Sunday, July 1, 2012

Upcycled Fun for the Economist with Grandiose Notions

It was a grandiose plan.  The kind I have a tendency to speak out loud before knowing where the resources will arrive in order to implement such whimsical notions.  It wasn't practical.  Soon, I would have to pay up.  I put it out of my mind while we traveled in the first part of June.  But once home from vacation and the laundry done, I needed to get to work.  I also needed help.

Remember when I wrote about Happy Mail?  It was my plan for keeping the household in a state of peace while four children negotiated loudly and fought for everything, including bagels with the most raisins, to the biggest slice of watermelon. To ease tensions and save my sanity, I gave them an incentive.  Every day, if they were able to work out their problems peacefully and without hurting their sibling's bodies and feelings, they would receive a small prize in their mail box. We called the reward system "happy mail."  After a while, I got frustrated with making little handmade trinkets every day and switched to tokens.  I told the children that all the tokens they earned would be put in a jar and that when the jar was full, we would do something fun together.  I was initially thinking about about a pizza outing or roller skating.  Then, one day, we had a meeting.  What could we do together that everyone would enjoy?  Someone, (was that me???) suggested a back yard kiddie carnival with games, handmade prizes and treats.

Like I said, sometimes I am inspired by grandiose ideas and then have to make good on my promises.

I wasn't thinking that our carnival would arrive in the middle of a 100 degree weekend.  Due to negotiations with custodial care and a swim team schedule, this weekend was the only one that worked for the children.  Richard sweated buckets, but mowed the lawn and helped Elliot and I set up everything we had worked on during the past week.  Since this carnival was low budget, we used boxes, scraps and found items to build a mini golf course and carnival style games.  Richard set up the pool we bought last year, and one hour before the carnival began, we were finally finished and ready.  It was so hot that the balloons we used for a dart game kept popping from the heat.

I had conflicting feelings about spoiling the children, even though everything was made using something we recycled, except the food.  Richard was cranky, and feeling a little bit resentful.  It was a lot of work. I watched him work and grumble, appreciating his continual gift of love and sacrifice.  I am grateful to him and the way he got over his sour mood to enjoy the evening, in spite of the sweat and earlier irritation.  I am continually thankful to him for accepting me as I am, imperfect and impractical in my creative and whimsical lifestyle.

When the children arrived, there were smiles and wows, laughter and the noise of splashing.  The handmade gifts were hugged and played with. There were games of skill, yet everyone won something. Our new neighbors with their sweet two year girl joined in the fun. There was a table spread with hotdogs, chips, veggies and a beautiful white frosted coconut cake that the children's mother brought. Everyone stayed late and went home tired and happy.

Then a storm blew in and Richard and I, after a long, long day, rushed into the back yard to collect everything that threatened to be blown away and damaged by the rain and wind.  This actually saved us from having to clean up the next day, which was also in the 100's.

Today I am tired...and thinking about the fact that in six days we will do this again for Elliot's eighth birthday.

I could have done it differently, all of it. But then I think about the memories we are making, and how much Elliot's life is enriched by his friends.  His cousins all live hundreds of miles away, as do his grandmothers, his sister, and his uncles and aunts.  It could be a solitary kind of life for a boy who is home schooled as well as living like an only child.

I am fully aware that it would be easier to pay for a party hosted and cleaned up by someone else, or not have a party at all.  But this is what I love to do.  I love to make things, share my time, and celebrate these moments of my son's growing up, before that day arrives when the gift he'll appreciate most is a check and a card, or a phone call from far away.

So, Richard if you are reading this, thank you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping our son to have a vibrant, busy, fun childhood.  That you are involved in Elliot's childhood everyday, guiding with love and support while also teaching important values and behaviors is something I celebrate inside.  I'm so thankful to be living and sharing life, parenting and our happy home with you. 


  1. No clowns, Jenny? No TV cowboy with his horse? Are you saving those surprises for Elliot's birthday party this week? :)

    I love the way you always dream large. I hope Richard reads your expressions of gratitude. He deserves commendation for his toil and sacrifice in turning your grandiose notions into reality.

    If I was your spouse and you had asked me to construct and tear down a carnival in triple digit heat my reactions would have manifested in the following order:

    2. ANGER

    When other parts of the country turn hotter than Florida I shudder to think of the discomfort for man and beast, particularly those who lost power in the recent wave of storms.

    Thanks to your imagination and commitment this homemade, hand crafted, low budget kiddie carnival will remain one of the fondest memories of Elliot's life. Elliot is lucky to have a mom like you and a dad like Richard. Happy Sunday, dear friend Jenny!

    1. Shady: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I forgot the clowns and pony rides!

  2. Hi Jenny. What a lovely post my friend, and I just love that final little paragraph in tribute to Richard. Bless him! I can see from the photos just how hard you all worked, and what a wonderful time the children must have had. As you say, it's such a shame that Elliot lives so far away from his family, so you are so right in making things happen for him like this. Gosh, you must have been very tired though! We have all told you this before, but you really should be proud of yourself. You are an inspiration, and Elliot is lucky to have such a lovely mum,who always thinks so much about things, and puts so much into everything. Well done you my friend! You should be proud. Take care x

    1. Hi Diane! It is such a treat to have you visit today! Thank you for the kind compliments and support. Your presence here today has touched my heart and made me remember how much I appreciate you, and how much I've also missed you. Thank you so much for taking time to stop by, to read and to comment even though you are still recovering. Many hugs and blessings to you!

  3. I am ALWAYS blown away by your creativity. All the effort you three put into this is going to pay off in rich, delightful memories that will last a lifetime. You should be the one people pay to plan their parties. It's a big business down here, and what you've got here far outdoes what anyone does down here.

    And Elliot's almost 8- wow!

    1. Thank you Shelly! Parties are becoming a business here too, which is why I'm trying to teach Elliot and his friends that you can make things from scratch and your own imagination. Elliot played a big role in imagining, crafting and setting up the mini golf course. He helped every step of the way. I think that made it more fun than if someone else had come in and tried to create something that appealed to a wide audience. He made it personal, from his own ideas. He even painted golf balls and little box castles. Summer homeschool is so much fun!

  4. What a cool thing you did! I can't believe the amount of effort and hard work that went into accomplishing your backyard carnival, but I love that you did it. Elliott is one lucky little boy.

    1. Thank you Karen! Now we have all the pieces to bring out of storage when needed, and I have a feeling Elliot will want to use them again and again.


Search This Blog

Banner and button design by me!