . . or should I?

In my heart I had a hunch that they could do a really good job on the bathrooms if they wanted to, and if they had a clear understanding of what “clean” really meant. Plus I wanted the child, whatever her age was, to feel success for whatever level of cleanliness she achieved. And if she went the extra mile I wanted her work to be rewarded. So this summer I introduced the idea of Blue Ribbon Bathrooms. This is based on the concept of Good, Better, Best. This way they can see that there are different levels of clean, and all levels are rewarded respectively.

There are three parts to the Blue Ribbon Bathroom plan:

  1. I assigned each child a bathroom for the entire summer.  This was important, since this would be her bathroom to take care of. The better she cleaned her bathroom the first week, the easier it would be for her to clean the next week and so on.

    IMG_6949

    Naomi gets the half-bath since she is younger.

  2. I made a list of what I felt like was a Good cleaning job, a Better cleaning job and a Best cleaning job, laminated it and stuck it on the wall in each bathroom.

    IMG_6951

    The full, readable version is printed at the end of the post.

  3. Then I gave them incentives to match their results. The first incentive was that they got a “ribbon” on the door to show the world what level of cleanliness their bathroom had obtained.
    IMG_6953

    I couldn’t find ribbons at the store with toilets on them so I had to resort to my own trusty pen, paper and scissors.

    The second incentive was that they got stickers that could be traded into cash at the end of the summer. A Blue Ribbon bathroom would receive 20 stickers, a Red Ribbon bathroom got 10 and a Yellow Ribbon bathroom got 5. (These stickers were part of a much larger incentive program that also included getting stickers for instrument practicing, book reading, and other chores that lasted the entire summer. Each sticker, at the end of the summer, could be traded in for 10 cents each. But you could use other incentives, too.) The third incentive was the most important: if they cleaned their bathroom well, than the next time they had to clean it it wouldn’t be so hard. The better they cleaned, the less they would have to clean in the long run.  This was what I really wanted to teach them.

Even if the kids settle for doing a yellow or red ribbon bathroom, I am still happy. This system has worked great this summer (although not perfectly) and so far it has been the best way to help them understand the difference between a dirty bathroom, a clean bathroom and a spotless bathroom.

Best of all, when a bathroom has really been cleaned, from the faucet all the way to the folded triangle in the toilet paper, and the Blue Ribbon has been placed on their door, I can see the pride that they are feeling, knowing that they went beyond Good or Better but they did their very Best.

Here are the requirements:

Yellow Ribbon Bathroom

  • Counter cleaned
  • Mirror cleaned
  • Toilet cleaned

Red Ribbon Bathroom

  • Counter cleaned
  • Mirror cleaned
  • Toilet cleaned
  • Toilet bowl scrubbed
  • Trash taken out
  • Toilet paper refilled

Blue Ribbon Bathroom

  • Counter cleaned
  • Mirror cleaned
  • Toilet cleaned
  • Toilet bowl scrubbed
  • Trash taken out
  • Toilet paper refilled
  • Rugs shaken out
  • Floor swept
  • Floor washed
  • Cupboards washed (if needed)
  • Tub cleaned of soap scum and hairs
  • Cleaned behind door
  • Toilet paper folded in a triangle

2 Comments

Filed under Parenting

The Method To Our Madness

This is our secret weapon.

IMG_3690

It is the only way anything gets done in our house.

IMG_6708

It is in the kitchen, by the breakfast table, so it gets seen constantly.IMG_6727

And it provides the perfect place to put assignments,IMG_6737

reminders, IMG_6672

threats, 
IMG_6671

and encouragement.

IMG_6670

If you do not have one of these go get one. Now. Run. (Buy a pack of colored chalk while you are at it.)IMG_4926

Never underestimate the power of a good chalkboard in the right place.

5 Comments

Filed under Parenting

The Burning of the Parthenon

For a school project Sophie and a friend were required to make a scale model of the Parthenon.

IMG_5916

There was some good father/daughter time involved, and a beautiful replica was created. This was at Christmastime.

IMG_5921

It is now April.

And we still have the Parthenon.

It migrated around our house, going from the dining room to the living room until finally finding a temporary home under the coffee table.

“We have to do something with the Parthenon,”  I finally told Scott.

“Let’s burn it,” he said. “With gasoline.”

“No,” I said.

“With starting fluid.”

“No,” I said.

“With lighters.”

“I can’t use a lighter,” chimed in my 5-year-old son, “Let’s use matches!”

“Who taught you to use matches?” I said.

“Uncle Seth.”

Thanks a lot, dear brother.

So for Family Home Evening (something we do every Monday night) we took a box of matches and commenced the destruction of the Parthenon.

Since we are responsible parents, we also used this as an opportunity to teach the kids how to use a fire extinguisher.

IMG_6632

It was pretty exciting for everyone involved, and filled with valuable teaching moments.

We wanted to let the flames consume as much of the Parthenon as possible before we let the kids use the extinguisher, so we let it burn.

IMG_6637

There were photos taken, and some merry-making.IMG_6638

The flames rose higher.

IMG_6639

And higher.IMG_6640

At one point the merry-making stopped and we all watched the fire with a growing sense of unease.

“Perhaps we should not have done this so close to our house,” I murmured.

“Nah, it will be fine,” said my husband.

When the flames started to melt the aluminum barricade that stood between the Parthenon and our deck I thought this was the perfect time to share a little family history.

“You know . . . ” I said. “The mountains around Malibu often catch on fire, and when my mom was a little girl her dad would sometimes stand on the roof with a hose to wet it down so their house didn’t burn.”

IMG_6641

“I think I’ll go get a hose,” said Scott.

Once the side of the house and the deck were hosed down we felt better.

Then we decided it was time for the kids to do their own fire fighting.

IMG_6642

IMG_6643

IMG_6644

IMG_6647

Family Night didn’t last too long–maybe 20 minutes at most. By the end the Parthenon was an ashy pile of black ruins. Although it became a little dicey there for a moment, now we have four kids who can wield a fire extinguisher.

And our house is still standing.

All’s well that ends well.

5 Comments

Filed under Family Fun, Parenting