Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Painting Pleasure

Since Christmas, we are running out of wrapping paper (aka finger painting) so last night we got back into it. 

I love to offer them texture and color when painting so went with the full deal of finger paint, shaving cream and of course glitter.

To get started, they take off their shirts. We have aprons and they are great for cooking and stand up art, but when sitting they bunch up. Plus, with finger painting, trust me, no shirts allowed. 

I pile the shaving cream (we are still on our first and only can in over 2 years), white glue (helps keep the shape), paint colors they pick and a smattering of sprinkles on the paper.  A tip here, tape the edges of the paper down. 

Let them go to town.


Now you see why I say no shirts....luckily, they did not paint their faces and hair (this time). 

A vigorous painting session is always followed by a bath.

And the finished works of art. These were taken about 12 hours later. Some of the puffier parts are still drying a bit. I love the textures and how the color comes out from underneath.



This summer, I'm thinking of doing a great big outdoor painting session (with all the kids in the building welcome). We can just hose them off after.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Results Not Typical

We see this in small print on assorted things (most commonly weight loss promotions). It's how companies protect themselves from lawsuits when things don't quite work out the way you hope/expect.

That is what life is all about, results are not typical. There is no such thing as typical. We are not science experiments conducted in controlled environment. We are people with emotions, thoughts and pasts. What works for one person, may not work for another.

Common sense right?

Why then do people find it necessary to attack someone who had a 'similar' experience but got a different result or even had the same result but felt different about it? We see it all the time in comments on Facebook posts or in blogs or op-ed pieces from News Papers.

I'm not talking about comments that disagree with the poster, but ones that attack the poster. Here is a simple example (and nonsensical)

I painted the table red. It looks amazing. I'm so happy I did it.


  • Wow, love it. Wish I had thought of that.
  • To each his own. I would have probably picked blue.
    • WTF? Blue sucks! You have to be pretty messed up to paint something blue.
    • I agree. I had a red table once and it was in the room when my boyfriend broke up with me. Red is horrible. 
  • Cute.
  • How dare you paint that table! The original wood looked so much better. You totally ruined it. I hope you rot in hell.
  • Ignore what other people said, if you like red, keep it.

You get the idea. This is a totally nonsense situation but we've all seen it. Differences of opinions are great. We don't all like the same things, we shouldn't have to. We are not clones, we are people. And even if we were clones, the second we split apart and had unique interactions, our reactions to the same situation could be different.

There is something about the internet that seems to make it okay for adults to bully other people. And that is what it is, bullying. This is not something you would do in person. Yes, posting something on the internet opens it up for public scrutiny. So if you have an opinion that is different and want to share your opinion, do it. But there is no reason to attack another person for an opinion different from yours. It's the opinion you have a difference with, not the person. I've seen some amazing writers pull their blogs because of attacks.

Most recently, I found some disturbing attacks in a series on adoption in Huffington Post called Portrait of an Adoption . The posts are by people with good and bad experiences on all sides of the complexity that is adoption, but most of all they are honest stories written from the heart. This is the third time the series has come up. It's very clear there are many stories to tell.

Adoption itself can be a very emotional issue. Different people may have different feelings on the same aspect of it. And that is fine, good, to be expected. And I think it's good that people share if they had different results in a situation that was similar. I don't think it's good, appropriate or in anyway useful to attack someone, call names etc just because they took a different path or had a different outcome. And that has happened. Some of these people have opened their hearts to share their stories and been attacked by comments. It got so bad that they have had to put comment validation in. I hate that. Comment moderation does stop the attacks but it also deters people from commenting at all. I loved reading some of the comments on the earlier stories where others opened up and shared, even if their outcomes were different from the story. There are less of those now.

So people grow up. There is so much in the media now about kids and teens bullying and how bad it is, how to stop it. Well, one way is to lead by example. Don't be a cyber bully.

Feel free to comment. This is just how I feel. Results not typical.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Vinegar Cake

This is a gluten free cake I've wanted to try for a bit. I liked that it was all mixed in the baking pan, less to clean up (well, it would be less if made without a pair of 3 year old helpers.

I used a mix of gf-oat flour and quinoa flour. I also added a scoop or so of protein powder. I tossed a handful of dairy free chocolate chips on the top, but didn't have enough to cover it all.

It has no xanthan gum so I was worried about how crumbly it would be, but it's good. Like most GF products, you need to make sure it's cooled 100%. 

Corwyn liked it, once I convinced him it wasn't hot anymore. Nathan fell asleep at 6:10 and so will need to wait until the morning for his try.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lego and Toys in General

I grabbed another random box of my Lego out of the closest to share with the boys. It's now our Lego, but they know it was Mommy's Lego and know there is more (although I don't think they know how much).

It turned out to be a box of mostly Lego figures and a few horses. These are not the figures of my youth. Those were the ones that had the long arms on a torso and you made the lower body with bricks; they had an adult male, an adult female and a child of each gender (based on hair) and that was it. They did not fit into any of the doors and were not sized to any cars you could make with the wheels available. These were the little ones that they have had for a couple of decades now. I like that they are scaled to the doors etc. I like the variability. I have many 'just bricks' sets and bought lots of bulk bricks over the years, but if a set comes out that has pieces I like or a theme I like, I got it. So I have A LOT of mini figures. The  pictures below are not even all of them, just those packed into that one box.

(Oh, I do have some of those old school figures in one of those boxes somewhere too).

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker and everyone in between. The boys really like the ghosts and skeletons. Corwyn now insists that there is a figure (with a helmet) on each motorcycle in his daily parade.

But wait you say! There, in that first picture....there, that one....the talk pink girl and the dog-like thing....those are not Lego! Ah, but yes they are.

The dog-like thing is from Fabuland. It was a short lived series, available mostly to schools. The pieces were Lego size but were more....basic if that makes sense for younger kids, but not Duplo. I like it and wish they still had it. The car the dog drove is what Corwyn calls his 'chariot' in the parade.

The tall pink girl is from an earlier attempt to market to girls called Belleville. I got a few sets, not because I was a girl but because I wanted the other colors of bricks (pink and pale green) and some of the accessories. That's the same reason I have some 'space' sets, because I wanted the unusual pieces (or it was just a kick ass sale). The pieces, for the most part fit Lego, but obviously the houses, had to be a different scale to work.

Lego recently put out another theme directed at girls called 'Friends'. It too has lots of pastel colored bricks and it's own line of mini-figures. The mini-figures are closer in size/style to the standard Lego one, but not the same. I don't have one yet, but I'll post a comparison when I do. As with Belleville, I'll get a set or two of these to get some bricks I can't get in the regular Lego line and because I don't want the boys to create a distinction in their mind that there is such a thing as 'girl' or 'boy' Lego.

There I said it. I don't like that they created such a universal building toy with a gender bias. But I understand why they did, why there was a need. Growing up, no one gave me Lego because I was a girl. They gave my brother Lego. Luckily for me, just being a boy did not make him like it. He had no use for it at all. So I played with it. I loved it. People would keep giving Lego as gifts and I would get to keep playing with it. I loved to build and take apart and build again. So why would no one think to buy me Lego?

In this world of gender equality, people still have unconscious or even conscious bias about what is a good toy for a girl or a boy. The stores create areas that are blue and pink. Many parents naturally gravitate towards the section they are told to. Those looking for a gift for a child not their own, will give a store clerk and age and gender and be directed to a specific area. Toy manufacturers either make products to fit these categories or their products don't sell. That is just the way it is, still, unfortunately.

Happily, lots of parents buck the trend and buy their boys doll and their girls cars. I think it's great, exposing their kids to all the options and letting them develop their own interests. Some parents do go too far and won't buy their girls pink-things or their boys trains. To me that is still giving a toy (or a color) a gender. Toys don't have a gender (well, some toys do, but those ones are not for kids!)

I feel bad for the girl who was never given the chance to play with Lego because her parents thought it was a boy toy. It's for those girls, with parents like that, that 'girl' Lego was created. So yeah, it's cutsie with houses and bunnies but it also works with all the rest of the Lego sets. And if a girl gets one of these Friends sets as a gift and loves it, she will probably start to ask for more. Some of that more will be other Friends sets, but some will be general Lego. And if she really loves to build, she will start telling her parents and grandparents which Lego sets she wants.

The same can be said for boys with 'girls' toys. Thanks to a letter from a child, the new Easy Bake will come in "not-pink" so boys could play with. Why can't a boy play with a pink toy??? He could of course. But his parents have to be willing to get him it. He may be worried about what friends or an older brother would say. So make a non-pink one and let him have a toy that is (now) considered girlish. I say now, because the old Easy Bake was in the same colors as the grown up appliances (avocado green ring a bell?). The really old ads in flyers and catalogs often had both boys and girls (admittedly more girls). It was only in the last decade that they started to make them pink and move the marketing 100% towards girls. Yet still, the greatest chefs of all time are men (and not many of those are even remotely feminine).

Blue Easy Bakes and pink Lego are a double edge sword to me. I really wish we didn't need them, but they serve a purpose (well, actually, I think Lego should be in every color just not gender marketed by color).

Did you play with any toys that were not considered for your gender? Did you love toys marketed to one gender more than the other? Was it your choice, or because it was expected of you? Me, I loved Lego, but I also loved dolls. I did not like toy cars but longed for a train set. I had no use for marbles but loved jumping rope.

Friday, January 11, 2013

On Being a Single Mom Who Was Raised by a Single Mom

Warning, long and boring post. But I may stick a cute kid picture in the end, just to keep you interested.

I stumbled across an article in Slate that had reader responses to an article titled Single Moms are Better

I missed the window to be one to respond and be featured but I wanted to add some thoughts.

I am a single mom. I was raised by a single mom. I have some input.

I am a single mom by choice, having kids using the help of a fertility doctor with no known male in the picture. I was raised by a single mom who found herself divorced with a pair of preschoolers and a minimum wage job.

Most statistics say my brother and I should be drop outs. Some say I should have been a teen mother. They say that we should be addicted to drugs or alcohol. They say my brother should have already been in and out of jail. Lies, damn lies and statistics. 

And more. One state last year tried to pass a law that being a single mother was child abuse. Yes, child abuse.

We were somewhere between lower and middle class, (not lower middle, maybe upper lower?) We were not dirt poor. We were not receiving Welfare. We never had to skip meals. Sometimes we had new clothes; sometimes we had thrift store values. For us a new car was one with less than 2 previous owners. I did see envelopes arrive in the mail marked "Final Notice". We moved around, a lot. At one point, we did manage to get into a city housing project so my teen years had a more stable living environment.We grew up in some less affluent areas of town. Our high school was mixed though, with kids from “both sides of the track”. I think that helped a lot more than anything else to give me a sense of balance, of what could be. Segregation because of poverty, more than how many parents plays a huge role in outcome.

Some people argue that parents should work out their differences “for the sake of the kids”. Some say that parents should stay together “for the sake of the kids”. But I remember one friend, M. I thought she had the perfect family. They had a house, on the ‘good’ side of the tracks. They had dinner together every night, both parents and all three girls. They did things together on weekends ‘as a family’. I loved when I was included. Then, when we were in our last year of HS, her dad left them. And not just left. He had been having an affair for years, while pretending to be a good family man, loving his wife.  He was just waiting until the kids were older so they wouldn't be raised by a single mom during their formative years. It devastated M (she was the oldest, I think it hit her harder). She lost her self esteem. She became anorexic.  It would have been better for them to split before he had the affair. It would have been better for him to be a divorced dad who loved his kids and spent time with them. Better for them to be raised by a single mom than to think that everything they believed in was a lie. (My other best friend S had a similar family. Happily, hers was real so don't think I'm saying it's not possible to have the fairy tale)

And my parents? How did I end up with a single mom from such a young age? Would I have been happier if my parents stayed together and ‘tried to make it work’? HELL NO. My dad and I have a good relationship now, but back then, not a chance. He was in the Navy, on active duty. He was gone for months at a time. That in itself is not a problem. But as with many in the Navy, he was an alcoholic. And he wasn't just a drink and pass out alcoholic, he was a violent alcoholic. So yeah, my mom did the hard thing, the necessary thing, and they split up. My dad eventually joined AA (again and again) and the last time was the kicker. He’s been a recovering alcoholic for over 30 years now. Sure, I wish that he could have done this 43+ years ago, that we had been important enough reason for him to do it, but it was an addiction. It controlled him. And being on board ship for months at a time, I don’t think back then it was possible to be a recovering alcoholic. So I had a single mom. And yeah, there were struggles.

But it couldn't have been that bad. Both my brother and I have university educations. And yes, we paid for our own. In fact, I couldn't continue to pay for full time education and took 10 years to get my undergraduate degree, going part time while working full time.  But damn it, I earned that degree.  And more, when I finished, I had less than 3000 in student loans that I happily paid off within a couple of years.

My mom and I have been developing a relationship for a while now and I hope it continues to grow and evolve. Ours was not always great growing up. She didn't have the best example of being a mom from her own mother, but that knowledge didn't help me growing up. But all of it together, knowing her childhood, knowing mine, seeing my friend M’s family fall apart and my friend S’s family being so wonderful, I knew what I wanted and did not want for my family.

I have always wanted kids, always. I don’t think there was a moment in my life when I didn't want them, even at times when I thought it would never happen. And I wanted lots of kids. I still want lots of kids. (6 kids feels like the magic number somehow). It was discussed with my partners over the years, but it was never the right person or the right time. But even without a partner, I knew I had to have kids. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, I have kids now, 2. (so far)

And I went into it with my eyes wide open. Unlike my mom, I knew I was going to do this on my own. I knew I wouldn't have someone else to share middle of the night feeds with. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay in bed if I was sick. And while I wanted (want) 6 kids, I kinda thought I’d have them 1 at a time. I love having twins but those present their own challenges that I only sort of knew about.  But it’s good. It’s good, even when it’s bad.

How do the boys feel about having just me? They are okay with it. They want someone else at home so I can stay home from work. They know I work so that we have a place to live, food on the table etc. Sometimes Corwyn has asked for another mommy (he wanted 8 for a while) so I could stay home from work. Nathan has talked about a Daddy recently but if I ask him what he means, he doesn't know, he just saw it in a book "mommy and daddy". We talk about all the people they have in their lives. They consider themselves lucky.

When I was checking Reece's Rainbow daily, cheering for and promoting the orphans at Christmas, the boys would ask about them. I told them these kids have no mommy or daddy. And they would immediately pipe in with the people we talk about they do have that these kids don't “no E(caregiver) no aunty Shaun and uncle Joe; no Brian and Boun; no Gweny; no Monika and Aias.”  And the list goes on. It always includes the people I just listed and the others change based on who they interacted with the most recently.

Even without my trying, they see a mix of family types all the time. We have friends with no kids, single or in couples. There are gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples with and without kids. There are other single mom families part of lives (most of those are via divorce). They see it all, they take it in and we discuss it openly. Unlike when I was growing up, being raised by one parent is not so uncommon anymore.  They have role models in those who touch our lives. If it takes a village, my boys have that.

Sometimes I miss it, not someone to share the responsibilities with, but someone to share the joys with. Other times, I hear my friends complain about their partner and am so grateful I don’t have to deal with that. I’m happy that I don’t have to consult with someone else on my decisions.

But in case you’re wondering……I’m open to the idea of the boys having another mommy. 8 might be too many, but one more could be nice. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Evolution of a (Lego) Builder

This Christmas we made the move to 'big kid' Lego (although my guys call it baby Lego because it's smaller). Yes, they are still young enough for Duplo, but mommy has an entire closet (and I mean entire) full of Lego she has not taken out in years. The Duplo is still there, although it's being ignored.

Oh, for the 2 or 3 people out there who don't know the difference, here. Standard Lego is about 8 times smaller than Duplo.

Both boys play with the Lego/Duplo but Corwyn LOVES it. Here are some shots of the evolution of his play with the blocks.  His Duplo use started out building 'Trains' and then square towers with all the blocks filled in, onto creations with a ton of imagination. He started to figure out bridges, stairs and supports. Then I messed him up with the smaller bricks. He likes to build with the instructions and for the couple of new sets they got, he did that first, but he's back to first love of turning everything into a 'train'. He even put the horses on wheels so they could join in. The Lego motorcycles are a huge hit too.

 So far they have a teeny tiny bit of the Lego available. My place is not big enough for all of it to be out and they are not ready. But I'll  keep adding more bricks and blocks over time.

I can't wait to see what he creates with the Lego!