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.