Water Play

Last week, I decided E and I were getting bored with the same play all the time, playing with the same toys downstairs in the playroom, or in his bedroom before nap time, so I wanted to try something new. He loves watching water come out of the faucet, or in the bathtub and drain out, and really loves when we take our walks in our new neighborhood and cross the bridges over a stream and he can look on both sides and see the water flowing. So, I thought a water activity would be perfect for him. BUT those water tables at Toys R Us and Target are freaking expensive! With just having moved and all the expenses that come with that, I just couldn’t justify putting out the $45 or more to buy him a water table. So, I thought about what we might already have at home that I could use. We have tons of plastic bins and the like, all of varying sizes and I thought one of the longer bins that is not very deep would be good for him, especially because he isn’t really standing unassisted.

I sat the bin outside in the front yard on a somewhat level area and filled it with water. Then, I got some of his bath toys (we had a few sets of the same toys) and brought those out and put them in the water.

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To make it a bit more interesting for him, I saw an idea on pinterest about making colored ice cubes to put in the water. He could explore the difference in temperatures, see the colors melting into the clear water, etc. So, the night before I was going to do the water activity, after putting E to bed, I made them. Our tray had space for 16 cubes and we had four colors of food coloring so I did four cubes of each color. I put about 3 drops of food coloring in each space and then filled the tray with water, being careful not to overfill so the colors wouldn’t mix.

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So, in the midst of his playing with them, I did not take a picture to show the various colors of the cubes and such. Oops! But here are a couple of pics of him playing in the colored water (all the cubes were in and melted at this point!).

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E’s First Birthday Party

A few weeks ago E turned 1!!!  We had his birthday party the Saturday following his actual birthday.  A few of his favorite toys are these firetrucks and firemen that another friend of ours gave him, a hand-me-down.  Anyway, he loves playing with the fire trucks, the fire house, and the firemen, so I thought we could do a fireman theme for his birthday party.  I found a bunch of ideas on Pinterest but decided to do only a few of them, ones I could definitely pull off.  :-)

One of the things I knew we needed to have was something for the older kids to do (there were several babies, but also several older kids that needed more than just sitting around watching babies.  We had the party at the playground in my parents’ neighborhood so they had the swings and monkey bars, etc. to play on, but figured they would want something more than that so, I found an idea for a building on fire and the kids could use water balloons to put out the fire!  So fun!  We had just purchased a new water heater for our new home, so we thought we could use the box to create the building.  There was an outer box with print all over it and then an inner box of your regular brown cardboard.  My sister helped with this project since she’s the artist in the family and she already had spray paint we could use.  She used the regular cardboard inner box because it’s apparently easier and better to spray paint than the box with all the print all over it.  After spray painting it with the red spray paint, she measured and cut out 6 windows.  She also used red, orange, and yellow construction paper to create flames.  Mom and I glued the flames together while she was spray painting and working on the windows.  Then, she used a white crayon to draw mortar lines on the building, so it now looked like a brick building or row house.  Then, we used packing tape to tape the flames into the windows.  Now, mind you, the original idea I saw had the flames on hinges so they would pop back up after someone knocked them down with the water balloon.  I figured we could go the “cheap” route and it would work just as good.  The kids seemed to enjoy it, too, both young and old.  Here’s our building on fire:

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To add to the theme of the fireman, I downloaded a printable set from Simone Made It.  It was perfect.  I didn’t use everything in the set, but I still feel like the cost was worth it.  We used the Happy Birthday Banner, the food labels, the coloring page, and the signs.  The printables are editable so you can put your own child’s name in and make your own signs for your needs (we needed to have signs indicating where the bathroom was since we were at the park in the neighborhood).

We had the party from 12 noon til 2:30 or so, which made it easy to figure out food. Since the party was right at lunch time, we had burgers and hotdogs, pasta salad (2 kinds), peppers with ranch dressing, and fruit skewers. We had water (fire extinguisher), iced tea, lemonade, and fruit punch (fireman fuel) for drinks.

For dessert, we obviously had a birthday cake and a smash cake for E. To go with the fireman theme, I had red, yellow, and orange peppers sliced into strips. I bought 2 packages of clear plastic punch cups from the dollar store and we put some ranch dressing in the bottom of each cup, with 2 strips each of red, orange, and yellow peppers.

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The fruit skewers were also a fire theme. Originally, I had intended to have a strawberry, a mango piece, and a pineapple chunk on each skewer for the flame/fire theme, but cutting a mango is time consuming and frustrating when you’ve never done it before. So, we ended up only having a few pieces of mango before deciding that we would just go with pineapple and strawberry on the skewer.

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It was so difficult to find any paper products that had firetrucks, firemen, or anything like that at any local store (Target, Party City, Dollar Store, etc.).  I eventually found some fireman party products online so we ordered them from Birthday Express. Then, I added stuff from the dollar store including plastic buckets and bins to put plasticware and napkins in, hold the water balloons, etc.

With the theme, I thought maybe our local fire department might be willing to come to the party, but wasn’t really sure that would happen.  I found the public education request page and filled that out.  I was contacted by the person in charge of those requests for more information and gave that, but then didn’t hear from anyone for awhile.  Then, a few days before the party, I received an email from the local fire station lieutenant saying they might be able to come to the party for a little bit provided they did not have emergency calls to be answering.  So, I had no real expectations that they would be coming.  I was so excited when they showed up.  A fire engine, ambulance, and about 8 fire fighters showed up.  They spent time opening up the truck, letting the kids climb on it, answering questions from the kids and adults, etc.  It was so cool!  Here are a few pics:

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Where do I stand?

I have always loved the antebellum, Civil War, and reconstruction era of United States history. When I was a kid and we would drive from our home to visit my dad’s family in south Mississippi (most of which still live there), we would make various stops along the way with my sister and I getting to pick a spot to stop at. Often, we stopped at caverns, museums, aquariums, and those sorts of places, but I almost always picked something related to the Civil War, whether it was a battlefield, a Civil War museum, or a plantation home tour. This led to my desire to teach history to others as well as obtaining my MA in historical studies.

Part of my love of history has always been the ability to connect my own family’s story to that of the broader American story (and beyond to various other countries). In order to do that, I have used the genealogy research that my paternal grandmother started and have continued her research into those lines of the family, but I have also done a lot of research into my mother’s side of the family and have learned quite a lot about that side of the family as well. By researching both sides of my family, I have found numerous ancestors that fought in various wars in US history. There have been soldiers from our family in every single war in US history, even until the present.

And now, I am the mother of a black son. So, it is with all of this that I must figure out where I stand on the issue of the Confederate battle flag.

First, we can not take the Confederate battle flag out of the history of the United States. As part of the Civil War period, it represents the Confederate soldiers that fought under it against the United States soldiers. It also represents the cause of the Confederate army and government, even though it was not the official flag of the Confederate States of America. However you frame this cause, whether economics, states’ rights, defending their home from invasion, the cause ultimately was to continue the practice of slavery. The economic system that the South depended upon was slave labor to produce the raw cash crops (especially cotton in the Deep South) that were then sent to the manufacturers in the North (or Britain) to be turned into goods to then be sold either in the US or in other countries. The issue of states’ rights was that the Southern states did not want the federal government telling them that they could or could not do something. That “something” was continuing the practice of slavery. Upon the election of Abraham Lincoln, the southern states, led by South Carolina, began to secede under the perception that Lincoln would lead the federal government to abolish slavery throughout the nation. Lincoln had made it quite clear that his stand during the election was to not allow slavery to spread to any new territories or states, but to allow it to exist where it already was. Clearly this was not ok with the southern states and thus they began to secede in an effort to create a new nation where they would be able to keep slavery and possibly extend it. So, states’ rights boils down to slavery. Defending one’s home from invasion is often a reason that is cited to say that not all of the soldiers in the Confederate military were fighting to continue slavery, especially since most of those fighting were not rich enough to own slaves. This is true of most of my own ancestors that fought in the Confederate military. (As a side note, I got a small scholarship from the local chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy because I proved I was a descendant of a “worthy” Confederate soldier…he was “worthy” because he paid someone else to take his place, he didn’t just go AWOL). Yet, they can’t be separated from the overarching cause of the Confederate government.

As I sit here typing this, I am watching “History Detectives” on PBS and Wes Cowan is investigating a tintype that shows two Confederate soldiers, one white and one black. The black soldier was a slave in the home of the white soldier. The investigation is to find out if the black soldier was still a slave when he enlisted and fought for the CSA or if he had already been granted his freedom and voluntarily enlisted in the CSA. It is quite an interesting investigation. There are quite a number of small militias in which blacks enlisted, but they never fought and many of these units were disbanded. According to one of the historians interviewed, under Mississippi state law, slaves were slaves for the entirety of their lives, they could not be manumitted legally. However, the slaves that did go with their masters when the master went to war, the slaves did continue to serve their masters and the army or navy. These slaves could have shot their weapons during battle. I mean, who would have just sat there while a battle was going on, and not done anything, if only for self-preservation. For more information, you should look into the “Lost Cause” and how that came about after the war. This same historian also notes that there is a myth of blacks fighting for the Confederacy that is related to the ideology of the “Lost Cause.”

Anyway, back to the issue at hand of the Confederate battle flag.

As I said above, the Confederate battle flag can not be separated from that period of US history. However, the Confederate battle flag was appropriated by various groups after the end of the war. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general, is often cited as the father of the Ku Klux Klan. Though there are doubts about his being the founder, he was clearly involved with the group and became its first “Grand Wizard.” This group stood for the opposition of the Reconstruction efforts being led by the federal government after the Civil War as well as for terrorizing blacks, beating and lynching them. The Confederate battle flag was, and is, used by this hate group.

100 years after the Civil War ended, there was still enormous racism throughout the nation directed towards blacks. Thus, the Civil Rights Movement worked to obtain rights for blacks through various means, including marches, voter registration drives, peaceful protests such as the sit-ins, but also more violent means. When we think of the Civil Rights Movement, we often think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, but there were others involved including Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party, etc. And there were not just blacks involved, but whites as well. As protest against the Civil Rights Movement and the federal legislation (which supersedes local and state law), many groups and state governments used the Confederate battle flag to signify that they were not going to follow the federal legislation, they would vote against it, etc. This is the case of South Carolina. In this usage it signifies that they stand for continuing to allow and condone segregation, abuses and lynchings of blacks, illegal imprisonment, and the list goes on.

Now, as a mother of a black son, the flying of the Confederate battle flag in any context outside of a Civil War battlefield or museum, is highly offensive both because of its history from the Civil War and the cause it stands for but also in its appropriation by hate groups and states as a protest against giving equal rights to all.

Conflicting Thoughts

It’s been quite a year regarding police behavior and brutality towards black people in this country.  Obviously this is not to say that this has not been going on for years and years and years and years, but it is definitely getting more press and coverage than it has in a long time.  Now, I do think that some of the media coverage (if not most) is biased in some way or another.  You have every side claiming this or that regarding the police involved or the victim of the brutality.  It is quite difficult to grasp what is going on and how that affects those of us that are not police, but support them in their jobs and its difficulties; those of us that are not black (or of other minorities) and have never had to deal with being viewed in a particular way by those in authority, even if everything we do is following the law; and anything in between.

I used to be one of those people that thought, “Well, the police wouldn’t need to be called if they were simply obeying the law.”  “I wonder what they did to get pulled over?” And lots of other thoughts like that.

Then, our son came home.  He is black.

It made me start re-evaluating what I was thinking, seeing in the media, etc.  What would my son experience, as a black child, that I had never experienced or even thought of?  How could I help him through those experiences and understand what had happened when I, a white person, had never had to overcome those same things?  As a white person, I had an advantage that I had never even thought about.  I didn’t get pulled over for “driving while black.”  Every time I had been pulled over by the police (only 2 or 3 times) was for something I had actually done, like speeding, driving with an expired tag (oops!), driving with a tag light out, etc.  Will my son have these same experiences as he gets to the point when he is driving alone?  Will he get pulled over simply because he is driving while black?

When I entered a store, I didn’t have store employees keeping an eye on me as I looked through the merchandise for sale.  Other customers didn’t hold tighter to their purses or wallets.  When E enters a store without us, will other customers and employees keep an eye on him?  Will they hold their purses tighter as they walk by him?  Will they walk away when he goes to look at something in the same area as they are?

When I was a kid, I assume I was always viewed as a kid.  I tended to have people tell me that I looked so much younger than I actually was, which annoyed me when I was younger (you know, you always want to be older…when you are 12 you want to be a teen, when you are 15, you want to be 16 and driving, etc.).  Will E be viewed as a kid when he is a kid or will he be viewed as older than he is simply because he is black?

Let me be clear that the police have an enormously difficult job and have to make split second decisions more often than almost any other profession.  I have the utmost respect for police officers and other law enforcement that do their jobs well.  I have no respect for those that abuse the power that comes with the position.  And this is where the conflicting thoughts come in…

How can I teach E to respect the police, that they are there to help, to go to them, not run from them but at the same time teach him that he will have to deal with being pulled over simply because he is driving while black?  That he may be questioned about something he has no knowledge of, simply because he matches a suspect description of “black male”?  That he should call the police if there is a problem between he and someone else that is not going to be resolved otherwise, but that this might result in other issues?

And the thoughts just keep coming, especially with the tragedy in Charleston this past week.  There are those in this world, more than we’d like to think, that will hate him simply because of the color of his skin.  How can we teach him about this without scaring him and making him fearful of every encounter he has in the world?

Play idea for 1 year old

I enjoy perusing Pinterest to find interesting ideas to try.  I’m definitely not the Pinterest crazy person, trying to outdo what I see there, but just coming up with new ideas so Eli and I don’t get bored with the same ol’, same ol’ day in and day out.  One of the ideas I saw was to try a “spider web basket”.  Essentially you put some toys in a laundry basket and then use string to create a spider web across the basket, using the open spaces to tie the string to, criss-crossing as you go.  I thought it was a neat idea and something that would take relatively little time to create.

We are also in the middle of packing to move so we don’t have things in their normal places.  I was able to find some masking tape and thought that might work to create the spider web across the laundry basket. So, I took some of Eli’s toys and put them in the laundry basket…all different kinds of toys…a few small stuffed animals, his shaker egg, rings, rattle, etc. Then, I put the masking tape across. Now, here’s where it got interesting….or annoying or frustrating…the masking tape was not coming off the roll very easily. It was doing that annoying thing where you get it started and then it doesn’t all come off…just a piece of it….in the diagonal and then rips off. Ugh! Anyway, I finally got several longer pieces that I could actually use for this activity. Here’s what it looked like:

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There are definitely some drawbacks to using the masking tape. For one, it is difficult to get the toys out because the masking tape is sticky (duh!) and so the toys will stick to the tape and then E can’t pull them out. Also, he wanted to just rip the tape off, trying to pull the pieces of tape away in order to get to the toys. The point of the activity is to problem solve, give spatial reasoning, etc. so if he can just rip the tape off, he doesn’t figure all that stuff out. String would definitely work better, but you do with what you have at the time. Anyway, it is a different and fun idea that I will probably try again, of course using string next time!

I wonder…

I wonder if…as we get closer to E’s turning one year old…

E’s birthmom thinks about him.

she questions her decision.

she wants to know who he is, what he’s doing, how he’s growing, etc.

she will respond positively if he decides to try to connect with her.

she has asked for the letters and pictures we’ve written to her about him.

she will ever want the adoption to be more open than it is, which isn’t very open really.

she looks like him.

her features are prominent in him.

her personality is shown in his.

her family will respond positively to his desire to connect with them.

2015’s Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Last year, I wrote a post about my thoughts on Mother’s Day.  You can find it here.  This year was quite a bit different as it was my first Mother’s Day as a mother to E.  Yet, I was struck by the lack of acknowledgement of the day by the church we attended that Sunday.  There was a video played during the service but that was really it.  I was surprised, as most churches I have ever been a part of have done something like having the mothers stand, giving flowers to the mothers/ladies, or something along those lines.  Prior to the issues I described in last year’s post and in other posts on this blog about our struggle to have children, I didn’t really think about how Mother’s Day could be quite a difficult day for many, many women for various reasons.  But now I am quite aware of those issues.  While it is a difficult day for many women (and men, too), I was just struck by the lack of acknowledgement of it in any real sort of way.  By real, I mean an actual person from the congregation or staff member making mention of it in a prayer, part of the sermon, or something like that, rather than playing a stock video and letting it be at that.

The church (general Christian church) could and should be the greatest support on days such as Mother’s Day for all the people that struggle with it.  So, rather than ignore it or making no mention of it, shouldn’t the church acknowledge that it is a difficult day for many, a celebration for many, a remembrance for many, etc.?  The simplest way to do this would be simply to pray for these sorts of situations…pray for those that have lost their mother or are estranged from her, pray for those that long to be mothers but are not for whatever reason, pray for those mothers that have lost a child, pray for the men that have lost their mothers/wives, pray for the birthmothers that made an extremely difficult but loving decision, pray for mothers that are separated from their children, pray for adoptive mothers, pray for women that are “like a mother” to those in their lives, etc.  But the church could also offer support to women in various situations such as these, through their women’s ministry, support groups, Bible/study groups, etc.  The church could simply celebrate women (rather than those that are mothers) on this day and talk about what Biblical womanhood means or focus on strong women of faith, do a series on the women of the Bible that starts on Mother’s Day.  I’m sure there are lots more creative ideas as well, but those were just a few that came to my mind.

For our family, this Mother’s Day was my first as a mom and my mom’s first as a grandmother.  We celebrated by going to my parents’ house after we each went to church and my sister and her fiance came over as well.  My husband cooked lunch for us all and we had fun just hanging out and playing with E.  We opened cards/presents and just simply hung out with each other.  A very relaxing first Mother’s Day!

What do you think about how the church handles Mother’s Day?