We’ve Got Stuff … Big Stuff

Like most kids, my kids love to make things. They especially like to make something new out of something old. Sometimes their projects involve power tools and lots of dust-making in the shop with Mr. Enigma, and other times they just require simple materials.

The constant state of making means that we throw almost nothing away. That old egg beater would make a perfect laser blaster on a space ship, dontcha know! Of course, that means you must keep a lot of parts lying about just waiting to be recycled into something cool.

box of parts

It also means we have to keep our eyes peeled for treasures wherever we go. In fact, my son, The Duke, has become quite the diamond-in-the-rough finder. “Mommy, look what I got!” is a common phrase here on Sundays, the day before trash pickup on our street. Just a few weeks ago he came home with a nice, old, rusty, electric double burner.

“What do you want that for?” I asked.

“I’m gonna take it apart.”

You can’t argue with that, but you can argue with keeping someone else’s old, rusty, food-encrusted burner in your house. So we put it on our “3-season porch,” and the Duke agreed that after he took it apart, we’d throw it all away. So couple of nights ago, he took it apart, and we’ve tossed the sharp and nasty bits. But even the grownups realized we couldn’t throw it all away. Look at these burners. Can’t you see them on a robot? Danger, Will Robinson!

old burners

I love the kids’ projects not only because every one of them is unique, but also because the kids bring so much excitement, creativity, and joy to the table (or backyard, or shop) every time. The result is a creation straight out of their imaginations.

Take this contraption, for example. It’s a DNA scrambler, but I’m sure you knew that. And I’m sure you knew it wouldn’t work without the hat.

what is it?

Basically, you use the scrambler to turn yourself into another creature. You select the creature (some animals, some magical, some mythical, some newly imagined) from the table of creatures. Next, you use the blue dial to set the size of the creature, and then a bunch of other stuff happens with lights and menus and stuff like that (use your imagination, please!), and then you turn into that creature.

A few weeks ago, The Duke made the scrambler over the course of a couple of evenings. Mr. Enigma was working in the shop, and the Duke went in to check it out. The next thing you know, he had decided to make his own project. (A common occurrence when Mr. Enigma is noodling around in the shop.) The first night, the Duke planned out what he would make and started drawing the different creatures on the hardboard. He finished about half the grid that first night. Then he put it down and came back to it another night, when he asked me for some ideas for other creatures he could add to the grid. Once he had finished the grid, he and Mr. Enigma put the finishing touches on the hardboard, and then they made the hat.

And there you have a new, handmade, unique toy. Lots of imagination went into it, and lots of imagination is required to play with it.

Even though each project is unique, the recent creations have one thing in common: they’re big. So we have big raw materials we just can’t throw away because someone might make something out of them, and we have big finished projects that we can’t throw away because someone spent so many precious hours working on them.

Our house is now officially overstuffed with big stuff. We’ve run out of corners and nooks and crannies to stuff stuff in. Our back porch is full of not-yet-used parts, leftovers, and completed projects.

We have two time machines on our porch, for example. (Doesn’t everyone?) The Firstborn saved a box this summer and made a time machine from it. She put a computer keyboard on the inside so she can program the year she wants to visit. Here she is spray painting it.

paint the time machine

Wait, what’s that? Could it be the Anarchy symbol?!


Alas, no. It’s just a T in a circle, the Firstborn’s trademark.

T symbol

The Duke made the other time machine from an old bike we picked up from someone’s trash.

The Duke's time machine

We needed the bike pedals for another project, a unicycle, that the Firstborn wanted to make from the bike she had when she was about four. Last fall, Mr. Enigma appropriated the pedals and drive train (a drive shaft rather than a chain!) for the Firstborn’s go cart. So we still had a wheel and a bike seat, but no pedals for the unicycle.

Here’s the go cart.

the go cart

Often, the kids play with their new creations a lot right after they make them and then don’t use them much after that. But playing with the finished product isn’t the point. The point is to make the creations the first place. The kids spend many hours on these projects just because they want to. And that’s why they’re important.

And that’s why, in spite of how much I’d like to sometimes, I can’t ask my kids to get rid of this stuff, even though we have no place to keep it. Besides, how can I even think about asking my kids to get rid of the big stuff they’ve made, when their father has been schlepping this fella around for the past 20+ years?


Mr. Enigma found a large oak tree stump on our college campus many moons ago. Then he fired up a chain saw, and out popped TreeGuy. That sucker is big and heavy. And he’s apparently here to stay, like all the other projects.

Don't fear the TreeGuy

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  1. Not June Cleaver said,

    November 23, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

    Wow! Can my 9 year old come to your house? He’s such a creator. They’d get along great.

  2. lori said,

    November 23, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

    lol … are you talking about your child getting along great with my kids or my husband? 8-)

  3. writinggb said,

    November 28, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

    Hmmm. I didn’t know you guys were collectors. Next time I come over, I’ll be sure to take a pass through my attic for old things I can’t bear to leave on the curb…. Perhaps Bubby will join your two in building something marvelous….

  4. JJ Ross said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:54 am

    Young Son and I were just marveling at this invention, and he exclaimed: “Of COURSE it doesn’t work without the hat — there’s WIRES on the hat!!”"

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