Keeping it Fresh

Keeping two toddlers entertained or in happy boredom is easy for a few hours here and there. Doing it all day and night while working out meals and other house essentials has it’s challenges–mainly because my kids are at a stage where they are constantly bickering in between moments of great companionship. I feel like a referee making some really hard calls (a small World Cup reference; yesterday was intense).

The technique this morning involves an M & M seduction. Each kid starts out with 7, and bad (yes, I’m using that word) behavior = 1 chocolate taken out of the bowl. I’ve tried so many creative different tactics that I can’t even feel bad about this one. It’s close to noon. Layla has 7 still; Zade is down to 6. I told them that whatever they have left in the bowl by 6 pm can be dessert after dinner. We’ll see how that goes.

M & M incentive idea

M & M incentive idea

We’ve had friends over and had sweet playdates, and we’ve also been creative about entertaining things to do at home:

Zade lines up his toys and uses my phone to take a picture of it. He's in a "line everything up" stage!

Zade lines up his toys and uses my phone to take a picture of it. He’s in a “line everything up” stage!

Cheap and fun paintbrush set from Hobby Lobby

Cheap and fun paintbrush set from Hobby Lobby

Awesome art supplies from Ikea + paper plate = fun for an hour

Awesome art supplies from Ikea + paper plate = fun for an hour

Zade takes his stuffed animals for a walk

Zade takes his stuffed animals for a walk

Layla makes and drinks a smoothie

Layla makes and drinks a smoothie

Playing in the rain

Playing in the rain

Carson Dellosa workbooks that have been a big hit this summer (Thanks, Amy, for your rec!)

Carson Dellosa workbooks that have been a big hit this summer (Thanks, Amy, for your rec!)

And we’ve done some fun things outside the house as well:

Layla totally excited before the amazing Cinderella puppet show!

Layla totally excited before the amazing Cinderella puppet show!

Magical "carriage"

Magical “carriage”

At a farmer's market

At a farmer’s market

Backstage at Cinderella performance

Backstage at Cinderella performance

And then there are these surprising moments as well:

Acting too grown for my comfort (using a paintbrush and water)

Acting too grown for my comfort (using a paintbrush and water)

Zade uses Target's Sticky Hands to "make Mickey fly" in the air.

Zade uses Target’s Sticky Hands to “make Mickey fly” in the air.


So that’s our quick summer update.

Leave it to kids to invent fresh ways to have fun when we’ve straight up run out of idea energy.

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The Art of Not Doing

Recently, I had a health scare that made our small family feel shaken and in need of some restorative action. A couple days later, we loaded the car with packed-the-day-before bags and headed to the beach, a place that has always lent us an ear when we’ve felt overdone.

Reducing stress was the key, so it was an act of discipline for me NOT to write list after list of things we’ll need, NOT to pack meaningful snacks and meals for the short trip, and NOT to take a million pictures.

When I was little, my mom would spend the night before a trip frying Persian kotlet for pita, mint, pickles, and kotlet sandwiches; she’d fill up the car with snacks and golden turkey sandwiches garnished with cilantro. We had so many treats that when we hit the road at 5 am, I was already as hungry as one should be at dinner time.

The joy of the travel relied on my Walkman and Mom’s provisions. I’ve tried to emulate this for my kids by being one step ahead of their appetites (and accidents) and to craft certain memories around food. The route of handing out sandwiches wrapped in shiny foil, opening containers filled with grapes and apples, passing around bags of chips, cracking sunflower seeds, and filling up foam cups of hot tea (and drinking the tea with hard sugar cubes) is incredibly meaningful to me.

But this wasn’t one of those trips. This time around, we just grabbed some random snacks from home before we left and stopped for fast food when we got hungry. We even got out of the car and ate burgers on the way back without worrying about the time. And the earth did not stop revolving. My kids didn’t have any fewer memories of the drive to and from the beach. They weren’t let down. They had the gift of spontaneity and calmer parents instead.

This experiment has turned into an anecdote for how I’m going to try to refocus on what’s important. Sometimes the easier way just works better, and this is okay. Sometimes having great ideas burdens us and thwarts organic (and sometimes righteously lazy) experiences. I have some wonderful friends who remind me of this; unfortunately, nothing wakes us up more than our own need to change for the better.

So, we drove.

We stared out the balcony, a view that enriches the legacy of the trip.

Like putting a shell to my ear to hear that calm...

Like putting a shell to my ear to hear that calm…

We played.

Zade shells beach

Layla beauty beach

We bounced.

Zade jumping

This picture makes me so happy.

This picture makes me so happy.

Love that she's not fearful of heights like her mama

Love that she’s not fearful of heights like her mama

And we didn’t pressure ourselves with preserving the memory of each moment; Kal and I took maybe 40 pictures between us. This picture is symbolic of what tried to remind ourselves.

Restorative View

In Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, Ashoke reaches for his camera after trudging to the lighthouse surrounded by water with his son, Gogol, only to find that he didn’t bring it. He tells Gogol “We’ll have to remember it, then.” Ashoke asks his son to try to “remember it always…Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.”

As I was reminded by my friends recently, I suppose it’s just as important NOT to bring my camera sometimes—NOT to take my purple crayon over things and instead patiently and appreciatively just let it be.