Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Toddler-induced Insanity (AKA Homemade Watercolors)

I’ve been called “brave” by a fellow mom for the activities I allow my toddler, Lady O, to engage in, but I’m pretty sure that “brave” means “crazy.” The “brave” reputation comes from my willingness to play what we call “messy games.” For instance, Lady O asks to “play with the flours” several times per week.

She doesn’t get to play in the flour that often, but she asks. Sometimes she asks for the messy game with the colors:
Baking soda and colored vinegar=many minutes of fun, which is basically hours in toddler land.

Today, she asked to do bubble painting, one of the tamest of our messy games. I can’t claim credit for the invention of any of these (except the flour, I guess. That started out as moon sand but I got lazy); I found them all on Pinterest. As the stay-at-home mom of a toddler, I’m always looking for new activities to keep her mind busy and her feet off her five month old brother.

I am, admittedly, also trying to keep her out of my activities, which can’t all be relegated to nap time. Since becoming a SAHM, I’ve become more interested in decorating my house. I think this is a natural consequence of spending so much time within the same three rooms with two children two years and under. Having pretty surroundings makes it easier to be home, and when I get frustrated, I can look at the beautiful things I’ve made and feel a sense of accomplishment. And also, I get bored sometimes. Dr. Seuss has a relatively short shelf life in terms of adult interest. Currently I’m working on my kitchen. It’s laid out in the worst possible way for a mom of little kids: the kitchen is parallel to the living room, but across a full wall from it, so I can’t see my kids if I’m in there. (And no sane-ish parent is about to encourage their two year old to hang out in the kitchen with them. Chemicals and knives and counters to climb—oh, my!)

What was I saying? Oh, yes. The makeover. There’s a whole half wall above my sink that is completely blank: no cabinets, no window, nothing. Dishes are hard enough to get through, and without something pretty to look at, there are days where I just want to toss them out the window rather than stare at the white, white wall and scrub. So I’m trying to remedy that by creating some d├ęcor for my kitchen. But I can’t paint without Lady O wanting some of that action, and unfortunately, the only paint I have is acrylic. (Okay, and fabric paint.) So I set her up with several layers of newspaper, some cheap brushes, paper, and the tiniest bit of paint I could manage to drip out of the bottle. And then I made homemade watercolors for her.

Here’s the problem: I didn’t read the directions first. I just skimmed them to make sure I had what I needed. And as I got all the ingredients mixed, I finally read that they would take twenty-four hours to dry out and be ready to use. That’s like 2 millennia to a toddler. And to the mother of the toddler screaming for the promised paint. It also took what felt like 2 millennia to mix and color the paints, so we’re really looking at 4 millennia. It was probably an hour and a half total, but either length is too long in toddler time. It took so long that I got the hiccups from my building tension.

Nevertheless, we now have watercolors drying above the fridge and Lady O is napping. And I thought I would share with you the lessons I learned about making watercolors at home.

I used this recipe.

First, don’t get all conservationist and try to fit all of the paint base in the ice cube tray. I don’t like to waste, and it seemed like I could fit more, so I did. But when I started mixing the colors, I discovered my error. Anyone who thinks ahead (not me, obviously) would have realized that if cubes were too full, they would run over when mixing the colors in. My husband, for instance, would have told me as I poured the first cube that I would have that problem. I remained unaware until I started mixing the red. I sort of solved this by doing the colors in rainbow order. I figured that a little bleeding here and there wouldn’t hurt, since I was mixing my own shades anyway. That was true until I attempted purple.

Let me interrupt for a second and say this: Dear purple, I hate you. You are impossible to make and you always turn out ugly. Because of you, Lady O won’t be able to make a “raingow,” though I’m sure she’ll ask several times and cry and get frustrated when we can’t finish it because of your stubbornness. I hope you can live with yourself.

The purple, besides being more in the range of charcoal-brown, had more completed colors to spill into, and so took the opportunity to taint all of them. I almost ended up with a half tray of different shades of brown because of that purple. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d been content to fill each cube only half or three-quarters full.

Oh, and apparently the popsicle sticks I was using are starting a mutiny. I know because I found a few of the shivs they’re making in preparation.

I can pretty much promise that when these watercolors run out (never, I hope), we will go to the dollar store and buy more, like sane people.

(I want you to know that most of my “crazy” activities pay off. The flour, for instance, keeps her occupied for at least half an hour. Do you know what you can get done in half an hour? A lot more with your toddler out of the way! Also, they generally provide hilarity. One of the first times we did the flour activity, before I learned to only dress my toddler when absolutely necessary, I looked over at her and thought, “Hmm, I don’t remember buying her white socks.” And then I remembered: I didn’t. Her socks were pink with silver polka dots when I put them on her. Those socks left the cutest white footprints across my carpet.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Two Year Old's Guide to Eating PB&J

Step One: Make sure Mommy has separated your sandwich into halves, even if your sandwich is only a half to begin with.

Step Two: Open each half to inspect the contents. Determine whether Mommy used creamy or crunchy peanut butter.

Step Three: If she used crunchy, pick each peanut chunk out of the sandwich and eat it. If she used creamy, pick each imaginary peanut out of the sandwich and eat it. Make sure to leave behind holes where the "peanuts" were.

Step Four: Complain about your sticky hands in your "pre-meltdown" voice until Mommy wipes them clean.

Step Five: Hold each open-faced sandwich in both hands and eat right down the middle, biting like a half-starved T-rex into the fleshy center of your sandwich, but only on three of your four portions. Stay well away from any crust portion. Cry crocodile tears if the bread rips even a little.

Step Six: Using your fingers, pull small bits of the sandwich, including bread this time, away from the area of the crust, saving them from potential crustiness by quickly devouring them. Do this down to the crust on only one portion of your sandwich, and halfway on a second portion.

Step Seven: When you have consumed all the peanuts, three of middles, and one and a half of the sides of your now open-faced sandwich, call out "Done! Down!" and "Wash hands sticky hands!" until Mommy gives up on her "one more bite" pleas, wipes you down, and frees you from your high chair.

Step Eight: Immediately request a snack.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things (Read: Books)

I often get asked for reading suggestions, and I try to tailor them to the asker as much as I can. But there are some books (and "book" here can mean novel, essay, play, or poetry) that I recommend to everyone, that I liked so much that no matter a person's preferences, they end up hearing about. That list includes:

  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  • The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett
  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, and Macbeth by Shakespeare
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall 
  • The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
Obviously, this isn't a full list of the books that I love. Some literature I can't recommend to just anyone.  "A Modest Proposal," for instance, is not for those who cannot joke about fiscally motivated cannibalism. And all of the above recommendations are more serious in nature, even those by Oscar Wilde (because it's earnest, you see). So if you're looking for something lighter in nature, maybe something what one might call "beach reading," I'll tell you what I took to the lake the other day: Emma and Anne of Green Gables. (No, really, I did, but I didn't open either, so you can lower those eyebrows.)

But if you really must know what I read when I'm not pretending to be intellectual, here's what made it into the one box (for weight and space reasons, we couldn't bring my books or bookshelves, and yes, I do actively miss the books that got left behind) of books that made it onto the moving van to Idaho two years ago:

Editing references, History of the Church (my mom's set that I borrowed and have--ahem--never finished), Jesus the Christ, various Shakespeare, Austen, poetry, and cookbooks. Fire hid during the real packing and so became a stowaway to Idaho. I like it, but it didn't make the original list.

Didn't I say I love Harry Potter? I'm still waiting for the sequel to Pegasus. You hear that, Robin McKinley? My toes are still tapping impatiently.

Not pictured: Ender's Game, Ella Enchanted, Summers at Castle Auburn, and The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool