Happy Birthday, Hannah

Those who have been reading Magical Childhood for a long time may remember back when I used to send out newsletters back before the blog, full of ramblings and fun ideas and silly ways to make the day magical.  Those who have been around a really long time may remember when we lost our incredible family friend Hannah at age 9 to leukemia.

Today would be Hannah’s 18th birthday. 

Hannah is still a part of our lives, still part of our family conversations, and an incredibly big part of who our oldest daughters are.  Hannah’s life and death shaped them and she continues to shape them. 

She is in Victoria’s strength and acceptance. 

She is in Anna’s songs and poetry. 

She is in our memories.  She is in our stories.

She is in every fearless jump into every body of water that every one of my children take, since Hannah and her brother Hayden taught my girls to abandon their fear of water and jump wildly into water, and then my girls taught it to all of their younger siblings.

She is in our homeschooling, my parenting, all of it.

I wrote this in the Magical Childhood newsletter after her death:

 

Hannah’s life was far too short and we will all miss her very much.  One of the things that gives me comfort is the life she had, though.  She had so much love, laughter and life in those 9 and a half years.  She was treasured by her mother and all who knew her.  She was loved well.  She was happy.

 

Sometimes life gets hectic, stressful, chaotic and messy.  Sometimes we get caught up in the day to day mayhem and lose sight of the big stuff.  Today is a good day to remember the big stuff again.  Make every minute count.  Fill your life and your children’s lives with happiness and meaning.

 

Don’t forget to live.

 

Please hug your kiddos, count your blessings and do something magical today in memory of Hannah.

 

Hannah, thank you for being part of our lives.  We love you.

 

Love, Alicia

In honor of Hannah and her family, please go love the heck out of your kiddos.  Not just today, but every day…  Childhood is short.  Life is short.  Make it all magical and meaningful and real. 

Happy Birthday, Hannah.

If you’d like to read more about Hannah, you can see my original newsletter post here.

 

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10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Happy Sunday!

Sorry to have been gone for so long.  I’ve been doing a little of this….

And a little of this (three kids with birthdays in one week!)…

(That’s not actually our cake at all, just a picture that a friend posted on my wall for my lego-loving boy!)

And a little of this…

It turns out that I am severely anemic and need to have weekly IV iron treatments for a month to try to get my levels up to par.

Tomorrow is dose number two (please let the veins be easier this time!) so I figured I’d get this week’s list out early. 

And I am totally cheating by lifting today’s list from May 2011!  There are benefits to having yapped at you all for so long now!  :)

So without further ado, here’s a few ways to sneak in a little magic with our kiddos this week…….

1.  Make poetry shells.  Gather up a bunch of pistachio shells, smooth rocks  or other natural objects and use a magic marker to write words on them.  Make sure to use adjectives, nouns and verbs.  For example…. I, you, we, love, wet, dogs, jumped, lick, stars…. the more words you make the more variety you can get in your poem.  Drop the rocks in a bucket, shake, and grab a handful to arrange into each line.  Make sure to add some funny words!

Make poetry shells

2.  Help the kids hide love-you notes for a loved one (daddy, grandma, etc.).  Fill them with messages to make the recipient laugh or feel good, such as limericks, 5 reasons you’re the best grandpa, and so on.  Try to leave some where it will take a few days and some that will pop up in dull places, such as in the car or briefcase.

3.  Take the whole family out for a starry drive.  Park by a lake or just in an empty lot away from city lights.  Lay a blanket down or pull out some lawn chairs and just sit as a family and watch the stars.  See if you can see any shooting stars.  Point out the constellations to your kids.  Talk about what you thought when you looked at the stars when you were a child.

4. Make puzzles for breakfast.  Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of toast, pancakes or french toast.  Let kids match the shapes to the pieces with the holes and fit back in.

5.  Have the kids make up funny fortunes and put them in homemade fortune cookies or leave them in unexpected places like cereal boxes.

6.  Go down memory lane.  Take the kids to the hospital where they were born, the school you went to, or the park where daddy proposed.  Tell them the stories of those far-off times.

7.  Start a wish tradition.  My mom always saved the tip of her pie for the last bite and made a wish on it.  Victoria always does this in honor of her grandma, even though they never met.  You can also wish on stars, dandelion fluff, pennies in fountains, or just something you make up.  See if your family can invent some neat new ones.

8.  Dress the kids up with some whimsy (with painted faces, wearing fairy wings, in ball gowns, etc.) and go someplace fun.

9.  Dance in the rain.

10. Celebrate an unexpected anniversary.  Search through baby books, letters or old e-mails and find something neat that happened on this date.  Surprise your little one with a cake to celebrate the 4 year anniversary of her first word.  Start writing notes on your calendars of all the milestones your family goes through, then keep them on a master calendar.  How fun it would be in a few years to be able to look at this date in your family’s history and see that 6 years ago you moved into your house, 3 years ago the baby crawled for the first time, and last year this was the day your son cooked his first meal.

And with that, my dears, I’m off to do the oh-so-magical task of more laundry!

Have a wonderful week.

 

 

 

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Fairy and Elf Doors!

We’re a big fan of fairy doors and gnome doors here at our house.  We have a gnome door in one of our trees out front and have made salt dough fairy doors inside in past years (click here to see how we did it).

Tonight, I stumbled on some more wonderful ways to make fairy doors (or elf doors or goblin weapons closets or whatever your children want to deem them!).

Here’s a few…..  Click on the links for lots more photos and directions.

Knickertwist posted all sorts of fabulous inspirational photos on Craftster I think it’s brilliant to use popsicle sticks for the doors, and now we have a new reason to start stockpiling them.

And just look at the tiny laundry hanging nearby!

Artful Kid posted this adorable twig fairy door to Flickr.

Kaboodle featured this darling door that was offered for sale on Etsy.

And Roots Nursery really went to town making fairy doors after getting inspired by others online.

This would make a fantastic rainy day project with the kiddos and I think we’ll try our hands and making some more sometime soon.

Remember not to focus on making perfect little pretty projects.  For kids, the magic is in the making of them, especially when we share their enthusiasm and join in the fun.  And fairies are marvelously unconcerned about perfection.  ;)

Happy Weekend, Happy Easter, Happy Passover and Happy Everything Else!

~Alicia

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Silly Photo Shoots!

Here’s a fun and easy way to make a little magic with your kiddos. 

Have a zany photo shoot! 

We’ve done many of these over the years and it always leads to smiles.

There are some free apps that let you get pretty creative, too.  :) 

wacky photo shoots

Happy Wednesday!

 

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Is It a Bad Thing to Want to Give Our Kids a Magical Childhood?

Last week, a blog post went viral about why parents should stop trying to give their kids a magical childhood. 

One of my friends shared it on her Facebook wall and yesterday a speaker at a sustainability conference even recommended it, saying that parents today spend too much time “on those things like Pinterest” and “working so hard to make their children’s live magical.”

“They’re just making their own lives harder,” she scoffed, “trying to make everything perfect.”

Then she said it’s because we mothers are addicted to stress.

Yes, it turns out we secretly like stress and so the quest to make childhood fun is some deep, psychological quest to make ourselves unhappy.

Or something like that.  I had a really hard time understanding the logic in any of it.

These people seem to completely miss the point about what makes a childhood magical, and why some of us make an effort to try to do it.

A magical childhood isn’t about elaborate homemade cakes or catalog-worthy decorating ideas.  It’s not about spending hours on Pinterest in some feverish quest to find enough fantastic things to do for our children.

It’s also not about doing things for and to our children.

It’s about doing things with our children.  And giving them a life where they can make their own magic, too.

A magical childhood is filled with things like stories, hugs, picnics for breakfast in the back yard, knock-knock jokes in lunch boxes, lazy Saturdays, I love you notes in sock drawers and a dozen kisses “just because.”

A magical childhood is about silliness and songs and spontaneity and at least occasional opportunities to make a glorious mess in the mud.

A magical childhood is filled with memories of little things that are big things to children — fireflies, campfires, snowball fights, shoulder rides, time with people who make them feel special and snuggling in bed with a big pile of wonderful library books.

A magical childhood is about being there with our kids on a regular basis and taking the time to talk to them, listen to them, and do something that makes them smile.

It can involve crafts and activities.  It can involve any number of things you can find on Pinterest (and for the record, why is it the new “in” thing to gang up on moms who craft or like Pinterest?).  It can also involve just getting out in nature together or shooting hoops at the park or sitting in the back yard and talking after supper.

Childhood is hard.  Adulthood is hard.  Life in general is hard.

We all need a little magic. 

Yes, kids can make their own magic.  They are very capable of turning our living rooms into giant forts, creating elaborate fantasy worlds in the bushes in the backyard, and enthusiastically jumping like crazy in giant puddles.

But the thing that those misguided people don’t realize is that when we work to make childhood magical, we benefit too.

We strengthen our connection with our kids.

We show our kids that we love them like crazy.

We strengthen them for the hard times they will face in life.

And….

We get to play and craft and splash and make messes again, too.

We add some joy to our own days.

We make parenthood magical too.

silly

I have parented these children through toddlerhood (five times!), surgeries, cancer, the deaths of friends and family, tween angst, teen depression, bullies and more.  Do you think I could have survived intact without working to make it magical for all of us?

There is a picture book that I read to my kids at bedtime sometimes that sums up a magical childhood to me.  It’s called My Mama Had a Dancing Heart and it’s about a little girl and her mother through the seasons spending time together cutting out paper snowflakes, playing in fall leaves, dancing in the rain and so on.

The last line is, “My mama had a dancing heart, and she shared that heart with me.”

That’s the kind of mom I have always tried to be.  And I frankly think it’s nonsense for anyone to suggest that’s a bad thing.

Those people can go on scoffing at those of us who strive to give our kids a magical childhood.

If that’s the worst thing they can say about me, I think I’m doing okay.  :)

dancing

 

 

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Plastic Bag Flowers, Revisited

A few days ago, I got a comment on a new post asking how I made some plastic bag flowers back in 2010.  I didn’t even remember making plastic bag flowers, but a quick blog search showed this post where I linked to a fabulous blog with instructions.

It turns out that the original blog is down, but thanks to the amazing Wayback Machine, you can still read the post and get the directions here.  I also found the original author’s current blog, which has some neat community art projects to check out.  For instance, this is an art installation called “the tent” that community members created out of scrap fabric from a nearby factory.

And this amazing community art installation is created out of recycled plastic bags, just like those flowers.  Isn’t it amazing?

Now I’m wishing we had plastic bags in colors other than boring white, and looking at all of our recycling with new eyes again.  :)

Fun stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Grief Bacon Day!

We’re having a different sort of holiday today.  We’re celebrating our first annual Kummerspeck (or “Grief Bacon“) Day.

The idea came to me a few days ago.  We’ve all been really fighting the blues in our family.  Winter has been long, cold, snowy and oppressive this year.  The kids have been cooped up and cranky.  I’ve been cooped up and cranky.  We’re all irritable and there’s still more waiting before things are really going to be green and warm.

Victoria had told me about a German word that literally translates to “grief bacon” that describes the weight gained from emotional eating, such as after a loved one dies or during a period of depression.   It was featured in Mental Floss’s  15 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent.

We’ve talked about that natural instinct to hole up in the house with food as comfort and how it’s definitely not healthy as a general practice but how it really does seem to help when things are really feeling miserable, like after the death of pets and loved ones.

So yesterday I suggested to Daryl that we toss out my typical health-crazed ways and proclaim today a Grief Bacon Day (vegetarian members of our family can call it Grief Popsicle Day).  :)  He was on board, so we told the kids we were going to all go to the grocery store together and load up on comfort foods that we’d all pick out together and spend the whole day together as a family watching movies, eating junk food and just indulging ourselves in a way we usually don’t.

We spent the morning cleaning together to prepare (who wants to party in a messy house?) and then spread the table with the first round of indulgences.  Jack had picked out frozen fruit so he made us dixie cup fruit sorbets to balance out the chips, dip and other junky items that others picked.  Gluten free pizza, french fries, banana popsicles, 7-up and other goodies followed. 

There’s lots more to come, including more foods and fun non-food items like puzzles and bubbles, marshmallow and toothpicks for building, more movies and crafts. 

Some days you just have to loosen your own rules and look at the big picture.  A full-out, junky family day was just what the doctor ordered.  The mood in our house has done a 180 (and the house looks better too!).

And now, I’m off to watch some more explosions and add to my stomach ache. 

Happy Kummerspeck  Day!

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