Crater Creator

It’s late Saturday night, after a full solo day with Dante. Laura is off on her annual 14er trip, this time camping for 2 nights. She left about 2:30 on Friday, and will be back sometime Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, it is boy time at our house.

We’ve been having a lot of fun. I’ve made it a tradition during these 14er weekends to make it kind of a celebration for us too, with lots of different options for him to choose from. Yesterday I made a menu with a variety of options, a couple of which even included new-ish toys — that is to say, toys we haven’t gotten out for him yet. To my surprise, he picked “Draw with sidewalk chalk!” Which we’ve done lots of times, but he does enjoy. He likes me to make little dot-to-dot games for him to fill out.

He also likes to write out his name, but he’s often pretending to be someone else when he does this. The first time he did this, it was a total surprise to me. He said, “I’m going to write my name!” and then proceeded to draw on the ground, in his highly irregular handwriting:

JULIANA

(This was after a girl at school with whom he was mildly obsessed last year.) I was baffled after the first couple of letters, then laughing when I figured out what he was doing. This year, he’s transferred his affection to a girl named Mikaela (for the moment), though he is understandably clueless about how to spell her name. He usually goes with “MACALA.” This time, he started writing M… A… C…, then gave me a bewildered look and said, “What comes next?”

After the sidewalk fun, we ordered a pizza and had an otherwise ordinary night. This morning, I made a more ambitious menu, including a variety of “on the town” options that Laura wouldn’t necessarily tend to be up for: the downtown aquarium, a movie in the theater, the nature + science museum, the children’s museum, the art museum, and the zoo. He chose the nature + science museum. He loves the nature + science museum. Dinosaurs plus planets: how can you go wrong? So we headed down there — I finally wised up and became a member. It’s pricey, but I think I’ll end up saving money in the long run, plus it makes the option feel a lot more open on a regular basis.

We spent a loooooooong time in the museum. This time, he got enthralled by this machine in the space section labeled “Create A Crater.” It was an impressive contraption: a big rectangular chamber with maybe four inches of sand on its floor. You press a button, and a steel ball shoots down from a tube, making a crater in the sand. Sometimes it even bounces and makes a couple of craters. When this happens, a high-speed video camera records the event, and you can wind the recording backwards and forwards, frame by frame, watching the sand fly up, then re-form. The idea is to teach people how craters form, of course.

However, Dante’s enduring fascination was with the procedure the machine went through to reset itself. After about five shots, a metal comb starts moving through the sand, collecting all the steel balls, pushing them along to a ramp. They slide down the ramp and then come up a little chairlift-for-marbles type of thing, then through a twisty tube and back to the firing chamber. Then the comb slowly glides back through the sand, smoothing it out for the next shots. In fairness, I can totally see why he was absorbed by it — it was really quite cool. However, it was still pretty comical how he glanced at the freeze-frame video for like 30 seconds one time, and then for maybe 45 minutes kept impatiently waiting for people to hit the button enough times for the machine to reset. We even went to see the dinosaurs, then the mummies, then had lunch, then the gems and minerals, then back to the crater maker for another half hour. Sheesh. It was straining my patience at the end, but I really wanted him to get his fill today, so he didn’t feel dragged away.

Tonight we made french toast together (which he ate 0% of, despite asking for it), then cleaned up from our revels. Now he’s in bed, and it’s time for me to turn in as well. Good night!

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