Monday, November 12, 2012

Digging out..Part 1

Simplicity Parenting.  Great book.  About how less is more.

It's giving me LOTs to think about while I dig us out of the consumerist mass I have spent the last 10 years (and most of our dollars) loading into our house, quite on top of us.

Don't get me wrong, I still love 'things', and I still want the 'BEST' things for my kids, but I am on a curatorial cleanse, and I won't stop till I've figured out the which, what, and why of it all.   And simplify.

I think THIS is why the boys Lego was driving me so insane: there's so much, there's too much of it in the house, AND they want MORE.  We have been outdoors a bunch lately, and that has helped 'cure' the monomaniacal-ness of it all, plus I've been simplifying the kids' rooms, so that's helped too...but I've been realizing, really with the help of this book that too much of a good thing is really really crippling, to creativity, to peace of mind, to living the life you intended to live with your kids.

Too much of a good thing can be suffocating.  Mega piles of Mega Blox?  Massive piles of clothing? Monstrous stacks of books, too many for our shelves? More play-kitchen foods than the play-kitchen can hold? Stacking bins filled with the overlow? Yeah, it's too much.  I'm embarrassed.  I am grateful for all we have, but I am guilty of over spending.  In my search for wonderful playthings, I have bought, traded, and created more than our little house can hold, and more than we can afford.  I have spent whole days, weeks, probably months trying to get everything 'organized' and put away, but I have to admit there is more stuff than we have space for.  And with 6 kids, space is precious.  Time spent with the kids is precious.  Not time spent sorting stuff.

I've already given loads to the Salvation Army, I'm selling on ebay, I've got listings going on craigslist, and I've decided to offer up some good free-bees here, if you're interested.

So stay tuned!  I'm going to go look for some good offerings for this site, maybe 1 per day.
Don't let my lovely clutter become clutter for YOUR home, though!  Tell me why you 'need' the free-bee and it'll go to the answer I like best.  Or to the first.  I don't know.  But let's see what I can find.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In need of a Lego Intervention: Confessions of a consumerist Mama

My boys, age 6.5 and 9.75 are Lego ADDICTS.  Nothing pleases them more than Lego, especially new Lego - they 'jones' for Lego all day long.  They take it to school hidden in pockets, they talk Lego with every friend, they have Lego playdates, Lego birthday parties, they 'build' as soon as their eyes open in the morning, and again as soon as they walk in the door from school or gymnastics, and they do not ever want to stop building.  Ever. Getting the mess cleaned up before bed is our family's biggest hassle, and inevitably leads to yelling.  Yelling at Lego addicts to put down the bricks seems about the only way to pierce through the Lego haze that clouds their brains.  It is not the bedtime routine I had hoped for, to say the least.

And it's my fault.  I am their dealer.  I got them hooked, it's my fault there are Legos underfoot all over our house, and it's my fault (ok, my husband's fault too, he has brought Lego into our house as well, and is a card carrying 'Lego Club Member' for the 'deals' at our mall's Lego store).  Many beautiful and expensive Lego sets later, there is a lot of the stuff in our house.  So I have tried to help contain the chaos with bins.  I have bought bins that stack and bins that slide, and shelves, and more bins, bins small, bins tall, and one that sorts bits all on it's own.  And boxes.  And boxes just for the instruction booklets. (As if we will be building those sets again, as if we could ever find every specialized piece at the same time.)  Plus shelves, and more shelves to display the brittle completed sets.   I have bought 'rare' pieces off eBay for them.  I have bought discontinued sets for small fortunes.  I have used Lego as bribe, reward, and punishment. It's all they want, it's alI they do. I am sick and tired of Lego.

I am tired of being mad about the Lego, that I bought, that they adore.  I'm tired of being angry that they are playing extra messily again.  I do not like to see constructions of weaponry, rolling/flying tanks with guns and swiveling turrets, no matter how original and 'cool' they are.  (Ppfew ppfew pppfffffeeeeew! go the little boys mouthing shooting noises).  Whatever happened to poor Thomas the Tank engine and those beautiful elaborately winding track mazes my boys used to build?  

I know, they are growing up, and Thomas and trains seem juvenile to them now, BUT.
If I dare post a pic of the boys' room, you would see it's not just Lego, I have also bought Playmobil and Shleich and Knex and gosh, everything and too much of it all.  All to try and engage them, interest them, 'make them happy'.  But they're not happy, not for long.  Let me add, we have so much, not because we can afford it, but because I have spent every penny I could.  An innocent lost in the woods of major marketing firms and promotional campaigns. Yup. Sure. I'd love to blame someone else - it's all their fault! Nah, I know, I did it to us. 
The sad, sorry state of the train table.

But then I had a BIG REALIZATION the other day.
Our kids' fingers are HUNGRY.  Their brains are bored.  (And the toy companies know this.)

If kids build Lego all day, it's because they want to create, to build, to MAKE something COOL and revel in the completed thing that only exists because they made it so.  And Lego has been provided to them.  It was an 'easy' and 'safe' consumerist solution for filling their obvious need.  (Safer than say, sending them out with an axe into the woods, as if we had woods around to send them out into.)

So I bought Lego.  It made them happy?  I can buy more!  And they want more?  Ok I'll buy more.  And more?  Something is unfulfilled in them, some need that is not being met because they never stop wanting MORE. 

If I understand they have an unmet need, if I understand that my sons' fingers are hungry, then I can teach them to braid, knit, crochet, weave, cut, sew, carve, paint, sculpt, mix, plant, sow, harvest, OH MY GOSH!!! All these things they have not yet or hardly ever done! The possibilities! 
Maybe the solution for a Lego addiction isn't something I can purchase online or in a store!  

Yesterday I gave DS9.75 a block of Ivory soap and a paring knife and he sat, over a wastebasket, and carved his first carving. A fish.  he made a very small fish and a very big mound of soap flakes.  He was so happy and absorbed.  

Today, he wants to do it again.  

My children need me to be more mindful.  I need me to be more mindful.  I need to intervene.  I cannot be their Lego dealer anymore, I need to be their smart, capable, mindful Mother who teaches them skills and abilities beyond snapping and unsnapping little plastic bricks together.  

I resolve to keep their fingers busy.  I resolve to stop buying Lego.
(Oh, that hurt.  Christmas is coming.  I was going to buy them some of the monster sets.  Am I addicted too to the 'quick fix' consumerism provides?  I know I am.  Oh help me.)

I resolve not to buy one more organizational 'tool' or bin, but to use what we already have and put all the Lego in the attic for a 'cold turkey' detox.  It's going to hurt, but hopefully not too bad, if I can provide enough interesting other things to do...
I'm open for ideas, people!

I feel the glimmer of a happier horizon.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Toy review: Corolle's Calin dolls vs Corolle's Tidoo

Our Lucy just turned 3 yesterday, she's the 3rd of my 4 girls, and guess what, her big birthday request was - a baby doll!  I've written before about our journey in finding the the most cuddly, cutest and sweetest smelling dolls for my two, and about choosing between American Girl's Bitty Baby and Corolle's Bebe Do, and now apparently the journey continues!
At 3, Lucy's not quite big enough for a 14 inch baby doll, the 12 inch dolls seemed to suit her better when we went to 'try on dolls' at our favorite doll and toy store, The Doll Hospital and Toy Soldier Shop.  We looked everything over carefully and decided to choose between Corolle's Tidoo dolls and Corrole's Calin dolls, both styles are 12" dolls.

Here are the Tidoos...
Tidoo Graceful

Tidoo Lutin Bright

Tidoo Raspberry

Tidoo Turquoise

Tidoo Strawberry

Corolle's Tidoo is adorable, and comes in lot's of different outfits to choose from  - but - Tidoo is a doll that can go in the tub(!) and is meant to dry quickly, so: all the Tidoos are 'crunchy' feeling because their bodies are stuffed with what feels like styrofoam to me, (which we think is a total bummer!) so the Tidoo gets a thumbs down.  :(

So which to choose, Carming Pastel Calin (in pink) or Sky Calin (in blue)?
Wait, not so fast!  There's MORE than that! There were more than one pink Calins, one comes in a striped cotton jersey outfit and another comes in a pink velour.  And there's also an adorable (if pouty) Asian Calin, and almost all of the Calins had teeth!!! Teeth? Yup, two front teeth that are painted and part of the lip sculpt, which seemed to me to interfere with the charm and play opportunities of the doll - I mean, could the doll take a pacifier or bottle  into it's mouth with those teeth?  Not really.  And not all of the dolls' teeth were painted very well...Hmmm.

The Calins....

                                                         Calin Yang
                                                             Sky Calin
                                                  Charming Pastel Calin
                                                             Sorbet Calin

Ok, so here's what we decided: we choose the Sky Calin which is the 'boy' dressed in blue, because he was the only Calin that comes with a pacifier and a mouth sculpt of a slightly open mouth, sans teeth, and meant to take a pacifier.   So, super cute face sculpt, but dressed all in blue.  A boy doll, for sure.

"Do you want a baby boy baby doll, Lucy?"  
"No. "
"But you LIKE baby boys, Lucy, and he could be the baby brother!"
Um, OK, I want TWOOOOOOO babies!  A boy AND a girl Mama! TWOOOOO!"
Um, OK, No.
maybe Santa will bring a twin at Christmas, but 2 dolls right now? No.  Daddy would have a fit.

So, figuring the girl was the birthday girl's 1st choice and a boy would be second, we added on a 12" Corolle doll outfit in pink(!)  and also a feeding set,  and then I dressed the Sky Calin in pink, saving the blue outfit for some other day, and wrapped it all up prettily and we were done. (I mean done with the doll acquisition   There were a few other toys to get still - and I wanted to finish the Snow White playset I was making  (that'll make it's way into a blog soon...) But yikes, buying quality is not cheap.  At least the store has sales often and we saved 15%, so it wasn't tooooo bad.
Anyhow, the birthday girl was very Happy.  And see what good size the doll is for this newly 3 yr old girl?  I think it's a good fit.
 And named her new baby 'Lizzie' right away.  Welcome home, Lizzie!
Corolle's feeding set, love the 'magic' milk! Also comes with a spoon and pretend orange juice, not pictured.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What are those toys up to today?

Found this going on in Big Sister's dollhouse this morning! :D

Mmmm! Donuts! Hope they remembered Daddy likes extra cream in his coffee!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Toy Review: American Girl dolls vs. Corolle dolls

Ok.  There are a lot of dolls in my house.  A LOT.  (and a lot of kids, too, a half dozen! - so hopefully that explains the abundance of toys and dolls.)  :)

I think, for as long as I've been a mother, I've been looking for the cutest, cuddliest, sweetest smelling, nicest dressed dolls I can find.  And I have found some very nice ones! Then at some point my husband declared enough was enough.  I agreed.  And yet, when a 4th birthday loomed on the horizon for Olivia, (who has been especially envious and covetous of big sister's American Girl doll Julie), I thought we should get her an American Girl Bitty Baby.  It made sense, in a way, to give her a baby doll, since we have a new (real) baby in the house, even though we already have baby dolls aplenty.  (See honey, I do know!) Really.
But an American Girl Bitty Baby baby doll would be extra super dooper special, right?
Known for their high quality and purportedly the 'perfect size' for 3 and 4 yr olds, Bitty Baby seemed the way to go. So I ordered the red head Bitty Baby with gray blue eyes. (We didn't have a red-headed doll yet was my reasoning, plus our real baby's downy fluff looks a bit gingery to me).

Well....when it arrived, I was surprised by the flatness of it's face sculpt, and the pallor of it's face and limbs.  Lifelike it wasn't.  Her clothes were lovely, though.  As was the fun, pretend baby monitor I'd ordered.  American Girl really does an outstanding job with their doll accessories and doll clothing.
But the doll.  Hmm.  15 inch Bitty Baby just simply was not as cute and cuddly as one of the dolls we already own; specifically 14 inch Corolle's Bebe Do.

Now, our Corolle Bebe Do doll has not been given the love she deserves in our house, nope.  I think I bought her 3 years ago and so, for 3 years she has mostly laid in a doll crib in the playroom, seemingly ignored.  Sometimes I'd find her one white plush outfit removed, but I never saw her in the dolly highchair being 'fed', never saw her at a 'tea party' with the other dolls, never helped her into a carrier on my girl's back - why?  Surely not for lack of cuteness!? Or cuddliness!?

I asked Big Sis (age 7.5) what she thought of the Bitty Baby doll vs. the Bebe Do doll - and shockingly (she's an American Girl doll lover), she agreed with me, that the Corolle Bebe Do was actually 'cuter', more life-like and cuddlier!  She gave both dolls many squeezes and hugs and finally sniffed both doll's heads - "this doll smells better too", she said.  Huh.  Our 3 yr old Corolle still smells faintly of the vanilla scent Corolle uses in their doll-making.  It never was an overpowering scent, and I am sensitive to such things...and she was right, the Bitty Baby did not smell quite as good.  And our birthday girl is all about things smelling good!

I think Bitty Baby has no really discernible smell, just a faint sort of new car kind of smell...but...Bebe Do did smell 'better', kind of like a freshly bathed real baby.
Hmmm.  Look at the difference in hand sculpts! I love Bebe Do's delicate fingers and oooh those babylicious lips! Overall, I find Bebe Do has a more delicate appearance, and a more finessed sculpt, whereas Bitty Baby's sculpt seems a bit clumsy and unrefined.  I keep thinking poor Bitty Baby is going to need braces for that underbite when she grows up.  ;) 
I firmly believe that "The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst beautiful things!" (supposedly Plato said that.)  Well, I say it, it helps me edit the house.    
So here was my idea: return the American Girl Bitty Baby doll, clean up our Corolle Bebe Do doll, and use the return money to dress her up in cuter clothes, outfit her with some awesome accessories and see what happened....

Stay tuned, and I'll show you!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

What says Valentine's more than a cupcake paper garland? Uh, maybe actual cupcakes and some Valentines?  I better get crackin' while the kids who can read are at school!  By the time they get home I hope to have valentines and cupcakes AND cookies made! Yikes!  Happy Valentine's Day!  
 more pretty cupcake papers garlanding our kitchen window...
and some turtles in love... :D

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Old toys made new - Vintage Fisher Price Pull-a-Long Lacing Shoe

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe...She had so many children she didn't know what to do!
See the old woman in the shoe? :)
So she gave them some broth and she gave them some bread, 
and she gave them all kisses and sent them to bed.*

Here is one of my favorite things to do - to make old toys new again, and fun again, for my kids. And for me I suppose! So here is a vintage Fisher Price Lacing Shoe.  I love the old graphics on the litho stickers -but- the peg people that originally came with the shoe were not my cup o' tea. And this is the old woman with soooo many children, right?! Yet originally this set came with only 5 'children', one of which was a dog?!
Ha.  Ok, so since I have 6 kids, my old woman has 10 kids.  Because 10 is 'so many', right?   And they are numbered underneath, for little learners, and also because that was fun and also because it helps me know who is missing after my kids are done with playtime and we are cleaning up.  "Kids, number 5 is missing! It's one of the middle kids, a boy - let's find him!" and somehow, we do find him - the 2 yr old running around saying "Boy, boooy, where AAHHHH yooooou???"  and then we  find him under a couch cushion. Fun.  Now, does this old woman yell or spank or become impatient with sooo many children and all their wily ways? Heck no. She's a real sweetie.  She does send them to bed, though.
Here's one way the original toy looked (notice the graphics feature block people ) :

and here's a different version: (I love these graphics, just not the block people)

and lastly above here's a modern version available today! And look, they kept the old graphics that I like!  Hmm - was nearly tempted to buy this but nah.  For $34 where's the old woman? And you only get 2 kids? Huh? how does that even make sense?  And goodness, ok, these are not choking hazards, so that's good, but good golly these 'little people' are HUGE!

 Well, I'm pleased with how mine turned out.  Glad  I put the time in instead of the money forked out.  Now if we could just find number 9?  "Ooooh Booooooooyy? Where ARE you?! Oh THERE you are boy! Time for bed!"
* original nursery rhyme: There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children she didn't know what to do.  So she gave them some broth, without any bread and she spanked them all soundly and sent them to bed.  
Oh dear.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

snuffly snorty baby nose...

Baby was a fitful sleeper last night...she's usually my buddy, my little warm bean and we sleep so nicely together...but last night I needed to be up and about - trying to finish up a special birthday T-shirt  and breakfast muffins and hang the birthday banners for my 6 yr old Birthday boy (!) and I needed Baby to sleep in her basinet - which she did, but fitfully.  Was she missing me? No.  Turns out, she was just trying to breathe, is all.  Boogers blocking the blow-hole.  Yup.  Happily, we own one of these:
Not for the faint of heart, but then, neither is motherhood! You put the mouthpiece in your mouth and suck the boogers right out of baby's nose!  Never fear, no boogers get anywhere near your mouth - they hardly even make it inside the chamber where the tissue is waiting, mostly they cling to the sides of the 'soft comfort nose tip' and then you need to take it apart and rinse it out.  But it WORKS, and I think it's worth a few minutes of gross-out cleaning so Baby can breathe.  Goodbye old nasal bulb, hello BabyComfyNose!
Does she love having her nose sucked out? No, she does not. She cries.  (Kind of a wimp, this kid) But this thing, this BabyComfyNose is gentle, (I tried it on my own nose, it really is gentle, probably just startles her a bit) and it really works, really cleared her right up so she could go back to sleep, (and breathe!) and I could finish my projects.  Hallelujah! 

About Me

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Mamazakka is Mommy blogger Autumn Sousanis; also-known-as Autumn Dunbar; and also-known-as "Mama" to six little ones, ages 9, 7.5, 5, 3.5 2 and a 3 month old! :) Busy,yes. A graduate of C.C.S. (Center for Creative Studies, School of Art and Design in Detroit) with my bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, I have finally found my calling as 'Mamazakka', maker of everything and anything that might improve your home, life and outlook. :) It's my goal to create things that truly meet Wikipedia's definition for 'zakka'; (here's an excerpt)..."cute, corny, kitschy is not enough. To qualify, a product must be attractive, sensitive and laden with subtext." Oh yeah! You betcha! Well, that's my goal, anyhow! I'm also known as an over-user of exclamation marks(!) and parentheses (can't help it) though I do try to keep my smileys to a minimum :)