Engineering, Empty Water Bottles, and A Boring Afternoon

I will be the first to admit we have a problem when it comes to using plastic water bottles here. They do get recycled and we legitimately have been advised not to drink our water because of the sodium content and other TDS in our well water. It’s safe, so we use it for cooking, but because some of us are watching sodium intake for health reasons, it’s been recommended that we avoid downing glass after glass.

This means we always have bottles lying around waiting for recycling day. Our oldest (13) – affectionately known s basement troll or basement goat (his voice is cracking!) came up when I got home from the office on Friday and was on the hunt.

One single bottle. Fill it with water. Disappear downstairs. Back 10 minutes later. Repeat. Three or four times.

By now I’m remarkably curious and a little bit concerned because what on earth could he be doing? Elaborate water fountain? Crazy water cannon? Some kind of booby trap? (Is that a politically correct term?) The random thoughts racing through my mind are epic and I’m imagining a flooded mess across his little corner of the basement. (Only 4 water bottles. I didn’t say they were rational thoughts.)

Turns out the boy – the bored and incredibly lazy boy – was building a weighted automatic door closer. Who said you can’t learn something from YouTube? Through some trial and error – some experimenting with various tensile ropes, adjusting the number of bottles, and replacing pushpins with nails – he found a system that works.

I’m at turns both strangely proud and absolutely befuddled. It’s not like it’s hard to close a door behind you… but the other perspective is that an afternoon of creativity and engineering always wins!

His next project involved pliers and a fork. I may have just played ignorant and hoped no one lost an eye…

Thinking Outside The Box

If you live anywhere along the Great Lakes corridor, you were probably blasted with the ice storm. Slippery roads, mix of ice pellets and wet snow, yucky travel conditions. No one was surprised when they cancelled the buses for an inclement weather day yesterday… once again! (I feel like this is a record for January/February. Kaleb’s ski club keeps getting cancelled too – boo to that!)

My kids were home again. Emails and texts went around with leadership at one of my admin contracts regarding programs and meetings today – they were all postponed. I made the decision to work from home. Fortunately, I can tackle some of my essential commitments from the comfort of my couch and it also affords some time to dive into some of the research projects that get pushed to the side. (If you’d like to do a survey on what parents and caregivers look for in a playgroup for toddlers and preschoolers, click here.)

I called a pause to TV watching in the living room because I can only handle so much Spongebob before my irritability rises and my productivity plummets. Besides, the TV watcher had a speech to prepare. We worked side-by-side, laptops in hand, both investing in our projects. We broke for lunch. Then the contractor asked the boys to unpack the new vanity which took all of three minutes and me constantly reminding them to avoid scratching the vanity with their pocket knives, please and thank you.

The Box / 24 Home

We were left with a box. A big, beautiful box. A box in slight shambles and needing some TLC. The 11-year-old has transformed it into a hut of sorts – hinged windows, level on each side, double doors, and a shower mat as the flooring. It’s covered in green painters tape (whatever works) and is currently sitting in the middle of my living room. The construction alone (including things velcroed to the interior walls and ceiling) kept him occupied for hours. And I am thrilled. I am thrilled that he hasn’t outgrown the wonder of imagination. I am thrilled that a cardboard box still provides hours of entertainment. I am thrilled that he gets caught in the excitement of creativity.

I am, however, less than thrilled that I may have agreed to a 24-hour-box-fort-challenge (What? Something he learned on YouTube?) “Mom, you can fill up my water bottle and bring me snacks.” “If I put it the right way, I can still see the TV.” (Apparently, we’re not quite victorious over the screen yet…) “There’s enough room that I can have a pillow and blanket.” “I guess I can leave the box to pee.” (Oh, thank goodness! My relief knows no bounds.) As long as it leaves my living room, he can kill time in his box as long as he’d like to.

Here’s to big boxes and big ideas. Here’s to tape and pocket knives. Here’s to creativity and imagination. Here’s to thinking outside the box or, sometimes, being different enough and confident enough to even stay in it!