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Sometimes paying to recycle toys helps fill the long summer break

Three days into summer vacation my pantry stood empty and the playroom carpet lay, imperceptible, under a spread of finely crushed popcorn. The naked sofa glared at me, but by then I could no longer trace the cushions. And the incessant bleep of video games rang in my head while I slept, like a cruel version of Chinese water torture.

After eight continuous hours of movies and a combined total of 48 hours playing the same X-Box game, my children's eyes spiraled in their sockets, something I recall seeing in cartoons. They no longer communicated socially and responded only to the smell of food.

Times of crisis call for drastic measures. I took a risk and pulled the plug. As if from Snow White's sleep, they awoke from a collective trance with quizzical looks on their faces, wondering the day, the year and how they got there.

An adventure seemed in order to jostle them out of stagnation. I drew their attention to the condition of the playroom, where they stood aghast at what they saw. They had no memory of the events that led up to the strewing of the corn and boldly attempted to blame the cat. I made them vacuum it, which took the entire team approximately an hour and a half. An hour and fifteen minutes of which they used to determine who would do what parts of the job, who got off the easiest and who worked the hardest. (I am raising expert committee members.)

Next, I told them to find their shoes. For several minutes they simply stood staring at me, a little puzzled by my instructions. Shoes . . . they hadn't touched or seen any in three days, and I feared it would take another three days for them to locate a pair. They scattered and returned some time later, from back yard, basement and belfry, each wearing some sort of foot covering. Despite 95 degree weather and sweltering sun, rubber rain boots appeared a popular choice.

The climax of our escapade took us to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. From the looks on the faces of my clutch, one would think we had entered the enchanted world of FAO Schwartz. Once there, I told them they could each spend $1, my treat. With giggles of delight (mine included) they all scampered to the toy section to unwittingly buy back a few of their toys that I donated the previous week.

Yes, I feared that the two older siblings might recognize some items and make the connection, accusing me of the inexcusable, the most despised of all projects in which a mama endeavors. I threw caution to the wind. A short walk on the wild side never hurt anyone.

Overheard by me, they discussed the selection of play things amongst themselves: Look at this, it's just like one of our G.I. Joes.

Hey, did you see this car? If one of us gets it, we'll have two just alike.

I wonder where they got all this great stuff. Look, this castle has purple marker on it just like ours.

Fighting back a knowing smile, I agreed to allow the purchase of another green light up laser gun with genuine sonic sound effects.

I also let them get a motorized flipping car . . . for the third time around.

The excursion proved exhilarating for us all, and it brought my nickel and dimers back from the living dead three days into summer vacation.



Web posted on Thursday, June 3, 2004


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