Things To Do Indoors: An Interview With Vanessa Felie

Auckland might have a mild climate, but it’s decidedly damp. We moved here from Southern California, which is decidedly dry, and so part of the adjustment to living here has been finding stuff to do with Noodle on damp days. Coming up with indoor fun for kids is not my forté, so I have asked a few friends to chime in on how they handle the challenges of keeping the kiddos occupied while stuck inside all day.

Frozen Ice Balloons, Vanessa’s Invention

Vanessa is a mother of two girls, eighteen months apart. Big Girl is eight. Little Girl is six and a half. She never meant to be Momming Full Time, intending to return to her job as a Residence Director at a group home. But, as she puts it: “When Big Girl was 11 days old, I looked down at her in my arms and decided even if I had to sell my feet, I did not want to be away from her forty hours a week.” So began her role as Full Time Mom, now with a part time handmade craft business.

Vanessa and her family live in Connecticut, next door to a horse farm, and with a park just down the street. These are easy resources to use on fair-weather days. The girls enjoy walking through the fields of the horse farm and watching the staff take care of the animals. At the park, they play the same sorts of games we all played as kids — hide and seek, sorting rocks, and “poking things with sticks.” Around their house, the girls swing on their swingset, ride bikes around the driveway, and pretend endlessly with a giant nylon parachute. “I like to plan activities, but learned early on that I’m just going to have to let go of some control,” Vanessa says. “We do best when we’re slightly unstructured.”
Mark Twain famously said that “if you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a few minutes.” Connecticut dishes out a wide range of weather. In the Winter, the Jet Stream brings cold and snow from Alaska and Canada across Chicago, through New York, and dumps it directly on Vanessa’s house. They have more than their share of less-than-fair-weather days.
Rainy and snowy days are “stay-in-your-jammies” days. Early on, the kids occupied themselves with lots of arts and crafts projects. Painting, sculpting with PlayDoh, and even baking have been the indoor activities of choice. Vanessa notes that as the kids have gotten older, they have added knitting, weaving, and reading (on their own) to their repertoire of indoor fun. The kids aren’t fond of watching television or movies, and so on poor-weather days, music fills the house instead. They listen to the radio and do a lot of karaoke.
When poor-weather holds for days, the kids can “get bossy with each other” and their “tempers get shorter,” Vanessa reports. To break up the days, they head off to the library, to the post office, or to “Little Ladies’ Lunch with mom.” The latter often consists of bagels and lemonade. Additionally, they spend time expending energy dashing through the corridors of a small local shopping mall.
Though Vanessa finds rainy and fair weather days about the same with respect to housework, as the girls start school full time, there’s less chaos in the house. But there are more activities outside the house. As Vanessa puts it, and as with seemingly all of the kids’ phase shifts, “it’s not easier, it’s just hard in different ways.”
I picked up a few good tips from talking to Vanessa about indoor activities with kids. First, I really like the idea of stay-in-your-jammies day; I like the idea that we can make a clear separation between get-up-and-go, fair-weather days, and lousy-weather stay-in-the-house days. There have been more than a few disappointing occasions when Noodle, fully dressed on a rainy day, wants to go outside, only to have his parade rained upon.
Second, I really really like the idea of karaoke. Noodle is getting to an age where he likes to sing along and invent his own songs. Any activity that switches kids from passively watching to actively creating is one to encourage.
Third, special lunches sound delightful. Noodle isn’t much of a sit-and-eater at this point — for which I am, of course, partly to blame. But we do enjoy going to the bakery for the one dollar gingerbread cookie as a treat to end our big rainy-day-errand adventures. I think Vanessa’s got the right idea with a full lunch.
Finally, I appreciate Vanessa’s last quote — it’s just hard in different ways. I think this applies to a lot of what we do as parents as the kids transition from this phase to that. So many of our friends would tell us that “it just gets worse” once the kids start walking and talking. I found that it doesn’t get worse at all, and as Vanessa captures so clearly, it’s just different. To me, that’s to be celebrated.
Special thank you to Vanessa for being our first interview, and one of our biggest supporters.
The Imaginary Duck & The Firetruck
Laid Back Dadding: A Parenting Philosophy