Parenting: Camp Mom and Dad

Well, as most working parents are discovering this year, summer camp (or rather all the different summer camps) ain’t happening.  First the zoo canceled. Then the museum, then the art camp…and now it’s 100% camp mom and dad this summer. So, what’s a parent to do?

After a moment of panic, and a stiff drink, I sat down and just did a brain dump of all the fun things they like to do, put them in “themes” and tried to make sort of kind of educational in parts.  Then I gave them fun names to make them sound like the summer camps the kids are used to doing. And so it begins. Camp mom and dad will beholding a number of fun and educational-ish sessions, subject to change, all rules and regulations apply.  Here’s what we’ve come up with:

  • Minecraft Mania: The oldest one gets a raspberry pi and can program his own mods. The other two get to make things together, make games for each other, build out real life places (William plans on making the main island of Hawaii) and even do some MineCraft art.
  • Backyard Campout: TWO nights of sleeping in a tent out back. They get to build a firepit, roast marshmallows, stargaze, identify birds and bugs, cook over an open fire (hot dogs anyone?), making fairy houses and bird nesting boxes. They will be sleeping in the backyard twice – did I mention that already? I might be a little excited about that.
  • Better Living Through Science: Hooray for chemistry kits and petri dishes!  Also crystal growing kits. We’ll also do tie dye, make bath bombs, and a volcano. And learn how to balance the pool chemicals. Because mom is practical 😉
  • Around the World: Every day we can visit a new country (they get to pick), including making 1 dish from that country, reading about it/watching a film from there (My Neighbor Totoro is already a front runner here) and doing art from that country.
  • Movie Madness: Every day a new movie, activity, and snack. They will write a short script, make costumes/monster masks, film their movie, make a poster for the movie and hold a preview. Given the stories these kids come up with I’m both excited and a little worried about this one.
  • Home Sweet Home: They get to redecorate their rooms. They need to plan it out (do you want some new curtains? Paint a wall? Add a shelf?) then choose materials while staying in a budget. And of course they’ll need to do the decorating! Zoe has a plan already to turn a bird cage into a lamp, so should be interesting.

We have some more, but they’re not as fleshed out. I expect that we’ll end up iterating on how we do future camps as we learn from each one. And maybe we’ll want to do some of them more than once.

Welcome to Camp Mom and Dad!

William and the Witch

Once upon a time was a little boy named William who lived in the forest with his family. William had a very special gift – he was able to grow any kind of plant. When he was a baby, he would crawl along and poke his finger in the dirt, then put a seed in the hole. And everywhere he did this a plant would grow with no help at all. As he grew older, he was in charge of the family garden, which became the most amazing garden in the world. Tomatoes grew to be the size of your head! The strawberry plants had so much fruit that his sister Zoe would pick half of the strawberries and sell them in town for enough money for the family to live comfortably all year! And still they had more than they could eat, so they made gallons of strawberry jam, strawberry preserves, and dried strawberry chews. They always had plenty of fruits and vegetable to eat and were very happy.

One day, while they were sitting down to a delicious dinner of butternut squash soup and fresh salad, they heard a knock at the door. John, the oldest son, got up to see who it was. He opened the door and saw a little, old lady.

“Please kind sir,” she said “please let me in and give me a bit to eat as I am very hungry and tired.” John was a good boy and knew it was important to be kind, so he let her in and set a place at the table for her, and made up a bed so she might stay the night. The old witch (for she was indeed a witch) sat at the table eating the delicious food and wondering aloud at the bounty the family had at the table. The mother and father told her of William’s ability to make plants grow and promised to send her along with as much food and strawberry preserves as she could carry. But the witch was selfish and wanted William’s magic for herself.

So when all were asleep, she crept into the children’s room and sprinkled magic dust on John’s and Zoe’s faces to make sure they slept deeply until morning. Then she snatched up William, stuffed him in a sack, and ran away.

William woke up in the sack and was very afraid. He started to cry but then he remembered his brother John and how one time when they were the laying on the woods a bear had come and John had stayed calm and used his cape to frighten the bear away. And he remembered how he had fallen in the pond and his sister Zoe had stayed calm and gave him a stick to grab onto and had pulled him to safety. And he remembered all the times his parents had made scary or dangerous things be ok by staying calm and using their brains. So he calmed down and thought. In his pocket were some seeds and a little knife that his father had given him on his 4th birthday. He felt through the seeds and found one for a butternut squash. He held it in his hand and concentrated very hard. At first nothing happened, then, it began to wiggle and grow! It grew so fast that soon he had a ripe butternut squash as big as he was! The witch started to get tired not realizing she was carrying a boy and a squash. She put down the sack to rest a moment. He used his knife to make hole in the sack and very carefully crept out, then tied it back up, leaving the squash inside. When the witch picked up the sack, William ran away back home.

The witch ran all the way to her home not knowing she had naught but a squash inside her sack. When she got home, she opened the sack and peered inside. Now, she was a very old and wicked witch and her eyesight was very poor. As soon as she cut it, she could not tell that it was a squash inside her sack. She pulled it out and yelled at it that in the morning it would make her garden grow. Then she set it down by the fireplace and went to bed. In the morning she took up the squash and admonished it to make her garden grow before she came home. She then set the squash that never said a word by the garden and left. When she came home, nothing had grown and she was very angry. She screamed and yelled at the squash and set it down by the cold hearth to sleep without any supper. The next day, she again took up the squash and admonished it to make her garden grow before she came home. She then set the squash that never said a word by the garden andleft. When she came home nothing had grown and she was very extremely angry. She screamed and yelled at the squash and set it down by the cold hearth to sleep without any supper. The third day she took up the squash and again admonished it to make her garden grow before she came home. She then set the squash that never said a word by the garden an left. When she came home nothing had grown and she flew by into a rage. She picked up the squash and threw it against a tree where it broke into 5 pieces. The witch was immediately sorry she had killed the boy (or so she thought) and gathered up the pieces and buried them in the wood hoping no one would find them.Months passed and the place where the squash was buried started to sprout and grow. But this was no ordinary plant as it was full of William’s magic. It grew huge and high – more like a tree than a vine. One day the old witch was in the forest and came to the strange plant wondering a loud from whence it had come.

The plant spoke to her saying “Do you not recognize me old mother?” And the witch was very afraid and ran back to her house and bolted the door. But the plant had put a little twig in her pocket and as she slept the twig sprouted and grew and grew binding her fast to her bed. And still it grew more filling the cabinets and drawers, lifting up the floorboards and finally the whole house into the sky. And no one ever heard from the wicked witch again.

The Soul Eater

Zoe’s dream:

There was once a king who had a daughter. He charged the daughter to give water to all the people in the world, but only humans. One day the daughter came across a poor old dragon who was terribly thirsty. She was a good person and felt sorry for the dragon, so she poured some of her water into the dragon’s mouth. Her father saw her and was very angry. He nailed her to a wall in the castle as punishment.  While she was nailed to the wall, evil entered her. The evil taught her spells and made her know that if she could eat ten souls, she could rule the world. She escaped the castle and went to a school where she touched ten naughty children, stealing their souls, and eating them. Then she cast a spell of sleeping over the whole world and left to go back to the castle to control the king. When she left, one little boy kept wiggling and wiggling, until he woke up. Then he touched the other children and woke them up one by one.  When they woke up, their souls came back to them and the spell was broken. The evil no longer controlled the daughter and fled to Mars because it thought people lived there. But it was wrong and burned up on the empty planet. The end.

The Memory Takers, Part One

A rough transcript:

A wicked step daughter tries to steal memories from John and Zoe’s eyes.  She wants the memories because she takes them to her grandfather to make sweaters (memory sweaters). You use memory sweaters to make evil servants (you just add a little dark magic and voila!)

Zoe and John ran and ran, then the black rain came. They ran through a thick forest, but found they were running on thin air fell in the ocean. Their mother came to them, even though they tried to warn her away because the memory takers were coming.  They were all hidden from the grandfather, but were still in great danger. To be continued…


The Dark Lemur and the Royal Ball

William: I am the Dark Lemur, the royal pet!

Zoe: Great, we are ready for the Royal Ball.  I will have the servants gather the mangleroons.

Me: Do you mean “macaroons”?

Zoe: No, mangle-roons! They grow on bushes.

Me: Should I worry about them biting?

Zoe: Oh, no they’re perfectly safe. They only bite when you try to pick them and they’re not ripe.

William: Except for Dark Lemurs!  Those are dangerous even to mangleroons! But mostly they just eat gazelle and reindeer meat.

Zoe: Exactly. There are only seven living dark lemurs because they are quite tasty.

William: Yeah! And they’re nice only if you pet them. If you don’t pet them, they throw bolts on you. They’re black pepper bolts. And they turn you into their servants.

Me: Well, alright then.

A roar

Ongoing story in the car:

William: you hear a roar from the valley of the fairies!

John: it’s me the golden dragon! Roar!

Zoe: I use fire steel to break the cuffs and escape!

No one can explain to me what is actually going on but they’re having a great time ….

So that’s why they call them “belly buttons”

William: A bear stole my belly button!!

Me: What?

Zoe: Here’s what happened – Wiiliam and I were walking in the woods and a squirrel ran up to me and snatched my belly button and ATE it! Then, a bear came who was putting in a sweater to go hunting. He was missing a button and saw William and stole his belly button to see on his sweater.

Me: That is a great story!

Zoe: Mommy! It is NOT a story – it’s true!

Parenting Story: Birthdays and Choices

We love a good birthday party!  Who doesn’t? And we have been to a lot of really amazing parties – bounce houses, the zoo, gymnastics schools, museums – the list goes on. So, as a new parent, I began to wonder whether I should be doing something similar for my kids. Certainly, the kids thought so, as they kept asking whether they could have a party next year at such and such a venue. As I sat down and did the math – it just wasn’t going to work for us.  I could do the party, but then I wouldn’t be able to get much in the way of presents and vice versa.

Our solution to this was to essentially remove ourselves from the equation and let the kids decide.  I’ve got a budget for their birthdays and we give them a choice:

  1. No birthday party, all money goes towards presents and food.
  2. Small birthday party at home with a few friends, less presents (to buy the supplies for the birthday party plus gifts for the guests)
  3. Large birthday party at a venue (bounce house place or similar) and no presents.

I like it because it puts the kids in charge of how their birthday budget gets spent and takes the pressure off of me worrying whether I made the “right” decision about how they should celebrate.

Well, Now That’s Not Creepy at All…

Zoe: Mommy, I want you to come into the bedroom with me while I get dressed.

Me: Zo, you don’t need me to come in there. What do you think is going to happen if you go in by yourself?

Zoe: Sometimes, when I’m walking by myself in the house, I think that hands are going to come out of the walls and grab me and drag me away to a witch who wants to keep me for herself.

Me: Um, ok, I’ll come in there with you.

Look out for those Cloud Men


Zoe, explaining her picture:

Daddy had warned us about the Cloud Men, but we went to play on the hill anyway. Then the Cloud Men came down and snatched us up and put us on a tiny island cloud but we kept falling through and they kept putting us back up. But the silly Cloud Men didn’t realize we were too heavy. So we went back to the hill and picked flowers for our mommy and went home and never went back to the hill again. The End.

Oh yeah, and when the cloud men cry they have blue eyes that’s when it rains. And when they have black things in their eyes they’re angry and that’s when the thunder comes. They get angry because the lightening men come and take their fish. And there’s one other thing about the Cloud Men – they always start out young and they are invisible and they are white.