Camp Sweatshop: Full Day Edition

I may have mentioned once or twice or thirty times that I'm pretty overloaded with work lately and that has made Jack a Dull Mother this summer. It's not that I'm not spending time with them. It's just that I'm so stressed and preoccupied with a couple of bigga-a** projects that the time I spend with them sucks for them and for me. So I've been trying to make the time I do spend with my children better. Or at least that's what I continue to tell myself until one of them pushes one too many of my buttons and I start yelling again. None of the projects I'm working on are by any stretch of the imagine close to being done, but I had a little break in the action on Friday, so we decided to take on some real activities instead of the usual tricking-my-kids-into-cleaning-the-house-and-calling-it-an-educational-activity version of Camp Sweatshop at which I've come to be so skilled.

Activity the First: Home Economics

I've been making an effort to teach The Dormouse about gratitude in the last little while. I want her to realize and appreciate when people go out of their way for her in some fashion and acknowledge that fact. Even if it just means noticing that the world doesn't revolve around her and people are doing something special when they help her or prepare an activity for her. At Hershey Park last week, that thought recurred to me and I was reminded that, oh my goodness but people who choose to work with children full time are saints. SAINTS, I tell you. I like kids. I even worked with kids back in the day. So I know whereof I speak. They deserve a thank you every so often, and not just on pre-determined pseudo-holidays created by their unions.

So our first project was Operation Teacher Treats. This was an awesome one, because a) it was easy, b) the girls could do most of it and c) it used up some foodstuffs I'd had sitting around in the pantry before they went completely bad and I had to throw them out. (You may or may not have been reading this blog long enough to know that I have a touch of undiagnosed OCD and one of the ways in which this manifests is through the thrill I get by emptying out ketchup bottles, marrying them together or getting to throw away empty things that have been in my fridge or pantry for too long - but only if I use them appropriately in the process. Throwing out a quarter filled tub of pretzels I brought home from work is cheating so that's right out. Let's not even get started on how unsettled all the half-empty shampoo bottles in the house make me feel and wait have I said too much? what was I talking about? Nevermind.

We made some treats.

Cast of characters: My long-unused fondue pot.

A tub of fondue chocolate I bought last Christmas, thinking I was going to do something special with for the kids (ha ha ha, wha ha ha, my optimism kills me):

The three-quarters empty tub of pretzels, I ganked from work:

Step One: Melt chocolate. Try and teach The Dormouse about the process of tempering chocolate, then realize you don't know very much about it yourself, so let that slide somewhat and resolve to let others do that for you when they're back in the country.

Once the chocolate is good and melty, dip in pretzels. Work on developing a good dip and swirl technique. Optional step: wear so many silly bandz on your wrist that you will one day look like Freddy Rodriguez from Lady in the Water.

Plan to put them out on some waxed paper to cool and harden. Realize you haven't purchased waxed paper since the Reagan administration. Use aluminum foil instead.

Save out all the broken bits at the end to keep for yourselves since it would be a waste of good chocolate not to use it all. (Note: drizzling chocolate is a better option at this point since sticking tiny broken pieces in the fondue pot also means sticking tiny fingers into hot, melted chocolate.)

Package neatly in your very best disposable tupperware-like product that turned up one day in your house and you have no idea whom it belongs to. If you happen to recognize this and wanted it back, I apologize. I'm gonna have to make it up to you.

Drop by your kids' school on a day your kids aren't scheduled to be there and freak out the director who wonders what you are there to complain about now. Leave treats and a card and run like mad.

Activity the Second: History

Because it was on the way to our next activity, we stopped by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to read between their lions.

(That's a funny joke. Why aren't you laughing?)

It's one of those memorials in D.C. you would probably miss if you weren't trying to go there, but I stumbled on it one day years ago and have always liked it. It's peaceful and seldom crowded with anything but people eating their lunch on a break from work and you never have to part a crowd of protesters to get there.

We talked about sacrifice and the different things it means and how all these names on the wall represented people who died doing their jobs - jobs that helped keep us safe. And how we should be grateful for the people doing these jobs. And then the sound of my own voice reached me and I started to realize I sounded like an After School Special. So I shut up and we just did a rubbing of someone who had our same last name.

It was so hot downtown, this squirrel just followed us around, panting and asking for water.

Activity the Third: National Building Museum

I tried a hundred ways from sundown to figure out how to make this one fit into our gratitude theme and couldn't really do it. This is why I am not a school teacher.

The twitterverse had informed me about Camp Stimey's Blogger Meetup that day and since I a) probably wouldn't have exited the house without a good reason and b) love the venue, we decided to do the socially awkward thing and invite ourselves along, even though we had never met any of the folks involved before. (Like how I try to spread the blame out over my kids as well? There are so many benefits to having children one does not often consider - transferred blame is one of those benefits.) The National Building Museum is a cool, low key place to go. It's not chock full of stuff like the other Smithsonians, but I actually prefer it. There's a big open space and lots of room for kids to run around, the docents and security guards are kid-friendly and don't get all bent out of shape when you walk through the door with someone under age sixteen, and though the subject might not lead you to assume so, they have a pretty good children's educational program with some hands-on activities.

And today, they had

I knew once we went inside the Lego area, everything else in the museum would become chopped liver. So first, we tried to build an arch,

but once the arch became too tall and awkward for me the shortlings to complete, I suggested they build a shorter arch.

Hey, it's standing by itself. It counts.

My children now know what a
keystone is, should they decide to grow up and go into architecture, or live in Pennsylvania.

Done and done. On to the Legos.

The first room of the Lego Architecture exhibit was full of scale model reproductions of buildings built entirely from... you guessed it... Legos.

My favorite was Marina City. Can't you just imagine a tiny Steve McQueen driving a tiny red tow truck and chasing a tiny green sedan out of one of these and into the river?

Does that reference date me?

Once we got through the "don't touch" room, we entered:

::cue angles singing:: Valhalla.

It was a Giant. Room. Full. Of. Legos.

That. You. Could. Play. With.

I have never seen so many happy children in my life.

We might as well have just skipped all the other activities of the day and come here after breakfast.

Activity the Fourth: Try and plan a day when someone else watches the children so I can come back here and build stuff by myself.

Activity the Fifth:
Sleep on the way home.