Monday, January 21, 2013

Separate But Equal Family Style

I am not a legal scholar but the term "separate but equal" popped into my mind this MLK Day. It is one of those phrases that sticks in my mind from my education. Like "manifest destiny," it is a term from our nation's history that reflects some of the most negative aspects of our nation's coming of age. On MLK Day, I hold the hope and belief that we as a nation are continuing to mature.

"Separate but equal" is a term of legalese, no longer legal thankfully under our Constitution, that supported segregation. Even though the 14th Amendment adopted in 1868 provides for equal rights to all citizens, some Southern states back in the day contended that providing "equality" of conditions could be met by keeping races separate and many laws were passed allowing for separation of the races. Over time, such laws were repealed and rejected although it took well into the second half of the 20th century to do so.

Separate but equal has a totally different connotation in our household. We view it as a positive approach to our parenting and we have just placed it into practice. Before both boys were born, my husband and I had long dreamy conversations about the ways in which we would raise our children. Of course, we would be perfect parents. We would do everything with forethought and proper planning. We would be structured but flexible, firm but loving. One specific idea we had was that we would each spend loads of quality time with each child individually, making sure we were attentive to both kids equally, ensuring that all needs were met and all voices were heard.

And then life set in and all those hours of quality one-on-one time, not to mention the hopes of perfect parenting, were lost in the shuffle of reality's demands. I, as the mom and the primary parent at home, got lots of one-on-one time with the boys but the quality was sometimes poor. There is limited quality when you are just trying to get homework done, dinner made, activities attended and a little bit of enjoyment squeezed in as well. My husband got less time as a whole with the boys. Most of his family time was quality time but with all of us together. The notion of quality individual time spent with each boy was still a dreamy plan unfulfilled.

We realize this and decided to add action to that plan. Thus the Separate But Equal Dinner Out was born. This past Friday night I took Leonardo out to dinner, while my husband went out to dinner with Helios. The boys got to choose their restaurants and both got one parent's undivided attention throughout the meal. The conversation was good and subtly different from when the whole family is together.  No great secrets were uncovered or any surprising revelations revealed. But I think the boys both enjoyed the one on one time. I know I did. And so did my husband.

We plan to do this at some frequency, rotating kid and parent combinations each time. Over time, the boys will get their deserved separate but equal time with each of us. Oh, and we parents benefit from this special time with each boy too.

SBE is not to be confused with FFF (Forced Family Fun) which is another family doctrine. Although I recognize there is the chance that as the boys navigate the teen years, they may view SBE and FFF as one in the same. Family time during the teen years is usually deemed forced by someone at some point, right?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't Be Crafty; Be Wily!

I like to think my blog is like an old friend. You know the special type of friendship that is unaffected by time and space. No matter how much time passes between conversations, no matter how many miles stand between you, each time you and your old friend meet, things pick up right where you left off the last time. There is an ease in the relationship; no stilted, getting-to-know-you-again awkwardness.  Ignoring all the time and empty space of late, my blog says to you, "Welcome back, old friend."

So, what have you been up to?

We've been crafty. Only with boys, crafty has a different feel than if you are being crafty with girls. Once my boys hit a certain tween age, they resisted many crafty things. I have learned to be crafty, as in wily, when presenting a project to my boys lest they turn up their male tween noses and refuse. Anything with an element of danger and the possibility of explosions passes their acceptable crafting threshold.

With that in mind, my latest wily project with the boys was homemade firestarters. We made them to give as Christmas gifts to the boys' uncles. The aunts may have thought the gifts were a bit nasty (you can judge for yourself). But the element of "ick" is what made them the perfect wily project for my little men. And the uncles, enjoying a bit of danger and the possibility of explosions themselves, were happy to receive.

If you want to make some of your own, first gather your supplies:   

Cardboard egg cartons (Not styrofoam!!!), parafin wax, a candle, newspaper, wax paper.

And the element of ick: Dryer Lint

If you don't put too much thought into this, it's really not icky. If you think too much about it, as the aunts did, it could be a bit icky. But I brought them right back to neutral, by pointing out that we only use Family Lint. It would be really icky if we collected our lint from a laundromat and used Stranger Lint. See, Family Lint is not icky at all anymore.

To raise the wily factor, we added to the lint the red strands above which are the shredded remains of a Martha Stewart braided dog chew toy. Martha would be proud. Family dog...not icky.

Now that you have your supplies, begin by melting the parafin over a double boiler. This is where the danger and possibility of explosions come to play. If you don't use a double boiler, the parafin potentially could catch fire. My little Beavis and Butthead were thrilled to hear this.

We added a little melted scented candle wax to our mixture just for fun.

Can't you just hear it..."Fire! Fire!" 
Not saying which is Beavis and which is Butthead. 
Depends on the day and I love them both, just the same.

While the wax is melting, fill the individual egg slots about half way with Family Lint.

Then saturate each lint-filled egg slot with melted wax.

Leave the filled cartons to harden on your countertop that you have carefully covered with newspaper and wax paper to absorb any wax that may leak through the egg cartons.

Once the wax has fully hardened in the cartons, break or cut the individual egg slots apart. We put a few dozen in decorative tins for gifts and gave the uncles a reason to play with fire. 
See how happy he is?

Lastly, to use, place one or two firestarters in your fireplace, chiminea or firepit under your kindling. Light it and watch it burn!

 Fire! Fire!