Box of Tricks

Blair inspired me yesterday with her post describing a box of tricks to pull out all summer long to stave off boredom (make sure you read last year’s post and all the comments for a gillion extra ideas*). I love the idea of an unstructured summer, but I also know that without some sort of schedule, our days deteriorate quickly into chaos. The reality of our house is that we each want to do our own thing, and they aren’t necessarily compatible, and my son-who-will-not-be-named really craves everyone’s attention. (My son agreed to let me blog about him occasionally as long as I don’t use his name and as long as I make everyone who reads this promise never to speak of anything you read in front of him. Please, please, please, with the gracious exception of Grandma, Mammy, Aunt Maria and Erika Carlson because he does want you to know what he is doing – everyone else is just too scary).


Last year, we brainstormed a full summer’s worth of activities organized around thematic days, similar to a traditional summer camp. However, we forgot to take into account that we were fully scheduled in swimming lessons, space camp, yoga camp, clay camp and a dozen other things that resulted in way too many thigh burns from hot car seats. Some of our favorite ideas:

  • costume day, pajama day, crown day, hat day (lots of dress-up)
  • wheel day (scooters, bicycles, skateboards, matchbox cars)
  • flight day (kite flying, float plane watching, airplane gazing)
  • red day, orange day, yellow day (clothes, foods)
  • juice day (making, squeezing, freezing, drinking, spilling)
  • fish day (aquarium, fish store, Puget Sound)
  • fiber day (token nod to my obsession)
  • bird day (bird store, feather art, urban chicken tour)
  • playground day (explore all the city parks)
  • water day (sink, backyard, wading pools, lakes and oceans)
  • music day (ZooTunes concerts, Seattle Symphony’s educational center “Soundbridge”, dancing in the kitchen and basement to our favorite music, making instruments from found materials)
  • construction day (watching house construction in our neighborhood, large machinery working around the city, super fort building and lincoln log townhomes)
  • boat day (ferries, water taxis, tug boats, fire boats, kayaks and canoes)
  • nature day (woodland parks, letterboxing, gardening at home)
  • art day (crafts, clay, painting)

I imagined we would do a couple of these every single week, and rotate through the others over the course of the summer.


I would be doing a disservice to myself and all of the young parents reading this if I didn’t own up to the reality of life** around our house. Mixed in with the field trips and activites we will still go to the grocery store every two days, spend an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen, mow the lawn, avoid folding and putting away the laundry, gripe over the doghair dustbunnies reproducing in the corners. Life will go on as it always does, with acts of aggravated assault, the continued injustice of one extra strawberry, dog torture, and sensory overload that leads me to shout, “Can I have five minutes to myself at the computer?”


I will feel hijacked by my son’s constant demand for my attention, wondering when “my” day will come and why we can’t spend all summer wrapped in craft projects. Sophie will complain that life isn’t fair and “he” will insist over and over that someone has to play baseball with him right now or he is going to get really, really angry.

While I have lofty goals for a relaxed, unprogrammed summer, I have to face the reality of who my children are (1 active/explorer/inventor who loves to tear things apart to see how they work + 1 cerebral/planner/detailer who spends hours finishing a project just so), who I am (solitary/planner/organizer who craves time to process the whirlwind churning in my brain and needs to exorcise the ideas so I can function), and the fact that we all get along better when we are away from our home.

So, instead of letting the kids fill their days of boredom, I will schedule and plan our days so when we wake up we know where we are going and what needs to be done. We can blow it all off if the prevailing winds are just right, but I’ll keep the master plan tucked in my back pocket just in case I’m right, and we all live up to the precedent we’ve set.

 *Some of my favorite craft ideas gleaned from comments on Wisecraft:

  • making fimo buttons
  • sun prints (cyanotype) with photo-sensitive paper
  • painting birdhouses, clay pots, rocks
  • making block prints
  • painting muslin with block prints or brushes
  • making paper

**Just in case I needed to justify to anyone where my time goes, read this column by Carolyn Hax in the WashingtonPost. Thanks for the tip, Jen. Feel free to send me any more snarky columns you find.


3 Responses to “Box of Tricks”

  1. 1 Cheryl Friday, June 1, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    omg, you are cracking me up, we could be sisters in our planning of a “relaxing and unprogrammed summer”. thanks for sharing because every time the words left my mouth to describe what I was doing with our summer, I got the most inquisitive looks.

  2. 2 Selah Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    I want to thank you for writing about the truth of your family. I love looking at these mom/craft blogs but I always wish someone would post a photo of their dirty dishes in the sink. I’m also so inspired by your list of ideas for summer theme days. I look forward to reading more and hoping to catch other moments of the dog hair in the corner that can coexist with amazing creativty and family togetherness. (I’m sure I have dog hair in my corners and I don’t even have a dog)

  3. 3 Jen Witsoe Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 9:46 am

    I’m going to print out this post and put it somewhere prominent, to refer to when my kids get a little hinky. Red day, construction day… these are great!

    About that snarky column, anytime sister.

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