29 July 2015

Beyond Play Dates

In the past few days I have been accosted with the advice that my kids need to play more.  I've watched this video.

Would your kids respond in the same way as these kids? Raises an interesting point...
Posted by Mike Hosking Breakfast on Sunday, July 19, 2015

And I've read countless articles, including this one on the importance of play.  And for what it's worth, I am totally on board with lots of unsupervised play time.  Bring it on.  I vote YES for unstructured play.

My problem is that I have no idea how to do this.  In my own childhood, I remember spending hours out in the evening until after dark with several neighborhood kids as I tried to figure out how to throw a football.  We played foursquare and jacks on the cement pad between the pool and playground in my apartment complex.  I learned how to do lots of tricks on the bars, including the penny drop which was hanging by my knees on the bar and throwing myself around and around while my head was just inches from the ground and then being able to stick a landing, all without the use of my hands.  I pushed matchbox cars through sand landscapes that we had painstakingly crafted.  In the hot Phoenix summers when parents wouldn't allow us inside, we would lie on the sidewalk in the shade of a building and color in coloring books.  We played baseball in the open field next to our complex.  We raided the laundry room looking for spare change that we could use to buy a 25 cent soda in the vending machine.  We spent hours in the pool.  We rode bikes.  We rode skateboards.  We took walks a half mile away to purchase 5 cent candy from the convenience store.  We took walks a mile away to purchase 50 cent burgers at Burger King.  We stayed out late playing Ghost in the Graveyard, British Bulldog and endless hours of Kick the Can.  When we had parties, frozen pizza was the new thing to serve because Pizza Hut was the only other place you could even get pizza.  And movies were a rare treat because most people had to rent VCRs at the same time they rented the movie!

As far as I am concerned, I played quite a bit when I was a child.  But childhood is over and I don't really enjoy playing anymore.  Every once in a while, I enjoy a social game.  But not all the time.  And I hate board games.  I like organized sports with referees and rules.  I don't so much like pick up games or playing with people without any skills.  I don't like playing pretend.

And I remember how sad it was when Baboo was a little baby and I'd take her to the park to play and she wouldn't know what to do.  She never had fun at a park.  She would just kind of wander around looking bored.  I knew that I didn't have the energy or the desire to play with her like that.  What she needed was another kid.  What she needed was a sibling!!  I felt very strongly that it was time for Baboo to have a sibling.  And so 9 months later, here comes Wiyah!

And for the most part, it worked.  Built-in playmate for the younger years and mostly these sisters have gotten along.  I kept having more and more kids and there was always someone around to play with.

But maybe technology happened in the meantime.  I don't know what happened.  But my kids definitely don't play anymore.  First of all, it seems like the only times kids get together is when they are officially invited for "play dates".  And I don't do play dates.  I don't really invite people into my home at all.  So play dates are usually one sided affairs.  My kids love to go but I never reciprocate and so we don't get asked very frequently.  It's very rare to have a random kid just how up and ask if so and so can play.  Other moms express trepidation about letting their kids out to play unsupervised for all the bad things that can happen and stranger danger.  I feel those things, too, and when I was my kids' age I had much more freedom than they now have.

I don't even know what to do.  My kids watch too much TV and they play on the computer too much.  I don't know how to get them off or what to replace it with.  When they tell me that they are bored, I can't think of any ideas for them either.  They never play outside and many of them refuse to walk a block or two to get to a friend's house.  In previous summers I have kicked them outside for certain times of the day but they end up just sitting out there doing nothing, waiting for the time to pass until they can come back in again.  If I were in there shoes, I wouldn't know what to do either.  I don't know how to give them their freedom.  I don't know how to instill in them some kind of creativity and playful spark.  They make forts inside my house that drive me absolutely crazy.  But there's no materials to make a fort with outside.  And even if they did do it outside, we would tell them it makes our yard look trashy and then they'd have to put it all away so we could mow.  The boys especially spend quite a bit of time reading.  And reading is great, don't get me wrong.  It's a completely valid way to spend time.  But it is not playing.

I just do not have any idea how to implement these ideas in the culture they are growing up in.  And the reality is that I also spend most of my free time on the computer.  There are ideas to explore, things to read and free ways to accomplish things.  For someone who hates to cook, can't create anything artistic, has no domestic skills and doesn't play an instrument, the internet offers a way for me to use my brain and my creativity to accomplish something that I couldn't do in another way.

If I could somehow figure out how to MAKE my kids play, then it wouldn't even be play.  So play is something that I need to figure out how to make a space for and let them discover it for themselves.


So this happened yesterday

X is officially a licensed driver now.  And he's already used it.

The best thing I have to say about that is that I have 23 months before we have to start this ride all over again with Kelvinator.  I'm ready for the break!  Meanwhile I'm super thrilled that X will be picking up elementary kids after school all year long instead of me!

27 July 2015

While we were gone

While the rest of the family was having a little vacation, JJ and Baboo spent some time together.  They watched a movie together.  Went on a hike together.

Got snow cones together.

 Baboo made him a meal.  Thai coconut rice with toasted shredded coconut on top with sweet and sour chicken and broccoli.

Baboo took JJ to a missionary homecoming (one of the sisters Baboo trained on her mission) and then they went to Baboo's Young Single Adult ward.  They returned library videos that were going to be overdue while I was gone. They invited some friends over and played games.  And it was ok because they had cleaned the main level of our house.  JJ had mowed the lawn.  Baboo had even cleaned and organized the pantry.  It was awesome.

This has nothing to do with anything I'm talking about but I wanted to throw this photo in before I forgot.  This was my view on the trip up to the cabin.  X drove the whole way and got the last 4 hours of driving experience he needed to become a licensed driver.  So tomorrow the plan is to take him to the DMV to make it official.

Cabin, Day 4

In order to go to church we had to take rough back roads down the mountain to a teeny tiny small town with a population of 339.  While we were on the road, I snapped some quick photos out of my window to just give a sense of the beauty we were surrounded by.  I can't even tell you how difficult it is for me to edit photos on my laptop.  I probably spent an hour trying to edit some photos only to discover none of them had been saved anyway.  So I gave up.  But just imagine that these photos are vibrant green.  Also if you could imagine that the temperature was only in the 70s that would probably help, too.

 This was the view from the front porch.

After church, our hostess showed the little girls how to make hats and they pretty much spent the rest of the day doing just that.

It totally made me think of Baboo and Wiyah because one summer they did the exact same thing.  Unfortunately, Baboo and Wiyah didn't get to finish their hats and so our hostess sent them home with the loom and their yarn to finish on their own.  And we had those looms for a long time.

Here is Pinkleberry's (almost) finished project.

I wanted to catch the sunrise.  This is the view from the loft every morning.  That gorgeous sunshine comes streaming in the big sliding glass doors up there and it seems to light the cabin on fire with its golden and reddish tones.  Again, if any of you have free time and want to edit these photos for brilliance, I will take the time to remove these washed out ones and repost the new ones.

On the morning that we left, there was a doe in the clearing below the cabin.  We could see it from the window but we went out quietly and stood very still on the porch to watch her.

And that made me think that maybe I should also get a photo of the cute chipmunks that we feed every morning.  I think it would be so sweet to have a pet chipmunk!

Our hostess thought our girls' hats looked a little plain and wished that they had some kind of flower to put on their hats.  So she stayed up late our last night there and knitted them little flowers to add.  Then she used this 1911 treadle sewing machine to sew the flowers on for them.  It was all sorts of awesome!  In fact, our hostess had an entire queen size quilt on a frame in the loft that she's been working on and it was done entirely on this sewing machine!

She let all the kids have a go at working the machine.  I wouldn't have let my kids near such a treasure, let alone touch it and play with it.

Winkleberry's and Pinkleberry's finished projects.

Before we ready to leave, we noticed a buck in the same place the doe was just a couple hours earlier.

These were not the only deer that we saw by any means.  We actually saw lots of them, between us all.  I love how Wink calls them "white-butted" deer.  And these were not the only wildlife we saw either.  On our way up the mountain to the cabin we saw a bear cub.  We saw the deer and the chipmunks and lots of cattle (ranchers bring their cows up the mountain for cooler temps and an abundance of grass) as well as a marmot.

I'm at the end of my tale and I've forgotten where to add in the part that while the rest of us where inside the cabin, X and Kelvinator spent a couple hours outside throwing knives.  Like actually throwing knives--they were throwing them at a target.  Kelvinator says that out of about 130 throws, he made about 37 knives stick.

Also, I wanted to throw in how awesome X was.  He was the biggest brother on this tip and it was a portent of the next few years around here.  He did a great job.  Responsible, helpful, kind, fun, looking out for littlies.

One sweet moment from the trip was Sunday morning, I think, when I was waking Kelvinator up to get to church.  We had to get going early and with only bathroom I needed him to use it NOW.  So I woke him up, but five minutes later found him kneeling, curled up in bed.  He hadn't really moved.  So I started him prodding him harder and was quite terse with him and that was when he turned his head to me and said, "I'm praying."  Oops!  That's a good moment, though, when you discover your teenage son won't get out of bed without saying his prayers first.  There were other sweet moments and a few great overheards, too, but I just don't remember them now...

And that reminds me that I totally cried when we had to leave.  I just gave JJ a big hug and was totally crying.  It was two-fold.  I was crying because I was going to miss him and wanted him to come with us.  I didn't want to leave part of my family behind!  AND I was also crying because I know how much he wanted to come.  This was pretty much his last vacation.  The only really fun thing he had to look forward to this summer before he leaves.  And I know he was super disappointed.  We were praying in the van before hit the road and that prayer was punctuated by my sobs.  And the entire weekend, anytime Winkleberry heard a popular song or anytime anyone sang a popular song, she would start crying and saying that she missed JJ.

Last but not least, it's kind of enjoyable leaving on a trip when you know your house isn't going to be empty while you are gone.  For instance, I didn't have to worry about the trash being taken out so it wouldn't rot in the next five days, you know?  It made leaving very simple.  Also, coming back was pretty great, too.  The lawn was mowed and our two adult children had cleaned the main level of the house to almost sparkling.  It was so nice to come home to that!

Cabin, Day 3

 This was a fishing day!  The kids were totally restless and had way too much excess energy for a little cabin and the quiet activities that could be done inside.  So instead of riding the ATVs to the lake, much to the kids' disappointment, we did a family hike.  We had never hiked to this lake before and didn't quite make it the first time!  So we were traipsing all over the wilderness in grasses and flowers that thigh- high on me, following streams and just really being out in nature.  Eventually we found our way (it was much closer than we anticipated) and started fishing.

When the flora was almost above Winkie's head and the hill was very steep, X offered to give her a ride and carried the rest of the way o'er moor and fen and crag and torrent till, the night is gone....  Well anyway, he carried her the rest of the way through all the crazy terrain we traversed.

 This photo is a sorry reproduction of some of the most beautiful scenery around.  I wish I was a better photographer and that the lighting had been better and that I had had a better camera and that I had the time or inclination to edit photos.  This was much greener in reality.

Here we are at the lake.  I know you can't actually see the lake yet.  That's because the lake is almost completely surrounded by grassy marsh and the  only good, dry place to catch fish while sitting down was on the opposite bank where there were already two families fishing.  So we braved the swamps.

 The Hubba was leading our group to the lake and he arrived first.  About twenty seconds later, before everyone had even arrived at the spot, he tossed in his line and pulled out the fish above.  I'm not kidding.  The first fish of the day was caught within about 20 seconds of our arrival.  It was crazy.

Winkleberry "caught" the second fish of the day.  In actuality, her pole was big and she had asked to trade poles with our host because he had a smaller pole.  At that point, he actually had a fish on his line.  So he handed it to her and she reeled it in.  But that wasn't even necessary because she went on to catch two more fish which was the most that anyone caught that day!

Here's Pink with her fish.

And Kelvinator with his fish.

And X with his fish.

X wasn't feeling up to taking his fish off the hook.  As often as he has been fishing, he'd never done that part.  The Hubba and our host were busy helping little kids fish and I was the adult who was right there.  I don't fish.  I don't closely observe fishing.  Nor do I care to, beyond the obligatory photos that Baboo wasn't there to take.  But I could see exactly what needed to be done.  I told X that he needed to grab the fish in one hand and remove the hook with the other.  I even demonstrated with hand motions.  But he couldn't bring himself to.  So I just did it.  I just grabbed that fish (it was stronger and more muscly than I anticipated) and removed the hook (so sad!  And really gross, too!) and threw it in the grass with the other catches of the day.

This is me with X's fish.  I was actually really proud of myself.  I think the Hubba was, too.  He couldn't believe I had actually done it.

And here's Mack with his fish.  It's in the grass in front of him.  While I was coaching him on how to remove it, his fish flopped off the hook and he was too yucked out to pick it up for the photo.  He did pick it up and put with the other pile o' fish shortly after this photo was taken, though.

Once we got back to the cabin, the boys and our hosts went out and learned how to gut a fish.  You can tell my participation in that event by the lack of photos.  The rest of the afternoon was spent kind of just vegging in the cabin.  It was actually really nice, but it turned out to be the last opportunity we had to take the ATVs and go to the other nearby lake, Dark Canyon Lake.  And it's disappointing to have missed out on that.

Mack and Wink were making playdo "armies" while Pinkleberry and I were making playdo elephants.  Pink made a mama elephant and I made a baby elephant and Pink made an entire elephant enclosure.  Our hostess thought the elephants were SO CUTE that she insisted we take them home for us.  Pink made a container to hold them safely with an air hole in the top so that they could breathe.

Then our hostess made cookies with the kids and baked them in the wood burning oven.  I still love that thing.  I hope, at some point, to live the kind of life where I can own of them and use it often.  I have a hard time imagining that.  Just the sheer amount of wood you need on a daily basis to work the thing....  But oh, how it keeps the cabin warm!

Then we got started with the "bath brigade" for Sunday.  There were 9 of us there and only one bathroom.  I think I started showering the little girls at 6pm and the Hubba took the last shower around 10pm.  They have one of those on demand gas water heaters-no tank.  And that thing is awesome!  So at least even after 4 hours of showering, you could have as much hot water as you wanted.

Here are Pink and Wink reading Calvin and Hobbes after their shower.  Just FYI, check out Pink's braids.  This is 2.5 weeks since I put those in and they have been shampooed twice now and are holding up pretty well.  I would definitely do that again!  Wink's hair I braided the morning that we left for the cabin, just because I didn't want to mess with brushing it while we were there.  I did a really sloppy, fast job with her braids and wasn't expecting much at all.  But even they held up well with their first washing.  I'm kind of super impressed with myself.  I almost wrote that I can't wait to try it again.  But I'm actually still pretty worn out from the hours it took to do last time...


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