Summer ain’t what it used to be. But it can still be fun!

As a kid, Maine summers with Dad stretched on endlessly. I had a friend or two but spent my time on my treadle sewing machine, watching old movies, going to the library and reading the Nancy Drew series, walking downtown to look at fabric, or sitting on one of the big rocks around our little pond in the woods with my orange plastic typewriter, tapping out profound things.  I. Loved. It.

I had kids late, and summer ain’t what it used to be.

Forty years later, my childhood summer is unavailable…Children’s Services snaps up kids on their own, or worse, someone else does.  And though it’s statistically unlikely, the news warns us about both and we are all thinking about it all the time.  The little orange typewriter has been replaced by a keyboard in each pocket. It’s a long walk to the suburban library in the next town; we don’t have woods or pond.  And “kids these days,” including mine, don’t even want to do these things.  Harumph.

When I worked in academic libraries, my kids were in care or camps.  Basically, year-round school.  I couldn’t wait for them to spend the day reading on the lowest branches of our maple tree, or finding a little nook on the path that caresses the side of our house.  Or laying on a quilt with me and watching the clouds, you know, like you do.  For hours.


None of those things has happened.  None!  I’ve stopped feeling bad, almost.

Click to tweet: twitter-128Expectations about our kids’ summers set us up for disappointment or guilt. We think they’ll be just like ours, or magical, or full, or blissfully empty.  On the other side of that, of course, is only compromise.  We can’t force a 1970s summer; authorities would step in! Ha!  But I’d love to help you work out a summer that leaves you and the kids happy.

With a plan and a laugh about how our kids don’t want our dream summer, we’ll hash out what you want and what will work. We’ll work out a screen contract, build in touchstones during the day and week.   We’ll make a fun summer bucket list, and a plan for moving those kids to the next level of independence and contribution before school starts up again.  For all the details click here, and if you’d like to talk about my Summer-Saver VIP day, let’s schedule time to talk.  Just email me at Funnermother [at] or message me on Facebook.Facebook.Facebook.  Let’s make summer funner.


Dry Drowning: A Night at the ER

xray clip art in fun colors

Click this image to purchase this clip art from Doodles First.

Thing 1 is very sensitive to pain. Thing 2 can break concrete with her knees, then get up and say “I’m ok!” So when she complained about not being able to breathe deeply after a day at the pool, I paid attention.  Those old NICU terrors were quick to surface.  I drove like a crazy woman!

Don’t do that, I learned that you don’t need to.

Medical Quik-E Mart wouldn’t take our insurance.  Terror swells.  I had tears in my eyes when I felt an arm on my shoulder.

Thing 1, 12 and as tall as me, that former micropreemie, was hugging me.  A moment of selflessness that physically reminded me that more than a decade has passed since the NICU.

fish xray art

Click this image to purchase it from Scrapimals.

We got to the hospital and they clamped the blood oxygen meter on her finger.

animal xrays

Click this fun alphabet image to purchase it from StrawberryLuna.

They listened to her lungs.  They ordered an x-ray.  It was long past bedtime.  “Has Thing 1 ever had an x-ray?” “Yes, every day for six weeks when he was in the NICU.”  Because he was intubated.  And several other times.  He doesn’t remember any of it, huzzah.

The sweet white-haired, moustached x-ray tech pulled the tv remote onto her bed on his way out.  We spent the rest of the night watching American Ninja Warrior.  Eventually they sent us home. She was ok.  You know I have a helicopter history.  Indeed, the next day Dad asked doubtfully: Why did mom take you to the hospital?  Thing 2: Because she loves me.

I did the right thing.  The ER folks agreed.

Read this important article on dry drowning from TodayParents so that you’ll know the warning signs.

Planning Now for A Kids-At-Home Summer

kids running through field

Click this idyllic image to purchase this print from Vickie Wade Fine Art.

I’m setting up some daily structure for the summer now.  We have one important rule: no computer before 11 am. They are allowed an hour a day during the summer, and it works better if I give them “time to earn” that privilege.  This summer they’ll also be allowed an hour of playstation time, but not before 3.  And they are required to read for at least an hour a day. That’s our day by day.

They are looking forward to ending their first year in public school and having a long leisurely summer.  They did a great job tackling a big transition, and I’m happy to have the chance to stay home and allow them the kind of summer I had as a kid.

But I also asked them to put a couple of fun things on their wish list for the summer, and here’s what they picked.

vintage circus camel

Click this image to purchase this fun instant download from Digital Design Vault.

Thing 1: Living Treasures Animal Park, Build A Cactus Garden, Grow a jade plant

Thing 2: Get good Pokemon cards, Ride a camel, play laser tag at Lazer Storm

All pretty manageable goals for a summer vacation.

We go to the library regularly year round, we have a big-for-the-suburbs garden to tend, and I’m going to continue having them prepare dinner one night a week. So those are our weekly activities.

I’m also going to get them to the water park, to Maine, and with luck I’ll get us ALL organized for a camping trip.  Our first.  Eek.

colorful waterpark print

Click this image to purchase it from Supkophoto.

My friend Gina over at Sister Serendip has a great summer plan for loose weekly themes and manages to keep five little ones lightly focused and fairly busy all summer.  Check her out, too.  And then tell me what YOUR plans are, over on Facebook or in the comments below.  Here we go!

Use edible flowers to entice picky eaters

salad seeds

Click this link to purchase these edible organic flower salad seeds from The Garden Studio.

purple chive flowers

Click this image to purchase organic chive seeds from Cubits.

Gardening with kids introduces them to the freshest of foods.

A family garden teaches them growth cycles, harvest techniques, and teamwork.

Plants are the only living things that make their own food.

Once the novelty of the garden wears off, reintroduce it with edible flowers.

Eat them right out of your window boxes!

The smallest gardeners will need guidance, of course, as to which flowers are edible.

Play scientist!


edible flowers clip art

Click this image to purchase edible flowers clip art from Corner Croft.


What colors are in the flower?

Smell and feel the flowers, crush them in your hands and smell them again.

Ask if they are sweet, peppery, minty.  Crunchy?  Chewy?

Play researcher!



Click this image to purchase lavender seeds from All About Seeds.

Search out if you can cook the flowers, and how.

I have a New England friend who swears that fried dandelion flowers taste like fried mushrooms.

This summer we are trying that!

A coworker used to bring in lavender pizelles (this crispy italian cookies).

hand drawn card

Click this image to purchase this card from Lucy Auge.

Salads with nasturtiums, fried zucchini blossoms, daylilies, echinachea tea…

Have a garden playdate and try them all (clear it with the moms first, just in case of allergies).

Brew sun tea outside, make a salad right from the garden and eat it there, too.

Pretend you are dinosaurs, you’re on Master Chef Junior, you are on a journey to search for the magical golden flower that will make you able to fly…

just ask the kids, they’ll take you on the wildest adventures ever.

yellow marigolds

Click this image to purchase seeds for these marigolds from Kenyon Organics.

If you’d like more ideas for making mealtime with your picky eater fun, sign up for my list of Tools for Finicky Eaters (hint: they’re edible!) here.

And if you want to work one-on-one, we can give your family mealtimes a total makeover.  Just look over here.

FRUSTRATION and what to do with it…

coping skills

Kids and stress –

I messed up. No gas, dead battery.

Not a good morning!  Running Mate had smoke pouring out of both ears, out in the driveway. I felt like my head was in a vice.

To save the situation I wanted to make it teachable.  So my wary kids, silent and blinking, heard my internal monologue.


Coping skills –

That’s right, put words on it.  Narrate: “Ug, I feel like a numb head!  I know we’ll get through this, but I feel so bad right now..Sometimes I think HORSES would be easier than cars! Ug!”  Words help you — and everyone else — make sense of a situation.  Find a teachable moment.  Narrate it.

If you can’t tame your frustration with words, you can always give in!  Really!  With your kids, giving in to them for ten minutes of undivided attention, physical contact, or dancing together can nourish a needy child enough to then allow you to work for an hour.  With your self, my dear late Auntie used to recommend this: Wallow in it.  Go ahead, feel it and cry and feel bad, and rant and rave and scream if you have to.  But set a timer.  And after the time you specify, according to the size of the feelings, you have to move on.  Give yourself ten minutes or two days.  Then get on with it.

What’s your best strategy for dealing with overwhelming feelings?  I’m always looking for tips.

DIY: Birthday Jarlights


Birthday Jarlights

You’ll need:  clean clear jars for everyone, poster paint, white glue, paintbrushes, shiny star stickers, colored paper and a tea light for each jar.  For younger kids, battery operated.  

Mix poster paint and glue to make the paint adhere to smooth surfaces like glass and plastic – about 1/3 glue and 2/3 paint.  

crafts for kids

Birthday Jarlights

Cut out football shapes to serve as lit candle wicks, glue them around the jar.




Paint over the shapes, then glue ‘candlesticks’  to the jar.  I used some flashy origami paper, but plain construction paper would work, too.

crafts for kids

Birthday Jarlights

Peel the football shapes off while the paint is still a little wet, then allow paint to dry.


Then, and this is my favorite part, put in a battery-operated tea light!

My crafters were 6 and used glass with close supervision; younger kids should use plastic but the paint/glue combo should work just as well.



Birthday Jarlights


This craft could be adapted for older kids, who could paint more elaborate scenes, more layers of paint, and use real tea lights.

We’ve done this for Halloween, Christmas/New Year, and birthdays.



Even the tiniest kids can paint a jar and the light will still shine through.


If you give jar painting a try, I’d love to see the results, just post them on Funnermother’s Facebook page!

DIY: Building a heart light

self care  and kids

Turn on your heart light!

Running mate works weekend nights, and I am not a good single parent.  One bedtime, I could feel it.  You know, increased bickering, picking at each other, elevated kinetic energy, swirling vapors and mom getting flustered.

An idea like a lightning strike! Outgrown tights!  I cut off the legs, filled them with old old dried beans — one got lentils, one got pinto — and tied a knot.

self care

Warming the heart light.

Then, a minute in the microwave.

Then, magic!


Apply the heart light.

One kid is a seeker, and laughs and jumps and kicks and fools around until the instant she falls asleep.  The other is more pondering, more of a worrier, but still can be revved up to a frothy sibling rivalry.

self care


The “heart light” works for them both, centering and heating, weighting and calming.  I suppose I could sew buttons on for eyes, but it’s working as it is.

This very flexible DIY project would work well tucked into a sweatshirt or coat hood, or as two smaller ‘heart lights’ tucked into coat or hoodie pockets.  It also could be popped in the freezer and used for headaches or booboos.

I hope I get a turn with it soon.

More posts on sensory play include: Here, Feel This Fruit

Light-up Pumpkin Craft


Pumpkin Craft – Funnermother

kids activities

Pumpkin Craft – Funnermother

Thing 2 had a play date.  ALL they do is play and laugh and whisper and giggle.

It’s awesome.

But we did have a quick structured craft activity.

You’ll need:

clean clear jars for everyone, poster paint, white glue, paintbrushes, and a tea light for each jar.  At this age, battery operated.

Halloween craft

Pumpkin Craft – Funnermother

Mix orange poster paint and glue to make the paint adhere to smooth surfaces like glass and plastic – about 1/3 of this bowl is glue.

Paint a jar.

They are 6 and used glass with close supervision;

younger kids should use plastic.

This craft could be adapted for older kids, too,

who could paint more elaborate spooky scenes and use real tea lights if you are so inclined.


Pumpkin Craft – Funnermother.

Let the first layer of paint dry.

Use black poster paint to paint your

Jack-o-Lantern’s face.


Pumpkin Craft – Funnermother

The second layer of paint adhered to the first,so we didn’t use glue for the second layer.

Then, and this is my favorite part, put in a battery-operated tea light!

No messy pumpkin guts, but still fun and festive!

Sensory play in the kitchen

Thing 1 was a micropreemie. We were ON ALERT and it was the very least of our worries when he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensory Integration Disfunction (I don’t remember in what order).  Ten years later, he still has a hair-trigger gag reflex and is particular about ripe fruit, chewy meat, the feel of his blankets, clothes, and dirty hands.


Sensory play in the kitchen – Funnermother

cooking with kids

Sensory play in the kitchen – FunnermotherHere you see instant oatmeal, sunflower seeds, cheerios, maple syrup, oil, and… yes… mini chocolate chip cookies.

He likes to have control over his sensory play, and is drawn to the kitchen and actually making his culinary ideas.  Here we are making the granola recipe in his head.


Sensory play in the kitchen – Funnermother


Sensory play in the kitchen – Funnermother

Here you see instant oatmeal, sunflower seeds, cheerios, maple syrup, oil, and… yes… mini chocolate chip cookies.

He can be hesitant. His culinary dreams often have multiple layers of sweets, so between my ‘no sweets’ position and his hesitation we have room to negotiate. 🙂

I like to give total control, and then have a sudden ‘Just put in a handful’ or a quick ‘here, hold this’ moment.  Not enough time to hesitate.

For my kid, that works.

You can see he doesn’t want to touch the sticky granola.

But he did.  A little.

More important, for me, is that he saw how the separate ingredients looked and tasted on their own, how they looked and smelled being stirred and cooked…

sensory play

Sensory play in the kitchen – Funnermother

and tasted!

I’d call this a great afternoon of gross and fine motor practice, imagination, planning, process, results, and sensory exploration!

Do you sneak in sensory experiences?  Please leave a comment telling us how.

Other posts on sensory play include:

Here, Feel This Fruit

Recycle Freestyle

Outsider art

Outsider art - Funnermother

Outsider art – Funnermother

Outdoor play is great, of course.

But what if

the outside is not just a backdrop for play?

Outsider art - Funnermother

Outsider art – Funnermother

What if?

We interact with it.

Bring it in.  Study it. Draw it.

We did just that at a play date at our local conservatory & botanical garden.

outsider art

Outsider art – Funnermother

No running around inside.

We brought art supplies and paper and set the kids free outside, on the garden grounds.

Outsider art - Funnermother

Outsider art – Funnermother

They knew just what to do,

and were engaged for

an hour, focusing and moving

and focusing again.

Outsider art - Funnermother

Outsider art – Funnermother

They were absorbed


they knew just what to do.

Other posts about kids and art include: Freestyle Recycle