Monday, March 31, 2008

A Few Notes About My Birthday

Yes, my birthday was yesterday. I am not going to go into a huge discussion about it, but I will say that we had a wonderful weekend. My parents came to visit, so we talked and laughed, played with the kids and ate a lot. Highlights included:

~ birthday cards handmade by the kids. Emma's was of snakes having a party, and there was a 15-layer cake!
~ the kids making Matt bring them to Target so they could all buy me gifts. I got fancy soaps, lotions, a manicure kit, flower seeds--complete with beautiful bows for the packages.
~ the kids deciding that since it was my day, there would be NO fighting allowed. Everyone on best behavior!
~ not lifting a finger for dinner either night. Matt did all the cooking, and it was delicious. I didn't even do dishes!
~ the chocolate jelly roll cake Matt and Rachel made, filled with mint chip ice cream and drizzled with ganache. Perfection on a plate!
~ the last fire of the season, more than likely.
~ Emma gave me one of her favorite stuffed bunnies for my bed--its neck ribbon is purple, like my duvet cover.
~ doing a bit of shopping with my mom--one of our very favorite activities!
~ clothes from Mom and Dad
~ phone calls, emails and e-cards from friends and family over the day
~ a very loving card from Matt and a lovely foot massage last night, complete with lotion (my gift was the Roomba, so I made him promise not to buy anything. All his gifts were from his heart and mind and hands!)

Today when Ben and Emma started bickering, I reminded them that we agreed that not fighting was so nice yesterday that every day should be Mama's birthday....and they stopped fighting! Almost worth getting another year older!


Ant Farm

Ben's ants arrived in the mail today! We have been waiting patiently since Valentine's Day for them, and at long last they arrived. We popped them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to stun them (they are a stinging, biting variety--nice choice, I know! However, the company hurriedly insists that they choose this kind because they make the best tunnels and societies. They are sterilized, just in case they escape--being African, they do not belong here and breeding colonies that escaped would not be a good thing!) and then shook them into their gel habitat. Rachel made sure to tape the top down, as she was disgusted by them and feared they would somehow get out. Ben was interested in opening the battery door to get the light working.

They woke up quicker than we thought they would, and started busily trundling around. However, the flyer said they will not start tunneling right away, and we should keep them in a dark place overnight to get them revved up. So they are in the broom closet and we'll see what they're up to tomorrow morning!

And before anyone comments on "just what you need, more pets!"--let me just say, they are completely contained and the gel serves as food and water. So we don't do a thing but watch them. I'm not sure if they ever consume the gel. I guess they must. But supposedly they will only live as long as 3 months, and then we order more ants.

I wonder what percentage of people who buy the ant farm actually get around to buying more ants? I have a feeling that most kids are so flaky that after one round of ants they are bored and never ask for more....


Daily Quote

Girls are so queer you never know what they mean. They say No when they mean Yes, and drive a man out of his wits for the fun of it.

--Louisa May Alcott

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Emma Math

Last night I took Ben and Emma with me to the grocery store and to Border's while Matt took Rachel and Julia to a Girl Scout disco night. We had a good time, and on the way up to the checkout I saw a display of Easter treats at 50% off. Among them were boxes of tiny pompom chicks, and in fact Julia was upset the Easter bunny hadn't left any in her basket this year. So I figured--12 chicks for $2 was a bargain, why not?

Emma was thrilled we were buying them, and wanted to hold the box in the car. So I let her, but cautioned her that she'd have to share the chicks with her siblings--they weren't all for her.

She looked right at me and said, "Yes--we'll each have three chicks."

They were in four rows of three. But I didn't think she'd notice that. Huh!


Earth Hour 2008

Well, we are sitting around candles because it is Earth Hour 2008!

What is Earth Hour? Well, it's a time when people all over the earth turn off their lamps and enjoy the peaceful darkness for an hour while conserving lots of power that really helps the Earth.

So, all of our lights are off. Grandma and Poppy are here to visit as well, so they're celebrating with us! (By the way, computers, TVs, phones, and other electronic devices ARE allowed, just not lamps!)

So, if you're reading this before 9 PM, CONSERVE POWER AND ENERGY BY TURNING OFF YOUR LAMPS! Hope that a lot of people get this message within 20 minutes. Tell your friends and family, too!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter Candy

I should have written this post a few days ago--but it's been a busy week! On Easter Sunday the kids got up early and dove into their baskets. Many people frown on candy before breakfast, and normally I do, too. But on Easter and Christmas I always let them. I really think it would be asking too much of a child to leave all the candy that glitters in the basket (or stocking) alone until a more appropriate time. So we just let them have some. This year our baskets had Reese's peanut butter cups and Hershey's caramel kisses, in the pretty spring wrappers. Also sour gummy bunnies and jelly beans.

So, whatever, they ate some candy. When we went to my sister's house that afternoon, she very sweetly had an egg hunt prepared, and they got some more candy--mini candy bars this time. She also had bowls of pink and red M&Ms, plus those little Pillsbury cookies with the chick hatching from the egg (butter cookies that you slice and bake), and since I was in charge of dessert for Easter dinner there was Boston cream pie and chocolate cake with berries and whipped cream...let's just say they had quite enough sweets for one day!

We got home late that night, around 11:00, and had to get everyone settled in bed, the car unpacked, pets fed, etc. So I didn't remember that the Easter baskets were still sitting on the dining room table. The next morning when I got up, Julia, Ben and Emma were already up. And there were candy wrappers on the table. I opened my mouth to ask why they were eating candy at 8:30 in the morning, and Julia popped one more peanut butter cup in her mouth...

All the candy was then combined into one basket and put on top of the refrigerator for safe keeping. I may be a pushover on holidays, but not the other days of the year!


Daily Quote

It is very nearly impossible... to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.

--James A. Baldwin

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Cleaning

I am not the spring cleaning type. I am not the cleaning type, in fact--I hate it. (I hate untidiness and clutter, and I like my home to look nice--so I'm not saying I don't clean, just that I don't enjoy it.) Why else would my heart's desire for a birthday gift been a robotic vacuum? (I am still loving that, by the way!)

However, recently I purchased, on a whim, some Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. I've used them before--however, the last time I used one was in our rented house that we heated with a wood stove. Where the walls had once been white but were coated in at least fifteen years' worth of life--dirt, fingerprints, and soot from the fire. Even a Magic Eraser couldn't do much magic on that kind of wall! Anyway, I bought them because I was in the cleaning aisle at Target, I remembered my friend Jenn's praises of them, and decided that they just might do the job on some things that have been annoying me of late.

Because we only moved into our home a year and a half ago, and painted the entire interior of the house within ten days of moving in, you might think the walls are in good shape. Lately, however, I have been fantasizing about the future color of each room, because I notice a smudge here, a fingerprint there, even a stray pencil or crayon mark here or there. My kids do not draw on the walls--but they have been known to carelessly walk around with a writing implement in hand. I have tried cleaning the offending marks--with damp rags, with Windex, with Mrs. Meyers Clean Day geranium cleaner (which I will say cleaned some things--but was left panting in the dust by these magic thingies!)

I decided that $3 was worth it, and if they didn't clean the walls I could use them to scrub out the refrigerator (something that is never regarded as a top cleaning priority around my home, and shows it dreadfully. I try to keep the shelves full to camouflage how disgusting the shelves actually are...) or the bathtub. However--it did work, and beautifully. I got a distressing amount of what I assume is nicotine off the dining room wallpaper, and I went all around the first floor, scrubbing at marks, wiping with a dish towel afterward, and toting around a bowl of water so I could clean off and redampen the magic eraser every so often. That water was about the foulest thing I've ever seen, by the way.

I removed dust in grooves of woodwork, fingerprints, smudges, pencil and crayon marks, some unmentionable stuff that one of my cats sneezes out all the time, even some coffee splattered on a baseboard. I scrubbed the bathtub with the end of one (on one floor I completely dissolved two and used about half of a third!) and the bits of flour and batter that get onto the mixer with the second. The stairway and the second floor still need to be done, but luckily I picked up another box!

Our only question is--what happens to them? As you clean, they magic? They don't appear to be in tiny bits all over the wall, and I tried desperately to see if tiny specks were flying into the air as I cleaned (I wondered if we were breathing the particles of it....that would spoil my fun, for sure!) but couldn't see a thing. It's a mystery. If anyone knows what happens to them, please enlighten me.


Seal Walk Photos

I am posting the link to the photos that our naturalist, Dr. Kopelman, took of the seals on Thursday (his photos are much better than ours, though Rachel did get some good ones of the beach itself!) Enjoy---


Daily Quote

All morons hate it when you call them a moron.

--J. D. Salinger

Friday, March 21, 2008

Alrighty Then....

I think that I can safely say that Emma is musically talented. I already posted about her playing Beethoven's 9th Symphony ("Ode to Joy")--Rachel put up a video about it. Well, in the past two weeks, she has learned to play Brahm's "Lullaby," (you know, "go to sleep...go to sleep..go to sleep now, my darling...") "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," plus a song that Julia recently learned to play--we're not sure of the name of it, but it's on one of the "Baby Einstein" DVDs the kids used to watch. This is by herself. By ear.

Of course, she isn't playing with two hands. She just hammers out the melody with one finger. But she's three and a half......maybe by the time she's five!


Daily Quote

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

--John Lennon

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Amazing Bargains

Yesterday we were at a friend's house, talking amongst moms while the kids played, and The Children's Place was mentioned. Someone said that she went and got all these clothes, which reminded me that yes, when the seasons are changing you can go to the outlet store and scoop up loads of clothes dirt cheap. So we decided to head over before we went home...

Oh, joy! I got two pairs of pajamas for each child--the girls' are matching, one thermal with a cute monkey design in bright pink on the brown fabric, the other gorgeous fleece with sparkly butterflies on the pants and babydoll tops. Both with matching scrunchies! Ben's are striped in bright colors. I also got Rachel a newsboy hat, Rachel and Julia sweater coats, and Ben a bathrobe, which he has wanted for months.....all this for $34.90!

Not that I have any excuse getting new clothes for any of my kids--they have so many clothes it's really kind of amazing. But at those prices? I couldn't pass it up!


Seal Walk

Well, we just got back from the seal walk with a group of homeschooling friends. The biggest hurdle was getting dressed! We all had to wear layers, which for some of us meant thermals, jeans, shirts, sweatshirts, coats, hats, scarves and gloves. For Emma it meant a pair of pjs under a sweater and jeans and then all the outerwear. We had to wear boots because Ben and Emma HATE sand in their shoes, so we had to argue with Emma about not wearing her Dora sneakers or sparkly party shoes.... The other thing was that we were supposed to wear muted colors so we didn't scare the seals. Julia's coat is red, so she wore a coat that will be Ben's in about 5 years (from my nephew) that's navy and way too big. Ben's coat has a lot of red, and the only thing I could find that would remotely fit him was a raincoat--not warm enough, so we put it over his regular coat. Also, bright aqua, so I turned it inside out to show the navy fleece lining.....

It was FREEZING! The kids hadn't quite believed me when I said it would be cold--after all, when we go to the beach it's always perfectly lovely! But the 50 degree day that we had, which seemed perfectly nice at home, was really windy and cold once we reached Westhampton and the ocean. (We live much closer to the LI Sound, and of course the bay between the two forks of Long Island--the Atlantic Ocean beaches are about a half hour away...) The naturalist talked to us about the seals and their habits for quite some time before we walked....this was the hardest part because of course little kids just want to walk and see the seals already! Finally we went on the move, and after a while of walking we finally reached where the seals were.

It was amazing. There they were--real live seals, bobbing in the water. On a beach that we go to in the summer, and there's never a seal in sight. I had never even stopped to think about what was on the beach in the winter months. These seals migrate and they winter from Maine to New York (perhaps a bit farther south, too)--they have been here every winter and I just never thought about it. Harbor seals, gray seals and hooded seals. There was a sand bar rather far out, and they were on that as well as swimming in the water. The kids were enthralled and frankly I was too. It practically makes me want to trek out to the beach to see them every month or so from November to May....almost. But not quite.

The drive home was really nice--and warm!

Daily Quote

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.

--Anna Quindlen

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Playing School

Rachel has lately been enjoying playing school with her younger siblings. It's really sweet--they have backpacks, and she packs them lunches like they're really at school, and plans things above their normal lessons, like recess or gym class, parties (like yesterday she made green frosted cupcakes and made St. Patrick's day goody bags), or special art classes--and homework! She takes my lesson plans and teaches them everything I would, only she's far less distracted because she takes each one down to the family room, which she has set up like a school room, including the blackboard! The other kids stay up here with me while one is in come I can't get them to leave ME alone while I try to focus on one kid??

My only complaint about this game is that I wish it would involve everyone. She spends so much time individually with each sibling that her own schoolwork waits till mid afternoon. Which is fine as long as it gets done--yesterday and today we didn't have outside activities, so it was fine for her to spend all sorts of time with them, but the rest of the week we are busy in the afternoon, so she can't do that. If anyone asked me, which rest assured they didn't, I would suggest playing pioneer school, where all ages work together. This could go even further and Rachel could be part of the school some of the time, doing her own work, and teacher some of the time--pioneer teachers were, after all, practically students themselves! Sometimes it's hard to keep Ben and Emma upstairs when Rachel is working with someone else; they want to go down and be part of the action. But since Rachel is doing work for me, I have been coming up with things for them to do. And that's nice, because usually on a school day I don't have time to just be with them because there's too much to do. So Rachel is doing everyone a favor.

I know she wouldn't be willing to play these kinds of games if she spent the day in school!


Daily Quote

I not Emma G'ace, I Daisy Do!

--Emma, when she was 20 months old

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chore List

I was asked to put the entire chore list out-- so these are the chores that are divided between the kids each week. Some are daily, others are as needed. A star next to it means that it only goes to Ben or Emma (because they can only do certain things, the easiest chores are reserved for them.) They are assigned harder chores also; it's simply that Rachel and Julia don't get assigned to the starred ones.

*empty wastebaskets
* take recycling to garage
*feed pets (dry food) in morning
* feed chickens
dust 1st floor
dust 2nd floor
dust family room
fold laundry
put away laundry
help set/clear table
empty dishwasher
spray kitchen counters
spray bathroom counters
fill bird feeders
backyard poop patrol (dog & chickens)--this is assigned to 2 kids per week
tidy up yard (taking in toys, gardening things, etc)
tidy up living room in evening
take things up from stairs
vacuum second floor
feed pets in evening
scoop litter boxes
sweep up kitty litter around box

That's all I've thought of so far...the list can always change to cycle in other chores if we feel it's needed!


And You Think I'm Nuts To Have Four Kids!

Those of you who know us may know about our chore check system....basically it was a way for the girls to earn their own money from doing household chores, and we would keep track of the money earned on checks rather than hand them cash. Too much money had disappeared around the house--kids sticking coins here and there or dollar bills in a book or at the back of a drawer. Using checks, if they lost their money, it was their concern but didn't matter to me! It worked well; each girl had three chores a day that were non-negotiable, and then about eight more that she could do if she wanted to earn money. They usually saved up chore checks and then had me take them to Target to buy something they wanted.

However, we had to revamp the system. For the past few months, there have been no chore checks paid out because it was just getting to be too much. Every week they had to be tallied, checks written, new charts filled in and hung up--enough of a pain, but now that Ben and Emma are into chores and money, just about impossible! Even finding four places to hang charts is too much, given that we have so much art work hung up. So the kids were doing chores as they were asked, but we weren't giving them chore checks. Rachel and Julia had so many saved up that they didn't care, but after thinking about it a bit, I decided that I really need and want them all doing chores. And a system where they get paid and rewarded just makes it easier to get them to do them. So I came up with a new system.

The best thing is, now that I've made it up, there's no more charts to fill out. I made four charts on different colored paper--purple, yellow, orange and cream. This way each child gets different chores every week, so boredom isn't as big of a problem. I made 4 boxes on each paper, labeling them with the kids' names. Every kid has make your bed and clean up your room, every week. That's non-negotiable. And the older girls both have guinea pig cage on every chart too--I have decreed that I am through cleaning rodent cages. Emma has two other chores (I have to give her the easiest things, such as feeding the animals dry food in the morning, emptying waste baskets, etc.), Ben has three other chores, and the big girls each have nine chores all together. These are not necessarily things that have to be done every day--for instance, we have fill bird feeders, dust one floor of the house, vacuum upstairs (we don't use Roomba up there because of all the stuff everywhere--too hard to get all tiny things out of its way) etc. So some may be daily, some may be as needed.

Every week, assuming they do the chores and do them without an attitude (I am keeping a small list for notes, because it's too hard to remember a whole week of four kids!) the girls will get $5 and Ben and Emma will get $2 added to an Excel spreadsheet, like a bank account. Then there's no paper to be lost, and we automatically know how much they have, without finding checks or adding up.

So far it has been beautiful. Everyone is doing their chores with just some reminders. And there is much less work for me and Matt to do. Shopping, cooking and dishes alone take up far too much time, so having everyone pitch in is essential. And they like to be helpful, and it keeps me less stressed, so it's good for everyone.


Daily Quote

A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit!

--Sarah Jessica Parker

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lesson Plans Complete

Today I spent the afternoon at Border's, planning the next six weeks or so of Rachel's lessons. Julia's I did a couple of weeks ago, but when I ran out of time I planned just one week for Rachel, and then last week was vacation, since Matt was out of town. I realized too late that I am also out of plan for Ben (for some reason I thought I did his at the same time as Julia's) but that isn't a big deal--Kindergarten is so easy to plan that I can write a week's worth of lessons down while he does tomorrow's work.

Anyway, I'm feeling good about life, because in the next six weeks Rachel will finish her math and another of her Language Arts sections (she has already finished three other programs; grammar, research paper and reading comprehension texts) which leaves her with just two: her literature program and another called "Figuratively Speaking," which teaches literary concepts in each chapter with examples from literature and activities to reinforce the concept. The literature program is one we love, where she reads different Newbery classics and does various activities--essays, journals, vocabulary lists, art projects, etc. We have been taking this one slowly, allowing two weeks for each book, since she had so many other things to do. So we will continue with this program next year, and I don't have to worry about getting it finished before we end the school year.

She will continue with art, music and science--I got a cool program on CD Rom for all three of those, and can use those next year as well. I also picked up a science test prep book which we'll use for reviewing concepts. She'll continue with American History, which may or may not be finished at the end of the year. We recently discovered that our library has Rosetta Stone French online for free (this program costs somewhere around $500, so I am ecstatic to have found it) and so we have replaced our blah and boring workbooks with that. She also has a weekly discussion with Matt on a chapter from these books he found: "Becoming a Problem-Solving Genius," and "10 Things every Future Mathemetician and Scientist Must Know." They use cartoons and very user-friendly text to illustrate some very adult science, math and logic concepts--Matt says he would have been so happy to have seen those books as a kid. So they read and talk about it and do some problems from the book every week.

I am also happy to note that I caught up on correcting her work--with everything I have to do every day that was something that had gotten away from me rather's nice to have that nagging chore finished. And so, the light at the end of this year's school tunnel is in sight! I will only have to plan one more section of lessons and we will be in summer vacation!!


Daily Quote

In the fight between you and the world, back the world.

--Franz Kafka

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Matt got home from New Orleans on Thursday afternoon--boy, is it great to have him home! He loved New Orleans, and says that we have to go there ourselves sometime. Maybe next time we leave the kids for a grown-up vacation, that's where we'll go! He was surprised that the aftermath of Katrina wasn't as noticeable as he'd expected, and was delighted with the city and, of course, the food! A special favorite was the Cafe Du Monde, which has been in operation since 1862 and sells only beignets and cafe au lait.

If you've never had a beignet.....boy, you are missing out! It is somewhat like a donut, somewhat like funnel cake. It is delicious. Matt found recipes online and after examining them, chose the one he felt would be most like Cafe Du Monde's. He mixed the dough last night, since it was going to need to rise. Then this morning he rolled and cut the dough into squares, deep fried them, and we sprinkled them with powdered sugar and had them with coffee (not cafe au lait, sorry New Orleans--I like my coffee strong and black!) Just unmitigated evil on a plate!

We ate until we felt sick--Emma actually didn't like them--and then we packed up the rest for Rachel to bring to our neighbors. They are much better warm, and we figured that we didn't need those calories, that's for sure! We plan to make them once a year to remember Mardi Gras. Deep fried food is so yummy!! My mom actually used to make something that tasted very much like these--we had them once a year for dinner, and called them fried bread. It was little balls of dough (think slightly bigger than a Munchkin) and when they came out of the oil, we ate them with butter and jam! How's THAT for decadence?


Daily Quote

When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web... Now even my cat has its own page.

--William J. Clinton

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Matt's On the Way Home!

We just had a phone call from Matt--he's in the limo riding up the Long Island Expressway! The kids are all excited, and so am I. I've been cleaning the house this afternoon, so that we can all enjoy a quiet weekend without too many chores. The kids and I went to see the Long Island Philharmonic perform this morning, which was a wonderful show. The theme was "Heroes and Heroines," and they played selections from "Scherazade," "West Side Story," "Thus Spake Zarathustra," "The Ride of the Valkyries," "Harry Potter," and "The Lord of the Rings," among others. The kids loved it and were only disappointed that the concert wasn't longer--and, I might add, even Emma paid better attention than the schooled kids who were there. Their behavior was truly disgraceful.

The week did not drag as we feared it might. Now that all the kids are older, it is much easier for me to wrangle them alone. When I had two kids under 3, then three kids under 4--that was difficult! We had activities every day, we had treats like the aquarium, dinner out, ice cream sundaes while we watched "Shrek the Third," etc. and of course no school work to do. The hardest part was me trying to get Julia, Ben and Emma to bed on time, since I am used to only having Emma to deal with while Matt takes the other two. They were good, they just went to bed later than usual. The night that I was dozing off while reading "The Last Battle," Julia took over reading it to Ben while I snuggled with Emma and tried to listen....

But make no mistake---we will ALL welcome Matt with open arms, hugs and kisses when he comes through that door!


Daily Quote

If you don't follow your dream, who will?

--Emeril Lagasse

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dance Class

In all the excitement over Matt leaving, I forgot to blog about Emma's dance class on Saturday. As I said last post, Rachel and Julia were with a group of 4Hers, having a really cool meeting (this is an aside, but since I think it's such a great idea I will digress a moment...) about disaster preparedness. Apparently a lot of folks in Katrina died because they were unwilling to evacuate without their pets, so Long Island 4H clubs are forming a pet evacuation program in the horrific event that a killer storm hits Long Island in the future.

Anyway, with Rachel and Julia out for half the day, Matt and I decided to bring Ben to see Emma's last dance class. The way Miss Gail runs the class is not with a formal recital performance (which would be hard to do since each class session only runs 7 weeks!) but just that the families are invited to come and watch the last class. Ben had wanted to sign up for dance class himself, but because the classes run by age (3 year olds at 10, 4 year olds at 11, 5 year olds at noon) we weren't willing to have half the day taken up that way, and he missed out.

He watched avidly, and was really enjoying himself. The class is small, only 4 girls, and one was absent. So when it came time to do leaps, Miss Gail asked Ben if he wanted to participate--and he immediately jumped up and got into line. He did every single thing she asked, and had a huge smile on his face. The coolest thing was how Emma reacted to him joining the class. Matt and I have been surprised that she is so quiet during class--she hardly talks to Miss Gail and is just very shy, which is completely unlike her. But as soon as Ben took part, she blossomed. She wanted to be right next to him at all times, and every time they rested she held onto his arm and they would hug and kiss with big smiles. It was really cute.

I spoke to Miss Gail afterwards when she said that Ben did so well at everything, and told her how he wanted to be in the class but we just couldn't spend that much time. She said that next time we could have them both in the 4 year old class (signing them into the appropriate age level but then bringing them to the middle class) which I thought was a fine idea. It will solve the problem of them both being able to dance, and also give us a bit more time to get there in the morning, which is always good--you'd think with 4 kids we'd be up early enough to get out the door somewhere by 10, but in actuality we are usually a bit late to something that early. A win win situation!


Daily Quote

Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.

--Salvador Dali

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Dinner in Front of the Fire

Yesterday Julia asked if we could have cinnamon buns this morning for breakfast. She (and all the rest of the kids) are very sad because tomorrow Matt leaves for a business trip in New Orleans. He'll be gone from 11 am Sunday till dinner time on Thursday. So she was looking for a special breakfast. Unfortunately, the older girls had a 4H program this morning they were forgetting about, and Emma has her dance class on Saturday mornings--and since this is the last one of the winter term there's a "recital" that Matt and I had planned to take Ben to....all of which is to say that we didn't have time to make cinnamon buns.

So we arrived at a compromise everyone could live with. We had breakfast for dinner! And we made a fire, which if not the last one of the season is certainly one of the last (I am guessing that since Matt will have to go out with the axe if we have another fire, it will turn out to be the last by default!) We had scrambled eggs (thank you, chickens!), english muffins, a lovely fruit salad of watermelon, honeydew, oranges and red grapes--and gorgeous, homemade cinnamon buns. We lit candles all over the room and spread a tablecloth on the (roomba-clean) floor in front of the fire, and enjoyed the food and each other....the kids finished up with some ice cream, which was way too much for adults to think of, but they of course loved it.

I expect there will be tears tomorrow morning, but I think it's a nice send off for Daddy.



The other day, I was putting on a movie for Julia, Ben and Emma. Emma was sitting on the floor, and while I was getting the DVD player set up, she banged on top of the Monopoly box and said, "Hey, everyone! Let's play Ponopoly!"

I said, "Emma, it's Monopoly, not Ponopoly!"

She looked at me for a minute, with this strange (and very cute!) expression on her face. Then, she smiled and said, "Okay, then let's play Monopopopoly!"

She is too cute for words sometimes.


Daily Quote

The poet doesn't invent. He listens.

--Jean Cocteau

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Roomba--I Am In Love! (Can I Marry It?)

Sorry, Matt. There's a new love in my life--the Roomba. Admittedly not the most romantic birthday present in the world--yes, I know it's a couple of weeks early, but if you know me you know that I am not the most patient person in the world. When I came up with the notion that this was what I wanted for my birthday, I told Matt to research which model was best and find the best deal, and buy it for me. Then I snapped into reality and did it myself--which is why it arrived today and not just in time for Christmas....(Sorry, baby--but you know that you are the King of Procrastinators!!)

You may ask, what on earth is a Roomba? Well, it is an intelligent vacuum, basically. Mine comes with a handy dandy remote control, and I could for instance say, we go out every Thursday afternoon at 3:00, every Monday morning at 10:00, every Saturday evening at 7:00, etc.--and program that wonderful thing to clean the floors while we're out! Or, we can simply turn it on when we're home and let it go to work. And when it's done, it heads back to its base and recharges itself! The only thing we have to do is empty the dirt cup and make sure the floor is clear of tiny toys, socks, ribbons, etc...

If you know me and have been to my house, you know that we have a bunch of girls (and me, I guess a woman not a girl!) with long hair, plus a dog and three short, our floors are constantly dirty, even if I were to vacuum every day. Which, since I detest dirty floors, in a perfect world I would. But I don't. So the idea of having a machine come out and do all the work for me while I do better things--school work with the kids, playing outside with them, reading a book to Emma, gardening, hanging laundry--whatever--just seems like the best thing that could possibly happen to me. Ever.

It arrived this evening during dinner, just I was despairing that it was too late for our beautiful UPS man to ring the bell. From the excited squeals and the race to open the door, you would have thought we were having Eric Clapton to tea or that Ed McMahon was coming up the walk with one of those humongous checks....but no, it was Dave the UPS man with The Box. I didn't even finish my salad; I just started opening the box, pulling things out and reading directions. They are quite simple, which I was afraid they would not be. I had to spend more time telling the kids what they couldn't do to Roomba than reading instructions! We plugged in home base and set it in to charge, programmed the date and time on the remote, and scheduled it to clean tomorrow morning at 11:00 am, when we'll be out at a play. (I thought it would take all night to charge, which is why I scheduled it for tomorrow--but to our amazement, the light went from red to green in under an hour!) It even sings a little song when you tell it the cleaning schedule via the remote--unlike any of the people in this house when I give them a chore!

When I saw it was fully charged, I decided, what the hey--let's give it a test drive. It will find more pet hair and crumbs in the morning, so I didn't even take out tomorrow's orders. It promptly set out across the living room, albeit a bit drunkenly (we had to explain to the kids that it bumps into things and circles back on itself because it doesn't actually have a brain or eyes, and has to go around and around to find all the dirt) but it managed quite well. It went over area rugs and wood floors with equal aplomb, and picked up all manner of dust bunnies and crumby bits. When it got into our bedroom, it even fit itself under the dressers and bed (something I didn't do regularly enough with the vacuum attachments!) and although it took a long time, the floors are clean.

The amusing thing was the reactions of the pets. Sophie took one look and headed to our bed, knowing she'd be safe off the floor. Mimi, who routinely heads for the kitchen sink when we vacuum, hopped onto the dresser and watched it with an expression of disgust, but didn't seem terribly frightened--probably because it makes far less noise than a real vacuum. But Molly and Bo--they were a riot. They had to follow it around, much like the kids, who were pretending that it was an alien invader--and yes, we did have to point out that if they followed too closely, Roomba would confuse them for furniture and head away without doing her job....Anyway, the kittens followed it around, hopping away when it got too near, their tails in a state of alarm almost the whole time--not quite at full bottle-brush mode, but bushy at the base and ready to go full tilt if the monster came too close. It was funny.

Anyway, I fully expect to run it daily and to enjoy my newly clean floors. Even if it doesn't clean perfectly, I know it will clean more than I want to! So if you're looking for a great birthday present, get a Roomba....


Daily Quote

I haven't physically attacked anyone in a couple of years.

--John Malkovich

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Friend, a poem

Julia wrote a poem yesterday and I was blown away...she gave me permission to share it with our readers.

My Friend (to Evelyn, and all my friends!)

Past the place where dragons sleep,
Past the valleys, cool and deep,
Past the place of traffic's zoom,
Past my bed and past my room,
Past my house and past my tree,
Past the flower and buzzing bee,
Past the dogs and past their barks,
Past the swings and past the parks,
Past the skating, past the rink,
Past the sun that sets in pink,
Past the ocean, past the fish,
Past the stars' most greatest wish,
Past the sand and past the sea,
Past where wild things run free,
Past the moon and past the sun,
(now this poem is almost done!)
Us together, you and me,
Us together, running free,
Together we will always be,
Us together, you and me.

--by Julia, age 8

Daily Quote

You see, we are here, as far as I can tell, to help each other; our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our enemies. That is to help each other and not hurt each other.

--Stevie Ray Vaughan

Monday, March 3, 2008

Happy Days

Today is very nice outside. It's about 50 degrees, and pretty sunny, so Julia, Ben, and Emma are outside playing hopscotch and running around with the dog.

I went out and took some photos of Emma and Sophie running around, happy as can be. Emma said to me afterwards, "Are you sure that spring is coming? The weather tricks us a lot these days!"


(Note that, except for in the first picture, Sophie is carrying her stick around wherever she goes!)

Strawberry Granola Crunch

Oh my gosh.

You HAVE to try this recipe!

Okay, it's not really a recipe, but it is a delicious, healthy breakfast that Mom and I love!

Strawberry Granola Crunch


-Strawberry yogurt

-Granola OR Great Grains Raisins, Dates and Nuts granola cereal

-Cut strawberries

Mix them all together and enjoy!


Daily Quote

No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched.

--George Jean Nathan

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Today we spent the afternoon with friends who live about 45 minutes away. We didn't leave till nearly 7:00, and so that left us in an awkward place. If Emma were to fall asleep in the car, it would mean that she would probably stay awake till at least 10:00 and probably more like midnight. We put the Ramones on, but as I looked back on her, I could see she was yawning and the ride was far too long for that. I began the mental preparations for her to stay up far later than I wanted--and then Ben came to my rescue!

Out of nowhere, he started telling her stories. I couldn't catch everything he was saying, because they sit together in the back row of the van, and as I said, we had the Ramones on (not exactly quiet music, if you're not familiar with them...) Also, Ben's voice is still high and somewhat lispy, so he can be hard to understand in a quiet room. But I caught words here and there, like ,dragon, fire-breathing, dwarves, knight and castle. Emma was listening in rapt attention, her yawning forgotten.

Then we hit a quiet part of a song, and I heard Ben say, " Emma, do you know what a hermit is?"

And she said she didn't, to which he clarified, "It's a guy who lives alone in the woods, and sometimes knows just a bit of magic!"

So she said excitedly, "Just like the hermit in 'St. George and the Dragon'!"

Which is a favorite book of Ben's, and, I suppose, Emma's as well.

And, by the way, she made it home completely awake. And fell asleep within seconds of brushing her teeth...


Daily Quote

Republican comes in the dictionary just after reptile and just above repugnant.

--Julia Roberts