Alexandra the Great's Private Papers

February 1, 2008

The Marshmallow Incident

Filed under: Kids,Marshmallows — Alexandra The Great @ 11:18 pm

Always thinking creatively, my children never fail to amuse themselves.   My two younger children are not only creative, but they have also taken an interest in cooking.  Their skills have developed far beyond pouring hot water into a Styrofoam cup and waiting for the noodles to get soft.  For breakfast they can not only make toast but fry an egg to go with it.  They can cook oatmeal as well as follow the directions on the Hamburger Helper box to make dinner when their mom is busy.  Unlike their mom, they don’t burn it either.  They know how to make popcorn on the stove and a variety of sandwiches.  For dessert they can even follow a recipe and make cookies.  Gingersnaps were easy enough but Spritz proved a little tricky until they abandoned the uncooperative cookie press. Things moved along well after that and we soon enjoyed a sweet treat.  Being creative and adventuresome, they have even experimented with a few of their own recipes.  

Their latest adventure in cooking moved beyond the kitchen, into the back yard, and involved digging a hole.  To those of you who have read, The Seven Foot Hole to China, this may not be surprising.  You might even be thinking that these kids are learning the art of deep-pitting, but that will have to wait until a find a pig.  Remembering that I forbade them from lighting their pyre in the back yard two summers ago, they took safety precautions this time and dug a two feet deep hole to make their fire in; and to make extra sure that their plan went well, they did not tell me what they were doing.  Having built their fire, they then came into the house for marshmallows and forks.  Unnoticed, they returned to the back yard and got back to work.  Like Mrs. Tabitha Twitchet who unwisely turned her kittens out into the garden before tea, I was unaware of my children’s activities until my oldest son came inside and informed me his siblings were roasting marshmallows.  Their father, because he is a man, would have encouraged this activity.  But I am not a man.  I am a mom and no mom since Eve has wanted her children playing with fire.  I learned also that not only did they start a fire, but they were also roasting marshmallows with plastic forks.  Naturally, my imagination flared up and I was sure they would poison themselves with melted-plastic-toxic-marshmallows as well as burn themselves and the house to ashes.  Risking becoming an enemy of my children, I put a stop to it (using my prayer voice of course).

When my husband came home I told him of our narrow escape and he was delighted.  “It’s great,” he said, “that the kids are so creative.  I would rather them do things like that than play video games.”   The vote was now four against one and I had the feeling I had just moved into “check”.  I had to admit that he was right and maybe, just maybe, I had quenched a good thing.  Apart from the fire, this is the sort of thing we have encouraged. Next time I think I will send out real forks…and maybe a fire extinguisher.

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October 30, 2007

The Flood

Filed under: Kids,Memories — Alexandra The Great @ 6:20 pm

I’m not sure what brings it on, but occasionally I suffer from fits of nostalgia.  During these episodes my mind roams throughout my history in search of memories to latch onto. 

My most recent memory of choice is pulled from my childhood files.  Growing up, my family lived on a farm along the Kings River.  To those who live in the region surrounding the St. Lawrence, my river was a mere stream, or maybe even a small trickle of water winding its way through  the farmland of the San Joaquin Valley.  But to me, it was The River; the only river I knew.  I have many fond memories of playing with my brothers in, at, and around it; and of lonely, contented walks up the river to the weir through which the water came rushing on its way to some other place.

One year my brothers and I had the good fortune of experiencing a flood.  I can not recall why the river got so high that year, though I’m sure I was told at the time, but the water covered  the wide, hilly, sandy area which I could sometimes imagine was a desert.  After days of playing in the newly risen river we got the idea of going boating.  Now, my father probably had his canoe at this time, but a real sailing vessel would not do.  Instead, we found an old horse trough, big enough for two and a couple of oars.  Amazingly, it floated.  To an eleven and nine year old, sailing in a horse trough was funner than any toy we might have received at Christmas. Though I clearly remember the fun of sailing, I do not recall big events that were happening in my imagination.  Perhaps we were sailing around the world, or perhaps we were on a war ship, or even the Dawn Treader.  Whatever our horse trough might have been in our world, we were captivated.

Countless, carefree hours were spent in this activity.  As an adult, it doesn’t sound like anything special; but making wondrous times out of simple, makeshift toys is part of the magic of childhood.  Maybe it’s also part the lost magic of adulthood. Perhaps I should let my boys dig a lake in the back yard so I can have a second round of fun. 

September 7, 2007

The Seven Foot Hole to China

Filed under: Kids — Alexandra The Great @ 12:35 pm

 My boys will tell you that I never let them have any fun.  After all, mom didn’t let them light fire to the small pyre they had built out back and I forbid them from shooting arrows into the neighbors yard.  What more condemning evidence could they need to convict me?

What they won’t tell you is that there aren’t a lot of rules at my house.  We used to have more, but when I realized I could no longer remember what they were, I quit making rules and just kept to the basics, which really simplified things.  I found that the three rules of Don’t be mean, Don’t call names, and Do whatever mom tells you, when she tells you regardless of whether you want to or not work pretty well. 

An unspoken rule at our house (an unintentional rule, not included in the big three) is: If it doesn’t irritate or make more work for mom, she probably won’t mind.  And so, quietly, my boys began to dig a hole.  I didn’t mind, as it was physically laborious and surely healthier than playing video games or engaging in other passive activities indoors, and so the digging continued.  As time went by, I passed from being approving of their activity to being forgetful of what they doing with those quiet hours spent outside, and so the work progressed.

Occasionally when I went to the back yard my attention would be drawn to the growing hole.  I would briefly look at its width and depth and be impressed with the amount of hard work the boys had invested.  A little more work, I thought, and they would surely tire of the project and fill in the crater.

I underestimated, however, both their resolve and the value they attached to this work.  Diligently they dug.  Eventually, the hole got so deep they had to construct steps to enable themselves to climb out.  This improvement came about when one boy left the other stranded in the hole by pulling out the ladder.  Being an infraction of rule one, a rigorous tongue-lashing followed this act.  Building steps into the side of the hole prevented further acts of malice, but I grew concerned for my boys’ safety when they began tunneling.  The beloved project had now become a problem, and certain of a cave-in, I demanded they fill in the hole.  The protests began.  Not only was their pit a great accomplishment, but so many hours had been invested they that could not bear to think of filling it in.  Gone would be their work, gone would be their fort, gone would be our yard’s most impressive feature!  All this would be gone if mother made them return the dirt to its original home. 

True, all this would be lost, but I had a growing concern more was being lost than that.  Rain comes, wind blows, and dirt vanishes.  If this hole was not filled in soon I knew it would be permanent fixture in our yard.  So, under compulsion, the boys reluctantly began to shovel dirt back into the hole.  Gradually the cavity grew shallower.  Gradually, the walk way was unearthed to reveal red cement.  Gradually, as they toiled, they grew more convinced that mom never lets them have any fun. 

The hole is now gone, and so is the mountain of dirt beside it.  I can’t say I mind my boys thinking me mean or cruel in my demands; they won’t always think me so.  One day when they have boys of their own they will gain the parents perspective,  and on that day I will be vindicated.

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