What’s a White Mom to Do?

I cried all the way to the library.  Then I told my kids about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  “Remember last summer when I said not to leave a black friend if a cop showed up or if you were all doing something and it went sideways?  Or if things started to unravel, or if any one of you did something wrong? To ask the cop if you can call us before you reach for your phone? And that we will come and support you all?”

They nodded solemnly.  When I cry it gets their undivided attention.

“Well that’s not enough.  I’m sorry that the world is not a perfect place.  But each of us by being here has the responsibility to leave our place better than we found it.  We need to figure out what we can do to heal this place.”

They blinked.

“I want us to try harder.”

How? they asked.  “Be friendly. Look people in the eye, say hi.  Let’s start there.”

My slightly atypical, rather antisocial teen bristled: But I don’t associate with ANY people, white, brown, or any race.  And I know this is true – we’ve been trying to figure that out already.

il_570xN.668804703_t1cv

Click this image to purchase this set or see other ceramics from Acme Humane.

“Just talk to Fred at the bus stop.  It’s just you two.  I’m not asking you to be his friend only because he’s brown, but I AM asking you to be friendly.  Just start by saying ‘hi.’  Do you ever talk?” If there’s something going on at school to talk about. “Okay, good, start by just talking.”  I know I am asking a lot of this kid, but I am asking anyway.

“And you, sister, have you noticed that the bus stop breaks into 2 groups by color when we’re there?  You have?  Talk to those brown kids, too.” But those are all boys and they’re rough and act crazy.  “Yep, I know, they’re younger than you and when they get together, they can act silly.  I’ll help you.”

I’ll help you.

Inside the library, an African American boy about 2 or 3 is being held to a very high standard by a black adult woman: “That isn’t yours.  Put that back.  Look at me. I don’t like that.”  And I wonder about how much the pressure on her has increased over the last 48 hours, the last year — or 2.  A white couple arrives with three biracial toddlers.  I wonder who is at the most risk, how the visible markers of skin color override history, behavior, rules, rights… Race matters, and being “colorblind” does not help, as Mamademics has pointed out.

We are white like salamander bellies.  It is up to US to breach this gap.  Imperfectly, perhaps, but we need to start.  Because we are outside the script that gets laid on people of color.  They cannot heal this rift alone, it is too dangerous.

We must.

We must start somewhere.

I would dearly love to hear what you are doing in your family or neighborhood to breach this gap.  Pop on over to Facebook and let me know; let’s talk.  And if you don’t know how to get started, pm me over there.  I’ll help you.  Or I’ll talk to your group, or share a reading list, or just listen.

 

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The very lastest minute holiday gifts

“I know we said we wouldn’t exchange gifts, but I couldn’t resist!”

“But Don didn’t have anywhere else to go!”il_570xN.762086171_8po5

“Surprise, this is my new boyfriend!”

“Aunt Vesta’s plans fell through, so we just swung by on our way.”

“You don’t mind do you?”il_570xN.568576899_tk92

Of course not.  But what is this surprise guest going to do while we open presents?

Open their own, of course!

il_570xN.753592439_5jjkJump onto my Funnermother Etsy shop and choose a printable or two.  Two minutes at your computer, and you have a little frame-worthy keepsake of their visit.

Or pop two or three in a multi-frame and add a funny letter or a gift card.

My printables are great for those folks who have everything, folks with new apartments or homes, teens, gamers, bowlers, kids and parents.

Here’s a sampling!

Get your kids into the garden now!

green garden sign

Click this image to purchase this amazing hand painted sign from JM Ellis Designs.

At this time of year, the cold, ice, snow and grey skies are punctuated with tiny hopeful patches of color.
Red, orange, yellow, and lots of greens.
Maybe you are getting these winter-breakers at your house.
They save thousands from seasonal depression, coming on the heels of the winter holidays.

vintage seed packets

Click this image to purchase this digital download from Luna Girl.

Yep it’s time for seed catalogues!

My kids like to garden.
With a landscaper dad, they practically grew up in the independent garden center where he worked.
This year I’m trying an experiment.
I’m giving the kids the garden catalogues.
At nearly 12, Thing 1 is not going to play with gorgeous spring vegetable toys.  Sadly.

knit vegetables

Click this image to purchase these fine knit toys from Maple Apple.

My cake-eater brags about eating raw cabbage right out of his garden in the summer.
In winter, he tries to steer clear of the veggies.  So I hope asking him to circle the items he wants to plant in the garden will get his mind on his greens.
sliced tomato

Click this image to purchase these natural hearts from brandMOJO images.

Going through the catalogues

together, we might remember a fruit or vegetable that we haven’t had for a while.

We might agree to try the new funky cauliflower or kalettes.

They don’t need to know I have ulterior motives as we cuddle up under Gram’s afghan and plan for spring!

Tell me what you’re planning for YOUR garden over on Facebook.  And if you’d like to work with me on your finicky eaters, drop me a line at Funnermother[at]gmail[cot]com

Radiolab Changed My Parenting

Thing 1 had a short playdate on the far side of the city that disallowed driving all the way home & back. I LOVE it when this happens. I’m a high-strung mom from Puritan stock… being idle wreaks havoc on my nerves.  But when gently forced to pause, I adore it.  Waiting rooms, city buses, friends who never show up.  Love!  So I sat in a parking lot listening to public radio and crocheting. Bliss.

parenting

Click the image to purchase this from graybearstudio.

I listened to Radiolab’s “Sound as Touch.”  I learned of Anne Fernald’s findings that there are a set of common tunes within the words that parents all over the world speak to their babies. Across cultures, parents sound the same.  “Sound is touch at a distance.”  I learned about the 1913 riots during the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring when brains could not make sense of the unfamiliar dissonance. And about the mechanics of how the brain understands sound.

Waves of vibrating air start compressed in your voice box, then upon iteration they travel through time and space into my ear, through a little tunnel — they vibrate a few very small bones, which in turn transmit the vibration into this salty sea where fluid literally bends little hairs to make sound, and then charged molecules rush into the brain.  “Sound is touch at a distance.” Dissonance (unpleasant sound) has chemical consequences – neurons revolt and dopamine is released into the brain.  Extreme dopamine release is one symptom of schizophrenia, and at lesser levels would have instigated the Stravinsky riots.

Yelling

Click the image to purchase this from Rundtom.

You see where I’m going as I circle back to parenting… But for me it was huge. I yell. It’s not my primary parenting tool, but I do.  And I had a theory that to withstand big emotions would be a good skill that I wish I’d had. But whoa. A stranger’s dissonance can drive a group of people to riot, we know.  When that dissonance is ratcheted up, what happens?  When it is one-on-one?  Coming from the person you love most, your life source? And then, what if you have sensory processing disorder, which one or both of my kids do?  Yes, there is a science behind why shouting at someone feels like an assault. It is. Sound is touch at a distance.

So I have joined an online group of moms who are all trying to stop yelling, and I have slowed down our nightly read-aloud time to bathe them in my gentle voice.  I try to look my children in the eye, look at the color of their eyes (he has dad’s, she has mine), at their souls.  I look for my triggers — and they are often sound!  I am overwhelmed by repetitive, jarring, or loud sounds.  As are my kids. Sigh. I am also humbled by the Radiolab story enough to share it with you, to hope that we can speak with kindness more often. To keep up with my progress, sign up for my weekly-ish Ezine over at Funnermother.com.

Listen to Sound As Touch and see what you think.  Then drop me a line on Facebook.

What’s your happy place?

Happy place

Happy Place from ArtPeaceCreation – Funnermother.com

This spring is about self-care in our family.  The ‘for sale’ sign in the front yard, packed boxes sprinkled around, and the punctuation of routine with frenzied clean-ups for potential buyers has put strains on all of us.

Obvious and subterranean strains.

A few months ago, we started meditating at bedtime.  We spent a week thinking about our happy places, imagining what they’d be like.

light house

Happy Place from Fairyland2000 – Funnermother.com

I admit, that was inspired by a pinterest board of “reading nooks” and I think we all do have books in our happy places.  If  you follow Funnermother on facebook, you know the kids’ mortifying addition to their happy places that left this leftie mom chagrined (happy servants to bring them happy snacks and clean the happy cat boxes!).

But we pushed on, and the happy place has become part of our nightly meditation.  It will eventually follow us to our new home, and it is always available if needed in the daytime.

Happy place

Happy place by HappyThursdayArt – Funnermother.com

And you know what?

My legendary insomnia is not as severe, and the boy has stopped asking the old standard bedtime question, “Can you help me think happy thoughts?”

He can do it himself!  Ah, resilience.

Do you have a happy place?

Whether it’s the wide ocean, a cozy cottage in the woods, a treehouse, lighthouse, or tiny house, whether you want sun or candlelight or cats or tea or coffee, you need a happy place, and I’m sprinkling a few into this post.

happy place

Hammock from PrincipalStress – Funnermother.com

Just click on one and you can purchase a print on Etsy, a handmade broker.

Or commit it to memory.

You deserve a happy place. Or two.

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Photo backdrop from PeekPrints – Funnermother.com

Other posts on sensory processing include:

Here, Feel This Fruit

Freestyle Recycling

DIY: Birthday Jarlights

DIY

Birthday Jarlights
Funnermother.com

You’ll need:  clean clear jars for everyone, poster paint, white glue, paintbrushes, shiny star stickers, colored paper and a tea light for each jar.  For younger kids, battery operated.  

Mix poster paint and glue to make the paint adhere to smooth surfaces like glass and plastic – about 1/3 glue and 2/3 paint.  

crafts for kids

Birthday Jarlights
Funnermother.com

Cut out football shapes to serve as lit candle wicks, glue them around the jar.

 

 

 

Paint over the shapes, then glue ‘candlesticks’  to the jar.  I used some flashy origami paper, but plain construction paper would work, too.

crafts for kids

Birthday Jarlights
Funnermother.com

Peel the football shapes off while the paint is still a little wet, then allow paint to dry.

 

Then, and this is my favorite part, put in a battery-operated tea light!

My crafters were 6 and used glass with close supervision; younger kids should use plastic but the paint/glue combo should work just as well.

 

DIY

Birthday Jarlights
Funnermother.com

 

This craft could be adapted for older kids, who could paint more elaborate scenes, more layers of paint, and use real tea lights.

We’ve done this for Halloween, Christmas/New Year, and birthdays.

DIY

Jarlights
Funnermother.com

Even the tiniest kids can paint a jar and the light will still shine through.

 

If you give jar painting a try, I’d love to see the results, just post them on Funnermother’s Facebook page!

Recycle Freestyle: the pressures of freedom

Recycle Freestyle - Funnermother.com

Recycle Freestyle – Funnermother.com

The kids’ winter break is too long, I think they would agree.

I had one good free idea left.  Recycle Freestyle!  It’s not a new concept to them, and I’ve been saving for months. Saving Junk.

Before lunch, I gathered all the plastic tops, egg cartons, six-pack holders, tubes, rings, tiny tins, cotton fluff, tape, glue, and markers and told them to get ready.

Recycle Freestyle - Funnermother.com

Recycle Freestyle – Funnermother.com

After lunch, I put on tropical music, emptied the last bag of junk, and we spread out on the dining room floor.  So much squealing delightful possibility!  It was fun!  At first.

Thing 1 (10) has the best imagination, and after five or six minutes clipping little plastic milk-spout pull-tabs, he switched projects and pulled together the pieces to make toilet-paper-roll binoculars attached to a gold-trimmed red velvet ribbon that would serve as a headband and binocular holder.  He even cut out earholes. So cool.

Thing 2 (7) loves to make gifts, and went to work looking for textures to collage together.  One for me, one for dad (below).

Recycle Freestyle - Funnermother.com

Recycle Freestyle – Funnermother.com

Poor Thing 1.  Nothing worked out the way he’d expected.

The scotch tape wasn’t clear, it was frosted; it wasn’t holding the cardboard rolls to the velvet ribbon very well, and the rolls kept sagging: “All I can see is my feet!”

Throwing cardboard didn’t look very satisfying from where I was sitting.  Thing 1 was tagged with Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensory Integration Dysfunction — years ago.  And this looked like that, rearing it’s inconvenient head, but cured with some soothing laughter and reassuring pig-piling onto Thing 1.

He got back to it and made these arm-armour pieces later in the day.  But this is also a teaching and reflective moment.  About freedom and vision and expectations.

Recycle Freestyle- Funnermother.com

Recycle Freestyle- Funnermother.com

So much possibility is there, at our feet.  It seems somehow almost intellectually mandatory to NOT see it all, to follow the instructions that we find or are given.  If we were to recognize it all with complete freedom, perhaps we wouldn’t know where to start, how to organize it in our minds, prioritize the materials, reject the pieces that don’t fit, and build… something.  This is a fine example of Disorder and Dysfunction being used to mask nonconformity.  It’s necessary and I get it…  But there IS also a flip side.  Thing 1 can see, really SEE everything.  That filter that saves us from chaos puts limits on us, too.  My very special task is to teach Thing 1 how to keep his expectations in check, how to organize and prioritize all he sees and feels; simultaneously I feel it is infinitely important to protect and encourage his vision and his special ability to see and feel things acutely.  And I feel strongly that there is a deep lesson here, about learning and freedom and vision and creativity and labels, and that lesson is meant for me and for me to share with you.  Thanks for reading!

November 2014: This great article from Teacher Tom helps see this situation in a new light: the importance of limits. Read it and leave me a comment on your thoughts.

Other posts about sensory play include: Here, Feel This Fruit

Free Printable Family Statement

Happy New Year Approacheth!

Thank you for jumping in early to my Funnermother project.  Families aren’t perfect, but they can still be fun, and I thank you for sharing my vision.

In this family... Funnermother.com

In this family… Funnermother.com

Here is a fun free printable that I just put up in my Etsy shop (here).  I’m offering it to the folks who sign up for my free weekly e-zine, but I want you blog subscribers to have it, too. Use it to celebrate fun, imperfect families of any shape, race, orientation, or size.  Hang it on the fridge, frame it, or send it to family members far away.  And thank you.

Blue: In this family we do road trips

Black: In this family we do road trips

Red: In this family we do road trips

Green: In this family we do road trips

Picture: In this family we do road trips

In this family... Funnermother.com

In this family… Funnermother.com

I do retain copy rights, though, so please don’t try to cash in big on my little project, ha ha.

This printable comes in four colors, and one with a spot to paste in your own photo over mine, or cut it out to use the printable as a matte for your own photo.

 

Outsider art

Outsider art - Funnermother

Outsider art – Funnermother

Outdoor play is great, of course.

But what if

the outside is not just a backdrop for play?

Outsider art - Funnermother

Outsider art – Funnermother

What if?

We interact with it.

Bring it in.  Study it. Draw it.

We did just that at a play date at our local conservatory & botanical garden.

outsider art

Outsider art – Funnermother

No running around inside.

We brought art supplies and paper and set the kids free outside, on the garden grounds.

Outsider art - Funnermother

Outsider art – Funnermother

They knew just what to do,

and were engaged for

an hour, focusing and moving

and focusing again.

Outsider art - Funnermother

Outsider art – Funnermother

They were absorbed

and

they knew just what to do.

Other posts about kids and art include: Freestyle Recycle