One hour a day, for one more year. Making make-believe a priority.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Whirling Dervishes

Too busy playing to post lately...but I swear, we're busy little bees here at the Stewart Playground. Since spring break ended, it's been harder (as expected), but we've still managed to do lots of projects here. Sun prints with Esmee's first grade class (which will ultimately, hopefully become a quilt for the school's silent auction in a few weeks), Easter eggs and a carrot shaped cake, Peter Pan at Junior Theatre, and some recycled art projects inspired by an exhibition at The Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff.

And we also discovered the dog likes to chase bubbles.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Holy Roller Coaster

I used to love rides. I distinctly remember one that was resurrected each year at the county fair that looked and felt like some sort of medieval torture device. I think it was called the Rolo-Jet or something like that...and I could not get enough of its whiplash-inducing, stomach-churning, goodness. I loved the Sizzler, the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Himalaya. I find myself writing about the county fair in nearly every novel I write, drawn inexplicably back to the sawdust covered midways of my youth.

But something has happened to me in recent years. Where I once used to love flying, I now have to pop a couple of Xanax (and go through some pretty seriously involved OCD rituals) just to get on a plane. I get dizzy easily. And I don't do rides.

Yesterday, I was a chaperone for the third grade field trip to Legoland's Aquarium and Amusement Park. The aquarium was fabulous...I even touched a sea star. But when we headed to the amusement park, I started to get nervous. I kept thinking that I was, as a chaperone(and in the spirit of play), going to have to get on one of those godawful rides. But, guess what? I've got a kindred spirit in Kicky. She thought of about a thousand reasons why we shouldn't go on the roller coaster. She was eating her lunch, it was too hot, she had a bit of a stomachache, etc... And I was more than happy to keep her company as we watched the other crazy masochists from the sidelines.

We both enjoyed the boat ride very much though, thank you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last Call

There are exactly ten minutes remaining of spring break, and the girls are playing "Alice in Wonderland" in their rooms. It seems very elaborate...there are fake tears and singing as well. I was outside vacuuming my car for tomorrow's field trip (Legoland and the aquarium) only to hear Kicky screaming, "Off with her head!!" Needless to say, this has been quite a playful week and I am exhausted (though it seems they are not).

Today the girls finished their eggs. Mine was the unfortunate casualty of a popped balloon. Kick made an awesome trompe l'oeil on hers, but Esmee got frustrated with hers and quit half-way through.

The dog got sick again which meant she wasn't allowed to play with her infected toys...I've never seen such a sad dog.

Anyway...we all survived. Back to work/play: field trip, making sun prints with the first graders Tuesday, Junior Theatre starts Wednesday, and then driving across the desert for the Northern Arizona Book Festival on Thursday.

And now I go to sleep.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Play Waylaid

Sometimes it's fun to cancel plans. Last night Esmee had a friend sleep over, and today we had plans to go to the zoo. But it's crappy out. Really gloomy. Chance of rain: 45%. Energy level: 0.

So we stayed home. And played.

I think we might venture out for cheeseburgers later, but maybe not. Maybe we'll just have PB & J.

Sometimes the best day are the days where you don't have to do anything you planned to do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dinosaurs and Dogs

Every first Tuesday of the month, San Diego residents get free admission to a number of the museums at Balboa Park. Today we decided to go to the Natural History Museum. Spoiled by the Smithsonian, my expectations were low. But I was really pleasantly surprised. It's a very hands-on museum, with lots for the kids to do. And on the upper levels were some beautiful aerial photographs as well as an exhibit of water photos. Something for all of us.

Afterward, we wandered around Balboa Park for a bit, through the artists little village, stopping into a shop where a man decorates real eggs. They were amazing...and a good inspiration for the girls' egg project.

We ended our visit with a spin on the carousel (well, Esmee anyway). Kick is not wild about rides.

Feeling happy and impulsive, I called Patrick and asked him if he'd like to join us (with Phoebe, who he'd brought to work this morning) at Shades in OB for lunch. Shades is on the beach and they have a special "Fido Menu." And so Phoebe had her first fine dining experience.

Really, really enjoying having these long free days with the girls. Tonight Esmee is having a sleepover, and tomorrow we're going to the zoo...and then maybe the Farmer's Market.

Monday, April 4, 2011

National Library Week

In honor of National Library Week (April 10-16), will you pledge to spend one hour of your time at the library with your kids?

Papier Mache(te)

What do you do with the balloons you used to fill a bath tub on April Fool's Day? Why, you use them to make enormous papier mache eggs for Easter. At least that's what we do at our house.

Now, I have not made anything out of papier mache since I was about seven. And for some reason I forgot how MESSY it is. A paste made with flour and water, strips of newspaper. What could be messy about that? Luckily, we've got a nice big backyard. And it's only flour and water, right? Tell that to my pants.

What I should have been more concerned about was Phoebe's own project inside the house. I think she calls it papier machete.

Anyway...Step 1 is done. Hopefully they'll be dry enough tomorrow to paint. Do you suppose we should let Phoebe paint as well??

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In Memory of Rodney P. Backer

When Patrick and I met, eighteen years ago, it was late spring in Flagstaff. My grad school classes had ended, and I was working (very) part-time at a coffee shop. I was a terrible, but happy barista. Patrick drank my lattes, without mentioning once that I'd burnt the milk. I had just moved into an apartment downtown near the library, and he had just moved into a house on Aspen St., only a few blocks away. We quickly discovered an alley-way shortcut connecting us within just a couple of minutes. I remember there were crickets that would leap at our ankles and lots of yellow and purple wildflowers along the way.

Patrick lived in the upstairs hallway of the house with several roommates. They had a huge overgrown yard which functioned as a second living room, complete with a couch through which more wildflowers poked their pretty heads. There was always music in the house. The soundtrack of that summer was an eclectic mix of Prince and Earth, Wind, and Fire and The Specials and Squeeze and Ween. The Phoenix Suns could not lose that spring.

All of us seemed to have flexible jobs, mostly at restaurants (except for Steve who put on a uniform every weekday and headed off to a grown-ups job). What this meant was that most of our time was spent playing. I was twenty-four and falling in love.

The recollections of that summer are crystalline. The world belonged to us. We roamed the empty rides set up downtown for a carnival at night, we hopped into our cars and went to Vegas just because. We got drunk and went bowling. We went to the movies together, we threw parties (a pretty big reggae band once set up and played in the living room in exchange for a place to stay). We spent entire days in our pajamas. We got dressed up in our fanciest clothes and went to the cowboy bar to play pool. We were young and invincible. We were all in love with our lives.

Rodney, who lived in the bedroom off the kitchen, came up with the idea of creating The Aspen House Newsletter, to document our play. We must have known even then that this kind of playful bliss couldn't last. Not technically living in the house, I was a correspondent for the newsletter. In one of my contributions, I talked about the "extended recess" we all seemed to be enjoying from the grown-up lives we all were on the verge of. But we all knew that eventually the bell would ring, that recess would end.

And, as expected, it did. I graduated, and Patrick and I moved to Seattle. All the other tenants moved out and moved on. Years passed. We got married, we had kids. We got jobs. We lost touch and then found each other again on Facebook.

Then last week, we got a message that Rodney had passed away. Suddenly and without warning. He was forty-three years old. Rodney, the ring leader of our antics. The brilliant, sarcastic, and somehow both cynical and absolutely optimistic, Rodney. Our fearless leader. Our friend.

Patrick is in Phoenix right now for his memorial service, staying with many of our dear friends from the Aspen House. He said that last night they stayed up late, remembering Rodney. Playing together like kids, I suspect. I really wish I could have been there. For me, here at home, I will remember Rodney like I remember everything else about that summer. He was a magical person, and that was a magical time. And he taught all of us the importance of taking play seriously.

May you rest (and play) in peace, Rodney. You will be missed.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's Play

The last April Fool's Day that I remember playing a prank was when I was ten years old. I switched the salt and sugar, and I recollect my father was not a happy man when he took his first bite of cereal that morning. It haunts me. Thanks, Dad :)

But how can I in good conscience commit to being more playful and not play some pranks on April Fool's Day? What holiday is more playful than April Fool's Day? Labor Day? Arbor Day? Nah.

So last night the girls and I set up some pranks to surprise Patrick this morning. Including:



We topped it off with a bathtub filled with balloons.

But what they weren't expecting was this:

Ice cream mashed potatoes, peanut butter and coconut fish sticks, and candy peas and carrots. April Fool's!!