I often find myself at odds with Son regarding his Legos. He loves to build in various corners of the house, bringing pieces to unexpected areas, finding inspiration in a book or in a car, or simply just dumping out all the pieces onto the floor and digging around to find that one unique piece. I'm not bragging when I say I think Son might be kind of a Lego genius, as he can build things out of these tiny little bricks and they look cool, inventive and unique.
His creations don't quite catch my fancy because they create a HUGE MESS! The Legos get strewn from one end of the house to the other, and sometimes there are days when I don't think there is a single room Lego free. As it is, I created a wonderful Lego build space for him and he INSISTS on building on the stairs, in the middle of the kitchen, or in the hallway. Never does he actually use the cool building area I created.
My personal desire for neatness and order and his personal drive to do new and exciting things with his Legos often bump up against each other. This past weekend, he was inspired by this great Sean Kenney book and decided that he HAD to create a building with a working elevator. The book outlined the basic mechanisms, and the rest was up to him, and he went at it. He went nuts for it. He didn't stop. It meant he destroyed a series of completed Lego sets that he had, all in the name of finding specific pieces so he could build the building. Seven different completed projects were destroyed with little bits of Lego shrapnel, all while he attempted to make his masterpiece.
I couldn't stand it. I couldn't take it. And I wanted to scream. I did scream and yell and ask for him to clean up the Legos. I threatened to vacuum them up, to throw them away, and the look on his face was one of someone who didn't mean to upset me, but just HAD to keep building. I suddenly wondered how many times have I squelched creativity in the name of neatness and order. How many times have I interrupted Children in their free play in order to make them clean up? The answer is probably way more than I'd like to admit. I'm pretty darn blessed with Children who can take pieces of recycled paper and create an entire circus or a candy store, or as they demonstrated over President's weekend, lots of snow. This freedom and creativity is something that I should want to foster, and not suppress. It's just hard allowing them all that freedom when the chaos of the house threatens my own mental well-being.
I bought these boxes in order to help combat the Lego disorder at the house. I just want them put away. I'm not going to emphasize keeping them in their individual sets, but instead try and organize them by pieces, or by structure, or perhaps themes. I'm not sure. I just want Son to be able to easily see what he's looking for and to easily put things away, should this Mommy's temper arise. I'm sure this isn't the best solution, but it's a simple one that I can live with, and hopefully allow him to be a creative master without destroying my sanity. I want him to be free to express his Lego creativity, but I also want to be able to walk through the house without the threat of a Lego piece reaching up and stabbing me.
I'm trying to remember that a bit of creativity is a good thing, as long as it is harnessed properly and prevented from overflowing into all areas of the house. In the kitchen, I give myself lots of free rein to do something unusual with food - why shouldn't Children have some measure of that same free rein? This pasta dish, with the kalamata olives is a bit unusual, but I thought to myself, why not? I have a jar of olives to use up, why not use it up in this pasta? Turns out - that bit of creativity was well worth it, because I LOVED it. Daughters loved it as well, and the only non-lover was Son, who didn't appreciate my creativity the same way I didn't appreciate his. Karma is a pain it seems.
The dish does use more than one pan (sorry), but the roasting of the tomatoes makes it extra special. It softens them and intensifies their natural sweetness and so it's worth doing.
Sausage Rigatoni with Kalamata Olives
Serves 6 to 8
1 lb rigatoni
24 oz (1½ lbs) cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casing removed, roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
½ cup fresh basil, julienne
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water (before draining pasta, remove hot pasta water from the pot. Set aside)
Preheat oven to 400. Cook pasta in salted water, one minute less than package directions. (12 minute cooking time, cook only 11 minutes.) Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid, and drain rest of pasta. Set aside.
While pasta is cooking, on a cookie sheet, place cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Give a quick toss, and roast in oven for 8 to 10 minutes (will vary depending on size of your tomato). Remove from oven when done and set aside.
Heat on high, a large heavy bottom pan (I use the same one I cooked my pasta in). Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sausages. Cook sausages, breaking with the back of a spoon, until golden, about 5 minutes. Reduce to medium, and add garlic. Cook until garlic is golden, then add tomatoes and reserved pasta cooking water. Stir and cook, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add pasta all at once, and allow sauce to coat rigatoni. Cook another minute, and then add olives and basil. Season with salt and pepper if needed. (Kalamata olives are salty, so beware.)
Serve hot, with a lovely sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
A little messy creativity really doesn't hurt anyone.
Sean Kenney's book, which was the start of all of the trouble, but a great book of inspirational designs for young kids. It isn't a lot of step by step instruction, but rather photos and text of inspiration for young, creative builders.
The boxes I'm using to try and get SOME sanity.