Archived Ideas for ‘Kids’

IDEA 72: THEN, ONE DAY, LET THEM GO

Jul
2014

Boys_Bike_Wave

Last summer, my 19 year old son Ben announced that the next week he and his friend Will were going to ride their bikes to California. He told us this with the same lack of pageantry you would announce you were going to walk up to the store to buy a candy bar.

I wondered if over at Will’s house they had any more warning or explanation of a plan. When we drove Ben to Will’s house, the location of the “send off,” we saw that no, indeed, there had been no more planning over there.

We arrived on the scene to witness Will’s dad explaining that it would be very easy and quite practical to strap a small tent onto Will’s bike. This recommendation offered, because the boys had discerned they would not need sleeping bags (it was California, and therefore a warm place), or pillows (apparently pillows are for sissies), or a change of clothes.

When I asked if it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring an extra T-shirt, Ben’s answer was they could wash their shirts out in a stream. When I suggested he might bring an extra shirt to wear while the stream-washed shirt was drying, Ben saw the wisdom in this, and acquiesced to bring a second T-shirt.

It was heart-warming to see Will’s parents attempting similar suggestions. Somehow they managed to convince the boys to take their ancient second car to get to the west coast so that they might have a hope of, at the very least, getting out of Minnesota. The parents were planning on selling the car anyway (or donating it). The boys had permission to sell the car once they got to California if they wanted to. Or, if it broke down, they did not have to bring it back, but needed to remember to have it towed somewhere.

The plan was to sleep in hammocks, which they had purchased the week before, (but hadn’t actually tried out yet). We all thought, even if the ancient second car completely broke down, it might still offer protection from the weather, and a softish place to sleep.

The timeline for the trip was “open-ended” as Ben quit his job for the rest of the summer and announced that he may decide to stay in California a while and not sign up for school in the fall. Interesting, because I heard Will say he wanted to be back for the State Fair in August, but apparently had failed to mention this to Ben. So it was not only open-ended in the sense they hadn’t decided when to return, but even more so, since they hadn’t actually discussed their plans with each other.

Then, we four parents stood in the driveway waving, and the two boys, with bikes in ancient second car, drove away.

Boys_Bike_Car

I told all this to my girlfriends while sipping wine in the backyard at an annual summer get-together and to my amazement, a year later, when we gathered there next, everyone wanted to hear: Well? What happened on the bike trip?

So, here are some highlights. OK, this is my recollection anyway.

The first night, the boys slept in the car. The next day, the car broke down and they managed to get it into a shop and jumped on their bikes to ride around. They had been aiming to drive from Minnesota to Seattle, ditch the car, and ride down the coast to California on their bikes. The car broke down again, and this time it was irreparable. They left it, and got a bus into Seattle.

Seattle was no disappointment. They located kindred spirits and empty couches on some memo-board (or Craig’s list). They had been gone almost a week but had very few bike miles under their belts. At one point, they decided to take a hike. it was late in the day because, of course, if they were awake, it must be. They headed up a mountain trail with no water. Once they finally reached the peak, they realized they may be heading into trouble. They were far from their starting point and were losing light very quickly. They were regretting the decision (or lack thereof) to bring water, and I think there was a bear sighting.

They ran/tore back down the mountain and managed to return to their respective couches unkilled, which was fortunate, because they had a great story to tell.

At this point, the owners of the couches wanted them back, so the boys consulted the memo-board (or Craig’s List) again for a ride closer to California. They were able to secure a ride to Portland for $20. That’s $20 for the both of them. You just can’t beat Craig’s list (or the memo board) unless, of course, you have a silly concern about safety.

Portland proved to be a veritable cornucopia of opportunity. Will had relations there who put them up and fed them all kinds of home-cooked meals. Between this and their attempt to patronize every taco truck they encountered, they were not hurting for chow. But here they ran into a setback. The hike proved to be problematic to Will’s leg, so they found a clinic that would take a look. Not a big deal, but Will would have to stay off it for a few weeks.

Huh?

Remember, they are on a bicycling adventure. Or, at least it was going to start any minute.

I got a text that they were returning by train. Their bikes were packed into bike boxes and checked like big cardboard luggage.

All tolled, it had been just under two weeks. There did not appear to be a lot of bicycle riding in this adventure. And they never did set foot in California. But our boys were returning, after not too much time, and on their own accord. So, we four parents did what one might expect we would. We drove to the train station where, teary eyed, we greeted, we hugged, and did our best to hide our complete and absolute relief.

Boys_Bike_Home_Amtrak

IDEA 71: LET THEM MAKE CAKE

May
2014

Cake_maker_girl

My friend and colleague Kiersten has an amazing cookbook collection. Baking beautiful cakes and treats is her creative outlet. And a holiday does not go by without K whipping up a cake or beautiful dessert creation. That’s why it occurred to her that her young daughter Sydney might find it exciting to create a cake of her own.

Baking with young kids, we’re often left with a choice: either create our thing of beauty and suffer the consequences of angry offspring, or allow them artistic freedom and leave our idea by the wayside. That’s why this idea of Kiersten’s is so inspired. Using a box cake mix she didn’t need anyway, and leftover candies, she helped her daughter make a simple sheet cake. Once it was done, Syd was given free reign to decorate “her canvas” any way she liked. Does she want the icing black? No problem. Would she like to pile all the candy in one corner? Why not?

Cake_maker_kid

As it turned out, Syd actually had a bit of talent when it came to a pleasing distribution of deco on the cake top. But the real beauty was that she was completely in charge. That’s something that makes us all feel great. (Look at that sweet, proud face!) And, what an awesome gift to give your “big” little child.

IDEA 69: HELP YOURSELF BY HELPING SOMEONE ELSE

Mar
2014

Inside_bike

This morning I put my bike up on rollers in my sunroom. Even though there is still a couple feet of (old, dreary) snow outside, I’m determined to be bike-trained by June. See, I’ve committed to ride in the MS 150; a hundred and fifty mile bike ride over two days, to help generate money for a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. So, what does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, as moms, it’s difficult for us to carve out “me time.” It seems there is always something or someone else that is more important than ourselves to consider. And so, we ignore our needs and tend to the squeakiest wheel.

But, child-rearing time is also a great time to consider helping out a charity. It’s your perfect excuse to lean a little harder on your husband or support system, because after all, it’s not for you. It’s for the charity.

When my kids were small, our church often held sewing nights. All interested persons with a sewing machine would show up and spend an evening making diapers out of old T-shirts. Day care was provided by somebody’s older child, and it was a great way to catch up with like-minded-freedom-deprived moms.

When my kids got a little older, they enjoyed pitching in to the cause. Which was, of course, a great way to teach kids about giving back. A local chapter of Feed My Starving Children held a 24 hour marathon in our town. Anyone could sign up for a shift bagging beans and rice for the less fortunate. The task was easy for my daughter and her friend to learn, but the best part was picking our shift, from 2:30 to 4:00 A.M.

We set our alarm clocks and drove in the dark to the facility. It was the most inspiring thing I’d done–especially in a hairnet. And I’ll never forget how, after our shift as we stepped out of the building, we were greeted by the most beautiful sunrise.

Feed_My_Starving_Children

So, this June I’ll do my best to ride my butt off for MS. Along with that comes the quest of getting myself in shape, and a goal to get on that bike every morning without fail for the next several weeks. It’ll be a little something for MS. And it’ll be a great big deal for me.

Win-win.

IDEA 68: STAY POSITIVE

Feb
2014

Chocolate_Butterfly_cake_top

We all have our coping mechanisms, and it’s a good thing we do. Here in Minnesota, winter brings a boat-load of snow and this year, record below zero temperatures to boot. That’s why I was so delighted to see this sweet extra-curricular project my daughter fashioned. Here, in the midst of snow days and the occasional power outage, she didn’t just bake a cake. She baked a pink-and-chocolate-and-white cake with a lacy chocolate butterfly on top.

The cake is tiny, only about four inches across. It’s white cake, covered in chocolate buttercream frosting, with rolled white chocolate over that. She piped a ring of frosting around the bottom into which she pressed alternating light and dark pink m&m candies. But the true genius is the butterfly. After melting the chocolate, she folded a piece of parchment paper and placed it, unfolded, onto an open book. The parchment paper took the shape of the curved pages underneath, as did the chocolate, drizzled in a butterfly shape. Once cooled (in the fridge), the resulting winged creature stands 3-D atop the cake as if it just alighted temporarily before moving on to the next posy.

I can’t decide which was the more gratifying winter escape: The beautiful butterfly, or gobbling it up! Yum!

Chocolate_Butterfly_Cake_side

IDEA 67: TEACH SAVING

Jan
2014

Ice_cream_Saving_2

Now that my kids are quite grown (are they ever ALL grown?), it occurs to me that when it came to teaching saving we did two things right.

The first I got from my own parents: Open a savings account for each child. Once the child is old enough to get the concept of money, tell her about her account and show her the balance. Then when your child receives money, tell them that whatever they put in their savings account, you will match. A child that receives $20.00, and is told that if they put 10 of it in the bank, you will put in 10 to make 20, will usually do it and be happy spending the other 10. We did this with all three kids. (The matching in our family continues until the child collects an actual paycheck). By that time the savings account has grown enough for them to want to keep and protect it. Not to mention they now have a long established habit of putting some of their money in the bank. When you think about it, it’s not unlike a 401K contribution that’s matched by your employer. Why not get them into the swing of things early?

My other saving tip didn’t start out about saving at all. It started out about fairness. When some tasty treat would come into the house (like a package of cookies or carton of ice cream), it became impossible for it to last more than a day. Why? Because each child figured he’d better get his before the other two devoured it. Treats disappeared at a frenzied pace because no one wanted to be the one left with an empty carton. So one day I brought home three identical packages of cookies. I put a child’s name on each one and put them in the cupboard. Then I told them they could do with them what they wanted but they were not to touch anyone else’s, and they would not get another package for two weeks. I was amazed how long those cookies lasted. Who knew those kids had so much restraint? But without the threat of poachers they were able to consume the treats at a normal pace. And, the little “lucky strike extra”? Another lesson in saving was born.

IDEA 64: SHARE YOUR WISDOM

Jul
2013

Phil's-osophy_Book

If you have kids, one day they will be moving on from your nest. When this started happening at my house I found myself wondering if I had really covered all the topics. Had I sufficiently marinated them in my philosophy of life? And did any of it stick?

For this reason I had a bit of an epiphany while watching the episode of Modern Family called “Phil’s-osophy”. (By the way, if you are a parent, this show should be required viewing. I have often noticed that in the throes of raising a family, your first defense is a sense of humor). Anyway, in this episode, The family’s oldest daughter sets off for college. The dad, Phil, creates a book for her called Phil’s-osophy. (If you are Phil Dunphy, this title makes perfect sense). Since Phil is Phil, his words of wisdom are kind of hilarious. But, while it’s all loads of fun, that’s not my point. My point is this: Why not create your own book of philosophy to send along to college with your grad!

I just finished a small (5.75″ x 7.75″) 20 page book from My Publisher that cost only $12.99 and it was beautiful! Another very popular book making site is Snapfish. And I know there are many others. The idea is to put together a book of your own words of love and wisdom for your kids flying the coop.

Of course you don’t have to use an online publisher, although they are simple, inexpensive, and do a beautiful job with photos. You could consider making a handmade book. It all depends on your inclination, and artsy-crafty prowess.

So, in my haste to get this idea to you in time for school starting this fall, I’m writing this without my example to show you. In lieu of that, we’ll just have to take a look at a few of Phil’s pages:

Phil's-osophy_8

Phil's-osophy_3

Phil's-osophy_2

And a few more of my favorites:

The most amazing things that can happen to a human being will happen to you if you just lower your expectations.

Take a lesson from parakeets: If you’re ever feeling lonely, eat in a front of a mirror.

Watch a sunrise at least once a day.

If you’re ever in a jam, a crayon scrunched up under your nose makes a good pretend mustache.

Never be afraid to reach for the stars because even if you fall, you’ll always be wearing a Parentchute™.

IDEA 59: MAKE A KID ART PILLOW

Jan
2013

Kid_Art_Butterfly_2

Anyone who has been keeping track of the Never-Ending-List-Of-Very-BellaPamella-Ideas knows that I love a great idea for using kid art. If you have kids, this art resource is abundant, and every once in a while you score a piece that is absolutely priceless. This fantastic idea will add to the other terrific ways to put kid art to use.

You may have already discovered this wonderful site set up to let you print your own fabric, called Spoonflower.

This site allows you to design as small as one yard of fabric and they will print it for you! I tried this once and was completely hooked. Then one day I realized, this was a perfect way to produce an amazing keepsake of my children’s art!

You need a scanner so you can scan your child’s art. Save it as a jpeg, and follow the instructions on the Spoonflower website to make sure your scan is the proper size. You can choose from a variety of fabric types, but for these pillows I selected Linen-Cotton Canvas.

One yard of the linen-cotton Canvas is 56″ wide, so I was able to fit several pieces of art in my one yard.


Kid_Art_Fabric

Upper right is my young daughter’s “self portrait”. Then, counterclockwise, there’s some beautiful pink flowers, an angel (or is it a butterfly?) and a Chinese New Year dragon parade. And this is only half the yard.

You could also “repeat” the art and it will automatically fill the yardage. This would be perfect for curtains or bedding.

From the fabric store, I bought some simple linen in a neutral color for the backing and piping. Whatever you buy, get enough for the pillow back and to cover the store bought piping, or you can use the ready made Wright’s piping if it comes in a color that works.

Kid_Art_Materials_2

To cover piping, cut strips of your fabric on the diagonal (use a 45 degree triangle if you have one. If not, fold a piece of paper in a triangle. If you bring two consecutive edges together you’ll get a 45 degree angle. You only need this as a guide to get you started on the right angle).

Kid_Art_Piping

You don’t have to use piping on your pillow, you can just sew the front and back together, right sides together, and turn it inside out, stuff, and stitch the remaining edge closed. But I like to add piping and a zipper. Choose the method that closest matches your sewing prowess. The point is not necessarily the fanciness of the sewing, but the sweetness of your child’s artwork, now on a huggable pillow.

Kid_Art_Pillow

And I’m sure I don’t have to say how incredible a grandparent gift this would make. OK, now get going! I’ve given you plenty of time to get this done by next Christmas!

IDEA 58: GINGERBREAD THERAPY

Dec
2012

Gingerbread_Animals_CU

Sometimes, during the holiday season, it’s all we can do to get the dang tree into the house. As the Big Day draws near, we start eliminating things from our To-Do list, aware of the fact that we just can’t get it all done. Then, other years, we look around and realize we’re pretty much ready, with days to spare. And somehow in our emotionally-charged state we can feel let down, wondering, what’s everyone else up to?

Gingerbread_Camel

It’s times like this we need to take charge. We need to buy some molasses (because that’s usually the only ingredient we don’t already have) and make some gingerbread cookie dough. Why? Because we can.

Gingerbread_Tiger

If you don’t have a bucket full of various cookie cutters, it’s time to start collecting!

Gingerbread_Donkey

I love to bring out the animals, as well as my perennial favorite, the pear.

Pear-shaped_Gingerbread_cookies

Cooking the cookies will fill the house with an awesome aroma. And decorating can be done very simply: with white icing (1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 4 or 5 teaspoons milk) and the occasional cinnamon red candy. Snip off the corner of a plastic bag and squeeze the icing out in a thin line or dots.

Gingerbread_Rhino

If you have a kid around they may come up with something more complicated, like this incredible, tiny gingerbread house made by my daughter.

Gingerbread_House_1Gingerbread_House

No matter what you do you should feel creative, and practical, since you can eat all mistakes and be amazed that they taste just as good as the masterpieces.

Gingerbread_Plate

Have a lovely, simple, happy, wonderful-smelling holiday this year!

IDEA 56: EXPRESS YOURSELF

Oct
2012

Ring_holder

One of my favorite national magazines just did a contest. People sent in their ideas for using something that was meant for another purpose as an organizational tool. Of course I didn’t hear of the contest until it was in print. But if I had, I would have sent in this great idea my daughter had.

Most art supply stores have these posable figures meant to aid an artist doing figure drawing. My daughter fell in love with one and bought it for her room. Now she uses the perfect, posable arms to hold her rings and necklaces.

And, thus, she has begin to discover the art of “home dec”. She’s found not just a handy way to organize and display her rings, but something that does it in a personal way, that speaks to the artist within her.

Ring_holder_CU

IDEA 55: COMMUNICATE

Sep
2012

Birthday_invite

Birthday parties with small children in the house can be amazing events. Kid parties are, at best, a fulfilling creative outlet, and at the very least a heartfelt celebration of life. If you have children, you are probably compelled to do something special for each and every birthday.

And then one day you look around and see that all those kids have grown up. And they have different ideas of how one should celebrate a birthday. In a busy family, it’s easy to find that you’ve allowed life to drift away from some of your old traditions. Kids that once had a hard time falling asleep the night before a holiday now may seem not to really care too much about it. And as a mom you do your best to morph, to go with the flow. And that’s really just fine and no one should spend a single second worrying about it.

But even if you don’t feel like the ringleader you once were, guess what. You still are one. And you may be surprised that although a few of the rules have changed, these people are still your family and they really do respect your wises to make things happen.

This was evidenced to me when my middle son was turning 19. Our dinner table, once used to hosting our family of five almost every evening of the week, is now lucky to see three. With the kids’ jobs, school, activities and friends, most nights we are missing one or two. My son turning 19 was not going to be home for dinner on his birthday and I was resigned to lose this last vestige of childhood birthdays, the family birthday dinner. I was busy, and maybe a little bit of me was afraid if I pushed it, I would be disappointed to realize no one really cared. By letting the busy-ness be the culprit, I’d be able to avoid feeling silly, or let down.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how bad letting it go would make me feel. And in poignant contrast to all the emphasis I put on communicating, I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up to my family.

So, I surreptitiously asked around to find a night when everyone would be available. And when I found one, I decided not to leave it up to chance. I created a sign inviting everyone to the birthday dinner on that night, and posted it where I was sure everyone would see it.

Then I made a cake. My daughter made a cake. My other son and his girlfriend made two pies. And we had our party. It wasn’t such a big deal, (although we did have enough desserts for a week). But it was just exactly right.

And here’s the best part. That 19 year old really had a great time. We opened cards and small gifts and stayed at the table long into the night. And I see now that I wouldn’t have been the only one who would have felt a loss if we had decided we had simply outgrown the family birthday dinner.

Birthday_boy