Wednesday 28 Sep 2016

Hobbies
Jennifer Flaten

Before summer started, I encouraged the kids to find hobbies. Maybe encouraged isn’t exactly the right word. Perhaps a better word is ordered. I ordered them to find hobbies for this summer.

Of course, to some it might sound draconian, or even a bit crazy to order one’s kids to find hobbies, but I assure you I had everyone’s best interests at heart. I am interested in keeping my sanity and they are interested in keeping their lives. So really, it is a win-win situation for everyone.

Unfortunately, my kids are at the age where they need to have something concrete to do during the summer. They all still have great imaginations and a sense of fun, but they are reaching the age where they just don’t play anymore.

My hobby proclamation came about after a long day of sibling warfare. In fact, the kids set a new personal best record for time outs that day. After time out number 62, yes, I counted. I gathered and suggested they find a hobby. If they couldn’t find a hobby, I would assign one.

Before you ask, no videos games do not count as a hobby, and neither does poking, prodding or generally annoying your sibling until they get neither up and chase you around the house. Yeah, my kids thought that was unfair, too.

Sensing everyone was struggling to think of a hobby, I suggested we go the craft store. It was merely a coincidence that I needed some things for myself there-a total coincidence I tell ya.

At the craft store, my oldest daughter fell in love with the paint-by-number kits. Yes, they still make those and yes, they are exactly as you remember them. The kits still contain a piece of cardboard printed with nearly indecipherable numbers and a wee little brush to dip in your minuscule pot of paint.

Technology is so advanced, we can access an entire world of information from a phone the size of a graham cracker; yet, time hasn’t touched the paint-by-number kit.

After spending an inordinate amount of time deciding whether she wanted to paint cute puppies or fearsome wolves, we were on our way home with our craft and hobby supplies.

My daughter applied herself to the paint by number with the same diligence as Michangelo working on the Sistine Chapel. She showed me her painting when she was done.

That aspect of the kits hasn’t changed, only as the kits from my childhood. If you view it up close, it is nothing but a giant mess. If you take off your glasses and view it from afar, it looks exactly like the picture on the box.

The kid was thrilled and announced she planned to complete every kit in existence. So off we went to buy some more kits.

Now, this is where the trouble starts. Kid number two decides she is going to become a paint-by-number artist too. This doesn’t sit well with the first kid. The girls might be twins, but sometimes, they act as the Sharks and the Jets. In fact, I often expect a well-choreographed dance fight to break out.

Against my better judgment, I bought kits for both of them. We got them home and both girls ripped into their kits, both determined to prove they were the Da Vinci of the paint-by-number kit crowd.

By the time they were done, there was paint everywhere. Everywhere even in places paint should never be. Those paintings were so bad, even a mother couldn’t love them.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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