Sunday, September 30, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
The reason it was a monumental job rather than just a time-consuming task was because I was pretty disorganized before now. The challenge with having several kids in different sizes is to resist just boxing everything they aren't wearing up wholesale and throwing it in the attic--which is what I had done. Part of this is not my fault--my sister gives us lots of bags of beautiful clothes from her kids, so I had bag after bag of unknown sizes scattered around. When Rachel needed new jeans, I pawed through bags but didn't necessarily find every pair that would fit, and found myself going through the same bags time after time, not remembering what size was where.
So in the past week I have gone through EVERY box and bag in the attic. I have sorted them into piles by size and now have them marked: Girls 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 (why is there no 9?), 12, 14, 16, etc. and Boys 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 (still no 9!) There are also boxes for each kid full of summer clothes that I think will still fit them next spring/summer--and if I'm wrong, it will be simple to sort them into the appropriate box. The only exception is dresses--we have lots of dresses that are marked, say size 6, but I remember that Julia could easily wear them at 4 years old. So I cheated and put stuff like that in the box of 4's. There is also a gigantic bag of shoes for Emma (and a few for Ben) to grow into, and a smaller bag for Julia to grow into that were Rachel's. Plus I got a shopping bag of Emma's and Ben's outgrown clothes (no child to pass them to in THIS house!) to give to either my niece Emily for her daughter, or my friend Jenn for her baby daughter, or her 3 year old son. AND a huge garbage bag of stuff that I need to sort by size (sigh) and then put up on freecycle....
While doing this, I also (with Rachel and Julia's help) reorganized the 2nd floor closet--a walk-in that Rachel, Julia and to a far lesser extent Ben all share. It was a NIGHTMARE of dress-up clothes, toys, shoes that nobody wears, single slippers (where are the mates? I have no clue...) and of course, clothes that fell off their hangers and were left on the floor. Part of this problem is due to the fact that Rachel's dresser doesn't hold all her clothes--Julia and Ben have the built-in dressers that are absolutely huge, but hers is a regular one, and she has so many clothes they just don't fit. After cleaning the closet out, we brought two sets of those Rubbermaid storage drawers up and put them in the closet, so Rachel has overflow drawers for sweaters and pants. This should help immensely.
Two more tasks--I want to reorganize the coat closet, because when we moved into the house we sort of threw everything in there and it's a mess, plus I know that there are lots of baby hats and too-small boots that can be cast away. Now that we're using the garage as a mud room, we can change around that closet to only have the minimum gear in it and move all the raincoats, boots, hats, scarves and mittens to the mud room--plus I'm going to hang all the extra coats from the bar in the attic that is now cleared of stuff. (Another question: why do we have so many coats? Emma herself has 8, plus 2 raincoats!)
Since we moved in, the closet in the master bedroom has been a mess, too. There's a shelf at the top that is bowed because the wood is probably 50 years old. Ever since we moved in, we have been meaning to fix that and because it hasn't been done yet, I never organized the closet much. We also have a laundry basket in there full of painting clothes for myself and Matt--we repainted the entire house when we moved in, plus have done some other paint projects--and in October we are painting the exterior of the house--but they really don't need to be at the bottom of the closet anymore and we could probably find a use for the laundry basket! Matt has promised to replace that shelf tomorrow, so then I could use my shelf dividers for sweaters, have more room to hang clothes, get rid of the painting clothes from the bottom, reorganize all my shoes, and take out summer clothes of ours.
This is the kind of thing that doesn't have much importance in the grand scheme of things, but it makes you feel like you've accomplished a lot when it's over!
Friday, September 28, 2007
On Halloween, I will have to put my hair up in a bun, otherwise, everyone will see a soda shop waitress with shoulder-length black hair, and 2 1/2 foot long blonde hair!!!!!!!
PS: We will post pictures of our costumes and us wearing them on Halloween (maybe even before.....)
Saturday, September 22, 2007
The girls' costumes are backordered, so I won't go into them. But Ben's costume came on Friday. It has a vest with a mesh front. The back says POLICE. It also has a big blue hat like they wear. But it's the bag that's cool. It came with a duffel bag (also says POLICE) that contains: a whistle with a clip for your belt loops (something Ben can't get enough of!), a badge, an ID holder that you fill out with name, rank, ID #, badge number and even a photo--so we made Ben a Detective. It also has a flashlight (another thing near and dear to his heart), a ticket pad in a leather-like holder with a pencil--and the tickets are quite realistic--AND handcuffs! With keys. This boy is in heaven!
OK, the keys don't actually work. You snap the handcuffs on and the key fits into a hole, but doesn't turn. You actually push a button on the handcuffs that releases them while you pretend to use the key. This made Ben mad for a moment--what do you mean the keys don't work?!--but he got over it. Another thing--no gun. I was happy about that. For parents who don't want guns in the house, we have a surprising number of them. They kind of creep up on you. So it's nice that this costume, which would have been natural for a gun, didn't include one.
He has been playing very involved games in the yard with the costume and accessories. It makes me happy to see him. Another thing I like about the costume is the fact that the dress-up part is just the vest and hat. So no matter what the weather is on Halloween, he will be warm enough. And if for some reason it's actually cold (rarely happens here, but it could) he could even wear the vest over a coat, because it's roomy.
Almost makes me want Halloween to arrive....
Friday, September 21, 2007
The girl was new--after spending 10 minutes making it and figuring out what everything costs--did you know that a Rice Krispie Treat is actually listed under "marshmallow" in the price list at Borders? I didn't!---she handed me my drink and asked me to taste it, because it was the first one she'd ever made. I tasted it--of course it was about a billion degrees--and reassured her that it was fine. I have a pretty bad cold, so it didn't taste like much, but I figured it was too hot to really taste yet.
As I sipped it, however, I kept thinking that it tasted pretty bad. It tasted weak, and kind of like cinnamon, which is not what a caramel latte should taste like. While the kids talked and ate their marshmallow treat, I absently looked at the receipt. Well, no wonder! I was drinking a TEA latte! Ever see Lucy on the Peanuts cartoons after she gets a nice kiss from Snoopy? That's how I felt! Lattes are coffee drinks, not tea!
I took it back and explained, and was very calm and apologized that I didn't catch it sooner, but it was hot and I have a cold. The lady on duty (my incompetent girl had gone home or on break--or maybe to a different department where she couldn't abuse law-abiding coffee lovers...) apologized profusely and upgraded me to a medium. And made it correctly.
Although now I have a few extra hundred calories to burn, what with the bigger drink and all....
Thursday, September 20, 2007
We ended up skipping drama club this past spring, because we never wrote a play. We kept meaning to, but the idea never gelled, and then it became too late. So we skipped it, promising to start up again in the fall. Gulp. Well, now it's fall. And our first drama club meeting is on our homeschool group's calendar for NEXT Friday--September 28. And guess which lame people haven't even thought of an idea for this play?
It was a busy summer....and I've been getting used to teaching three students...and time just seems to speed by....and we don't have an idea yet....
Please wish us luck!!!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
by Julia E.
Crispy leaves falling, colors red, orange and gold
Drifting down upon the ground before the winter's cold.
Out of all four seasons, the very best of all is:
AUTUMN! AUTUMN! AUTUMN! FALL! FALL! FALL!
Piles of leaves to jump in, cups of hot cocoa, too.
Crispy fires burning, I just love fall, don't you?
Now snowflakes start a-fallin', and trees are getting bare,
and now if we go outside, warm woolies we must wear.
No more crispy leaves to jump in, no more chilly sun shining in the blue.
Oh, dear--now fall is over!
BOO HOO! BOO HOO! BOO HOO!
Friday, September 14, 2007
They take a while to assemble, but they're not hard and they are SO good. They are about the only Chinese food I have found that tastes as good at home as it does in the restaurant.
Just mix ground pork with garlic, ginger, chopped scallions, some soy sauce and a little sesame oil--I love to put crushed red pepper too but usually don't because of the kids. Then put about a tablespoon in the middle of each wrapper, wet the edges with water, fold over and crimp with a fork to seal it up. Fry them in some canola oil (mix with sesame oil for taste, but sesame oil has too low a smoke point and will burn if you use it alone) and when they are browned, transfer to a pan with some chicken stock in the bottom, cover and steam about 5 minutes. (I go back and forth between frying all at once and then using the same pan to steam or having two pans going.)
Serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce with chopped ginger, garlic and scallions, and a hint of sesame oil too for flavor. Remember to make about three times what you THINK you need, because you'll need them all.... :)
Thursday, September 13, 2007
It has gotten better. The first few days Rachel and Julia had all their books and pencils lined up and ready before 9 am, and wanted to have us all seated together and working. This sounds nice, but was hard because since Ben can't read by himself, I have to walk him through every single thing--which means talking constantly. This of course distracts the girls. So ultimately it descends into some sort of fighting, yelling, etc. Now, however, they see that I can dispatch with Ben in under an hour and have more time to work with them. However, we are being more hands-on with French this year (meaning I am "teaching" a lesson rather than the more do-it-yourself attitude I'd had in previous years.) Also, science and art/art history are on the computer, and so I have to help Julia navigate properly. And, I am trying to be better about checking all work the same day, rather than letting it build up (--which meant some things were forgotten, and if there was a mistake the child sometimes didn't learn from it for days, which led to more mistakes, etc. )
All this means that school work is taking longer than it ever has. Today we went to Greenport to a playground we love--but didn't leave the house till nearly 3 pm. What is this, public school?! Granted, we started late (around 10:45) because the kids were playing well together in the front yard, and I hate interrupting them when something nice is happening. But still, 3:00 is too late. What will I do when the activities really start? Yikes.
Tomorrow is a half day, luckily. We are going to the aquarium because Ben studied fish this week for science, and because we won two free tickets from our library. And Monday we are off because we are going away for the weekend and won't be home till Monday--Matt's cousin is getting married on Sunday. So I can take a breather.....
Anyway, since today is Rosh Hashana, my dear friend Amie gave us a recipe for challah bread, and told us about saying a blessing, dipping the bread in honey, and also the tradition of saying "shanah tovah," which is a wish for a sweet new year. It was easy to do and delicious! Comes out beautifully, all braided and painted with egg yolk so it's shiny and crisp on the outside, but soft and bready inside.
Unfortunately we had torn off hunks of it to have with dinner when Rachel wailed that we should have taken a photo for the blog. Sorry--take my word for it, it was scrumptious! :)
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The only glitch in this plan is that we are leaving on Saturday afternoon for Brooklyn, where we'll be staying with my parents till Monday afternoon (which is past the time the truck will come, probably) in order to go to Matt's cousin's wedding on Sunday. So really I only have until Saturday, and if there's rain....
I will have to watch the forecast and see. I suppose I could call their 800 number for a special pickup, which they tell you to do if you have furniture. They would probably do it rather than risk having things get ruined. I just wish it was time to switch the clothing for the fall--I'd have more to give, probably. But I don't do that before October. It doesn't pay--I'd have to leave summer clothes in the drawers, and then they'd end up staying all winter and Emma would want to wear sundresses in February. Better to wait for the weather to really change.
When it came time to think about what to have for dinner, I decided to use some of the ham we had last night and make ham and bean soup. Normally we wouldn't be thinking of soup for another few weeks, but it's such a gray day that I think it will be nice. Right now the stock is simmering, full of ham bone, onions, carrots, celery and herbs (I used thyme, basil and rosemary, along with some black pepper.)
When it's ready, I will strain it and maybe use a bit of chicken bouillon if it needs some help. Then I will add diced ham, onion, carrot, potatoes, garlic and a medley of pink, white and black beans. Season it up for flavor, and serve with hot corn bread and a salad.
And that's what's for dinner!
Dere Mama Hw r u luv Ben E
Ben E Mama I lv u (and then he drew a heart with an arrow through it. Got to have that arrow!)
While I was writing this, he came in and told me that he's made up a poem: (it's about galoshes, but you have to read it "goo"lashes)
Goolashes, goolashes, how I love my goolashes;
Goolashes, goolashes, how I love my goolashes;
Goolashes, goolashes, how I love my goolashes;
I love to wear them in puddles and in the rain!
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Today I went out to clean the back patio--I like to keep it swept free of leaves, and then of course the lovely chickens like to leave little gifts that I first sweep and then scrub with a designated scrub brush. Well, I made the mistake of hanging some laundry on the line, and then noticing a few weeds and dead brush that needed to be pulled from the garden...which lead to pulling a lot of weeds, raking up straw around the coop and some from the grass as well, raking out under the chickens' favorite roosting bush, sweeping birdseed off the sidewalk around the patio, etc.--and then picking up all the waste, putting away tools, and on and on. And of course getting back to my original intention of cleaning the patio. By the time I was through I'd been out an hour and a half.
When I came in, Matt was making sauce for our tortellini, with the help of junior chefs Julia, Ben and Emma (Rachel was outside with friends)....they had set the table beautifully, and even put candles on the table for a fancy dinner. To my original point of the irony of air conditioning--Emma was wearing her fleece jacket, and Ben asked if we could have a fire after dinner and snuggle in front of it!
Only little kids could be cold in this kind of weather, just because of a little air conditioning!
Saturday, September 8, 2007
An era is ending. This is the last summer (probably) that I will have a baby in a bucket at the beach. (I say probably NOT because we might have another baby someday, but because Ben sometimes squeezes himself into the bucket even now, so it's possible Emma may eke out another year. But she won't be a baby. That's sure.)
Rachel was not a bucket baby, because we lived in Iowa when she was tiny and so never saw the beach. She had wading pools and the very shallow end of the community pool to play in. But when Julia was a toddler, she invented the bucket pool in our family. Naturally fearless, the first few times Julia encountered the ocean, she ran headlong into the surf, not waiting for me to catch up, not heeding my warnings at all. The third or fourth time she fell on her face into the salty water and scared herself half to death, she decided she'd had enough of the ocean. So I got the idea of filling our big toy bucket with water so at least she wouldn't be so hot. Lo and behold, she climbed right in! She would sit happily for hours, playing and dropping sand in with her, and floating shells and toys. It was wonderful. Especially the summer I was huge with Ben and couldn't imagine anything less fun than chasing a 2 year old at the beach when I just wanted to sit and relax.
Ben and Emma followed suit. Ben was a bit different, because until he was 4 he loathed the beach with fierce intensity. The year he was 2, he would sit in the middle of the blanket for hours, playing with his toys and occasionally complaining, "When we leaving this stinkin' beach?" Anything not to touch the sand or the water. But the summer he was 3, he happily used the bucket method to stay cool. He still hated the sand, but he had started to enjoy the water, and since we don't use an umbrella, it was much more comfortable for him. Emma took over for him last summer, when he started to venture into the surf.
It's kind of sad.... :(
Ben decided he wanted to go surfing, and Rachel was cooperative in lending him her boogie board. Of course he wasn't going to go anywhere he might have to get truly wet, but I had a lot of fun watching him! Too bad the sound effects weren't recorded for posterity....
Just one more flower post. We waited for this sunflower for a few weeks (the fun thing about the bouquet garden is that I'm not really sure what's going to come up....we were pretty sure it would be a sunflower, and it took an appropriately long time to grow, but it was still a surprise when it finally opened) and were so happy to finally meet it! And how nice that it wasn't plain old yellow, too!
We thought about cutting it, but it has some more buds on it, so better to let it bloom.
What a glorious flower! I absolutely love zinnias. I don't think very many people appreciate how beautiful and complicated they really are. This cutting garden has yielded many, in luscious shades of coral, hot pink and red. Can I say again how much I love them?
When we moved into this house, I thought the garden was wonderful. I envisioned picking all sorts of flowers and filling the house with fresh blooms all spring and summer, maybe even into the fall. Well, I have picked many flowers from the existing garden this spring and summer, but the best ones have been from the simple bouquet garden that I planted with free seeds, and never thought would amount to much of anything. Which I suppose is how it goes.
Friday, September 7, 2007
What was really great today? The fact that I now have FOUR kids who are big enough (and brave enough, for quite some time there was that factor, too) to go into the play structure alone and without any encouragement from me. I brought my BOOK, and read while they played! I had my Starbucks coffee, and all I had to do was occasionally wave at them in the plastic bubble, or express how amazed I was that Emma could climb and slide by herself.
They played very well together, and I got to read for almost two hours. The we went to Gymboree, Gap and Children's Place to scoop up summer things on clearance--love getting Gymboree clothes for $5! Not to mention the .99 rack at Children's Place....and I got Emma THE cutest fall dress at the Gap, which was not on clearance but was far too cute to resist. It's made to look like a little skirt with a layered tee, but is really one piece. Brown and white polka dotted skirt, hot pink tee and panties, the layer tee is white. SO cute, I want one too.
Unfortunately, what I truly wanted was bathing suits for all three girls next summer--that was a no go. They were all gone. Oh well.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
I was just so amazed that she would do this! In this day and age, to have a neighbor who goes out of her way to make the kids happy, celebrate the new school year with them, and have fun--what could be better than that?
Although I have to say that the chalk drawings might have been better at the beginning of the summer, when the kids were actually out all day playing, instead of at school (or at home doing school work, in our case)!!! :)
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
There is nothing like the first day of school--even if you don't leave the house! I had to laugh...all four kids were up, dressed, washed, brushed, beds made, etc. before 8:30 in the morning. They woke me up, all excited to start school. I showered and dressed, but Rachel already had the coffee brewed. We traipsed outside to take "school photos" which include a group shot by the baby pine Grandma and Poppy gave us when we moved in--we promised to take photos of the kids next to it every year to see how they (and the tree) have grown. Then it was back inside to start our school day.
Rachel works on her own, and Julia does pretty well by herself, but of course Ben needs constant attention. Not to be outdone, Emma insisted that she was also in Kindergarten, and that she needed lessons to do. So I gave her various tasks that were similar to what Ben was doing--though of course Ben had to point out that only he is old enough for Kindergarten and he is doing real work while her work is just fake. Howling ensued...pause while I attended to that! When Ben was done with his work, which included phonics, letters, numbers, artwork, and writing, he was upset because I hadn't assigned more work! I had to explain the concept of burnout and not wanting to do too much on one day, and that since he's 5, he doesn't require hours of school a day. All he could see was that Rachel and Julia get to do a lot more work than he does......
The I turned to helping Julia. She had finished her rather arduous math assignment, which was only review but still had a lot of problems (and I only assigned 2/3 of them!). I helped her where needed on Language Arts, Health, History and reading. We discussed some of the things she had to read and I checked assignments. Rachel had to redo some math because she didn't show her work. And her History assignment took a long time. Plus she wrote answers out from a workbook that I'd said she could write in (there are certain really useful texts that I don't want written in so that I can reuse them with other kids--other workbooks are cheap/tailored to that specific child, and are consumable--she confused the two) that made her take a long time on another assignment. So she worked the longest for sure.
My biggest problem, bar none, was trying to juggle everyone's need for attention--sometimes I was doing work with Ben while someone else had a question, and of course there was Emma, interrupting everyone all the time--and the general noise level. It can be really frustrating when trying to concentrate on math, but mom is talking to someone else about phonics. And of course those frustrations were voiced. Loudly at times. Then there's the distraction of someone else's lesson being more interesting than yours--Ben was making an art project with coloring, glue sticks and scissors that Julia really wanted to watch rather than do math problems. And Rachel couldn't help but listen while we read "Snow White" for Julia's Language Arts lesson (she has a very neat book called "Under the Fairy Tale Tree" for one aspect of Language Arts...)
I'm hoping that once the novelty of school wears off, everyone will be back to the status quo. Emma will play or look at books, Julia will want to do her own thing so I can concentrate on Ben, and then when he's done he and Emma can have their TV time so I can focus on Julia's needs, and Rachel will decide that she'd rather have her privacy in her room--and then I can help her after Julia. With any luck, we won't be doing school ALL day and can have some fun in the afternoons! But I can tell you that homeschooling was much simpler with only one, or even only two. Luckily by the time Emma is really old enough for school, everyone will have matured that much more.....and that there won't be any more kids!
Not to be confused with our Matt---this is a different one! My Matt's childhood best friend is also named Matt...he now lives in Seattle, and we haven't seen him for 4 years or so. He was coming east to visit, and we got to have him with us for Labor Day weekend. It was great, especially because the kids hear about him, but either hadn't met him or didn't remember much about him. And great for us adults to catch up, reminisce, and just have fun together. We went to the beach twice (two different ones, for variety), into Greenport, ate great food and desserts--including coconut cream pie, which I have to say was really good--and drank a lot of coffee while talking and staying up late. Conveniently for me, Matt works for Starbucks, and gets free coffee every week (I think that should be my extra money job! Getting paid and a free pound of Starbucks every week?!) and so gave us two delicious bags of coffee....it's really a shame he can't visit more often!
Anyway, I took this photo surreptitiously, and it sums up the ease and fun of having an old friend come to visit. All the kids had a really great time getting to know him. (And I think that he may be cured of any romantic notions of having kids of his own, sorry about that, Matt!)
As the 4th child, Emma doesn't get the opportunity to paint much--there's too much going on, and cleaning up is multiplied by 3 or 4--when Rachel was little we had an easel in the kitchen and she painted just about every day. That doesn't stop Emma from coming up with gorgeous artwork, though! She had a ball painting these the other day, so I think I will be guilted into letting her do it more often. And I have to say she doesn't mess up the paints the way many 3 year olds do....
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Well, today, as sort of a celebration, we went to Splish Splash, the water park 10 minutes away from our house. It was also the last day that Splish Splash was open until Memorial day, 2008. We went on a few rides, which included Splash Landing (your basic twisty water slide), Mammoth River (a larger water slide where you go on rafts that can hold up to 5 people), Lazy River (a giant "river" of a pool where you sit in either double or single inner tubes and float down lazily). I went on Hollywood stunt rider, which is where you sit in a large raft and go down a pitch black water slide! You cannot even see a hand in front of your face!
Our summer was very fun. Tomorrow, we will take "school pictures" in front of what we call our "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree," because it is a very small ("baby") pine tree that we planted in our front yard last year.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Why didn't I think of that?
The thing he does that surpasses the girls' skills is that he can cut perfect valentines. Julia can do that now, and maybe she's been doing it for a year now--but I KNOW she didn't so it at 5! Not only does he cut valentines, but he cuts them 3 to a paper, in graduated sizes along the line...so the bottom one is big, the middle one is smaller, and the top one is tiny. It makes a neat looking paper when he's finished, too.
And he is writing like crazy now. He writes the words he knows by heart: Ben, Mama, Emma, Julia, Mimi, Batman, etc. and he writes some words phonetically, like when he did a stencil drawing from his Batman book and titled it "Batman Villan"...but he also likes to copy words he sees on things--his favorite being "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Kind of has a ring to it.
I will take a photo of one of his knights and post it later this evening.....