Five, four, three, two, one…family art project!


Around here, our boys’ interests come in stages. Lately, we’re into rockets, the first stage, the second stage, and the third stage.

We started talking seriously about rockets when John added Tomorrow Land: Disney in Space and Beyond to our limited DVD collection. The suit-wearing scientists and whimsical cartoons describing outer space and rocketry captured Leo’s imagination.

When Leo and Daniel’s preschool assigned us a family art project last week, Leo told me that he wanted to make an enormous Cat in the Hat. I was nervous because he’s a bit of a perfectionist, and chances we could duplicate a Seuss character that would satisfy him were slim. I made a few other suggestions, none of which were acceptable.

Then I had an idea. “How about a rocket?” I asked. Leo considered for a minute or two before he agreed. We collected paper towel rolls, bought some colored tape, pulled out the aluminum foil, and went to work.

I should say that Leo and his father went to work. I was cooking dinner, and Daniel was playing with a tractor in our bay window. I’m not sure that’s how the preschool envisioned our family art project experience, but that’s how it happened. And I was just happy everyone was occupied and the project was underway.

Baba may have been doing the lion’s share of the work, but Leo had plenty of input. The rocket had to have three stages, he said, and it had to be able to come apart. Yes, he thought the foil would work. No, Mama, it could not have a name or numbers on the side. Sometimes it astounds me how many opinions can be deeply held by someone so small—until I look at his equally opinionated 2-year-old brother.

Last night we put the finishing touches on the rocket. Daniel and I designed the Launchpad, while Leo and his father worked on the nose cone, which has proven the most challenging part of the design. There was plenty of cutting and gluing and coloring and taping.

At one point we realized Leo was speaking with a German accent, trying to sound like one of the rocket scientists from the old Disney DVD.

“Action und reaction,” he said in his most scientific-sounding voice, as he pulled the rocket’s stages apart and then restacked them.

I have no idea whether this project is what the boys’ preschool had in mind. But our homework assignment is complete, ready to turn in tomorrow, and it is proudly on display in Leo’s room, alongside his trains and Chinese sword.

We also have a younger brother who believes he helped and an older brother who now feels like a bit of an expert on outer space. “Going to outer space looks uncomfortable,” he told us. “You can’t use pillows.”

But he still wants to go. Last night we looked at some of the first images Curiosity sent back to Earth. And I noticed that our conversation changed slightly. I thought the plan was for Leo to go to the Moon, but now he’s not so sure.

Even though he says the dust will make him sneeze, now he wants to go to Mars.


Catholic Review

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