In defense of boredom

On Saturday, our 9-year-old son had his first basketball game as part of a recreational league he is trying for the first time. This kid does not have a ton of natural ability when it comes to sports. But what he lacks in speed or agility, he makes up for in determination and love for the game. He loves to play sports and will find a way to practice, whether it’s inside, outside, in the snow, the freezing cold or in the garage.

We weren’t terribly surprised or even disappointed when the game began and we realized that after only two practices, this group of seven boys didn’t even know the rules of basketball, let alone have the skill to dribble or make a basket. This seems to be our history with sports.

Whether it’s baseball, soccer or basketball, our son tends to get drafted onto the one team that has only one or two kids with a whole lot of ability for the game. And that’s OK. After several seasons of being on totally losing teams, I can say it’s been a great experience to focus on learning a game and not worrying about winning.

But what was not OK was what we saw unfold at our first basketball game of the season and the first basketball game of any child in our family. Two of our nine players quit before the season even began. After the first four minutes of the game, three more boys decided they needed to take a time out.

Two of these boys sat on the bench and would not be convinced to go back into the game no matter what. One complained after four minutes of game time that he was done. He was too tired and would not be able to play one more minute. From outside appearances, all of the boys seemed physically fit and capable of playing longer than four minutes. But they refused to go back in.

That gave our son and several others another 56 minutes to pull the weight of the boys who sat down drinking water, refusing to be budged. The sweaty boys who played the entire game would not be given the luxury of sitting out for a few minutes because we would not have had enough players to continue the game. The other team had nine active players who took turns in the game.

I could hear one of the boy’s moms yelling at her child from behind to get back in the game. He ignored her, and she stayed in her seat chatting with her friends.

After a few quarters of being destroyed by the other team, one of the dads got up and stormed out of the gym. He announced, “I’m not going to watch this!” apparently mad at the coaches, which included my husband who was simply volunteering to help out because the real coach was away on a business trip. The dad didn’t bother to say anything to his son, who sat on the bench, refusing to even participate in the game.

So, I don’t know any of these kids, their medical conditions, their family history or anything about them. I don’t know if they have legitimate reasons to sign up for basketball and then refuse to play. I don’t know their families, and I realize that I am jumping to conclusions, but here goes anyway.

Earlier that morning, when the boys showed up for their team photo, every single one of them, except for our son and one other boy, stood in line, playing either a DS, a PSP or an iPod. When one of the boy’s moms told him to put down his electronic gaming device to actually participate in the team photo, he refused to listen and chose to take it with him into the gym.

I don’t have any facts to support the cause and effect of what we saw that morning and what we saw that afternoon during the game. But regardless, I’m going to go on my soapbox.

Here’s the thing.

What are we doing to our kids by allowing them to do what they want, behave the way they want and give them whatever is necessary to keep them entertained at all times?

Why can’t a group of 9-year-old boys stand in a line for 30 minutes without being entertained by a portable gaming device? What is wrong with putting children in a position where they are required to interact with those around them?

OK. Our kids watch TV, they watch movies, they play the Wii and they play the X-Box. They do a lot of things other kids do. But they do not have unlimited access to stare at various types of screens, small and large at any moment they have free time.

Between doing home school and helping with chores and going to other activities, they have a pretty busy day. But when they can, they love to play. And what I mean by “play” is actually interact with the world around them. PLAY.

As long as they can tolerate being outside in a snowsuit, they are outside playing as much as possible every day. They play outside on the hottest days of the year. They are active. They run and play tag and they find ways to entertain themselves.

I love it when they tell me they are bored. Does that mean I give them an electronic device to pass the time? No!

Boredom brings out their creativity. It forces them to figure out what to do with themselves. Whether they are alone or with friends, their minds are able to find something to do. Draw something. Paint something. Make up a game. Imagine. Create. Read a book. Run. Jump. Move!

I’m not judging these boys because they didn’t know how to dribble or they didn’t understand the rules of basketball. That will come with practice. But it won’t come from sitting on the bench, refusing to even try.

Maybe they need more minutes of boredom in their lives to give them time to work on it.

I know our son is excited for the opportunity he had to handle the ball nearly the entire game on Saturday. He’s not naturally fast, agile or a great shot. The funny thing is, he has had significant problems with his knees since he was very young and we know that after an hour of basketball, he will be popping Motrin and sleeping with a heating pad to give him relief.

But he is determined. He knows what to do. He doesn’t need his mom to yell at him to get up off the bench. He wants to PLAY.


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My big fat photo archiving project

During the last two weeks, I have been a little preoccupied with a big photo archiving project. It all started back on Jan. 2 when I completed my photo book for the year 2011.
I used to be a scrapbooker. In fact, my office is still packed with decorative papers, scissors, cutters and embellishments. But I am so glad that my days of cutting and pasting on paper are over! I am loving the amazingly quick, easy and high-quality digital photo books I can create in 24 hours, rather than 12 months!
After a marathon digital photo session on Jan. 2, I decided to get serious about going back and creating a photo book for each year of our family, starting with the first year I had digital photos.
The first thing I did was buy an external hard drive so I could store all of my photos in one place. I copied photos from older computers, my laptop, CDs, and my new computer. I created a photo library that now contains more than 20,000 photos.
While we have some digital photos dating back to 1999, it wasn’t until the year 2004 that I switched exclusively to a digital camera. Our third child also was born at the end of 2004. But in October of 2005, my one-year-old computer crashed. The hard drive was fried. And I had no back up of the first year of my daughter’s life! 
I was so thankful that I had printed out about 100 photos of her birth and first few months. (WHAT a gift from God!!) So, to complete my photo archive, I have been scanning in all of those photos. (I already had photos for the first nine months of that year, but we bought my new computer the same weekend she was born, so we lost everything from that point on.) 
The past few days, the scanner has been going constantly. It takes 4.5 minutes to scan one photo at 1,200 dpi. We all seemed to develop internal timers that would go off every 4.5 minutes, and someone would switch the photo!
Once I got all of those done, I decided to keep going. I scanned in all of the portraits we have taken since my oldest son was born. WOW! It’s been so fun to compare all of the kids at different ages. And double WOW! It’s amazing to see them grow up — literally — before my eyes!
Check it out:
2003, ages 1 and 3
2005, ages 6 months, 2 and 4

2005, ages 1, 3 and 5

2006, 2, 4 and 6

2007, 3, 5 and 7

2008, ages 4, 6 and 8

2009, ages 3 weeks, 5, 7 and 9
2010, ages 6 weeks, 5, 7 and 9

2010, ages 6 months, 5, 7 and 9

2010, ages 10 months, 6, 8 and 9

2010, ages 1, 6, 8 and 10

2011, ages 1, 6, 8 and 10

2011, ages 2, 7, 9 and 11

2012, ages 2, 7, 9 and 11


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Warm getaway and iPhoto tricks

My husband’s company gave him the day off work on Monday for Martin Luther King Day. It was kind of weird because this was also the first day back to co-op for our three older kids. Although their teachers had been giving us assignments for the past two weeks, they didn’t have class. Monday was supposed to be their first full day back at their academic classes.

It feels like we have been running like crazy lately. I have had to work more hours than usual the past few weeks, and it seems like I’ve been working more on weekends. We decided to take advantage of the fact my husband was off work and make the most of it! So, we let their teachers know they wouldn’t be at class, and we headed into the city.

I have wanted to visit the Garfield Park Conservatory since last year when a bunch of friends went on a field trip there. If I’m stuck in the snowy, cold weather of the Midwest, there’s no place I would rather be than inside the tropical paradise of a conservatory.

The minute we walked in, all of the kids remarked about how they could smell the oxygen! It was nice and warm and humid. Two large rooms of the conservatory were closed because the roof was destroyed last summer by a hail storm. However, the five remaining areas that were open were a treasure.

The kids did a scavenger hunt to find certain plants, and then filled out a sticker sheet. My husband and I spent lots of time playing with our camera and testing out photo settings. We had a beautiful peaceful day, and we were so glad we made the choice to go there together as a family.

We took a ton of photos that we have been watching as a slide show in iPhoto. I was thinking how cool it would be if I could export the slide show, instead of posting the photos one by one. I did a quick web search and found out that you CAN do that in iPhoto.

It’s as simple as clicking the “+” sign and then instead of creating a new album, creating a new slide show. Then, you just adjust your theme and music, add or delete photos and click export. I used the song “Where I Belong” by Building 429, which I just downloaded for free this week from the K-Love web site. (So, see… this blog post is just a wealth of information!)

I recently upgraded my iPhoto, so this was the first time we had used the “shatter” theme as a transition. We all love it and think it adds a cool effect to the slideshow.

So, here goes… Take a look:


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Let the snowboarding begin!

After several days of hard work, the snow boarding hill is ready for action.
We love having friends stop by to go for a ride down the hill.

Sledding or snowboarding… 

It’s lots of fun.

Sumner learned to snowboard for the first time!

Matthew is becoming an expert.

Watch out! Girl power!

The line can be long…

But it’s worth the wait.



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Skating Rink Construction, 101

Back in the fall, the weather reports predicted that this winter in Chicago would be one of the worst in memory. We were supposed to have more snow and more freezing temps in December than ever before.
We were excited. Last year, our entire family was converted from winter haters to — dare I say it? — winter lovers!? Of course, we still prefer summer, or fall or even spring. Winter is definitely not our season of choice. But we had so much fun last winter that we were kind of looking forward to it.
Our house was a winter sport wonderland last year. The kids figured out how to use recycling bins to pack huge bricks of snow and build tall snow-boarding hills. My husband built an ice skating rink in the backyard. And we had that awesome blizzard to provide a playground of snow!
When we heard the prediction for this winter, we decided to make our skating rink bigger and better than before. Our plan was to start construction Thanksgiving weekend and be ready with a pond full of frozen water by Dec. 1.
But then… it didn’t snow. And the temperatures didn’t drop. December was mild, and we barely got a dusting of snow. We couldn’t believe it when the first two weeks of January felt more like spring than winter! We started getting used to playing outside in 40 and 50 degree weather.
Finally, the snow came today. CapableDad has been working overtime in the backyard to get the ice rink ready before the temperature dove into the 20s. Here’s the step-by-step of this year’s skating rink construction project.
First, we decided to move the play structure so we could extend the rink by 10 feet.
Next, he built a frame around the area, which is about 30 by 40 feet.
Our yard is fairly level. However, it does decline by about eight inches from the front to the back. To save on the cost of water, my husband put wood pallets in the back of the rink. He and two friends collected the pallets from all sorts of places.
The frame on the very back of the rink is about three boards high and it’s only one board high on the front. The goal is to have five inches of water on the most shallow part of the rink.
They were working hard all day yesterday and into the evening. The temperature was in the mid-50s most of the day and the kids were playing without coats!
The guys put plywood across the pallets and then filled in the step to the ground with leaves and grass. The kids thought this made a great stage.
Next they had to lay the huge piece of plastic across the frame. My husband bought the plastic at Home Depot. One piece isn’t wide enough, so they used duct tape to attach two pieces and secure the seam in the middle. This step is crucial. If you leave any gaps or holes, the water will leak through and you will spend hundreds of dollars watering the lawn!
They don’t actually attach the plastic because it could pull and rip. They just laid it across the area and over the frame. As we added water last night, we tried to remove air bubbles and get the thick plastic to lay as flat as possible.
We filled the rink halfway last night. We got several inches of snow this morning, which added to the water level. It will take several days to freeze. We still need to add more water, which will help smooth out all of the bumps left by the snow.
I read that the temperature is supposed to get back into the 40s next week. We’re hoping it’s not true. We are actually cheering for more snow and more cold so we can put on our skates soon!


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