“Processionary Caterpillars” – Family Favorites to Beat Boredom and Make Memories

Posted by Sooz on Monday, August 29, 2011 | No Comments

Today our guest writer is a dear friend and a true supporter of Goodness, Debbie. This post is one of my favorites because Debbie shares some classic Goodness that she has invested in her family over the years. She passes on some inspiring ideas that you won’t want to miss! Enjoy her story…

I was never very interested in science in school, but I was particularly intrigued by a story I recently heard about an insect called the processionary caterpillar. It’s not that the caterpillars themselves are all that interesting—they pretty much just follow each other around in, well, a procession. But the work of scientist Jean Henri Fabre sure made me think. Seems Fabre wanted to determine what would happen if you lined up said caterpillars in circular fashion. Fabre placed a flowerpot in his lab and started the caterpillars marching. Instinct caused the first guy to follow the guy in front of him and so on. Would anybody break the line? Nope. The caterpillars walked in a circle for seven straight days. Monotony and determination at their finest.

It occurred to me this week that with the advent of a new school year, lots of folks are beginning their own procession—from the march of the minivans in pick-up lines to the hauling of the Xbox back to the dorm. Once the allure of the new school supplies and new clothes wears off, the school year can begin to feel like a never-ending spin on the hamster wheel. The best-laid plans (and car keys) of moms and dads sometimes go awry as the successive weeks of school tick by.

Recently, I overheard my kids, now grown, discussing some of the things our family used to do to shake up the school year. I was encouraged not only to know that they remembered but that they were grateful for simple things that made a memory. In the spirit of preserving goodness and seeking beauty in the soon-to-be routine, here are a few ideas to help spice up the months ahead.

Any month:  Celebrate half-birthdays! Remember how excited you were when your age reached double digits? Some of us still get jazzed over a .5 increment in our age! Give the half-birthday recipient a Kennedy half-dollar in a half-birthday card (save the other half for someone else’s special half-birthday). Jiffy Mix cakes make a perfect one-layer (a/k/a half) cake. (It’s okay to frost the entire cake, though.)

AugustSet the alarm to view the Perseids Meteor Shower. Depending on your locale and the cloud cover, it might be a bust, meteor-wise. Regardless of the weather, though, you can make some great memories of 3:00 a.m. breakfasts on the lawn looking for a spectacular falling star show. (http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteors)

September:  Go on a hike. (Pack the antihistamine if you’re like us and live in allergy-central.) Collect leaves. For a retro activity, press favorites between waxed paper. More sophisticated crafters may want to incorporate their finds in decorating and paper crafting.

October:  Have an old-fashioned Halloween party for the family. Carve a pumpkin. Tell a homemade ghost story—you know—the kind where you sit in a circle and pass around ill-gotten gore like monster eyeballs (peeled grapes) and black cats’ whiskers (broom straws).

November:  Be thankful. That’s it. Count your blessings. Out loud. Together.

December:    Look outside the box of your family’s native culture. Our family has celebrated Las Posadas—a reenactment of the Nativity. When Joseph (my then four-year-old son) escorted Mary through our home in Michigan, we had to flex a bit; donkeys weren’t allowed in the subdivision, but a plush Eeyore made a great stand-in. If the Christmas holiday isn’t part of your family’s traditions, tap the resources of an older family member for an idea from celebrations past.

January: Simple and fun: make snowflakes. If you want to get highbrow, call this craft by its real name: kirigami, a variation of origami…with scissors.

February:  A particular favorite of ours: The Valentine Trail. Cut out kitsch looking hearts of construction paper or doilies. On February 13, after everyone’s in bed, make a trail leading from each family member’s room to a small “prize” for a Valentine’s Day surprise.

March:   Like February, but with a twist: have each family member decorate a small jewelry gift box and leave a coin for “The Leprechaun.” (Leprechauns love gold—but a penny will do if you’re in the States). Place each box in a conspicuous place, mindful that leprechauns are typically height-challenged; don’t put the boxes on the mantle. Before morning, replace the coin with a treat alongside a “Top o’ the Mornin’” note from the leprechaun. You might even get double duty out of this event—have the leprechaun deliver a kite and make it a day in the park!

April:  Rain. Does anyone sing it better than Gene Kelly? Movie night. Black-and-white movies evoke memories of simpler times that bred goodness.

 May:  Pick daffodils. Their aroma spells spring. (Get permission first if they don’t belong to you.)

June:   School’s out! Ice cream all around! Pack a summer survival kit for kids who need a go-to source for entertainment; even technology hasn’t conquered the “I’m bored…” syndrome of summer.

 July:  Watch the clouds together. Talk. Enjoy one another’s company. Laugh. Next month you’ll start the procession once again.



Fabre’s caterpillars walked in a circle for seven days. That couldn’t have been any fun. Look for a way to spread goodness and make some memories. In the summertime words of my mom, “Go play.”

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