aquarium, fish, parenting, The Boy, water

Free to a good home…

In foster parent training, they always told us that when we discover a child’s misbehavior, it does no good to ask that child why he or she did something. Often, he or she doesn’t know why, anyway, and asking kids this question really misses the point. It’s better to deal with what’s happened in a calm and matter-of-fact way, using logical or natural consequences, than to discuss motivations for the crime once it’s already been committed.

I know this. I know a fair number of other things about managing kids’ behavior, at least in principle. I’m sure these things shape my parenting choices, and I try to keep them in mind.

There is nothing quite like walking into my own child’s room, though, and seeing a scenario that could have come off the pages of one of my child development textbooks (bonus points for you, dear readers, if you can identify which of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development my child is currently embodying!).

It was really only about 5 minutes this time that he was unsupervised. I was changing a poopy diaper and preparing to get the girls down for their naps. Our guests were just gathering their things to leave after a mutually agreeable playdate. Fun had been had. Snacks had been eaten. Mamas had chatted. It had gone well.

Just then, my friend’s daughter casually came into the room and mentioned that The Boy was playing in his fish tank.

I was down the hall before she finished her statement, already counting backward from ten.

Sure enough, there he was…standing on the toy box, soaking wet. He had the fish net out this time, and the tubing that his dad uses to change the water was lying on the floor. The top of the tank was fully submerged in the water, the tropical heater was floating, and two old cell phones (which they had been playing with earlier) were sunk like ships run aground on top of the little rock cave. Uprooted plants and panicked fish were everywhere.

I wanted to ask him why, why, why he would do such a thing…again!!and yet I already knew he would tell me that he didn’t know. I also kind of wanted to shake him. I do, however, have my very own tantrum badge for not throwing a tantrum under almost these exact circumstances last month, and although it probably wouldn’t be revoked if I lost it today, I have standards to uphold. This mama can keep it together…cool, calm, collected…

I took a deep breath and said His Full Name. Quietly.

The Boy turned around, mouth open, and said, “Oh, I really do not want you to see what I am doing right now.”

No kidding, kid.

I sent him to sit in the hall outside his room and cleaned up quickly. It’s just water, after all…and if you pretend that farm-raised tropical pet fish haven’t been living and pooping in it for months and months, you can just sop it up or wipe it off and say it’s clean. I told The Boy to change into dry clothes and take a nap and that I would deal with him later.

I still did not ask him why.

After a few minutes, he helpfully volunteered that maybe we shouldn’t have any friends over to play for two days, because having friends over reminds him how much fun it is to play in the fish tank, and he doesn’t feel like getting in trouble for that tomorrow.

Unable to stand it, I asked him. “Why? Why would you do that again?” I looked directly at his small face. He raised his eyebrows, held out both hands as if he needed to explain something obvious to someone who might not get it the first time.

“I just wanted to see if I could change the color of the water by adding some things in there.”

I would like to volunteer him as a project for child psych, if anyone needs one. He’s fascinating. And kind of horrifying.

Puzzle piece, empty food container, ping pong ball, two old cell phones…apparently, the color of the water was unaffected.

After a brief conversation with his dad, who was still at work, I decided the following:

1. The Boy may no longer play with friends in his room without a grownup (which will effectively eliminate his ability to do it at all for now, since the babies can’t come in there due to all the small Lego pieces, etc., all over the floor).

2. The fish need to find a new home.

They are nice fish, as fish go – 3 mixed fruit tetras (named Apple, Banana and Cranberry), one red-tailed shark, and one gold gourami. (The snail was never found.) They have been alive for a while and have been stable and disease-free. The red-tailed shark and the gourami are officially “semi-aggressive” (though not toward each other) and the tetras are community fish.

If you’d be interested in being the new home for some or all of our fishy friends, please let me know.

Oh, and if you have any insights into why our son likes to recreate situations in which he got into big trouble before, please let me know that, too. I’m at a loss. Do your kids do this kind of thing? Mom, did I do this kind of thing? (I can’t remember ever doing anything like this at all – he must have gotten this from his dad!)

activities, planets, projects, space, The Boy

Space stuff

The Greatest (and youngest) Astronaut in the Universe lives here…by his own description.
The Boy continues to have space on the brain all the time. Anything we need him to do requires a countdown…”3, 2, 1…blast off!” Everything he does is accompanied by a rocket sound. He’s constantly checking the NASA site to see what’s going on with Curiosity, the Mars Rover. (“Mama, I’m just gonna check and see what Curiosity is up to these days.”) He refers to his “astronaut jammies,” his “astronaut breakfast,” our “space station” (our house), the Rover (our car), his “command seat” (the car seat).
I know that most people’s career aspirations at three-almost-four don’t materialize quite the way they had imagined, but he is certain that he will be flying missions in space before very long.

Because he seems to have the kind of brain that gobbles up everything in its path, it’s a challenge sometimes to keep up with him. At his request, I’ve been spending the sisters’ morning nap times with him doing “space stuff.” He is curious about everything. We made a list of the things he wanted to know about the planets and the solar system and stars and astronauts and space travel and galaxies and constellations and…you get the idea. The list is rather long. All the categories started with the same question, though: “What would it look like inside that (planet, star, black hole) if we chopped it in half?”

Some of our recent projects are pictured here, in case you’re interested. No tutorials – we’ve been moving so fast that there hasn’t been time for that kind of thing. This is the raw, unpolished version we’re sharing. Maybe someday I will have time to refine them a little.
On Monday, The Boy wanted to make his own set of planets. He sent himself on a “circle space mission” around the house to find objects that were round and traceable so he could make the planets. He traced them onto cardboard (old cereal boxes from the recycling bin). I cut them out (the cardboard was too thick for his preschool scissors). He was going to paint them, but at the last minute, he decided he would use crayons instead because he didn’t feel like wearing a paint smock.
Listening to “The Planets” on Spotify

While he colored his solar system (which included Pluto this time, but not Eris or Ceres), we listened to “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. This part was my idea. I love this piece, and I’ve had the middle section of “Jupiter” in my head for a week now. Besides, I wanted to share it with him. Eventually, he asked so many questions about the music that I had to find a video of an orchestra performing it to satisfy his need to know how the percussionists looked while playing various parts of the score.

(“Well, how did the man make that sound on the tambourine? I am just not sure that’s a tambourine, Mama, how do you know it is a tambourine??”)

His dad will be proud of this, I’m sure.
Labeling planets before they are cut out.
Although the planets were originally going to be a mobile and hang from his ceiling, he has had so much fun playing with them that he decided to leave them as they are for now. This is how The Belle earned her new nickname, “The Black Hole” – she keeps finding his planets on the rug and eating them. Nom, nom, nom.
Vigorously coloring the Sun purple. (“I want it to be a cool enough Sun that we can walk on it.”)

Arranging the planets in order
Pasting rays onto the sun

Our other projects this week included a rocket (made from a paper towel tube and an egg carton) and a space helmet, which is still not quite right. The Boy’s initial plan to make a space suit was derailed by his uncontrollable desire to run on the bubble wrap and pop bubbles with his feet (which is way more fun). We used recycled materials for the helmet- a plastic strawberry container, a gallon milk jug and a bubble wrap mailer- and kind of fudged it. I’m sure someone out there has a great step-by-step blog post on how to make a beautiful space helmet for your child. This is not that post. As my mom says, we are going for the overall effect. There was a lot of packing tape and some stapling involved.
Getting ready for liftoff
Space Helmet. Slightly wonky. Much loved.
For other space-related projects, try ice planets and moon sand.
The Singing Spaceman
aquarium, fish, merit badges, parenting, The Boy

Update: Merit badges, fish and tantrums

So, for all of you who have been worrying about our fish and our children after the aquarium incident, I’m pleased to report the following:

  • Number of fish casualties to date: 0
  • Number of children who succumbed to fungal infections: 0
  • Number of snails still unaccounted for: 1 (it can’t all be good news, after all…though I’m not convinced his disappearance is related to the incident!)
  • Number of Merit Badges earned by the Mama in this story: 1

Just after I wrote my post about The Boy’s fishing escapades, I sent an e-mail to the amazing Amy of Mama Scout, who makes the Mama Merit Badges. She likes to hear stories from parents who have badge-worthy experiences. I thought my story qualified, and I wanted to share it with her.

To my great excitement, Amy wrote back and said she was sending me my very own Tantrum Badge…for not having a tantrum. (If you didn’t catch the original story, you should go back and read it. I believe a tantrum was justified. I have certainly had them in less extreme circumstances.)

Ta-da! My very own tantrum badge

Before Amy could send my badge, though, my lovely friend Karen got one for me and mailed it to me herself. What a wonderful surprise!

I am sewing it on our diaper bag. I hope people will ask about it so I can tell them about Amy’s badges…it makes me smile every time I look at it. (Thank you, Karen.)

There is cosmic benefit in sharing these kinds of stories. A whole tribe of parents know the feeling of surveying the wreckage after some mishap, eyeing our offspring and wondering what possessed them to do what they did. We can all use some knowing nods, sympathetic words, and pats on the back on those days. Parenting is a full-contact sport. We need involved spectators to cheer us on when the going is rough.

Thanks, everybody, for your support of our family and for following our adventures with this little blog. It’s nice to have your company as we figure out what the heck we’re doing.

activities, dessert, no cook, parenting, peanut butter, preschool cooking, projects, recipe, snack, The Boy

Preschool cooking adventures: No-Cook Peanut Butter Balls

The Boy decided he wanted to make his own snack in the kitchen today. He wanted to bake cookies. We didn’t have what we needed (including time) to make those, but I thought we could pull off these No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls.

I remember making these with my friend Anna after school when we came home to her house starving after an intense day of fourth grade. We often made brownies, too, but these were easier and faster since they didn’t have to cook.

The time came to prepare snack, and The Boy was bouncing up and down, all ready to go. I had my hands full with two very fussy babies.

So, after considering carefully, I handed him the recipe on a post-it note and told him he could start pulling out the ingredients himself. I figured that would buy me a little time to get in there to help him.

1 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup dry milk
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla 

He was amazingly careful climbing his stool to reach things in cabinets. He knew where everything was, too. He only needed a little help to decide which measuring cups to get out. He deliberated for a strangely long time before selecting a mixing bowl and chose one of the tiny toddler spoons for mixing everything together. (Not what I would have chosen…but I decided to ride it out. This is how he learns that it’s harder to stir things with a tiny spoon than with a big one.)

This is what it looks like when a preschooler arranges the ingredients.

When everything was out, both babies were nursing, leaving me still unavailable to help (though sitting nearby in the kitchen to watch and encourage).

I took a deep breath. Then one more. I thought about peanut butter all over the front of the cabinets and oatmeal spilled under the front of the stove. I wondered if he was actually capable of measuring things in cups by himself (even after our moon sand experience, I still had my doubts).

Then, I thought how excited he would be if he could actually pull it off.

And what if he got sick of the whole thing and quit before it was done?

I decided I didn’t care. I could give him the option of crackers for snack if he abandoned this project. I’d be able to clean it up later when George got home. It would be okay. It would keep him busy during one of the toughest times of the day, on a day when the babies had obviously decided not to go easy on me.

So I told him he could do it himself and I’d help if he got stuck.
He bounced. He grinned. He nearly fell off the stool in his excitement.

I policed his finger-licking and kept making him wash his hands with soap every time he did it. I sent him off for seven separate hand washes. He didn’t argue, which I found incredible…especially considering he had to drag the wooden stool from the counter to the sink every single time.

Measuring the peanut butter…fingers were involved. Go wash your hands again.

 It gets kind of thick and hard to stir. Luckily, Daddy came in just in time to hold the bowl.

The aftermath, and the recipe. Not that bad, really.

You can’t see the peanut butter hand prints on the oven door from here.

The finished product looked (and was) edible.

That last photo was taken just before he tried to grab one of the treats with one hand while holding the plate with the other hand, causing all but three peanut butter balls to roll onto the floor. He grabbed them up and piled them back onto the plate, shouting, “Five second rule!” I couldn’t argue. Who wants to lose their hard-earned treats before tasting them?

And now, the Busy Parent’s breakdown:

Messiness factor: 8
This is way messier than I am usually willing to tolerate. Sticky, sticky, sticky everywhere! You know what, though? I survived. The kitchen is clean again, and nothing was permanently damaged. Maybe I’m growing up.

Prep time: 1
The Boy did all the prep this time. The ingredients are basic pantry items, so I knew we had everything we needed. He just needed to get them out.

Notes on the ingredients: you can easily leave out the coconut if you don’t like it. Just use a little less peanut butter. Also, quick or instant oats work better than rolled or old-fashioned oats…the thinner, smaller texture seems to absorb more easily into the balls, which helps them hold their shape without being too dry.

Cleanup time: 4
We needed to wipe down the counters thoroughly to clean off the peanut butter. It was also on the floor. Honey was on the floor and counters, too…a big sticky mess. Then there was sweeping and doing the dishes. The Boy helped with cleanup, but I needed to clean it again when he was done.

Note: if your child helps you clean and you find you need to redo her part, consider how she will feel about it. Some children’s confidence might be undermined if they see you coming right behind them to correct what they just did, and they might be less willing to try next time. If you, like me, need things to be cleaner than your preschooler needs them to be, consider doing that cleaning when she’s not watching or doing it alongside her rather than constantly correcting her as she is cleaning. The Boy seems to get really discouraged if we repeatedly correct him (“Try sweeping like this…there’s still more dirt over there…you need to wipe that part again”), but he likes it when we work together (“Why don’t you hold the dustpan while I sweep?” or “Would you like me to show you how we can make the sticky part smooth again?”). We even have a second broom and dustpan so that we can work at the same time (which makes it less obvious if I need to go over a part that he just cleaned). As your child gets more practice at cleaning and develops his skills, you will have to do less and less. Just think how nice it will be when he can clear the dinner table and load the dishwasher by himself while you sit back and prop up with a cool drink!

Learning factor (a.k.a. “what can I work in if I’m feeling motivated to help my kid make connections?”):

  • Math- measuring, fractions, adding, counting
  • Fine motor- pouring, stirring, rolling the mixture into balls
  • Nutrition, awareness of “healthy/growing food” versus “junk food” – these are actually pretty healthy as sweet treats go since they use honey as the sweetener. 
  • Sequencing, putting steps in order
  • Word recognition and reading or pre-reading skills

Ages appropriate: Depending on your tolerance for mess, you could make this snack with very young children. The Boy has been “helping” in the kitchen since about 18 months old. The degree which your child participates depends on your comfort level with spills and whether you are in a hurry or not. This is a good one for little helpers since it uses big measurements (easier to handle than small measuring spoons) and is instant-gratification (no cooking/waiting time for them to be finished).

How long did it last? It took the boy about an hour to do this basically on his own. Normally you could mix them up in ten minutes or so. He was easily distracted and had to keep stopping to wash his hands…your child might be faster!

Would I do this again (was it worth it)? It was a big mess. It kept him busy for an hour, though, and he felt great about it. I would do it again, and I think it would probably go even more smoothly.

The Boy’s review: “These are super yummy. We should eat this for snack every day. It’s okay if I lick my fingers now?”

activities, moon sand, planets, projects, The Boy

One small step for Sam – making moon sand

What have we been doing in this heat? Well, generally, what we do on a hundred degree day is avoid being outside.

Unfortunately, being inside all day is not that easy for a 3 1/2 year old boy.

To distract him, I decided to try one of those cool activities that those really awesome stay-at-home parents do…those Montessori-oriented, fun-loving adults who have time and energy to prepare great, educational, fun, messy things to do with their kids, then take pictures of them and blog about how wonderfully they went.

I wasn’t at all sure this was going to be a great activity. Given my short temper on the last activity we tried, I wasn’t sure about anything except that I had to do something to keep him from climbing the walls (and I mean that literally…I actually said to him, “Feet belong on the floor…we do not climb walls!”). I was sure it was going to be messy, though, and sometimes, especially with little boys like mine, that’s all you need.

Also, it occurred to me that some other parents out there might be interested in knowing how one of these activities went in a family like ours. (You know, a family where things aren’t quite together most of the time…the kind of family that is usually in minor chaos…the kind of family that has never posted anything on Pinterest and occasionally eats boxed macaroni and cheese because we forgot to plan something to have for dinner.) To that end, I’m going to rate the activity in several categories at the end of the post. If this turns out to be helpful, I’ll keep doing it.

And now, here’s what we did.

The planetary obsession here is ongoing. Anything having to do with the solar system is going to go over well. So today, we made moon sand.

Moon sand, for the uninitiated, is this cool-feeling, squishy substance that is kind of a solid and kind of a liquid and kind of extra-terrestrial feeling. You can buy it in craft stores or sometimes in the toy section at Target. It’s not cheap, but it’s fun to play with. You can make it into balls like play-dough, flatten it like a pancake and put your handprints in it, crumble it between your fingers like feta cheese. It’s neat stuff.

I found a recipe here to make moon sand at home. Many of the online recipes are set up to make large quantities, like for a preschool class or to put into a sand table. We just wanted a little bit. Scaling the recipes can sometimes work, but since texture is so important with moon sand, I was happy to find a recipe that would make just enough for my would-be astronaut to enjoy.

To make moon sand, mix together:

  • 4 cups of sand (preferably clean sand…we got a 5 lb bag from Wal-mart for around $4)
  • 2 cups of cornstarch
  • 1 cup of water

The Boy measured the sand, cornstarch and water himself. (I dumped in the first cup of sand and left the room briefly, and when I returned, he had added “all” the sand, which looked to be about a cup and a half. He had, in fact, counted three more scoops of sand and poured them into the box…just not full cups. It was an opportunity to talk about how we need to fill the measuring cup up all the way to be able to count it as a cup.) We dumped it into our “sensory box” (a Rubbermaid storage box with a lid), and The Boy mixed it all up with his hands.

How was that for him? “Muddy. A little bit slimy. Mostly okay, though. Cornstarch is a funny word.”

I helped with the kneading required to get the texture right, and then we started to play. We added some larger rocks (“moon rocks”) to the box and a few other toys. The Boy used a “guy” from his toy collection to make “moon footprints” in the sand, and we photographed them. Then, he grabbed a drinking straw from a nearby cup and started taking samples of the moon sand “to take back to Earth to show people.” We ended up analyzing the samples in our “lab” on the lid of the box, using plastic silverware to pick through them and talk about the things we found. (“Moon poop” was the most prevalent element discovered.)

There was a great mess by this point, but I was enjoying his glee and the way he kept exclaiming, “Look at the DISCOVERY I just made!” – this made the mess seem more tolerable. It was all going to be sweepable, anyway.

Suddenly, he announced very seriously that we needed to make a flag. He was going to be the first astronaut to put a flag on the moon. “This is very important,” he said.

We found some duct tape and stuck it on one of the straws, and he started climbing into the box! I had not been expecting this at all.

“Whoa! What are you doing?” I asked, about to grab him.

“I’m walking on the moon to put up the flag,” he said, as if it were completely obvious.

And then, in what might be one of my finer parenting moments, I decided that it was okay for him to do it. The kitchen floor was already wrecked. The babies were waking up – I could hear them starting to fuss, which meant the activity was almost over. He could walk on the sand inside the box, and then I could put him directly into the bathtub and wash off his feet. It was time-limited, he would love it, and the risk was low. I took a deep breath and decided to let it happen.

He stepped into the box, walked on the sand, planted his flag, and said, “Okay, there, I put the flag on there for everyone to watch it on their TV. Pretend you saw me do that on your TV.”

I asked him, “Are you Neil Armstrong? Buzz Aldrin?”

“No, ” he said, the way you’d speak to someone who didn’t quite understand what was going on and needed you to be very, very patient with her. “I’m Astronaut Sam, and that was a big step for me.”

Big. Mommy. Grin. Sometimes, he is truly awesome.

I “blasted him off in his space pod” (carried him to the bathtub to wash his feet). Once he was clean, he helped sweep up the floor. That sweeping up thing is going to take some work, but the idea was there…he helped make the mess, so he helped clean it up.

Overall, it was a great activity. Here’s the breakdown, for you tired parents who want to know how much work this is actually going to be. On a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being ” hardly any at all” and 10 being “so incredibly much I can hardly stand it”:

Messiness factor: 6.5
It is pretty messy, but the cleanup is mostly just sweeping. If you don’t have a sweepable surface under your box, just put down a tarp or plastic shower curtain liner that you can shake out when you’re done. Then you won’t be stressing about the sand that inevitably escapes from the box (which could totally mess up your chance to have fun with your kid!). The mess is potentially more if you let your child mix the ingredients with his hands. It could be disastrous if you let him walk in it and then walk out of it onto your living room carpet, but the way we did it was acceptable to me.

Prep time: 1
You just need to make sure you have the stuff available. The mixing is part of the fun, so there’s no real need to put it together ahead of time.

Cleanup time: 2
It’s really just sweeping. The box of sand gets stored without the lid so it can dry out. I hear you can just add some water to reconstitute it the next time you want to use it. If you store it with the lid on, it can mold, which would pretty much ruin everything for me.

Learning factor (a.k.a. “what can I work in if I’m feeling motivated to help my kid make connections?”):

  • Math – measuring, counting. 
  • Fine motor – scooping, pouring, raking, crumbling, rolling into balls, taking “samples” with the straw. 
  • Science- talking about the moon, the first astronauts to walk on the moon, what happened when they jumped up and down on the moon (which my son totally did, almost falling out of the box. This was the end of the activity.) 

Use the chance to teach some big words if you want…gravity, astronaut, geologist, excavate…there are lots of possibilities. Your child might surprise you by using them later (maybe even in front of your in-laws or someone else you’d like to impress with your wonderful parenting!).

Ages appropriate: maybe 2 and up. You have to know your kids. If they are going to eat the sand, you might want to pass on this one. There was a 50/50 chance that my astronaut was going to eat the sand…we did discuss ahead of time why this wouldn’t be a good idea, and he resisted the temptation. He did lick cornstarch off the floor, though.

How long did it last? He played with it for a full half-hour easily. He could have kept going if he hadn’t brought it to a climax with the moonwalk (moon jump) experience.

Would I do this again (was it worth it)? Absolutely. It was easy, and he loved it, and it wasn’t hard to clean up.

The Boy’s review: “This is very, very, very cool. I think other boys and girls should do this with their moms and dads. Probably not with their babysitter because they might get in trouble. The best part was walking in it. Can we play with it some more now?”

activities, butterfly, garden, The Boy

Butterfly Hatch

Anybody remember this guy?
Well, he looks a lot different today.

He just kind of unfolded. He didn’t need any help – he knew just what to do.

Having never seen this process before, I am awestruck. He is so beautiful!

I saw the chrysalis splitting this morning. When we checked back, he was fluttering around the bowl, ready to get out.

We did assist him by taking the top off the bowl and removing the stick he was climbing on so he could get onto our coneflowers (and hang upside down to dry his wings until he was ready to go).

I hung out in the flower bed for a long time, just watching him and taking pictures.

Believe it or not, I have a few other things to do today, but I wanted to share the photos with you first.

I know there are a thousand tiny miraculous things like this happening every single day that I don’t see. I’m feeling really grateful that I got to be a part of this one.

*Our second chrysalis is twitching, so I bet before long, there will be a second butterfly.*

This was totally worth sacrificing the dill, by the way.

The Boy, removing the lid from the bowl.

another tiny garden friend – amazing what you see if you’re looking.
Waiting to see what will happen next…

activities, ice planets, parenting, planets, projects, summer, The Boy

Ice Planets – an activity turned snack.

It has been really, really hot here.

The Boy has been wanting to go outside all the time. We had some fun water play in our yard on Friday during a playdate with friends, but it’s been so muggy and uncomfortable that I’ve been avoiding going out. Then, I happened upon a post at Play at Home Mom about making planets out of ice. Given The Boy’s current fascination (obsession?) with all things planetary, it seemed like a natural fit. Also, it seemed easy. While I’m generally in awe of the amazing ideas that the Play at Home Moms pull off with their young ones, I’m also overwhelmed by my everyday life about 70% of the time…which means I can’t necessarily construct a bubble in my living room in which to do blacklight activities (as completely incredible as that would be!). This one, though, seemed doable, even for me.

We had balloons left over from my birthday this week, so The Boy chose one for each planet, plus a few extras. We filled them with water at the sink. The Boy told me when to stop filling each one so they would be the desired size. We added drops of food coloring (I did this part, though he told me how many drops and which colors to put in each balloon). We put them in the freezer overnight.
(They might have frozen faster if he hadn’t checked on them seven or eight times.)
Planets, fresh from the freezer and ready to be released from their balloons.
We took them outside, and I used scissors to cut open the balloons so The Boy could help me peel them off. The whole time we were getting them out, I was cranky and snapping at him when he grabbed at the scissors. My trouble with being a parent with a background in education is that I know what I really should be doing and saying to support his learning in a situation like this. Where was my scaffolding, my open-ended questions? I kept thinking that I was ruining his experience of this perfectly good activity…what good does it do to pull off something cool like this if Mama is going to be all crabby during the execution of it and mess it up for everyone?
In my defense, it was hot. It was late afternoon, just an hour or so before dinner. The babies were fussing. There were hundreds of gnats attacking us on the driveway. And also, he can be kind of irritating. He’s 3 1/2.
(Don’t worry – I know my limitations, and there are reasons I’m not planning to homeschool him.)
Once the ice spheres were all out of the balloons, The Boy lined them up in order on the driveway. He started with the Sun and went through all eight planets, then added Pluto (“I know it isn’t a planet any more, but I still love it, so it gets to line up,”) and Ceres (“It’s a non-planetary object, which is the same as Pluto, so it gets to be in the line, too”).
Can’t argue with that logic, I guess.
More or less spherical, kind of to scale…the Sun is the biggest of all and Jupiter is bigger than the other planets. I think Venus and Neptune might be the same size, but that’s probably not important…they still looked really cool!
They started melting immediately. It was, as I believe I mentioned, hot.
The Boy moved them all to the top of the driveway and started drawing their orbits with sidewalk chalk.
He stopped to check out his work.
Then, he ate them.
All of them, one at a time, saving the Sun for last.
“I am a black hole! That’s why I’m eating planets! Neptune, you’re next…”
You can’t make this stuff up.
As he sat there, food coloring dripping down his hands and chin, he said, “This is so, so cool. I think we should do this again tomorrow.”
And even in my grouchy state, I had to admit it had turned out pretty well.  He had fun, even though I wasn’t doing a stellar job of interacting with him. I’d definitely do it again.