Saturday, May 23, 2015

Family Tree Craft Project

I was looking for some ideas for gifts a while back on Pinterest. You know how Pinterest works, right? For those who aren't well-seasoned, the Pinterest process is something like this:

1. Log on
2. Search the thing you are looking for
3. Pin 1300 versions of the thing you're looking for
4. Get distracted by something shiny
5. Get sucked into a Pinterest vortex
6. Pin a bunch of recipes you'll never make and crafts you'll never attempt
7. Lose track of time
8. Eventually come back to reality
9. Months pass
10. You remember that thing you went looking for and pinned forever ago
11. Spend a ton of money on craft supplies
12. Get halfway through project and realize you need more supplies
13. Spend even more money on craft supplies
14. Shake fists at Pinterest when your entire kitchen floor is covered in glitter
15. Swear you'll never try another thing again
16. Decide everyone on Pinterest is a mean lying liar face
17. Finish the project and decide it isn't terrible
18. Post it on Pinterest and feed the beast

Sound about right?

Yeah. I thought so.

Anyway, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, which was to make a family tree craft for my Mother in Law for Mother's Day. It took us this long to actually give it to her, and I couldn't share it here until she'd opened it. I SWEAR it was done days before Mother's Day. I swear. Sigh.

Initially I wanted to do a button tree, but then I went to the craft store and inexplicably couldn't find buttons. I mean, there were some, but they were ugly and weird colors and I was about to give up when I spotted the glass marble stone thingies and thought they might work. So I got them.

Here's the supply list:

- Blank canvas (I used a 16x20, but you could do any size just make sure the things you're gluing on are to scale)
- Paint in the background color to make into a watercolor wash
- Dark brown (or black) paint for the tree trunk
- Buttons, little stones, or whatever else you'd like to glue on
- Paintbrushes
- Craft glue (I use Aleene's Tacky Glue)

First, I prepped the canvases by painting the background. I made regular acrylic paint into a watercolor by adding a few drops of paint into a cup of water and stirring completely. Using a wide brush, brush the watercolor paint lightly over the canvas in horizontal strokes, covering the entire surface.

If you want it darker on top, just keep layering. (I realized while doing this that I actually do miss painting. Also, my kids think I'm a genius because I made watercolors...)

After that is completely dry, decide what basic shape you'd like the tree to be. I wanted the tree to be on the edge of the canvas and have many branches of varying lengths and shapes. Using a smaller paintbrush, add in all the details you'd like. Some of the trees on Pinterest had swirly branches. I wanted mine to look a bit more realistic. After drying for a while, go back and touch up any spaces that might need more coverage.

When the paint is fully dry, take out your decorations and sort them however you would like. I had each of my five kids choose a color of glass to represent them and sorted them accordingly. We rotated through them, with them each choosing where to place their next piece until the tree looked full enough. I put a decent sized dot of craft glue where they chose and they glued the items on. Press lightly to make sure there is enough contact with the item being glued on.

Once all items are glued on, place the canvas somewhere flat for several hours so the glue can set fully.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Summer School of Rock - B.B. King

Hello old friend, I've missed you.

So, before we get to the post itself, a little background for those of you who haven't been here since the dawn of time...

A few years ago, this all started when my husband was a den leader for Webelos, covering a lesson on music with the boys. I was shocked/appalled/sad that the vast majority of them had no exposure to anything outside of whatever is played on the top 40 stations. One had never been exposed to anything other than country music. When they didn't all know who the Beatles were, an angel cried. 


And thus, this began. I decided standing in the kitchen that night, watching it all unfold, as my husband exposed these kids to Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana and Metallica and Nirvana, that we had to make more of a point to share our love of all types of music with our kids at least. (My son had obviously heard it all before that night).

I started to teach him about the history of rock music. We started with rock because he'd just received his first guitar and wanted some simple, easily recognizable riffs to play that gave him a bit of street cred.

I spent the better part of a summer exploring new bands with him (and by extension, his siblings). After mentioning it a few times around these parts, people started to ask if I was going to share it all the following year I began the Summer School of Rock. 

My initial goal was to spend one month showcasing the most influential 31 bands/artists in rock. I got sidetracked because of things that happened and didn't get a chance to finish it, but then I realized that it was never meant to be done. There are so many more than 31 worthy mentions that this could go on indefinitely. 

So here we are. 

SHARE THE MUSIC YOU LOVE WITH YOUR KIDS. It totally pays off when you catch your 11 year old daughter singing along to The Wall

If you'd like to read about some of the other bands and artists I've already covered, I will link them by name at the end.

Up now, B.B. King.


Born Riley King in 1925 on a plantation in Mississippi, B.B. was the son of sharecroppers and raised primarily by his grandmother. He grew up singing in the choir at church and bought his first guitar at the age of 12. As he grew older, he started playing at neighboring churches and on the local radio station.

He started recording albums in the 1940s and would end up with over 50 albums to his credit.  In 1947 he hitchhiked to Memphis to pursue his dream. A fight broke out between two men in the audience during one of his shows, starting a fire. After leaving the building, he realized that his guitar was still inside and went back in for it. He made it out, barely, with that guitar. Upon learning that the men were fighting over a woman named Lucille, he decided to name that guitar (and every other one he'd ever use) Lucille to remind himself never to fight over a woman.

Speaking of guitars, he always played a Gibson. Always. In fact, he and Gibson teamed up in the 1980s and crafted a guitar specifically inspired by him.

His playing style, in a word: legendary.

He was never just playing notes in a sequential order, no. He was massaging the emotions of anyone who could hear the music he created. He was story telling.

He integrated the sounds and techniques of the best guitar players that came before him, then added his own sound to it, becoming one of the most influential blues musicians in our nation's history in the process. His list of accomplishments would take up entire pages to list, including his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 

Up until just before his death, he was still touring. He was still playing over 250 shows a year well into his 80s. He lived with diabetes for decades and became a well known spokesperson about the disease, proof of the fact that it's entirely possible to manage the condition and thrive with it. He refused to let it hold him back.

The news of his passing was hard to swallow. His gifts were many, his talent seemingly endless. B.B., simply put, was the blues. Rest now, B.B.

We'll miss you.

The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To The One That Asks All The Questions

Dear Oldest,

This is early. It's not your birthday yet, even though it seems like we've been celebrating it for weeks already. It's been that kind of year, but you've always been that kind of kid anyway. You arrived much earlier than you were supposed to, scaring us both in the process. For some reason that we'll never understand, you decided to join us ahead of schedule. Too far ahead.

You were in such a hurry that your body wasn't quite ready yet. Those first few days with you connected to machines that were breathing for you were some of the worst moments I've ever experienced. We went from planning for you to be with us in a few weeks to worrying about whether you'd get to stay at all. It wasn't a fun process, for sure. You rallied and we brought you home after what seemed like the longest nine days of my life.

We didn't have a clue what we were doing.

You laugh when I tell you that you are my practice child, but it really is the truth. We thought we knew what to expect. We'd read those books and taken those classes and then the day came when they said we could leave the hospital and take you home and we both looked at each other a little bit panic stricken. I don't think your father has ever driven home so carefully as he did that day.

We've been winging it ever since. If how you've turned out so far is any indication, I think we've done a fairly good job.

We weren't supposed to have you, you know. You've heard that story too, the one about how we'd just been told that we wouldn't be able to have kids and then that little pink line appeared the morning of your Dad's birthday. You were the most unexpected gift, then and now.

You are growing up so fast, pushing the envelope of it all now. You decided to jump into the world of high school a year ahead and join the drumline as an 8th grader. Which is crazy. I didn't quite know what to expect with it all, but I can see how much you've grown and matured just in the past few months, in part because of this love of music you have. You truly have found the place where you belong.

I hope you understand how crazy awesome it is
that you already lettered in band as an 8th grader.
Music is just a part of your soul, it's a gift you have. The things you can already do, picking out the notes from a song by ear and transferring them to all the instruments you already play - it's nothing short of amazing. I hope that you stay in love with music and that you carry it with you for the rest of your life.

In this past year, you seem to have solidified those career goals of yours, and chose the high school you did because it fits the plan. Next year will be hard for you academically. You will be challenged in ways you haven't yet been, but I know you can do it.

When you told me that you wanted to start volunteering at the hospital already, I wasn't entirely surprised. You've always been a caregiver, a helper. A giver.

Organization doesn't come naturally to you, but you're learning. I know that it's been a struggle, and I know that you really are working on it.

You are, and always have been, an inquirer. You wake up asking questions, you go to bed asking questions. All the questions. You are never satisfied with knowing enough, you crave more. You have a rare passion for learning. You trust that somehow I will always have the answers, even now that you know I don't. You keep asking anyway, knowing that I will tell you to go out into the world and find them yourself. And you do.

I haven't held your hand. I haven't done things for you. I haven't made it easy for you. I haven't fought your battles and slayed your dragons. I've been here, cheering for you quietly instead, hoping that you would make the right choices.

You almost always have.

I can't promise that the next four years will be easy. They won't be. 

I can't promise that there won't be conflict and worries. There will be. 

You'll fall in love, probably more than once. Chances are that you'll get your heart broken along the way. You're going to form new friendships while others will fall apart. I can't protect you from any of that. I can't tell the rest of the world that you are a gentle soul with a kind (but goofy) heart, and that they should take care of you.

I can't.

It's okay, though. You'll be okay.

And if there ever comes a time when you're not okay, I hope you know that I'm here, cheering quietly for you. I'm always here, and I always will be.

Keep laughing at yourself. Keep doing the things you love. Keep asking questions. Keep caring about the people you love.

I'd ask you to stay my little boy for just a bit longer, but we've past the point where I can entertain such notions. You're 6 feet tall these days, with a voice deeper than your father's. You aren't a little boy anymore, you haven't been for a while now. You're a young man, one that I'm so proud of at times that I could burst, even if you drive me crazy in all the spaces in between.

You have one day left in middle school. Less than a week left of being 13.  I hope that you cherish this time, sandwiched between childhood and adulthood, and that you squeeze every drop of joy out of it all.

Work hard, play hard, love hard.

I love you,

(Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you still call me that.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the MC edition

Holy cow, you guys, there is a lot this week. I started making my TTPMOT list yesterday and it quickly took up over a page. There are so many things going on right now. So many things.

It's the last week of school here, which logically means that I had two kids home from school sick yesterday, and they just so happened to be the two kids of mine that are in walking orthopedic boots. One for a strained Achilles (plus a raging ear infection since she refuses to take allergy medication then her head fills up with mucus and festers and here we are...but noooooo don't listen to your mother, child.) The other for a mystery injury that might be a fracture, but they aren't sure what is going on and actually just scheduled an MRI because we need some answers about why it isn't improving at all.

Oh, and it's 48 degrees and pouring. We might get snow tonight. Colorado, you so crazy.

Let's get to the stuff on the list, though, because there is a lot.

Off we go.

The I'm not judging but I'm totally judging crowd
Lord. The internet is a lovely thing, really it is. Most of the time. When it sucks ass is when it gives people a platform to proclaim to the world all their opinions about how other people live their lives. I've just never understood why it bothers some people so freaking much how other people live. If it doesn't affect you, it's really none of your damn business.

In the past week, I've seen condemnations of parents who allow their children to have soda (or GASP have it in the house ordinarily). I've seen people climb up onto that soapbox to talk about the books kids shouldn't read and the movies they shouldn't see. I've seen people in one breath say that they aren't judging other parents but then go on and on and on about how the way they are doing it is really the only right one. I've seen people bitching about the "kind of people" who get tattoos (p.s. you should know that you're talking shit about me if you're talking shit about the inked, so keep that in mind, folks). I've seen people ranting about open marriages and polyamorous relationships, mostly in biblical contexts about the sanctity of marriage and chastity and loyalty.

That last one, just wow. If you think that open marriage and polyamory (which, btw are two different things that can in some circumstances co-exist) have anything to do with deception or betrayal, then you clearly don't know what you are talking about. Deception and betrayal are as forbidden in polyamory and open marriages as in traditional relationships, perhaps even more so. If you don't even understand the dynamics of the agreements and can't conceive of the fact that we're talking about consenting adults who are all completely open to the arrangements they choose, then spare the world your condemnation.

Just because you wouldn't choose something for yourself doesn't mean that other people can't or won't or shouldn't. Also, you should probably know that throwing the Bible at people who aren't religious is a waste of time.

Save Chase
In Florida, there is a little boy named Chase at the center of an intense legal controversy. Well, more specifically, his foreskin is at the center of the controversy. And no, I'm not kidding.

Chase's parents split up when he was a newborn. At the time, they agreed that he would be circumcised. She changed her mind shortly thereafter, saying that the procedure is unnecessary and dangerous. Chase's father has continued to pursue legal action to compel the surgery, even though Chase is now 4 years old.

Chase's mother was just arrested after taking the child and going into hiding to avoid complying with a court order to hand him over to his father for the procedure. Several doctors have refused to have anything to do with the matter, and the case has become a huge issue of contention between anti-circumcision activists and those who advocate for the rights of parents to force children to undergo medical procedures.

Whether you personally agree with it or not, whether your sons are circumcised or not, it is almost always a procedure done on newborn babies, not preschoolers fully aware of what is happening to them. At this point, Chase is sufficiently old to have full awareness of what his father plans to force him to go through. I can't believe that there are judges out there ruling that the father has the right to force this issue at this point, since there is absolutely no indication of necessity of this procedure. This isn't akin to the cases where courts will compel parents to administer chemotherapy to sick children. Chase is healthy. Removing his foreskin won't save his life, it will just make his father happy.

Chase should be permitted to grow up without being subjected to this surgery at this point in his life, and if and when he decides to remove his foreskin as an adult, that should be none of his father's (or anyone's) business.

Meghan Trainor isn't a role model
I feel like I've been saying this for months already, but she isn't a role model, she just plays one on the radio. Her songs are bubblegum pop with lyrics that claim to be about female empowerment, but really that isn't what they are about at all. All About That Bass might have claimed it was celebrating the girls with curves, but it did it at the expense of the "skinny bitches" and implied that because boys like a little more booty to hold at night somehow matters in the overall scheme of things.

Nope. All the nope.

We can celebrate body empowerment and embrace people of all sizes without shaming others or telling a bunch of little girls that their sex appeal to men is what matters most about their bodies.

Her new song, I think, actually bothers me more though. You've probably heard it. The Dear Future Husband one.  Ugh. If you haven't heard it, I'll share some of the lyrics here.

Buy me a ring
Buy-buy me a ring, (babe)

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady
Even when I'm acting crazy

I'll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
Open doors for me and you might get some kisses
Don't have a dirty mind

Here's the thing. I really don't care if her ideal future self doesn't give a shit about cooking and expects to be treated like a princess. That last little group of lyrics is extra charming because she's really saying open doors for me and you'll get some head. The kisses part might as well come with an asterisk. If you don't believe me, watch the video.

Which, again, is fine if that's how she thinks marriage works. Women are crazy but men need to deal with it, then if they just open doors for us and give us money, they get blow jobs in exchange. Uh huh.

Good lord. She is SO not about empowering women, as she rolls around on the kitchen floor...

I sincerely hope that my kids never believe for one second that an actual relationship is based on any of that shit. I'd rather them think that marriage is about commitment and shared interests and supporting one another and mutual respect. Not rings and BJs.

Let's just call it what it is - bad pop radio music made by a young girl who hasn't a clue about the world. She's not a role model and she certainly isn't advancing empowerment.

The Boston Bomber Verdict
In the event you missed it, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death last week for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing. Some people celebrated. I'm not one of them. There are a few reasons, and I could (and have) written entire posts about this topic. I'll save you the long diatribe and reduce this to a bulleted list because there's a lot to cover this week.

- The fact that we still use the death penalty is an international abomination, one that we were called on the carpet for yet again by the UN Human Rights Commission recently. We are not in good company when you see what other countries in the world also still use death as a punishment.

- Death sentences carry with them a lot more mandated appeals, dragging out the already lengthy appeals process and costing a ton of money.

- The last time someone was executed after being convicted of a federal crime was in 2003. There have only been three killed since the federal death penalty was reinstated.

- When you are dealing with religious fundamentalism, often death is considered a tribute to the cause. Killing him may only make him more of a martyr in the eyes of many people.

- We are supposed to be better than the terrorists.

I could go on, but I suspect I've already got a few of you out there shining up your pitchforks and getting ready to yell at me.

Game of Thrones and the trouble with Sansa
Ooookay, so if you haven't seen this week's episode, skip down to the next section. I'm going to write spoilers. Also...trigger alert...

Sansa married the very sadistic Ramsey Bolton this week, in a huge departure from what happens in the books. At this point, the books are really more like a suggestion more than a path we're on anyway, but there are a few departures that fans of the series are having trouble reconciling. Sansa's fate is a big one.

In the books, she doesn't marry Ramsey, and she certainly doesn't get raped by him on her wedding night as Theon (a.k.a. Reek) is forced to watch. I'm not sure how or why they did things this way, but I have to assume that it was to try and make Theon seem like a more sympathetic character given his past history of killing children.

There are a LOT of people pissed about the rape scene, about the violation of Sansa in this way. My personal perspective, though, is that considering the episodes leading up to this point and how she came to marry him, it wasn't exactly unexpected, even by her. In fact, there's an argument to be made (not that I'm making it, mind you) that she knew this would happen.

The show runners seem preoccupied with rape far more than Martin ever has and this is hardly the first instance where sexual violence was added to the show when it is absent from the books. They've never managed to come up with a compelling explanation for why that is. I'm listening.

AYFKM Disney?
Oh, Disney. Really???? The Princess of North Sudan is a movie supposedly in production right now. But it's not about what you think it would be about. Nooooooo.

It's not a movie about an African Princess. Nope.

It's a movie about a white little girl who says she wants to be a princess, so her daddy goes and declares himself the king of a piece of land in Africa, which makes her a princess. The best part??? It's based on a true story.

Who the hell thought this was a good idea?

Finally....what I wrote last week didn't actually need to happen....
Sheesh. I wrote in last week's TTPMOT about how I wonder what the reception of Sons of Anarchy would have been like had the gang at the center of the story been the Mayans or the Niners instead of SAMCRO. I wondered aloud why this show about the horrendous violence of a white gang was celebrated so much in a world that would condemn such violence from any other group.

Then Waco happened this week, and mostly white motorcycle gangs got into a huge gunfight that left 9 people dead. One of the gangs involved, the Bandidos, is the second largest MC in the world behind Hells Angels.

Like SOA playing out in real life, no lie.

What happened immediately and has happened in the days since, though is pretty freaking telling about our society. The main suspects were alive, sitting on the curb, chatting with police. Other club members are seen in pictures playing on their phones aside officers. The gangs involved are being referred to as "serious enterprises" by the media, not thugs or hoodlums. We aren't seeing lengthy discussions about the decay of the white family or the absence of white fathers contributing to white on white violence. The National Guard hasn't been called and there aren't curfews being issued. The NY Times called the altercation a "melee", not a gang war.

People are already shouting about how this has nothing to do with race. And to a certain degree, they are right. Gangs exist in every racial group. Violence exists in every racial group.

What is different though, is the way the gangs and violence are perceived and treated by the media and law enforcement.

And like it or not, that absolutely has to do with race.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

We're okay. Even when we're not.

Dear Mr. Hive,

This week has rattled my cage. A lot. There have been things brought up in the last several days that have reminded me of things in our past, of things that happened, and I'd be kidding myself if I said they weren't bothering me.

They are.

But they're bothering me in a different way than they likely would have been a few years ago. Because things are just different now.

We're different now.

I'm different now.

You're different now.

You wouldn't have been caught dead doing this before.
And this is hot as hell.
Just saying.
There are people out there who'd probably say that we are crazy. There are people who've told me that I am for sure. We shouldn't be together. There were people who didn't think we'd last over twenty years ago when we started college and I went one direction while you went another.

They were wrong. They were all wrong. We made it through that and through everything else that has happened to us, between us, around us, in that time.

Distance was a piece of cake, all things considered.

It hasn't been easy. There were times that I was ready to give up.

So many times.

There were times that I truly believed that you had done just that.

But here we are still.

We're not here because we love each other. That's part of it, sure. It has to be, I think. We're still here because this thing that we have, it's so much bigger than just love. Love isn't enough. I know that now. Love won't fix us. Love won't make us stay. Love won't heal. Love won't do any of those things.

We're still here because we're committed to what we have. We're still here because we were both willing to fight for our family. We're here because we actually fought.

And we both have the scars to prove it.

We aren't perfect, the two of us. We aren't perfect alone and we aren't perfect together, but we don't need to be. We're perfectly imperfect broken people intent on figuring this all out.

Things haven't gone as planned. This life of ours has gone off the rails a few times, but we managed to drag the cars back on track and pick up the debris scattered around us.


We talk more now. We share more now. We're more open and vulnerable and honest now because we know we have to be. We have to talk about the things that hurt us before they evolve into things that will hurt us.

We're here.

And we're okay.

Even when we're not.

I love you. I love who you are now more than I've ever loved you before, scars and all.


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