Friday, August 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ben! NUMBER 10!!!

Today, incredibly, Ben is ten years old....we are having a nice day, doing whatever he wants to do.  This year we're lucky--Matt is working from home all month due to office renovations, so both Ben and Emma have Dad home for their big day.  We made a delicious breakfast of bacon and egg muffins--line a muffin tin with turkey bacon and fill with scrambled eggs and cheese, then bake...the cutest little omelet cups come out.  Ben opened his presents and he and Emma are playing with the Lego game he got.  We're grilling steaks for dinner, with a vanilla birthday cake topped with whipped cream and strawberries.  Maybe some swimming in the afternoon, and then this evening, he and Matt will see "The Dark Knight," which has been the much-looked-forward-to plan for weeks now. (It was more important to Ben to see it on his birthday than to see it when it patient boy!)

The photos are from a gift box Emma made...she used a quart milk jug and drew these pictures for the top.  I love how sweet she is--she made a little pom pom tiger for her brother to go in this box, got him sunflower seeds, the aforementioned Lego game, and a Kit Kat--all with her own money.  Then the box itself just made me smile--"Happy Birthday to a brother who is smart, handsome, tidy...and forgiving!"

He loved all his presents--Julia made him a cool card with a runic code (one of his favorites!) and got him Nerf bullets for "never ending battles" and Reese's peanut butter cups.  Rachel got him a Pokemon set with decks, a battle mat and directions on everything you need to know to play the game, plus Spiderman 3 on DVD.  Matt and I got him Spiderman 1 and 2, new summer pjs (which he loves, for some reason the kid adores new pajamas!), two boxes of fruit leather--all for him!--and another set of Pokemon decks.  He is as happy as a clam, which is just as a boy should be on his birthday.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kitchen Fun

As if Facebook didn't already take me away from my own writing projects, there's a newish game in town called Pinterest.  When I first heard of it, I thought, eh, that sounds like a waste of time....and then I decided one dull day to check it out.  In case you've never delved into the fascinating world of pinning, Pinterest is a way to save things you find on the internet for future use, and to share your interests with friends as well.

Has this ever happened to you?  You see a recipe, or a great pair of jeans, or a fabulous shade of lipstick, or a review for a product you don't need at the moment but might want to try someday....and when you are ready to buy or cook or have a makeover, you can't remember where you saw it!  Pinterest to the rescue!  You make "pinboards," using any title you like.  Then, when you find a tidbit that you want to reference later, you use your handy "pin it" button that you've downloaded to your toolbar.  Friends get to see what you're looking at, and they can repin at will.  You can peruse your friends' boards too, as well as hundreds of general categories where you will find things by pinners you don't know. It's kind of an interesting sociological study when you see degrees of separation played out by people around the world as they repin things you saw a week ago!

Anyway, all of this is to say that I have been pinning for months now, and it has inspired me to try a lot of new recipes as well as home projects, garden inspiration, clothing, and about a million handy tips for the home, such as cleaning products you can make with items from the pantry, or a sugar scrub that saves me a bundle because I used to but it from Burt's Bees at $13 a jar, and making it at home costs pennies.  All of which is very helpful when you have daughters who can use up a jar in the space of a week!

Favorite baked items include a "buttercream" frosting that begins with a white sauce, uses far less sugar, and tastes far better than traditional icing, homemade Snickers bars that were to die for, pumpkin muffins filled with a cream cheese concoction and topped with streusel, cheesy zucchini rice that is delicious as a side dish or a vegetarian meal, and lime ice cubes.

Lime ice cubes, when put in the above list, sound ridiculous, I know.  If I read that, I would say forget lime ice cubes!  Tell me about the homemade Snickers bars!  But really, they are adorable and delicious and I am thinking about making gallon Ziploc bags full of them for the freezer.  I am even thinking of making lemon, orange, peach and strawberry ones!  They are easy, but oh so nice.

All you have to do is take a tabespoon of sugar and put it in a measuring cup.  Squeeze the juice of a lime into it and stir so the sugar dissolves.  Add 1 1/2 cups or so of water and stir.  This is a basic limeade and in my ice trays it made one tray of ice, so plan accordingly depending on how many ice cubes you want.  Pour the limeade into your ice tray(s). Take one more lime and slice the ends off, cutting close so you're cutting the rind part off but leaving most of the fruit. Slice the remaining lime into 4 round slices, and then cut each slice into quarters, leaving you with 16 triangles of lime.  Drop one into each ice cube and freeze.  (If you have any triangles left over, simply squeeze the juice out of them right into the cubes you're making, so there's no waste!) 

Use these cubes in drinks--we love it in fresh lemonade, Sprite when we let the kids have soda, water and cocktails, too--one of my favorite drinks is gin and tonic, and these are awesome in there!  They add a kick to your drink and don;t water it down.  YUMMY!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is It Better to be a Grownup or a Kid?

This morning on Facebook, I saw a link to a blog post on Long Island Parent Source about a family's conversation about being an adult. Basically, the woman's 6 year old daughter wanted to be a baby again so she wouldn't have any homework to do, and it got their family talking about whether being a child or an adult is better. I think almost every adult would agree that being a kid was MUCH more fun! However, I did want to see what my own kids would say, so I started with Ben. Here is his list:

Why Being a Grownup is More Fun Than Being a Kid:
by Ben, age 9

1. Being able to drink delicious (mostly alcoholic) drinks.
2. Being able to watch NC-17 rated horror and action movies.
3. Being able to do what you want.
4. Being able to drive.
5. Being able to do things you have to be 18 and up to do.
6. Deciding what's for dinner (hint, hint!)
7. Deciding what pets to have.
8. Having the secrets of knowledge (I wish they'd let me in on some of it!)
9. Getting all jokes that come their way.
10. Reading horror stories by Stephen King.

Pretty apt list, I think. The girls gave me a lot more resistance, but in the end I threatened them and they did it...just kidding. I begged a bit, but I didn't actually have to threaten them.

Why Being a Grownup is More Fun Than Being a Kid:
by Emma, age 7

1. Grownups stay up late.
2. Grownups get to paint rooms.
3. Grownups have jobs (mostly).
4. Grownups have no schoolwork.
5. Cats are scared of grownups and don;t scratch them.

Emma gave me the most grief over this, insisting that she couldn't come up with ten reasons she wanted to be a grownup. She came up with five, and I figured it wasn't worth fighting with her. I guess she is sensible and realizes she has it pretty good.

Why Being a Grownup is More Fun Than Being a Kid:
by Julia, age 12

1. Staying up late.
2. Watching scary movies.
3. Reading horror stories.
4. Being allowed to have as many pets as you want.
5. Having your own house.
6. Having a job.
7. Being able to drive.
8. Cooking anything you want any time.
9. Getting to make the rules.
10. Having your own garden/getting to plant whatever you want.

Julia says that actually, she thinks being a kid is way better, and she is only humoring me by writing this list. I agree with her! And now for my list:

Why Being a Kid is More Fun Than Being a Grownup:
by Mom, age 41 for a few more days

1. Someone else cooks.
2. Someone else cleans.
3. Someone else runs errands.
4. When the cat pukes, you tell an adult about it.
5. No bills to pay.
6. No real responsibility.
7. You sleep as much as you want to.
8. Christmas, and for that matter all holidays, are pure fun.
9. You get new clothes and shoes constantly because you're growing.
10. Weekends are an endless stretch of fun, free time, rather than a couple of days where in addition to anything you have planned, you cram all the chores and errands that didn't get accomplished during the week.

I could go on and on here--but I won't. I think the point has been made.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rachel's Excellent Adventure

Over the past several months, I have thought of blogging about Rachel, but I never did because at first she was only applying, and what if it didn't happen?, and then...well, I think we all know how I procrastinate. But it is happening. Rachel has been accepted to a private school for the coming semester, and this Friday, she leaves for Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin!

Quick summary: I found a school called The Conserve School via a sidebar ad on Facebook and happened to click the link. What I read intrigued me: it is a private high school experience for juniors and seniors, focusing on environmental science. It is a semester school, meaning that all students go for just a semester at a time-so Rachel will be on equal footing with everyone else, not a situation where she is a homeschooler coming to a school where everyone knows each other already. Their mission is to inspire young people to environmental stewardship through academics and engagement with the forests, lakes and wildlife of Lowenwood. They provide a "diverse group of young people with a residential academic setting that fosters understanding of the science of natural resource conservation, commitment to protecting the environment, an inclination toward careers that help preserve the natural world, enjoyment of outdoor activities and love and respect for nature." TA-DA! It was like a school had been created just for us!

Matt and Rachel took a trip last May to the school for their open house, and were very impressed. Thus began the application process, which was like a mini-lesson in what we'll go through with college applications. She was accepted in October and we have spent the past few months preparing--gathering all the supplies she'll need for such harsh weather, getting her plane tickets, choosing classes, shipping boxes, etc. She will be gone for 18 weeks, although we'll see her for 9 days in April on her spring break. She will be taking a great course load, including AP Environmental Science, and will experience all sorts of outdoor activities, including ice fishing, cross country skiing, and a solo camping trip.

There have been moments of fear from all of us--she is understandably nervous at the thought of so long away from home, leaving her friends, meeting new people, and being in a school environment for the first time. Julia, Ben and Emma are quite upset at the thought of her being gone, and I know we'll all miss her terribly. I am feeling the pressure of knowing that as her teacher for all these years, I bear responsibility in some ways for her success or failure academically...but I know that she is very bright and a hard worker, and that those fears will almost certainly prove baseless. And I know that I am going to cry as she walks away at the airport on Friday. There just is no way not to.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is an important interim step for her college years--she will be living as she would at college, in a dorm, responsible for her own schedule completely, responsible for homework and studying without any parental input, eating at a cafeteria and attending classes...but with only 58 students this semester, it is a cozier atmosphere that will foster pretty close friendships, I think. Also, each student has their own room with a bathroom shared with just one other student, so she's actually going to have better accommodations than she does here! :)

Crazy to think it, but this is the first little step towards an empty nest, Someone said to me the other day, "give them roots, then let them fly," and I think Rachel is going to fly this Friday!

Happy Birthday, Julia!

Today is Julia's 12th birthday! Wait....what? It seems like yesterday that this girl was a baby, a toddler, a preschooler...and now she is practically a teenager? Pull the knife out of my heart very slowly, please.

As always, we scrapped school in favor of birthday fun. This included a lot of playing outside, even for me. It certainly isn't often that Julia gets a sunny day in the low 60s on her winter birthday! So there was frolicking in the yard, a walk with the dog, and the kitchen door stayed open to let in all the lovely light. The birthday girl made pancakes...and before anyone asks why the birthday girl made US breakfast, let me just say that Julia loves to make pancakes. We watched a couple of episodes of "the Brady Bunch," in the afternoon, with popcorn made by Rachel, and Rachel made us pizza for dinner. We had a visit from our neighbor, who brought a card and turtle earrings, a package from Grandma with coveted books and art kits, and gifts from Rachel, too--a book, a Snickers and a lovely necklace.

After dinner, Julia opened books from us...her other present is going to be a rabbit! But we're still looking into that, so a bit of patience is required, much to her chagrin. We had a chocolate cake with marshmallow cream in the center (I made the middle layer using a bowl to form a ring, which was then filled and covered by another layer, sort of like a homemade Ring Ding. After dinner, Matt and the three younger kids went to watch "X Men 3" while I cleaned up, and they are finishing the evening with a game.

All in all, a wonderful day for a wonderful girl. Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Emma made this picture this morning, in honor of New Year's Eve. The animals at the bottom are in silhouette because she knew that if they were watching fireworks, it would be dark and you wouldn't see them well.

Animals from left to right are: a skunk with a mouse on his back, a rabbit, a deer with an owl on his back, and a porcupine. In the top corner, she wrote: Emma 7 years old soon to be 2012!

Wishing you all peace, love and joy in the new year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sweet 16!

too beautiful

At this time sixteen years ago, I became a mom for the first time. Rachel was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen, and the love I felt for her was so intense I thought I could die from it. I didn't know before that minute that I could love someone so completely, with every single fiber in my body, that I'd willingly throw myself off a building if it meant saving her from harm. After I became a mom three more times, I understood the feeling better, but there's nothing like the first time, is there?

Matt looks like he's about 16 holding her! She is about 3 weeks old.

In the sixteen years that followed, there have been many ups and downs. There have been times that I have felt like a fantastic mom, and times that I've felt that I was the worst mom that ever existed. I have learned a little about patience--though it has never been my strong suit and probably never will be. I have learned more than I care to about how angry children can make you, and I have learned that I am about as far from perfect as it's possible to get. I have also learned that time is precious and passes too quickly, and that I am so very lucky to have this girl in my life.

loving the swings at 5 months old.

In Iowa, we used to visit these horses almost every day.

On her 3rd birthday

4 years old, camping in Pennsylvania

at 8 years old, on the beach with Julia and Evelyn

What do I wish for Rachel? I wish her every happiness in the world. I want her to find passion in every area of her life, from a career she loves and finds meaning in, hobbies she can pursue with zeal that bring her joy, all the way to finding love and happiness with someone. I hope that someday (far from today!) she will know what it's like to love a child, all the highs and lows included. I'll try not to say "I told you so!" when her child is sixteen and she cries at the drop of a hat, either.

Joy like this, every day!

and a smile like this one.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Letter to the Tooth Fairy

Years ago, I bought a small silk pillow with a tiny pocket for a tooth. It has a pretty fairy on it and it's used so the Tooth Fairy can easily find a child's tooth in the dark, unlike the medieval way we grew up with just putting the tooth under the pillow and hoping she could find it without waking us up.

Emma just lost another tooth today, but when we went to my drawer where the pillow should be, it wasn't in the usual place. I searched the dresser to no avail, and told Emma she should just look upstairs because probably the last person to use it forgot to bring it back to my drawer. I still think it's up in the girls' room. However, Emma had a different idea, so I thought I'd share:

Dear toothfairy we cuold'nt find the toothfairy pillow. instead I have put my tooth at the bottom of the paper. I hope you get my tooth.

From: Emma Grace Eager
To: the toothfairy

I love the way she taped the tooth to the fairy's hand. Hope she can get the tape off!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Emma's Writing Assignment


Emma's writing program this year is fun. She chooses a photo from a pack, ranging from animals to family groups to landscapes, and then flips the card and picks one of three writing exercises on the back. Today she chose a picture of a sleeping orange kitten, and on the back the assignment was to write about the fun dream the kitten might be in the middle of. This is her story, in case you can't read it in the scanned image of her notebook....

My Long Nap

Once I dreamed I went to space. It was incredible! I had a shiny space helmet. Also, I had a gray space suit. Anyway, I met all sorts of things.

I met an indestructible blob. It just kept on oozing out of metal rock.

There was some space coral. They were all kinds of shades of blue, pink, yellow, red, black, green, orange and brown. Also, I saw planet squids. They were a blinding shade of scarlet. Then unfortunately, my dream ended.

I give her A+ for spelling, vocabulary and imagination....she could work on the plot a bit, but then again, dreams tend to be a bit open ended. Smiles.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Every Day is Mother's Day

This morning I was checking my email and Facebook, as is my habit when we have nowhere to go early in the day. Julia, Ben and Emma were in the living room, reading. Ben came into my room and asked, "Did you hear what we're planning?"

Sounds like an innocuous question, unless you're a mom. I tried to remain calm as I answered that I hadn't.

"Well, just stay here for a while, OK?"

I made him promise that they weren't planning to burn anything down and then agreed. They are usually pretty sensible, after all, so I wasn't worried there'd be much I couldn't handle.

After about 15 minutes, they called me into the dining room. They'd set my usual place with a place mat, cloth napkin, china, a tiny goblet, a water glass, a coffee mug, silverware, and even a tiny china plate with an extra fork. There was a folded paper on the plate. It read:

To Mom--a token of appreciation that you can manage ALL the cooking, cleaning and work. We don't know how, must be magical! --Julia, Ben & Emma <3 <3 <3

Look at all the choices! And note that everything is FREE! This was my lucky day. I had coffee, orange juice, cubed pineapple and a cheddar omelet made by Julia. Ben and Emma did the order taking, serving and sous-chef jobs. And they sat with me while I ate, and we talked.

I love those kids.