Mama Re-Grooves

A year of Re-thinking, Re-using, Re-fashioning and Re-purposing

Mama Re-Grooves - A year of Re-thinking, Re-using, Re-fashioning and Re-purposing

Summer Treats

Homemade ice pops are currently one of Nash and Rio’s favorite treat. The flavor combinations are endless! These ones were chocolate banana. A couple of bananas, some unsweetened cocoa, a splash of milk and a bit of brown rice syrup all blended up then poured into the molds made for some messy, yummy goodness. I am still cleaning up chocolate splotches off the concrete in the back yard! Totally worth it though…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The art of making – Guest Post by Javier Solsona

I was fortunate to have grown in a very small town in the south of Argentina (Patagonia). Being so far away from everything, we didn’t have a lot of stuff. I remember so fondly my dad always making us things. We lived in a nice house with a garden and a tool shed where my dad would go and make us all kinds of toys. I distinctly remember the wooden house he built for us where we used to play cowboys and indians. We must have spent countless hours there.

But now nobody makes things anymore. I assume there are a lot of reasons why not. No time. Cheaper to buy. No skills. No desire. The list is probably rather big and most people would justify it to themselves and seems fairly content with their excuse.

This past weekend I went to the maker faire with Nash to explore and see all the exciting things that were available. We were lucky enough to be able to hear Adam Savage from Mythbusters speak. It was a short, but inspirational talk. He said that in the last 10 years people have stopped making things. That made me sad. I imagine it is tied to the computer being so accessible to everybody and we have shifted from being outside and building things with our hands to being inside and playing games on the computer. I work with computers- I certainly know it’s a lot easier to sit and read my facebook page than to build something with my hands.

Having said that I have always had a desire to build things. Now that I have kids I want to build things for them even more. One of the first things I built for Nash was before he was even born. It was a little crib that attached to our bed. After Rio got to use it, it got converted into a play kitchen which makes me happy to say they use daily.

The second project was a bit more ambitious. I wanted Nash to have a wooden horse. I saw a picture online of one that I like and I took it upon myself to build a similar one. Yes. I could have taken the easy route out and bought it. But I wanted to have the pleasure of building it with my own hands. To spend the time and energy required to build something I was proud of for my son. It took quite a bit of time with the rustic tools I had at the time, but it was worth every second of it. Years later, Rio also loves playing with it.

The latest toys have been a bit more practical. Simple, cheap, fast but most importantly, inventive. A few PVC pipes put together make great football (soccer) goals. A few others, a baseball stand and even a few more some kind of quidditch  goal?

It really does not take a lot of time or effort to make something for your kids or yourself for that matter. Sure, I could have bought all these things. They might have even been cheaper. But that’s not the point. There is a satisfaction that arises from making your own toys/things with your hands that you don’t get by paying for them with a credit card.

Creating with our hands is something that I hope I can teach my kids just like my dad taught me. I hope they grow up wanting to experiment, build, make, play with the things around them. It’s the best use of our imagination. It also helps teach our kids about what matters and about delaying gratification- things worth having are also worth working for and worth waiting for.

A great list of places to – gasp- shop!

Here is a great list of places for my friends in the Bay Area! Consignment shops etc. so that you can buy used and reuse! AWESOME! I can’t vouch for any of the places on the list because I haven’t checked them out myself, but encourage you to explore. One shop that is not on the list but I have been to is called Ricochet in San Mateo. The owner repurposes materials to create some great fashions (mostly for girls) and also has some things on consignment.

The Commercialization of Parenthood

Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to read Parenting, Inc. by Pamela Paul. I say “trying”, because it’s virtually impossible during the day to find time to read it and I am not always coherent enough at the end of the day to put my mind to it. Additionally, the contents infuriate and frustrate me- but not because I disagree. On the contrary, I completely agree but find it so difficult to wade against the masses in my belief that all this new stuff for parents is not progress! Ms. Paul’s subtitle says it all: “How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture and Diaper Wipe Warmers, and What It Means for Our Children.” You can probably guess that she too believes that a lot of the stuff that we are now sold as parents is unnecessary and perhaps even harmful.

Ms. Paul talks about the outrageous sums that all the “gear” costs and discusses the toys and so-called educational programs and gadgets we are told we need in order to ensure our children get the best start in life. She has chapters on all of the “edutainment” that we are guilted into buying for our children. She has a chapter about the classes we simply MUST take our children to such as music class. It’s not enough, apparently, to sing and dance in the living room all the while banging pots with spoons, we must haul our kids off to a $350 half-hour class taught by a professional- lest they never ever enjoy music in their lives- EVER!

She discusses how many of the normal phases, stages and quirks of children have been problematized such that a whole cadre of professionals can rescue you and your child. Child won’t sleep through the night? Call a sleep coach! Your four year old is sucking his thumb? Call the Thumb Lady! Seriously????? A woman in Illinois makes a very good living by charging $100 an hour to help your child stop sucking his or her thumb. There are even people who will baby-proof your home!!!! Maybe I am too lackadaisical about safety, but we seemed to be able to manage that on our own.  Knives are out of reach? Check. Poisons out of the house? Definitely. Stairs blocked? Yup! Done.  Oh… and WATCH the baby…that’s the best method of baby proofing ever.

Essentially, the premises of the book distill down to a few things:

1. Parenthood is good business

2. Parents are suckers for guilt and worry

3. The world is a stuff-driven madhouse and all that stuff is making our kids less imaginative and parents (and kids) more stressed

In her chapter on toys, Ms. Paul writes:

“In 2006, the Alliance for Childhood, an advocacy group, conducted a study of kindergarten teachers in Atlanta. The goal was to investigate the apparent disappearance of imagination from early childhood classrooms. Kindergarten teachers described how when they gave children time for free play, the children no longer knew what to do. They had no ideas of their own, the teacher complained. Joan Almon, a coordinator for the Alliance, believes that in an era of microchip toys, children’s creativity atrophies. “The imagination is like an internal muscle that needs to be exercised,” she said. With an overreliance on structured activities and overly predictable play, children are losing a sense of adventurousness and risk-taking. The world in which sales of educational toys are expected to hit $5.5 billion by 2010 is one that, for the children, is becoming increasingly restrictive, rigidly contained and defined by consumption.”

And this was before the iPad and iPhone… I wonder what it’s like now???

Bottom line for me? We don’t need the stuff.  An $800 stroller is outrageous and walking is better. It’s not advantageous to the boys or me to have them sitting with the newest Leap Frog educational gadget or structured classes. In fact, it seems to be the opposite. Let them play with boxes, sticks and rocks. Let them climb trees and simply play alone.

 

I agree with Ms. Paul. She confesses that she gets sucked in… and I have at times too. I’m not immune to the billion dollar industry and those sneaky advertisers. However, one of the great things about this year of regrooving has been an even greater awakening in me that less is more and less is best; at least for me and the boys.

Nash’s Story

Your Child’s Writing Life by Pam Allyn is a wonderful book- an easy read for busy mamas. It provides a simple guideline with respect to encouraging your child (from age 2 on) to enjoy writing. Being a lover of words myself, I hope that Nash and Rio will grow up to enjoy reading and writing. I have been following several of the suggestions in the book and enjoying the time with Nash. One of the activities is writing a story with your child. You provide a few prompts and then just listen and write down what he says. Well… here you go! I love the randomness of it… At least to ME it seems random, but to Nash? It made total and connected sense!

This is a story by Nash.

I am 3.  Papa go to work. Rio go to bed and then he woke up. I need to go to work at my circus. I need some chocolate (don’t tell papa- shhhhh). I need some lots of things. I need some animals and payasos. I need some things for art and some drink cups and straws and some food. I need some ribbons and some money. I need lots of things for building a house. T is for tata. I need some hexbugs for the hexbug track. Papa is a bad boy because he crashed the car at 10:30 and then he crashed the letter and then he was sleeping and then he woke and then he went dododo and then he danced. Then he broke all the things on his bum. He eat a towel and then he’s not in my circus.  NASH

Searching for Nature

We live rather close to the highway- the 101. There is a constant drone of cars. Surprisingly, Javier did not notice it until I drew his attention to it the other evening. We were sitting outside after the boys went to bed and it seemed quiet. We could hear birds. Unfortunately for me, in my ears, the sound of the traffic was at least as loud as the birdsongs. I long for escape from that din.

It is difficult to escape the traffic and the sounds of the city- of “civilization”. This is another reason I strive to take Nash and Rio (and myself!) to places where we can feel a little more connected to nature. On Friday we went back to Seale Point Park in San Mateo. One of the advantages of this space is that it is usually very windy and thus most “civilized” noises are drowned out by the sound of the wind. On this day, we went on a ladybug hunt!* I spotted the first one and after that, we were off! Nash and Rio foraged through the wild flowers and thistles to track them down. I saw, for the first time that I can remember, one without spots! It is also a great space because Nash can wander safely- which is what he wants to do these days. He actually voiced out loud that he wanted to “go away” from me, because he was not scared. He is exploring his independence and suffice it to say that it stirs many different emotions in me. It was a wonderful morning walk with them both.

   

   

  

This morning Javier chose our destination. We went to the Purisima Creek Redwoods path on Skyline Boulevard near Half Moon Bay. It was a very gentle downward slope path that was easily navigated by both Nash and Rio. We found a slug! “Gross!”, I exclaimed, several times. Javier was quick to point out to me that this was not really the best reaction, even if I felt this way. He is right. I don’t want the boys to think anything in nature is “gross” (even if touching a slug IS gross).  I immediately changed my tone of voice and swallowed my words. I told them it wasn’t actually gross, that it was a pretty cool little animal and to watch how it curled up if it felt endangered and started to stretch back out when it felt safe. They observed it for a few minutes, and then Nash moved on. Rio stayed longer, still curious. They made it to the bottom of the trail, and started to winge a bit, so we headed back up.

 

  

 

 

Deep breaths and patience drove us on and we made it home to gobble up the first pizza made on my new cast iron pizza pan.

A rejuvenating and nourishing morning trek, with a good lesson learned. Nothing in nature is gross. Slugs AND ladybugs are both worth searching for in our outdoor spaces.

*No ladybugs were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Sippy cups

The bane of my mamahood.

Look at all the useless sippy cups we have amassed- and this is not all of them. In fact, it’s maybe half of what we’ve bought since Nash was born.

Really, could they be more cumbersome, annoying and polluting? They grow mold. They warp. They leak. You can never clean them well enough.  And they are not always recyclable.  Trying to find one that Rio will actually drink from has been an arduous journey. In the end, we bought two new Kleen Kanteens- one more for Nash and one for Rio, as Rio seems to only drink from whatever vessel it is that Nash is using at the time. Yes, two. Sigh. The things we do as parents. They are about 5 times the cost of a regular sippy cup, but they are metal and the tops can be converted to a sport bottle top when the time comes. I am hopeful that they will last a few years and through some sport team practices!

A list worth making

I make a lot of lists, and promptly lose them. There is a list vortex that has always surrounded me. I make them, they disappear into the vortex. That said, just writing something down often makes me remember it- I am lucky that way.

Yesterday I came across someone else’s list. 35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget.  No, it’s not about a new bike or the hottest toy. It’s about Time.  And Common Sense. And, dare I say, worthwhile Values. So many of these things seem to be lacking in our lives these days- adults’ lives as well as children’s lives. Although I don’t necessarily agree with the way in which everything on the list is described or worded, the basic premise is one in which I am in complete agreement: the best things in our lives have nothing to do with stuff.

I might add to the list: Cooking, Conversation, Compassion, Music, Poetry, Meditation/Mindfulness, Yoga and Laughter- in no particular order.

Flowers might have to be there too… (pictures taken with the phone the other day while out with Rio on a walk around the block).

  

What is on your list?

 

Just get them outside…

If Nash and Rio are not outside by 9:30 am, the day goes downhill… quickly. And going downhill is only fun if you are riding a Skuut (best balance bikes ever) or a tricycle. Lately we have been trekking to Seale Point Park and Ryder Park in San Mateo. The wild flowers and birds are out.  The wind blows there, making for a blustery outing, but it can be gorgeous.

 

 

I don’t need a study to back up my own observation that little kids need to be outside- A LOT. Sadly, it seems that kids are getting outside less and less. Or, when they do, that parents or hired care givers are too scared to let them do anything that might potentially cause them to bump their elbow or skin their knee.  This study similarly found that preschool aged children are not getting enough exercise, especially girls. Obviously, Nash and Rio do not fall into the “couch potato” category even though I care for them at home (the study says that those cared for at home are generally less active… well, not in our house!!!). I can see how perhaps it is a trend, however.  Most parents are busy. Some parents are helicopters and are afraid to let their children roam or explore their physical boundaries, even when the ground is mulched up cork-plastic bouncy stuff!!!

I see so many children-even 3 or 4 year old children- in strollers. We have rarely ever used our stroller. I my humble opinion, they should walk. A lot. And if the distance is too far, we don’t go… or we tote them on our shoulders or in our arms or on our backs part of the way. The stroller culture is concerning to me; kids get lazy. I saw it when we were on a trip and my in-laws bought an umbrella stroller so that they could watch both Nash and Rio at the same time. Don’t misunderstand me, I was grateful that they wanted to spend time with the kids and was thrilled that they did, but 4 days in a stroller and Nash was hooked. Suddenly, he didn’t want to walk anywhere anymore! He is now back to walking or riding, but I was surprised at how quickly such an active kid could get used to- and enjoy- lounging.

Doctors recommend 3 hours of exercise a day- I don’t think that’s enough for Nash or Rio!!!! (OR ME!) ;-P

Easter… Chocolate and more chocolate…

Check out this infographic about the insane (OBSCENE) amount of chocolate that is bought at Easter. Stunning. Jaw-dropping. My mouth agape, I also imagined all of the sparkly foil wrapping… how much of it ended up on the ground? How is it that we have become obsessed with consuming our holidays in every sense of the word?

It is difficult to escape… Javier’s workplace had an Easter Egg hunt on Friday.

We slyly refilled the same eggs with the same candies and chocolates and hid them around our yard on Sunday morning. No need to buy extra and they were allowed one piece before they were stashed away.  Remember how I mentioned just a couple of sentences ago that it is hard to escape the blatant consumerism of Easter?? I must confess that I succumbed and purchased one item for them… an artisan chocolate from Go to Chocolate at the San Mateo College Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Homemade marshmallow dipped in the guy’s own chocolate. I had to tell him, he is EXCELLENT at his craft. That made him smile.

At a family gathering at Sunday brunch there was yet ANOTHER egg hunt…Fun for the kids, to be certain, but what is it teaching them? I question the whole induction of children into the hunt for sparkly items.

  

I was encouraged by the actions of my little cousin Nicolas, who found the beauty in a flower more alluring than the prized eggs.

For me, the best part of the Easter Sunday was spending time with my family in the backyard chatting and connecting on a personal level in the fresh air and away from any sort of tech device or consumerist lure. The kids played. The adults interacted with other adults and the kids. In my world, that is a slice of heaven.