November 17, 2010

Crafting Our Afternoons

Working full time means I have less than three hours to spend with my boys on any given weekday.  I find it's best not to dwell on this calculation but I do need to find a way to maximize this quality time.*  The clock is ticking as soon as I pick up the boys.  We stumble in the door with jackets waving, shoes flying and bags dropping.  The tote bags are filled with remnants of our day:  empty cups, Liam's blanket, daycare journal, Henry's coloring pages, lunch containers, student papers to grade, to do lists and the junk mail I collected at the curb.  Usually the answering machine is blinking, one or both of the boys are literally screaming  for attention while the dogs scratch furiously at the door and/or try their darndest to trip the rest of us with their frantic pacing. 

It is amidst this chaos that I need to reconnect with my family.

If I work backward from Liam's 7:15 bedtime, dinner needs to be on the table by 6:15 at the latest or 6 pm if it's a bath night.  That means I must decide on and start preparing our simple dinner no later than 5:45.  So, if I'm lucky, there's one hour of free time for us to share. I need to engage the family in an activity that transitions us from our separate days and gives us a sense of belonging to one another again.

My boys love their GeoTrax.  Some afternoons we simply take off our jackets and shoes and play trains for an hour.  Henry and I disagree about track design, Liam can't understand that the white diesel train does not work no matter how many times he places it in my lap and I am constantly noticing the stains on the carpet,  but all in all, it's a pleasant way to spend the time.

Henry loves to do puzzles but, no pun intended, this is not a connecting activity.  Liam cannot do Henry's jigsaws and he absolutely refuses to work age-appropriate, chunky wooden puzzles alongside his brother and me.  Tantrums abound. 

Last week I stumbled upon a simple craft.  Both boys had great fun creating a big mess.  Liam used his fingers, Henry used paintbrushes and safety scissors.  I used a sponge and some 409.

As a result everyone was engaged, working side by side for a few minutes while we debriefed our busy days.  We talked about colors and nature.  We talked about the head-to-toe mess that Liam had become.  It was fabulous family time and the finished product, while less important than the process, is a visual reminder of this shared activity.

I'm currently looking for a few more open-ended projects with a tactile components for Liam and a series of steps for Henry to follow.  I purchased a used copy of Rosie O'Donnell's Crafty U book.  I also discovered and of course, there's my favorite go-to for ideas, Family Fun

I've brainstormed a few other ideas for this family time.  I'm going to fashion some color and number dice and teach the boys a game with Duplo blocks.  Roll a color and a number, then add those bricks to your builidng.  Again the key is to find something that will equally engage an almost 21 month old and his 3 1/2 year old brother.  Since my boys love to eat, I'm also looking for more "make-your-own" recipes; tiny pizzas and pilgrim hat cookies are the menu for this month.  Now where did I put that sponge and 409?

* Full disclosure:  Some days I'm just too tired to do anything except retrieve cartoons from the dvr.


  1. Sounds to me like your boys will remember the times you gave them your undivided attention more than the times they sat & watched really are inspiring with your efforts!

  2. You can so easily see what a devoted mom you are, you don't just let the boys amuse themselves while you do something else, you acutally particapte in these moments. I admire you so much, its a shame more parents didn't take a page from your book xo

  3. This is awesome and i'll be bookmarking this post for when my kids are a little older. Sam loves his geotrax trains too (and the accompanying video), and the dinner to bedtime time seems contracted in our house too. Most nights i manage by feeding Sam Amy's organic frozen meals (which take 5 minutes in the microwave) and lots of fresh cut fruits and veggies... avocados and mangoes being his current favorites. I love reading your blog and getting tips for what I'll have to deal with as Eva gets older. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. This is great! Since we started project vegetarian, my little one stands on a stool next to me and "helps" me chop veggies and cook dinner. We talk about colors and veggies. She tries to steal my knife while saying "no no no", it's great fun.

    But it is a way for us to be side-by-side working on dinner "together", and reconnect. I can be accomplishing dinner (and maybe a few dishes too) and she feels like we're having together time.

    I can imagine it would be really challenging to meet the needs to your two boys.

    I bought a used book at a bookstore called "Baby Days". It's for the 36-months-and-under crowd, but it has tons of suggestions for activities to do with little ones. It might give you some more ideas if you can find it at the library.

  5. Oh, what fun!

    Following your lovely blog and inviting you to add this at - a mommy blogger directory and more, where you can also meet more mom bloggers like you.

    You can also add there your giveaways and business links; get featured by sharing your crafts, recipes and interesting musings.

    Following us back is deeply appreciated. Thanks and have a great day!

    BLR Graham -- blogging and connecting blogging moms.
    {all moms welcome}

    P.S. Join my Betty Crocker Package Giveaway by visiting More giveaways at

  6. You are doing a fantastic job, and I just don't know how you even have the energy to think up all these things! Certainly a juggling act! Cartoon watching is also downtime for them too which is valuable. I don't believe we have to take TV as evil. I have seen young adults become great professionals, creative and imaginative, and they were the TV watchers of their young years. Everything in moderation is ok. Your kids should be so proud to have such a dedicated mom as you!