Saturday, July 05, 2008

Annual Boy Torture

Yes, we have lived through another Fourth, and we've done it with style.

We ran over to Ferry Farm for their celebrations, and it was really well done. George Washington spent his childhood on Ferry Farm, which is just across the river here. I was very pleased. The had a tent with a little band going, talking about music history of the area. They had lots of folks in costume to see and talk to. They had weavers, a tent setup to use quills with lemon juice (then go get your "invisible ink" ironed and see what you wrote!), a cooking area, a juggler, and a native American tradesman showing pelts. They had some other tents with costumed people, but we didn't get to them- some were out by where they think they've found the house, and there were cannon demonstrations out there- not a chance of us headed out there. They also had a pavilion with crafts for kids, and facepainting (Joey had himself done as a clown; Andy wasn't interested). Behind that they had all sorts of games set up, and a parachute, and some folks teaching kids how to juggle. They had a couple of food stands, and an ice cream stand. All in all, very nice, and plenty of shade, so a good time had by all. The only problem we had was the dogs- dogs are allowed at Ferry Farm, and folks brought them. Joey is terrified of dogs. We did have a few minutes of "perfect storm" sensory issues (broken comfort toy, just as the cannon went off, just as a big dog walked by) and subsequent meltdown, but we found a quiet spot to calm down, and cheered up when we saw a friend from church.

Andy charmed the juggling lady, Joey learned to bowl, and so we had a fun-filled day at Ferry Farm.

Then we headed out to Grandma's for continued festivities- including the much-anticipated fireworks. The boys had picked out fireworks when we were buying them. We always get them from the Knights of Columbus, who do a lot of good stuff around here. Most anticipated was the new jack-o-lantern firework, which did not disappoint.

There was a huge thunderstorm first. We had the slide up and running when it blew up, but since the boys were pretty tired, having them sit down instead of running about and sliding was probably a good thing. So after a relaxing evening of Boy Videos, duck-duck-goose, and fruit salad, we settled in for the display.

Joey loves fireworks. Yes, he holds his ears, but then, so do I- I hate those whistles. The sparkles and glitter of the sparks really gets him excited, and he cheered and clapped and had a great time. Poor Andy, however... Fourth of July is our annual Torture the Boy Event. He had forgotten how loud fireworks are, so he was all excited, only to have the second firework start popping and whistling, much to his terror. He managed to make it through the show only because Mommy promised to clamp her hands over his ears and sides of his head, while he sat in her lap. The bad news was I didn't get many pictures- its hard to work a camera and hold a child's ears at the same time. The good news is I got to actually watch the fireworks. We only had two we wouldn't buy again- Earthquake The Big One and Laser Dragon. Unicorn Fountain was really nice, and the jack-o-lanterns were the stars of the show.

It was nearly eleven before we got the boys in bed. Naturally, we got some extra minutes to sleep this morning. But not many.

Happy Fourth of July.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Toys I wish were still made

I've been wandering through the toy aisles again. We live in a sea of toys, but as the boys are getting older, it is starting to be time to start combing through the ocean and sorting out seashells we just don't need or play with anymore. The point is to thin the tide, so that we can be awash with a whole new wave of toys.

Most toys out there don't look like much fun to me. I mean, there are lots of the toys that you thought were cool for ten minutes at a friend's house, but not really, super fun, hours of playing kinds of toys. Toys seemed designed to play with one way, and that's how you play with them, no imagination required. The whole world is expected to simply memorize episodes of TV shows designed to sell toys. Except that the shows Joey like to repeat like that, they aren't marketing right now (such as Magic School Bus, Franklin or Little Bear), or never did (ie, Oobi).

Another problem is inappropriate themes and designs. My kid doesn't need to be playing with stuff covered in Harley-Davidson tattoo themes. The attitudes in the designs seem meaner, harsher, harder. Pirates and dinosaurs and jungle animals aren't enough to just be these things, they have to look tough and mean. Why? My kid is six. A lion should look majestic, powerful, noble... but why make it look mean?

If I had my druthers, I would bring back toys that I played with, hours and hours on end, so my boys could really enjoy them and get those ever-needed creative playskills. Here are a few:

Fisher Price Little People, Old Style. The new style are so specific, they're no fun. Also, they are all little kids. The old style stiff was a little more abstract, and included lots of grown-ups, so you could play lots of different things with them. The new figures hold things like tools, frogs, books, etc; the old style ones didn't even have arms, o you could pretend they were holding whatever you needed them to. What's with the move to less abstraction in toys? Abstraction allows the mind to fill in the details.

Fisher Price Adventure People. I have been looking at action figures, and I find them totally inappropriate for children. They muscle-bound hulk-bodies are not just stupid-looking and ugly, they aren't any fun. Besides, I think making the world seem like it is full of pro wrestlers is not appropriate for children. Adventure people looked like people. Normal people. People you saw around you. That made them fabulous for everything from dollhouse families to jungle-rescue make-believe to... anything. Get those old molds out, Fisher Price, and bring us toys that are actually appropriate for kids!

Old-Style Star Wars Figures. See Adventure People. The new figures have the same problem. Crack out those old molds, those older designs were great for really playing. Luke and Leia aren't body-builders.

The Ginghams. As a kid, I just loved paper dolls. I had several sets. I also loved Sugar And Spice paper dolls, and had a great set of international costumes. paper dolls made today don't seem to be made to be played with, just looked at. But the Ginghams were the best. They had playsets you could get, and furniture, and they were pretty easy to cut out. I just adored them. They were simple enough to make up your own play. Of course, i also adored Holly Hobbie, which was certainly part of the attraction. Still, they weren't wildly funny-looking, and were not over-elegant. They were playable paper dolls.

Fashion plates. They have some similar products out now, but the original plates were by far the best. You mixed and matched the figures to make the outfits, then did the rubbings, then turned the plates over and they had patterns on the back for rubbing over the pictures. I spent hours creating "magazines." Days, even.

Color forms playsets. No, I mean lots of them. Lots of selection to charm your kid. We need Little Bear ones, Franklin ones, not just Dora and the Bacjyardigans (shows that don't charm my kids at all... but if they charm yours, go get the colorforms sets!)... ones with lots of small pieces and stuff, like the old Holly Hobbie sets had, or the old Snoopy sets. I even recommend those older sets. Bring them back. They'll sell. Why? Because they were fun. They were quiet. They were something you could take with you in the car or to grandma's, without taking any batteries. The new sets don't have the little detail pieces, the freer settings.

I know it is hard to find simple, big buckets of legos these days, but they are still made. Its harder and harder to find large, plain wood blocks, but hey are out there. So let's bring back some of these old classics. They were fun... enough so that I still remember them, and miss not being able to give new sets to the kids in my life. I know they'd just love them as much as I did.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: July 4... last year.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vacation Bible School: All Done

So overall, I would call VBS a success. The boys learned some new songs, and new dances, and got to play with lots of crafts and art stuff, and they seemed really happy about going. The folks who organized and ran the program did a great job. The Marketplace was gorgeous, and there was plenty for everybody to do, and try, and discover!

Our last day included a visit from a real goat, and we could try goat milk and goat cheese. Joey really loved that. Andy talked about meeting the goat, too. Joey finished his basket, and he was so proud of himself. He also made another necklace, and got to go fishing with a big bamboo pole (the fishing guy was sticking aluminum fish on clothespins on the ends. The kids were thrilled.)

We wrapped up today by singing some of the songs we learned- with signs- for the whole congregation. Joey was so excited to be able to show off. Andy wasn't so excited, but did a good job. They were both cute as buttons.