the new outdoor kitchenette

After painting the table we originally intended to be the outdoor kitchenette, we declared it was too nice for water and dirt. It is now residing in Elliott’s room, to hold his stereo and books. So we needed a new table, but one that looked just as spiffy. We spent most of the afternoon constructing and painting, while watching over the boys. Sadly, Elliott was in such a funk, we had to ban him from any participation. Lately, he totally disregards instructions and suggestions, yells back at us, and breaks things when angry. Sensing how that could impact a quick construction project or a tidy paint job to get to the actual play, we sent him off to play elsewhere (a few times to his room too).

Mike cut and built, I painted. Oliver created mischief. But by 3:00, we had an outdoor kitchenette.

I decided since we have no intention of introducing dirt to it, at least while we are residing here for the next two months, I cannot really call it a mud kitchen. So with sand, water, and vegetation, it is our outdoor kitchenette. The boys needed no instruction!  Oliver had a cup he filled with water, which he repeatedly had me ‘drink’ from. Elliott set to work on muffins, a cake, and soup. While I missed a photo of it, the boys collecting leaves in their baskets was so sweet. This short time playing refreshed everyone’s attitude. Amazing what a little sand and water in pans can do.

                                    

        

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the best day in many days

Today was very full but very satisfying. I was able to forget we were moving and focus on the moment. Despite having a sick fevery boy, I got to get on my bike (after wiping the inch of dust off, hm). Since I have been running the past few weeks, biking felt tremendously good. Normally, I am huffing, mentally beating myself up, and turning back at the first real hill. Today, I felt like I was flying and it was so relaxing to be out riding alone, focused only on how nice the river was, how perfect the wind was, and how I felt taking each hill. Lately the focus has not been about how fast or hard I seem to be running/biking, but my own personal goal setting and breaking. That is so much more satisfying and, ultimately, I perform better.

Later, I ran errands, which normally are less than joyful. And some were not all that fun – give up a little blood, off to discuss ‘issues’ at the sweeper store where I got my new vacuum, return an item elsewhere. But deciding to look at mud kitchen supplies was rather uplifting and exciting. I found some sweet scores at the local Goodwill and, perhaps feeling nice toward me because of the blood donation bandage I was sporting, the clerk made the deals even better with some extra discounts. Wonderful!

We have been admiring the mud kitchens at a few blogs (here, here, and here). I told Elliott as soon as we moved we would set it up. But we are putting a lot on hold here for The Move. When we move we will: live on a farm, get chickens, build a banging wall, make a mud kitchen, get out all the toys we have packed away, get out your work table and tools, and so on. And with many things likely to remain in boxes while we face a possible year in an apartment, I felt tired of saying “when we move”. Plus, I got to enjoy myself finding these treasures and seeing the delight in little boy’s faces.
But the best treasure and surprise for my boys was a little wooden pink table. It was marked $9.99, but the senior discount knocked it down to $7. Elliott has been saving free paint samples we got online – a buttery yellow he picked out – to paint an item all his own. Again, this was something I kept saying we would do soon, once we moved, once we found the right piece of furniture.

When I arrived home, Oliver was in a funk, so I allowed him to dig right in to the giant bag of pots, utensils, and baskets. He was delighted and immediately set to transporting some items right to the mud kitchen. His delight makes me so tickled inside.

 

Elliott jumped in too, forming an attachment to the beeswax pot I got. (Finally, a dedicated pot to melting wax and candle making, which was Elliott’s idea after a visit to Conner Prairie.) He also wanted to organize the shelves and remove stickers to get them ready. It was hard to convince him that tomorrow he would feel more like painting shelves and dipping candles. He was ready to set to work today, fever and all.

 

To put the icing on the cake of a day, my food processor and immersion blender arrived early. Whipped cream for our fruit at dinner and cracker making in the near future made for a very satisfying end to the day. And a little boy’s delight in the packaging was just fantastic.

Now, off to a glass of wine and playing Ticket to Ride with Mike!

consequences of the storm

After Hurricane Elliott (and his playdate friend) rolled through the house, they left in their paths three rooms covered with stuff – kitchenette items here, silkies there, baskets of toys dumped, more mess than I have ever seen. While playing, I had suggested a few times that clean up after said friend left would be hard but his responsibility. But on the storm rolled.

Once his friend left, he was suddenly too tired to clean up and the tears started up. I offered music to aid the clean up process and to help some after I finished my work. But the picking up did not start. Calmly (but pulling out all the tactics), I stated that if he was too tired to clean up, he was too tired for gymnastics with friends tonight, too tired to stay up tonight, and he would no longer have friends over if he could not follow up a playdate with clean up. Then, I see Oliver with beads in mouth as he slipped on a kitchen baking pan. At that point, I lost it and yelled, well, a lot. As I rattled off all the consequences to him again in my loud mama voice, I realized it would not work. Elliott is strong-willed and will drag out something until I go nuts. But I wanted the house picked up NOW. So I decided I could still enforce consequences, but I would keep Oliver safe by picking the items up into boxes. So now four boxes sit in the laundry room and Elliott is starting to realize that not being able to play with any other toys until the mess is cleaned up stinks. He can be stubborn, but at least I have the house picked up and I am not going to go (as) nuts.

In the midst of situations like this, all ideas of how to act or suggestions I have heard seem to go out the window. I am left not knowing if my reaction was the best reaction. If I had not made so many of the toys or liked some of these gifts from friends, I would be inclined to box them up and say good-bye at Goodwill. Not sure that would be an appropriate reaction either.  But at least if I can find a plan that stops me from yelling, it has to be a decent one. I think. Any thoughts?

(To give you an idea of what this near five-year old is like: Just before I cleaned up into the boxes, I said in anger, “You’re not doing ANYTHING else until this mess is cleaned up.” He followed up with “Can I turn on a light? Can I sit down?” … Now, as I write this, he is asking me to pack up more of his stuff and asking if he can just touch his toys… I just might go nuts! Daily, I miss the window for clear calm communications and it is all downhill from there…. But, after posting, I asked him (calmly) to tell me what has happened and why. It is clear he understands and he can detail it out. And the internal screaming starts.)

dyeing eggs for Easter

After seeing so many sites with gorgeous naturally dyed eggs and an earlier attempt at it with friends, I knew I wanted to try many foods to find a few that worked. Yesterday, I tested a few by myself – cumin, blueberries, and spinach. Only blueberries yielded a lovely dye that clung to my eggs. Today, in case a few proved disappointing, I selected many food items from the list on this website, choosing what I knew I had in the fridge, freezer, or cabinet.

We used lavender, chamomile, coffee, beets, carrots, parsley, blueberries, cranberries, and grape juice. I prepared the food items by boiling them in water for 5-15 minutes and straining the liquid into my dye cups. In the case of beets and grape juice, I merely dumped the liquid from canned beets into the cup and poured the fruit juice right from the fridge. To each dye cup, I added roughly 1 dump or 2 tablespoons of vinegar. While tending the stove to keep Oliver away and making lunch, the house was coming undone. Oh well.

I got labels ready so we could remember which ones yielded the best color and repeat with our extra eggs.

Elliott was eager to check on color, while Oliver sharked around, eager to pull off the tablecloth. The first batch proved exciting for beets, blueberries, chamomile, coffee, and lavender. Carrot and parsley resulted in no color change, so we just put those eggs in another color, but added rubber bands for effect.

 

After they drip dried a few minutes, I grew impatient and rolled them in a paper towel. This resulted in some that were a bit splotchy, but others held their color well.

Overall, we were quite happy with the shades and variety. Lovely, eh? There is still time today… what do you have in your freezer or cabinet to work with?

that’s where you’ll find me…

Somewhere over the rainbow, in Kansas that is. We are officially moving. After many discussions, time mulling and fuming, disagreements, and some tears, at least on my part, we are accepting Mike’s new position at Kansas State.

I had three big wishes for our next move. Well, they were more than wishes – more like absolutes, which are now not such absolutes!

1. a great Montessori school

2. a farm or land for animals

3. ocean

Well, Kansas is only a short drive from the ocean, right? So for the times in between our jaunts to the beach, we can make do with the local rivers and reservoir. And farm land should be plentiful! In fact I am now questioning the desire for peace and solitude as I will have that in abundance, I am sure. The trickiest part of making up our minds was the Montessori school. Manhattan, Kansas is lacking in alternative educational options. To start a school would be a challenge, one I am not feeling up for and would totally miss my children by the time I was established. And homeschooling I fear would not suit me for the long haul. A year or so, maybe, but I am learning it is not something I feel I can do well, or let just happen as with unschooling. After many searches and changing of plans, we found Montessori schools in Topeka (1 hour) and Lawrence (1.5 hours). They even have elementary programs in Lawrence!! We are now considering living on the outskirts of Topeka and each commuting, hoping that I can find employment at one of the schools to reduce tuition for the boys as well. Mike was told today there are people who do this in architecture department so maybe he can even ride share.

It is not what I wanted and what I have dreamed of this whole time we have lived in Muncie. But at a time like this, we have little choice and will have to find ways to see the advantages of this move and the place we will call home. I am trying (though not well) to not dwell on the negatives – losing so many good friends for the Mike, myself, and the boys, moving so much farther from family when the boys are just coming to remember and love their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins so much more, moving to a rental and the uncertainty of selling our house, and the packing and moving and unpacking (UGH!!!). And the list could go on. (BUT, ona positive note, we do get to live closer to Aunt Michelle, Uncle Keith, and cousin Shane! Yeah!)

This year we will also reduce our garden planting and have to double up our work efforts on repairs we did not finish last year when we thought we were listing the house. Oh, I can already see this spring and early summer playing out… busy, busy, busy. Especially with two ‘helping’ children!

just a little flooding

Nothing like a little flash flood and tornado to get my priorities straight and refocus on what is important!

Last night, while up to 3 inches of water in my garage, trying to rescue a toilet paper box (full mind you!), a car seat, a few of Mike’s tools, and check on the status of the freezers (and all that food!), I saw flicking lightening and heard boom after boom. I quickly realized that standing in a lake of water was not the best place to be and quickly retreated inside. Only then, did I realize our area was under tornado threat so I scooped the boys up out of bed and got us all to our entry closet for safety. Elliott declared it a closet party and both boys did great hanging out, having an emergency supply snack of crackers and juice, and playing with flashlights and the phone (with Oliver nearly getting through to 911).

After the boys went back to bed and I felt I checked on everything in the house and yard plenty of times, I lay in bed, listening to the rain and winds. With only a few inches outside my home, I was panicking about flood damages and hoping the rain would just stop. I cannot imagine living in a place where the floods are much more real than this and the damages to home and life so severe. It was in thinking through what I would save in the house if I had to leave  that I realized nothing was all that valuable. I know I already knew this. Of course I did. But to feel the wave of panic about caring for my children just called my attention to it. And it had my attention for at least two hours this morning!

Flood of Spring 2008…

Mike fixed this with a drainage pipe which has worked great. But last night’s flooding was too much for the pipe since the front sewer was clogged/backed up. The water was up to the stepping stones, filling the front yard and seeping through the garage cracks.

I like them

I like my boys today. I really, really do. They are such nice, helpful, and loving boys. Even though I had to be first (groggy) responder this morning with Mike out-of-town and the day felt a bit full and busy at 9:00 am, I am really happy. This feels like a great start to the week.

Not a big deal? I beg to differ. Most people love their children. But to like your children, I feel is a whole different thing. There are many days I feel I do not like my children. They make me angry, irritated and fed up. But on a day when I can recognize their differences, accept them and cherish them, well, those are very good days indeed.

Heres to more days like that.

how to avoid destroying the world

So I have tried hard to strike a good balance between teaching Elliott about recycling, conserving, reusing, and human’s effects on the environment. Because I see him dig through the recycling bin to find items that can be reused in his crafting and he enjoys dumping scraps in the compost, I assumed we were handling these issues in a very effective, age-appropriate way. Awareness with action.

Then today he raised this question while carrying his (pretend) duck – “Why are humans destroying the world? I am saving this duck because the world is being destroyed.” I guess it is time to dial it down a notch.  

I would love to hear other people’s ideas on teaching children to cherish and respect our earth, ways you have found to avoid the scary, doomsday approaches (which I really thought we were not doing!).

money, money, money, money!

When you say a word so many times, it seems to become meaningless. Money feels that way sometimes. And really, the value I want Elliott to see in money is that we don’t need more to feel better and there is so much to value outside of what money can buy. But, that said, I still want him to have a clear understanding of saving money, spending wisely, and caring for others (in a financial sense; other volunteering to care for others is another area we are addressing). So after talking with a friend about an idea from The Simple Dollar I realized that this was what might work better than our current system.

Right now, Elliott has decorative piggies who gladly eat his money. And had they been like mine as a child, requiring ‘slaughter’ to get the reward, he might have been more inclined to save for longer.

My sister Michelle and I at age 5 1/2 dig into my piggy.

(No, I did not actually use the knife myself)

Unfortunately (not so in his opinion) the plugs are easily removed on his pigs. As birthday and holiday monetary gifts have been given, he is quick to turn around and want to spend, spend, spend. That money teases and taunts him to spend it, and fast. Nearly 4-5 times a week, I will be asked when we are going to the store and if he can buy something. Even the suggestion of only taking out a few dollars and saving the rest is not working. The very next day after making a purchase, he will ask to buy something again.

So, upon hearing this idea, I loved the idea of having separate areas for separate purposes and, being cheap right now, I really liked a comment suggesting merely using jars instead of a new piggy. So today, knowing he already had $17+ begging to be spent, we got four ball jars, discussed the categories and what they meant for him, and prepared the jars. We have 4 categories as suggested – Spending, Short Term Savings (for more special things), Long Term Savings/Investing (into his existing savings account we contribute to or bonds or something to be determined later), and Donation.

At first he seemed bothered with donating, but after explaining ways we have given to people previously and options he had, he seemed onboard with that part too. We then divided $3 into each jar, with the rest being put into his ‘Spending’ jar. In this case we allowed a heavier amount to be added to this jar since he just got Valentine’s Day monetary gifts and had been saving this money for a few weeks. From here on out, his allowance will be $4 a week ($1 for each year old) and $1 will go into each jar. Birthday gifts and other gifts will be his discretion since they are gifts. And I secretly hope he will decide to save some, not just lump it into the spending jar! A parent can hope, right?

It is not fancy, but hopefully he will clearly be able to understand the concepts and have a good foundation for managing the money he does have.

keep it coming

As long as I keep the paper coming, the ideas keep flowing. For nearly an hour, Elliott has been painting with watercolors. This has led to imaginative scenes, funny stories, learning a new sound and spelling of a word (taxi). This also has allowed me a whole hour to catch up on emails and computer stuff. But that is not the highlight, just a little perk.

Today was another reminder (of many for the past two weeks) that following his interests will lead to him learning many new things, just not in the order or way I predicted. And while I would not say I am totally able to let go (yet?) and following unschooling ways, it seems that is how my child wants to learn, at least with the place and situation we are in now.

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