Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm Bored Mom! Ideas to save your day

I don’t know about you, but am really feeling exhausted after coming up with an entire summer of activities for the kids. With only a few days left until school, I needed some quick options to get me through the week, and few remaining nice weekends.

So here are a few ideas to share with you. They don’t cost much, if anything, and beats hearing “I’m bored.” Enjoy!
  1. Call a friend and meet at a park. Babies in strollers and teens with attitudes are fine.  Try and leave the ear buds at home and talk during the walk over.
  2. Bake cookies, or take the fast and easy way out and add frosting and sprinkles to purchased ones. Take some to the neighbor lady who lives alone down the street.
  3. You can also have the kids decide what’s for dinner and let them help cook.
  4. Go rollerblading or strollerblading. You can go around the Twin Cities lakes, or try out the Metrodome or a local roller-rink (remember those?  They're still open!)  for an indoor option.
  5. Go to the State Fair and check out the animal barn.
  6. Go to an indoor playground. Invite the other parent, have coffee and TALK! The Eagles Nest in New Brighton, Maple Grove Community Center and Edinborough Park in Edina are all great Twin Cities Metro options.
  7. Explore your local wildlife park. In the northern Minneapolis suburbs Springbrook Nature Center and Silverwood are great options.
  8. Try bumper bowling. There are coupons online and in the Happenings/Entertainment books that make this a cheap fun option for ages five and up. I love the bumpers, because then even I can look like a pro!
  9. Go to the zoo. The Como and Minnesota zoo have indoor and outdoor choices. 
  10. Organize a Kid-Swap with friends. They take your kids for a morning and you take theirs for an afternoon. 
  11. Visit a farm and see all the farm animals, you maybe be able to feed and pat some of the tamer ones. Emma Krumbees in Belle Plain has a nice one that is perfect for smaller kids.
  12. Go to a local museum. The Minnesota History Center or Gibbs Museum is a great to show the kids how things use to be. The Minneapolis Art Institute is free and is next to the Children’s Theatre. Rush tickets are half price and if the kids aren’t too tired after the museum, it’s a perfect add-on. Get in line a half an hour before the show!
  13. Grab your bike helmets and go for a bike ride.
  14. You can also give them the video camera, and have your own Oscar-winning production. 
  15. Stop down at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. They are open until Christmas and even have healthy snacks and coffee for the adults.
  16. Have a movie afternoon. Rent a couple of good kid’s shows on NetFlix, make some popcorn and snuggle up with blankets and enjoy.
  17. Try family camping at Baker Park. They also have fun family classes and year round campfires.  You can even try a tent and campfire in your own back yard!
  18. Weed the garden and check out the progress of the tomato plants!
  19. Try Horseback riding or a wagon ride. For an easy short option, try the Forepaugh’s area in St. Paul or down by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.
  20. Take a day trip to a historic town. Red Wing, Afton and Stillwater are fun year round!
  21. Have an indoor/outdoor picnic lunch. Let the kids help pack their own, break out the picnic basket and spread out a blanket. 
  22. Play a game of Hearts or Uno.
  23. Smile! Get out the digital camera, let the kids take some pictures, download them and create a slide show, or go online and make a book or poster.  
So give these ideas a try, and know you can make it until school starts!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Five is the New Forty

I have a theory that answers all of life's relationship questions.  Not discovered by Freud, Jung or even Dr. Phil, all our interpersonal issues boil down to a simple fact; No matter our job, our social status, our fame  or our chronological age, we're really all just five years old.  

No really!  It's true.

Okay, give me a second to prove my point.

That angry check out clerk?  A vinyl nap mat and a snack would do wonders.  Very Kindergarten. Very five.  

Great-Aunt Minnie arguing at the family reunion with her 87 year old brother, Milt over an ear of corn?  She needs a five minute time-out and a reassuring hug.  She's still five.  

The President of the United States and Congressional Leaders arguing about the National Debt Ceiling?  Definitely a group of  I'm-taking-my ball-and going-home five year olds. Gentle limits and defined consequences could have made all the difference, and may have prevented the US credit rating from taking a dip in the world's financial potty chair.  They were all just five, and we forgot.

Think about it in your own life.  When things aren't going quite your way, inside don't we really just want to stomp up and down and cry giant crocodile tears?  Sometimes, I'm tired of pretending that I don't want to have an all out hissy fit about having to be the grown-up, when I just really want a hug and a graham cracker.

Actually, Robert Fulghum had it right in his poem  All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten.  Sharing and playing fair are still some of the most important rules to live by.  What parent wouldn't love their teenager to put things back where they found them, and clean up their own mess?  (My teen is obviously one of the late birthday kids that should've been held back a year.  She hasn't yet reached the All I Really Need To Know Kindergarten clean-up level yet).  

However, as chronologically-aged adults we still struggle with the lessons we learned at five.  I have a hard time saying sorry when I hurt somebody I love. I don't always take the time to play, or sing or dance.  But inside, I still really would love to do just that, and top it all off by skipping down the street.  I miss finger paints and might still enjoy a side-order of paste with my Play-Dough sandwich.  

I think we'd all be so much happier if we let our inner-child free to have a warm cookie and a tall glass of milk, and forgot the double mocha with a low-carb something.

More importantly, remembering that everyone else is five, can help us forgive the little pouts of our spouse, the temper tantrum of the boss and give us the ability to smile at the angry waiter as he slams down a bowl of pasta in an attempt to provide customer service.

We all want to be liked for who we are, and sometimes would feel less alone if when we go out into the world, there was still someone there to hold our hand, and keep us safe.

So, I'll be there for my five year old family and friends, and take care to be kind to the rest of the Kindergarten class I interact with out in the big, bad world every day.

Are you convinced?  If not, have a nap and a couple of raisins on me.  Things will look better in a little bit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

So What Do You Say to MIA?

I've gone missing.  Really and truly what-ever-happened-to, you'd-better-return-my-call. bad-PTA-parent MISSING.  Last December I was beginning to embark on a new position in my paying job.  The job involved some travel, some additional education and a bit more time.  I was really was excited to start, and have loved the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment I've gained from the endeavor.

What I didn't realize was that the job would cause me to disappear from my social life, my blogs and even the fun and interesting woman who cuts my hair every six weeks.  I am over scheduled.  My hair is a hot mess.  I am missing in action.  And I am not apologizing for it.

After a job, a house, a husband, four kids, three dogs, a cat, two fish and a frog, I am accepting that I am done, and its OK.  While in my twenties, I tried to be superwoman and made myself (and everyone around me) stressed out and miserable.  All I had to do was to look to Martha Stewart to realize that my options were divorce, jail or a fabulous line of personal crafting supplies.  She chose all three.  I chose to keep trying to have the parties, the exercise classes, the parent meeting and the fully balanced dinners.  Then one day, I grew up.

I realized, I didn't have to do it all.  I wasn't Martha, and in that light-bulb moment, I was relieved.  I suddenly understood that there would be moments where I couldn't take on one more thing.  Moments that I had to just say no, or perhaps not even pick up the phone or sign on to Facebook and say just that.  At those times I began to disappear.

I disappeared from the have-to social obligations.  Oh yeah, I missed a lot of great things too, but I realized that, unlike the song,  sometimes it was too hard to have too much fun.  I didn't sort through the 300+ emails that mysteriously would fill my box in a day and a half.  I gave myself permission to let the dishes sit in the sink, to use baby powder to fluff up my less than pristine hair and to acknowledge that I wasn't a bad parent if I let someone else volunteer for whatever school event was upcoming.  In disappearing, I had the energy to take care of myself, be with my family, focus on my job and be happy being less than perfect.

Disappearing was a good thing.  Being missing in action didn't diminish my tour of duty when it came to being a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend.  It allowed me to have some perspective and realize that I wasn't all that vital in the scope of the world.  Things proceeded just fine without me.  My real friends understood that I just needed time to reflect and take care of me, my family and my new position.  The Facebook friends survived as others moved forward to fill their status with exciting events and insights.  I learned how large an email box can get without emptying it for 3 months.  A social experiment in living in the new world of instant social media gratification without interacting was invigorating.

So I am back now, somewhat.  I will probably never return to my previous level of connection, but am content with my decision to drop out for a bit and drop back into my life and the lives of those I love so closely and deeply.  I am here, not MIA, but I now will only do that which I can and wish to do.

Martha, take note.  I'm glad I did.