Day 14: More Mad-Libs

Wednesday’s are tough to find play time since J has football practice.  This is another good challenge for me in this experiment, because half the time we forego showers and spelling words on our busy Wednesday nights–I would never insist on play time!  Recently someone in my life emphasized that “our children define who they are by how their parents see them.”  This is the second wise person who has taught me this concept.  I hope that my eyes aren’t reflecting the fleeting importance of “Operation Play” to J in these moments, but that they say to him how important he is to me.  (This fine line is also where Rule #5 comes into play.)

So when J arrived home (with Dad and Aunt) 15 minutes past bedtime, we all sat in the living room and played Mad-Libs for 20 minutes.  J has at least 10 different books to choose from, so we mixed it up.  Unless you are Sam the Eagle, it is impossible to play Mad-Libs without laughing.  Seriously, is there anything better than laughter?

A thought: Proverbs say “a cheerful heart is good medicine” and modern science proves the same point about laughter.
  That said, I think I may start a new way for our family to flesh out our value of self-care: after a bad or stressful day, take a minute to play Mad-Libs.

Day 14 Stats: Mad-Libs, 20 minutes, girls asleep, fun with Dad and Aunt, laughter, Playtime: 1  Busyness: 0


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Day 13: Star Wars Guys

Return of the JediAre you seeing a theme?  Yes, J was bitten by the Galactic bug when he was but a youngling of two.   Here we are six years later, and nothing has changed but his understanding of the episodes.  Tonight he announced that only fans of Return of the Jedi could play and that we would each choose one guy from that film and create a new adventure for him or her.  Then we would switch.  Halfway through he decided to ask me comprehension questions about the adventure he played out for me.  I had to do the same.

J’s main character was Ephant Mon, who joined the rebels in creating a 3rd rebel base on the planet of Dagobah.  I missed one of his follow-up questions, even though it was multiple choice.  When it was my turn to create an adventure, I centered around Princess Leia as she discovered that she, too, has some Jedi tendencies.  It took place back in Endor with the Ewoks on their one year anniversary of defeating the Empire in Return of the Jedi.  Luke decided that Leia would become his padawan and that he should teach her the ways of the force as Obi-Wan did for him.

(I could stop there and let you remain amazed at my vast knowledge of Star Wars, but I’m a terrible liar.  The part I left out is that Leia discovered her Jedi tendencies by realizing she can turn on her coffee pot in the morning via Force.  Let there be no mistake: it was still Mom playing Star Wars.)

It was fun.  It was especially endearing, I thought, that J insisted we ask each other those follow-up questions.  He wants to be a teacher when he grows up, and moments like that make me see why!

Day 13 Stats: Star Wars guys, 20 minutes, H asleep, Dad with E, comprehension questions


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Day 12: A Couple of Ugly Ugnaughts

Today is Columbus Day which allowed playtime during the girls’ naps.  He wanted me to give him some tips on drawing and he decided we would each draw an ugnaught.  (Don’t feel badly if you don’t know what that is.  I have learned a lot from this Star Wars kid and his dad.  Click here to find out.)  I gave him a few simple tips (perspective, not centering the ugnaught, etc.)–and voila!  I present our ugnaughts:

J's ugnaught

Mom's ugnaught

As you can see, J’s creature is amidst his creature comforts: a factory in Cloud City.  Mom’s ugnaught is caught in some surreal environment, since Mom had no idea where an ugnaught ought to be and drew “stream of consciousness” style. 

 It still seems that I’m getting off easy, here.  I already like to draw and color.  But I swear I did not influence his decision!  I suppose the fact remains that J likes to draw, too.  And I suppose, had it not been for Operation Play, I would never have drawn an ugnaught.

Day 12 Stats: Drawing Ugnaughts, 35 minutes, girls napping on Columbus Day

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Day 11: Park Time

Let me invite you into my box of parenting shame, but lean in close because this warrants a whisper: I am not a park Mom.  There.  I said it.  The cat’s out of the bag. 

“You don’t do crafts and you don’t go to the park.  What do you do, Denise?”

You’re looking at it.  I write this blog.  I’m so glad that I do, too, because it has worked well to bring my values into reality.  Value of the day: park time.

I was a little antsy while we were there, though, because I wasn’t actually playing with J.  He had made some new buddies, and I stepped back and let them have their fun.  It was just this week, in fact, that I began specifically praying that God would bring J a neighborhood friend.  That remembrance took care of my “antsy-ness.”  I see that Operation Play was the vehicle that brought me (a non-park Mom) to the park.  And the park was possibly the vehicle that brought J a neighborhood friend.  (We exchanged numbers. *fingers crossed*)

After ample playground time, I told J we could practice catching the football before heading home.  His new buddy wanted to play, too.  J, thriving in his “teacher” role,  taught New Buddy and I a few football plays.  We each rotated quarterback (which, I gather, is the person who yells, “Hike!,” and throws the ball) while the other two ran their assigned plays.  It was tricky stuff, but if I ever play against a group of chimpanzees I might look pretty skilled. 

All in all: a great time.  J gained a friend, I gained some football knowledge, and true to this experiment, we each gained a bit more closeness.

Day 11 Stats: Park time & football, hour and a half, Dad with the girls, 3 great gains.

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Day 10: Eyeballs

Needles in the eye!We made eyeballs.  Bet you didn’t see that one coming.  *nyuk nyuk*  I suggested that J and I go to the park since the weather is so great, but despite his excitement at the idea, he prefered a Halloween craft. 

For those of you who know me, crafts are not my thing.  So much involved!  Pipe cleaners and fuzzy pom-poms and messes of glue and who knows what else.  JoAnn’s, to me, is like a warehouse full of clutter.  (Now take it easy, you scrapbookers out there.  You know who you are, glaring at me with your wavy-edged scissors.)  Crafts are great for everybody else.  Everybody else and kids.

Which is where the eyeballs come into view.  (Get it?  Come into view?)  J loves crafts, and I have always adored this endearing quality.  I have also always adored his grandma, who has joyfully shouldered the burden of nurturing the craft bug.  But in the spirit of Operation Play, I googled a suitable Halloween craft.   Then after jogging in place, popping my neck back and forth and cracking my knuckles, I took J to JoAnn’s for styrofoam balls and red glitter glue.  An hour later we have 18 blood-shot eyeballs with green or blue irises sitting on a card table to dry.  (Kudos to Dad for the ingenious idea of making “tri-pods” out of straight pins to allow the round, wet orbs to dry mess-free.)

If you would like to make your own eyeballs to hang up for Halloween (or if you are just weird and like to decorate that way), here’s the Official Operation Play How-to:

“Smooth” styrofoam balls (found near the silk plants at the craft store)


Red glitter glue

Paper clips

String, thread, or yarn

Straight pins (the kind with tiny balls at the end)

Color an iris and a pupil on each ball with the markers.  Insert 3 straight pins anywhere on the eye to make a “tri-pod” for drying (note: inserting them on or near the iris/pupil will make you cringe) .  Make blood-shot lines with the glitter glue, starting from the edge of the iris and working out.  Let dry.  Insert a bent paper clip into the top of each eye to hold a loop of string for hanging.  Look out!  You’re done.

What did you expect?

Day 10 Stats: Halloween eyeballs, almost 2 hours (including drive time), Dad with the girls, messy fun with J.


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Day 9: The End of Sideways Stories

I’m feeling borderline flu-ish so tonight I requested something we could play while I stayed laying down.  I broke my reading rule again by suggesting it along with a few other suggestions.  As I suspected, he was very excited to read more Sideways Stories from Wayside School.  What’s even better?  We finished the book.

Day 9 stats: Finished Sideways Stories, 25 minutes, girls asleep, feeling flu-ish


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Day 8: Mad Science & Lego’s

Chick-fil-A gives out the best kid toys.  Recently we received an evaporating dish with a small booklet of corresponding experiments.  Last night we only had the supplies for one, and I will gladly share it:

4 Tbls whole milk in a dish and let sit for 10 minutes

add 5 or 6 drops of food coloring in 3-4 different colors

add one drop of dish soap to the center

See what happens!

Unfortunately for us, that wasn’t much.  We used skim instead of whole, and it seems the fats play a key role.  This experiment didn’t take much time, so we also played Lego’s in J’s room.  That child can take a mess of assorted Lego pieces and build a miniature Gungan sub.  I take a mess of assorted Lego pieces and make a connected mess of assorted Lego pieces.  It is fascinating for me to get a glimpse into J’s brain simply by playing with him.

I am so glad I decided to do this project.

Day 8 Stats: Science and Lego’s, 20 minutes, girls asleep, a budding engineer, a hopeless abstract artist.

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