Play dough ponderings and nighttime inundations

A couple of weeks ago, after a week of unwanted awaking at 4:30 a.m. and unwarranted, repetitive, anxiety-filled dreams of flooding and other water games, I attempted to drop out of docent-training at the local art gallery. That’s right. I decided to become a provisional docent drop-out. Frankly I hated the thought of how that would look on my fictional curriculum vitae: first a series of yearly re-locations (from NY to OH to MI to NY) requires that I drop out of a Masters’ program in art history, then 16 years later I drop out of an art gallery docent-training program. Anyone not paying careful attention would think I’m ambivalent about the visual arts, which I most emphatically am not. Nor am I re: moving.

The point is, the alluvion dreams ceased immediately with the decision to let docent-aspirations go. Mind you, I was still waking at 4:30 and it is quite possible that I will have to jettison some other part of my life to regain a bit of sanity here. We shall see. Clearly I’ve lightened up on the blog-posting. I apologize for that to the 11 or so of you who might have noticed.

The tipping point was a book order. 2,437 books, to be exact. 1,715 of which must be distributed to 343 students the week of 13 February. The trouble is they were not in my hands for sorting yet. And would not be until late in the morning on the 1st. They were in town. Had been for a week. Just in an undeliverable form. Long story short: work of inventorying, assessing, sorting and categorizing I would have been hard-pressed to complete in the time I thought I’d have now had to be done in a whole week’s less time. And all that work in a wide cushion of time is very hard on my hands and wrists, even with frequent breaks from the slippery little things (seriously, like handling a handful of small, flat fish sometimes) when my fingers go numb. No time for coddling, however! Plow ahead or not meet deadline! And the latter is not acceptable when 343 children are depending on my efforts. At least not to my way of thinking.

So I attempted to drop out of one pressing and yet delightful responsibility. The gallery staff, however, does not want to let me go so easily and are accommodating a brief break from the pressure of that activity while I finish playing catch up with the books and everything I’ve had to let slide while wrestling with paperback picture books. For which I am grateful. Today I nearly finished with all but delivery. That happens early next week. In the meantime, laundry. Maybe a little vacuuming. Definitely a couple of grant-writing exercises and cooking my family a proper meal or two. And reading for that other class of mine. And hopefully? Sleep.

As for the play dough, it was suggested that homemade play dough would be better for the tutoring stations I stock than the cheap stuff I’d originally provided. In tutoring Kindergarteners, we’ve found that play dough is useful in teaching the alphabet, rudimentary sight words, and reading comprehension skills to children whose manual dexterity needs stretching, or who are a particular type of kinetic learner. When I had done all I could to get the inventorying and preparations for packing the books for distribution done before the books actually arrived, I did something I never did for my own daughter, and never really aspired to do, ever. I made four batches of play dough: red, green, blue and yellow. My child was not a formula-fed baby if you catch my drift, and the first year of her life she was fed only homemade whole foods I baked or milled myself and froze in ice cube trays. I home-schooled her first year of Kindergarten. I diapered her in cloth diapers and knit her dresses. I built her a playhouse with a fabric skin, quilted tile roof, and a PVC pipe frame for pity’s sake, and made her a wheel of fifths (complete with spinner!) when her early curiosity led her to that bit of music theory. But I never made her play dough. Still I think I did okay by her regardless of that egregious lack. And at 15, she enjoyed playing with it a bit before I took it to the school. It’s good stuff, not too difficult or time-consuming to make. So far it’s a success with the tutors and students, too. I hope it stays that way through the end of the tutoring year. I’d rather not have to find time to make it again until fall! Maybe I can get the 15 year-old to help me…


About pattiblaine

Raised under the name of Snyder in the upstate NY town of Vestal, I've worked as a typesetter, a fast food salad bar tender, an art reviewer, a waitress, a part-time nanny, and a very-bad-with-phones temp. Once upon a time I was all-but-thesis toward a Masters in Art History. Now I'm just a mom with a lot of fiber squirreled away throughout the house. We call it insulation. In 2013 I completed a life-long learning program at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and am a postulant toward the diaconate in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY. In addition to coordinating volunteers for the soup kitchen, I volunteer as a tutor at a deeply impoverished city elementary school, and am a docent at the Memorial Art Gallery.
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6 Responses to Play dough ponderings and nighttime inundations

  1. Dawn Klein says:

    Your life is always so full of activities! I never made play dough for my kids, either. Maybe once. I know Emily had homemade play dough at preschool. It was something they could eat, so didn’t have to worry about weird stuff in their tummies.

    I can’t imagine having to deal with that many books. I’m sure the little ones will appreciate them. Sad to say I didn’t really make my own baby food, though. I was trying to work full-time and take care of a baby. That was challenging in its own right. Although, I still did manage to nurse both of them, until about 6 months. I would have liked longer, but that’s the way it was.

    I did notice that you weren’t posting on your blog, but I’m not much better myself, with the blog.

    • pattiblaine says:

      We moved to NYC when I was pregnant, and I remained unemployed to stay at home with Kate. We were fortunate in that regard. Most of the food milling and baby cracker baking was an attempt to remain sane… Not much intellectual stimulation for that first year of SAHMing! And very little sleep. 🙂

  2. Erin says:

    Of course we noticed you weren’t posting as much! Just figured you were very busy, as usual (and we were right! :-)). Can you tell me more about this “particular type of kinetic learner” that the playdough helps with? I happen to have one of those, and we are at a total loss on what to do with him sometimes! Email me if you’d rather.

    • pattiblaine says:

      I’m not an educator, Erin, so I don’t know much, but sometimes when working with a 5 to 6yo student we have to change up what we’re doing every 3 to 5 minutes, and so pulling out playdough and making ropes that we shape into letters and words, or use to make pictures of what we’ve just read helps them stay focused and stretches the literacy learning just a bit in the limited time we have. We’ve also got some who would prefer to put number flashcards in order on the floor than work at a table sitting still. Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you, I’m afraid. If he learns by doing, or moving, find a way to incorporate that into what he needs to learn. Which I know is easier said than done!

  3. Lindsey says:

    Wishing you calmer coming days! And I laughed to myself as you described K’s babyhood. We did much the same, though my kids’ playhouses were out of sheets & cardboard boxes. 🙂 Hoping to see you at knitting again sometime soon!

    • pattiblaine says:

      Kate’s house is collapsible for NYC storage, but the luxury of a spare room allowed us to put it up when we moved here. It’s now a playhouse for the grand-nephews! I’ll have to take a photo and post it for you, Lindsey… Or better, you’ll have to come over and see it!

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