Last week our whole family drove from Asheville to Jacksonville for a church planting conference. It started out wonderfully - packing the car in 20 degree weather, doing that delicate dance that happens when parents who adore each other but have different personalities AND a small army children try to get out the door without losing their minds.
We had almost everything in, the kids were putting their coats on, and my husband tried to start the car.
Thanks to frieneighbors, we jumped the car, figured out one of the sliding doors wasn't shut all the way, hence the dead battery, and started shredding pavement.
We squeezed the 6 hour drive into about 8.5 hours, and finally got to the hotel after the dinner they provided but just in time to put the kids in bed. My husband went downstairs to the first session and I rocked in the corner. (Just kidding. I WROTE BLOG POSTS!)
The rest of the week was fine, but we were really busy, and the kids were asking to go to the beach. So while it was chilly, I told them Thursday afternoon we'd spend ALL afternoon out there.
We woke up to strong, cold winds and an overcast sky Thursday. The temperature sank to about 40 degrees, and the sky sputtered this weird, cold-but-not frozen stuff all afternoon. The kids were understandably bummed.
I'm an out-and-about mom. I don't like to stay home all day, especially a few days in a row. So while the conference provided childcare for the kids, and while the girls LOVED the person watching them, I started to feel bad for keeping them cooped up all week.
I came up with an idea. Duff stayed with Piper, and we agreed I could take the girls to buy a $4 "treasure."
Now, money doesn't solve most problems but it can definitely help with some. I wouldn't normally just take my kids to the store to buy something. And honestly, I didn't want to do that last Thursday either, but we had to get out, and I wanted it to be fun. FOR THEM.
So I got them from childcare, and told them we were going on a treasure hunt. I told them to find the treasure, they had to follow their hearts. (Any time someone asks me for directions I tell them to follow their heart. It's annoying and funny EVERY SINGLE TIME. Try it.) Since they were "following their hearts," I got to decide where they were going. DO YOU SEE THE BRILLIANCE THERE?! We were going to Walgreens but they had no idea. I can't suggest this Follow Your Heart Treasure Hunt idea enough.
They got so pumped. We got in the car, and I let them take turns telling me which way to turn at the stop signs, yelling FOLLOW YOUR HEART! every chance I got. They thought it was hilarious to try to get me to drive on the beach. I also made up "clues" - I'd sing a few notes of a song and if they identified it, I turned the song on and they got to pick another direction. We listened to Shake It Off and Call Me Maybe that way. Again, hilarious. They giggled at their crazy mom for 30 minutes straight.
Eventually I drove us to Walgreens and told them they had to follow their hearts to the treasure inside. (I mean, can you even say that with a straight face? It was so funny. To me. They were thrilled.)
I told them their treasure was $4 or under. (Again! Laughing so hard on the inside.) We scoured every inch of the store for their perfect treasures. Eliza picked nail polish and chapstick, and Liv picked 2 different kinds of lip gloss.
It turned out everything they got was 50% off, so the total was $3.75. And they've had so much fun with their treasures. That 45 minutes of afternoon fun was exactly what we needed to get out of the hotel, turn toward each other, and lean in with some ridiculous, kid-oriented fun. The follow your heart treasure hunt will definitely be happening again.
Do you have a go-to activity when you need to quiet the noise and focus on your kids? What are your favorite ways to delight them? What free ideas have you loved?