Monday, May 17, 2010

All Work and More Play

My kids already live somewhat of a semi-charmed life. So when I got a flyer in the mail the other day about a neighborhood clean-up of the bird sanctuary near us, I made note that the kids were going to make a contribution of sweat to that effort.

The bird sanctuary is a huge (well, for an urban area) open area in the middle of the back lots of a bunch of row houses on our block. Our back lot doesn't quite touch the bird sanctuary, but if you go one alley away (two houses down), you can get to it.

The bird sanctuary is controlled by the local neighborhood association, but it's us neighbors who should take some responsibility for keeping it up, since if it goes downhill, we'll suffer the consequences of riff-raff using it for illicit purposes, and if it is well-kept, we'll be the beneficiaries in terms of us being able to use it most easily.

Anyway, the kids have working class in their blood, so once I put the work gloves on them and gave them handfuls of branches to take down the alley to the dumpster, they were hooked. For a solid hour, we waded through leaves and brush to help clear out the bird sanctuary. It brought me back to work projects my dad made my sister and me do, which I think helped with our work ethic, and heck if I wasn't going to use this opportunity to grow some of that work ethic in my kids.

But all work and no play makes for a dull Saturday, so of course our kids lucked into little kid nirvana. First, there was a party at the Carousel House for all kids in the City who receive special services. We arrived to moon bouncing, relay racing, and general kid mayhem. Jada waited patiently in line to get a heart with a "J" in it painted on her cheek. Aaron hewed close to Amy, meandering inside and then outside and then inside and then outside again.

The real fun started when we started to work our way down the four sets of food tickets we were given when we checked in. Hot dogs, cotton candy, juice boxes, water ice, popcorn . . . check, check, check, check, and check. On a related note, when we got home, I personally brushed their teeth and mine.

After room time, we hollered over to our friends down the street and made our way to the Penn campus to see about some of the graduation-related events going on. I had made note to check out Quakerkids at Houston Hall, and was immediately glad we did; when we arrived, it was another kid bonanza.

The kids quickly donned scrubs, grabbed a stuffed animal, and headed to the medic station to put on bandages and get holes sewn up. (The event was sponsored by Penn Vet.) There was also a clown making balloon animals, and an exhibit by the Philadelphia Zoo. And, of course, more junk food: hot dogs, juice boxes, soft pretzels, grilled cheese sandwiches, and lollipops. Cotton candy was also on the premises, but after the morning's glut, I decided to keep the kids away from that station, and remarkably I was successful.

We stayed until the end of the event and as a result scored two bunches of balloons, which we divvied up once we got back to our block. The kids bid farewell to their friends and we headed inside to take inventory of our loot (candy bars, coloring books, bubbles, slinkies) and get ready for bed.

Though it seemed the day couldn't possibly get better for Jada, we put a cherry on top by telling her she could sleep in her new bed in her new room. I had gotten my friend to help me lug her dresser up two flights of narrow stairs as part of the transformation of our house from Jada on the first floor to Jada on the third floor. More work needs to be done, and there are still no curtains on the windows, but there was enough in her room that we felt we could give it a go. For sure, Jada had been eager enough - all week she pestered us, and all week we said we would get things moving on the weekend.

Having both of the kids up on the third floor felt weird but also normal, if that makes sense. We read Bible stories, prayed, and sang in Jada's new room instead of the purple room, and they ran down the third floor hallway to jump into our arms instead of the second floor hallway, so old routines were immediately incorporated into our new setting.

Amy put both of the kids to sleep, but I snuck back into Jada's room to check in on her and found her high up on the top part of the bunk bed, her favorite toys and blankets with her, and a huge grin on her face. When I poked my head in, she smiled even bigger and said, "I really like my new bed." After a day of fulfilling manual labor, junk food, more junk food, a new bed, and a new room, I'm guessing she fell asleep with that same smile on her face for the whole night. Not a bad day's work - and play - for a little kid.

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