Tag Archives: unsupervised children

Fort Luz

Summer vacation just started for my children.

Which makes me think of my own summer vacations several decades ago. My sisters and I would sleep in til 7:30 (only 10 minutes later than we grudgingly awoke on school days), eager to suck the marrow out of all the daylight. We’d get dressed and chomp down some Count Chocula, sailing out the screen door with our pigtails flying behind us.

We’d start playing with these, making as much merriment noise as we could to get the other neighborhood kids to come out and join us. Soon Gaylee and Pam, Tyler and Greg and assorted other grade-schoolers poured out of their houses and into the street. We’d play kickball and kick the can and explore the woods on the edges of our neighborhood. More days than not we’d do our absolute favorite activity, building forts.

We’d head into someone’s backyard, usually ours because it was the flattest, and put all the webbed lawn furniture on its side. We’d grab towels and blankets from our moms and begin constructing our “homes.” Always the youngest girl would have to be the Clothespin Lady — often my sister Sheri until our sister Tami was old enough to take her place.

The Clothespin Lady’s job was to deliver one clothespin into the hands of whichever builder had called for her, and with the same precision that a surgeon expects of his instrument assistant. She was not permitted to arrange chairs or place blankets or even make suggestions. Her sole purpose was to serve up wooden clips to the master builders. When a new family with a younger child moved into the neighborhood, the Clothespin Lady was especially excited to be able to relinquish her position to the new kid.

Our forts were patchwork-y on the outside and cozy on the inside. We’d play house, the older kids as the moms and dads and the younger kids as the sons and daughters.

We built and played Forts for hours on end. Late afternoon we’d take a break and go inside to watch Zoom and have supper. We’d snarf it down and beg to be excused to re-congregate in the street for one last kickball game and to tear down the fort before the streetlights came on.

The other day I made a pit stop at WalM*rt. Now that I was grown up and understood concepts like weight and density and had more experience with drape-age, I knew that I’d be able to build a spectacular fort if I used lightweight sheets instead of the heavy blankets and towels of my childhood. And I’d thereby impress Tessa and Reed with my master building skills. They’d not yet discovered fort building and I would be the Awesome Mom who taught them how to build the best. fort. ever.

So I picked up a bag of clothespins and a king sized flat sheet. With those purchases, the children somehow guessed what we would be doing, even though they’ve never seen a clothespin in their lives (do you have any in your house?). When we got home we found a flat and shady place and configured our plastic chairs in something of  a circle. We floated the sheet over as a roof and covered the sides as necessary with old towels and blankets.

Reed later had the bright idea to poke a long stick in the ground in the center to tent the sheet and give us some more head room (he wanted me to tell you that). Tessa laid down a comforter to blanket the floor, along with some pillows. We brought in a few books and read together for a bit.

Then a spider ruined it all, having the nerve to crawl on top of the blanket rather than stay under the radar, heading straight toward the girl-child. Shrieks and a startled jump from one unnamed child tore down the fort in an instant, chairs splayed in a wide radius. The quippy child said to the freaked out one: “That spider’s the only thing that’s been attracted to you all year!”

We have not reconstructed the fort since that first day. Chair-henge remains on the lawn as evidence of our one-time project. To my dismay the kids have not, so far, proven as enchanted as my sisters and I were with fort building. It’s much less alluring than Wii and the rec center swimming pool and playdates with kids outside the neighborhood and watching DVDs while mom tries to work.

My sisters and I had access to none of those things — we solved our boredom only by being imaginative.

I didn’t start writing this post thinking it would be wistful, but as I compare my memories of childhood with their experiences today, I am sad for my children. Fort building, such a simple thing, brought us so much joy and fulfillment. Swimming and Wii and on-demand cinema seem to suck the spontaneity out of a summer.

To be fair, as I write both children are out with neighbor kids playing swords and house, so their imaginations are engaged in their own ways. And also to be fair, my recollections of my childhood summers could be drastically different from my mother’s accounts. It’s quite possible that to her, summers were full of us whining and bickering and her giving orders to “go outside and play already!”

Whatever the reality, in my memory building forts was one of the sweetest parts of summer.

What are your summer memories? What do you want summers to look like for your child(ren)?

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Perfect Moment Monday: Rubbed the right way

I usually go to the hair salon while the kids are in school. Ninety minutes is too long for two kids to entertain themselves and stay out of people’s hair.

Hehe.

But for holiday break, Tessa wanted me to bring her along. After all, her birth mom, Crystal, is my stylist. Reed joined us despite my efforts to find a boy house for him to play at.

Crystal examined my scalp and said, “Tessa! See these gray thingies here ? I can see your name on them!” She then explained that her mom had white hairs with HER name on them. “It’s genetic,” we laughed.

Crystal got busy turning me all chestnutty. Tis the season, you know, open fire and all.

Crystal was masterful at  keeping the kids busy whenever they started to get antsy. They swept hair, fetched clips and towels, tidied magazine racks.

The perfect moment came toward the end at the shampoo sink. While Crystal massaged my scalp, she told the kids to get themselves a drop of lotion over there. They both did, and Crystal instructed them to each grab one of my hands and massage it.

Have you ever had the pleasure of having both hands and your head kneaded simultaneously by people you adore?

Relaxingly, lovingly perfect.

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Science in the bedroom

How’s that for a provocative title?

Kristin warned us not to trust too much quiet.

It was the first day of my children’s summer vacation, but just another work-at-home day for me.  I’d been solving registration problems uninterrupted for about 45 minutes. Glory be. And then…

“Mommy…!?” Tessa’s last syllable inflected upward in a controlled panic.

In one leap I got rid of the laptop and headed up the stairs. As I took them two at a time, Reed was saying, “It was an exPLOSion!”

Holy crap, I was thinking. How bad is this gonna be?

Tessa had wanted the room brighter so she removed a lampshade from a lamp. Then Reed wanted to see what happens when you put a Lego® on a light bulb.

Of course you know what happens when you put a Lego® on a light bulb: it melts. And then it smokes and then it frightens children.

A child who is frightened by both the situation and by the prospect of telling her mom what is happening will try to solve the problem herself. By pouring hand sanitizer on it.

Hence the fire. And the explosion.

The flash-fire was out by the time I got to the bedroom, in about 5 seconds. Shards of glass sparkled in a wide disaster zone.

Remarkably, neither child was hurt and nothing  was damaged (besides the shattered light bulb). I picked up the larger shards by hand and carefully vacuumed the rest. And had A Talk with the children about the properties of matter and what can happen when you add heat.

And how hot one’s bottom could get if they ever do such a thing again.

How many more days until school starts?