Monday, December 31, 2012

Games Without Frontiers

At 2 1/2 he is teaching his 5 month old sister how to play
Not sure if I should be proud or totally ashamed to admit that my son is a gaming prodigy / Amadeus.  He beat (credits rolling) his first video game (Crash Team Racing on the original PlayStation) when he was 3, before he was even fully potty trained or had given up the pacifier.  He would play on the old-style Nintendo 64 (Donkey Kong 64, Super Mario 64, and the Ocarina of Time) until the cartridges got too hot and stopped working... then he would take a break.  While some kids relaxed with TV or a movie, he played video games.

I can't be too embarrassed or frustrated because video games have been a motivating educational tool for him particularly (now 6th grade); he may be naturally good at math but video games helped him quickly subtract how many more coins he needed for the next level in his head.  Video games taught him to read because we wouldn't always sit with him and he realized that if he skipped reading, he didn't know what to do next (I would still love for them to have "an early reader" setting so that the language is less complicated).  He swears he will be a natural when he finally gets behind a wheel because he is so good at Mario Kart.  He knows soccer players and positioning better because of FIFA soccer on the xBox.  When he ran cross country, he thought of ever person he passed like he was in a video game... "just beating one boss at a time".  He can problem solve when he thinks of obstacles and projects as levels in a game that need to be completed.  I'm not sure what hours of Minecraft has taught him... I'll have to think on that one... it must be something...

Personally, I'm not a gamer and have a love / hate relationship with the medium:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day

Winter Craft Idea from Craft Junkie
Christmas has been lovely so far!  We spread things out, and embrace the whole Holiday season, probably way more than the 12 Days of Christmas.  I don't know how other people balance the holidays, but when the kids were little, we still tried to see everyone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. "Everyone" was happy and we didn't hurt anyone's feelings, but what we ended up with was a pile of sick kids and cranky parents.  With all of the excitement smashed together, we didn't even have time to enjoy our own Christmas of PJ time, canned cinnamon rolls, and relatively small but thoughtful gifts; it was exhausting and frankly, not very Christmas-y...

Now, no two groups share a day or the same experience.  Each one so different and special in its own way:  With one family there are a million kids-- we make crafts, eat in shifts (and had one small oven fire), and throw the kids outside when it gets too crazy.  Another family is quiet and we visit for hours, just chatting and catching up over wine.  Another family loves games and there are epic tournaments with bragging rights that don't always match reality...  and with another we roll traditional pasta (including a highly contested and debated hierarchy of tasks) and make a huge mess of flour and lots of laughs.  We mix in ginger bread houses and game nights with friends, a trip to the zoo lights, movies, downtown if we can fit it in... and visits to Great Grandparents who aren't able to come to the parties anymore.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

Over-sized Reverse Dimple

I sincerely believe every child / person is brilliant in their own way (some just keep it really well hidden), but there is something special about our daughter.  She has this weird internal (glittery) glow that is all her own.  Her touch calms people.  Her quick smile is a jumble of messed up teeth but is always sweet and confident.  She talks to anyone and puts them at ease. She draws people together and brings out the best.  Even the lunch ladies love her but her unique perspective is nothing short of brilliant.  She is more than a glass half full kind of person.  Her glass is over-flowing, except when it is not, and then it spills all over the table and floor and is a big messy puddle of pepto pink-- her melt-downs are rare, but when they happen, they REALLY happen.

Anyway, she has this little lump on her face.  She thought it was a pimple but I think it is probably the start of a mole.  She asked what a mole is, and unfortunately, I have a lot of examples.  (Thank you strong and unrelenting gene pool -- as if being plagued with heart disease is not enough).  I showed her this one that has bothered me, probably since I was her age (9), on my cheekbone.  Her response,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Room For Everything

The gas fireplace is roaring.  10,000 Maniacs are on itunes.  I just took the most glorious first sip of coffee (isn't that first sip of the day always the best?). It is 12/12/12 (the last of the repeating numbers for quite some time), and a surprise late start for the kids (really not a surprise, I just forgot until opening The Oracle).  What better way to start the day than with a blog?!

I'll admit that I kinda love hibernating in our house all winter (easy for me to say in the first 2 weeks of December, ask me again in late January).  There were years when it was trapping and I wanted nothing more than nicer weather, but I found one of the keys to accepting inevitable winter is to love our home.  So, the long cold darkness of winter has become a time for reorganizing, cleaning, and projects; specifically (free) projects that brighten the house and make it a happier (or at least more tolerable) place, for all of us.

Every winter the kids and I (with moral and physical help from the DH) clean out the shocking accumulation of toys.  Historically this grand event fell on December 26th / Boxing Day; it was a necessary and natural reaction because we would come home with all of these generous wonderful new gifts and no where to put them. Hence, we go through everything and organize, clean, donate, and recycle.  Sometimes toys are carried to a new home (as in, Baby Elli will love this), others were donated to Salvation Army, a preschool, or sold on Ebay / Craigs List.  Garbage or broken toys are thrown away.  Everything is thoroughly cleaned and then, if necessary, new practical storage (usually from IKEA) is added for our ever changing and evolving needs*. 

At this point, most moms are over-whelmed and almost ready to stop reading because you've repressed the fact that this needs to be done.  I know this because it is a really over-whelming project and I've been personally known to be completely blind to negative things that involve work or pain (what mirrored wall?!), but it will make you and your kids love being home so much more if you just get it over with, and waiting only makes it worse.  The kids and I just finished this weekend and so I am still on a post-organizational high (I just want to stand in the middle of the playroom and spin like Julie Andrews in the hills of Austria).  So, here are some tips from a decade of experience organizing toys with my kids: