Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pastimes Have Passed Me By...

Welcome to the April 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Pastimes
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about family pastimes. ***

...so much so that I had to look up the definition of the word.

Pastime: noun . something that serves to make time pass agreeably; a pleasant means of amusement, recreation, or sport  (dictionary.com)

Oh, yes. I remember pastimes.

Before children I had many. Drawing, painting, beading, sewing, reading, writing, running, epicurean experiments, movies, not to mention napping. All in one day.

And oh the many completed projects. And even some accomplishments: a few art shows, a few 5Ks. Even with one child I was able to “pass some time” during naps. With a drawing in an art exhibit to show for it.


Now, (with a three year old and a one year old) my pastimes are patchy at best.
Babe-O's unfinished baby quilt. In progress for the last 4 years.

A few stitches here. A few lines written there. Napping is out. And completing projects happens over weeks, sometimes months, even years, sometimes not at all. Like a dress for Babe-ala, some shorts for Babe-O so that I can measure just how much they have grown.

Pastimes like reading, exercising, cooking, even sewing have included little hands and a different perspective on my part.

Cooking is an exercise in camouflaging vegetables like these squash apple muffins or our recent spaghetti without spaghetti dinner.  And an exercise in flexibility. Letting some eggshell drop in, allowing a generous amounts of spice to enter the batter, having less than perfectly shaped cookies emerge from the oven with their own piping hot glory.

Art projects can seem daunting, especially when I think about wax resist watercolor painting with collage photo transfers, or plaster casts of molded clay . Simplicity is best. Watercolors and paintbrushes make for a great any-day masterpiece. Popsicle sticks lead to hours of fun.  So do scissors and scrap paper. A few branches brought inside become a "new house" for us to play and read in.

Messy play has become very important to our family. Like action figures and paint! Mud pies and squirrel stew! Baby painting! Giving them the space to experiment, play, make a mess*, do/make something other than what was intended. Honor the process - don't just tolerate it.  Enjoy it.  Live it. Make a mess. Make magic. Together. And love it.
      * Don't do what makes you crazy. Glue makes me crazy. I "stick" with contact paperfor collage projects.
Often our projects don't turn out as I intended. Sewing on the machine often involves little feet on the pedal and wonky seams and hem lines. Projects, even recipes, get dropped mid-way because sometimes a more familiar activity is comforting. Patience. Give time. Split a project up into small parts for those whose attention is so easily directed elsewhere. Let it go. Pick it up later. Accept that I won't always see or even know what was gained.

Yes, this means I have given up that satisfying feeling of a completed project that comes after a hard day's work. Being able to step back and say ahh, that is exactly what I had imagined and I made that.  For now.

For right now, my favorite pastime is finding “something that serves to make time pass slowly, with intention and that helps me savor this time in my life and theirs - full of possibility.” My favorite pastime is witnessing my children grow, showing them my love of creating. Collecting smiles and giggles along the way. Making memories and magic.  And making sure they know that the best thing I have created has been them. 


*** Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • 8 Reasons to Go Camping with Your Kids — The weather is warmer, and it is time to think about taking a break. As you plan your family vacation, Mandy of Living Peacefully with Children, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, explains why you should consider hitting the trails with your kids.
  • Crafty Cohorts — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys crafting with her kids, and the skills they are learning.
  • 10 Hobbies For Families With Young Children — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama knows that finding hobbies families can do together (with young children in tow) isn't always the easiest of feats. She has compiled a list of 10 family friendly hobbies that children of all ages can enjoy and that won't break the bank!
  • Helping Himawari — Sophelia's family at Sophelia's Adventures in Japan share a passion for helping when a dog is abandoned at the nearby elementary school.
  • The 'Art' of Having FunMarija Smits shares some thoughts on family art and fun.
  • How we made our own Family Day — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how her family celebrates the best day of the week, a chance for connection and adventure and endless possibilities: Family Day!
  • Our Family Hobby — Survivor talks about how animal husbandry has become her family's favorite hobby at Surviving Mexico Adventures and Disasters.
  • Sowing the Seeds of Passions — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs wonders if her interests, and her husband's, will shape her children's passions as they mature.
  • Harry Potter Potions Party — One of the best activities Dionna at Code Name: Mama has ever done with her family has been a Harry Potter Potions Party. She is sharing the resources she used to create their potion recipes, the ingredients and tools they experimented with, and the recipes themselves. Feel free to use and adapt for your own budding wizards and witches!
  • Pastimes Have Passed Me By — Kati at The Best Things takes a new perspective on projects that never get done.
  • Food as a cultural experience for preschoolers — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings finds that food is a good way to engage her preschoolers on a journey of cultural discovery.
  • 10 Reasons I Love Thrifting With My ChildrenThat Mama Gretchen has always enjoyed shopping, but with a growing family she's become more frugal and thus, her little ones are now in tow on her thrift store adventures.
  • Pastime with Family vs Family Pastime — You can share lots of pastimes with your family, but Jorje of Momma Jorje discovered a family pastime was much more pleasant for sharing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Paint Like A Superhero!

Time to inspire some creativity in the hearts of aspiring super heros!
A few action figures and some finger paint is all that is needed. 

We had chases and mysteries to solve by following footprints. We had stuck in the muck criminals and criminals in paint-y jail. We had fun. A new way to tell the Batman story (or which ever superhero is your favorite). 


I tried posting the final painting. It doesn't look like much and feels wrong to emphasis the product on this one.  The story we told, the action that ensued, the mess, the giggles, the fun- these were the best parts of this project. Try it! So easy, so fun!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Shoulds and An Open Heart

Deception I tell you.
Another snow fall. Just enough to cover the ground and streets for half a day.
And it's cold. Our coats are still stuffed into the car seat buckles.
We are still in our boots and mittens.
It's spring but it's not really spring.
And it's got me thinking
about patience
about parenting
about how sometimes my parenting doesn't "look" as it "should."

I love them more than life. No one could ever love them as I do.
They are the brightest, the cutest, the funniest. I know them at their best and their worst. They have changed the world, they will change the world. All the same things mommas think and feel of their babies.

AND I have had some horrible days recently. The kind of days where all of the above thoughts don't seem to be in the forefront of my mind. Where connection never sparked. The kind of days where patience never rang the doorbell and even if it had I probably wouldn't have let it in. The kinds of days where my voice was loud, my face scary. The kind of day that requires forgiveness from myself first.

And why? What is behind these days that happen infrequently but happen?

Time lines. Pressure to get it done.
Conflicting agendas. Mine, theirs, ours.
Expectations. Of them and me.

Three and one half and twelve months. Two very different people. Two very different ages. Both so active. Both so independent. Both need to be so close, in their own ways.  Both exploring their own worlds beside one another. Only one bridge.

Me. The one who should have all the housework done, or at least start it.
Me. The one who should read more parenting books.
Me. The one who should know all the right things to say at the right times.
Me. The one who should be a better example. ALL. THE. TIME.

It's tough.
It's scary.
I don't have the answers. Sometimes I don't even know where to look for the answers.

I only know what makes it a little bit better for me.

Find the soft spot.
It's there. Somewhere.
Maybe buried deeper than I thought.
With time, sometimes a lot of time, it can be
Uncovered. The spot where vulnerability lies.
Live vulnerable. Parent vulnerable.
Parent from the part of my heart that fears and
doesn't give up even after one hundred less than perfect attempts.
From the part of my heart that isn't afraid to say
"I don't know."
"Tell me how."
"I made a mistake."
"I am sorry."
"Let's talk about it."
Parent from the whole of my heart.
Be human.

Because more than all the things I should be doing, should be saying, should be teaching is to be human. To find the softness, the tenderness and stay there.
To forgive myself.
To practice.
To be patient with myself first.
To open my heart even when I'd rather close the door and put up the closed sign.

What an amazing gift... an open heart

The Shoulds don't live there. Just Me.
Me. The one that was meant for them.
Me. The one that loves them like no other.
Me. Just Me
Some food for thought on this snow covered spring day.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


I just grabbed this book off the shelf at the library and hoped that it would be one we would enjoy.It was on the New Books shelf and sometimes I can't resist a clean, creaseless book with a sparkling new cellophane (library) cover. Plus, the next time we take it out and see the smudged fingerprint on page four we will know that we were the first ones to put it there. (Sorry! Sometimes, books and glue don't go together! P.S. I pay my fines. I do!)

Anyway, Babe-O ordered multiple readings. So, it has made it to the best books list. And the book basically begs you to bring it to life. It's so easy to do! Windblown by Edouard Manceau is a book about seven scraps of paper arranged to depict a fish, snail, chicken, bird, and frog who all claim the scraps as their own. But the wind believes the scraps belong to it, and blows them along to the reader with the question, "What will you do?"

I cut out the shapes for Babe-O and gave him some white paper and a black marker.
He immediately constructed the chicken and then got creative with jellies.

I really like how the simple shapes became like a puzzle challange for Babe-O, and he enjoyed working with the marker to add details. Simple, easy, fun. And easy to keep some scraps, paper, and a marker on the kitchen table for spur of the moment creativity. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy Spring!

It's here!
There is mud. There are puddles.
There are tiny bits of green surrounded by the last jewels of melting snow.

Time to start the seeds. Time to blow bubbles. Time to leave the coats at home (even if we have to turn around and get them before we have left the driveway).

Time to try out all the skills we have been practicing all winter long (like walking and climbing).


Time to picnic. Time to tour the all the parks we can find in a 40 mile radius.
Time to play outside all day long.

This Spring will be busy with a first birthday, a new garden to put in, turtle hunting (well not hunting, surveying), our annual trip to the Palmer House, the rounding out of the semester before Sabbatical, and oh, so much playing!

Let's soak in these first few days of a new season.
The crisp clear air cleaning out the cobwebs of winter, fueling our excitement, our growth.
Let's touch everything like we did when we were just one and seeing everything for the first time.
Let's stay in these days longer than we are supposed to like we did when were were just three and not required to comply with grown up sensibilities.
Let's see spring as if we are living in it for the first time...
because some of us are
and why shouldn't we all.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Silk Dyed Eggs ? !

Who knew?
Not me.
You can dye eggs with old silk ties...
I found a few ties at the Thrift Store. Cut them open and cut a few squares. We blew out our eggs, because I had never done it before and Diet Coke Papa has. Fun! Babe-O even helped poke the holes in the eggs with a nail. And if it wasn't so much fun for babies and toddlers to grab eggs that are shiny and hanging on our egg tree we might actually have a few to save for future years.
We wrapped the eggs in silk squares (right side of the tie touching the eggshell). And then wrapped the silk wrapped egg in a piece of cotton (we used squares of an old t shirt). Use twist ties to close the wraps. Babe-O and Deo enjoyed helping with this part. 
In a pot, cover eggs with water and add about 1/4 cup vinegar. Boil for 20 minutes. Let cool. Or in my case run cold water over the "packets" because you can't stand to wait. Open each precious surprise with the kids and squeal with delight!   
Oooo! The red tie worked the best. It was our favorite.
For more detailed instructions on dying eggs with silk check out http://www.marthastewart.com/269788/silk-tie-easter-eggs
and for how to blow eggs out of the shell (hysterical video)
I used some wire and a few beads and hung them on our Spring Tree. To make them shiny I rubbed them with a bit of olive oil. Therein lies the rub, shiny bejeweled eggs hanging from branches. You'll have to imagine it because only a few have survived. Even so, we talk about them a lot since the tree is on the table and Deo has declared that this is the way we will be dying eggs every year.
So special! So fun!
Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sometimes Things Don't Go As You Planned

Well, actually, almost all of the time things don't go as I planned.
I have learned to am starting to am trying to accept that that is just how it is with a toddler and a baby.

Spring Break started with our awesome sort of sledding trip and ended with our interesting and awesome trip to Milwaukee, which was supposed to be a trip to Chicago, but those details are not important. In fact, many of the details are not important, as I will explain. But here they are anyway.

We stayed over in the "big" city for one night. We visited two museums, both of which were not exactly what we had expected. Stayed in one very trendy hotel (we found a Groupon). Ate at one, too fancy for kids, restaurant (also a Groupon's fault). We didn't leave on time, we didn't arrive on time. Our plans were ordered and reordered several times. We didn't have enough snacks packed for the time we were there. Naps and sleeping times were wildly disturbed. Some of us wandered the city in the VERY early morning hours trying to fall asleep and some of us wandered the city in the regular morning hours trying to let said sleepers get their rest. We argued over using public potties. We argued over putting on clothes and coats and diapers. BOTH of the phones seemed to be dead every time we wanted to take a picture and we forgot the camera at home.

But those are the details and without them being written down, I would have never remembered them. Here is what I will never forget about our Spring Break in Milwaukee:

Babe-O. I will never forget the wonder in your eyes as you picniced on the counter in front of the window to the city in our hotel room. You watched the traffic, the helicopters, the city workers as they submerged and emerged from man hole covers, the frozen river and the seagulls floating above the buildings. I will never forget that in all your awe, all your curiosity, you called for me. "Mama? Mama! Why did that worker go down there? He came back up! I am glad he came back up Mama! Mama! The batcopter! Mama? Why is the river frozen? What is on that building Mama?" I will never forget just how privileged and important I feel when you call for me to help you make sense of your world. I will never forget how much I look forward to being included in all your adventures everyday (make believe and otherwise). How your frenetic energy and elastic imagination are absolutely amazing and how I often feel sorry for outsiders who will never truly grasp the brilliance of your metaphors and story combinations. I think you are brilliant, intellectually and spiritually. I adore you. I just love being around you. I will never forget how, sometimes, in the right light, I look at you and see just how big you have gotten and how much bigger you will get. And how my heart aches to think of a time when you will let go.

Babe-ala. I will never forget how you squealed with utter delight as you splashed in the pool. How you fearlessly dunked your head underwater, blinked, and squealed some more. How you clung to me in the water, laughing and shouting, reaching for your brother who clung to your Papa. How your personality and spirit grow every day. How your smile can stop anyone in their tracks. You are magnificent. How I am so totally in love with you. I will never forget how we walked around the city in the morning light, exploring, just us. How we stopped in to the Cultural Center for a rest. How you slept on me under the gilded ceiling and marbled posts. How you cling to me everyday. How slowly and surely you will venture out into the world. How my heart aches to think of a time when you will let go.

Diet Coke Papa. I will always remember that no matter how bad the headache is, no matter how little sleep you have gotten, no matter how awry things have gone you are always up for anything. You are indefatigable. I will never forget that as we quietly ate and "contained" the kids in a restaurant that would have been perfect for any one of our - I can count on my hand the number of times we have been out alone since the baby was born - dates we were us, just us - our warm and fuzzy family, happily reading Scooby Doo (or wrecking havoc) and drinking water out of wine glasses under the watchful eye of the waitress. I will never forget - better together.

So when things don't go as planned, and it seems that I might be frazzled or frustrated, the truth is  that I would always rather go with you. There are no other people in the world better matched for me than the three of you.

There you have it. Spring Break. Over too soon.
No pictures.
No souvenirs.
Just memories.