The most popular member of my daughter's kindergarten class is Fuzzy Bear, a two-foot-tall stuffed animal with matted fur, beady eyes, and a slightly dubious odor.
Each Friday he pays a visit to a different family, whose members are supposed to record their weekend adventures in his portable journal.
The weekend my daughter won Fuzzy Bear, it took three trips to carry his belongings to the car. He has a wardrobe larger than Ivana Trump's: jeans for camping, pajamas for relaxing, suits for power lunches, and ski gear for weekends in Tahoe. He also has various gifts the children had given him: a miniature car (minus the wheels), 3 feet of train track (minus the train), and a plastic Tyrannosaurus rex with a Malibu Barbie head.
"I hope he has coveralls and a tool belt," my husband said when we arrived at home. "I plan on tuning up the car and repairing the roof this weekend."
I was crushed. How were we supposed to have an exciting, adventurous family experience to write about if we didn't take a day trip? I knew by Monday the word would be out that my children spend their weekends in front of
the television and are as stimulated as a bunch of slugs.
I quickly found the journal and began scanning the pages to see what Fuzzy Bear did with other families.
According to the journal, one family went scuba diving off the California coast and discovered a wrecked Spanish galleon containing "sunken treasures." Another family went camping for two days in the wilderness and "taught" Fuzzy Bear how to fish and build a campfire with two sticks.
Nowhere did it say Fuzzy Bear stayed in his pajamas and watched 48 consecutive hours of Cartoon Network. Clearly, Fuzzy was a high-maintenance bear.
I was determined that my children have something wonderful to write about, so at dawn on Saturday morning, we dressed Fuzzy in a nautical outfit and went "garage sailing." We explored unfamiliar neighborhoods and searched strange driveways for the perfect deal.
After lunch, we changed Fuzzy into hiking boots and took a nature walk to the mailbox. "Let's see how many plants and animals we can observe," I said. We found two leaves, several ants on a soda can in the gutter, and the neighbor's cat. We glued the leaves to a piece of paper and stuck it on the refrigerator.
When we recovered from the fresh air, my daughter announced she wanted to go camping, so we tossed blankets and pillows on the lawn furniture in the backyard. We roasted marshmallows over the grill and read stories by porchlight.
The next morning we went on safari to the grocery store. We observed lobsters splashing in the tank and fought off a band of vultures trying to steal our cart while we sampled a new jelly flavor on a cracker.
When we got home, my children unpacked Fuzzy's wardrobe and were entertained for hours.
In the evening, I gathered the children on my lap and opened the journal. They helped me write, embellishing a little in the spirit of Fuzzy's diary:
The Farmer family is incredible! I "sailed" at sunrise and "communed with nature." I camped under the stars and went on a "safari" to an exciting and hostile place. I learned how to collect samples of "wildlife" and preserve them. My weekend was nonstop excitement!
P.S. The television wasn't turned on once, and no one ate chips for breakfast.
I closed the journal and gently moved my children, who were asleep. I went to the kitchen, pulled the leaf picture off the refrigerator, and added it to Fuzzy Bear's luggage to thank him for the wonderful weekend he gave my family.
Debbie Farmer and her husband live in Califronia and have a son and daughter.
Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting experiences, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor