Days 23, 24, & 25

Sheesh! Forgive the late entries.

Day 23:  (Insert Shame Here.) I dropped the ball on Friday.  I broke not just a rule, but the essence of Operation Play.   One day out of 31 ain’t bad.  So shame: take that.  I’m over it.

Day 24: Go-Fish (again).  And fine with me!  I love me a card game, and J and I enjoyed our time as Dad rebounded a scooting Baby H away from the cards and E slept.

Day 25: Solitaire. “I’m sorry.  Did you say you played Solitaire? Um…was J with you?”  Yes, yes he was.  Earlier in the day I was busy and he felt bored.  I said, “If you like, for our playtime I can teach you a card game that you can play all by yourself when you feel bored other days.”  He picked up on it very quickly.  He said he’s watched Grandpa play on the computer before.  My Great Grandma Grace taught me to play Solitaire when I was about his age, so there was a touch of nostalgia mixed in for me.

Weekend Stats: Balls dropped, card games played, lessons learned, sisters distracted by Dad.

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Days 21 & 22: Drawing Peanuts & Go-Fish

Operation Play is still in motion!  I make this announcement because I’ve fallen behind a couple days on the updates.

Wednesday night was football and gymnastics-free for the first time in many months.  We all watched the Snoopy Valentine’s special we keep on our DVR, and this prompted the play of the day.  J wanted to draw Peanuts characters.  We paused certain frames to get the characters we wanted in a clear shot, then armed with our pencils, copied away.  J drew a very detailed scene of Charlie Brown and Linus talking near a mailbox with houses in the background.  He also drew Snoopy winding up a phonograph and Schroeder playing his piano.  J is the fastest draw in the west, so to his three I drew one:  a made-up scene with Linus, Charlie Brown, and Snoopy on a ladder.

Last night was especially fun in my opinion.  We played Go-Fish! I had never played with a standard deck of cards before (only played with kid’s fishy cards), so I quickly googled some directions.  And unlike other play times this month, I set some motherly boundaries instead of letting him take the lead: I had him learn to hold his cards properly.  I also told him to refer to “Jacks, Queens, Kings & Aces” as such, and not “J’s, Q’s, K’s, & A’s.”  I said, “It is tricky at first, because all things are, but I’m a great person to practice with because I won’t cheat–I’m your mom.  And I’m not a cowboy, so I don’t have a gun.”

(J’s Dad has a story of playing cards with his tough rancher grandpa growing up, and as he touched Grandpa’s cards the old cowboy snapped, “If this was the Old West, I’d have shot ya.” )

We had a great time.  But I can see what you’re thinking.  “No Star Wars?”  Don’t jump to conclusions.  We used this deck of cards:

FYI: We played the Villains deckDay 21 Stats: Drawing Peanuts characters, 20 minutes, H asleep, Aunt with E, a refreshing change of focus from Star Wars for Mom

Day 22 Stats: Go-Fish, 45 minutes, played “the real way,” girls asleep, teaching moment received well, awesome Star Wars cards

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Day 20: Middle-of-the-Night Meteor Shower

meteor shower

When I read in the news yesterday that the broken remains of Halley’s Comet would create a fantastic meteor shower in the middle of the night, I knew that would be the thing to do with J.

The paper said that peak viewing would be at 3am PST.  I set my alarm for 2am, snuck into J’s room, and after much prodding, woke him up for the show.  We grabbed a warm blanket and slipped out into the cool night.  He had never seen a shooting star.  We hadn’t even lied down on the sidewalk before each of us spotted our own meteors.  Two blazing trails drawn in the heavens.

He whispered, “I saw one!!  It was like a line across the sky!”

Laying in the chilly air in front of our house, I said, “Too bad we aren’t in Alpine.”  (Grandma & Grandpa have a cabin in the thick woods there.)

“Why?”

“Because you can see a lot more stars when the city lights are far away.”  Even the streetlights nearby were making it difficult to see, so I asked if he wanted to hop in the van and drive somewhere with less lights.

Dad and I always complain that we live and raise our kids in the suburbs: the culture-less hub of Applebee’s and the Dreaded Mall.  Yes, the suburbs have advantages for kids, such as less street crime.  But last night brought about an unforeseen benefit: being so far away from the center of the city, it only took five minutes to drive to near-darkness.

We pulled into a more rural neighborhood on the edge of the desert and parked the van on a dark section of street.  We hadn’t gotten out of the car yet when two more meteors drew streaks across the skyline.  The attempt to sit on the hood failed: it was so steep we kept sliding off.  I was happy half-laying/ half-standing against the hood, but J was cold and preferred the inside of the van.

As soon as we stood up, J whispered, “Whoa!  Did you see that huge bird swoop down?”  I held in my freaked-out squeals and discreetly rushed us into the van.  Sometimes moms have to maintain a poker face when instinct calls on other, more ridiculous options.  Spotting wolf spiders, for example, are moments that bring the virtue of self-control to a whole new level. Though I have not heard of many victims of owl attacks, I would be The One. (Addendum: I would be The Third.)

In the sanctuary of our warm van, we looked head-on into outer space.  Foxnews.com described it as being on “the patch of Earth that is barreling headlong into space on Earth’s orbital track, and the meteors get scooped up like bugs on a windshield.” It was real life Star Tours, but the stationary vehicle was my mini-van.

In this magical setting, J blew me away with his young mind.  I said, “You see that extra twinkly star over there?  That’s not a star.  It’s a planet.”

Thoughtfully, J said, “There used to be hundreds of planets.”

“What happened?”

“What happened?  I guess what happened to Pluto.  Pluto used to be a planet, right?  Then scientists found out that it would be crazy to call it a planet.  It doesn’t even orbit the way other planets do!”

He said he thought of something else we could do: look for constellations.  Immediately he pointed and said, “Those look like a belt.”  He also pointed out the Little Dipper and the Big Dipper.  I had never seen the Big Dipper so close to the horizon.  Talk about a sense of reality!  The trusty Big Dipper “moved” to a foreign location.  Such a paradigm shift that we are ever-moving and so, so small.

After the show began to die down, I decided it was time to head home.  In the car I confirmed, “So this was the first time you saw a shooting star?”

“Yeah.  It was also the first time I’ve seen the Big Dipper or any constellation before.”

“You mean you pointed all those out without ever having seen them first?!”

“Yeah.”

I was mystified last night by two things:

1. The magnificently vast universe and how we are but fleeting passengers along for the cosmic ride.

2. That the mysteries inside of J are no less magnificent, no less of  a magic revealed to me in small increments.  And even as a mom, I am along for the cosmic ride.

Day 20 Stats: Meteor Shower, 2am, 1 hour, everyone asleep, swooping owls, fiery streaks, paradigm shifts, magical moments, secrets stored away in my mother’s heart.

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Day 19: Lego’s

Yesterday, as usual, we had limited time.  I let J stay up a little past bedtime so we could get in our full 20 minutes.  He had no hesitation in choosing Lego’s, so into his room we went and I was lost at sea.  I am clueless about how to play Lego’s, even though we have done so more than once in this project.  He had his Millenium Falcon, a Ty-Fighter, and a bunch of Lego Star Wars guys.  I mindlessly connected some of the guys to the wings of the Ty-Fighter and then knocked them off with a small marble that was sitting nearby.  Within moments, it became a game.  J assigned points to each guy; higher points for guys who were more difficult to knock down.  Then we took turns and tallied the points.  We played for three rounds.

I think J is pretty smart kid.  And what a turn of events for me: I begin doing something because I’m a fish out of water (mindlessly knocking down Lego guys) and he turns it into something mindful.

Day 19 Stats: Lego guy marble game, 20 minutes, girls asleep, Mom’s lackadaisical play turns on J’s attentiveness

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Days 17 & 18: Ewoks & Stop-Motion

Yowser!  I’m a bit overdue with my writing, but I had more pressing commitments to write this weekend.  As per my Operation Play creed, though, I was not too busy to play!

On Saturday I was exhausted.  A late Friday plus a busy Saturday made me a grumpy Mommy.  Dad so kindly sent me off to take a nap so I would be in better spirits for J’s playtime.  When I awoke, Dad had put in a new movie for J: Ewoks: Battle for Endor. (We had this on VHS as a kid.  I had no idea then how cheesy it is! But cheesy or not, Wilford Brimley is in it.  Enough said.)  We paused the movie (it was at the beginning, anyway) and decided to draw ewoks, instead.  J’s picture was delightfully silly: one ewok catapulted another into the skyline over the forest of Endor.  We still had time for something else, so J asked me to make up my own Mad-Lib for him to fill in.  Keeping with the theme of the day, it was about ewoks.

What J really wanted to play on Saturday I put off for Sunday: making a stop-motion film with Lego guys.  J is not only fascinated by stop-motion animation, but he is fairly knowledgeable about it.    For those who don’t know, stop-motion is a lot like a flip-book put to film.  There are some cute stop-motion videos on the web, including this one:

(These YouTube films are not only responsible for expanding the reaches of J’s imagination, but also for causing him to mindlessly sing  “Ebony & Ivory” as he bumbles around the house.)   Dad bought him a tri-pod for our camera, and he builds a little “set” to place on the kitchen counter and create his scene.

I am pretty challenged when it comes to computers.  So it shocked me to find that my computer already had the software that easily plugs our photos into a stop-motion film.  I have yet to plug yesterday’s photos into said program, but will as soon as Dad helps me.  Yesterday’s film took place on the planet Hoth, and J continued to make more Hoth films long after I our “together” time was over.

I’d love to make a pie chart representing what percentage of our playtime is about Star Wars.  Would the graph even be necessary?  It is close enough to 100%.

Days 17 & 18 Stats: Ewoks & Stop-Motion Film Making, 20 minutes each day, sisters asleep both days, Star Wars inundation.

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Day 16: Drawing Star Wars Guys (Again)

First of all, this project is halfway over!  I’m not sure where to go with that.  Obviously I’m not going to quit playing with J come November 1.  “Tough luck, Buddy.  It was just for the blog.”  (I wrote that as an obvious joke, but even typing the sarcastic words was painful.)  So while the playtime won’t stop, will the blog continue?  Seems silly.  But this commitment to write everyday and to live under a few definitive “rules” has been nothing short of soul food.  Time will tell… (15 days to be exact.)

Yesterday was a busy evening, but full of fun!  As soon as J came home from school, I was busy cooking and cleaning for Papa, Nana, and Aunt to come over.  The kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement.  Their arrival brought the jubilation to a whole new (audible) level.  In addition to our fun with family, we’ve committed with a couple other families from our church to get together every Friday night.  Dad, knowing his Saturday would be busy with yard sales and produce co-op and football coaching and more, drove to our friends’ house in his own car so he could leave early.  That allowed him to take E with him, and leave J and I at home to play.  (H was asleep.)

And play we did!  J wanted to draw Star Wars guys again.  He gave me a Nute Gunray guy to draw while he held a member of the Emperor’s Royal Guard to sketch.  His instructions: fill up the entire sheet of paper with the character’s face.  We did it in 10 minutes (no coloring) so he brought out two more guys.  Ephant Mon for him and Old Ben Kenobi for me.  (He knows that Old Ben is my favorite Star Wars character.) 20 minutes later it was time to wake baby H and join everyone at our friends’ house.  J decided to give our drawings to Dad as a present.

I love how the commitment to play seems to open up opportunities to play.  I’ve said this a lot, but normally on a busy day like that I would never try to squeeze in play.  I wouldn’t even think of it, much less make it happen.  But the commitment has opened my eyes to all the time openings.  For those who know me, I am not a commitment-goal oriented-schedule maintaining-deadline sort of person.  So this naturally occurring revelation is just what the doctor ordered.  (And by “doctor” I mean “The Great Physician.”)

Day 16 Stats: Drawing Star Wars guys, 20 minutes, Dad & E at a friend’s house, H asleep, lesson about commitment.

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Day 15: Even More Mad-Libs

I don’t know if this is a kid-thing or a J-thing, but once he gets into something he can play it over and over and over and over….. Good thing I like Mad-Libs! He had to go to bed 1/2 an hour early last night due to a consequence system we have*, so our time was limited.  Dad joined in on the fun, but he mostly entertained E with her coloring book.

Day 15 Stats: More Mad-Libs, 20 minutes, Dad with E, H asleep, a little rushed but still fun.

*This system has been helpful, so I will share.  (I took it directly from James Dobson.):  We have a two-columned chart on the wall.  One side says, “Awake by 6:30am,” and the other lists his before-school responsibilities (breakfast, teeth brushed, etc.) “….by 7:40am.”  If he checks “no” on either column, he has to go to bed a half an hour early.  If he checks them both “no” then he goes to bed an hour early.  (That has never happened.)  We let him stay in bed and silently read books during that time since his bedtime is so early anyway.  I like the idea.  It helps teach him responsibility, which is right on cue for him developmentally.

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