Journal Entry 8

Tuesday, September 29, 1987

First thing in the morning, today: Play Dough.

All three girls are making Play Dough dinosaurs, trees, and volcanoes. Camille is also making dinosaur bones, and then she branches out to make some items that seem to have no relation to dinosaurs or their world. Mindy makes yet another dinosaur and then a tree. After getting them just how she wants them, she surprises me by flattening them down. “These are cookies,” Mindy says.

So I guess she's kind of branching out, too.

After what seems like a long time (but isn't) the girls help me put away the Play Dough, get dressed, and stand still long enough for me to brush their hair. They eat their breakfast. And then they begin to play again. This time, with stuffed animals and dolls.

The first time I walk by the girls, they have out a bear family. Soon I hear Mindy say, “I got a new Lady Lovelylocks nightie. See, Camille?” Mindy starts to take out the Lady Lovelylocks dolls, but Camille grabs one of the baby dolls instead. Right away Lindsey and Mindy fall in with baby-doll play, and each is soon washing, dressing, and feeding a baby doll. We have quite a few dolls, so they each can make a choice between several dolls, but I hear them squabbling a bit about who gets which doll, anyway. I am on alert, ready to go over to them if they need me, but they come to a solution on their own.

I go out to the garage to put in a load of laundry, and when I come back I am surprised to hear the girls talking about space. I remember that Mindy has been angling to “study” space after we're “done” with dinosaurs, and I sit down to watch with some amusement to see if they have really integrated space exploration, or something like, into their baby-doll play.

Mindy has the book Cosmos out again, in her lap, and she is talking about Saturn. I soon realize that they are pretending to be traveling to Saturn, but I don't think they are daring astronauts. I watch a while longer. Sure enough, it turns out that they are just ordinary moms with their babies, just traveling to Saturn as per usual. Ho hum.

Suddenly they troop off to the kitchen/family room. I get up and start to move to the bathroom that most needs cleaning, but they are soon back, so I turn to see what is afoot now. The kids have the bag of play money, and Mindy says, “Who wants to make a restaurant in space?” Lindsey and Camille both say, “I do! I do!” (It sounds trite and unnatural--but those are their actual words.)

We are interrupted by the doorbell. It's Delia and Kiki, ready to whisk Lindsey off to Mommy and Me. Lindsey had been excited to go, earlier today, but now she says that she doesn't want to go, after all.

She makes an excuse: “I don't like that game, Delia,” she says. “I'll get tired...”

I study Lindsey carefully. She seems a bit congested, and she is even a little clingy, which is unusual for her. I decide not to send her. Delia tells me that she would like to borrow an old toy organ for some project her older son, Eric, is doing, so we go off to find that. Then Delia and Kiki leave, and (the restaurant in space apparently forgotten) Mindy asks if we can get out the Halloween decorations.  “Please?”

So we do.

Once the boxes are brought in from the garage, and the basics are put out on display (I'll do some more decorating later), Camille and Mindy remind me that it is time for “school.” Mindy finds the bell, and this time Camille rings it.

Since nobody has announced a letter for the day or any other content, I ask the three girls if they want to read the dinosaur books we'd checked out of the library. There is eager assent, and we read about pterosaurs, we look at a great pop-up dinosaur book, and we read about dinos in Spanish. At the end of the last book, Los Dinosaurios Gigantes, there is a map of where the dinosaurs lived. The older girls pore over this, and we discuss all the continents where dinosaurs once roamed: North America, South America, Europe and Asia (identified on the map as Eurasia), Africa, and Australia. In other words, pretty much everywhere! The girls ask if dinosaurs lived right where we live now, and so we identify our continent, country, state, and general area on the map and decide that they had lived here, once.

Planning for the Dinosaur Day party, the kids decide to make “exhibits” (their word) out of Legos. Camille takes a break to undress and re-dress her doll, then does some more Lego-building, then undresses and re-dresses the doll again.

For snack today, we cut apple slices into rough pterosaur shapes and also have toast, cream cheese, and hard boiled eggs. We clean up our snack, and Mindy asks to get out the Play Dough again. Camille asks to watch the Mr. Rogers dinosaur show. Lindsey asks if we can do both!

So we set up a little table near the TV, turn on Mr. Rogers, and the kids start sorta-kinda watching while sculpting. Camille rolls the dough into what she says are dinosaur eggs, Mindy cuts and pats the dough without labeling her products, and Lindsey makes what she identifies as cookies. Soon Mindy decides that Camille's eggs are cool, so she reforms her Play Dough into dinosaur eggs, too. Once Camille has amassed a whole lot of eggs, she tells me that some are chicken eggs, and some are dinosaur eggs. She counts (accurately) and informs me that there are 27 eggs. Mindy reminds me that ALL her eggs are dinosaur eggs.

Mr. Rogers is talking about being scared, which is something that Camille experiences a lot when she watches videos. Mr. Rogers puts a coat over his head and pretends to be a monster. Camille shakes a few times (this shaking-with-fright thing is something I've seen before) but doesn't show any other signs of being scared. There is a mystery having to do on the show, and when it is about to be solved, Camille tells us, “I'm getting scared.” Then she gets up, runs over to me, and clings to my leg. “I'm getting scared,” she says again. Of course, I comfort her, but also (of course) the mystery is resolved in a comforting way.

The video over and the TV off, the kids put away the Play Dough, and I put away the table and chairs. The girls notice that there is a new song on the piano, and they ask me to play it. Then Mindy and Camille each try to play the song, using the number-scale on the piano keyboard to help them remember which keys to play. (By the way, for the rest of the day, I notice them singing snatches of the song.)

After my short performance on the piano, I go back to the long-ago interrupted bathroom cleaning and am happy to have the girls' piano playing as an accompaniment to my task. However, after a short while I notice that the piano has fallen silent and the girls are pretty darned quiet, too. Then there's a scream!

I emerge from the bathroom to see that Mindy and Lindsey have gone into their father's closet and put some of his shirts over their heads and are now making growly-snarly sounds. “Are you monsters?” I ask, nervous about possible damage to the shirts--but especially worried that Camille will get frightened again.

Yes!” roars Lindsey through her shirt. I then see Camille emerging around the corner, also with a shirt over her head, and also making fierce noises.

Just a moment,” I say. I quickly explain that these are Daddy's nice shirts, and I put the three shirts away. “Mr. Rogers used a coat like this one,” I say as I get a trench-type rain coat out of the hall closet. Camille eagerly adopts that coat and puts it over her head. As she roars and growls and snarls, I find two more similar coats for Mindy and Lindsey. Just a few minutes later, as I'm back on bathroom-clean-up duty, I realize that nobody is making monster noises, anymore. I poke my head into a bedroom to see why and realize that the three girls are wearing the coats the regular way, cinched around their waists with the belt ties.

Where'd the monsters go?” I ask, surprised that the play has turned so quickly to another scenario.

We're detectives!” the girls inform me. They are looking for purses in the closet. I go back to my bathroom tasks. I notice, as they troop through the hallway, that they have the play money out again and are stuffing it into pockets and purses. They are talking about money going missing.

Soon the kids check in with me. I am almost done with the bathroom, and they ask if I have any mystery that needs solving. “Um...” I remember their talk about lost money, and I quickly say, “Yes, my dog is missing. Could you find my lost dog?”

Not a brilliant and exciting (or even realistic) problem for detectives to solve, but the girls seem happy enough as they dash off to solve The Problem of the Lost Dog.

Next thing I know, as I go into the kitchen/family room, Lindsey is sitting at the little table, using letter stamps and a stamp pad. She doesn't seem to be a detective anymore.

Camille announces she is going to make a “detective sign.” She sits down at the table, too, and reaches for some letter stamps and a piece of paper. Mindy sits on a third chair and says, “Me, too.” Mindy's sign is hand-lettered. Next to a picture of a man, she writes:

C M L L C [star shape] T T A
F B W [star shape] V X Y

Camille has stamped letters on her sign and now writes the same letters underneath.



Lindsey is no longer using the letter stamps. Instead she is drawing, and she explains her pictures. “This is Mommy very happy,” she says. “Mommy getting married.” And, “This is the whole family.”

I start to prepare some food for lunch: cutting up cantaloupe into cubes, cutting cucumbers into circles, and so forth. I get out the still-frozen peas, which are fun to eat like the sweet, frozen treats that they are.

After lunch, the restaurant idea from this morning finally resurrects itself, but it is no longer a “space restaurant.” Each girl takes turns taking orders from the other girls, writing down the orders on a notepad (not really, of course, but scribbling as if they are writing). They always ask a question or two such as, “And what would you like to drink?”

The restaurant game eventually segues into a re-enactment of the “make believe” section of the Mr. Rogers dinosaur show. Mindy is Lady Abilene, and Camille decides that she is also Lady Abilene. The girls get out some tapioca pudding to “feed” to some dinosaurs.

In the meantime, Lindsey is not interested in feeding dinosaurs tapioca pudding—and she doesn't even want to be a third Lady Abilene. Instead, she has plopped herself onto the floor with the magnetic letters and board, and she is using the magnetic letters to make “words.” She keeps asking me to read the words, and I do my best, usually inserting vowels to make the “words” pronounceable. “GNF” becomes “GANEF,” for example.

After a long time of this word-creation play, I suggest that Lindsey put all the letters into the holding tray in alphabetical order. (There is a letter-shaped hole for each letter, so it's a bit like doing a wooden shape-puzzle.) Lindsey likes the idea and works hard to do the task. Actually, it is more challenging than I thought it would be.

When Lindsey is done with the magnetic letters and joins the big girls in their game, the scenario changes again. I listen long enough to realize that all three girls have special powers when they press their fingers together in certain ways. I know they must've gotten the idea from that brand new TV show, Out of This World—they saw the last few minutes as we waited for The Bill Cosby Show to start. In Out of This World, the main character is a teenage girl who can freeze time by pressing her two index fingers together.

After a good, long play session, the girls seem a bit tired and crabby. I give them some water and juice, and then they spot the materials I'd put out on the table: paper, crayons, a bowl of water, watercolor paints, and paint brushes.

They immediately want to use the art materials. I show them a quick demo of “crayon resist” art, telling them that we can do crayon drawings first and then add watercolor paint—and that the paint will not cover the crayon drawing. The girls want to try the idea.

Mindy slowly and carefully begins to draw a dinosaur for our Dinosaur Day party with a crayon. Lindsey and Camille quickly cover their papers with large, swoopy crayon lines. Once most of their papers are covered with “scribbles,” Camille and Lindsey seem bummed. Camille asks me for another piece of paper and a stencil. Lindsey asks me for help to make a “good” dinosaur drawing.

I find the dinosaur stencils and let Camille choose one. Lindsey and Mindy both decide that they want to use stencils, too. 

The girls enjoy the satisfying moments of swooshing bright blue paint over their drawings and watching the crayon lines and figures pop out, waxy and colorful, from the watery background.

From one art project to the next: the girls decide to color in Color Me dinosaur pictures. Camille wants to color in a mermaid but gets frustrated and announces, “I'm going to go with the dinosaur picture.” The art session ends when Maria arrives to pick up Camille. Maria looks over all the stuff the kids are getting ready for Dinosaur Day, we discuss the details of the museum trip we are taking together tomorrow, and then they leave.

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