“i’m still playing with that”

zoobs on the couch

Mr. T leaves crazy little play tableaus all over the house. Constantly. He immerses himself in an imaginary landscape and lingers there, and then eventually moves to another room, another game before I’ve noticed what’s happened.

There are Zoob creations on the couch. Zoob creations beside The Beatles.

beatles and zoobs

The other day when I sat in my writing chair and tried to put my feet on the footrest, I discovered this:

zoobs on my writing chairThere’s a Crazy Bone parade on top of the piano.

crazy bones on the piano

Not to mention the constant explosion of pens and pencils across the kitchen table. Sometimes he uses them as art supplies. Sometimes they’re yet more characters in his games.

comic maker

Does he clean up one “mess” before starting another? Why, of course not!

This drives Chris absolutely crazy. He’s one of those rare husbands who is neater than his wife. (Which is wonderful in many ways–the man knows how to wield a vacuum–but it can also make me feel like I’m a slob. Which I don’t think I am. Usually.)

I understand the need to help Mr. T take responsibility and learn to clean up after himself. But I’m a sucker for creative messes. The “I’m still playing with that” excuse works on me every time. Because he really does flit back and forth between his games. I’m always willing to let an imaginary world live on a little longer, at the risk of a cluttered living room. 

I don’t do well with enforcing the old rule: You have to clean up one mess before you start another. 

Plus, I’m home with Mr. T all day. I appreciate the fact that I have a kid who is able to entertain himself for hours–even if it means that I can’t walk through the upstairs hallway. 

So I struggle with knowing when to insist on clean-up, and when to let the clutter lie. Yes, I want Mr. T to learn to clean up after himself. Yes, I want a neat house. Yes, I want to keep my husband sane.

But I also understand that when your kid snaps together a bunch of Zoobs and forms something he calls A Galaxy of Wonder, it’s, well, wondrous.

27 comments… add one
  • chris Aug 27, 2009 @ 9:45

    In an effort to defend the honor of my cleanliness I truly believe that vacuum wielding is a truly under appreciated skill!

    • patricia Aug 27, 2009 @ 10:43

      Hey Chris, did you see Kristin’s comment? We sure have her fooled!

      I think the piano was dusted in the photo because you did it. But I usually dust! Every few weeks or so! At least downstairs!

  • Kristin Aug 27, 2009 @ 10:36

    Well, the fact that your piano doesn’t have a spec of dust on it tells me things are immaculate in your home. Mr. T’s play is self-directed, creative, imaginary, and most of all, it’s mysterious. Don’t struggle with it–enjoy it! This time will end too soon.

    • patricia Aug 27, 2009 @ 10:46

      I just responded to Chris’ comment, to trick him into reading yours.

      I’m sure he will now fully enjoy all the messes around here. I’m just sure of it.

  • chris Aug 27, 2009 @ 10:50

    All credit for a dust-free piano goes to Tricia. I’m the vacuum king…she’s the dusting queen!

    I hope the creative play never ends but sadly I know that at some point it will. In the meantime…bring on the mess.

  • TheOrganicSister Aug 27, 2009 @ 12:53

    Our house is full of half-finished “I’m still playing with that” creative piles from all of us…Legos on the coffee table, papers across the dining room, sewing projects on the floor of the spare room, crayons and markers and colored pencils everywhere.

    We try to make an effort to pick things up before bed in the main living areas. But I firmly believe that those of us who actually live in our homes are just going to have to accept traces of life throughout our homes. 😉


    • patricia Aug 27, 2009 @ 21:51

      Traces of life in our homes…imagine that!

      Amen, Tara!

  • stefaneener Aug 27, 2009 @ 18:28

    And how great that you guys get to participated, because you can say, “I’m still sitting on that!”

    I just want rooms clear enough so I can rescue folks if an earthquake hits. Really.

    • patricia Aug 27, 2009 @ 21:56

      Well, I guess no one is going to be killed in an earthquake by misplaced zoobs.

      The books though. That’s another story.

  • Angela Aug 27, 2009 @ 21:30

    I think your Mr. T. and my Joseph wold get along swimmingly. Especially the part about the markers being characters in his games. Love that!

    My absolute favorite wedding present was a decorative plate with the message “A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.” It hangs on our living room wall. I have been accused of embracing that spirit a bit *too* fully, but we do have a good time!

    • patricia Aug 27, 2009 @ 22:02

      Ooh, I like that. I think it will be my new mantra as I trip across the Legos. A clean house is a sign of a misspent life. A clean house is a sign of a misspent life…

    • Jennifer Briffa Aug 29, 2009 @ 19:22

      I love that saying, “A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.” The only time I clean house is when I am hosting company and then I am a whirlwind of activity. But although my boys are now 16 and 20 I still love to walk around and snoop at their “creations” and I wouldn’t dream of cleaning them up because I am sure they are still playing with them. For example, in my older son’s bathroom he hung a bunch of postcards he rescued from a box of cards I used to collect when I was younger than he is. he loved them and asked if he could hang them right next to his toilet. he is still playing with them as he changes them from time to time. My younger song leaves curious items he has used to make cool CD covers for mixes he puts together for friends and I love that he is still being creative that way. Remember collages from preschool! If I clean up the stuff right away he may not get inspired to make the next one for a while. I could go on and on but I think it is great Tricia that you let Mr T keep his little creations going for a while.

      • patricia Aug 30, 2009 @ 21:57

        I love that your big boys still leave some creative messes around.

        Today Mr. T played for a good half hour with peanut shells. Yep, he’s a nut!

  • melissa s. Aug 28, 2009 @ 10:57

    glad to hear other people consider legos to be a permanent part of their home decor 🙂

    • patricia Aug 28, 2009 @ 11:23

      Okay, this time you’re commenter #600! Once again, when I saw on my dashboard that comment #599 had been posted, I wondered if you’d show up.

      Have you hacked your way into my dashboard? Are you telepathic? Do we have some cosmic bloggy connection?

      I’m starting to doubt the chance factor. Guess I’ll just keep calling you my blog lucky charm. 🙂

      • melissa s. Aug 28, 2009 @ 12:55

        That is really freaky! No telepathic tendencies that I know of…but they would come in handy some days. I should explore that 🙂 I’ll keep my fingers crossed for comment #700!

  • Laura Aug 29, 2009 @ 10:35

    I will embrace the “I’m still playing with that” from here on out. So…. the fairies, the clothes being made for the fairies, the pens, paper, american girl dolls with their own agendas all over the floor are welcome to stay. I too am grateful for Cassia’s ability to entertain herself. I often miss her and ask her to come play with ME! Great post my friend.

    • patricia Aug 30, 2009 @ 21:45

      Yes, and I’m here to tell you that a day will come when she decides to put her American Girl doll and fairy things away for good. That day broke my heart a little.

      Then again, maybe Cassia will just keep playing like her mama!

  • Barrie Aug 30, 2009 @ 20:53

    Again I am inspired and heartened by one of your posts–I have been struggling for years with the “I’m still playing with that” messes all over the house, all the while enjoying the self-entertainment factor that lets me sit here and read and comment on blogs and whatnot (although right now it’s sleep that’s letting me do it). In our house it can be markers, but for a full year and a half it was toothbrushes. We must’ve spent on toothbrushes in that time what most families spend on the things in their entire childraising years . . . the toothbrushes would constantly disappear from the bathroom and end up grimy and unappealing so that a new dental accessory box was being cracked open as often as daily. And I love the “misspent life” quote–I will indubitably have to use that on my husband! Although I sometimes think sitting in front of the computer is not always spending my life wisely; unless, of course, I’m reading your blog.

    • patricia Aug 30, 2009 @ 21:54

      That’s funny about the toothbrushes. My kids don’t play with toothbrushes, but for years all three of them have saved every single old toothbrush in a bathroom drawer. They have quite a collection there now, including baby ones with chimed handles. It’s actually a fun, odd little collection.

      And maybe you have another mantra for me: Excessive computer use is a sign of a misspent life. Although it doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly as the other one…

      • Barrie Aug 30, 2009 @ 22:23

        How about, “A full browser history is a sign of a misspent life”? And on that note, I’m off to bed!

      • patricia Aug 30, 2009 @ 22:29

        Oh my gosh, I love it. Definitely a new mantra!

        (And on that note, I’m getting off this computer in five minutes. Really!)

  • susan Aug 31, 2009 @ 20:00

    I just love Mr. T’s play. The zoobs on your writing chair are so whimsical. My kids and I have this problem, too. We are never ready to relinquish our play. The cleaner comes and shoves our play into boxes and baskets and our created cosmoses go on living their separate lives hidden in the deep chaos of our house.

    • patricia Aug 31, 2009 @ 21:46

      Wow: is cosmoses how you pluralize cosmos? Created cosmoses–I like that! (Except maybe not shoved in a box.)

  • June Sep 1, 2009 @ 7:37

    Such a beautiful expression of living with creativity. It exemplifies why I love photography…I can capture that spark (sort of) before it does get swept away by the rush to create the next thing (or clean off the table for supper).

    Delighted to have found your blog…

    • patricia Sep 1, 2009 @ 22:39

      Nice to meet you, June! You’re right about photography–I feel a little less guilty putting things away when I know I’ve captured them first.

      I look forward to exploring your blog too!

  • Tara Reese Sep 2, 2009 @ 10:44

    i share in your struggle and i worry that i’m not being consistent in my attitude towards the messes- some days i look around at the piles and they make me happy and other days i have a bit of a psychedelic freakout about them. it’s KNEX at our house, but same thing!
    i did read a beautiful and similar quote recently~ “reimagine the mess as a sign of a life well lived”~ and i wrote it down and taped it up in the broom closet. i don’t think that being a homeschooler and a organizational freaky Virgo really mix, but i’m getting better!

    good morning, good mama!

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