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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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.

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.

a new, but not so improved me

The way I see myself and the way I actually am has shifted over the years. I believe myself to be punctual, ordered – in home and body, and be somewhat calm. And I might sometimes slip up and say that I am some or all of these things. But since the mobility of Oliver, who I am has become plain to me. I am constantly late, I cannot keep thoughts in my head for more than a second, I feel chaos in everything I do, and I repeatedly lose my temper. Now I find myself making excuses to Elliott’s preschool about dirty diapers, clock not set right, and so forth to cover my inconsistencies. I find I forgot a thought while walking into another room. I yell over the smallest of issues. What had me thinking about this was a 45 minute visit to the pediatrician this morning:

After waiting a few minutes in the waiting room, Oliver needed to be undressed for the scale. While Elliott danced around with his magna doodle, I heaped our coats, Oliver’s clothing, and my bag on the chair. When it was time to migrate to the exam room, I was juggling Oliver, the heap of clothing and herding Elliott while he repeatedly blocked the nurse (who thankfully took our coats while she carried a laptop). After Oliver unpacked my bag, fell a few times and Elliott knocked him over to protect his magna doodle, we saw the doctor, got the lead test and shots we came for and repacked everything we brought. And there was some crying. After assigning Elliott the job of carrying his toy and my papers, and loading my arms with a toddler and our gear, we headed for check out. This is where it really got chaotic.

Apparently one nurse thought our insurance would allow for a certain pricing on shots, but the checkout nurse disagreed. I was asked to wait a few moments. I heaped our stuff up, Elliott sat in a chair, and Oliver toddled away, quite quickly, down the hall and into waiting rooms. He was lured back, only wanting to run again. Then he had to give their decorative snowman a few whacks. Next, Elliott declared he was hungry. Trying to be discreet, I pulled out pretzels for the boys. Oliver ate one and fussed to get down, while Elliott dug into the bag for a fistful. Then Oliver sneezed, blasting snot and pretzel all over his face and my white sweater (yeah, stupid choice). While I was getting him cleaned up, Elliott dug around in my purse for toys. Oliver toddled off yet again. While I was fetching Oliver, Elliott managed to spread out four or five items on the chairs and floor, some more embarrassing than others. And during all of this, I occasionally had to answer a question or two at the desk.

Finally, we haggled a bit more and they gave me the reduced fees. We gathered our stuff, lured Oliver to the elevator and trudged out. In one short hour, I was wiped out. I felt as if I had no control and I could not think straight. When an adult asked me a question, my mind was swimming with all my children’s issues. After that, I decided I wanted coffee and a cookie so off we went. I felt I needed that to continue the day.

I used to see parents juggling stuff and feel a bit of pity but also a bit of arrogance. Surely, that would not be me. I would have it all together. Today I felt I was the one being pitied by the other parents who watched this all unfold. And I really see now that until my children move out, I will not be as punctual, ordered or calm as I once was. Is this just one part of the price of raising children? I guess the positive of a morning like this – it could have been worse, much worse. No dirty diapers, no throwing up, no hurt children, no tantrums. Oh the list goes on of things I am thankful we did not have happen this morning!

a fall snowstorm

A snowstorm has hit our home! One little snowflake coming home from school sparked intense interest in crafting up more, which timed up perfectly with a friend’s snowflake crafting at their home. Even though it is 60+ degrees outside and turkeys are still being made to grace the windows, last night was the night to crank snowflakes out.

And in case we were worried that they don’t quite look like snowflakes, Elliott was quick to take care of that…

 

“That one with the long sides is pretty awesomer. Any kind of crystal can form. Crystals can form like that. Like yours, like mine.”  

 

We were also quite enthused by the sun scattering our snowflakes around the house for us and it made Elliott wish we could have snowflakes stenciled on the walls. That sounded lovely, but we did not bust out the paints or markers to capture those shadows today.

oh, sanity

Oh, Sanity! Where have you been?

A weekend of peace and self-determined plans gave me an ounce if it back.

The weeks leading up to this trip had me thinking a great deal about a person’s need for breaks, regardless of gender or their job. I was rather bothered and, the more I thought about it, angry to realize some people (um, other husband’s) would be bothered by the idea of their spouse vacationing without them, even to the point of fighting or not allowing it. After a simple bit of logic with my spouse, he agreed that I should take a break. I pointed out that he had been a numerous trips lately for days at a time and I would appreciate the time to myself – to sleep without interruption, to eat a meal without getting up and down to serve anyone, to do a few activities of my choosing for as long as I like, to use the bathroom without having to worry about what a little toddler was exploring. And like that a promise was made for a whole week!

Sure there are lots of concerns. Can the family financially manage it? Can the other spouse take time to care for the children? And if those are issues, such as they were and are for us, the trip can be (and was) shorter. Or childcare can be found so it may not necessarily be the spouse watching over the children. But beyond these issues, I have tried to figure out why it would ‘not fly’ in other people’s homes, as one person said to this idea. Why? Because it money spent on one person and the other misses out? Because a spouse might cheat? Because a spouse thinks that the other one is not working that hard at their job? Would the feelings be the same if it was the husband wanting a mini-vacation or day away alone? Everyone working either a ‘real’ job or who is home with kids (or both!) works hard. And if someone wanted to cheat, they would find the time one way or another. Really, what real reasons can someone give for a flat-out refusal to a request for a break? Serious. Maybe I am overlooking something… Any reasons out there I am overlooking?

Sanity savers are important for everyone. Yes, everyone! Mike and I have found ways to exchange time with each other so we each feel we get time to ourselves or with friends. I have Sunday knit nights with the ladies after the kids are in bed. He goes golfing occasionally on Saturday mornings with a friend. If I want to run an errand alone, he will play with the boys. And this time, since he had business yet relaxing trips alone, I got a weekend to myself.

I finally settled on a weekend at a country B&B, Tryon Farm Guest House. I shopped at every antique shop I could find, visited Lake Michigan, and changed my plans on a whim if I wanted.

 

driving north through Indiana

Most of my highlights are my feelings of concern being let go. While shopping at my first antique shop, I kept feeling the ‘pull’ of children. Typically I cannot linger to take in all a shelf has to offer or I have to pass all the breakable nooks. I had to shake that feeling off and realize I could take as little or as much time as I wanted, looking wherever I was interested. Later on the trip, when I decided to pull off to a trail head, I just did it. I did not have to be concerned that it was 5:00 and the children would be hungry. Typically, on a family trip, we would have had to either plan the trip out better to have food with us or miss stopping right then. Because I could go on a whim, I felt such a rush making my way up the dune and saw a great sunset.

 

antique shop in Chesterton, Indiana

The trip was also time for me to reflect on my family, myself, and everyone else in the world. Oh, I know that sounds big, but when one can follow their ideas uninterrupted, you can get beyond the day-to-day picture and mull over bigger issues. Time to reflect is good. And again I will say it – it is good for everyone.

 

near the Tryon Farm Guest House, Michigan City, Indiana

My highlights of the trip:

  • lounging in a feather bed in the morning
  • having an utterly beautiful gourmet breakfast prepared for me and not having to worry over the prep or dishes
  • finding some sweet treasures – bead stringing beads for Elliott, a wool blanket to keep Oliver warm, an apron and bracelet for me, a lovely ornament to add to our unique holiday collection, and more interesting cloth napkins for everyday use
  • finding utterly smooth rocks at the lake to admire or make into rock houses, people and animals for the boys (uh, yes, rocks for Christmas!)
  • running up Mount Baldy at dusk at Indiana Dunes to catch the sunset shimmering on Chicago’s buildings
  • grabbing a late night chicken marsala dinner at a little Italian joint and watching it made from my table (I saw the mushrooms chopped, I saw them coat my chicken!) and savoring each bite
  • seeing alpacas up close and taking home a small bit of them (in the form of handspun yarn!)
  • trying and loving a small town café’s invented Honey Nut Latte

 

 beads for Elliott

rocks at Lake Michigan

Mount Baldy with Chicago in the distance

Here is hoping everyone gets the break they need and deserve.

(Oh, and on a totally separate note… my smart phone saved me so many times when I got lost, when I needed a place to eat, when I wanted to find coffee or antiques. Normally I curse my dependence, but my phone proved its worth this trip.)

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