Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Update Update

I wasn't locked out of the house for a terribly long time this afternoon, but the very fact that my own flesh and blood sat in the house, consciously choosing to not respond to my fervent window pounding has put a bit of a damper on my day.

I feel like taking a 5 week nap.

I feel like putting up the "first day of school" countdown clock on my blog.

I feel like leaving the grapes they've smashed right where they are on the kitchen floor for another 38 days.

I feel like I want bedtime to be right now and this day to be over.

I feel like I'm ready to be done with summer right now.

Summer Update

Just 5 short weeks left of summer vacation and I think I can make it. Here's an update on how things are going.

I've stopped cleaning the kids rooms, bathroom and playroom. I keep the downstairs presentable for visitors and my sanity. I even got a rug to cover up the worst spot of carpet in the house. When school starts I'm going through the pig stys with a garbage bag. I'm looking forward to it, actually.

Remember the chore sticks? The kids did them for two and a half weeks. Not too shabby considering I predicted the cute chore program to last only two weeks. To be fair, Ethan is sort of still doing his chores so we may end up at Chuck E. Cheese before the year is out.

Spoiled Children
I'd been concerned about the disturbing sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude my kids were displaying despite my bending over backwards to make a fun and entertaining summer for them. I've since discovered that when I do nothing, they don't complain as much. There is much to be said for setting low expectations.

Last night I finished a fabulous juvenile fiction called "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead. Set in New York City in 1978 and 1979, it is the story of the events that unfolded in the life of Miranda over a 6 month period. From the first chapter it's clear Miranda is writing this story for someone, but even she is not sure who. The mystery continues to build when Miranda starts receiving strange notes, hidden in unusual places. This is one of those books where you need to go back and re-read certain chapters once you have all the answers.

I don't want to give any more away! This story is about more than just answering the questions of the's about Miranda discovering how to look outside of herself, to think of others and to offer a helping hand. It's about changing the course of a life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Corn Maize

Jonah got lost in a patch of tall corn today.

And then he found his way out.

Here in the burbs we don't have a lot of square footage for a home garden, but we find a way to make it work. I am slightly regretting growing corn this year on account of the cheap and delicious corn readily available at the local grocery stores.

It takes up so much space and I think I would have preferred cantaloupe. And this summer would have been the perfect summer for cantaloupe, what with the 100 degree + temps and all.

We should have bodacious corn (that's the variety and an appropriate description) in another week or two. Mmmm, mmm!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Be a Boy: Buttering Your Bagel

When you butter your bagel, whatever you do, just make sure the butter dish looks like this when you are done.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Light Saber Swim Noodles, $2.00...

...hitting your brothers with impunity, priceless

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Made That!

After 2 and a half weeks*, a minor sewing machine glitch (which turned out, as it usually does, to be user error) and about thirty bucks (give or take...), I've made an original Margaret Sling Bag.

The best thing about sewing stuff is that Robert still thinks it saves money over buying from a store. He's so cute.

The pattern, which you can find at the above link, has instructions for a shoulder bag or a cross-body bag. I made the cross-body bag because that is just my thing.

I also got to pick out a funky button. This picture does not really do the funky button justice because the focus isn't super sharp, but I took these pictures this morning in Jonah and Isaac's bedroom while they were still sleeping. I had to take all the hats off these pegs and quietly open the curtains to get the light just right then take the pictures, all without waking them up.

*would have taken 3-4 hours (after cutting) to complete the project if my sewing machine issue hadn't cropped up.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Argument for a Wookie President

Because I haven't posted a John Green video for a while and because I am a Star Wars nerd in a house full of Star Wars nerds and because I think Han Solo is so vice presidential.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In Which I Will Probably Have Regrets

It is so hard to keep a 5 year old in the house on a hot summer day when everyone else is having a little water fun.

Isaac is sporting an adult sized cast protector and has promised to slide on his knees only. I know I should probably just keep him inside and make him watch his brothers slip and slide, but I couldn't do it.

Let's just hope the cast protector actually works, otherwise Isaac will have to get a new cast. Which reminds me...I don't have a follow up appointment with the doctor yet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Raspberry Recipe

Most of my home canning recipes come from this cookbook. I'd like to give my sister Angela credit for getting me the book, but she never reads this blog, so forget it.

I know how to do basic, regular canning. but when I've got, for example, 30 jars of canned tomatoes on the shelf, what do I do with the next 100 pounds of tomatoes that get harvested? This book has recipes for tomato and apple chutney, sun-dried tomato jelly, pizza sauce, ketchup, vegetable stock, red hot sauce, several salsas, barbeque sauce and more.

If you have an abundance of watermelon rinds, you can even make watermelon rind pickles. (Go ahead, I dare you.)

Last week I picked raspberries, but didn't want to make jam. I checked my trusty Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and found Chocolate Raspberry Sundae Topper. Perfect!

Here's the recipe from the book, but if you enjoy home canning, I highly recommend adding this book to your cookbook library.

Chocolate Raspberry Sundae Topper
1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1 package regular powdered fruit pectin
4 1/2 cups crushed red raspberries
4 TB lemon juice
6 3/4 cups granulated sugar

Prepare canner jars and lids.

In a medium glass bowl, combine cocoa powder and pectin stirring until evenly blended. Set aside.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, place crushed raspberries and lemon juice. Whisk in pectin mixture until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Ladle hot sundae topper in to hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot sundae topper. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Looking the Gift Horse in the Mouth

Where did I go wrong?

I have tried to be a prudent parent. I don't think I've indulged my kids too much. I say "no" all the time. I actually made them buy their own happy meals last time we went to McDonald's. They have chores and responsibilities and bedtimes.

A favorite family saying is "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit."

So I would like to know why, when I offer to do something nice for my kids, something that is a bit of a sacrifice for me but that I'm willing to do because I love my children and want them to have good experiences, they whine and complain and demand more.

Here are the latest kid comments that have left me, mouth agape, silently questioning my parenting skills:

When I told Ethan I was going to get a sitter so he and I could go see the new Harry Potter Movie together this week the first thing he said was, "You have to buy me popcorn." I quickly responded, "I do not have to buy you popcorn," which resulted in an argument. I don't even want to take him to the movie now.

When I told the kids I wanted to take them to the beach, including stopping at our favorite beach restaurant for a meal, Ethan said, "You have to give me ten dollars for the arcade." Again, I replied, "I most certainly do not. That is why I give you an allowance." An argument followed.

When I told the boys I would buy them a See's Candy lollipop if they stayed with me and didn't run off in the mall, Isaac said, "I want two!"

I hate to play the, "when I was a kid" card, but when I was a kid, I was thrilled to get anything extra and knew that if I complained, I might get nothing at all. I consequently kept my mouth shut except to say, "thank you" as many times as I could. (Mom, Dad? Care to back me up on this one?)

Why do my kids have this disturbing sense of entitlement?

I've taught them please and thank-you which they practice every time they get a free cookie from the grocery store bakery. They write thank-you notes (mostly) when they get gifts. I always point out the people in their life who serve them, like scout leaders, coaches and teachers, and make sure my kids realize the time these people spend with them is a gift they should express thanks for.

So what's up with the spoiled brat routine?

What happened to, "Thanks mom, you're the greatest."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why I Love Oregon: Giant Raspberries

Raspberries in the Tualatin Valley come on around July 4th. They are huge and delicious. Jonah and I picked Tuesday (back in the idyllic pre-broken arm days) and within 30 minutes had our containers filled. Can't remember the weight, but all the berries in the above picture cost just under $10.

Jonah commented while picking that some of the raspberries were as big as strawberries. I had to agree. I love living here.

Later in the day I made some canned chocolate raspberry sundae sauce and Robert's favorite raspberry dessert, which is kind of like a fruit crisp and makes not only a fabulous dessert, but also a delicious breakfast.

Jonah just ate raspberries off his little fingers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

In Which I Decide Not To Go Camping This Weekend

Summer is fun; full of swimming, swinging, jumping, climbing and falling.

Isaac fell coming down from a tree house at a friends house this week. It was a ward activity, actually, so there were plenty of other kids and moms to witness the event and get a little freaked out.

I was completely freaked out, but as often happens during crisis and tragedy, the hand of the Lord was revealed over and over.

First, I'd invited a friend and her kids to come with us to the activity. I thought I was doing something nice for her, but as it turns out, she did something amazing for me.

She was with me when I first got to Isaac after the fall. Everything she did was calming and helpful. She started telling me what to do: "don't call the ambulance, are you calm enough to drive him to the emergency room? Reassure him, this same thing happened to my son and everything is going to be fine. I'll take your kids, here are my phone numbers. Don't worry about anything but getting him safely to the ER."

I get to the ER, pull up in front, park the car and help Isaac walk in. Then I hear my name. I turn to find another friend who has seemingly appeared out of nowhere. She said she saw me walk into the ER and asked if I needed help. I did, but I didn't know what it was. I was trying to hold it together, but really scared. "I'll park your car for you," she said. How did she know this was something I needed when I didn't even know myself?

We spent about 5 hours in the ER getting a temporary cast put on Isaac. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

When we got home, it wasn't long before our neighbor walked in with a casserole and a plate of cookies. The cookies were from another mom who'd been at the activity. The note said her kids were so worried about Isaac and hoped he was doing OK.

Then the phone calls started coming: what do we need? Can someone bring meals in? Do you need someone to watch the other kids during surgery tomorrow? We didn't need much, but the kindness and concern humbled me.

The next morning our neighbor came over at 6:45 to help Robert give Isaac a blessing, which probably helped calm me even more than it helped Isaac.

Surgery went well and we came home.

After naps all around except Ethan, (Jonah had come down with a fever, Robert had averaged 4 hours of sleep a night for a month and I had been up all night helping Isaac and having trouble falling asleep without seeing that little deformed wrist being cradled by Isaac's good arm as he sat at the bottom of the tree house ladder) the visitors started arriving.

Isaac got cookies, candy, a book, lots of cards and a few toys. I was overwhelmed.

Isaac is taking it all in stride.

Isaac checking out where the surgeon wrote on his arm

Other than a few complaints of pain (which seem to lessen after the meds kick in) Isaac is back to his normal self.

Well, not completely normal...he can't get his arm wet, I had to feed him his cereal for breakfast, and getting dressed has become a little challenging.

Just 4 to 6 more weeks though and he should be as good as new.

In the grand scheme, this arm break is a small thing. Millions of kids break their arms and recover. It happens everyday.

Receiving the love and support of friends and family, however, has been huge; a humbling, but very sweet blessing during a difficult time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How To Be a Boy: Building a Blanket Fort

Step 1: Wait until your mom has spent no less than 3 hours cleaning the house

Step 2: Go to the linen closet and remove everything that looks sheet-like by pulling neatly folded stacks from each shelf onto the floor. Don't miss great grandma's white tablecloths.

Step 3: If you've pulled down a fitted sheet, wad it back up and shove it on the floor of the linen closet. Fitted sheets are NOT blanket fort building material.

Step 4: Build fort. Stacks of books make great sheet anchors, so feel free to remove all the books from the bookshelves.

Step 5: Play in the fort for 5 minutes to 3 hours. Make sure to end blanket fort play-time by getting into a huge fight with your brothers.

Step 6: Whatever you do, do not clean up the blanket fort.

Step 7: When your mom insists, wad sheets, tablecloths and anything else you've used and shove it into the linen closet. Close door as far as it will go. You're done.

Even more "How To Be a Boy" goodness here:
Loading the dishwasher
Eating popcorn
Wrapping a birthday present
Taking out the garbage

Sunday, July 5, 2009

And Now for a Nap

Things I have done in the last 48 hours:
  • Hosted the neighborhood 3rd of July party and firework show
  • Picked up hundreds of busted water balloon parts
  • Slept with the windows open and the fan on (our a/c doesn't cool the upstairs so well.)
  • Attended a birthday party for a 2 year old
  • Paid too much for fireworks (10 sparklers for $3!!)
  • Ate cherries
  • Lit more fireworks
  • Witnessed Robert's first and hopefully last 24 hour work day
  • Watched no less than 5 simultaneous big fireworks shows going on across the valley right from our own backyard
  • Felt the tender mercies of the Lord
  • Prepared my first Young Women's lesson as 2nd counselor
  • Made a little space in the garage
  • Scarfed down pancakes, hash browns and sausage in the church parking lot
  • Practiced strategic clothes laundering
  • Watched Mrs. Miniver on DVD
  • Cried while singing "The Star Spangled Banner"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Operation Letterbox, Part Two

The boys find their first letterbox by the tiger exhibit.

Letterbox success!

We found our first 3 letterboxes today at the zoo and the boys had a great time following the clues and finding the boxes.

Two of the five letterboxes we searched for were missing, which was a bit of a disappointment. There are still a couple left to search for at the zoo, so we'll be back!

The boys are excited to find more letterboxes and wanted to go out and look at other spots near our house as soon as we got home. I reminded them we had the whole summer and that it would really be better if we went home so mom could read and take a nap.

Too much excitement is really hard on us 40-year olds.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Operation Letterbox

Tomorrow will be our debut into the world of letterboxing.

As I understand it, letterboxing is like geocaching with out the pricey GPS device. Instead of locating coordinates, you follow clues to find a hidden box. In the box is a logbook and stamp which you use to stamp your own logbook. It's like a passport. Searchers also have their own stamps to leave their mark on the logbook in the box.

Evidently, the "thing" is to have a unique, hand carved stamp.

I'm not really sure what that is or how to create it, so we went to the dollar section at Michael's and got mass-produced stamps with no sentimental value.

This website has a list of letterboxes from all over the country. I bet there are some near you.

I've discovered there are a lot of letterboxes at the Oregon Zoo so that's where we're going tomorrow.

Hopefully the kids will have fun searching and we will come home with a few stamps in our books.