Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Backyard Again: What Is That Patch of Grass Even For?

"The yard is nothing but a fence"
R.E.M., "Gardening At Night"

Are you like me in noticing other mothers at leisure?  Mothers coffee-klatching poolside while their kids are swimming or running around, relying on the lifeguards to notice if anything really bad happens.  Mothers sitting on lawn chairs in their driveway talking on the phone while their kids ride bikes or run through sprinklers.  Mothers reading books on a park bench while their kids play on the equipment.  Reading. books.  That one is my personal favorite.

Of course, I'm talking about mothers of typical children.  When was the last time that you were able to do that?  Ever?  How many counties away would your kid be if you did that for even five minutes?  How many gypsy tribes would they have passed through by the time you looked up from the first page?

I can't take my eyes off of Audrey for a minute, and I wouldn't even classify her as a "runner".  She knows not to go in the street, but still wanders visit neighborhood doggies, check out the koi pond (with waterfall...oh yeah) a couple of doors down or stare down sewer grates.

We can't even hang in our back yard because it's not enclosed and there's not one, but like 5 different ways to exit it.  But that all changed as of last week.  Yep, we finally got a new fence and completely enclosed our back yard.  And now we empty yard that gets little shade and which Audrey will probably not want to spend more than 30 seconds in.

You mean to tell me that I just can't plop her in the middle of this like it's a play pen 
for 7 year olds while I sit on my ass reading about Kate and Wills in OK! magazine?

It could be that we need some form of entertainment for her.  One of you say...swing sets?  But then she'd just want me to push her because she still can't do that herself.  A rock wall?  She'd break her neck and that would really cut into my leisure time.  A slide?  "It's too hot! I'm burnt! I need an ambulance!"  A pool?  Just another thing that I'm supposed to keep clean that I won't.

I'm thinking a sprinkler-slip-n-slide-y thing that could double as a toboggan run come winter.  Either that or stick her under an umbrella with her DSi.  That counts as quality outdoor playtime right?


  1. How about sandbox/water table? Little Tykes does have a small climbing thing with a small slide. It's small and it's what A would play on or under at her little school. Or finger paints on an easel though the fence looks like a very nice big easel so maybe scratch that. lol.

  2. Six words. Navy Seal Basic Training Obstacle Course.

    Btw, who trims your lawn? He He.

  3. I love this post
    For me there is the other thing- all the "therapy mom" stuff we are supposed to be doing

  4. I would say get the swing. My son also didn't understand how to 'pump' to swing himself for a long time, but he eventually learned because it was always there for him to mess around on. Now he'll swing to entertain himself. (He's 13 now and has known how to swing for several years?) My husband asked 'Is this an autism thing?' I don't know, but he loves it.

    An area of bare dirt and rocks for huge construction projects is also popular at our house. Plus a hose for making streams through the wood chips under the swing.

  5. A small inflatable pool? Trampoline?

  6. Trampoline? Fenced back yard just means that you can have your back door unsecured or maybe even open if it's not too hot or cold. My kid would stay out there morning until dark just twirling, jumping and running. He just had a mini-melt down because I wouldn't let him go out back at 4:45 am in his underwear.

  7. All of the above are great suggestions! My greatest area of mom envy is exactly what you were talking about: moms who get to sit and watch while their children play. I just had a long e-mail negotiation with a friend about which park to meet at for a playdate because she didn't realize that our ability to actually talk to each other while on this playdate requires picking just the right park, one that doesn't require too much help from me for my son to play on, isn't big enough or out-in-the-open enough to necessitate hypervigilance every second. Well, I alsways have to be hypervigilant, but if we pick just the right place, I may not have to actually follow him up , down and around the whole time. Of course, no matter which park it is, the whole thing is basically an OT/social skills session and I have to be the OT. Sigh.

  8. Fences are my favorite. I am soooo grateful for my fenced back yard.

    Maybe you could toss a ball out there. Do you think that would be sufficient? Or a dog!! Maybe a dog!

  9. I always try to be on of those moms at the playground. I have even brought a book before! A page never gets cracked. Mostly b/c either 1)Ben NEEDS to be join him on the "my ass ain't going to fit there" slide, or Katie just wanders aimlessly and gets more and more anxious about WTF she should do. Although, last week we visited a new playground and they had one of those things you sit on and spin around. Some older kids took over spinning duty for a while, so I did get to sit for a bit. Until Katie followed them off into the woods to look for frogs and I had to get off my butt to follow her. My kids do love the sprinkler and slip and slide, but it's not like they ever spend hours outside. We have a swing set and sandbox, and thankfully Katie can finally pump her own legs. Our issue is just nothing holds her attention that long. She won't wander, though...just come inside and be annoying.

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  11. I hate my friends that send there kids outside and they sit indoors and get their weekend stuff done, read books, or worse get to swim during adult swim at the pool because their kids wont run away.
    My parents got us a swing set from Costco years ago and it saved our sanity. And every year we buy a new slip and slide or crappy sprinkler and water guns in the hopes that the boys will like them and get along and use them.
    I have allowed time outside to have a DS on I guess neither of us will win parent of the year (I was never really in the running for it though)

  12. Nice fence. I see no reason to delay getting a puppy any further now. I will share this sentiment with Audrey next time I see her.

  13. We have a trampoline, one of those little tykes slides which is really too big for her but when put in her kiddie pool offers much entertainment without a lot of interference from me (I can definitely get through a magazine). We also keep a stocked supply of bubbles. I am never crazy about sand as she will just track it in your house. The pool does require emptying every day and that takes about 10-15 minutes but I console myself by saying I am recycling the water to water my grass. We also have a sprinkler with funny tops and a slip and slide. All those things keep her pretty well entertained.

    We also let Maya paint stones and we bought wood and paint it with blackboard paint and hung it on the fence so she could draw with sidewalk chalk out there and we let her paint a few murals which we hung on the fence too. It sounds hokey, but it made it more "her" yard.

    It's a gorgeous fence by the way, I think I need a new one now.

    Listen you will never get her to spend 100% of her time there while you leisurely read or talk on the phone, but you can probably get her to play there 30-40 percent of the time that is great. Also, it is a huge help when you are busy doing something to let her go out there.

  14. Yes!! I am like you!! (In more ways than I care to mention.)

    My feeling on this whole issue is that being outside is overrated. Think of all the money I save on sunblock.

  15. I vote for a swing set too, one with a fort-like area at the top. My kids used theirs til it fell apart. Swinging is great for calming and the fort area was a nice hideaway play spot. A great spot for singing!

  16. Hey, I know what you can do outside...plant a flower or bush or some g*d-damn thing! It's like you're trying to bore the kid into a coma, with all that wide open nothin' ya got back there.


  17. @BWMFA: We had one of those sand/water tables...she was totally uninterested. And the finger paints? Yeah. I'd like to enjoy my uber-white fence for at least a couple of days :)

    @Big Daddy: My lawn matches my...oh never mind.

    @K: Exactly. Even if they were willing to be out there entertaining themselves we are supposed to be constantly facilitating right?

    @Anonymous #1: I'll have to look at getting something modest, as our yard is not big enough for the really behemoth castle-tower-rock-wall-o-ramas.

    @Stimey @Aimee: Ugh. Now you really are trying to kill me. We had to choose between wood and white vinyl and they said definitely not to get white vinyl if you have a vinyl it was!

    @Christine @Kerry @Dana: I like the trampoline idea. I would need one of those ones with netting all around...our yard isn't that big so I'd hate for her to catapult into the neighbor's yard.

    @Anonymous #2: Oh I so feel your pain. I wrote a post once about all of the park variables that I have to take into consideration when choosing one to play/meet at. I'm pretty sure parents of typical kids don't have to think about all that.

    @Jen: Yeah, that's why I'm not investing $2K in a play set...the attention thing. She'd be out there for 2 seconds and then back up my butt asking for her DSi. I would definitely have to log some time out there with her before I could expect her to play on her own.

    @LLA Princess: Parent of the Year...that's funny.

    @Grace: Being outside is totally overrated. And I'm not all biased by the fact that it's 110 degrees here right now.

  18. first of all--envious. all we have is a concrete walled patio, since grass is, well, kinda stupid in Los Angeles (unless you want a crazy and socially irresponsible water bill--but i digress)
    I can send Ben out there where his sun beaten toys reside and he can entertain himself for a while with his water table, or trying to uproot my roses. And then he starts throwing things into the neighbor's yard (obviously envious of their space and copious fruit trees)and i have to reign him in again. If i could put a swing pack there, i would do it in a heartbeat.

    upside--we have deer that we can see beyond our wall (we're on a hill) and they come by every evening.

  19. @VictoriaB: I may have to scout craigslist for a used one, but I do need one that is small-ish because of my teensy yard. Wouldn't want her knocking into the garage when she swings :P

    @Flannery: I don't understand why she can't just sit out there. Man, kids are high maintenance.

  20. @ThisSideofTypical: We had one of those when we lived in San Jose and I loved it. Granted she was only 2 at the time, but it was low-maintenance and shaded and she would actually go out there. Something about a yard just seems so hot and grassy.

  21. That's great! You'll find ways to use it. If she's anything like Moe, she'll just run around the perimeter anyway.

    A fenced in backyard was a requirement when we bought our house because we had a dog. It has been a lifesaver with Moe (despite his one escape - fence has been repaired), and we will spend A LOT of time out there this summer. It is the only place I can safely let the two kids run around when I'm by myself. We have a sandbox, water toys, a playhouse and a swing. I want to get a big climbing structure but my husband seems opposed to the idea.

  22. Hey, whatever way they get the solar vitamin D, go for it. And I'm jealous of your playpen. Fence envy?

    Just yesterday I was talking with a newer acquaintance and she mentioned our 4 year olds should have a playdate. Water spews from nose and mouth, on my end of course. Playdate might be a good word in your world, but for me just another word for torture.

  23. I found myself exactly where you are right now when my boy was younger! Get the sandbox and water table - but just remember that they might not use it for its intended purpose. My favorite thing to do in the summer is to set up a tent in the back yard. My kids love that and sometimes we set up two - one for each of them. They can bring in their books and toys and usually they invite me in for a snack.

  24. Bouncy castle?

    I like the tent idea too.

    Both involve some setup/takedown, though, and aren't good in the current heatwave. We've been doing the inflatable-pool-plus-sprinkler thing in our fenced yard this week.

  25. We fenced in our yard last fall. It's awesome, since A. is a runner and I am not. As far as entertainment, he mainly jumps on the trampoline (little tikes one with a safety net for kids up to 100 lbs). The rest of the time he runs the perimeter of the yard with his head sideways, looking at the way the sun shines through the cracks. Not exactly the most meaningful use of time, but it gives me a break.

  26. @JennieB: Wow, you put us to shame. But then again, a prison cell is probably more entertaining than what we currently have.

    @Cari: No one's ever been jealous of me! Hooray...?

    @Tricia: I like the tent idea, but, yes, I would have to be careful that it doesn't turn into a hothouse of horror on a day like today!

    @JoyMama: Audrey HATES bouncy houses, but I think she might go for a trampoline. Which doesn't really make sense but somehow I think I'm right.

    @Jana: She likes wet sand better than dry sand, so maybe the water/sand combo isn't a bad idea. Maybe I should just ask her! That would be interesting...

    @Christy: I'm gonna check out that trampoline.

  27. Times were rough before he had friends. The water bills, in particular, were enourmous.

    It took years to cultivate them and a lot of yes-saying to every Dorothy, Betty and Sue who looked for a free babysitter so that she could go shopping/get her hair fixed/attend weddings. (The same people who rarely or never offered to do the same in return.)

    But now he has a solid circle of neurotypicals who accept him as he is. I hope it stays that way when puberty hits in a couple of years.

  28. I personally like the DS under the umbrella idea, but if that's not OK, a sand and water table works great for my little one. He'll spend hours entertaining himself with that.

  29. Hey, no fair. You have to get a kiddy pool and suffer like the rest of had to-blowing it up, filling it, then boiling ten pots of water because the water is too cold to go in even in 90 degree heat, then skimming the grass clippings out of it. After the season, you have to listen to your husband bitch and moan that you killed the grass where the pool was. Then figure out what to do with said pool if you were lucky enough NOT to get a hole in it, as well as all the little toys. You could put a fountain in it.....think about it....

  30. You know what you need? A 'like' button. You're getting so many comments that there's nothing left for me to say. :) I enjoyed the article. Especially the second paragraph.

  31. I can't stand those moms who can talk on the phone or read a book while their kids play. If I turn away for more than 30 seconds there is an injury of some sort...

    Looks pretty white and grassy. How about a microphone, umbrella and DS? She can sing, dance and sit and play... I'd estimate it might get you about 5 minutes of "free" time. (A swing set warning- don't get one with a little fort area at the top of a slide- I watch my kid like a hawk so he doesn't fall off and break something - it's more stressful than I ever imagined.) Enjoy your newfound privacy!

  32. We live in Ohio. For some reason, people don't want, or LIKE fences? They're rarely seen here. We live a few miles outside the city limits but not quite farm land. Our little division has 19 houses. 2 of these houses house an autistic child. We're the only ones on the block with baracades around our house. Just hope there's never an escape. Thats when things get bad lol

  33. @Amanda: Mission definitely accomplished!

    @ryoko861: You have so perfectly summarized the kiddie pool experience...the boiling water...ha!

    @DeeAnn: I know you are familiar with all of your local gypsy tribes :)

    @Karen V: The fort thing makes me a little nervous...she still thinks that she can walk right off and somehow end up with a soft landing.

  34. in our own yard now they are good but for years it was always about escaping and climbing over the fence.

  35. You definitely need something in that backyard for Audrey to play with!

    My daughter couldn't swing on her own either until very recently. I honestly just started to refuse to push her anymore, and when I did, I pushed lightly to she couldn't go as high as she wanted. I told her that if she wanted to go higher, she had to get herself there. It worked! All of a sudden, she's a swinging machine!

  36. Hey, I can see why she might like a trampoline and not a bouncy house. Bouncy houses actually seem more wobbly/unstable. Sandbox and pail to carry water? Tunnel from IKEA.

    And yes, I completely understand. We live in an apartment complex and no fence, so even though there is a playground and grass and trees, most days last year I could not go out because Dr. J decided to run away from me a few times, and I had to decide between him and his 2yr old brother! So far this year he's better,so we'll see.

  37. P.S. I'm a bit jealous of your fence. ;)

  38. You could always ask Audrey's teachers what she engages with when outside at school. They might have some ideas for things you could put in your back yard that would hold her attention for at least a few pages of a book. :) Also, swings can be used in different ways until one masters pushing themselves (ie lying on your stomach, using like a bolster swing) as long as there is enough clearance. For "wet" sand without the mess Moon Sand feels wet, sticks together awesomely, and has never dried out in the three years I used it. She could script her cooking shows with sand or water if you put measuring cups, measuring spoons, and such out with them.

  39. Tramampoline!

    Seriously, we bought one for Crackle and it was the best $200 we've ever spent. Got an 8' one with netting. He spends hours on it. Or under it (it's his batcave).

  40. A little late, I'm trying to catch up on my blogs here, but:
    1. The best way to get GL to play outside is to forbid it. He has to think he's sneaking out. Telling him to go out and play will absolutely kill the idea.
    2. It would take several minutes of me playing on the playground equipment to motivate him to try it. He would then play for about 90 seconds, and be done for the week. He's lost all interest in playgrounds now, except for McDonald's indoor playland, which he insists on climbing in every chance he gets. He's 14.
    3. When we first moved here, his favorite outdoor toy was a stick. He was always trying to bring sticks and leaves in the house. Since then, we have spent more money than I care to admit on various outdoor toys, none of which held his interest for more than a few minutes.
    4. Our house has a porch swing that was here when we moved in. (It's not on the porch, it hangs from a frame in a sunny spot in the yard. He never quite got the hang of swinging himself on a kids' swing, but he couldn't climb into the porch swing without setting it swinging. And we could sit on it and swing with him when it wasn't too hot. He likes to stand on it and get it swinging really high.
    5. The Rainy Day Indoor Playground Indoor Support Bar was expensive, but money well spent. (We got ours from Abilitations.) Switching swings every few weeks maintains interest. Yes, you can buy expensive therapy swings for it, (and we bought a few) but then we found we could look in the therapy catalogs for ideas, and buy similar swings from the local home improvement store. Just be careful where you hang it. The only doorway we could use is between the kitchen and living room, and he always seems to be in danger of kicking someone in the head.

  41. Trampolining is fun that doesn't require any coaxing for your kids as far as the need of health and fitness is concerned. You can watch them have fun while they improvise games or hone their professional skills on the trampoline. Kid's Trampoline

  42. It's very hot outside. Your child's need a way to cool off outside. Inflatable water slide is the best way to cool off for your child's. You can rent a water slide and set this into your own backyard.