Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Staycation List

My friend Alisa is tremendously creative. I love watching her and have gleaned so many ideas from her. One tradition they have in their family is an annual "Beach Week". Yet, many years they don't go to the beach! I've learned from her and a few others that a vacation is more about an attitude than an actual place. Over the last few days, I decided to write down some of my gleaned ideas and a few of my own. The result is the Staycation List:

First some Tips:

  1. Presentation: the Red Envelope tradition. Alisa started a tradition that I have now copied where a Red Envelope appears at the breakfast table every day the month of December with a note of some kind of fun activity her family will do that day to celebrate the season. It is amazing how much fun things can be when they come from the Red Envelope. She and I have discussed how cool it would be to do the same thing over the summer only have a Summer Fun Yellow Envelope, or it could be plain one decorated. The idea is the presentation and the anticipation. The envelope = family fun. (Ryan loves the Red Envelope at Christmas)
  2. Official start/stop date/time – Set aside the dates – a long weekend, a week vacation, etc. Get in the car and drive around the block (or walk around the block) at the beginning of your staycation. “Arrive” back at home when your staycation is over. Decide ahead of time what is not “going on” your trip (i.e. tv, work, friends, church activities, etc.) Turn off your phone. Eliminate or reduce computer time (email). Visit another ward (congregation) that Sunday. 
  3. Ask! Pray to find what you need to make your staycation wonderful and then borrow from friends and neighbors as prompted
  4. Music! Music creates memories. Be deliberate and incorporate music in your staycation.
  5. Mom and Dad participate! My greatest memories are when my parents worked and played along side of us kids. Vacations are about doing something out of the ordinary and everyone participating. It isn't playtime for the kids - it is vacation for the family. 
  6. Vacation clothes – pj’s all day, comfortable, barefoot, swim suits, mis-matched, etc. Make it work for your family and make it fun! 
Without further ado, I present the list (feel free to comment with additional suggestions):

At Home
Make forts in the living room and read books by flashlight (sleep in the forts overnight)
Build a tree house in the back yard (use only what you have on hand or free cycle)
Build a fire pit in the back yard (free cycle the bricks) Check out Alisa's here (and they didn't spend one dime.)
Camp in the back yard
Stargaze / Cloud watch
Climb trees
Candle or lamp light dinners
Board games
Movie night w/popcorn
Marshmallow roast over a fire or the kitchen stove
“Snowball” fight (old flour or cornstarch tied into old nylons)
Car Wash
Sports – in the back yard or at a park (baseball, basketball, soccer)
Video/wii game Olympics (borrow one if you don’t have one)
Re-arrange furniture or bedroom swap
Recess games (tic tac toe, hopscotch, wee games, tag, Button Button, etc)
Dance night – learn salsa, cha cha, line dancing, etc. (youtube clips or videos from the library)
Music!!! (each family member chooses for one day or have daily themes)
Family band – learn to play spoons, drum a pot, make instruments, etc.
Family Read Aloud – choose a book to read aloud during your vacation (Patrick McMannus, Wilson Rawls, Ramona, Skippy Jon Jones, etc.)
Conversation Jar
Write your Story – scrapbook, photo albums, Journal
Letter writing day
Family Time Capsule (letters, pictures, personal data – height, weight, etc to be opened on a specific date in the future)
Scavenger hunt (house or neighborhood)
Sidewalk chalk art
Lashings Races (use scout books to learn lashings and then have races)
Box Playhouse – decorate a recycled appliance box into a playhouse

Rake leaves / Shovel snow (make sure to play!)
Puddle Stomp / Dance in the rain

Amazing Race – “visit” a country by checking out books and learning all about it. Make traditional cuisine for dinner, dress up like their traditional clothing, visit them online. Check out music from that country. Find an online pen pal in that country, learn their language. If $  is non-existent, choose a 3rd world country.
Science – learn about the environment of your area – native plants, animals, history. Tour any available community resources (free ones)

Sand Castles
Make a quilt
Press flowers
Art – drawing, water colors, make your own paint
Finger print art
Recycled 2-liter bottle terrarium, ocean floor, ant farm, butterfly garden
Create – driftwood planes, recycled stuff, button necklaces,
Magnet sculptures with nuts and bolts
Seashell art
Grass / pine needle weaving
Bird feeders/nest builders
Hanging herbs/flower arranging
Melted crayon art (bits of crayon and wax paper)
Leaf rubbings
Daisy crowns
Lego Creations (great instructions online)
Make paper (use flowers, etc. to make)

Baking day (make cinnamon rolls, fry bread w/ honey butter, cookies)
Read Aloud dinner (food from your read aloud)
Fondue party, chat-n-chowder, sweet nothings (sweets), pioneer food.
Popsicles, ice cream, homemade frosty’s or smoothies, lemonade, root beer floats,
Use crazy ice cubes (stars or other), crazy straws, cookie cutters
Food Art – smiley face pancakes, peaches w/ chez slice on a toothpick = sail boat, ants on a log (pb on celery w/ raisins), honey bees, cookie cutter sandwiches, apple smiles, Family fun has great ideas
Camp food – tin foil dinners, hot dog roasts, pork-n-beans, banana boats, marshmallows, s’mores , dutch oven (eat camp food cooked in/on your oven by lantern light)
China dishes dinner – regular meal with best dishes, dress up, and manners, classical music, and flower centerpiece

Library (make a special meal from food mentioned in books read aloud)
Walk – by the lake, river, down a fun street, across a college campus
Water – run through the sprinklers, a spray park or local fountain, water guns/spray bottles, water balloons
Swim (river or lake or free pool)
Bike Ride/roller blade/skate board
Barnes and Noble Sat. night music concert
Free Summer concerts /Plays in the park or at college campus
Free days for – zoo, museums, local interests
Watch/support the runners in the Komen Breast Cancer 5k (tons of great music and tons of fun people)
Letter boxing / Geo caching
Archery or outdoorsman shops (often they will let you shoot a few for free and are good to talk to the kids)
Wildlife Refuges (normally free)
Bird Watching
Coupons – for treats, summer reading rewards, etc.
Hike – park, waterfall, mountains, etc.
Camp away from home (keep it very simple to keep it cheap)

Walk dogs at the local pound/shelter
Yard work for elderly
Yard work for a cemetery
Pick up trash in a park
Letter writing to elderly or missionaries

The Spirit of Christmas ~ Thoughtful Consideration

I've thought about posting this for years. Like breastfeeding, homeschooling, religion, politics, and a hundred other subjects, I've found Santa Claus to be one of the sacred cows in our culture. So I've said little if anything at all. But I do have some thoughts. I have an opinion. I have a voice. And if I can't share my voice on own my blog, where can I share it? Please know that the following is not my attempt to convert anyone to my way of thinking. Or to judge others' way of doing things. It is purely an attempt to share one more voice and to record how I came to some of the thoughts I have. 

It is funny how little things can become big, personal things. Tim and I dated while attending Weber State University. He was a Sociology major and one of his favorite professors was Dr. Gilespie. Every year Dr. Gilespie would hold his annual "Anti-Claus" lecture/debate. Intregued, we went. To say it was thought provoking might be an understatement. I had never considered Christmas without Santa Claus. They went hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly or hot chocolate and marshmallows. I didn't buy into all he said, but I also couldn't discount much of what he said either. More than anything, I came away with a determination to purposefully create a meaningful holiday. For me, it became more about focusing on Christ than eliminating Santa.However, I also found that as I spent more time and effort on Christ, the result was that Santa (decor, songs, fables) became almost non-existent in our home.

I purposely purchased decor that reflected Christ. I started collecting Nativities and hope one day to have one in every part of the house. We found Christ in many of our typical decorations - the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the colors, the wreaths, the music, the scents, the gifts all have special meanings that have remind us of Christ. I kept the decorations and traditions that reflected Christ and we do have a few Santa things - a beautiful quilted wall hanging lovingly made by Ry's first piano teacher and a couple of ornaments from my childhood - things that spoke of love, family, service.

I also studied up on the tradition of St. Nicholas. If the legends are even partly true, he was a good, righteous man. He was generous, especially to the poor, needy, and the children. Three known historical accounts tell of him secretly leaving gold in the stockings or shoes of families in need. He spent much of his time imprisoned for his beliefs and was a frequent champion of the unjustly accused. The more I learned of St. Nicholas, the more I felt like he led a Christ-like life. I loved his generosity, his love, his unselfishness, his convictions, his work. I decided to keep the stockings traditions.

Growing up, our stockings were filled with an orange, nuts, hard candy, some chocolate and a small gift or two. I kept those traditions. To capture the spirit of St. Nicholas, we all exchanged stockings each year and the kids LOVED deciding on the perfect gifts and filling the assigned stocking. I found they were much more excited about the one they filled than their own. After they had gone to bed, I slipped a letter into each stocking. The Christmas letters have become one of my favorite Christmas traditions by far. I have loved the search for the right word to adequately express my heart for each family member. I have loved 'seeing' them in a different light and noticing things about them that might otherwise have been forgotten. I love that Ryan has a collection of love letters from his mother. I love that in the business of the season, I found time to express what mattered most to me. I love that the letter is the first thing Ryan opens on Christmas morning. I love that he has started writing a letter to me and slipping it in my stocking on Christmas Eve.

When asked if I believe in Santa, I began to say, "I believe in the spirit of St. Nicholas" and I do. I began to look for ways our family could help others through out the season. Some years that has been delivering gifts, other times volunteering in the community, others spending our time with others. We talk often of the best gifts for Christ, what those look like, and how St. Nicholas lived his life. I spent some time and created a Christmas Devotional book where we would sing songs, read scriptures and tell inspiring Christmas stories. Often the devotionals would end with a challenge to service others and soak up the celebration of the season. I don't think there has been a single year yet that we have done all of the devotionals. Life gets in the way sometimes. But that has also kept if fresh each year.

I've never asked Ry (or any other kids in my home) what they wanted for Christmas. Rather the question has always been, "What are you giving for Christmas?" Such a simple change of words completely changes the focus and attitude. We have given 3 gifts, which when added to the stocking and gifts from grandparents/extended family has always felt like a very full Christmas. Had Ryan had siblings, we would have had the kids make gifts for each other as well. I have loved how limiting the number of gifts has simplified the season for me. I have been able to enjoy the month instead of feeling rushed.

Over the years, I haven't condemned Santa nor actively eliminated him. I found that as I purposely chose traditions that reflected Christ, I had less time, money or opportunity to focus on Santa. I found that I didn't have time to visit Santa at the mall. I spent time scouring the internet for Christmas music that I loved and I found I had little time available for music I only liked. I found that I as I filled the season with the best things for us, there was little left over for other good things. Our culture permeates Santa Claus and Ryan has not been denied the opportunity to sit on his lap, watch the movies and sing the songs at the stores, school and activities. I just haven't invited him to our home. I have no regrets. I am so grateful we went to the Anti-Claus debate so many years ago not because it has taken anything away from Christmas, but because it has added so much more. I am grateful that I was provoked to thoughtful consideration and choose what has been best for us.

Period Films I Adore~

I've always loved the past. I have a picture of a two yr. old me decked out in a yellow pioneer dress complete with a white eyelet pinafore and bonnet. I LOVED that dress. I still remember the day when my mom said we had to give it away, that I was way too big for it. I was nine. (In my defense, I don't think I had worn it for a few years, but I loved it so much I wanted to keep it forever.)

I love these movies. Often when I am home alone, I will put one on just for company in the house. I love the messages of my favorites. So here there are: (if anyone has any to add to the list, please let me know!)

Jane Austin-
Sense and Sensibility (2008)
Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth edition)
Emma (both the Kate Beckinsale and 2010 versions)
Northanger Abbey
Becoming Jane

Elizabeth Gaskill-
Wives and Daughters
North and South (BBC)
Return to Cranford

Little Doritt
Our Mutual Friend
Nicholas Nickleby

Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre (Toby Stephens - Masterpiece Classic)

Thomas Hardy-
Under the Greenwood Tree

Victor Hugo-
Les Miserables (Liam Neeson)

Larkrise to Candleford (BBC)
Bright Star
Amazing Grace
The Importance of Being Ernest
Anna and the King
Ever After
Little Woman
Love Comes Softly and Loves Enduring Promise
Sarah Plain and Tall and Skylark
The Man from Snowy River
Seasons of the Heart
Sweet Land

Mother's Day 2011

I wrote this last Mother's Day but didn't get it published. More like a journal entry but I finally decided to share it.

I want to record this weekend before I forget. This weekend is the last weekend that Ryan will be with me for some time. For the next 5 weekends, he will go to his dad's. I set aside some appointments for me (hair) and left my huge bag of grading at school and decided to focus on him.

We slept in. Glorious! We leisurely made our way through a morning routine. I purchased our plane tickets online for the summer. Eventually we were ready to go by noon. We left for the science museum- just us. One the way, we talked through the car wash. Once there, we rode the Segways together - my first time. We worked together to make the pulley contraption move the weight. We had robot arm wars. Ryan rode the flight simulator and lets just say I don't think I will ever ride with him as a pilot - he clipped a few trees, seems to love rolling the plane and I suspect it was a crash landing. We shared a basket of fries and walked around the gardens. I had no idea the gardens where there and they are gorgeous! We dreamt together what we would like in our dream backyard. We watched the Extreme Sports Imax movie which now has Ryan regretting he signed up for Snowboarding for his Snow Sports merit badge. :)

Once home, I switched laundry and played on the internet, while Ryan mowed the lawn. Then he played on the internet while I weeded the flower beds. He opted to stay home while I ran a mother's day gift to a friend. While out, I remembered I needed to pick something up from a sister in our ward. She didn't have my item, but I was able to spend a few minutes talking with a sister I haven't seen in a long time. We both lost our husbands around the same time - mine to divorce and her's to death. It was good to talk to her. Afterward, I ran to Walmart for a few things. Once home we had a late night dinner of salmon, stir fry veggies and rice - some of Ry's favorites.
Sunday began with the 6am alarm as church begins at 8. We got going and were there early. I remembered to wear my locket from my parents. I felt emotional before we even left! The hymns always bring a lump to my throat and I spent most of the time holding the book and wiping tears. The sacrament hymn was "I Stand All Amazed" - I love that song and sing it often to Ry when I am tucking him in at night. I love watching Ryan pass the sacrament. The talks were wonderful - some of the best I've heard on Mother's Day. They were from the heart, personal, intimate stories. They spoke of Christ, they uplifted and inspired. I loved them. After, I gave my first primary lesson on John ch. 9. It went well and I could see the kids were paying attention.

After church, the missionaries came over for dinner. We had baked french toast with homemade syrup, apples and apple dip and smoothies. Lots of sugar today! After dinner, we pulled out the conversation jar and shared "one funny and one spiritual story from our college days" (or school days in Ryan's case) We shared the Lamb of God cd music with them and some of Molly Davis' cd and sent them home with a bar of my favorite soap.
I took a nap. Afterward, I made up some pans of baked french toast and some apple dip and delivered to some of the best mom's I know. I spent time talking at two of the homes. At the end of the evening, I felt like I had been a ministering angel. And I had followed the spirit - at the last minute, I had changed my delivery route and was were I needed to be at the right time.

I got home late - 10pm, but I never wanted the weekend to end so we put in Secretariat and watched together until we fell asleep. It was a good weekend - a beautiful weekend that didn't end up how I had planned. We ended up doing most of the things that Ryan wanted to do. Mother's day weekend this year was one of the best but mostly because most of it wasn't about me - It was about Ryan and serving so many around me. My cup is dripping down the sides...

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