Friday, October 19, 2012

Puzzling Weather

My kids and I used to do jigsaw puzzles all winter long.  Between putting the kids in school; rearranging various household rooms several years ago; and never getting everything organized after that change; my younger kids have very little experience with puzzles.  The last few years, we've probably only worked a few each year. 

This is one of the things I have rued, at different times.  I love the time spent together, working a puzzle.  The kids sing songs, tell jokes and stories, and talk about all the things that are important to them.  They all seem to work together, all the many different ages.  The bigger kids always help to find little sections or certain pieces that the littles can help with.

Plus I really believe the process of matching the shapes and colors and concepts in a jigsaw puzzle helps to grow some important brain connections.

The other week, Elsie finally put all the puzzles that have been littering her closet for years into a couple of extra large tote bins. (Yes, two of the tall under-bed boxes that span the width of a twin bed, plus one more that is not as long.  That's only about 1/2 of our puzzles.  Yes, we have too many.)

These bins are all sitting in my living room right now, so my kids have been doing some of the easier ones by themselves lately.

But during this rainy four-day weekend, I decided it was time to pull out some "one step harder" ones.  And more importantly, to take time to sit down and spend some time working them with my children. 

The one I chose was actually a collection of six kitty puzzles.  The pieces are not too small, but not big, either.  All total, there are 480 pieces.  And each puzzle is about 8x11".  It's a beautiful set of puzzles, made by Springbok, which in my experience makes very child friendly puzzles.  They stay together well.  This means the kids are not frustrated by the parts they've already accomplished getting jostled apart by their many reaching hands and arms.  And the pieces are sturdier than many cheaper jigsaws. 

The pictures in this set are very sweet.  And important for a family such as ours, each picture is of a different enough composition that several different levels of skill are demanded.  This set was given to Louisa as a birthday present from Grandma and Grandpa many years ago.  It has always been a favorite.

But alas! in the process of the last, oh, six years or so, since the last time I was at all organized, all of the the pieces to this set of puzzles had gotten mixed up.  Even though each puzzle was not difficult, the idea of sorting out the pieces of the different puzzles was too much for the younger kids. 

When the kids were getting a little wild yesterday afternoon, I suggested they get these puzzles out. I was finishing up cutting and peeling some winter squash for our trial run at canning it, so I was mostly only functioning in an advisory capacity.  But we were all at the table together.  My squash and I at one end, and the kids and the puzzles scattered around the other.

The bigger girls helped to sort the different pieces a bit, but then they would get distracted putting together the ones they had sorted.  They all got to work a little bit.  

But they had only sorted about 1/3 of the pieces when it was time to clear the table for supper.  I had them put the puzzles on cookie sheets, each puzzle along with the pieces they had tentatively matched with it.  Then we stacked up the trays, and set them aside for the night. 

When I was having coffee this morning, Inge was the only little one up.  So I pulled out the puzzles and started sorting a little bit more.  Gradually Inge and I worked on a couple of them.  Then Stella, and a little bit later Donna came out, too.  They each got to work a couple, both alone and with my help.  Sometimes they were snuggled up on my lap, and other times they worked on their own tray down on the floor.

At one point I looked at my clock and saw it was time for me to go meet my ladies for my morning walk.  Since it was rainy, we had planned to do indoor exercise.  So I didn't need to worry about being left behind if I was late.  I could have made it.  But I decided to call and excuse myself.

"I'm doing puzzles with my little ones.  It's been ever so long since I've taken time to do that.  I don't want to miss this moment."  I don't like to miss my exercise time with my ladies, and I had already missed Wednesday, since we attended a school related function that morning.

But there are simply some things that are more important than exercise.

By the time John got up, there was only one puzzle left, the most difficult one.  This one is a closeup of three kitties eating out of a bowl.  The background is a plain floor and wall.  So the primary visuals in this puzzle are just fur, wall, and table.  There is a little rim of  bowl that adds a different dimension. 

John asked if he could do it by himself, and I told him that yes, he could try.  I've found that boys are generally a little slower to learn the skills of doing jigsaw puzzles, and they generally are less interested, so I was not sure how this would go.  The girls were ready to eat breakfast by this time, so they went to the kitchen where I let them help themselves to a cold cereal meal.  I asked John if he wanted to sit on my lap while he puzzled away, and he gladly came up to have a little snuggle time while he worked.  I balanced the cookie sheet for him, and held the box with the extra pieces turned upright where he could see and reach the ones he needed.

It's a good thing I had my hands full, because it was an awful temptation for me to help him out a little.

But John did really well without my input (or meddling).

And I got a good snuggle with my nine year old son.  It's not often he takes the time to snuggle with his mom any more.  And also, sadly, it's not often that when he wants it my lap is open for him, since he has three younger siblings.

Altogether this was an excellent way to start the day.  Rain is a good thing.  Very puzzling weather.

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