When we were stationed at Fort Drum about five years ago I had this momentary, OK well, maybe not momentary, but gnawing sadness about my kids.
We were there for a total of three years and between training exercises, deployments, schools, and selections we, as a family unit, only spent nine months together. And that’s not nine months consecutively, but nine months hodge-podge total.
I know this isn’t a new story. Almost every milspouse has their tale of aloneness similar to mine, so I’m not pulling out the violins and looking for a pity party. But I did have this “moment” where I felt so desperately sad for my children.
My husband made the choice of this lifestyle, I chose to love him and follow him wherever he leads us, but my kids, they were brought into this Brat Life. I’m the first to say all the positive things: military brats can be so well-adjusted, often easily adapt to new surroundings, are often problem-solvers. Army life is what you make of it, and when momma has a good heart about a situation, the rest of the family usually follows suit.
But alas, I had this moment when I was so sad because I felt like my kids were missing out somehow.
That’s when the idea hit me to start a new tradition while my husband was deployed—family movie night.
Let me first say that this took a lot of planning and initial work, but once I had the entire idea laid out, it was a breeze and the kids and I looked forward to Friday night movie night every week.
We are Disney kids. I was raised a Disney kid and my kids are being raised Disney kids. It was an obvious choice for me to focus on Disney movies, but this can happen with any movie you want. They don’t have to be animated either, although that worked really well for my kids because they were only 5 and 2 at the time.
I sat down all day one day and made my plan. I looked through all our movies and chose enough films to last us once a week for six months. What’s fun is that you end up hitting holidays and I just so happened to hit all the biggies: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Once I chose a movie, I created a “movie poster” so the kids would know which movie would be on that particular Friday. I also created a themed menu. I basically took everyday meal items and called them cool names. The night we watched A Bug’s Life we had Flit’s chicken, ants on a log, swimming caterpillars (grapes on a skewer with yogurt), and for dessert we made worms in dirt (this is chocolate pudding topped with crushed Oreos and then you stick in a couple of gummy worms—huge hit with the kids).
To add to the overall excitement of movie night, I also came up with a simple, easy to complete craft (for A Bug’s Life, we made painted watercolor paper plate butterflies). I showed the kids how to do the craft while I would work on dinner. At the time, our dining room table was in the kitchen so I could still be present with them as they worked and could lend a hand if they were getting stuck or frustrated.
After they were finished it was time to picnic-style dinner in front of the TV and enjoy the movie. There would be cuddling and usually my youngest couldn’t make it to the end. I didn’t spend any extra money (except maybe a couple of supplies for a craft), but the memories I had of that personal time with my children are priceless.
Here are some other ideas to get you going:
Beauty and the Beast
Diane includes beef ragout (you can try your culinary skills at beef ragout but my kiddos would be perfectly content with beef stew), cheese souffle (cheese cubes), and obviously, for dessert, the gray stuff (the recipe is all over the internet). Our craft would be coloring, painting, or creating a rose. When all else fails or you need more ideas, you can print coloring pages from the internet too.
Rapunzel’s Braided Braid (a stuffed calzone idea), Pascal’s Peas, and Max’s Apples for dessert (something similar to apple nachos with sliced apples, melted peanut butter, and some mini chocolate chips). For a craft I would let the kids paint whatever their hearts desired.
Ichabod and Mr. Toad
This is my Halloween staple movie. Dinner includes Jack-o-Lantern taco pie (the top pie crust I cut to look like a jack-o-lantern face) and mini pumpkin pies for dessert. For a craft, I purchased foam Halloween kits. I have seen haunted houses, pumpkins, or other assorted Halloween-themed crafts.