The Last Few Pieces

The other day I pulled out one of my favorite jigsaw puzzles from my childhood, with a plan.

The boys have shown little interest in jigsaw puzzles, which has been disappointing to me, because they were a major part of my life growing up. But I’d noticed Ryan working on some wooden puzzles that I’d put out for Mica, and it gave me an idea. In making any puzzle, there are harder parts and easier parts — there are the fun, colorful parts that go together easily, and the trickier, less obvious parts that usually get saved for the end. So, I reasoned, what if I did all the hard parts and left just a few holes, with interesting, easy bits for the boys to do?

This was harder than I’d expected, since my eyes kept trying to dwell on my favorite bits of the puzzle. I didn’t really want to do the sky, or the border. But I managed it, and left the puzzle on the dining room table, and was gratified to see the boys working together not long after to finish up the last bits.

A second experiment some days later roped in Ryan for another short and satisfying jigsaw puzzle session. Can I use this to eventually get them interested in doing puzzles by themselves? I don’t know, but the experiment is interesting enough to continue.

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Tattoos

Dave’s mom sent us several sheets of temporary tattoos recently, which led to Ryan’s face being decorated with a snake and Mica’s face being decorated with puppies.

They were both pretty excited about this, but I there was an interesting difference between them. Once he had his snake face, Ryan didn’t seem to need anything more. Mica, on the other hand, eventually decorated both arms and both legs with multiple tattoos, and came to understand the process well enough that she could nearly do it herself. (She lacked only a little bit of patience, and would often rip the paper off too quickly.) Clearly, for her, if a little is good more is better.

More Beach

There is more to the beach than crabs. When I was a kid there was something to do at the beach regardless of time or tide level, and that has apparently not changed.

There are sticks, for example, which can be weapons, or tools, or… well, to be honest, mostly those two. Maybe mostly weapons. A weathered board laid against a washed-up mass of tree roots makes a springy ramp for walking and jumping. Logs are worn away so that the stumps of their branches stick out extra far, and they turn and shift under your feet. I watch my children play with their balance and reaction times.

And there are endless Things To Find. Bits of shell; interesting rocks; smooth driftwood. Rubbery seaweed with tough, fluid-filled pouches. Thousands of baby snails. Sand fleas. And more and more and more, so much that a two-year-old (or, if I’m feeling like I’m on vacation, I) can poke around in mud and sift through sand for hours.

No Fear

Every time we visit my dad’s house, the beach is a potent draw, and this time was no exception. It has everything that kids (and, I sometimes think, adults) really need to relax: water, rocks, and quiet.

It also has lots of tiny creatures. Most notably for our family, it has crabs. When the tide is out they like to crouch under rocks, away from the sun; turning over a hand-sized rock can send half a dozen little crustaceans scuttling for shelter. This by itself is good fun for children, and although I’ve outgrown my desire to make defenseless little creatures run in terror, I do remember that treasure-hunt pleasure of looking for a really big nest of them.

The boys have always been wary of holding crabs. Probably I shouldn’t have warned them, when the opportunity first arose, that the larger ones can pinch. They like seeing us with crabs in our hands, and were particularly excited when two of the larger ones, finding themselves in Dave’s hands, mistakenly took each other for the enemy and started to menace each other. But otherwise they’ve generally restricted themselves to the Turning Over Rocks part of the endeavor.

Not so with Mica. Maybe she’s just at the right age; maybe it’s her personality; maybe she’s been toughened up by having two brothers. She was happy to pick up crabs, even the big ones, and once Dave gave her tips on how best to do it (hint: take them from behind), she was almost unstoppable. Several times I heard her say “Ouch! He pinched me!” Then she’d go back for more.

Yet More Tie-Dye

I dyed a couple more things for Mica just recently. One was a skirt which was mid-calf length on the (older) child model in the picture, but they clearly didn’t scale down the length for a two-year-old, because she looks like she’s wearing a floor-length tie-dyed petticoat. But the other items fit better, and she’s cute in all of them.

I also did another tie-dying session at Village Free School. This is always an adventure — the questions come thick and furious once we get going on the project — but I think I’m getting better at managing in that environment. Everyone seemed pretty happy, at least, despite the fact that I continue to be unable to answer six questions at a time. And, wonder of wonders, Ryan even decided to join in. (I suspect that he was pretty bored at the time.)

First Picnic

Our first picnic of the year! It was 80 degrees and sunny recently, and Nathan really wanted to be outside, so we headed across the street for sandwiches and fruit in the shade.

Later that same day there were the first popsicles of the year, too; and later still, as the sun was disappearing, we did a second picnic for Food Before Bed. It felt like summer.

Just A Picture