At that time, I had long lists of activities to do with them and places to visit, just as I see on many blogs.
- Catch fireflies in the park and bring them home in a jar
- Visit the taxidermy museum
- Tour the dam
- Visit the Jell-O museum
- Take a bus ride downtown and buy a hot dog from a street vendor, then ride the bus back home
- Tour the water purification plant
These weren’t meant for entertainment; they were educational opportunities. Strange excursions, according to my friends. Learning experiences, according to me.
And there were many craft projects as well: Pressing leaves and making pictures out of them. Making our own play dough. Stringing acorns on a string to make beads (after daddy drilled the holes).
But now my kids are teens. OK, one almost teen. And that requires a completely different approach. I miss the days when feeding trout at the hatchery was an adventure, a trip to the zoo was a day out, or climbing through the rushing waters of a shoulder-high waterfall - "the place where the water pushes," they named it - was an outing they talked about for an entire year!
Things are different now. I don’t like malls and refuse to enable needless shopping. I don’t want Jacob on the computer every free minute he has so I perpetually give him chores to do. And I can’t even think of an outing that excites the kids – unless it’s visiting their friends.
But they still like to spend time with my husband and me, even if it’s not while on a hike. They still ask to cuddle in bed next to dad while he tells them a made-up story. Jacob loves to have one of us tuck him in and rub his back. And my favorite activity – reading together.
When there is time in the evening, we don’t turn on the TV or a watch movie; I read a book aloud. All three - now ages 15, 14, and 12 - still love to gather around, often with a bowl of popcorn, and listen. It’s not because they can’t read these books themselves; they easily can. But there is something soothing, something cozy about coming together in the living room, the cat often joining us, and settling back to listen while I read. We’ve long graduated from Beezus and Ramona and the entire Beverly Cleary collection, went through all the Narnia series, then through 48 books of the American Adventure series following a family from the Mayflower to the Second World War, and now we’re on to reading biographies. I'm currently reading about the Lost Boys of Sudan, a gripping tale about children who were driven from their homes when only five and seven years of age, and sent their entire childhoods watnering the desert from refugee camp to refugee camp alone without their parents. It's heart-breaking, and it introduces my children to a world that is completely alien to them, a world of orphans and war, starvation and suffering.Ironically, we read about it while munching popcorn...