Monday, November 29, 2010


1. a toy, problem, or other contrivance designed to amuse by presenting difficulties to be solved by ingenuity or patient effort

Not a lot of school work was done in my home last week.  Monday morning our home contained two sickly members (B and I) and one (A) who was more than happy to skip school work while B and I nursed our Sprites. But by mid-morning, B wanted something to do.  We had just returned from running errands when she and A decided to tackle a puzzle I borrowed from my mother-in-law.  It's a 600 piece global puzzle that B and I completed a few summers ago in a Milwaukee basement.  I had asked to borrow it because I thought A might enjoy this as a hands-on complement to her geography class.  She's not as keen as B on puzzles, but she does seem to be really enjoying geography, so I thought it was worth a try.

I remembered the puzzle being large, so I encouraged the girls to start with it on the dining room table.  (I figured the likelihood of us using the table to actually eat when I felt so ill was low.)  They wanted to start on the floor.  Not wanting to control their fun, I let them get started there.  A few hours later, K's return home from school prompted a move - there's nothing like trying to keep your six year old sister off the puzzle to get you to move it.  We attempted to transition it to the card table, only to find it wouldn't fit.  After a bit of moving, a bit of re-matching pieces and a bit of frustration, the workspace was the dining room table.  (I didn't even say I told you so.)

I have fond memories of completing this puzzle the first time with B.  We worked on a glass table in the cool of my in-laws' basement.  B and I are a good team for this puzzle - she's better than I at spatial concepts and I'm better than she at geography.  When I was on my silent retreat I completed a puzzle and thought of B as I sorted the pieces into colors, then worked to reconstruct the image.  That was pleasant, but I confess to enjoying this puzzle with my daughters much more.

A started by pulling out her geography folder and opening it to a map of the US.  She then scoured the 600 pieces to find the ones that compose our country.  She meticulously put these together and only after doing that was she interested in helping B and I complete the border for the puzzle (which you may notice is missing a piece). 

The puzzle wasn't done when it was time to leave for my parents' house for Thanksgiving.  I made a modest attempt to at least straighten the dining room table - putting the ocean pieces that had been sorted alphabetically back into the box - but I left it largely untouched.  And it greeted us when we returned Saturday evening.  We walked into the house uniformly tired, cranky and thankful to be home.  After eating, the girls wanted to watch TV. Since they used no electronics on the eight and a half hour drive home, I thought it was only fair to let them unwind with a show before bed.  A bit before eight, their show ended and I encouraged them to get their pajamas on.  While watched TV, I'd been working on the waters surrounding Asia.  B saw this, changed into PJs and joined me.  We sat there, working together, asking for a piece here or there, offering help and finished the puzzle that evening.  It meant a slightly later night for our girls, but it was well worth it.

Toddlerhood was a hard parenting stage for me.  But I love, love, love having daughters old enough to work together on a project, who are learning every step of the way.  I especially like working on a project that highlights an area where B is already more gifted than I.  I can find a puzzle piece, but I have to turn it every which way to get it in.  B can look for the shape of the puzzle piece and get it right the very first time.  I think it's great for my nine year old to realize that while I may have more wisdom, she will be able to do things in her life that I could never do.  Not necessarily because she's smarter than I am (although she may well be), but because she's different.

When I started writing this post, I wasn't sure whether to entitle it "MAP" or "PUZZLE," but when I found the definition of puzzle, I knew that must be it.  Because putting together a 600 piece puzzle does require patience, but it also provided hours of amusement along with insight into who this puzzling daughter of mine is.  She's smart, she's patient and she's very fun to be around.

Pointing to Tennessee on the Puzzle
Now that we've finished this puzzle, I just might have to search for one of the US for us to do together... or an Advent one to keep as a quiet pastime that helps us relish the quiet, the beauty, the waiting of this season.

1 comment:

Jimmie said...

I've always loved jigsaw puzzles, and my daughter does too.
You are so right about their being good waiting activities. I can think of many times of transition that we spent on puzzles. Great tie in to advent.