Tag Archives: play

costumes make everything more fun

Having the right costume is the difference between trudging through one’s day, and silly, zany, fun. Boring, every day, regular events can take on a mythic feel when the proper costume is employed. Even a funny hat can help.   I’m really serious about this.  Right now, think of something you do every day that is boring, and instead, try it in costume.  Go on—try it!  I double dare you.

Here, let the masters demonstrate.

Eating breakfast….


…becomes, “Daddy, I’m going to get you with my hook and make your bones into soup! As soon as I finish my cheerios.”

Asking for snacks…

…becomes being a Monster Queen! Commanding me to bring snacks!

Checking for eggs…

…becomes being Princesses searching for magic eggs.  That’s Sophie’s bff, Zetta, by the way.

Sweeping the deck….

…becomes Ms. Witch and her Flying Broom!

Games, too, are enhanced.  For example, blowing bubbles…

…becomes Wizard Luc and his Magic Wand!

And of course, you have to suit up to play video games.

But this last one shows total dedication, way beyond the silly hat level.  Full-on commitment to the fun of dressing up:

Four year old Sophie is watching her then-favorite movie, Kiki’s Delivery Service, dressed completely as Kiki in a costume of her own design: black/purple dress, red scarf, little red shoes, and, of course, a broom.

I was skeptical, but they have convinced me.  Really, dressing up in costumes is terrific fun.  When did I lose that knowledge?  Did I ever have it?  I’m serious: try a funny hat next time you’re feeling bored.  It will change your day.

No, I am not posting a picture of me in a funny hat.   Get over it.

it’s a thrilllllleeeerrrr, thriller night!

I have written before of our love of the game Plants Vs. Zombies. Well, I recently wiped the drive on our game machine and upgraded to Windows 7, which meant reinstalling, and rediscovering, a bunch of games we hadn’t played in a while. Plants Vs Zombies in particular has gotten a lot of replay this last week. The game really has a great sense of humor. For example, one of the types of zombies that start shambling across your lawn is the Dancer Zombie, instantly recognizable as Michael Jackson. He has the power to summon Backup Dancer Zombies repeatedly, and is, therefore, a particularly dangerous zombie. He even has his own spotlight and theme song.

So, yesterday, I’m bustling about the yurt, Luc is playing the game, and Sophie starts doing a perfect version of Dancer Zombie’s dance, which is, of course, directly from Michael’s famous dance moves in the Thriller video. You know the part with the claw-hands up on each side, the march, the up-on-the-toes move, moonwalking… I was laughing so hard—she has a remarkable physical-mimicry ability. I started doing my own pitiful version and singing, “Thriller! Thriller night!” But she, having only seen the game, didn’t know the song.

What? How could she not know that song? I mean, of course she doesn’t know that song, she’s five years old, for heaven’s sake, but that song, and its video, was so HUGE when I was growing up! I was in the eighth grade and I remember looking at a friend’s copy of the album (albums! made with vinyl!) with the double spread of Michael in that white suit. Whatever happened to him later in his life/career—at that moment in time, I thought he was just terrific.

So, it simply wasn’t possible for Sophie to not know Thriller. “Girl,” I said, “I’ve got something you have to see.”

Ten seconds later, we’re youtubing “Thriller” and there is super-young Michael with the movie-within-a-movie bit, and that crazy red jacket. Sophie says, “Hey, his jacket is just like Dancer Zombie’s jacket!”

“No, dollface. Dancer Zombie’s jacket is just like Michael’s. Michael came first.” I tell her about my pre-teen friends and I singing “Thriller” and “Beat it” and doing the moves, watching the videos, making our hair big, wearing shoulder-pads…those were the days, right?

Then, on the laptop, Vincent starts his monologue and the zombies start crawling out of the graves, and at first it’s hilarious because it’s just like the game. But then, wow, I had forgotten how freaky they looked, how gross the make-up, how piercing the girl’s screams…. woops. Too late now. “Um, is this too scary?”

“No!” says Sophie, but Luc, who had come over to see what this was all about, is looking nervous.

“When this came out,” I said, “everyone was amazed at the make-up, how real and scary it looked. I wonder what it was like to be one of those actors they hired to play a zombie and to get all that weird make-up put on?” And I’m watching them, Luc particularly, to see if he’s getting too spooked. He looks fascinated, but a ten-car pile up is fascinating, too, and maybe you don’t need to see that when you’re four, right?

“But how do they make it look like blood is running out of their mouths?” says Sophie.

“I don’t know, must be something that doesn’t taste too bad to the actor.”

“I bet it’s chocolate,” says Luc, watching, thoughtful. “Chocolate looks like that if you leave it in your mouth until it melts.”

Gross. But true. “They came up with how to put on this zombie make-up and they made rubber bits and glued them onto the actor’s faces to make it look like they have those lumpy faces and they put them in old muddy clothes—”

“It’s all make-up?” says Sophie.

“Yes. The actors look like normal people when they wash it all off.”

Shocked, Luc says, “It washes off?!”

He’s so relieved! “Yep.” I figure, take the scare-power away by revealing the illusion, the man behind the curtain. Also, the pause button helps.

We all watch some more.

Then here comes the zombie who’s arm falls off, remember him? “Look! His arm fell off, just like in the game!” says Sophie.

“If there were zombies in our yard,” says Luc, “I would use a Hypnoshroom on them.” That’s a weapon from the game.

“Good,” says I. “Got to have a zombie contingency plan.”

“The zombies are slow,” says Sophie, “why don’t Michael and the girl run away? Why do they just stand there and wait for the zombies to get them?”

“Good question. You know, I think the idea of zombies is kind of scarier because they’re slow.”

Luc says, “Well, the Michael zombie seems faster. If you hypno the Michael zombie, then all his back-up zombies get hypnoed, too. I’d put them back into their graves with a hypno and then I’d put a zombie watch-dog to guard it.”

But then Michael and the dancers start doing the dance—that famous dance!—and the kids go nuts! Sophie jumps up, copying the moves, Luc is jumping up and down on the bed. “It’s the dance! It’s just like the game!”

Pause button again. This required immediate costumes.

Paul’s tie, an old t-shirt, one shoe (zombie’s always have one shoe), and of course, the claw-hand up on the side dance move.

Luc decided he would be a zombie fighter. Sophie ran to get him a helmet, “Because zombies are only interested in your brains. So that’s the thing you need to protect.”

See his Whammer Hammer? Good for whacking zombies. I love how they work out whatever they are thinking about, by playing it through. A good life strategy.

Sophie says, “I’m trying not to blink because zombies don’t need to blink because they are already dead.”

Luc says, “Sophie, I wack you in slow-motion and you die.” He wacks her. She falls slowly to the floor, and he says, “I hit you and you died. You fall down and stick your tongue out.” Sophie sticks her tongue out.

I turn the video back on and we watch the conclusion where the girl is all scared, but then, psyche! it’s all a dream…or is it?

Luc looks worried again. “Do you think he was really a zombie, Mommy? Or was it a dream?”

“I think the writers of this zombie story meant for it to be unclear. They make you feel all safe when Michael wakes the girl up and everything is normal, but then they scare you again with the freaky yellow eye thing. I guess they thought that was a better ending, more spooky.”

Now he looks thoughtful again. “I don’t think, in that zombie story, that the zombies can get on the roof.” Which they can do in the game.

“I think you’re right.”

“If I was writing a zombie story, I’d have Michael be a normal person in the end.”

How cool that he keeps giving himself power over the zombies! First by being a zombie fighter, then by killing a Sophie-zombie, then by rewriting the story so it ended the way he wanted it to end. “Sounds good,” I say. “I like that ending.”

Sophie says, “I’m not a zombie, but I am going to perform as a zombie on tv. Mom, I need make-up. And chocolate.”

And Luc says, “Can we watch it again?”

the idiot hat, or, sophie has had enough

We get grumpy. Everyone gets grumpy, right? Sometimes its hard to want to be a good enough person not to inflict one’s grumpiness on others. Sometimes being a jerk feels good. For a little while. Until the remorse kicks in. Except lately the the remorse hits me mid-jerk-ness, which kind of takes the shine off the whole “I’m an asshole and I’m loving it” moment. Ah, well.

But anyway, Sophie came up with a solution to the problem of Other People’s Grumpiness last night that is simply astonishing in its effectiveness. Paul (yes, I’m certain it was Paul this time, and not me, why do you ask?) had received the deadly infection of grumpiness from…from wherever it comes from, and acting under Grumpiness’s influence, he said something snooty to Sophie. Who promptly made him a paper hat with the word “IDIOT” written on it.

“Here,” she said. “You have to wear this.”

Paul looks at it doubtfully. “What is it?”

“It’s an Idiot Hat.”

He starts smiling. “You made me an Idiot Hat?”

Totally serious. “Yes.”

“How long do I have to wear it?”

“Until you do something nice.”

Paul puts it on his head where it kind of perches, wobbling, being, as it is, a bit too small. “Fair enough.”

The genius of the Idiot Hat is that one does feel like an Idiot while wearing it, not because it looks funny—which it totally does—but because, through the magical and mysterious powers of The Hat, one is suddenly able to see, with painful clarity, just how much of an ass one has just been.

I could see all of this, from a distance, and enjoy its efficacy, but it was not until this morning that I truly understood.

Pre-coffee, the infection of grumpiness hit me. I snapped at Luc.

From the other side of the yurt comes Sophie’s calm, announcing voice: “Idiot Hat for Mom.”

I burst out laughing.

Well! Sophie may have revolutionized the whole Family Life thing right there. I’m filling out the patent forms as we speak.

okay, you’re probably getting sick of these by now…

Take away message:

Play is an awesome creative power when you just get out of the way of the fun.

Okay. Now, let me introduce the most recent addition to our flower fairy family….

(And because I can’t help myself, here is one more, a fairy our cousin Tracie made. I love the apron.)

But here’s the next leveling-up of the game: Sophie is now into setting up little felt picture backdrops, staging tiny scenes as it were, and taking photos of them….

This is a little nighttime walk the fairies were taking. Photo, story, backdrop, and fairy-voices, all by Sophie.

Where will it end? I’m thinking full-on Shakespearean dramas told in flower-fairy-felt-photo-format.

Huzzah!


evolution of the flower fairies

Is she not the cutest thing EVER?

That’s right, I embroidered those tiny stitches, I sewed on those tiny silver buttons, I did that. They are coming to take my Bitter Card any minute now. I don’t care. Okay, I care a little. But can you see her tiny purple boots? Or her green legs? That’s wool fluffy stuff for her hair. I can’t BELIEVE I made her. Sophie helped, of course, and is currently making her own fairy, as this one was our first effort using the new fairy template, culled from the marvelous book Felt Wee Folk , no I’m not kidding, it’s really called that. Now that we have the technique down, Sophie is on her own, wrapping embroidery floss around chenille stems, a.k.a. pipe cleaners, but whatever. I can’t believe how often I am saying “Isn’t this CUTE?” without a trace of irony. It’s just…bizarre.

Oh, and look at this: Sophie and her aunt Carroll made some amazing fairy furniture for this cutie, using our newest craft acquisition, a glue gun.

How did we ever live without a glue gun?

And so it goes. Now they are talking about a fairy house. “One that isn’t temporary, Mom.” Sounds like a project for Paul. I’m too busy embroidering tiny fairy tunics (!!!!) to build a house.

What is happening to me?!?

flower fairy invasion

First it was the bears. But now we have a new infestation.

Fairies.

Flower fairies to be exact!

Yes, Santa brought Sophie a kit on making little flower fairies and we have all gotten totally hooked on making these tiny, pretty people.

Coincidentally, our cousin gave Sophie exactly the same kit—could have been a present disaster, but no!—it’s a darn good thing she did, because we had nearly used up our entire kit by then and needed More Supplies. Stat!

I’m telling you, we could not stop making fairies. At any given time two or more of us would be parked at the table, assembling tiny people. I was surprised at how much I liked making really pretty fairies, I mean, pink petals and sweet little girly frilliness…

Here I am, all dressed in black, bitter, drinking coffee….making twee pink petal people!

But I don’t care! I’m going with it. I am not ashamed!

Of course when Paul started making fairies, he got out his power drill. A dude can’t make a flower fairy without risking his man parts shriveling from the sheer girliness of it all. Using a power tool is the perfect antidote. Here is one of his fairies…

…Beer Fairy!

And this one, Mims Fairy!

Obviously, we started branching out from the basic flower fairy template. I’m not sure what this fine fellow might be…

…but clearly anything has become fair game for fairy construction.

Fairies are fun after you make them, too. Here the beer fairy fights a mighty dragon!

And here Sophie is working on a fairy habitat….

Luc took a while to get into it—that’s his way, hang back, get the feel for it, then dive in. Here is one of his fairies, holding a star…

Another one…Yoga Fairy!

You should have seen Sophie and I taking these pictures. We’re talking major fashion photo shoot.

Work it, Flower Fairy!

Here is the kit we started with, written by a thirteen year old, which I find very cool. I love Klutz books.

I’ll leave you with one more beauty…

Be careful. Making flower fairies is highly addictive.

recycled playground

If you’ve been hanging around a bit, you know we are bootstrap builders, putting together our country estate (cough), on very little cash, by building with junk recycled materials. (And if that’s news to you, but sounds fun, look over there in the tag list and you’ll find recycled building has its very own tag. Aren’t I organized?) But houses, tool sheds, and goat barns aren’t all you can build with recycled materials. Today I bring you: a Huge Wooden Playset, assembled from the broken pieces of Other People’s Trash!

Our playset has evolved over the years. At the moment it has a tower, a swing section, a platform with another slide, a sandbox, monkey bars, and a tree climbing section off the back. Do you know how much a set like would cost new? I didn’t, not until just now when I went and googled it. Well, I mean, you CAN’T buy a set like this, but it turns out that the sets that were sort of similar (a tower, a bunch of swings, some monkey bars) were $1000-3000!

!!!!!

In contrast, almost all of our set was FREE. Most of what you see here either came from the dump or from craigslist ads that said “Free if you come and get it!” I think the grand total is somewhere around $50 bucks. And that includes the sand.

It pays to scrounge.

Here’s our set:

Wait, why are we so far away in this picture! Oh yeah, it’s because I’m plunked down on my bum with my twisted ankle propped up, all the way across the yard. Where is that zoom button? Here we go….closer…

There, that’s better. Our set started with the pink slide section and the little platform behind it. Paul actually bought the beam that goes across the top new and installed a selection of cast-off swings from various thrown-out sets on it. The things hanging from the bar have changed as the kids have gotten bigger. For example, we started out with a baby swing for Luc that has since been discarded, and we’ve added a trapeze bar for Sophie, who likes to do tricks.

He also made the sandbox at the foot of the pink slide, fashioned from a thrown away frog sandbox and some sandbags.

Next came the tower section, for which I think we paid $30. Craigslist. You can see it on the right of this photo. And hey, I actually had to get up off my butt to get this shot—ah, how I suffer for my art!

Look at that, a third slide on the back! You can also see the faded remains of a once spiffy play kitchen. Another freebie that has seen a LOT of use. The kids like to cook up sand cakes in the kitchen. They also like to play Hulk and knock the kitchen over with a big crash and climb on it. An advantage to getting stuff for free is that it’s no big deal if the kids delight in destroying it.

Let’s keep going on around it. Here we are, further along the back…

See the monkey bars shooting off the side? Here’s a better pic:

And look! There is a monkey swinging across them!

But my favorite part of the set is the balance bridge tree thingy that Paul rigged up….

That U shape at the end is one tree, grown in a strange shape because of storm damage. You can’t really see it but there is a rope hanging across the top of the U and a bit dangling down, good for Tarzan games.

The log off to the left makes a bridge….

…that leads into the woods, partially cleared out by Paul. A few improvement, like this small plank and platform make a good pirate boat, rocket ship, whatever.

The board is scrap, the platform thingy was made from scrap and used to hold up the barrel that held up the air conditioner, but Paul invented some other solution, and the platform got moved out here…. But the real attraction here is the forest. Shadowy cool, lots of downed trees, criss-crossing the ground in a maze of balance beams, great for playing, say, Jungle Adventure, as the kids call it, as in, “Mom, we’re playing Jungle Adventure—we need backpacks full of snacks!”

Because a playground is better if it leads into the woods, don’t you think?

Bottom line: you don’t have to pay $3000 for an awesome playset!

Trash can be just as fun.

in which we cross a bridge many, many times

We’re all about attending local events. With little kids, doing the local scene is so much better, imo, than big trips or expensive vacations, (1) because everything is new to them, so they love it, even if it’s low key, (2) no long car rides (nightmarish with small kids) and (3) you can go home before everyone gets totally tired, so no giant exhaustion-inspired meltdowns. Bite size, small-person-scaled adventures, half-day, and within an hour of home, that’s the way to go, if you ask me.

Besides, a short journey can seem so much longer by simply retreading the same short distance, back and forth. Like Sisyphus, only with a party atmosphere. And no big-ass rock.

As an example, recently we attended a local festival to raise money and awareness for the preservation of a river that runs not far from the yurt.

This river right here:

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Purdy ain’t it? They have the festival every year, and it’s an artsy, funky, fun get together of all the local hippy, green, creative folk. Woo hoo! People doing strange things in the name of Art and Rivers, what more could anyone need?

To get to it, you walk across the old bridge, no longer open to traffic.

This bridge right here:

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It’s long and hot, but pretty and they put out tons of sidewalk chalk, so the kids are totally into it, which makes everything fun, right? Well, you know, usually.

We’ll be visiting this bridge again, later in the post.

Okay. By the time you’ve crossed the bridge and arrived at the festival proper, you need emergency corn dogs and shade. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, just get the corn dogs. Trust me.

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Phew. That’s better. Now time to paint a plywood critter! This is Luc’s favorite part. He talked about it the whole way over.

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You can see a bunch of critters waiting to dry in the sun, with the plywood blanks spread out on the left. Lots of colors, silly shapes, and a convenient place to wash your hands afterward.

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Here is Sophie painting hers. Dump on the glitter! I did a snake.

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Critters drying in the sun, we were all hot again, so time to cross the bridge again, this time in order to go under the bridge and Get In The Water! There go the shoes…

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Here I am, about to soak my feet as I watch the kids go nuts clambering on the rocks and getting soaked. OMG the cold water felt so good.

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Luc, King of the river rock, I mean, Mountain!

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Next we crossed the bridge again, back to the stage, to watch some dancers, hear a story teller do some tales, and dance to a bit of fiddle playing. How did I miss getting pictures of any of this? Dunno. Sophie did an awesome impersonation of the storyteller later that night. I was shocked at how well she got the intonations and gestures. She’s such a ham.

But then the parade! THIS is Sophie’s favorite part, hands down, no exceptions, not even the corn dogs.

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A local puppet theater brings tons of giant puppets and invites the crowd to join in, carrying the puppets and drumming, to the middle of the old bridge and back. Here is a three person spooky black bird thing…

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and some cool tree faces….

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Last year, Sophie carried a flame puppet all by herself, with grim determination—it was heavy, and she was small, but she refused, absolutely, all offers of help. This year, however, she and another little girl put hands on the same puppet at the same time—and decided to carry it together. Whew. Conflict avoided. Can you see them in the foreground with their toad and fox puppet?

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Onto the bridge! Again!

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And back! Again!

I didn’t know if I was going to make it back, to be honest, but we did. Sophie wouldn’t have heard of abandoning her puppet mid-parade anyway, what was I thinking?

Things were winding down, for us anyway, once the puppet component had been successfully completed. Which meant one last time across the bridge to return to the car. Remember the mantra: I think I can, I think I can…

It was a very, very slow walk this pass, partly because of sore feet, partly because of the heavy plywood critters we were carrying, and partly because it was finally shady enough for some serious chalk drawing.

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It’s probably just as well, because I think all I could manage was a slow stagger in the direction of the car. Thank goodness we were only a short drive from the yurt. Time to collapse!

Because, sometimes, no matter how fun the adventure, getting home is so good.

they know how to party

The kids are jaw-droppingly able to have fun anywhere, anyhow, anytime. Case in point: the grocery store yesterday. I mean, woohoo Harris Teeter, right? Um, no. Not usually. Although I have heard that the Harris Teeter can be quite the pick-up spot for singles on Friday nights, I tend to equate grocery shopping with running a gauntlet of Klingons well stocked with those pain stick thingies. No, thank you.

But see, that’s just the wrong state of mind. Sophie and Luc are all about taking the party with them, and Harris Teeter is no exception. From running into the cart area yelling “Rocket Cart!” to the end when they get their balloons, it’s all good. Of course, we tend to get balloons in the beginning, because, hey, why not? And maybe it was these balloons, tied to the sides of the rocket, that gave such a party atmosphere to our shopping trip. Or maybe it was that they had decided tiaras were not optional on this journey for deli chicken, half-n-half, and bananas. Or maybe it was making rocket noises and launch count-downs as we moved through the aisles. I don’t know, but I do know they were having a really good time, grocery store or no.

At one point, after the brain suck of trying to determine the relative benefits of an assortment of cereals, I found them huddled down, singing a little song, talking in little voices…

They were eating gummy bears—yes, I opened the pack in the grocery store, I’m one of those Moms—only they weren’t just eating them, or, not all of them. Apparently, if you lick the bottom of a bear, it will stick rather nicely to your skin, and they were setting them up in a gummy bear party configurations on their thighs, giving each little bear a different voice, and having a jolly (jelly?) good time.

“I see,” I said. “Cool. But don’t stick them to the cart, okay?”

“Why?”

“Because I’ll throw up if I think of you eating all those germs. Not to mention it makes the seat sticky for the next kid.” As if that seat isn’t already a cesspool of stick. But still.

“Oh. Okay.” Luc offers his thigh. “You want one?”

“Thank you, sweetheart. But, um, that would be a no.

Have you seen those gigantic rocket carts? They’re super-long, like parade floats. Imagine the kids, with their balloons, tiaras, and gummy bear attendants—it was a total Have Party Will Travel situation. What an amazing skill! Did I ever have that skill? I want that skill! I mean, wearing a tiara to the grocery store would never occur to me, and I was dubious when Luc (yes, Luc) suggested it. But he was totally right. It WAS fun. How did he know? I bow before my masters. May I learn to party one tenth as well as they can.

When we got home the kids ran off to do the next thing. The gummy bears organized a civil war reenactment. The kids thought this was hilarious. And then they ate them.

Sophie’s Puppet Theater Presents….

Last night, Paul and I were treated to Sophie and Luc’s first play. Sophie made the puppets and titled the show, “The Little Guy.” Mostly she and Luc hid behind a screen and made up little songs while Little Guy and Big Girl kissed. It was a love story. Or maybe soft-core puppet porn. Then Luc crawled over the screen, knocking it over, and things kind of wound down, though I think the story continued for a while under the sofa, or, at least, Sophie was under there for a while talking to the puppets. Maybe they are planning their next performance. Anyway, it was great. I have never been more thoroughly entertained at the theater.

Here is the chief puppeteer and her creations, Little Guy and Big Girl.

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Thank you, thank you…