Monday, 30 April 2012

Potty Training

Okay, so a lot of the advice I have read or heard suggests that you just wait, and your toddler will suddenly let you know that they are ready to come out of nappies.  Then there isn't much need to potty train, because they are ready and they will use it.

I didn't wait.  I was trying.  We were doing some gentle encouragement.  A bit of nappy off time every now and then.  "I'll use the potty when I'm a bit bigger"... I began to worry that perhaps with this boy I might be waiting a long time.  Then I asked some advice from my friends at Toddler Group.  Two of them had just waited really, and their girls let them know that they were ready, but they were ready quite a bit younger than C is now.  One of them is writing a book about potty training.  Her twins are a few months younger than C and have been using the potty for a few months now.  She suggested that I should just go for it.

I just went for it.  Last Wednesday afternoon.  "Right.  Big boy now.  No more nappies except at sleep time.  Wees and poos in the potty now."  

Wednesday and Thursday - fine, no probs.
Friday - an accident in the aisle at Tesco.  An accident at home.
Saturday - an accident by the sea lions at the safari park and an accident at home.
Sunday - pretty good.
Monday - only two successful uses of the potty, everything else has been on the floor, though for the most part on the way to the potty!

It seems as though he's getting the messages that he needs a wee, but he wants to wait until he's finished what he's doing before heading to the potty, and he's leaving it too late.  Quite often I've literally just asked him if he needs to use the potty, and he's replied "I'm alright".  Minutes later there's an accident.

I decided that he needs a bit more incentive.  I had been planning on getting him a balance bike anyway.  The little trike that we bought for his birthday has been a waste of space - because of the lack of walking around here that isn't off-road mud etc. it's not been used on walks, and even though the age recommendation on the bike is 18mths-3yrs, at nearly 3years old, he still can't reach the pedals properly to use the bike on his own.  So I found a Balance Bike on Gumtree, and bought it.  The nice lady also threw in a Thomas the Tank Engine scooter for free.  I showed them to him and let him have a quick go and then locked them into the bike shed.  There we go.  I cut out ten large gold stars from card, and numbered them.  At the top of the fridge is a picture of the bike.  The bike is for big boys.  Big boys go to the toilet in the potty.  Every time you go to the toilet in the potty you get a star on the fridge.  When you have all ten stars, then you can have the bike.  After that we'll work for the scooter.  A bit of incentive to make it to the potty in time!

I worry so much that I'm getting it all wrong.  Who knows.  Am I pushing him too early?  Is he ready?  I guess we'll wait and see.  In the meantime, there isn't much change in my laundry - while I am now only washing terry nappies for one, I do have a constant wash-load of small pants, socks and shorts, and the cloths which I'm using to clean my floors...

I just have to have faith that he'll get there in the end, and hope that it doesn't take too long!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Book Reviews - "How to be Good" and "The Mumpreneur diaries"

"How to be Good" by Nick Hornby.

This is just one of many books packing our bookcases that has an unknown origin.  Where did it come from?  Hubby says he doesn't think he's read it, and it isn't his usual genre for impulse "I must have this book on my bookcase and one day you never know I might get around to reading it" buying.  It's definitely not one of mine.
Product Details
Anyway, Sis has a habit of taking books off shelves.  I'm trying to teach her (unsuccessfully at the moment) to take them off one at a time, because that's how many you can read, and then return them to the shelf before getting the next one.   Having picked this book up from the floor and slotted it back onto its shelf at the bottom of the stairs several times, I decided to relocate it to my bedside table for some light reading.

It made me giggle.  It's a very easy, stress-free read.  The main character is a basically good person, she's a bit bored of her husband, who seems a bit bored of her, and has a quick affair.  Meanwhile, her husband meets a faith-healer and suddenly decides to be good.  Her life is turned upside down as her previously grumpy husband suddenly gets into charity, the homeless, giving, giving and giving.  Life gets very weird.

This book is funny, and also makes you question your own little hypocrisies a  bit.  I thoroughly recommend this for a little light brain relief and a good laugh.

"The Mumpreneur Diaries", by Mosey Jones.
I picked this one up in the library, in between supervising C's literary choices and following Sis around the octagonal building replacing all the books that she was releasing enthusistically from the shelves.
The Mumpreneur Diaries: Business, Babies or Bust - One Mother of a Year
The premise is that the author is just going on maternity leave to have her second baby.  She doesn't really want to go back to her job.  She decides that she should work from home, setting up a business during her maternity leave, which, if successful, will mean that she doesn't need to go back.

I found it very difficult to put down.  In fact, I was daftly reading until 2.15am so that I could get to the end and find out what she decided to do at the end of her year.  It was also funny.  And even more than that, it gave me a tremendous boost to see that actually, if this is anything like what life is like for some people staying at home with their children, then I am really not doing such a bad job!  This lady likes to drink wine during the afternoon and watch daytime television.  Housework doesn't get done.  She is an incredible procrastinator, list maker and impulse shopper.  One of her children is in full time childcare, so not there to distract her.  I'm still determined to make a go of working from home too... but I'm lucky in that I've still got a few years to get into profit, as I'm definitely staying at home until the children are at school.  After that, if I'm making money, it doesn't really matter where I do it, and it's only my own decision about what is going to suit me best.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Crafting in April - what have I been making?

The first answer is of course... not a lot!  Time seems to be stealing by so fast without space to take a breath, relax or make stuff.  The children, while taking up every ounce of my energy and every second of my time, seem to be growing up in the blink of an eye.  This week we've been potty training C.  Suddenly, with the dawning realisation that he is a "big boy" and in fact can wear pants and use the potty, it has dawned on him that he can be responsible in all sorts of other ways.  He's carrying things through to the kitchen, packing his own bag in the car, choosing his own clothes, putting dirty things in the laundry and putting clean ones away.  This week he isn't even a toddler anymore... he's a BIG BOY!

Anyway, what have I been making?  In our conservatory we had new blinds put in.  But we have an odd shaped window.  The only blinds that you can buy for this shape are vertical blinds, but we wanted horizontal.  Unfortunately, the sun streams in through this window in the evening, right into people's faces as they eat their dinner.  So... a plan was hatched...
We have a large African Savannah inspired stencil painting on the wall above the bookcases, and the walls are a warm sand colour.  I decided to stick with the theme, and use fabric paints to decorate a large cloth (hemmed to fit the shape of the window).  Here it is:
 And here's a close up of the ostrich and the woman:
I don't have a photo of it up in the window (and it's dark right now so I'm not going downstairs to take one), but it actually looks okay!

 Next, we were going to a 1st birthday party.  One of the little girls from toddlers.  I find it so hard to buy presents for little babies and toddlers, they aren't really in to their toys yet (and the toys for this age are so expensive for what they are), and you can't really get them crafty things yet either.  I decided to make a tabard for Ruby, so that as she gets older and does baking or art work she's got something personalised and individual to wear.
 The pattern was very simple, though in hindsight the neck hole could have been smaller.  I decided to do a contrasting zig-zag stitch around the edge to go with a decoration and her name.  I've never used the zig-zag function on my machine before and am not sure whether it was the tension I used, or the quality of the thread, but it kept snapping which was very annoying!
 Anyway, I used felt and a ribbon and a button to make a little flower to decorate, and zig-zag stitched her name too, which I then over-wrote with red fabric pen to add further definition.
I'm really not sure about the results.  It definitely doesn't look at all professional.  I've learned a few lessons about how I could improve it if I were to make another.  Sometimes I think I should just take a bit more time about these things and plan them a little better, or experiment more before going at a project full tilt - but then, where would I find the time right now?  Anyway, Ruby's mummy was very kind.  They didn't open the presents at the party, but afterwards made a real point of saying how much she loved it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Embrace the Camera

Embrace the camera is an idea whereby the blogger, that would be me, actually gets in front of the camera every now and again.  Otherwise the children grow up with loads of photographs of themselves, but none with you in them, so they don't have any images to back up all their memories of your love and how awesome you think they are.

So I thought I'd give it a go.  Now bear in mind here that I always look absolutely awful and that my hair is, as always, a complete mess.  But I guess that doesn't matter, because the little ones still think I'm beautiful.

C is trying to drive the car.  I don't care, I'm getting in there for some loving.

Here goes:

For more on "Embrace the camera" pop by to The Anderson Crew.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

"Underneath the Floorboards" awesome theatre production for kiddies

Today I took the tots to the theatre.  

Macrobert theatre:
The theatre is on the Stirling University Campus, and I get sent the Film listings for the cinema there, and also the live events listings.  There is always something on the programme that I want to go and see, and there are often shows for children.  I've blogged here before about "White", and also here about "Big Ears Little Ears".  The cafe in the theatre foyer is great with a children's play area, colouring in sheets and a good children's menu.

The Macrobert website is here.

"Underneath the Floorboards":
This show was part of a Big Dance Day being held at the theatre, with all sorts of workshops, taster sessions and a ceilidh.  "Underneath the Floorboards" was billed as a magical dance show for under 5's.  It was certainly that - completely bewitching.  Instead of going into the auditorium, we were taken through the stage-door, where the stage was set up with a semi-circle of chairs, bean-bags and cushions around the set.  There were toys on the set which the children were being encouraged to play with.  Then the show began.  The children helped the lead character put away his toys and then took themselves back to the cushions to watch, though there was no issue at all with them wandering on to the set to get closer to the action, they were just incorporated into the dance.  The characters were at once weird and beautiful, as was the story and the music.  C was sitting down at the front with his friend, and his face was a picture.  The Bug was on my knee, and at several points got down and pushed her way nearer to the front to get closer to the action.  If her agility had allowed her to climb over the other children to get on the set, then I think she might have gone.  Afterwards, you could go and get a closer look at the dancers, have pictures taken (typically I didn't have my camera) and touch their costumes.  Both of mine wanted to go and have a look, but only if I came too, and they wanted to stay very much on my knee once we got there.  This was a fantastic show.  The choreography, costumes, story-line and dancing was all top notch.  I would definitely go to see this company again, and would take the children to see future dance events targetted at their age range.

The Ballet Lorent website is here.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

My little left-hander - parenting a left-handed child

One in every ten of us is left-handed, yet the world is not set up with left-handers in mind.  

I have been discovering this as C is definitely left-handed, though neither of us are.  Suddenly I am needing to be aware of all sorts of issues:

  • Cooking - passing utensils to him in his left hand, passing bowls to him with the spoon handle sticking out on the left, sieves, jug handles, all need to be on the left to that he can do them with his stronger hand.  As he gets older and starts to use the kettle, I need to teach him to rotate it on the stand so that the handle is on the left before attempting to pick it up and pour it.
  • Art and craft - again passing him paintbrushes and things on the left, making sure that if Bug or I are at the easel with him, we are on his right so that we don't bump elbows.  I've just bought him left-handed scissors.  I also try to model painting, gluing, cutting etc. with the implement held in my left hand so that he can see what to do, or I sit opposite him so that I am mirroring what he does.
  • Learning to read and numbers - left-handers need a lot of reinforcement to start reading letters and numbers on the left.  Their natural tendency is to start on the right.  I haven't noticed it much with letters yet because we tend to look at single letters, but when looking at two digit numbers he often says the one on the right first.
  • Handwriting - this is an issue that a lot of left-handers have issues with.  They want to start work on the right hand side of the page.  They want to form letters with their pencil going clockwise, meaning that c and the many letters that are formed by starting with a "c" shape are often reversed.  And when they write with a pen, they need to push it across the page, where right-handers pull it, in some nibbed pens this makes a terrible mess.  In order to see what they are writing many left-handers get themselves into a very contorted position to avoid smudging their work and to allow them to read it.  To solve these problems they need a lot of early practice with seating position, pencil grip, paper position on the table, letter formation and starting on the left of the page.  I have bought C a left handed pencil sharpener (to be held in the right hand while the left turns the pencil away from the body), and a special writing practice worksheet book (there are three of them starting with one for pre-school age, where they are simply learning to form a line on the page, practising their pencil grip and paper position and beginning to form individual letters).
When C gets older there are more things to think about:
  • sport - teaching him to throw or bat
  • IT, making sure that the computer mouse is on the left for him and that the buttons are reversed (there's a special way to do this!)
  • making sure that schools are aware of the issues so that they can accommodate all of the above, but also that they allow space on the right hand side of the board for him to stand when working at the board (teachers often have their board set up for their convenience, and will have a chair or desk in the way on the right); that they think about how they present assessment exam papers, most have the questions on the left and the space for answers on the right, meaning that C will be covering up the questions while writing the answer, so he won't easily be able to refer back across to the question;
  • lots of equipment such as microscopes and microwaves to name just two, have the controls on the right, meaning that they have to reach around to control them.  This includes potentially lethal D&T bench fixed power tools, where not only are the controls on the right, but so is the emergency power off switch!
  • When I'm teaching C to iron I'll need to have the ironing board set up the opposite way around (or stand on the opposite side from him).
  • learning a musical instrument - choice of instrument will be important.
  • I'll need to purchase left-handed can openers, kitchen scissors, and even rulers, because the left hander needs the numbers to start at the other end of the ruler.
It's an absolute minefield, but I'm loving that I'm learning so much from C already.  This is something I've never really thought about before, and now I'm finding out lots.  

My two main sources of information so far have been:
"Your left-handed child" by Lauren Milsom, which I have a copy of, and where I've bought the equipment.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Interesting parenting web-pages

I've been surfing this 'ere interweb just lately, and have found a few web-pages that have got me thinking about the way I approach my parenting.  I thought I'd share:

  • Some brilliant tips about communicating with toddlers from the Child Welfare League of America (here)
  • Another communication one, this time from the University of Maine (here)
  • This one about child behaviour from the Family and Consumer Sciences Department at NC State University (here)
  • A great one about methods of discipline for children at various ages from the University of Maine (here)
  • Some good tips about giving children choices. (here)
  • A booklet on teaching Self Control from the University of Kentucky. (here) 
  • Some ideas of activities that children should be able to do independently from the Work at Home Moms website (here)
  • This is a brilliant article from Waldorf today, about having daily rhythms for under seven year olds.  I found this fascinating and plan to focus a bit more on the "breathing in" and "breathing out" rhythms with my two.  (here)

Monday, 16 April 2012

Quick crafty ideas for toddlers - papier mache island

No matter what crazy theme your toddler is crazy about just now, or even if they aren't, there is  bound to be a use for a papier mache island.

  • fairies and princesses - a beautiful glittery island paradise
  • dinosaurs - dino island
  • pirates - pirate island
  • farms - duck pond island
  • octonauts (CBeebies) - oh I don't know, I don't watch it, but I know it's set under water so I'm sure you can come up with a connection!
  • Zingzillas (CBeebies again) - the Zingzilla Island
  • Castles - you'll have to construct a castle on your island of course

Anyway, you get the idea - they are supremely easy to make and you just link into your theme.  The added advantage with making these is that it's messy, so your toddler will enjoy it.  The disadvantage is that it takes time to dry, so there's some delayed gratification there, but that teaches them something too doesn't it?!

What you need:
  • some strong cardboard - mine was part of a packaging box, the type they throw out at the supermarket or Amazon deliver in.
  • newspaper
  • tape
  • flour and water
  • paints
How to do it:
  • screw up some largish balls of newspaper and squash into position on your piece of newspaper to make hill type shapes for your island, these can then be taped into position.
  • Mix a flour and water gloop - the runnier this is the longer it will take to dry.
  • Tear up all the rest of your newspaper into long strips.  These can then be dipped into your gloop and laid over the hills, criss-crossing as much as possible, until there are no gaps.  Try to get two or three layers if you can.  If your toddler is anything like mine you'll find that they concentrate on one small area without looking at the bigger picture.  Depending on your patience you can either show them the other side and encourage them to cover that too, or you can just get on and fill in the gaps.
  • Leave to dry.  It needs to dry through completely.  Mine was in a warm, sunny conservatory and still took more than 24 hours.
  • Now paint.  For some islands you will need glitters (also good for the sea anyway), some will be green, others will be black and rocky - depends on your theme.  Add any other decorations that your toddler thinks will fit the theme.  Allow to dry.
  • Da daaa!  An island!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

How to be free - ESCAPE DEBT

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting. 

Chapter 9 - Escape debt – CUT UP YOUR CREDIT CARD

Banks = bad

A little simplistic, but since their entire business plan is built up on the reliance on your debt, in order to collect interest payments, you can imagine that they are not going out of their way to help you live within your means.

Banks, while making it difficult for poor people, make outrageous profits.  They are highly organised global corporations who do very obscure things like making bets on debt that they borrow from one another.

Clever advertising by the banks tries to lead us to the conclusion that they are there, working selflessly, for us.  When in fact they are working selfishly in order to make more profit.  They love us to be in debt.  More debt means more money for the bank.

Being in debt makes people feel bad, it seems that you are forever bound to pay interest and repayments, so that you are never free to live within your earnings, because you will always be paying for something that you had, used and finished with a long time ago, or a house that will take you all your working life to own yourself.  This is why it seems so crazy that students are expected to go into debt so horrendously at such a tender age – many of them will still be paying off student debts well into their thirties, to say nothing of the debt that is added on by trying to get on the “property ladder” and the expectation of a new car.  Once you’re in debt, you are forever tied to the job, because you can’t get brave enough to go self-employed or leave the rat-race if you owe loads of money.

Tom suggests that the only way to stop the debt, is to stop working, because if you know that you have a regular wage coming in, it makes it easier on your psyche to spend=borrow more  money.  Leaving the system allows you to wiggle and work your way free of it.

He also suggests that if we are in debt we should simply cease to worry about it.  You’re very unlikely to be cast out into the streets – Voluntary Repayment Agreements (I think that’s what they are called) are a situation where you tell your creditors that you can’t afford to pay, but agree to pay what you can.

Cut up your credit card.  Snap your fingers at the banks.

How does this match up to the Ink Spots and Grass Stains life?

It’s true that since I have been a stay-at-home-mum, with no regular earnings, I just don’t get into debt anymore.  Hubby gets into debt on my behalf!  Actually, my first marriage resulted in an enormous heap of debt in my name, which left me financially crippled for several years, and debt now terrifies me.  Hubby says, lets get a loan for a new car, and I think “why don’t we buy a cheaper car and save up so that next time we can just buy one new?”

I hate debt.  I have cut up my credit cards.  I do my best to be thrifty, to spend very little and to save for things.  Yes, I think I pretty much go with the aim of this chapter, and being personally debt free makes it much easier to plan for earning what I can for the life I wish to lead, rather than worrying about debt remaining to be repaid.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Cooking with toddlers - thumbprint cookies

We tried this recipe for the first time today, and it was very successful.  It's from the brilliant "Kids First Cookbook:
You get 4 ounces of light brown (or muscovado) sugar and 4 ounces of butter and beat them together until light and fluffy. 

Mix in one egg.  C is just learning to crack an egg into a bowl at the moment, and loves any chance he gets to practice this new skill.

Stir in 2 ounces of plain flour, 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda, 2 ounces of cocoa powder and 4 ounces of oats until really gooey.

Now get your hands in there and roll into sixteen little balls.  Lightly press them on to your baking tray, leaving plenty of space for expansion.
With a thumb dipped into flour, press a dent in the top of each one.
Bake at 180 C for ten minutes, then leave on the tray to set for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Use two teaspoons to put a blob of chocolate spread into the dent in each cookie.

Lick all bowls and spoons because they are all delicious!
Try very hard to wait until after dinner to devour your treat.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

10 outdoor activities to do with toddlers in the Spring.

Spring is a time when the weather is unpredictable (actually, this is Britain, are there any times when the weather is predictable?).  It means that you can have really nice days - good for picnics and even the paddling pool.  But you can also have days of pouring rain, cold and even snow!  If you want to get outside, you need activities that you can do in coats and boots, and go prepared for anything:

  1. Look for signs of spring - anything from birds making nests, to catkins and leaf buds, frogspawn, crocus, snowdrops, ramsons, daffodils - track them down, collect samples for a season table, take photos... whatever!
  2. Make footprints in mud and compare the footprints made by different sized welly boots.
  3. Gardening - get them to help you sow seeds, or create a hanging basket.
  4. Make your own birds nest from sticks, ivy and moss (great for mini Easter eggs).
  5. Make a "pixie house" in the garden using rocks, maybe a little scrap of bark or wood for the door - you can use whatever is to hand and make it as grand as your imagination allows.
  6. Animal hunt - now that they've got into the swing of "hunting" for things after an easter egg hunt, get some other things to hide around the garden.  e-bay or charity shops are great places to find little ornament animals (usually ceramic, but you can get wooden ones too) and these can be hidden around the garden, in plant pots, in the fork of a tree branch, on a step etc. and the children can go out and find them.  Next time you could hide them in different places.
  7. Feed the birds.  As mummy birds start making and feeding baby birds they'll be getting hungry, and now is not just the hungry gap for humans - depending on the weather, there may not be much food around for the birds either, so help them out and make bird feeders, then sit back and watch the action.
  8. Practice ball skills.  If like me, you are uncomfortable with ball games in the house, then the chances are your toddler has grown several months older since their last regular exposure to kicking, catching and throwing.  Get different types of balls and practise those skills - their co-ordination should have moved on since the Autumn, and some regular practice should bring them on in leaps and bounds.  I just saw an idea for "catchers" made of milk bottles on "The Imagination Tree" blog here.  Well worth a try to help build catching confidence.
  9. Catch slugs and snails.  At this time of year these bad boys are coming out to play (and eat your seedlings).  Provide toddlers with a bucket and encourage them to find as many as they can hiding in empty plant pots or under plastic sheeting.  Get the children to touch them, look at them and really get up close and personal (then when the little ones have gone in for dinner, dispose of the pests by your chosen method so they can't feast on your garden - "oh dear, have they all escaped?")
  10. Build - with stones, with plant pots, with wooden blocks, with branches and sticks.  Whatever you have to hand, encourage your toddler to build with it.
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Monday, 9 April 2012

Book Review - "Skimming Stones"

"Skimming Stones - and other ways of being in the wild" by Rob Cowen and Leo Critchley.

Hubby bought me this book.  The authors wrote a regular column in The Independent and he thought it right up my street.

It was a brilliant 1-chapter-a-night read.  The book is split into three sections - Seaside and Coasts; Fields and Forests; and Mountains and Rivers.  There are four chapters in each section, each chapter dealing with a different activity, from stone skimming (hence the title) to building dens, carving a whistle from elder and building an igloo.

Each chapter includes a recount of when the authors undertook this particular activity, and it's worth noting that they live in the big smoke, so trips to the country were a special occasion, usually with a purpose in mind, detailed instructions on how to actually do the activity and any legal implications.  They then give supplementary information, for example on other things you might come across, or on the history of the area or the activity.

There is a certain amount of what I would consider self-indulgent artistic and expressive descriptions of scenery or how it made them feel - almost poetic - which doesn't necessarily quite sit right with the informative nature of the book.  On the other hand, I would probably have done the same (though maybe some of it would have been weeded out during editing!), and all in all I really enjoyed the book, and plan to ensure that these activities are incorporated into future trips in the outdoors.

If you love the outdoors, and fancy a bit of arm-chair indulgence, particularly in the depths of winter, then this is a great book, and I would recommend it as a gift for outdoorsy folks too.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

In March we were mostly.... (best pics from the month)

...dressing up...

...she's getting so cheeky!...

...learning to drive already... 
...whoops... this water is deeper than the wellies...

... a door to nowhere, at Crinan harbour, with the little lighthouse beyond...

...out for a walk at Tarbert, looking down to the castle and the harbour...

I just love this picture.  We'd been for a 6 mile walk, and he'd fallen into a rock-pool.
His spare clothes were still on the sofa in the chalet, so he completed the walk in his little sister's pink leggings .

...In a monastic cell in Kilmartin Glen...

...a beautiful Loch Avich...

This is so gorgeous.  He's showing her some shells that he's found.

My boys went a scrambling on some rocks by the Rest and Be Thankful.

I've been out for an early morning jog and my little ones are pleased to see me back. painting...

...the bowl of water was for washing hands after painting.  Sis had other plans!