Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Defend Your Fortress

This post is dedicated to my sister Korinne who told me I needed to post it.

It is rare that I feel I have had a successful Family Home Evening. When I say "successful" I mean that no one screamed or fought or rolled their eyes or had to be put in time-out or taken from the room in tears. But tonight was nearly perfect.

I say nearly because one individual did have to leave early, kicking and screaming, but since he is only three-years-old we won't count it against the overall success of the evening.

The background:
I have been thinking a lot about the best way to prepare my older kids for middle school. How can I send them into that cesspool of sharks and hope they will make it through without scars? And more importantly, how can I make sure they do not become sharks themselves?

With this in mind I formulated a plan for Family Night.

The preparation:
I prepared a lot of playdough (some I made, some I had to buy. If you decide to make it, I recommend this recipe for its deliciously delightful smell.) Then I had cups of "building materials" like q-tips, popsicle sticks, straws and pipe cleaners. I had the kids bring me some little plastic people. I put all of these items on the table, and I wouldn't tell the kids what it was for.

They were wild with curiosity.

The lesson:
I told them the story of how Capt. Moroni (from the Book of Mormon) prepared the Nephite cities for war. He had the people build walls, dig trenches, put up timbers and spikes and surrounded the cities with armies. And he did this all in a time of peace.

Inevitably the Lamanite armies came marching in on the scene with their usual agenda: to annihilate the cities and make the Nephites their slaves. They decided to start with the city of Ammonihah. But when they saw the high walls, the protective timbers, the spikes, the trenches, etc.,  they were so stunned that they ran back into the forest in fear. 

The mere sight of the city terrified them.

So the Lamanites, not wanting to seem cowardly, and not knowing what else to do with the huge army they had mustered up,  decided to attack the weakest Nephite city, the city of Noah. To their astonishment, it too had been strengthened and fortified. Moroni had not left any of his cities defenseless. He made sure each one--even the weakest--was transformed into a fortress of strength and intimidation.

I told them that I was Captian Moroni and they were my cities. I told them that right now our family is in a time of peace. Our dad has a job, no one is sick or dying, no one is in jail, our house hasn't burned down, we don't have to move, our dog is (unfortunately) still alive...but this will not always be the case. There will be dark times ahead, as there is in every family, and this is the time to prepare ourselves.

I told them I want each of them to be strong--that I wanted no weak cities.   How could we make each one of them strong? How could they strengthen their own cities?

Of course, being bright, church-going children they gave me the right answers. Pray! Read Your Scriptures! Go to Church! Keep the Commandments!

Very good, my brilliant ones. Now, let's build.

The activity:
Their assignment was to build a fortress to protect their little plastic person.

They carried out this task with care, enthusiasm, and meticulous detail.

   (This is before Dan's meltdown. Doesn't he look happy?)


Even Scott enjoyed this activity.

While everyone made their cities I made a little Amalickiah (he is the bad guy in the story) to torment them.

When they were done they each had to explain what unique armaments their city possessed to protect itself.

The city of Sophieihah had boom-a-rang q-tip missiles that went out to search for enemies and then miraculously returned to their docks.

The city of Syrenaihah was not only impenetrable on the outside, but comfortable on the inside since it all centered around a comfy recliner.

The city of Naomiadam could shoot out rotten grapes at the enemy.

The city of Danaramadon was surrounded by invisible, flying cars.

The City of Scott was protected by a man with an AR-15 with a 50 round clip and something he called a "guard snake."

The conclusion:
Except for our three-year-old who had a melt down half-way through the show-and-tell portion of the activity, I think everyone had a great time. I think they will remember this for a while, and I saved the materials so we can repeat this soon to cement it in their brains.

This post also serves that purpose.

Read the scriptures! Pray! Go to church! Keep the commandments!

This is a war, you know, and we aim to win.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Make A Little Birdhouse In Your Soul

I'm your only friend
I'm not your only friend

But really I'm not actually your friend

But I'm a little glowing friend 
But I am--

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch

Who watches over you

Make a little birdhouse in your soul

Not to put too fine a point on it

Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet

Make a little birdhouse in your soul

(and while you're at it
Keep the nightlight on inside the
birdhouse in your soul)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Paper Airplane Contest: A Craft for the Masses

When I was a wee lass, my dad had an idea to promote his business (a service station/convenience store called The Red Barn) by hosting a huge contest during a halftime at our local high school basketball game. 

He called it his "Red Barn Fliers" contest.

He would pass out a piece paper to every one in the room. 

Each person was to write their name and phone number on their paper and fold it into the most aerodynamic shape possible.

Then, in the center of the basketball court he would place an empty pizza box.
He announced that the plane(s) who made it closest to the pizza box would receive awards. 

 Like a free pizza, for instance. 

He gave the signal and hundreds of paper planes took to the air, gliding through the gymnasium like doves. Some flew up in the rafters, some flew into the floor. Some wooshed over to the pizza box only to suddenly turn and woosh back to their masters.

 I don't remember the out come, but it sure was a thing of beauty to watch all of those planes filling up the empty space of the gymnasium.

 I have reminisced about this contest many times since then, admiring my dad's knack for out-of-the-box (or should I say in-the-box?) advertising strategies. 

 Because it was such an exciting memory for me I've tried to recreate this contest several times with groups of kids, always with successful outcomes.

So when I  was visiting my in-laws and I had six excited, boisterous wee lassies (ages 5 to 11) buzzing around me for six days I knew an activity that they would all enjoy. 

Contest rules are simple: 
You get two pieces of paper to decorate.

Then you fold it into a paper airplane (some adult help was required here.)

Throughout the process there was much singing.

Much laughter
And many thoughtful moments of inspiring creativity.

They had a couple of test flights, 

and then it was time for the real thing.

First there would be a beauty contest. All the planes lined up, vying to be the fairest one of all. Winners were awarded.

But there is more to a plane than its fancy paint job. The REAL contest was about to begin. 

The girls had to throw their planes from up here ....

....down to the hula hoop below. 

The plane(s) who came the closest would win!

My little Amelia Earharts took their spots on the balcony and let their planes loose....

...into the wild blue yonder. 

We did this several times, including a contest a contest to see whose plane could stay aloft for the longest amount of time and the one who could fly the furthest. 

There were prizes for the winners and candy for everyone. 

I am pretty sure my dad enjoyed it, too.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What Every Woman Wants

We are going out West to the Promised Land and we need a gift for the grandmas and aunts so that after we visit them and lay waste to their homes they will still like us. 

We decided to make soap. 

Perhaps I will rephrase that....the soap is already made. 
At the craft store you can buy trays of soap like this:

We are using goats milk soap, but there was also shea butter, avocado and glycerine. 
So no, we did not make the soap ourselves (that would be a REALLY great craft!) but we did dress it up, something mermaids are very good at. 

First we melted it in the microwave.
Then we scented it. 
We used rose for some batches, vanilla-pomegranate for others. 

Then we colored it and poured it into the molds.

This is how the molds look when they are filled and you happen to be laying on the ground.

After about 40 minutes the soap was cool and hard and we could push them out of the molds. 

This was so easy! Too easy, in fact. Next time we do this I am starting from scratch and I am going to find some goats to milk and make my own.

Next is packaging. 

Wrapping paper,

name tags,

glitter glue,

and gossamer bags.

And now our gifts are ready to be packed. 

I think the grandmas and aunts will love these....and in the meantime they will give our suitcases a lovely smell.