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Sandy’s Gift: A Chance to Explore Sustainability, Soul-growin’ and Fun with Your Kids

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If you are reading this before Hurricane Sandy has cleared your path and you have power and a safe, dry roof over your head, let me wish you smooth sailing through the storm and its aftermath. If you are not so lucky, please know that millions of people across the world are praying for your safety. Regardless of whether you live in the affected area or have power, this post is for you.

However you slice this storm’s prediction, it’s serious. Sunday evening’s news not only included announcements for local schools closings, but the incredibly rare pre-storm cancellation of classes at the University of Virginia (my husband’s employer and the site of our first meeting some twenty years ago). I went to bed thinking how severe the storm’s punch would be if the National Weather Service’s 11 p.m. statement warned anyone not all ready for a prolonged power outage to haul your tushy out to the store to complete any last storm prep a.s.a.p. And all this in an area predicted to get only 1-3 inches of rain (update: now 2-6, and possibly snow too) – a ton less than the 8-10 inches expected in the storm center’s path. (Of course, the wind factor here is supposed to be close to the highest speeds for this storm.)

The last thing I thought I’d do this morning is write a blog post. But I woke before the kids and heard the swirl of questions rise up from the still of my subconscious. Do we have enough water and batteries? Is this storm really the largest in a quarter century to hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States? How long might we all be without power?

My personal questions shifted into the multitude of anticipated questions from my little ones’ young minds. Why can’t we play with the flashlight in our fort? Why can’t I go biking right now? Why can I see my breath inside? Why can’t I feel my toes? Why does this dinner look like canned dog food?

Storm-time fun, kid-style: Biking in the a foot of snow! (Jan 2010)

And that’s when I realized what a huge opportunity Sandy is for teaching a range of life lessons to our little ones (and ourselves, right?). While no one knows for sure the impact that Sandy will have on an estimated 50-60 million human lives – people from all corners of the earth in America’s great melting pot of the I-95 corridor and hundreds of miles around, by all accounts it’s going to be historically significant.

Hang in there. This is not intended to be a scare post about the “Frankenstorm.” My hope instead is to give you food for thought about how to seize the Sandy opportunity to enjoy life’s learning and have fun with your kids. See, Sandy’s coming right when I’m on a new kick to love whatever is my situation in life. A friend recently recommended the book Loving What Is. So far, I’ve read enough to enjoy challenging myself to embrace and love more of my reality than I regularly might.

Since Hurricane Sandy’s looming, let’s get to the good stuff. Here is a list of discussion points and activities to share with your kids (and even help you cope and have fun with your kids!:) during the next several hours and days, whether you live near the storm or not:

1) SUSTAINABILITY

Whether or not you see Sandy as an example of the more frequent and extreme storms predicted to be caused by global warming and climate change, it is an experiential learning opportunity in sustainability. In other words, many of us may soon be living more of a no impact lifestyle than we would normally choose. In our home, we like to refer to it as indoor camping. It has a fun ring to it.

Like camping, riding out a storm takes the ephemeral “What is life like without electricity?” – a fun game for kids building stick teepees in the woods – to the concrete. Experiencing it first-hand can help us reflect on what is actually needed to sustain life, how many others in the world normally live without power, and whether or not we can reduce our daily impact on the earth. For those of you who live off the power grid, either intentionally (like the family in this New York Times piece) or not, this can still be a point of connection – imagining the millions of humans not used to living this way experiencing it firsthand as a double-edged test/gift from the universe. Perhaps more importantly, power-free living can empower us to connect in new ways – playing together instead of with a screen and growing our compassion, patience, and gratitude for what we do have. The end result? Kids practicing kindness and global citizenship.

2) SOUL GROWIN’

* Compassion (& Global Citizenship)

What better way to understand and even share to some degree in the suffering of others than to experience it yourself? For kids, real experiences are the ticket to lifelong lessons. So, embrace the memorable gift that comes with this storm. If you find your family is without power this week, enjoy exploring how the changes in your life may be normal for others – cold, hunger, and so on. If you’re not affected by Sandy, you can help your kids understand what those going through the storm are experiencing. Either way, it’s good for those of us living in media-heavy, power-dependent parts of the world that the suffering from Sandy probably will pale in comparison to the magnitude of that brought on by many past and future natural disasters across the planet. Yet, suffering doesn’t require similar scope to breed empathy and/or sympathy.

Empathy and sympathy can go a step further to compassion. As your kids reflect on how hard (or not) life is without certain things, ask them: what can we do to help others? Maybe your little global citizen will even cast his or her compassion net around the whole globe! Maybe you’ll find complaints (about no heat/warm water/screen time/insert whatever powered convenience your kids most miss) turn to counting pennies to donate to those in greater need. Or perhaps rationing food so that there is plenty, should a neighbor run low.

This brings to mind one of our fun activities that go with our Love in Henna textile products to help Spread the Love! As described in full detail on our corresponding activity tags for the Love theme:

Have a Spread the Love brainstorm with your kids or neighborhood. Think up ways to be of service to others — neighbors, friends, family, and other members of our wonderful human family. Create a “Spread the Love” jar, decorated with a Tender Sapling LOVE sticker or your own LOVE design. Use coins collected in the jar to assist in your efforts…

* Patience

No parent is a saint, so all of us hunkering down to weather out the storm are likely to be pushed to our limits. Seriously. I only need to hear the Darth Vader’s theme song played three times by our eldest budding pianist before I feel gray hairs sprouting on my head. I know I’m on the path to losing my patience when I mentally curse our luck inheriting a real piano and wish we had an electric keyboard instead! 🙂

Okay, I was really going to write about how Sandy will offer the kids ample opportunity to practice their patience – waiting until the rain lets up to go to the park and so on. But truth be told, patience starts with us parents.

For the moments when we parents are loving our lives enough that patience is a breeze, let’s turn to the kids. Surely, their patience will run thin after the close proximity to their siblings (or lack of a playmate) grows unbearable and the novelty of seeing their breath indoors fades. What to do? Here are a few fun ideas to help recharge the patience batteries.

Patience Battery created by our 5-year-old son to help our awareness of when we as a family need to recharge our patience batteries.

* Patience Battery. Create a visual Patience Battery for the family. Here’s how our 5-year-old did it: Draw a battery on a piece of paper.  Cut a different color piece of paper a little smaller than the size of the battery. This will be the power level indicator. Cut a slit in one end of the battery to fit the indicator. Slide it almost all the way through. Color showing = full; color missing = empty. When it feels like patience is running low, adjust the battery’s colored indicator and rally the troops to replenish it by doing one of these activities:

* Patient Bear Meditation. Pretend that you are bears preparing for the winter. Gather pillows to create a den and hunker down for the winter. Curl up in cozy balls or child’s pose and talk through the magical quiet and slow-motion changes of winter. You can even take them into the dream world on the bears’ journey through hibernation. By the end of the sequence at the blossoming of spring, you all are sure to feel warmer, happier, and hopefully more patient!

* Patience Challenge. Have a contest to see how long the family can sit by the window and watch the storm outside (or if your little ones are scared by the storm, have them watch the fish in the fishtank or some object). Tally up everyone’s minutes to get the family total. Post it near the patience battery and see if you all can best it next round. Practicing patience as a game can lead to greater self control later.

* Patience Story-creation. Challenge your kids to draw a picture of or write a story about the bears patiently waiting for spring or some other characters – whether from books, like Anne of Green Gables waiting at the train station to be picked up by her new adoptive family or one from your imagination!

* Patience Parade. Celebrate recharging the Patience Battery with a Patience Parade. We all know that kids need movement, so get moving: Everyone dresses up, gathers musical instruments, and parades around the house. You could mix it up a la Red Light, Green Light, by playing Pied Piper. When the leader plays the instrument the parade moves. When the leader pauses, everyone freezes and waits patiently for the music (or loud noise pretending to be music) resumes. Finish with some pumpkin-inspired treat and call them patience pumpkin muffins or whatever!

* Gratitude

In our family’s experience, there’s nothing like a tragedy or emergency situation to teach us gratitude and contentment. When faced with hunger, we appreciate food. When really cold, we are thankful for heat. Of course, when the complaints are piling high, it sometimes feels like contentment and gratitude are unattainable goals. That’s where perspective comes in.

So, how to grow gratitude in our kids? Here’s an idea to make it fun: Since it’s fall, draw or paint a large tree on a poster board or big sheet of kraft paper. Hang it on the wall. Cut out leaves from construction paper and place it with markers in a basket by the tree. As you find opportunities or hear gratitude bubbling up in your little ones, have them select a leaf from the basket. Help your child write what she is grateful for on it and glue it to the Gratitude Tree. Older kids can do all of this themselves. At the end of the day, review all the leaves and appreciate the feeling of gratitude that embraces your family.

3) JUST PLAIN OLD FUN — SCIENCE STYLE

Explore the many science facts and phenomena that are at play in Sandy. For example:

* The Full Moon’s Effects on Tides. As the National Weather Service explains: “WITH THE FULL MOON ON MONDAY…ASTRONOMICAL TIDES ARE ALREADY   HIGHER THAN NORMAL. COUNTER TO THE HIGHER THAN NORMAL ASTRONOMICAL TIDES…STRONG NORTH AND NORTHWESTERLY WINDS TODAY WILL CAUSE A BLOW-OUT TIDE ALONG THE WESTERN SHORE OF THE CHESAPEAKE AND THE TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER TODAY. EAST FACING BEACHES ALONG THE TIDAL POTOMAC WILL EXPERIENCE WIND-DRIVEN WAVES THAT WILL GIVE THE APPEARANCE OF TIDAL FLOODING AND RESULT IN SIMILAR IMPACTS.”

Fun tip: Create a bay and river with clay and run water through it or splosh water around the bath tub. Mark surges with bath-crayons. Add more water (rain) and see how high the tides go this time.

* Conditions that Create Wet Snow. Again from the National Weather Service: “BLIZZARD CONDITIONS ARE FORECAST WITH VISIBILITY NEAR ZERO IN PERIODS OF HEAVY SNOW. THE HIGHEST ELEVATIONS OVER 3500 FEET ARE EXPECTED TO SEE 10 TO 20 INCHES BETWEEN LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND WEDNESDAY MORNING.”

Fun tip: Put the scissors to the paper and create the first snowflakes of the season to hang in the window.

Whatever you do the next few days, we hope you can Have Fun and Stay Safe!

Since we spent much of the weekend battening down the hatches we are now behind on Halloween fun. So we are off to carve pumpkins in the garage and roast seeds while we still have power.

What hidden blessings has Sandy brought you?

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Author: Emily

Emily is homeschooling mama to three amazing boys, whose alarming growth and appetites keep her running laps to the grocery store. She writes about loving life amidst the piles of laundry and legos. When life is just too much, she binges on chocolate and plans a dream trip around the world.

3 thoughts on “Sandy’s Gift: A Chance to Explore Sustainability, Soul-growin’ and Fun with Your Kids

  1. Great post – just shared on my Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/alldonemonkey)! Best of luck riding out the storm!

  2. Pingback: Journey to the Gratitude Garden: Activity for Thanksgiving « All Done Monkey! Embracing the Magic in the Madness of Motherhood

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