Friday, May 29, 2009

Raising Peas and Kids

I was impressed by the prettiness of the peas in my garden. These are shelling peas, so they aren't quite ready for picking just yet. We have picked and eaten Swiss chard though.

As a child there were two foods I absolutely could not stand. One was corn dogs and the other was Swiss chard. Now that I'm older I don't mind an occasional corn dog, and the chard from our garden was delicious. I guess you could say my tastes in food have become both more and less sophisticated.

The corn is just starting to pop up and the beans are just about ready for their exponential growth spurt. The conditions are perfect.

Raising boys and raising a garden have a few similarities. Both take a lot of effort, but the rewards are great. And like my picture of the pretty little pea, there are plenty of boy-raising moments I'd like to capture and remember forever.

Last night while I was bathing the younger boys, Isaac said to me, "Mom, can we have a baby sister in our family?"

"Why do you want a sister?" I asked.

Isaac replied, "So I can throw water balloons at her."

Right before this sweet little exchange, I entered the bathroom and noticed the cup I normally use to rinse off the boys during their bath. It was sitting on the edge of the tub with about an inch of liquid that was very obviously urine.

"Is that pee in the cup?" I asked.

Jonah quickly took the cup and upended it into the bath water. "Nope." he said.

I pointed out that they were now bathing it what was essentially a toilet, so Isaac started to let the water out and suggested they quickly get washed under fresh-from-the-faucet water.

And that's what I love about boys. They're so gross and goofy and fun.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Overheard at the Baseball Game

Part of being a baseball mom or dad is cheering on the team. When it comes to shouting out encouragement, my repertoire includes the following:

Go (insert kid name here)!
All right (insert kid name here)!
Nice job (insert kid name here)!

Other parents, however, have a whole arsenal of things to shout and they sound so cool saying them. They're natural shouters, like they've been going to Little League baseball games for years and know all the catchphrases.

Here are a few of the bon mots I overheard at last night's game:

nice play, nice throw, nice cover, nice stop

way to hustle, way to get there, way to swing, way to get your bat on the ball

good cut, good job, good eye, good hustle

keep your eye on the ball, keep your head down, keep it going, keep it up

be a hitter, give it a ride, wait for your pitch, stay in there, wait for the great ones, gotta be in your wheelhouse

come on buddy, right down the plate, hit 'em in the chest, bring it down

eat it! be patient, take care of it.

When I try shouting these things, I just sound silly. I don't know what it is, but I can't carry it off. I'm not a convincing shouter.

Thanks to cell phones, there are other things you overhear at baseball games too. One of the parents had this little doozy of a conversation and gave several of us a good laugh last night:

"What?! You lost your wedding ring??"


"Oh! You found it...that's good."


"You found it in your pajama bottoms?"


"You found it in MY pajama bottoms?"

So, little by little, I'm starting to enjoy baseball. The weather is perfect, the boys are playing like a well-oiled machine (most of the time), the other moms and I have developed a good rapport and a lovely standard sideline banter, even Jonah and Isaac are enjoying themselves with the other baseball siblings they see at every game.

Of course now that it's all coming together, the season is almost over.

Isn't that always the way it goes?

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's a FREE (or almost free) Summer!

Smart parents like me are always thinking ahead. We have no illusions that the kid's summer vacation will be a whine-free endeavor and take whatever steps necessary to minimize said whining.

Bad economy or no, I've always had an extreme fondness for all things cheap or free. And with three kids, cheap and free goes a long way.

I've spent the last few weeks compiling my list of free (or almost free) summer activities for kids. While I will not guarantee a whine-free summer, I'm almost positive there is something on my list to make even the most bored child forget, for a little while, that "there's nothing to do" this summer.

Library--If you don't know by now, your library offers a summer reading program for kids and teens. Even pre-readers can participate and take part in some fun prizes. Here in Washington County, our library's summer reading prize (along with various stickers, bookmarks, tattoos and pencils) is an unlimited rides pass to Oaks Park at the end of the summer.

Barnes and Noble--Barnes and Noble and Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) have teamed up for a fun summer reading program. Kids grades 1-6 read 8 books, list them on a reading log and turn it in at their local B&N to receive a free book by September 7, 2009. Click here for the forms.

Borders--Kids 12 and under can read 8 books to choose from selected $4.99 reading challenge items. Items include an E.L. Konigsburg 3-book collection, Melissa & Doug 4 Wooden jigsaw puzzles in a box and a Super Doodle Kit. Click here for the reading log.

Scholastic--For the altruistic child, Scholastic is offering the chance to read for a cause. Kids can join a reading team, log their reading minutes, and the winning team will get to vote on which "Save the Children" foundation will receive a special donation from Scholastic. Kids can also play on-line games to earn more points for their team and there will be prizes and sweepstakes for the winning. Click here for more info and to sign up.

Company Tours
Chevy's--Call your local Chevy's and ask for the General Manager to arrange a tour of the Chevy's kitchen. Kids in the tour group receive free kids meals at the end of the tour! (Might want to invite a few friends along for this deal)

Bob's Red Mill--Located in Milwaukie, Oregon, Bob's Red Mill produces more than 400 products, including baking flours, hot cereal mixes, whole grains and mixes. Tours are offered Monday through Friday and start between 10-11am. They last about an hour. After the tour you can head over to the deli for a delicious lunch. Click here for more info.

Do you have public fountains where you live? Here are my favorites:

Bethany Fountain--It's close and the kids love it. Lots of seating for parents who don't want to get wet and even a nice shady bench up next to Blockbuster. Return library books or grab and ice cream cone after the kids are tired from running through the water.

Beaverton Library Fountain--The fountains at Beaverton Library have a nice grassy area to sit and picnic and watch the kids run through the water. There is also a nearby playground.

Salmon Street Springs--The iconic, downtown Portland public fountain that I've always wanted to go to, but when it comes right down to it, am too lazy to actually get in the car, drive downtown, find a parking garage and walk to. But someday I'm totally going there with the kids. Maybe this summer?

Rec Center--If you don't belong to a fancy dancy health club with monthly membership fees, check out your local rec center for a cheap swim alternative. Our rec center offers a 3 month family swim pass for $105. Not free, and maybe not cheap, unless you consider that covers your whole family for any of the 8 swim centers and can be used during open, lap or family swim times. A pretty low price that will keep the family swimming all summer.

Apple Camp--Kid's 8-12 can attend a movie, photo, music or presentation workshop at your local Apple store. Classes are on Saturdays in July from 9-12. And they're FREE! Kids don't have to have any Apple products to enjoy the classes, but the music and photo classes require the kids to bring music CD's, an iPod, photos or a digital camera along with the cables needed for hook-up. Classes are filling up fast.

OSU Extension Cooking--This just in on my kids school lunch menu: OSU extension services is offering free kids nutrition and cooking classes. The website doesn't have the information up yet, but here's the link you can check to see when information is posted. Classes will be held at a school cafeteria near you...if you live in the Beaverton School District.

Farmer's Market Kid's Cooking--Not free, and maybe not cheap, but definitely doable, the Portland Farmer's Market at PSU is offering kids cooking classes throughout July and August. The only downside is getting up early on a Saturday morning. Classes are 8:30 to 10am and cost $20 each, or $50 for 3 classes. Kids 7-15 can learn to cook with "groovy grains," "veritable vegetables," "fantastic fruits," "dynamic dairy," "perfect proteins," and "healthy desserts." Click here for more info.

Bowling--Participating bowling centers are offering 2 free games of bowling, every day, all summer long for kids. All you have to pay for is shoes. A family pass can be purchased for as little as $23.95 so parents can bowl too. All summer! It's a pretty good deal. Unfortunately there are no participating bowling alleys near me, but maybe there are some near you?

Movies--Participating Regal cinemas show selected G and PG movies free for families at 10am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer. Seating is first come, first served, so you need to arrive early to get in. Click here to find a theater near you.

County Fair--The Washington County Fair takes place from July 30 through August 2, 2009 and has free admission every day. I know, kids will be miserable with out going on the rides, but maybe, just maybe, they will be interested in the exhibits if they enter something in them.

Have you ever entered something into the county fair? I have. It's a little geeky, but fun. There are plenty of things kids can enter in the fair: cookies, photography, poetry, scrapbooking, card making, HOMEWORK, gingerbread houses and a lot more. Click here for the 104 page exhibitor open class handbook to see all the different things you can enter in the fair. Come on! Do it! There's cash prizes...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cold Feet at Five

The other day Isaac and I were sitting on my bed, under a cozy blanket, eating red hots and reading books. Bliss.

Isaac said, "Mom, do people have to get married?"

I said, "People don't have to get married, but getting married is good. You get to have a family and be with people you love."

Then Isaac got a little emotional. He was wiping at his eyes like it just might keep the tears from coming out. "But mom, I don't want to get married."

I said, "It's OK. You don't have to worry about getting married for a long, long time. And one day, you will meet a girl and getting married will seem like a really good idea."

Now the tears were flowing and Isaac said, "But Mom! You are the only girl I like!"

"Oh Isaac," I said, giving him a hug, "Don't worry, you can stay with me for as long as you want."

"I want to stay with you forever." He said.

I remember what it's like to be 5. The idea of having to be on your own, to not have anyone to tuck you in at night or cook your meals is frightening.

I've kept this in mind as I've tried to assure Isaac. While I certainly don't want him hanging around forever, I'm OK telling him he can, just to ease his mind.

Over the last few days, Isaac has brought up the issue of marriage and moving out several times; like he wants to make sure the deal to live with me forever is still good.

Last night I carried him up to bed and he whispered in my ear, "Mom, I don't have to get married, I can stay with your forever, right?"

How could I say anything else but, "of course you can Sweetie! Forever*."

*Please don't tell me I"m starting to sound like the "Love You Forever" Mom.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Movie Book vs. Book

I just finished reading a book called The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.

The book I got from the library had the cover on the left with the line at the top "Now a Major Motion Picture." The picture on the cover features the actors in the movie from what I can only guess is a scene in the movie. Natch, I was under the silly impression that the cover might actually have something to do with what I would read.

I thought the story would be about a woman who fell out of love with her husband and who through learning to be a little selfless and focusing on the less fortunate, she would eventually see what a wonderful man her husband was and fall back in love with him and they would cuddle up to each other on a boat on a Chinese lake.

Instead, what happened was the woman never fell back in love with her husband. He died of cholera and she had to go back to Hong Kong, and then London in shame because of some decisions she'd made. And when she finally gets back to London she finds that her mother has died and her father is getting ready to leave for the Bahamas and she will be all alone. Oh, did I mention she was pregnant too? The end!

No boat, no cuddling, no Chinese lake.

I don't think I would have been nearly as disappointed with the outcome of this story if it weren't for the misleading cover.

It's not surprising that the movie based on this book would stray from the story line. Movies often stray from the books on which they are based.

But now the book is straying from the book.

It's like buying a can of Pepsi, taking a drink and finding out there's tomato sauce inside.

It's just wrong.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Saving the Planet

The kids love drinking water, but they always want cold water.

For a while I kept a Brita pitcher in the fridge. After a while, I started resenting the Brita monstrosity for all the fridge real estate was occupying. When it eventually cracked and leaked water everywhere, I decided to end my relationship with the Brita pitcher.

I started purchasing bottled water in bulk from Costco. Bottled water is convenient if you don't count the weight lifting training you have to complete before you are able to heft 48 shrink wrapped bottles of water from pallet to cart. Not to mention the time lost on chiropractic visits on account of the heavy lifting.

It was nice to have several bottles cooling in the fridge for the kids, but after a while, I started to think about the landfills full of those empty Kirkland water bottles. I don't want to give you the impression I felt guilty, like I alone was responsible for global warming and the sudden melting of polar bear habitat. I just thought there had to be a better way.

It's not rocket science, I know, but I finally figured out that what I needed to do was have 3 water bottles the kids could refill themselves and keep in the fridge.

I found these BPA free water bottles at Walgreens, because if you aren't freaking out over global warming and the environment, the thought of us and our kids sucking on poisonous plastic should instill in us a healthy level of hysteria.

The other benefit of these water bottles is it has taken the job of drink server right off my list of responsibilities and given it to the kids. When they are thirsty, the answer is water; water they can get by themselves thank you very much. And if their water bottle is empty, well, that's their own fault. They can refill them when they are low and put them right back in the fridge.

All I have to do is run them through the dishwasher when ever the bottles start looking a little grungy; when the grunge starts to threaten other food in the fridge.

So Planet Earth: you're welcome.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Motherhood Paradox

I just sent Robert and the boys off to one of Ethan's baseball games.

This is the first time Robert has taken Ethan to a game ever. And I made him take the kids too.

I've been doing this whole baseball game routine 2-3 times a week for 4 weeks. It's his turn.

I should feel euphoric. Finally, I'm free of baseball, if even for a few hours.

Instead I feel guilty.

And it's not like I'm sitting on my butt playing Facebook games or blog surfing. I'm doing stuff off his chores list and cleaning and doing laundry and preparing potato salad for tonight's inaugural lighting of the grill. I'm working hard and I'm working fast.

Still, I can't help but feel Robert got the short end of the stick. The 2 younger kids could have stayed here, but I made them go. I'm much more efficient with out them.

Why can't I enjoy this?

Friday, May 8, 2009

That Darn Cat

I just planted Blue Lake green beans this morning in anticipation of a sunny weekend. I didn't soak them because the ground is already thoroughly soaked thanks to 4 days of incessant rain.

While I was gardening, I had a visitor. A cat wandered into our backyard. I know this cat. She belongs to the neighbor and is, for lack of a better term, a free-range cat. She roams the neighborhood night and day, playing in other neighbor's yards, entering their homes whenever the opportunity arises, hiding out in garages.

I really don't mind this cat hanging out in my back yard. What I do mind, however, is when she jumps into my garden bed where my baby seeds have been planted.

Because I know what she is planning to do in my soft, turned soil. She wants to poop.

Some animal poop like chicken or steer is considered a fabulous fertilizer. I don't know if that is the case with cat. And even if it is, I just don't care.

I don't want cat poop in my vegetable garden!

As soon as this little cat jumped up into the garden I began an assault of the senses to drive her away: I chased her, clapped my hands, brandished my hoe menacingly, and sternly said, "No! Out of the garden!"

She had me right where she wanted me.

If she only knew that what I really wanted to do was pick her up and throw her over the fence.

OK, more like "toss."

Instead I carried her, gently, out of my yard and shut out behind the garden gate.

She came back.

Five times.

And every time, she'd jump right up into my garden bed and look for a spot to start digging.

The nerve!

Why this cat has not been made into a coyote snack, I do not know. There have been indoor cats in the neighborhood who have met that fate, yet somehow this free range cat survives. And she wears a bell!

It's a mystery. A mystery that threatens to contaminate my food source.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In Which my Mental Ability Comes Into Question

Yesterday I called to wish my parents happy anniversary. Their anniversary is super easy to remember because they were married on 4-5-67. (Wasn't that clever of them?)

To be honest, I didn't realize it was their anniversary until around lunch time when I thought about the date. Yes, it was indeed the 5th. (I didn't seem to remember them being married on Cinco de Mayo...)

I called up to convey my warmest wishes and was told by my dad that I was a month late.


"What month is it?" He asked.

Um, oops.

I made the kids omelets for breakfast. I packed healthy lunches. I signed permission slips and wrote a check for a field trip. I was on!

I told Ethan I loved him and sent him off to the bus stop, then checked Facebook. For like 2 minutes at the most...could have been a few more.

Then Jonah comes downstairs and I think, "He's still here? What time is it?" He doesn't even have his shoes or coat on.

The bus had left 5 minutes ago without Jonah.


Only time will tell what will slip my addled brain tomorrow but I do have a dinner party planned, so there's some potential for slip-ups of unusual size.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Let's Discuss

Books I've Been Reading and Trends That Annoy Me
I list all the books I've read along with a my impressions at Some of you are friends with me on goodreads, but in case you are not, here are my recent favorites:

For Young Adults, Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier, The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare, and the Airborn Series by Kenneth Oppel.

For Middle Grade, We Can't All be Rattlesnakes, by Patrick Jennigs (which will hopefully inspire your kids to never bring a wild animal into the house ever again), Alvin Ho by Lenore Look, and Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Sommerset Sisters by Leslie M. M. Blume (Made me think of Charlotte's Web).

For Adults, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and of course, Silent on the Moor, by Deanna Raybourn.

The more Young Adult fiction I read, the more I notice this strange trend: When frightened, upset, angry, nervous or concerned, teens are biting themselves until they bleed. I have never known anyone to do this, unless it was on accident.

In some cases the characters will bite the inside of their cheek. In others, they bite their hands and draw blood. Is this the only way authors have to illustrate the intense feelings of their main characters? Because I doubt this ever happens in real life.

The Weather
Sun is overrated. It causes skin cancer and necessitates the use of sunglasses.

On the other hand, sun provides vitamin D (somehow) and helps people not have seasonal affective disorder. Plus, it helps things to grow.

But, so does rain.

We've had more rain than sun lately, but as far as I'm concerned, it's all good. Just as long as we have enough sun to make my awesome tomatoes grow this summer.

Summer Vacay
I have big plans for the kids for summer break. As usual, my ideas are life changing and will most likely only last 2 weeks once implemented.

My plan includes chores and incentives, bike riding, treasure hunting and absolutely, positively no trips to the Dollar Tree.

More details to come.

Movies I Should Have Seen a Long Time Ago, or Not
Juno - Wow! The one thought I kept having while watching this movie was, "If there's a book, I have to read it." I felt there was so much going on in Juno's head I wanted to get more info on. And Bleeker! Oh, that guy rocks! Not as much as Juno's mom though, played by Allison Janey. She was my second favorite character right behind Juno herself.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Sorry Indy, you're too old for this. The movie was formulaic and cliche. I suppose it was somewhat entertaining, although I almost fell asleep at the end.

Elizabeth the Golden Years - I'm not sure what all the hype was about with this movie. Was it all about the costuming? Because I can totally understand that. And I suppose Cate Blanchette was a fascinating Elizabeth I. The movie was just weird though.

Winco Malted Milk Balls vs. Brach's Malted Milk Balls vs. Whoppers
Winco totally wins.

Whoppers chocolate is too thin and too waxy.

Brachs chocolate is too thick and too waxy (eww gross!)

Winco has thick chocolate with a rich chocolate taste around a large ball of malt. Excellent.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Confession

After all the complaining I've done about Ethan's participation in Little League this Spring, I have to confess...I am kind of enjoying baseball.

Please, don't let anyone know my new-found baseball feelings because I am thoroughly enjoying complaining about it. Additionally, I think Robert feels bad I have been stuck running the whole baseball show when our undisputed understanding was this would be HIS thing. I might just be able to parlay his guilt into a sister retreat or solo parent visit slash shopping spree.

Let me be clear: I am only "kind of" enjoying baseball. After all, it's fun to watch Ethan in action. He's a pretty good hitter and has even earned himself the spot as first in the batting line up.

Before the game this past Saturday, Ethan and his team did a few hitting warm-ups.

First up, Ethan took a few pitches under a light drizzle. In Oregon we do not call games for rain. I'm guessing if we did call games for rain, we'd never play.

Ethan's first hit wasn't a big one, but it got him to first base and eventually home.

After a few more innings of light rain, the sky kind of just opened up and let us have it.

The coaches conferred and decided to keep playing. Of course they did not consult any of the parents before making this decision. I can assure you that this parent would have begged for the game to be called.

Ten minutes later and the rain did not seem to be letting up. The pitcher is trading out the ball for a new one after every few pitches because the ball is so wet. The hitters have to keep wiping the dripping water off their faces.

I think to myself...I hate baseball. Get me out of here! Please! Call the game.

I think I hear thunder.

Then this kid (who I will forever be grateful to) slides, creating a 4 inch deep trough in the dirt right in to home plate.

The ump calls the game on account of the field getting ripped up and, thank goodness, we can leave. The coaches agree to finish the game another day (I vote for August) and we load up the car with our sodden camp chairs, blankets and umbrellas to go home.

On the way home we spot lightning and an actual emergency alert comes on the radio. You know, the one that usually starts out, "This is a test of the emergency broadcasting system." Only it's not a test. It's real. Our area has a severe storm warning. They even listed our very specific area of "Rock Creek" as one of the areas under warning.

We've got another game tonight and more rain is in the forecast.

I think I'm back to hating baseball.