I took a day off to be home with our 3 kids this President's Day. I thought about taking them to a museum, a special event in the city, or a movie. I thought about the best ways to keep them busy, but not too busy (overtired = trouble). In the end, I asked the kids what they wanted to do. They wanted to go to a nearby park and to bake carrot muffins. And to have ants-on-the-log for lunch. And to do a science experiment. So that's what we did - except that science experiment. We never got to it. It was a wonderful day - a bit chaotic, but mostly peaceful and pleasantly low-key. It reminded me of the times when kids were younger (3 years ago) and I was staying home with them, and we did everything together. I feel I should take advantage of these school-free days more often, just enjoying being with kids, being a family.
There is a large park just a 5 minute drive from our house. It is mostly open meadows and hills, with lots of space to run around. There is also an open theater stage there (free summer concerts!) that was our destination on Monday.
My son brought a couple of Frisbee and small balls - while the girls were snacking (my older daughter insisted on packing snacks), my son and I threw Frisbee to each other and showed off our ball-catching skills. He is getting so good at this, I thought. I love just watching him do these sports-y things: throwing, kicking, catching, running. It always catches me off guard - how is this possible, when did he learn all this? We played for a while, until I was out of breath - he was unstoppable.
The kids then went on running up and down the nearby hill: first would come my son, running like the wind, then my older daughter, waving her arms around, and finally, the youngest, a grin on her face, screaming "Watch, mommy! Watch!" And I did watch. And they did it over and over again, not wanting to stop - ever. I even had a chance to sit down and read my book while they climbed the hill (big sister helping the little sister) and organized themselves for the next run-down-the-hill.
And then they decided to put on a dancing show. This involved a lot of whispering and giggling behind the stage (I read my book). Then my older daughter came out in a ballet mode, doing graceful pirouettes. Then the youngest would toddle out ("No, not yet! Wait! you are ruining it!") and repeat everything her sister was doing (with a solemn grace of a 3-year old). Then my son would jump from behind the stage "Ghost! Ghost!" making a scary face and the girls would scream and run off.
It was very warm, even though it was February, so the kids kept taking layers of clothing off, until they were down to t-shirts. An older couple came came to join us with their 3 granddaughters and I felt a mix of guilt and amusement. The girls were dressed in winter jackets, hats, and mittens (although the older one threw off a couple of layers). The girls were nice and my kids liked them right away, so the kids went on to chase each other and play together. I thought "my parents would over-dress their grandkids, too, if they were watching them for the day". And then I thought "my parents would be horrified to see kids dressed in t-shirts in the middle of February... and they would be horrified at their dirty faces with drippy noses". Why is it that I never remember to bring tissues with me? Oh, but I do hate chasing them with tissues and begging them to let me wipe their noses. I really resented my mom doing that when I was a kid! And then I thought "Who cares!!! We are having a good time!!!"
Many people come to that park to walk their dogs - sometimes without a leash. Usually, this is not a problem. I love dogs. My kids love dogs. The older kids are cautious enough around strange dogs and look to me for clues about how to react. If a friendly-looking dog drops by to say "hi", I have no problem with petting, hugging, and licking that ensues. My youngest daughter, however, will chase everything in sight to pet it, give it a hug (and a squeeze around the neck), and pull on its tail. No fear, no remorse. So our last 5 minutes in the park were marked by me running after her, screaming "gentle hands" and "no, not the tail!!!" as she went after a dog that was clearly not looking for affection. The dog was off the leash and was running around looking for food and marking territory. The owner was also nearby, with a stroller, and assured me that the dog was friendly and used to toddlers (obviously). Still, I was apprehensive. Finally, the owner put the dog on a leash and I managed to grab my child. Clearly, I should have just grabbed her in the beginning instead of letting her chase that stupid dog. Clearly, I also need to work on getting the youngest kid to listen and respond (to commands).... preferably, immediately.
The rest of the day was mellow. My older daughter made ants-on-the-log for herself and her little sister. My son and I had sandwiches. We made carrot muffins with the older kids while the 3-year old took her nap. I took a nap while the big kids played and the youngest napped (she must have been tired after all that running in the park). Everyone played peacefully while I was making supper. Then the squabbles started, but I was ready (and rested after the nap) - so I played with the 3-year old while the 6-year old was practicing piano and the 8-year old was reading. We read, we colored, we played with blocks.
We were hoping to get some soil ready in pots and plant some seeds indoors (beans, lettuce, sunflower), but never got around to it. Next weekend!