Friday, June 29, 2007


Well, the day after tomorrow, (Sunday) we are going to Connecticut with our extended family (Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents, etc.) We are staying in a house that Grandma and Poppy won through a church raffle. It will (hopefully) be fun, although the sleeping arrangements might be a little crowded......

So, there is a lot of packing to be done. Clothes, books, toys, games, towels, bathing suits, beach toys, bedding, etc. It is something NO ONE likes to do, but it has to be done. Originally, we were going to take the ferry to Connecticut, but then my parents realized that it would be a lot less expensive to drive there than to bother taking the ferry. Sure, the ferry is more fun, but driving will be enjoyable, too (I hope....)

So, wish us luck! We will miss you, Emily, Ella, and John. Hope you have a great time wherever you are!


Daily Quote

Homesickness is a bit like seasickness. You don't know how awful it is until you get it, and when you do, it hits you right in the top of the stomach and you want to die.

---Roald Dahl

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Daily Quote

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.

---Charles M. Schulz

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I thought that this pictures of our cat Lila is kind of funny. Julia was bored one morning, so she started taking pictures of the cat aimlessly, and look at what it turned into!


(Lila does not look too happy here......)

Daily Quote

You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.

---Indira Gandhi

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Beach

Here it is, the end of June, and we've only been to the beach 3 times! We haven't had much hot weather yet--lots of gorgeous weather and lots of rain, but not a lot of hot, humid days. Well, today it is in the high 80's (or will be later) and sticky, so we're headed to the beach after lunch.

When I was a child, we always went to the beach around 10 in the morning and stayed till 3 or 4 pm. However, now I rarely go in the morning because I like to skip packing lunch! I still pack a ridiculous amount, don't get me wrong--snacks and drinks, towels, chairs, shoes, sand toys, sometimes the umbrella, noodles for the water, sunscreen, coffee and a book, etc. etc. etc. but lunch would just be breaking the camel's back! The other advantage is that now that we have no ozone layer, the kids would be burned to a crisp if we stayed that long--if we don't get on the beach till 1 or 2, the sun is on the wane, at least.

Anyway, the kids are wild with excitement and I am too.


Rachel's Last Softball Game

Last night was Rachel's final softball game. It was going beautifully until the last inning, when the other team decided to go for broke and use all their steals for the inning (in this league you can only steal 5 bases per inning) and unfortunately, were successful at all of them. So they pulled ahead and remained there.

But, Rachel's 2 at-bats were successful ones, at least. She walked both times, and scored both times. She wants to play again next year, so I think she and Matt will need to do a lot of practicing over the next 9 months.....

I have to say I won't miss those 6:00 pm games! What a horrible time for busy families to have to be out at the park.


Daily Quote

People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass jar on my desk.

--Stephen King

Friday, June 22, 2007


Last night we were just sitting down to dinner, and Emma had a juice box to drink that was left over from the afternoon. She was looking at the side of the box, and asked, "Mama, does this say Ben?"

Distracted, since I was serving food for everyone, I said, "No, honey, it's a juice box--I'm pretty sure it doesn't say Ben."

Undeterred, she said, "But it says B-E-N!"

Matt took the box from her and looked at it, and then pointed out, "She's looking at the word 'BLEND'!"

O-kay! Well, she's turning 3 in August--maybe she'll read before Ben does!


Daily Quote

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.

--Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Quintessentially Summer

I love this photo of Julia, with our neighbor's cat, Alfie--who comes running whenever we come home....probably because we thought she was a stray for months, and kept feeding her!


Rachel's Math

I have to find a better math program for Rachel for next year!

We have been using Singapore Math, which I like very much for the younger grades. It is put out by the government of Singapore (so there are some strange names--not only lots of Chinese names, but names they think are quintessentially American but that often seem dated) and is a text and a workbook for each year, split into exercises and topics quite well. Cartoon illustrations have kept the books from seeming too dry, and they are also colorful and illustrate the concepts with pictures, which I've found makes everything pretty clear.

However, we all know my grasp of math is not the best--Matt says I have a mathematical mind, and I can get along with math better than a lot of people, I guess, but things that I don't use every day are apt to be fuzzy. I need clear directions so I can remember what to do, and the last thing I want is to teach Rachel the wrong thing and have her get everything else wrong!

Consequently, when we got to geometry (my worst math subject, hands down!) I passed the math torch to Matt. The book just didn't contain enough instruction for me to make any sense of it. However, Matt is very busy--he works every day, comes home and has dinner, then he bathes the kids so I can work out (or do something else I need to do like errands), and then has the bedtime routine with Ben...often by the time that's done (he often falls asleep too), it's time for Rachel to go to bed, or she's so tired she can't focus on math, which is her most hated subject. So math was really getting short shrift for a long time.

Now that we're coming to the end of the year, though, Rachel wants to be finished, especially now that Julia is. So she and Matt have been working very hard--Matt not to fall asleep if it's a snuggling night with Ben, Rachel to pay attention and not get tired and cranky, Matt to be patient with her (remember this is like learning the ABCs to someone like him--it could be hard for him to see why a lot of people find it obtuse!) Last night they did many pages, and lo and behold! she was really understanding, and doing the problems herself. YAY! (Rachel sometimes goes along with math, seeming to understand, but then the next day remembers little, then gets mad...) They will have to keep up a good pace, but if she works hard she can be completely done in a week or so.

So for next year, I have to find a program that teaches the teacher as well as the student, so I can remember what to do and can show her anything she needs. Not that Matt isn't a great teacher--he is, and I would love to just pass the math torch on to him, but if I'm being realistic, they would never be able to do the entire year's worth of work before 2010!


Daily Quote

I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.

--Walt Disney

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Horseback Riding

Another post I would have written if we hadn't gone away.

Rachel and Julia had their first riding lesson on Saturday morning! They were so excited, and I was really proud of them. We got to the farm on time, and spent a while grooming Annabelle, the horse that Rachel rode on the lesson. Barbara, the owner of the farm and their instructor, taught us how to put on the saddle and bridles, and explained a bit about the horses (though since we'd been coming there for 4H this spring, she didn't have to explain everything) and then the girls got up in the saddle.

I led Julia on Molly for a while, so she could get used to being up there again, keeping her feet in the proper position, straight back, and learn how to use her heels to get Molly to obey. Rachel rode Annabelle on her own, with Barbara talking to her and correcting anything that was wrong. After a while, Julia got to take the reins and control Molly herself, and I just walked along with them in case I was needed.

What was so great is that Barbara complimented both girls lavishly--she said that she rarely saw beginner riders who remembered everything they had to do, who hardly needed reminding, and who stayed so straight in the saddle. She also said that Julia was a very gentle rider, because she was able to make Molly move (Molly is a bit of a lazybones, which is why the younger kids ride her) and yet didn't use a lot of force to do it. She said it wasn't usual to see kids who hadn't ridden a lot be able to control their horse without kicking, jerking the reins, etc. and that Julia did it beautifully. She even encouraged Rachel to trot, on her first real lesson! I was very proud of them both.

The lesson ran longer than the half hour we pay for (yay!) and then, because she had another lesson after us, Barbara asked us to take Annabelle over to the meadow grass by the ring for a bit so she could eat a while, and then we brushed her down again before we left. It was a lot of fun, and the girls are over the moon!


Congratulations, Julia!

I should have posted this last Friday, but didn't because I was having a party that evening and so was too busy cleaning and cooking all day to sit at the computer.

However, Julia has completed 2nd grade! Her very last bit of schoolwork was done at about 12:30 on Friday afternoon, and she is now officially on vacation!

Rachel has about another week to go....


A Nice Weekend Away

Haven't updated because we went into the city this weekend for Father's Day. Stayed with my parents on Saturday, went to my brother and sister-in-law in NJ on Sunday (this amounted to my parents, 2 of my 3 siblings and nearly all of their families, and my family, plus my sister-in-law's dad and uncle--10 "adults" and 12 "children"--which I put in quotes because my nieces and nephews are getting older, my kids are the youngest--though we have one great niece, Ella, who is 13 months old--but they couldn't attend, very unfortunately.) We had a wonderful time, except for the miserable traffic coming home from NJ...which I won't even talk about.

We stayed over at my parents' on Sunday rather than make the huge drive back to Long Island at once, and so on Monday slept late, enjoyed a nice leisurely morning and left in the afternoon. The kids all were in bed by 9:00 because they'd had too many days staying up too late. Today was laundry and getting the house back together day--I spent two hours weeding and pruning in the front yard, which sounds miserable but wasn't because Julia, Ben and Emma enjoyed trimming the bushes with safety scissors! So we had fun.

Tomorrow we are off to the beach with a bunch of friends in the afternoon, which we're looking forward to. Go, summer!


Daily Quote

Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.

--Dale Carnegie

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Joke by Ben

Here's a joke Ben made up:

Who's a Star Wars character that's also a car?


Pretty good for not yet five, I thought.


Daily Quote

Music is love in search of a word.

--Sidney Lanier

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Free the Chicks!

We decided this morning that it was no longer worth chasing the chicks off the patio and back into the pen--those brown leghorns are smarter/more athletic than the last bunch of chicks! They only took 3 days to realize they didn't have to stay penned up; the others took nearly a week. The good news is that Rachel found them in the coop last night, all on their own without being caught, so hopefully even though they're loose in the yard they will nest for the night where they're supposed to--hello, Marie and Scarlett!

Here's hoping.


Daily Quote

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.

--Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Baby chickens

I forgot to write about Sunday, when we put our six baby chickens out in the yard. They had been in the big wire rabbit cage in the garage before this, because when we first got them it was too cold at night for them to be out. But I felt sorry for them--as they grow bigger, the cage is crowded (though not as crowded as they'd be, say, on a chicken farm.) The worst part, though, is that the garage is quite dark, unless we have the door open. Matt and I had started calling them Vampire Chickens....

So when the camping trip went south, I decided it would be a good time to set them free, now that the nights aren't dropping below 55 degrees. The first step was to fence in around the coop. We learned from experience last year that if the chickens don't get used to a coop, they rarely go in at night (excluding the coldest weather, but even in rain and snow they will roost in trees if we don't chase them down and put them away!) With the first batch of chicks this spring (the ones that ate plant food and died ALL on the same day!) we had great luck with fencing around the coop and keeping them there for a week or so. They learned the coop was shelter and went in every evening even after we let them have free run of the yard.

Using an ingenious array of twist ties, rubber bands and twigs, we attached chicken wire to the permanent fence, and made a movable barrier that stretches from the fence across the small bit of the yard next to the patio, neatly hemming in the coop using that, the true fence, and the raised patio as borders. We attached the end of the chicken wire to a garbage can that we collect fireplace kindling in; that way we can move it like a gate to get in and out of the pen. When the chicks figure out how to hop over the fence or onto the patio, going through the rails, we'll take the fencing down and they'll have the yard. Hopefully that will take enough time that they'll learn about the coop, too. We clipped their wings before we let them loose so they (hopefully) won't get over the back yard fence....

Ruby, Dixie, Lulu, Pepper, Eowyn and Anya seem to be enjoying their new found freedom. It's funny to watch them move in a little pack for safety as they explore this much larger place. And they're enjoying finding bugs, too--a bit of variety from that chick starter food! Yesterday Dixie got a caterpillar, and the rest were chasing her, trying to steal it away. Our hens, Marie and Scarlett, occasionally hop the chicken wire because they like the chick food better than their own--and of course to get into the coop to lay eggs. It's a peaceful little farm scene.


Sunflower feeder

I was beginning to despair that the birds would ever use the new feeder I got for the garden. It's a copper sunflower on a stake, and you fill the center with seeds, so the birds cling to the front of it to eat. I got it about a month ago--and today we finally have birds on it! Yay! They look so pretty, flitting among all the flowers and perching on the sunflower....I like it.


Julia's Tooth

Julia lost her top right front tooth about three minutes ago! Now she really looks like a 7 year old.....


Belle's Grave

Here's a photo of the grave marker that Julia made....


Yesterday I was shopping and blackberries were on sale for 79 cents! So I got 12 of those little boxes and got to work. Yes, they did need to be sorted well--they were on sale because they weren't pristine, but I only threw away 3 or 4 berries from the whole pile. First I sorted a big bowl to eat now, washed them, and let the kids pick at them while I worked. Then I made 3 other piles. One was another large bowl--to be eaten today! One was a single layer over a large baking pan, which I froze and then picked out of the pan and into a Ziploc bag. They'll be great to have when the berry season is finished. (I do this all summer with various berries, and they usually last till December or January.) The third group was in a colander in the sink.

With that, I washed them really well, to get any moldy spots off of them. Then I picked through them, to make sure they were clean and edible--this really was a formality as the high pressure spray took care of everything yucky. I put them in a pot with a bit less than a cup of sugar and about 2 tbs. lemon juice, and let that simmer for about a half hour. Then I cooled it and put it into 2 clean jars and popped it into the fridge.

Although this is not jam-- it's not as solid and has plenty of juice--it can be used like jam. It is also DELICIOUS over vanilla ice cream, stirred into yogurt, mixed into a smoothie, or on pancakes and waffles. This morning I had toast with it spread all over--I just used more of the solid berries and less of the juice. Fantastic.


Daily Quote

Some folks are wise and some are otherwise.

--Tobias Smollett

Monday, June 11, 2007

Goodbye, Belle

Well, today was a really sad day. When we went camping, we put Belle the cat into the laundry room, because in the past two weeks she has peed outside the litter box three times. Having had several cats in my lifetime do this for various ridiculous reasons, I didn't read anything into this. She was eating, drinking and acting like her little lazy self. Her day consisted of sleeping on the dining room table, or perhaps one of the chairs, purring when petted, and eating. That's it.
She didn't like it when Matt put her in there (big surprise) and we went off on our trip.

We came back, as Rachel already wrote about, on Saturday rather than Sunday, and as I was throwing laundry in I didn't see her, but Julia said she'd opened the door when we got home, so I assumed Belle had run out and was hiding because she was scared/angry at us. Honestly, I was so busy unpacking that I never thought about it again. We asked each other a time or two if anyone had seen her, but in a busy family it's easy to think someone else has, just not me. Late last night (Sunday), we heard a mew and found her in the crawl space in the basement behind the family room. She was lying on some old blankets we use as paint drop cloths, and purred when I picked her up--this should have tipped me off because although she lets me hold her, she's never exactly relaxed when I do so, but I figured she was happy to be found and probably hungry.

She went right to sleep on the dining room chair, and we noticed a raspiness to her breathing, but again, dismissed it. Since we live with Mimi, the incredible asthmatic cat, we don't take a little rasp very seriously. Well, this morning no one could find her. She didn't come to eat, and she wasn't in her usual station on the table. Rachel finally found her around noon, halfway under Emma's bed, which made us happy till we realized that she has also peed on the floor and was lying nearly in the puddle. Never a good sign.

Resigning myself to taking a sick cat and four kids to the vet and paying who knows how much money probably to be told there was nothing a few thousand bucks couldn't take care of, I called the vet, explained the symptoms, and made the earliest appointment available--3:30. This is where it started getting dicey. Her breathing was still strange and hitching, and she was making this little noise that was like a squeak and a meow all together. Hard to describe, awful to hear. Almost like a hoot. She was kind of lethargic, and we put her in a carrier with some water (she didn't drink) and the kids sat around the cage worrying about her.

I was busy trying to get lunch together, calm them all and tell them it would be OK, and in general go in three directions at once. They drifted off to play, Rachel got on the phone, and all of a sudden her noises got louder. I went in to check and her mouth was open, and drool was dripping from her mouth. She wasn't having a seizure, but I could tell it wasn't good. I opened the door and dipped my fingers in the water, trying to get her to drink by putting water on her tongue. She quieted, lay back down, and seemed calm, so I went back to what I was doing.

I came back in to check on her later, and that was it. She was dead. She looked peaceful, though her eyes were open and her paw was in the water. It was hard to tell for sure, but when I touched her I knew. Fast forward about an hour and a half, after I tried to calm my kids, called Matt, called Animal Control to make sure a backyard burial was legal, called the vet to cancel the appointment, and dug the hole. We put her in the side garden (the last thing I wanted was for Sophie to get curious and dig her back up!) by the roses and the blueberries.

Putting her into the hole really tested my courage! I didn't want the kids to realize how horrified I was, so I picked her up using the towel on the carrier bottom like a sling and eased her in--but I had to touch her after all because her foot was jammed and her head at an unnatural angle. I tried to make her look like she was sleeping...with her eyes open. We sprinkled rose petals over her and I asked the kids if they wanted to say anything about Belle, or to her.

Rachel and Julia cried and couldn't talk. Ben was stoic and watchful. Emma then piped up, "I have something to say!" So I asked her what she wanted to say, and her answer: "When can we get a new cat?" Excellent. So the eulogy fell to Mom, so what else is new. I said a few words about what a sweet cat she was, and how we all loved her and would miss her terribly. Then we all put the dirt back in the hole, which was horribly depressing. I usually leave the pet funerals to Matt for this very reason--but we weren't going to have a dead cat around all afternoon, that's for sure. We pressed it down (and boy, I hope I dug down enough...) and then Julia found a pebble that was white with a grayish streak and put it on top, saying that it had a silver stripe like Belle. She got upset when she couldn't find enough rocks, so I remembered we had some small colored stones in the house, and Julia made a cat face on top of the grave out of them, using her stone for the nose. We'll post a photo of it tomorrow.

So, poor Belle. We've only had her for two years, but she was a good cat and part of the family. We'll miss her a lot.


Daily Quote

--I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived.

Willa Cather

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Camping results

Well, our family camping trip was mostly filled with fun, but also filled with trouble....

As it turned out, everything DID fit in my dad's van with the seats taken out. That was not a problem. WE got up early on Camping Day to go to a live play with our homeschool group, followed by the History Club my mom runs for the Homeschoolers too. It was the last meeting of the school year (we will start it again in the fall), and we all went dressed in costumes! I was Annie Oakley, Julia Sacagawea, and Emma a 'Princess.' Ben refused to dress up, so only 3 of the Eager Kids were costumed. We had a great time, and towards the end my mom called my dad on the cell phone, and he proclaimed to have set up the whole tent. We were happy about that, and started to the campsite.

When we got there, we helped Dad set up the necessary things such as: the cooler, bug repellent candles, drinks, fruit, bikes and scooters, etc. We lit a fire and started cooking dinner which was hamburgers and fried potatoes (YUM!) After dinner and dessert (S'more fest), my dad and I went to the Rec hall and played 10 games of Bingo. It was fun, but we did not manage to win the Jackpot, which was $20! We ended up winning exactly half of what we payed to play ($2.50) We then headed back to the site.

As we were walking back, we noticed it was very misty outside. My mom had been getting the kids ready for bed. Emma wanted to sleep "alone" (meaning alone on her sleeping bag) , so she went into the tent with Ben and Julia. I sat around the campfire with Mom and Dad, chatting.

I stayed up VERY late (11 PM!), and was exhausted, but I kept waking up during the night and ended up getting up at 6 AM. I didn't realize how early it was, and so zipping up the tent 500 times was not what my fellow campers called fun. They soon woke up at 7:00, pretty cranky although I can't blame them. It was drizzling and pretty nasty.

Then, when my dad was cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast, it started thunderstorming (fun, Fun, FUN), so we all ran into the tent with the plate of bacon. Fortunately, Dad hadn't started cooking the eggs yet, and the bacon was fully cooked. We feasted on that at about 8:45 AM.

The thunderstorm punded until 11:30. That whole time, we were sitting in the tent telling scary stories, talking, reading, and playing. Then the tent started to leak. That was awful. WE moved the sleeping bags away from the sides of the tent to make sure they didn't get soaked, but it was too late for that!

By 11:30 AM, the rain was only drizzling. I went outside and made 6 sandwiches for lunch, which we ate inside the tent accompanied by potato chips. My dad went to take a shower ( he didn't get to it before it started raining.) We were getting fed up with being cooped up for so long, and we were also getting even more cranky. My mom made a plan, which was to get all the wet bedding home to dry it in the dryers. However, the plan TURNED INTO packing up camp. So Dad and I trooped back to the campsite and packed up the food, bikes, scooters, tent, candles, tabelcloth, tarp, folding chairs, etc. We made our way back home.

So, here I am at the computer, typing this post. We are happy and safe in our house WITH A ROOF!!!!!!


Daily Quote

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.

--Frank Gehry

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Updated Camping List

Well, today is packing day. I checked over the list a few times before I printed it, and it's ONLY two pages long! I wonder if Matt will be able to fit everything in his van with the seats taken out? I'm pretty glad that I'll be off with the kids while he packs up the van--that way I won't have to listen to his editorial comments....

Luckily Rachel and Julia are old enough to pack their own things. That's a plus. I have to go to Target to pick up many many things we need, including a lead for Sophie, bug spray, and a birthday gift for the party Julia is going to one hour after checkout on Sunday. I'm sure I'll end up at Waldbaum's as well. Plus, I have to drop by the pet store because Romeo and Juliet (the fire belly toads) haven't eaten in nearly two weeks, so crickets for them are a must before we go. And I have to make an extremely detailed to-do list for Matt as well, packing without me here--he has to feed and water all the animals that are staying here, including the chickens, make sure we have everything, and if I'm really lucky, have time to mow the lawn, which really needs it. Not that I'm holding my breath....

Anyway, I'd better get to it. Now that four loads of laundry have been folded and put away and the list is printed, I don't have any more excuses as to why I can't pack RIGHT NOW...



Yesterday was Rachel and Julia's last meeting of 4H for this year. Much to their dismay, I might add, because it also marks the end of Horsemanship lessons at the farm.

Did I mention that both girls are obsessed with horses? Well, they are! The biggest trauma of their lives is that we will never be able to own a horse. Rachel has been plotting about volunteering at the barn for Miss Barbara in exchange for lessons, and I've had to remind her that while she is very responsible, she's 11, and insurance might not allow Barbara to let someone inexperienced take care of horses (even if she has memorized volumes of horse books!)

So yesterday they both got to ride A. Rod (yes, he's named after the Yankees player), a gorgeous thoroughbred--the darkest brown with black mane and tail, huge and shiny. The younger group rode first while the older kids had the book lesson, and then they switched. Since so many of the girls wanted to ride A. Rod, Rachel ended up going last, which worked to her advantage as it was getting on towards 7:00 pm--most of the moms were hurrying their kids home to dinner, so she got to ride the longest. When Julia saw Rachel riding so long, she started sulking by the fence, wishing that she were up on his back.

So when Rachel went to get off, Barbara asked me if Julia could have another ride because she looked like she was about to implode....of course I said yes, and called Julia over. I went to help her on, but she just put her foot into the stirrup (from a step stool) and swung herself on. Barbara was impressed--she said that anyone so small who could hoist herself up so easily should definitely ride more often.....

With nudges from Rachel, I asked her how much she charged for lessons. The answer was $25 for a half hour lesson, which she said usually went longer than a half hour. Doesn't sound like a lot, really, but with two girls wanting to ride, and it being every week....I guess she saw my face, because she said we could definitely work something out. She gave me her card, and we left, elated.

So maybe, just maybe, we will work it out for the girls to ride. It would make them so happy, and it would make me happy by proxy, since riding lessons were something I always wanted as a child but never got--growing up in Brooklyn isn't terribly conducive to horseback riding! What I'm hoping is that we can pay for one lesson and either Rachel or Rachel and I together can work for the other one. Of course I'd have to leave Ben and Emma home, so it would have to be at a time when Matt is home....but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!


Daily Quote

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Daily Quote

Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely.

-Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My New Gardening Book

I just got a book called "1001 Gardening Secrets," and already it's worth its weight in gold. It has tips on everything--fertilizing, pest control, planting, problems--just about anything you could want to know is in there. Our tomato plants are growing tomatoes (YAY! And may I say, this would be my first successful tomato crop, assuming it actually ends up producing anything real) which excited me to no end, but then I was taking a closer look at them and was dismayed to see the bottom leaves all yellow and curling up on one another.

I looked in the book, and lo and behold! discovered several possibilities. I'm going to try all the solutions, hopefully they will work. First I added fresh compost around the bottom of the plant. Then, in case they don't have enough nitrogen, I added fresh coffee grounds. In case they're low on magnesium, I mixed 2 tbs. Epsom salts (which we had from a science project) into a gallon of water, mixed well, and added to the plants, also spraying it onto the leaves. Finally, they could be low in iron, so I am now steeping rusty nails in a bucket of water, which tomorrow I will use to water them. Yes, rusty nails! You can even "plant" rusty nails into the soil next to plants to add iron....

I also learned that next year when I plant tomatoes I should wrap the root ball will banana peels because tomatoes and roses LOVE banana peels....honestly, there are so many good tips that maybe I'll put one in now and then. By the way, on the coffee ground front it also said that if you have leftover coffee, it's great to use for plant water once it's cold--but I never have leftover coffee, so I'll just use the grounds!


Daily Quote

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.

--Roger Miller

Monday, June 4, 2007

My Camping List

This morning I went through my computer files and found the list I made to pack for camping. Now, as I already mentioned, we haven't camped since October 2003--so we didn't have Emma at all, and Ben was a toddler. So adjustments had to be made for that. Under "Ben" I had diapers, wipes, the sling, baby blankets, snowsuit, etc. Kind of tugged at the heartstrings to delete that. Even Emma now is too big to take over that list. I just made a new heading-- "Kids".

I figured the list would be much shorter because we're only going for 3 days. So I renamed the file "weekend camping" and prepared for the big adjustment. (Previously our other trips have been for 7-10 days, so we should have that much less stuff, right? Right?) WRONG! The food category went down a bit, because I figure we can forget pancakes and maple syrup if we'll only be there for two breakfasts. We'll have cereal one day and eggs the other. We can forget about pasta, canned tomatoes, tuna, chips & salsa and canned beans, rice, and bring less meat, fruit and veggies. A lot less variety is needed for three days than ten. However--we still need coffee, milk and juice, bread, pb&j, meat, fruit and veggies, snacks, s'more ingredients, eggs, spices, sugar, potatoes, etc. etc. It's still food for 6 people, after all--six meals and daily snacks. That's still a fair bit of food.

The clothes category went down a lot, too. Because I rarely do laundry when camping (except for the wonderful time that it poured and one tarp over the tent wasn't quite enough for the slope we were on and everything got wet) I admit I overpack with clothes. I make sure we have clothes for every activity, every weather and temperature. I hate being cold and so do the kids, so we bring layers--summer clothes, long sleeve Ts, light jackets and even winter coats. We bring sun hats and cold weather hats--when we camped in Maine in AUGUST, we wore long underwear, double socks, pjs, a sweatshirt, winter coats, hats and gloves to sleep--and still knew it was cold! Then there's shoes--swimming shoes, sandals, sneakers and hiking boots. Maybe an extra pair in case of mud or rain. I can scale down because it's a weekend, but we still have to make sure we're warm enough. Long Island in June can still be pretty nippy at night.

However, the equipment list hardly budged. (And because we have a 4th child now, has grown in some cases!) The tent, air mattress and pump, mats for the kids, sleeping bags, pillows, extra blankets, folding chairs, dishes, cooking pots, cups, water bottles, coffee pot, dish pan, soap, towel, sponge, etc, paper towels, napkins, tissues, a tablecloth, fly swatter, bath rugs in and out of the tent to catch dirt, dustpan and brush, lanterns, stove and propane, matches (keep them dry!), charcoal and fluid, the cooler for food, storage buckets to keep animals out of food--it's literally endless. Bathing suits, bike helmets, bikes/scooters, beach towels and regular shower towels--a clothesline and pins to dry everything, tools to set everything up....then there's the bag of bathroom stuff with shampoo, toothbrushes, contact cleaners, sunscreen and bug spray, brush and comb, Tylenol, lotion, etc. etc.

So in short, I will still be running around like a woman possessed in order to get us packed. Matt is taking Friday off, but because we had wanted to camp 2 weeks ago but couldn't get a reservation so we chose this weekend instead, the kids and I have plans on Friday already. We're seeing a play in the morning, and then our homeschooling group's history club has an end of the year costume party in the early afternoon. So although I will be doing most of the packing, Matt (the lucky man!) will be packing his van (seats taken out, which will be much easier) with all the camping gear and the dog and checking in at the campground--hopefully getting the entire thing set up before we even get there around 4 pm....I'll have to get back to you on how that actually works!!

I have to plan menus so I can get groceries. Right now all I know I need to get is s'mores.......more to come.


Happy Birthday!

We just wanted to say...........

Happy birthday to you, Elijah! We hope you have a great day!

Elijah is the little brother of my best friend, Julianna, who now lives in North Carolina. She moved away last December, and we miss them very much. However, this DOES NOT stop us from communicating often with them,and now we are better friends then ever!

So, today is Elijah's 3rd birthday, and we are wishing him the very best. Have a great day, Elijah, and keep being a good BIG brother to Isabella, and a good little brother to Julianna and Noah!!!!


All of us!

(This was posted by Rachel!)

Daily Quote

Everybody likes a compliment.

-Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla

Well, from the title of the post, you must be wondering what this is all about!

Our dog, Sophie, was sniffing around our fence. My dad was just coming out of the shed, and he saw her. He went over to her and said, "Sophie, what are you doing?" Then he saw........Rufus!

You must be dying to know who Rufus is. OK, I'll tell you. Rufus is a....turtle!

So, my dad picked up Rufus and brought him inside the house where we admired him until, well, Rufus used his "self defense mechanism" by doing a little Number 1 all over my dad's shirt and the floor. That was a little...surprising.

We took Rufus outside after that.

Rufus was placed in our little pond in the backyard. We call it "The Buddha Pond" because it has a statue of Buddha sitting on the edge of the pond; it's pretty cute. Rufus sat in the water for a few minutes, and then managed to climb out and simply crawl away into our garden. We (unfortunately) didn't get a picture of him before he went back into hiding, but we will try the next time we see him!

(By the way, the reason we named him Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla is after the Schoolhouse Rock! video "The Best of Schoolhouse Rock!" We were just going to call him Rufus, but then my dad said, "How about Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla," so that's what we did.)

We'll keep you posted about Rufus. Hopefully he will make his home in our yard, and we will provide a picture ASAP!


Still Life

For Art one day, Julia and I each drew a still life picture of 2 apples and a mango in a green bowl. Here are the results.....


And mine:


Daily Quote

A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.

-Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Emma's song

Emma has been really cute with the guitar lately. She walks aimlessly around the house, strumming and singing over and over, "Drop your bananas on the floor....drop your bananas on the floor....drop your bananas on the floor! Bananas, bananas, bananas on the floor...." Although she isn't singing a real tune, it isn't tuneless either. She changes the inflection of the singing with each bar, and gets louder and softer too. I love it.


Julia's To-Do List

Julia was playing a game a week or so ago, where she was a mouse and made a to-do list. She also illustrated several of the items, but even just the words are priceless! I left her spellings and capitalization intact. I can't imagine where she got the idea of a to-do list!!!! :)

To-Do List

Go steal a bit of food
Do daily exersices
Do obsticle course
Do daily reading
Clean the hole
find buiride tresour
Do my art
write my secret ancent scrolls
Write my letters
go shopping
Buy a new pet
Buy new jewelery
Buy new clothes
Buy new much to do!

A Letter from Julia (and reply)

This letter Julia wrote a few weeks ago to Matt is so cute I have to share it.

Dear Daddy,

My life is very boring. All I ever do is: Brush hair and teeth, eat and sleep, write, write some more, sleep, write, write, write and write. My life is very dull. I want to draw really, REALLY badly. But, I don't want to give up writing. What do you think I should do? Please write back soon,


And this is Matt's reply.

Dear Julia,

I understand your dilemma. It is difficult to choose one activity when you enjoy more than one. The thing to remember is that you're supposed to have fun. If you get bored with one activity, just switch to another, and then when you get bored you can switch back, or even choose a new one.
I hope that advice is useful. Let me know how you are doing in a few days.


Yard Sales

OK, this morning was kind of a pain. Emma is on a great streak of sleeping through the entire night in her own bed, which has been wonderful. But ah, the extreme irony of motherhood--I go through years of having a baby in bed with me, and complain about staying in one position for hours at a time, sleeping lightly because I know she's there, etc.--and then when she finally begins sleeping on her own, I STILL don't sleep well, because I either keep expecting her to come in at any moment, or I sleep so solidly in one position that I wake up with every limb dead and my back feeling like I'm arthritic and 97 years old. Anyway, for the past week she has been in her own bed all night, till 6 or 7 in the morning. This morning when she came in, I obligingly let her in after turning over for the first time since I got into bed at 1 am, creaking all the way.

Then I had to go to the bathroom but didn't want her to wake so early (I finally had to give in on that point), then I was too hot, then the birds were chirping wildly and the sun was bright, then Matt was snoring, then the cat came to sit on my head.....all in all, I couldn't fall back asleep, and anyone who knows me knows that I don't play well with 6 am! I laid quietly, trying desperately to sleep--and then Ben burst into the room, asking a question about Luke Skywalker at top volume. Matt growled at him that it wasn't even 7am--what's the rule about Saturday? He obligingly left the room, going upstairs to wake Julia and then Rachel, probably with the same question. I sighed, knowing that they would either start fighting or playing some incredibly loud game, and that sleep was right out the window. Matt stubbornly went right back to sleep. Being a man.

I listened to the cacophony of birds and children, wishing that I could just be back asleep, when Rachel burst into the room, exclaiming at the top of her voice that the people diagonally across the street, whose house is for sale, are having a yard sale, and wouldn't it be great to go check it out, and that the sign says it doesn't begin till 9:00 but people are already parking along the street......Now before I was a mother, I would have assumed that a girl who was 11 and a half would KNOW better than to come into anyone's room who was asleep or trying to be and start talking at top volume, but apparently I was wrong, even though we have nicely and not-so-nicely reminded her that when someone is asleep they don't want to be bothered. Matt reminded her not-so-nicely. But she was back less than 15 minutes later, casually trying to see if we were awake yet.

Deciding that I should just end my torture and get out of bed, I went into the bathroom and started the morning brushing, washing, contact lens routine. Pulled on some clothes, a bit of blush and lipstick, and went over there. Rachel had already been there with a fistful of dollar bills she had squirreled away, and came home with a pogo stick, a rock tumbler, and a stuffed horse--leading her sisters and brother to howl that she got everything good at the sale, and why was she old enough to go there alone when they weren't, and in general how UNFAIR life is.....luckily, her switch was turned to good, and she brought Julia over and bought Ben and Emma stuffed animals--a hawk with a "Hawkeyes" shirt for Ben and a white bunny with a purple Cadbury ribbon around its neck for Emma. Julia got a big teddy bear and a white horse with red mane and tail, gold hooves, and I heart u embroidered on his side (!) and Rachel found a French-English dictionary for a quarter...I found nothing.

I find yard sales strange. Whenever I drive past one, they always look great. I'm always positive there are treasures to be had, and Matt NEVER wants to stop at them. Consequently, I usually only ever go to ones right in the neighborhood that I walk to with the kids. However, somehow I rarely find anything I really want--and I always feel weird, pawing through my neighbors' possessions with them watching me. It always seems rude to not buy anything, like I'm saying that all their things are ugly. People who have kids are the best sales to go to for this purpose, though--because as you can see, my kids will buy anything for a quarter, so even when my neighbors are trying to sell lamps with green glass teardrops hanging off the shade and metal scroll work all over the base (UGLY!) I can get away without looking critical of their taste. Plus, children's books for a dime or a quarter are a true bargain, even if they're lame Disney interpretations of fairy tales.

I guess the true value of yard sales is the excitement of seeing the sign, and thinking that you could find something you truly need or really love for little money. I guess kids love them because they feel important, choosing things and paying for them. Plus I never would have paid full price for that red and white horse, and Julia knows it!!


Daily Quote

Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery.

--William Shakespeare

Friday, June 1, 2007


When I was growing up, we had a pop-up camper that we used mostly when we went to Florida every summer for a month. It had deep bins under the dining table bench seats, and since we had four kids and two parents, three people put their clothes together in each bin. We packed bedding, food, and many other things into the camper which was towed behind the station wagon. In the car we had toys and books, an ice chest full of food and drinks for the car, usually a few grocery bags with things like crackers, bread, chips, etc. (that didn't need to be kept cold), and probably a lot of stuff I don't even remember. The roof used to be packed, too--and we got up at 4 am, loaded up and took off so that we kids would go back to sleep until around 8:00. Dad always planned it so that we'd drive 8 hours a day, but if we began so early, we'd get to the camp site sometime after lunch, and even after setting up the camper we'd still have ample time to play in the afternoon.

The point is, since I was not only a child but the youngest child, I had NO idea how much work this all was! To me, camping was fun, the way to get to our glorious month in Florida with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. My aunt and uncle have a beautiful house in Jacksonville, which I thought of as heaven--air conditioning! palm trees! three bathrooms! Bathrooms that had connecting doors to bedrooms! a patio! a house that sprawled all over but was only one floor! sliding doors onto the patio from the family room AND from the master bedroom! It was just the greatest to me. Then we'd go to the cabin on the lake, which of course was wonderful too. Swimming all the time, cousins playing all over the place, a motorboat that we rode on, skiied behind and for the younger ones were towed behind on a tire. Playing cards at night on the screened porch under a yellow light bulb to trick the bugs, riding around in the back of my uncle's pickup truck (we LOVED that!), big loud family meals, reading on a chaise lounge while the adults cooked, the afternoon thunderstorm that cooled everything off. It was just great. And then, of course, we went to Disney World every year.......

Now we go camping as a family, but the unfortunate part is that now I'm the mom and get to be the one doing all the work! I love going, don't get me wrong, but the planning involved! The food we have to bring, and all the dishes/pots/silverware/dishpans/bedding/pillows/air mattress and pump/toys/sunscreen/bug spray/dog and all her stuff/bikes/bathroom stuff/towels/a's endless. We are going next Friday, just for the weekend to a local place, and although we are excited about it, I feel like I am coordinating an expedition to the Arctic! And even though we go to campgrounds that have bathrooms, with hot water, showers, activities, a pool, picnic tables, fire pits, etc. (hardly backpacking into the wilderness and foraging for food, is what I'm getting at), almost everything about camping involves work. You have to hike to that bathroom instead of going to the room next to yours at night. You have to heat water to do dishes. You have to adjust your whole mode of cooking--a meal takes three times as long to make, and you have to think carefully before you leave the house what will be the best things to make. You have to make sure you have enough clothes and bedding--even when the days are warm, the nights are cold, so you end up taking along so much stuff that a 3 day trip looks like you're moving out. Even bringing our dog is a pain, because she has to stay leashed, which she isn't used to. We didn't camp last year because we moved over the summer and were too busy, and we didn't camp the summer before that because we didn't want to bring Emma as an infant, and the summer before that I was pregnant and NOT sleeping in a tent! But the summer of 2003, when Sophie was a puppy (her only camping trip), we had to lock her in the van at night because she kept barking at people on the way past at night.

So wish me luck in the coming week as I prepare for Camping Extravaganza....I'm sure we'll have a great time, but I'm also sure I will be frazzled and irritated all week long. At least we have a new and bigger tent this year. After Emma was born we knew we'd need a bigger one, and we bought it on sale last year and then the trip we'd planned in June was rained out and due to moving we never got back to it. So it's about time that the humongous new tent gets aired out. We'll show a photo of it when it's all set up. :)


Daily Quote

Love is the flower you've got to let grow.

--John Lennon