Monday, June 30, 2008

Star Spangled Week!

The week of Fourth of July is one of my favorite times of the year as we celebrate our Independence and the freedom we so enjoy in this great nation. Use this week as an opportunity to teach your kids about the sacrifices our forefathers made so we may enjoy our present freedom. Read books about Americas fight for Independence. There are many excellent picture books for younger kids, and for the older ones I suggest The Light and the Glory (youth version), by Marshall and Manuel. Over the years I’ve bought several patriotic picture books about our flag and our forefathers, which I set around the house to serve as decorations and inspiration for family and friends.

Be sure to fly your flag. You may want to do a flag art project, using a large piece of white construction paper. Cut out a blue square of construction paper for the upper left corner. Use star stickers to decorate. Then color red stripes or cut out strips of red construction paper. You may even want to cover the finished project with clear contact paper or laminate so you can use them as place mats at your breakfast table.

Create a patriotic breakfast or desert using blue berries, strawberries and whip cream. You may enjoy making a patriotic flag cake by baking a vanilla sheet cake. Cover with white icing or whip cream, then use blue berries for the upper left corner and use sliced strawberries or raspberries to create the stripes. The kids love to join in the fun of making this creation.

Fourth of July Parade - Organize or participate in the neighborhood Independence Day parade (just hand out fliers to neighbors and see who comes). Decorate bikes, trikes and strollers with crepe paper, flags, pin wheels, etc. Place flags along the parade route. In our neighborhood we choose one house for the beginning and end of the parade. We played patriotic music on a jam box, provided lemonade, water and doughnuts and asked one person (usually with a red car or convertible) to be at the head of the parade. It was simple and special, and provided a wonderful gathering for neighbors.

Patriotic Prayer: This week is an opportunity to celebrate our country’s freedom and to thank God for our country. Ask Him to help us and take care of us as a nation. Pray for the upcoming election. Pray for God to heal our land and bring us back to Him. Thank God for providing the ultimate freedom from sin and death through His son Jesus.

Have a great fourth!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Deliberate Relaxing vs. Boredom

As a former camp counselor, I saw the value of an intentional R & R time. We called it FOB (flat on back or flat on bunk). This was a time when campers and counselors took a break form the normal schedule and routine of the day and simply enjoyed some downtime. The time could be used to rest, write a letter, read, plan and think. I found it to be such a valuable time that when I became a mom myself, I instituted FOB during the summers when my daughters were young and elementary school age. It was a healthy time of rejuvenation, and allowed them to see the value of relaxing. It also allows time for thought and creativity.

Possibly one of the most valuable boredom busters is one of the most obvious, easy and simple ideas. Encourage a love for reading great books. My philosophy for kids as well as adults is: you will never be bored if you have a good book to read. Consider making a trip to a discount or half price book store as a family. Give each child a few dollars, and encourage them to find their own treasures. Once you ignite the joy of reading in a person, they will never use the “B” word again.

Our job as parents is not to fill each waking moment, so our kids won’t be bored. Rather our job is the teach our kids how to be creative and resourceful, so that they don’t depend or blame other people for their happiness. This important life lesson begins under our roof as we inspire our kids to use the gifts and talents God has given them. Consider the following family devotional:

Read: Proverbs 26:13 – 16, Also read the definition of bore or boredom in the dictionary or in this chapter.
Discussion questions:
What do people really mean when they say they are bored?
In what ways are lazy people similar to people who say they are bored?
How is laziness different than relaxing? What activities do you enjoy most when you are at home with nothing scheduled?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Boredom Busters in the Kitchen

The Kitchen can offer a wonderful way to cure boredom during the summer. Cook some of your favorite recipes together and enjoy the results. Here are a few ideas.

Magnificent Mac
Take the tried and true macaroni and cheese recipe to a new level. The fun is not only in the making but in the adding of a variety of ingredients to personalize this mac and cheese recipe.
2 cups dried macaroni or pasta (choose your favorite shapes)
12 oz. American Cheese (3 cups shredded)
2 Tbsp margarine or butter
2 ½ cups milk
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
dash of salt and pepper.
Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, grate the cheese (allow older kids to help). Melt butter in a medium sized pan. Gradually stir in flour and pepper. Add milk. Stir and cook over medium heat until slightly thickened and little bubbly. Slowly add cheese and stir until melted. Add pasta to the cheese mixture. Place in 2 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 uncovered for 25 or 30 minutes.
Now that you have your wonderful cheesy noodles, consider adding your favorite extras to the top. Consider cubes of ham, little wieners, potato chips, carrots, another type of cheese, fried onion rings, shoe string potatoes, gold fish crackers.
No Reason Cake
Most of the time we have a reason to bake a cake, whether it is someone’s birthday or a shower or special occasion. It’s a good idea to have a box of cake mix and a couple of cans of icing in your pantry at all times as a potential boredom buster. Making the cake is always fun, especially if you offer to let the kids stir and lick the bowl and spoons. Then comes the joy of icing the cake! Once the cake is iced by all of your little helpers then allow everyone to come up with ways to decorate the top. You may want to choose a random theme. The possibilities are endless (as long as you clean them well): toy soldiers, rubber duckies, small plastic dolls, candies of all sorts, little paper umbrellas, plastic flowers, etc.. Enjoy making and eating your innovative creation.

Breakfast Pizza
2 cans crescent rolls
1 – 2 lbs sausage
6 – 8 eggs
Shredded cheese (your family’s favorite)
Pre-heat oven to temperature on the crescent rolls can. Smooth out crescent rolls over an entire cookie sheet, making sure all seams are smoothed together. Brown sausage, then crumble into small pieces and sprinkle over crust. Scramble eggs and distribute over crust. Sprinkle cheese over pizza. Bake for 16 – 18 minutes or until browned. Serve with salsa or ketchup.

Sensational Summer Salad
One 7 oz package of bowtie pasta 1/3 cup green onions sliced
Two 6 ½ ox cans tuna ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 medium tomato (chopped) ¾ cup Italian dressing
1 green or yellow pepper (cut into strips) 1 – 2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup whole pitted black olives ½ tsp salt
8 -10 radishes (sliced) ¼ tsp lemon pepper
Prepare pasta according to package. Drain. Combine pasta, tuna, tomato, pepper, olives, radishes, onion and parsley. In small bowl mix remaining ingredients. Add to pasta/tuna mixture. Toss gently. Cover and chill.

Happy Face Ice Cream Sundaes
Favorite flavors of ice cream
Variety of Candies and marshmallows
Chocolate or Carmel syrup
Place a large scoop of ice cream in a bowl. Squirt or drizzle syrup at the top of the scoop to resemble hair. Place candy or marshmallows to create eyes, nose and mouth. Allow each family member to create their own. Vote on the most creative work of art before eating them.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Boredom Buster Arts and Crafts

How is your summer going so far? As you enjoy (I use that word lightly) quantity time with your kids I want to encourage you to stimulate your their creativity. Go visit a museum or art gallery together. Get a few books about famous artists and artwork from the library. Allow the kids to create their own works of art throughout the summer. You may even want to take some time to do scrap-booking with the kids. Here are a few simple and inexpensive ideas to do at home or you may want to go to an arts and crafts store where you can pick out a project to do together.

Morning Sketches - A large, blank sketch or art pad can allow our kids to open up their minds to draw new ideas or express thoughts and emotions. Just after breakfast while the mind is fresh with new thoughts and ideas is a good time to hand out sketch pads. A variety of markers, crayons, colored pencils and water colors adds variety to art. You may choose to use a different medium each day or each week. I’m always on the look out for nice sketch pads or art paper on sale in the clearance section of hobby or crafts stores. You can also purchase special watercolor art pads and paper.

Trash Art - Don’t throw away those cereal boxes, plastic jugs and aluminum cans! They are works of art in the making. You can use them as building blocks to create a castle. You can spray paint them and decorate them with sequins and jewels. You can cut away the top of the jug to make a planter or a knick knack bowl. Take a giant box outside and let the kids paint it. They can paint the whole thing one color or they can paint pictures all over it and create a collection of master pieces.

Duct Tape Creations - One time for a long car trip we gave each of the girls (and their two friends) a roll of duct tape and scissors and told them to create something. We encouraged them to think outside the box and design some sort of usable object with the duct tape. One girl made a wallet (which she still uses to this day), one made a pair of flip flops, and two of the girls made the most unique purses you have ever seen. Loads of simple, inexpensive fun from a roll of tape!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Summer Start

For many years we had a tradition in our home. On the first day of summer vacation we gathered around the kitchen table, ate doughnuts and made our plans for the next few months. We started with a big poster board bearing the words Super Summer 200__. Then using different colored markers we would write down some of the activities we wanted to do during the summer. Go to Six Flags, play Putt Putt golf, ice-skating were some of the ideas. We also wrote down some of the obligations of the summer like Read for 45 minutes each day, computer time for designated amount of time and only 1 hour of television per day. I, of course, established the obligations but introduced them in a semi-pleasant way as we created the poster together.
Then we would pull out the Boredom Buster can. This was an old coffee can which we decorated together. It had a slit in the top of the lid in which we could place boredom busting ideas. My daughters and I sat around the kitchen table with little pieces of paper and talked about the different things we could do if we ever felt the “B” word (boredom) coming into our minds.
As we thought about ideas we would write them down and put them in the can, so that at any time we could pick one, read it and remind ourselves of things we could do. We wrote down things like bake cookies, shoot hoops, jump on trampoline, call a friend, go swimming, write a letter to a relative, read and so on. It was a great exercise because it made us realize with a little thought and creativity there was plenty to do, always.
Oddly, we never had to open the can during the summer because we had proven to ourselves that we could create our own fun. The can served as a reminder that we were never at a loss for something to do. The fact is, boredom is in the eye of the beholder. If you let yourself mope around and declare yourself bored, then you are. But boredom is simply a perspective. Samuel Butler said, “The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore. There is always something positive to do with your time, even if it is a planned time of relaxing.
Certainly there is a danger of over-planning the summer as well. It’s healthy and good to have unplanned space in order to allow our kids to create their own fun by using their imagination. The important thing to teach our kids is they don’t have to depend on someone or something else to entertain them. They have the ability to enjoy life and make the most of their time. They never need to be the slave of boredom again.

Family Fun: Celebrate the start of summer by having a little fun family breakfast and talking about the plans for the next few months (as well as some of the rules). Then create a Boredom Buster can like the one I described.