Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Best Idea Ever, Vol. 3: Build a rocket out of boxes.

On a truly cold day, outside play is not practical for our family. Lucy isn't walking yet, so she gets really cold if she's just sitting in the swing or being pushed in a ride-on vehicle. SuperSam dislikes wearing coats or anything with long sleeves, so clothing ends up being a battle on particularly cold days. And Nora won't leave on her mittens, so her hands get cold quickly. I've heard it said that there is no bad weather for playing outdoors, just bad clothing, and I generally agree...but if the children in question won't wear the appropriate clothing, it's hard to make it work.

So, on a recent bitterly cold day (when everyone was cranky and bouncing off the walls), I pulled out the giant cardboard packing boxes I'd been saving since Christmas. Add a box cutter, a roll of duct tape, and some crayons, and we had a morning activity waiting to happen.

I assumed we'd build a fort or a playhouse of some type, and I started putting the boxes together with that in mind. End to end, we had about a refrigerator box and a half's worth of cardboard real estate with which to work. The Sisters set to crawling in and out of the boxes immediately. SuperSam grabbed some bubble wrap, held it up to one end of the boxes, and said, "This can be the windshield. It is thick enough to withstand the rays of the Sun when we do a flyby."

That's when I realized we were actually building a rocket. (Silly me.)

SuperSam got out his tool box and passed out hammers and screwdrivers to The Sisters, and they all started happily banging away. I cut some windows in the boxes and taped everything together while SuperSam added some coloring and numbers ("like NASA has on their rockets") to the sides of the structure. Then Captain SuperSam and I made a seat out of a smaller box so he would have a place to sit in the cockpit. He insisted that Navigator Nora have a seat, as well, and I persuaded him that making one for Lucy would be the kind thing to do. (I don't know why Nora gets all the best gigs in these situations.)

Finally, we made a control panel by gluing buttons and knobs (caps from gallon milk jugs and various bottles) on the bottom of a little box. The spacecraft was ready for flight.

The children played in it all week, first in the kitchen, where we had built it, and then later in the living room, where it took up almost all the floor space. It is currently stationed in SuperSam's bedroom, where it will remain until he gets tired of playing in it. He tried to fit his bed inside, but the box wasn't quite big enough for that. He did take a nap earlier this week just inside the opening of the rocket on the floor. "I'm training to be an astronaut," he said, "so I might as well learn how to sleep in a rocket."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: What Mama did

Before you say anything, I do know it's Saturday. Although I sometimes feel like I live under a rock, I can still tell the difference (mostly) between a weekend and a weekday. Since I didn't get a chance to post yesterday, though, I'm sharing my five-minute Friday with you all today.

For those who don't know, Five-Minute Friday is a writing challenge: write for five minutes in response to a prompt without over-editing, backtracking, or thinking about it too much. The idea is to see what happens if we just let the words flow freely for a few minutes and let go of the need to be perfect. You should try it sometime...once you get over the initial hump of "oh-there's-no-WAY-I-could-do-that," it's a freeing experience...and it's always a treat to see what the other writers come up with.

Five Minute Friday

Enough's my contribution this week.

The first dress she showed me how to make was for old crew sock, cut just so and belted with a scrap of grosgrain ribbon. She was always good at making something out of nothing, improvising with what she had, creating something worth looking at without troubling too much about the particulars. When people were coming over, she'd fly around the kitchen and pick it all up- the piles of papers, the receipts, a stray plastic bag, a Bic pen without a top and a twisty tie from the bag of bread and my sister's hairbrush and part of a deck of cards. She swept the counters clean of all the mess and clutter and stuff no one is allowed to see, dropped it all into a brown paper bag and banished it to the laundry room. It joined the others on top of the dryer, safely shut away behind louvered doors in the dark (where no one goes unless she is missing a sock or wants to soften up the stiffened drip-dried blue jeans before pulling them on and escaping out the door with a Pop-tart, late for school again).

She hid all of it- all the piles, the anxiety created by their unsorted chaos, stuffed it away to deal with it later. Her mother had done it before her, piling dirty dishes into the oven to get them out of sight when unexpected visitors came around. You do what you have to do when you're in a pinch. Make it look pretty good on the front, and no one will turn it over to see the extra stitches you put in the back to hold it together.

And so, as my children's godmother is coming up the front walk, I am closing my own laundry room door securely on my piles of papers and unwashed towels, my mother's voice in my head:

"It's all about the overall effect."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Photography and risk-taking

So, there's this photo linkup at Clan Donaldson where people are posting photos on a theme. I've been lurking over there, looking at other people's photos, and not posting any because I'm not really a photographer - my sister is the photographer - I just like taking pictures and I don't even have a real camera really I mostly just use my phone and the pictures really aren't that good but I like them.


I've decided that if I want to take better photos, maybe I should take them more on purpose and show them to people. So here goes.

Today's prompt was Architecture. I was at home all day with three little children in a house that was built in 2005. Not much to see in the way of architecture, I had to be a little flexible in my interpretation of the theme. I hope you'll forgive me.

It's a series. I hope that's allowed.

You might be wondering what happened after that last picture. You might guess that the little sister, wearing her new shoes, kicked the towers and knocked down the building.

Well, you'd be wrong.

SuperSam, in a fit of "oh-no-you-are-NOT-going-to-knock-down-my-building-sister," kicked down the building himself and threw the blocks halfway down the hall. Take that, sister. Now there's nothing for you to knock down.

Oh, and then they both cried inconsolably.

Thankfully, it was almost dinner time! Time to clean up the blocks.

This moment brought to you by Theme Thursday and the letter K. Go on and check out the other photographers' stuff.

Ways to encourage your child to love reading

I sometimes get questions about how we got SuperSam interested in books so early and how he began to read at such a young age. I can't take credit for his learning to read, since he basically did that on his own. One thing we do to encourage lots of reading in our home is try to create a print-rich environment. This means that there is a lot of reading and writing in our home, so our children are constantly exposed to it and see it as part of their daily life.

We have books everywhere, and our children have access to them. They have baskets of their own books in every room of our house. They have bookshelves or cubbies with books in their bedrooms. They pull the "grownup" books off the shelves in our living room or off our bedside tables and open them up to see what's inside. They look at catalogs and magazines. They see us making lists. The Sisters see SuperSam making his own lists and reading the grocery list at the store (which we know is already making an impression on them because they copy him!). We leave notes and letters for each other around the house. We write their names on everything. (This backfired when SuperSam wrote his own name on all the furniture and walls in his room one day while he was supposed to be napping.)


The most important thing we do, though, is read together frequently, multiple times each day (not just at bedtime!).

Here is our list of ways that can help encourage book-love in your kids:

Read together frequently. (Yes, I know I just said that, but it's the number one, primary, super-duper most important thing you can do to help your child learn to love reading. Quality time with you plus a story? What could be better?)

Make little spaces inviting places for reading. Use cozy corners to create reading nooks. Try to find moments to curl up there together and read something. If your child isn't a "snuggle up and read" kind of kid, find another scene- the front steps, a playhouse outside, the swing set where you read while he swings or the sandbox where you read while she digs. You don't have to be sitting still to enjoy a book.

Display books attractively. If they look appealing, our children are more likely to want to pick them up. If you have a lot of books crowded onto a shelf, it can feel overwhelming to a child. Consider rotating your book stash so there are different ones out on display at different times. Most of our books for the children live in baskets right now for easy access and easy cleanup, but we have some books with similar themes displayed together by our favorite reading spot in the living room (currently, the books there are our favorite snow books...we're still holding out hope for a good snow before spring). Low shelves are another great option, especially if you need some books within children's reach but out of younger babies' reach. I love these DIY bookshelves at Carrots for Michaelmas for keeping library books visible and easily accessible (but safe from baby fingers and mouths).

Lucy's first trip to Powell's with Aunt Laura
Put books everywhere! Kitchen. Bathroom. Your closet, so the children can look at them when they inevitably follow you in while you are getting dressed. Everywhere.

Pick quality over quantity. Yes, there are books in the dollar aisle at Target. Although it won't hurt anything to have some of those around, remember that you are building a library for the future. Try to focus on adding quality titles with interesting characters and writing that will capture your child's imagination and draw her into the story. Good art is important, of course - pay attention to the illustrations - but listen to the language of the book, too (and make sure you won't mind reading it over and over and over again, because you'll probably be doing just that).

Make books and stories part of your family's culture. Tell stories about your day at the dinner table or at bedtime. Find ways to remind your family of favorite stories while you are out living your own story. ("Remember in A Snowy Day when Peter found the stick? Want to look for one now and see what we can do with it?") It might feel awkward at first, but when your child starts spontaneously talking to you about his favorite characters and plot lines during lunch or making up stories about his Celestial Buddies while you're in line at the grocery store, it's a really amazing thing.

Listen to audio books together in the car or while you're doing something else, like morning chores or folding laundry.


Books make good gifts! Consider starting a tradition of giving books to each other at traditional gift-giving times (and consider letting grandparents and others know that your kids would enjoy receiving books instead of another toy).

Personalize your books. Inscribe them when you give them to each other as gifts. Use bookplates.

Take books along with you in the car and to restaurants. Board books are especially good for this - they wipe clean and are so sturdy, they can go anywhere.

Make your own books. Shutterfly and Snapfish photo books can make great family stories if you add text. Even a photo album with prints of family photos can be a story without words that you tell to each other (or try writing the text of your story on labels to add to the photos). Construction paper, folded in half and stapled, makes an easy book for children to author themselves. (Try laminating the pages before stapling to make it more durable.) Plastic zip-top sandwich bags with cardboard inserts and hand-drawn or magazine cutout pages make great (and cheap!) books for little ones. Make your own versions of your favorites. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle lends itself well to becoming a personalized family story...just replace the animal names with people in your family ("SuperSam, SuperSam, who do you see? I see Daddy looking at me," etc.)


Get your kids their own library cards. There's a real sense of pride in being able to check out your own stack of books with your own card - it feels really different than just having your parent use his or her card for you.

Never use reading as a punishment. That's a great way to make it more likely that your child will resent reading and not want to choose it for fun.

Let your kids see what you're reading. At an appropriate age, teach them how to respectfully handle books so you won't be afraid to let them handle "grownup" or "real" books.

Track your progress. Reading is its own reward. Don't bribe them to read, but keep records of what you and they read. Make it visual- fill in a bar graph, or fill in squares on a game board, or keep a reading journal with lists of all the books you have read...just do something to show you are proud of what you and they are accomplishing.

If your efforts to grow your children as readers don't feel like an immediate success, take heart. What we are attempting to do is to invite children to discover a love of reading that will last them a lifetime. When a journey is lifelong, even little steps taken in the right direction count.

What ideas have worked for you in raising your kids to be readers and lovers of books?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Play with Water Beads

They bounce. They roll. They're slimy. They disappear when you put them in water. They are the coolest things that didn't exist when you were little. Water Beads!

The brand name is Orbeez, and you can buy them in many colors from Amazon, among other places. I found some clear ones at The Dollar Tree and bought two containers. (I love that store.) I have been saving them for a day when we need something a little snazzy to perk things up around here. I thought it would be a bad weather day...but it turned out that we needed just such a novelty to snap SuperSam out of a funk during his sisters' nap.

We put the beads in a clear plastic shoe box, and he dove right in. (Not really, but almost. I think he would have stripped off his clothes and gotten into the box if it were possible.) He poured them in and out of containers, scooped them up in his hands, stirred them with spoons, and squished them to see what would happen.

After a while, he said, "What would happen, I wonder, if we put them in water?"
We decided to find out.

I filled a clear plastic measuring cup halfway with water, and he started dropping them in...and something amazing happened.


I thought they had dissolved. (I know, that makes no sense, but it's the first thing that occurred to me.) We couldn't see them at all. We held the cup up to the window, shook it sign of the aqua beads. Then SuperSam stuck his hand into the cup and yelled, "THEY ARE STILL IN THERE!"

He was kind of spooked, actually.

We decided it was a good thing we had bought clear beads (all they had at the Dollar Tree) instead of the colored ones - this cool discovery would never have happened otherwise. 

The Aqua Beads were everything that water play usually is and more. We had a great time with them. They came out two more times during the day for "experiments" before I caught SuperSam trying to fill the bathtub with them "so I could see what it would be like to get under them with my whole body."

"This AquaBead looks like Haumea."

If anyone wants to sponsor this project, I am willing to host it in our bathroom. Please send donations of AquaBeads to SuperSam at our address. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Beloved

I watch him carefully, this man whose company I keep, whose pain is my pain and whose journey is my journey.When his eyes well up, it's almost too much for me to handle. This path we have been traveling, the curvy, the twisted, the completely-nonsense path that finally seemed to be arriving in a place with meaning, has taken another unexpected turn, leaving us once again staring directly at nothing, into the unknown. We have more baggage now- three small people and a house, two cars and too many books. The extra stuff doesn't make the leap into the unknown less scary. The extra small people make it even scarier.

But we're together.

And when we stand, shoulder to shoulder, prepared to square off against whatever we meet in the valley we're about to throw ourselves into, we are stronger than we think. There are two of us, and the ways in which we irritate each other are also the ways in which we complement each other's weaknesses. We will make it. "We always land on our feet," he says...and so, hand in hand, we prepare to jump.  

Five-Minute Friday is a kind of writing game hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker at her blog, Tales from a Gypsy Mama. The challenge is to write for five minutes without backtracking or over-editing or worrying. Five Minute Friday is also a community - check out the other writers' posts by clicking the button below.
Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

30 things I can do instead of facebooking through Lent

The liturgical season of Lent begins today on Ash Wednesday, that day in the year when Catholics and lots of other Christians spend the whole day walking around with smudges of ash on our foreheads to remind us of our mortality.

Wow, doesn't that sound like a party you'd like to attend?

Yes, it's true, Lent is perhaps not the most festive time of the year. We take the forty days before Easter to focus on how we can be closer to God, less focused on ourselves and and our material possessions, more focused on serving others and giving charitably. We examine our lives to find things that are distracting us from what is most important. Many people choose something to "give up" during this period. This practice has two purposes. It is a way of eliminating some of the extra things that claim our attention, giving us more space to focus on spiritual things. It's also a way to make a small personal sacrifice, which reminds us of the sacrifice that Jesus made with his life. We know that giving up chocolate or television for Lent doesn't compare in any measurable way to giving up life for Love; however, as we feel the absence of these little things, we have many opportunities to think about Jesus' much greater sacrifice for us.

In the spirit of making a small personal sacrifice, I have decided to give up social media (Facebook and Twitter) for Lent. I've recognized that I am frequently distracted by "checking in" on these two networks during the day. I've lost the ability to just sit and be quiet. I check my phone in the morning when I wake up, probably thirty times during the day (not that I've counted, but it's a lot), even more in the evenings, when we are in the car and I'm not driving, again before bed. I think all of this distraction is taking up too much of my attention, and it's one place I feel certain I could free up some time to focus on the spiritual housecleaning I ought to be about this time of year.

It's not that I don't care about what's happening in the world. It's actually the opposite. I do care, and I want to use Lent to reclaim some of the space inside my own head so that I can engage the world and the people in it in more meaningful, more intentional ways. I want to read things in depth. I want to have real conversations with my friends instead of just "liking" important moments in their lives. I want to rid my world of those pictures of turn of the century women talking about drinking gin in bathtubs while hiding from their children.

What else could I be doing to fill up all the little gaps in my day when I'm not scrolling through the screen on my phone, looking for updates on the outside world? Here is a quick list of possibilities (somewhat tongue in cheek, but hey - I'm not giving up humor for Lent):

1. Look at my kids when they talk to me.
2. Read something with substance.
3. Memorize something: scripture, or a prayer, or poetry.
4. Stare aimlessly at the wall and let my mind wander.
5. Go through the alphabet and make every word rhyme with my children's names.
6. Pull weeds in the flowerbed.
7. Sketch something.
8. Look at the night sky.
9. Conjugate verbs.
10. Conjugate verbs in French.
11. Find new recipes.
12. Knit.
13. Build something out of marshmallows and toothpicks.
14. Rearrange the pantry. (Bonus: find extra food hiding in there and donate it to the food pantry.)
15. Write.
16. Put together my sister's Christmas package and mail it to Alaska.
17. Write thank you notes.
18. Write letters to people I usually talk to only on Facebook or Twitter.
19. Pray.
20. Fold that huge basket of laundry sitting in the corner.
21. Yoga.
22. Make "God's Eyes" with SuperSam.
23. Learn how to darn socks.
24. Darn the socks. (No, actually fix them.)
25. Play the piano.
26. Water the plants.
27. Dust something. (There are plenty of choices.)
28. Replace the three burned-out lightbulbs in our house (that have been burned out for at least a month).
29. Repot a plant. (Or three or four, since repotting plants seems to always have a domino effect.)
30. Call the guy to fix my sewing machine. (Once that's done, I can add about ten projects to this list!)

There have to be at least fifty more things that could be tucked into those spaces that not checking Facebook will leave in my day.

I'm still going to write here, because I want to keep this space open. I want to keep this conversation going. And I want to be accountable to someone - you! - for this decision I have made.

As of today, I will be taking the Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone. If it is harder to get to them, maybe it will be easier to avoid them. I'll keep you posted on how it is going.

Blessed Ash Wednesday to you all.

This post is part of a linkup hosted by Carrots for Michaelmas, Molly Makes Do and Dualing Moms. Follow this link to see some other great posts about the fasts, feasts and celebrations of Lent.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

That Lent-y feeling

Not everything is a blessing. Not everything happens "for a reason." Not everything is "God's plan." Sometimes things just happen. And sometimes those things completely suck.

This year, I can hardly wait for Lent to start, mostly because life already feels so much like Lent-in-full-swing, and I like things to match.

We found out not quite two weeks ago that George is losing his job at the end of this month. (His last day is the same as Pope Benedict XVI's, actually.) It's not his fault, there's nothing he could have done, he's an excellent employee, they'll make calls wherever they can and give him exemplary references, blah blah blah. It still feels like a kick in the stomach. His income is our only income right now. We need him to have a job.

On the outside, I handle it just fine. I'm a total pro at improvising and going with the flow. I can change directions quickly and look like I always meant to do it. On the inside, though, it eats at me. I feel anxious and sad. I have dreams about drowning. I speak irritably to my son and roll my eyes at my husband. I drink too much Diet Coke.

It's my nature to want to control things. I think it's the curse, the "shadow side," maybe, of being an organized person. For things to run smoothly around here, I have to be on top of them...and when something as big as this gets pulled out from under me, I'm suddenly on top of nothing with everything about to come crashing down on top of me. It's not a comfortable feeling. I compensate by cleaning the kitchen sink a lot to make it shiny and rearranging the annoying corner cabinet that holds all the plastic food storage containers and their matching lids.

(I can never get that cabinet the way it ought to be.)

Not all of us are feeling so dragged down. In a recent creative explosion, SuperSam has been using his magic markers like there's no tomorrow. Watching him might be fun for some of you- maybe even for me at a different time- but right now, it makes me cringe a little inside. He uses tiny, thin-tip markers to color brashly in big spaces, staining the paper with the abundance of bright-colored ink pouring out of the tip. He scribbles hard with crayons until the points are gone, broken off or worn to a nub. Recently, I needed a marker, and although I have my own set (kept in a separate place, of course, out of the reach of children), SuperSam held up a marker to me. "Here, Mama, use mine," he said, smiling.

As I took it, I marveled at him...this generous, wide-open kid who uses art supplies with such gleeful abandon. He never worries that his markers will run out of ink. He's not afraid that he will exhaust his supply of crayons or stickers. He's not fearful, not anxious - he mixes all the paint colors together right now because he wants to see what will happen right now. He's not concerned that he might need blue paint again and not have any left to use. He's free, because he's sure that there's always going to be enough.

And I'm not.

I hold things tightly, like I'm afraid they will vanish. I'm afraid to use them up because then they will be gone.

This Lent, more than any other one before, my challenge is going to be to sit and wait and not give in to fear. To gradually unclench my hands and let go of the anxiety, the need to control everything, the constant aching worry that it's all about to come unraveled. To stare at the darkness in myself without being sure of when or where or how the light will show up...but still to trust that it will eventually show up.

Somehow, I think if I can just get to Lent, I will know that millions of other people are there, too...walking through deserts of their own, pouring out the extra stuff so they can sit like empty vessels waiting to be filled.

The emptying is never the fun part, whether self-induced or life-induced. Paring things down, giving things up and putting things aside doesn't feel like it is going to make us happy. In the long-run, though, it is through this process of cleaning ourselves out and opening ourselves up that we can freshly encounter the Holy...that we can be restored and refreshed...that we can find real, deep Joy (which is better than mere happiness any day).

I don't feel joyous.
Come tomorrow, though, at least that will be liturgically appropriate.

The other day, as we were out running errands, we passed a church sign that said this:

Are you living in the shadow of the Most High God?

I was prepared to be totally annoyed. Pithy church signs nearly always irritate me. I've even been known (in my more reactionary, younger days) to write letters to pastors of churches whose signs I found particularly offensive or frustrating. I waited for the irritated feeling to show up...and I was surprised when it didn't come. Instead, I found myself saying, "Yeah, actually, I am living in the shadow of the Most High God (even though I'm not much aware of it recently)."

The idea that the Most High God has a shadow big enough to live in was somehow comforting. The situation didn't change. There was no good news. We didn't have anything additional to assure us that things would be okay, but somehow, we felt less worried that they wouldn't be. George said, "I may not believe things are always unfolding as they are meant to, but sometimes, the sounds the Universe is making are artful. It is music."

It is, indeed, music.

The music is not always upbeat- right now, it sounds like mournful chant- but singing along is a sign of faith in the big-ness of that shadow. I am making the decision to join in the song, however shaky my voice may be right now. I don't know how things are going to turn out. I'm not up for any platitudes about how everything works out for good or how God is going to take care of us according to His purpose. This might just be one of those things that sucks, something we just have to survive. We will survive it, though...and when I say "survive," I don't mean in a "barely squeak by" kind of way. This Lent, I'm doing more than just living in the shadow of the Most High God.

I'm singing there, however quietly...and I know The Most High God can hear me.

This post is part of a linkup hosted by Carrots for Michaelmas, Molly Makes Do and Dualing Moms. Follow this link to see some other great posts about the fasts, feasts and celebrations of Lent.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Interplanetary Mail...SuperSam goes "postal"

Given my history with the post office, one might think I'd be reluctant to recreate it here in my house. SuperSam and his planets need to send Valentines to each other, though, and he has decided to be their postman. "I need a postman bag," he said, "and a postman hat and outfit."

I think we have this dapper postman guy to thank for that. Our local mail delivery lady looks nothing like this.

Postman from Clifford Barks by Norman Bridwell

With no mailman hat, I am improvising. We created some mailboxes out of coffee cans from Trader Joe's. We covered them in bright paper, decorated with markers and stickers, and nailed the bottoms to some scrap wood to make them stand up. I stuck the ends of the pieces of wood into an upturned cardboard box (just cut x's with a box cutter and pushed them in). We covered the box with green construction paper "grass." and voila! Mailboxes.

I didn't look on Pinterest. There is bound to be someone who has made cuter, easier, snazzier mailboxes. There is probably a step-by-step tutorial about how you can do it, too. I am not that woman, as usual...but I am happy to report that the boxes are sturdy enough so far to withstand the forceful play of my three small people. (The Sisters have found their boxes and like to hide items in them and find them again later.) Besides, there's a lot to be said for using what you have on hand when you need to do something like this.

SuperSam: Mama! Let's make a post office!

Mama: Great idea! First, we need to drive an hour to the nearest craft store to get cute Valentine-themed contact paper and brads that are heart-shaped!

Yeah, that's not my life. I think if Macgyver's mother had been a preschool teacher, she would have been kind of like me: resourceful, creative, able to make something functional out of almost nothing. Pretty, color-coordinated Valentine contact paper? Meh.

Continuing with my "function is more important than form" theme, we also made a mailbox out of an empty Tide detergent box by covering it in blue paper and cutting a slot in the lid with a box cutter. (SuperSam added the planetary graffiti. I guess he thought it needed some cutening up.) The little postman gleefully retrieves the mail from the box, puts it into his mailbag, and delivers it to the appropriate post office box. We added some "window" envelopes that had been headed for the recycling bin and some catalogs.

SuperSam gets up really early (well before 6:00 AM every day), so we sometimes leave out "invitations" for him in case he needs something new and different to work on in the mornings before everyone else is ready to go. I have come to really enjoy being awakened by the sound of his voice down the hall, talking excitedly about what he's doing with the materials I left for him. Before going to bed, I set out a tray with paper, envelopes, colored pencils, markers, and labels for him.  I also left some "mail" in his box, including a note from the newest Celestial Buddy, Earth. The next morning, SuperSam played with this stuff for about 40 minutes, chatting animatedly with Earth about writing letters to all the other planets. By the time I came to the kitchen, they had covered the floor with mail. Exciting!

The postal serivce here has been in high demand as all the Celestial Buddies write each other letters on personalized stationery created by SuperSam. He even made stamps out of the labels (with pictures of planets and constellations on them, of course). Apparently the cost of sending a letter from one planet to another has not been affected by the economy...and if the volume of mail is any indication, these planets prefer to stay in touch the old fashioned way.