Saturday, July 23, 2011

WOW Is Just MOM Upside Down

Parents, YOU are your kids' biggest boredom buster! You don't have to go out and spend a lot of money to spice up their summer (and yours, by the way)...get on the floor and be a kid again for a while. Here are some fun, free (or nearly free) things to do in these last few weeks of summer that will not only keep your family from being bored, but will also create memories together that will last a lifetime.

*Board Games - Buttercup is obsessed with board games. I think I know why...half an hour of mom or dad's undivided attention. Yep, she's a smart cookie! You know what's fun? Have a pajama day (just stay in them all can do it, I know you can), and lay on the floor playing board games and/or card games. We have a giant cabinet full of games that seldom get played, and everyone has their favorites, so I usually let everyone pick out a game and we play them ALL!
*Theme Nights - Another Dirks family fave! We have done theme nights since the big girls were little girls. Pick a theme and apply creativity! The kids love to get into the planning and execution of theme nights. Some of our all time favorites have been:
Medieval Night - This night was a lot of fun! We executed this theme night with medieval recipes we found on-line, a jousting tourney (wherein Dad was the trusty steed), and costumes we put together with what we already had in our dress up box and closets.
Willy Wonka Night - Sweets abounded! We ate chocolate chip pancakes, chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate milk, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! We played Candy Land, and, of course, we watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Swiss Family Robinson Night - We tasted fried plantains, watermelon, fresh coconut (that we busted open in the kitchen with a hammer), and fresh pineapple. We sat on a beach blanket (which is actually an old sheet that we have with a sand/seashell pattern)and watched the movie. Last, we planned out our ideal, over-the-top, no-holds-barred fantasy tree house.
Ratatouille Night - I looked up a recipe for ratatouille and the kids helped me make it for the family, then we ate it while watching the movie.
*Family Movie Night - Wait! You're not going to watch anything...not yet, anyway. First, and foremost, you're going to MAKE a movie using the members of your family as the cast. We have filmed our crew acting out everything from Bible stories to Dirks Idol to fashion shows and everything in between. They are tons of fun to make and lots of laughs to watch. One fun part of this activity is that you are automatically creating a hard copy memory to enjoy together later.
*Fort Dirks - You know how you used to turn over two chairs when you were a kid and drape a sheet over them, then pretend it was a tent and play inside? We just take this idea and go wild. We'll have the whole house covered in sheets and blankets! They like to claim an area for themselves and outfit it creatively, play make believe games, and just lay inside and read. It looks like a giant mess, but once everyone returns their personal items back to their bedrooms, all that's left to do is fold sheets and blankets!
*Gun Fights - This is a big one at our house. We've even been known to drag our weaponry to grandma & grandpa's house at Christmas and get the extended family involved! Outside gun fights are usually water pistols. If you don't have enough, they're pretty cheap. Slather on the sunscreen, divide into teams, aim, and shoot! Inside, we play Nerf guns. It gets pretty rowdy (Jason's a little competitive!), but your kids will love you for it.
*Fun with Food - Have each family member responsible for planning a meal one week. Help them come up with a well rounded meal, make a shopping list, shop for the ingredients, and then have them do all of the meal preparation they can. Draw up a menu to keep on your refrigerator so everyone knows who is responsible for which night and what you'll be having. Focus on the togetherness and the experience, not on perfection!
*Geocaching - Geocaching is like a high tech treasure hunt. Loads of fun for everyone! Check out and become a member for free to find geocaches near you and read all about how to geocache. You can use a GPS device or download a free app for your smart phone.
*Hit the Library - Don't just go and check out books, check out all of the fun programs going on for all ages at your library. But DO check out some books, and read, read, read!
*Puppet Theater - We have a single sock drawer full of lonely socks just waiting to be made into puppets! You don't have to get fancy...pass out markers and let everyone decorate a couple of puppets. Then put on a show. Write your own script, act out a favorite story, or act out a bible story. Video tape your show and then watch it together. Get ready to giggle!

Whatever you do together, make sure you laugh...a lot!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rough Days

My little Buttercup has been in an awful mood that's lasted for DAYS. I have had insomnia and joint pain for DAYS. This morning she hopped in bed with me at 7:15 (after I had gotten not quite three hours of sleep) and tormented me until I finally dragged my tired and aching body out of bed and took her downstairs for breakfast. Once we got down there, she didn't want breakfast...she wanted to play Candy Land. Board games are her new obsession. Sometimes she wants to play by the rules, other times it's more like a game of make-believe using the pieces to act out stories. This morning, we moved our gingerbread men (girls, she insists) around the board by twos. Our girls were best friends and had to be shoulder to shoulder. So, we moved around the board, two by two until we were nearly at the end (with Buttercup's girls in the lead, of course). Seeing that she was about to win, thus ending the game, Buttercup switched her strategy so she could further monopolize my time. She dug through the discard pile and found "beds" for each of our girls. The beds were a double card in the color of each gingerbread man. Since we were no longer moving in an orderly fashion around the game board, our game could go on indefinitely! Yippee!

And so our day went, filled with lots of begging for snacks, multiple board game requests, movies that went unwatched, and one fit at WalMart that nearly had me sitting on the floor crying along with her. By the time I ran Bubba-Man to his guitar lessons at 3:00, I could barely keep my eyes open and neither could Buttercup, although she vehemently denied needing a nap. Even before we got to Robin's house for Bub's lesson, my stubborn little Buttercup was slumped over, fast asleep in the back seat. Since I can't lift my little lug (oh how not being able to lift my own child complicates parenting), I called J and he let me bring her to the church. He carried her into his office and laid her on his couch where she spent the next hour or so napping. I went home, crawled into bed to rest, and napped for two hours! I felt much better after my nap, but Buttercup was still just a hair on the needy side. Our day ended with her supper practically un-eaten, requests for movies we don't own, one game of Chutes and Ladders, multiple requests for snacks, and lots of tickling.

It was a rough day for me. I was tired, hurting, and at least as cranky as Buttercup. On days like this it's sometimes hard to remember what a blessing it is to have this little person who interrupts me and demands my time and attention. On days when there is so much whining, it's sometimes hard to let my heart leap with joy at the sound of her giggle. On days when she is never satisfied, it's hard to stand back and marvel at how smart she is as she tries to talk me in to getting her own way. On days like these, I'm tempted to look at the pizza around her mouth, the marker on her hands, and the dirt on the bottoms of her little feet instead of the beauty of her sky blue eyes, her wild mass of blond hair that looks more like a mane, or her soft and luminous skin. On these rough days, I often forget to soak up this time and lock it away in my memory. But even on days like these, once my little Buttercup is tucked in her bed and I'm tucked in mine, I am so very aware that there are tougher things than these rough days. Before I know it, my Buttercup will be someone else's Buttercup, grown and gone. This house will be still and quiet and empty. There won't be board games and make believe and fit throwing in WalMart. And when those days are here, I want to be able to open up my memory and pull out days like today and see and smell and hear and feel every detail of them. I want to savor all of my days with these precious children of mine. Yes, even the rough days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sunshine and Rain

Earlier this summer, we found Princeska and Buttercup playing this game in our front yard. They would "go to bed" on the front walk, under their umbrellas. When they "woke up," they would "sneak up" on the sprinkler, using the umbrellas to shield themselves from the spray. Buttercup would keep her little hand on Princeska's shoulder as Princeska coached and encouraged her while facing their nemesis: the sprinkler. Eventually, they ran shrieking back to the front walk and the game started all over again.

I love so many things about this little game! Seeing them play evokes memory after memory of my sister and I playing outside together. We had snail school, swung from trees like monkeys, pretended to be amazons, caught lizards to train, used our swing set to train for high wire acts (death defying ones, of course)...and many other front yard adventures. We spent hours playing make believe games in our yard. Sometimes things got messy (once I stepped on and killed a lizard that was really slow...I cried and cried, I was so upset). Sometimes things got embarrassing (jumping over the wrought iron gate while playing spies and ripping my shorts clean off). I think we spent every waking moment outside and on the move!

I'm not even sure I can express what it is about seeing them play together oblivious to my presence that is so special to me. I love that my girls love each other. I love that they love being outside. I love the creativity of an imaginary game, unhindered by the bounds of reality. I am so tickled that they somehow came up with the idea of playing in the sprinklers, but with umbrellas. I love listening to the sound of their giggles as they enjoy God's creation and each other. I feel so blessed that they are friends and I pray that they will always be there for each other and share the same close relationship that Marcy and I do. And I feel privileged to find myself immersed in one of life's moments that deserves to be soaked up and savored, saved in my heart and mind, frozen in time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tie-Dyed Cupcakes

I'm a little embarrassed to post the directions for making these adorable all of you will know how simple they are to make! But I've promised the "recipe" to so many people that blogging the instructions seems to be the easiest way to share it. So, here it secret is out!

You will need:
*One white cake mix and the ingredients called for on the box
*Food coloring: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red (I'm cheap...I just got red, blue, & yellow and mixed to make my orange, green, & purple!)
*Baker's Joy cooking spray
*Two cans of white frosting
*Several disposable icing bags and a star tip

Step One...The Cake:
1. Prepare cake mix as directed on the box.
2. Divide the cake mix as evenly as possible (I just eye-balled it) among six small bowls.
3. Adding two drops of color at a time until desired intensity of color is reached, color batter so that you have one of each color (purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, & red). Add more color for a bright tie-dye or less color for a more pastel look.
4. Spray muffin tin with baker's joy.
5. Drop one table spoon of batter into each muffin cup in the following order: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red. DO NOT MIX!
6. Bake according to package directions.

Step Two...The Frosting:
1. Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.
2. Cut off the tip of the decorator bag. Insert the star tip (through the large, open end) and pull through the cut tip until all but about half an inch is outside of the bag.
3. Divide frosting between three bowls.
4. Adding two drops of color at a time until desired intensity of color is reached, color the icing so that you have one bowl of each of these colors: blue, yellow, & red. Be sure to mix well.
5. Roll the decorator bag down so that you can more easily get to the bottom (where the tip is).
6. Here's the trickiest part: Carefully layer a spoonful of each color (in this order: blue, yellow, red) into the decorator bag so that the colors are alternating. The first spoonful of blue will cover the tip. On top of that, put one spoonful of yellow, then one spoonful of red, so that they are sitting side by side on top of the blue. All three colors will be on the next layer. For each subsequent layer, rotate the order of colors so that the same colors never touch each other.
8. Starting on the outside of each cupcake, pipe icing clockwise spiraling in toward the center and end in a swirl.