Keeping the kiddies occupied over summer vacation isn’t that hard. Normally, Christmas vacation isn’t much of a dilemma, either: you put on a lot of layers, you wallow around in the snow for a while, and then you come in and demand something hot to spill on yourself (or so I’ve gathered. I haven’t actually left the house since 2004).
But we have no snow. None at all, and so far, no one has conceived a burning desire to spend long afternoons walking back and forth in the frozen mud of the driveway, even though sometimes this activity is punctuated by the thrill of a pigeon flying by and looking at you for a minute.
We do have over a week off school, though. What to do? Here’s my list, which is shorter than I’d like. Maybe you have some ideas to share?
1. Keep on celebrating Christmas. Some of our neighbors have given their trees the heave-ho already, not realizing that Christmas is just getting started. If there’s any baking, ornament making, visiting, singing, card sending, or general merriment that you didn’t get around to before the 25th, you’re perfectly within your liturgical rights to do it now.
2. Read books aloud. We gave the kids a certain amount of electronica for Christmas, but nothing can replace read-aloud time, especially under the light of the Christmas tree. For the older kids, I’m thinking The Great Divorce or Out of the Silent Planet; for the middle kids, maybe The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Beowulf: A New Telling by Robert Nye, The Indian in the Cupboard, or The Princess and the Goblin. For the younger kids, Pippi Longstocking. Or maybe just Pippi Longstocking for everybody.
3. Crash a novena. Yeah, you’re a few days late, but the Feast of the Holy Family is Dec. 30 this year, so if you start the novena today, you will be done only six days after the feast. (As parents of a rather difficult child, Mary and Joseph will totally understand.) This is a great time of year to take stock of where your family is headed, and to ask the Holy Family’s protection and guidance. The only rule is, if you catch yourself grumbling, like Manjula Nahasapeemapetilons, “Oh look, it’s the mother with one baby. How do you do it?”, you have to start the novena over again.
4. Do a little star gazing. I have a hard time with this one, since staying up late and being cold are very far down on my list of desirable activities just now. But some of my happiest and most profound childhood memories involve going out into the night to see something special in the sky: a comet, a rare convergence of two planets, a constellation that’s about to retire for the year. We bought my son a telescope for Christmas, and are waiting for a clear night. Can you recommend a website that tips you off to what to look for, night by night?
5. Involve your kids when making New Year’s resolutions. Even fairly young kids (third grade or so) can benefit from being asked to take stock and think about what they want to accomplish—and you may be surprised to hear what’s important to them. (Of course, you may not be surprised at all.)
Well, that’s kind of a short list, but I’m a little short on brains right now. What can you add? What do you do when your kids have free time, but you and your spouse do not?