Tag Archives: magical moments

Garden Potions!


Here’s a sweet way to make a little magic in the back yard this summer.

My Alex had been having fun making “potions” with rain water, grass clippings and such, and he asked me to help him find new ingredients.  I decided to make it a little extra magical and went and got a pitcher of tap water and a can from the recycling.  I secretly dropped a few drops of green food coloring in the bottom of the can, and then made a show of filling the “empty” can with some grass clippings from the yard.

I gave him the pitcher and told him that I’d put magic grass in the can.  Then I had him pour some water into the can and pour the can into a bucket.  Of course, the water in the can instantly turned bright green when it mixed with the food coloring at the bottom, and Alex and Fiona watched in amazement as the magically green water poured into the bucket.  🙂

I also asked the kids to find 8 yellow dandelions for a second can (that I’d already secretly sprinkled with some yellow food coloring), and we used spent lilac blossoms for a third can that had some blue. 

I also gave them a jar of fairy dust (Florida sand from a vacation) to sprinkle in.

Lastly, I had them gather dandelion puffs so they could blow wishes into their concoctions.

I gave them lots of buckets to pour into, so they could also have fun with color mixing.

Alex is old enough that he easily figured the secret out, but he had fun pretending anyway.  Little Fiona just had fun gathering the ingredients and pouring and pouring.

They happily played for an hour with their potions.  It was an easy, nearly free, absolutely magical way to have some back yard fun.  We’ll definitely be doing more of it!

I also picked up an old spice rack with little glass bottles at a thrift store, and I’m going to assemble a whole magic potion rack for them to use sometime soon in their outdoor play kitchen.  I’ll try to post pictures and update how that goes!



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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.


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.


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.  🙂





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Lions and Tigers and Bears Can’t Compare

You can take a small boy to the zoo and show him tigers and rhinos and black bears and emus…

But if he finds out that a peacock will come this close when you’ve accidentally dropped two Cheerios…

Nothing else can possibly compare!

Zoos are fabulous, but I love that kids can often be just as enchanted feeding some treats to some pigeons, squirrels or ducks at the park.  🙂

Happy Wednesday!


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A Visit to Antarctica

Okay, it wasn’t really Antarctica, but it sure seemed like it!

Sometimes you need a little sunshine, a change of scenery and a delightful child or two to put your insides right again.

I was feeling pretty horrible the other day because of the recent child abuse tragedy. I wrote articles and researched more than I felt I could bear and then I hist post for the last time of the afternoon and asked the kids who wanted to go on a walk with me.

Two fabulous girls said yes and off we went.

Anna brought a walking stick that she collected at Lake Superior last fall. During the whole trip, she kept a running dialog about its magical properties and an imaginary world she made up as we went.

It drove Victoria crazy.

Finally, we got to the end of the world. Or the end of the street, anyway, which ends in a cornfield. It also happens to be where the snowplows have pushed all the nearby snow, creating a pretty cool place!

Anna used her trusty stick to climb the side of it and triumphantly surveyed her domain.

Victoria is never one to take the easy way, so she decided to run up the side of it.

There was a lot of falling down.

She even got this close.  It’s very hard to grab onto snow!

Then finally, triumph!

Sort of.

Once the girls were finally on solid ground, they talked me into climbing up and joining them.  What another world it was!  The girls raced and ran and explored and we had a blast.

(See how the girls are standing right on top of the snow?  It is actually pretty deep but they are light on their feet and didn’t usually sink in, unlike their mama! Note to self:  eat less chocolate!)

Then we climbed back over and slid down into the real world again.  Even me.

I believe we have to do all we can to make the world a better place.  But I also believe we have to play and imagine and take time out to go explore Antarctica sometimes.

I also believe in lots of hot cocoa.


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Camping Out

As I type, these girls…

are camping out here…

Isn’t it beautiful?

They’re at a friend’s camping birthday party.

My girls have already called twice to check in.  I’ve been told it’s gotten very cold now that it’s dark but they’re still gung-ho.  Luckily we’re close by to come pick them up if they decide to come home to warm beds.

But sometimes when you’re with good friends, warm beds are overrated.  🙂

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The Bad, the Good and the Magical

Today was one of those days.  Good grief.  I made up a giant list of things to accomplish around the house (cleaning jobs, laundry, paperwork, homeschooling, fun with each child, exercise, baking…).  I started at 7 in the morning and by 5 my house was messier than it was to begin with and the kids had about driven me to drink.

(Actually, since I had a glass of wine with dinner I suppose you could say they did drive me to drink!  And lest that sound like some sort of fancy dinner, I should mention that dinner was frozen pizza and grandma’s green beans — and the wine came with a screw cap.)

Some of the more memorable moments…

  • Alex took a black marker to Daddy’s new chair, the wall, the couch, the storage cubes, several toys and himself.  Thank goodness it was washable and came out of everything that mattered.
  • Jack spat on Anna.
  • Alex chased Jack around with a badminton racket and whacked him whenever he got close enough.
  • Victoria and Anna fought like cats and dogs.
  • A girl called Anna a freak for having sprayed pink hairspray in her hair.
  • Alex turned off the router and inadvertently disabled and reset it, leaving the house without internet and Daryl on the phone with tech support for 20 minutes to get it back — for the second time this week.
  • There was seemingly endless bickering, complaining, tattling, squabbling and general unhappiness.
  • My living room looked like it had been ransacked by the DEA and several savage dogs.  It still does.
  • I shouted more times than I can count at the whole lot of them, hubby included.

I ended up stomping off upstairs for an hour while Daddy took over.  He made dinner and I soaked in a bath and surfed the internet until I felt up to mothering again.

But despite the never-ending mayhem, there was some good today.  It took a while to be able to see it, but there was plenty….

  • I managed to get almost completely caught up on laundry, which I think last happened in March of 1999.
  • I played with the kids and they happily used their new workbooks that a friend gave us.
  • I got the back porch cleaner than it’s been in years.
  • I didn’t have to make dinner.
  • I got lots of that list done, even if it didn’t seem like it.
  • I made two loaves of bread and shared some with a very appreciative neighbor.
  • The kids and I got to meet and love on a very happy Springer Spaniel puppy.
  • Alex said a few new words and gave a lot of hugs.
  • Anna and I made each other over (I told her to make a list of 5 things she’d like to do with me today and I’d pick one) and she loved it.
  • Jack made some new friends.
  • Victoria made cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
  • And that girl was nothing but jealous.  Anna rocked pink hair.  🙂

And then there was the magical.  We all piled into the van and drove out to a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, where we leaned on the van and watched the Perseid meteor showers.  It was hours before the peak period (which is around 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.) but without the moon up yet it was easier to see the sky.  We saw about a dozen between us all, and one beautiful one that lit up the sky.

If you haven’t peeked at the wonders going on up there yet (and you’re on this side of the world), I really recommend it!  It’s magical stuff.  It sort of puts things in perspective!

Here’s to maddening kids, cheap wine, washable markers, pink hair spray, endless laundry, homemade bread, messes and meteors.  The good and the bad and the magical… it’s a package deal. 

And while it may not always seem like it, it’s a pretty great package.

Happy Thursday!

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Making Hospital Stays a Little Easier (Part Two)

Thanks to Candy for writing in with more ideas about ways to pass the time when little ones are in the hospital or home sick.  She shared:

My 4yo nephew just spent some time in a double hip spica cast and one thing that helped him was putting his favorite doll in similar bandages (iv bandaids, cast, ect.) and give him a little doctor kit. That way he could care for someone and feel in control for a change. Another thing are those little travel watercolor kits that are made for adults with a water brush (a brush that has the water right in the barrel, no need for messy spillable cups). The pigments are bright and satisfying and the cleanup is perfect for a hospital setting.

Great ideas!  We have some of those watercolor pen brushes and they would be perfect.  I also love the idea of giving kids their own little patients to care for.  Thanks Candy!  I hope your nephew is doing much better too.


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Making Hospital Stays a Little Easier

This week I got a letter from Magical Mama Helen in Australia, looking for ideas on how to make hospital stays a little easier.  Her four year-old sweetie, Asha Rose, has Cystic Fibrosis.  She just completed her first hospital stay and has more in her future (along with time at home with nursing care and IV’s and such).  She has an older son to keep entertained, as well.

Victoria helped me brainstorm some ideas on how to make the time in bed a little more fun.  We thought we’d do several installments.  Here are the first 15 ideas.  Please write in and share your own suggestions too!

  1. Do altered books.  Here’s a page I wrote up about altering books on the Magical Childhood site a while back.  The link to our own pages is expired.  If anybody wants to see some examples of our pages, let me know and I’ll post some.
  2. Read really fabulous read-aloud books.  Some of our favorites at that age were the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series, the Paddington Bear series, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Pippi Longstocking and Amelia Bedelia books.
  3. Bring a tape recorder and do interviews with each other.  Also record her singing songs, telling jokes, acting out funny made up characters and other silly fun.  Kids tend to especially love hearing their own voices back.  You can also ask loved ones to tape themselves reading sweet poems, telling stories or singing songs.
  4. Make pretty flower pens to keep and to give as presents.  Get some artificial flowers and some ballpoint pens, along with some floral tape, masking tape or even duct tape.  Cut the flowers till the stems are just a couple of inches long and tape flush to the end of the pen.  Now nobody can accidentally walk off with your pen, and it makes writing even the most boring thing into something fancy and fun!
  5. Wrap up little gifts so that each day in the hospital she has another little treat to unwrap.
  6. To make it even more special, make miniature pinatas to smash open every day!  Use strips of newspaper or crepe paper dipped in watered down glue to papier mache over blown up water balloons, leaving a hole at the tied end to put the treat in.  Let dry for a few days, pop the balloon and pull it out, fill with a little treat and glue a piece of crepe paper over the hole.  Here’s a variation to try, too.  Ideas for treats– a glass prism to hang in the window, lip gloss, a ring, a foreign coin, mini bubbles, a pretty shell, a tiny doll or an animal figurine.  This is something that older siblings could help out with, too.
  7. Give her pony beads and pipe cleaners to make bracelets.
  8. Glue a large piece of felt to an empty cereal box and then cut lots of clothing shapes out of different colors of felt to make a portable fashion design kit.  Cut a couple of people and draw some faces on them in permanent marker and then use different colors to cut various types of hair, shirts, pants, skirts, hats, accessories, you name it.  Make sure to make some elaborate and silly!  Store them in the box when not in use.
  9. Make magic wands from sticks or dowels and magic markers, paint pens, ribbon, etc.
  10. Bring a laptop and watch funny animal videos on you-tube.
  11. Give her some plain white tennies and washable markers and let her decorate her shoes and then rinse them in water to start over next time.
  12. For more permanent fashion, give her a few plain, light colored shirts and an assortment of permanent markers.  Let her draw and decorate them to her heart’s content and then spray them with vinegar to set.  These may still fade somewhat.  You can use fabric pens if you want something really pemanent.
  13. Print out some really fabulous paper dolls from movies, fantasy and history.  I’ve posted this site before but it is my all-time favorite.
  14. Get a big pack of crayons and paper and give out art assignments (draw an animal nobody’s ever seen before, draw a silly hairstyle…).
  15. While the kids are asleep, decorate the living room (or hospital room) with streamers, confetti and a big banner that announces a made up holiday.



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A Walk in the Moonlight

Tonight was not the easiest of nights.  Daryl and the girls had "media night" for the play they are in.  They have practice every weeknight and tonight they left early in full costume to rehearse act one and meet the press.  As with the rest of June, I was on my own with two little boys (one of whom can drive me to distraction!).

It was a long night.  Alex found the litter box and the scoop and left a trail down the hallway carpet and all the way down the stairs.  He dumped things out.  He wrote on Daddy’s new recliner with blue marker.  He accidentally scratched Jack.  He threw fits.

There are some nights when it takes all you’ve got to make it to bedtime, and tonight was one of those nights.

I got him cleaned up, the recliner cleaned up, the hallway and stairs cleaned up, and got him acting better and asleep.  I even got a bunch of enthusiastic toddler hugs and kisses before he dropped.  The rest of the house was trashed but it was a success in my book.

When the girls came home, we ended up having an impromptu music history lesson when I had Victoria look up "We are the World" on you-tube and talked about how Michael Jackson shaped his generation.  Then I was still wired from the evening and asked Anna if she wanted to go for a walk.

My kids love taking late night walks.  I’m not sure what it is about walking with Mama under the stars, but it has always been a treat to my kids.

Anna was still in her prairie girl costume, bonnet and all.  We held hands and walked around the neighborhood, talking.  I told her how I held her in my lap when she was a baby on the front lawn in the moonlight and made her promises.  She walked me to the magical cornfield and told me to make a wish for the fairies.  She also told me how so-and-so texted her boyfriend at rehearsal about the bench the kids were using.  She said she felt lucky she got to take late night walks with me.  I told her sappy memories and gave her hugs.

When we got back, I asked her to send Victoria out.  I’m glad Victoria is not too old to take late night walks with her mama.  I showed her my bulletproof roses that the neighbor thought were "brambles" and mowed down for years.  They grew in full shade on the north side of the house for years before we moved in and loved them into full bloom.  I told her how our back yard used to be nothing but grass, and how we bought 5 tiny lilac trees and 2 dogwoods to line the back and now they’re twice as tall as we are.  The gardens, the climbing tree, the raspberries, the roses taller than the garage… it’s all new since the house became ours and now it seems like it’s been there forever.

We went walking off down the side streets and I told her how we went walking on a night like this when she was a baby with my friend Jen and her daughter, Lizzie, and how we stopped in the moonlight for me to bend down and talk to her in the stroller.  I was being sappy and adoring her, and Lizzie turned to her mother and said in her most reverent five year-old voice, "That’s love."

I told her again about how many miscarriages I had before we had her, and how Daddy and I used to fight over who got to hold her.  I told her how much we loved her and how proud we’ve been every day of her life.

When we got home, Jack snuggled up in my lap while we watched late night TV and he fell asleep while I stroked his hair.  We never got to the books I meant to read tonight or the art project I kept wanting to do.  I hope the snuggling and the extra orange juice popsicles made up for it a little.

It’s the end of the night now, and it’s miserably hot inside.  We don’t have central air, just a window unit downstairs.  I’m hot and tired and there’s still more mess to clean up in the morning.  Tomorrow, Alex will wake in a fantastic mood and commence trying to drive us all crazy again. 

It was a trying night.  There were messes and tears and mayhem.  There’s no denying it.  But what I’m taking to bed with me tonight is the kisses, the snuggling, walking hand in hand with my daughters and making wishes by magical cornfields.

The rest will still drive me to distraction, but I still think it’s worth it.  🙂

Goodnight all.  Happy Friday!

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The Good, The Bad and Heaping Bowls of Ice Cream

Yesterday, we had one of those really magical days.  Victoria and Anna had the third and final day of their Survivor day camp at a wonderful ecology center.  Jack and I explored the woods around them and discovered wonderful child-built forts, meandering springs and some pretty breathtaking scenery.  The air was filled with cottonwood seeds, which look like giant dandelion seeds and some folks say are fairies.  We caught them and made wishes on them and blew them back to the wind. 


The boys and I went to the park with Daddy while the girls had their last afternoon adventure.  We played with a zipcar we picked up at a garage sale, explored a gazebo, played at the playground and split an entire box of ice cream treats to cool off.  Daryl even found me a four leaf clover.


Then we headed back to pick up the girls, who had made wonderful friends and got email addresses and phone numbers.  They showed us their forts and took us off into the woods for more magical adventures.  There were big fluffy dogs.  There were even s’mores. 


Dinner was quick, simple and delicious (mushrooms and asparagus sauteed in garlic butter over rice, with asparagus we bought from a sweet gentleman selling it out of his car by the side of the road).  The children went to sleep nicely. 

I am not sure, but I believe there were cartoon bluebirds circling our heads at least once. 

Today… was not so magical!

Today, it rained and was cold and dreary.  Today, we had to clean the living room to prepare for the delivery of Daddy’s new chair.  Today, the kids squabbled and screeched.  Today, Alex pulled all of the long and lovely dangly bits off of my very green and pretty (and very dangly) plant and left them in a heap on the window seat.

Oh yes, and there was the migraine.  Sigh.

Today, I did my best to make it till bedtime!

Daryl and the girls are in a summer play that they do every year, and that means rehearsals every weeknight in June.  So tonight, my boys, myself and my migraine were on our own.  It was a long end to a long day!

I tried reading books to the boys, but Alex was more in a "let’s throw everything in sight" mood (and our house has a lot in sight).  I killed an hour with my old standby, the bathtub.  I even dragged the playpen up from the basement, vacuumed up the crumbs and wiped down the dust, and tried putting Alex in that for a ten minute break.

He was out in less than one. 

So I went with my last straw coping mechanism– a walk.  I padded the soaking stroller with a dry blanket on the bottom, plopped in a newly happy toddler, covered him with another blanket, and headed out with my two (generally) favorite small boys.

We walked and we walked and we walked some more.  Jack rode his scooter and chattered nonstop.  I was cold and still had a migraine. 

But I had to laugh despite myself when Jack tried to ride his scooter through a puddle that ended up being more of a lake.  The surprised look on his face was priceless!  It was even more priceless when he decided he liked it and rode through it anyway.  Halfway down the street he ditched his scooter and ran back one more time to run through it since it was so much fun.


Alex was happily contained.  I noticed a lovely heart-shaped creeping charlie vine crawling up the back screen door. The cat even escaped to come love on us.



No bluebirds appeared and my migraine never did go away.  Jack was soaked and cold and we eventually had to go home.  I plopped Jack in a bubble bath and kept Alex from setting anything on fire while I cooked dinner one-handed.  And eventually, my reinforcements came home.  Dinner was cooked and Alex mercifully dropped off to sleep.

Some days are magical, some aren’t.  That’s the nature of parenthood.  The trick of it is to find a way to just keep going on those not so magical days, and maybe catch glimpses of the magic that happens anyway.

The other trick is to keep the freezer stocked with ice cream.  Or at least that’s mine.  😉

Happy weekend!



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