Thursday, June 16, 2011


My relationship with the kids' toys has ebbed and flowed over the years. They were so fun and exciting the first time around -- even the flashing and squealing toys had a certain whimsical appeal before Baby #1 actually arrived. Of course, that may have been because they were silent and flashless. And clean. But once they were put into action, the mooing and sirens quickly became some of the most painful aspects of my mothering life. By the time the second baby came along, it seemed that the toys were not only increasingly annoying but also multiplying at an astonishing rate. I swear that we didn't buy more toys, and yet every week their numbers doubled.

Something fishy was going on in the playroom at night behind closed doors.

Shortly before the third baby was born we moved, and in moving we purged (don't you love that part of moving? -- a pain, yes, but so cathartic), and the toys seemed to stay somewhat contained for a year or so. But that new little girl eventually wanted something a little more doll-like than trucks and swords, so the accumulation began again. One doll arrived for Christmas, and suddenly there were three in the playroom. One purse for a birthday, and suddenly the girl had so many sacks over her shoulder and around her neck and dangling off the stroller that we took to calling her The Bag Lady.

Clearly another child, er, move, was in order.

So with Baby #4 on the way we moved again (do you see a pattern developing? five moves coinciding with six babies -- I should be sainted) and dumped most of the toys before heading to the midwest. Once there, however, I was introduced to the magical world of wooden toys and the accumulation began trickling in again.

A fifth baby and a moderate toy purge, a sixth baby and an intensive boxing and hand-off of just about everything we could find in the toybox.

Which brings us here, back home in the arid west, with fewer toys, an enormous load of kids, and the whole wide world to play with.

All of which is to say that I love it when my kids play with rocks and sticks and mud. They spent three hours at the beach the other day making and selling "sculptures" (prices varied depending on how cool the offered sticks and rocks), skipping rocks, working on tracking and trail marking skills, and tripping over a rope they finally decided to reel in.

"Hey mom!" the twelve year-old shouted. "Someone's caught a couple of lobsters!"

"No," I said. "This is a freshwater reservoir -- those are not lobsters."

But on closer inspection, they were indeed lobsters, caged with a whole bunch of cut up meat. Someone was growing freshwater lobsters for dinner right there on our little (public, heavily used) beach.

Now this is the kind of playtime that can really teach a person something.

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