Monday, June 30, 2008

More Chess

Ben and Julia are trying to teach Emma how to play chess.

I reminded them that she is only three. However, she seems to be pretty optimistic about the whole thing. Maybe I'll be surprised.

You never know.


Emma and Ben

Emma and Ben were talking earlier today. I wasn't paying much attention until I heard Ben say "Don't tell me you love me, Emma! I'm busy right now!"

Her response?

"You can't stop me from loving you, Ben."



Daily Quote

All I was doing was trying to get home from work.

--Rosa Parks

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This Dog Eats Better Than Some People!

Sophie has had some serious skin problems in the past year. She has been scratching at herself a lot, and it has gotten so bad that she has rubbed the fur off herself in places. At first we attributed it to flea medication, but we stopped giving her Frontline when the weather got cold and it didn't get better. We took her to the vet, who agreed that it could be the flea medication, or it could be a food allergy. We tried a very expensive prescription food he recommended--no change. Then we wondered if she might have mange, but no to that too.

Then a couple of different people mentioned wheat allergies to me. In every case, they mentioned a dog who had always been healthy, but at 5-7 years old developed severe skin rashes. Sophie turned 5 in of these friends mentioned allergy testing at the vet, but when pressed admitted that it probably would end up costing three to five hundred dollars when all was said and done. (We've already spent a fair chunk on the vet trying to get help, to no avail.) So we tried a couple of different foods that said they were good for sensitive skin. No change.

Then we sat down and talked about it, and realized that even with these special foods, Sophie still licks out cat food cans (contains wheat fillers), eats dog biscuits (wheat again), cleans off plates or licks food up the kids have dropped (could be pasta or bread there), when we looked at the Iams food she's eating now, we realized that although it's lamb and rice, specifically for sensitive stomach and skin, with no fillers or preservatives--it has corn in it. No wheat, but corn. I went to the pet store today and talked to a very nice and seemingly knowledgeable guy about this, and he said that corn and wheat are both highly allergenic for dogs. So the new plan is to use this really expensive food I bought today, and be very careful about what else she eats--no biscuits, no licking up the cat food cans, no people food unless it's wheat and corn free, and see if it helps. If her skin gets better, we can experiment with the Iams to see if the corn doesn't irritate her if she's healthy (maybe it's only bad when her skin is rashy...or so we hope!)

I ended up getting Natural Balance Sweet Potato and Fish---and at $47 for 28 pounds---I am really hoping it will work! All it has in it is sweet potatoes, salmon, canola oil, flaxseed and salmon oil, other than vitamins of course. No preservatives, artificial colors or flavors and of course no grain of any sort. We're thinking that after we do some research, we may supplement her with eggs and even meat parts from the butcher---the canned food in the high end aisle at the pet store ran nearly $2 a can, which isn't going to happen!

All I have to say is, if this is really a food allergy our streak is over! We have always said we are very lucky as a family to have no real allergies--none to food, none to pollen, mold, or anything else other than Rachel's extreme sensitivity to poison ivy. I guess if someone has to have an allergy I'd rather it was Sophie....and I really hope this does the trick. Wish us luck!


Ben the Chess Master

Ben finally got me to agree to learn how to play chess. Or, more correctly, to relearn how to play chess. I know I tried to learn it at some point in my childhood, but I remember being confused by who moves which way and being too young to strategize properly. Which of course resulted in me not wanting to play, because as a kid I hated not doing things well...hmmm--I think that hasn't changed much, actually!

Ben has asked me many times since he learned to play, and I've always put him off because I always have something else that needs doing. However, now it's summer vacation, things are much more relaxed without schoolwork to be done each day. Matt and Rachel were off at her softball game, Julia was helping Emma play a computer game, and I had just mopped the kitchen floor and had a cup of coffee waiting for me--so why not? Let me first say that seeing my nearly six year old lecture me about chess was uproariously funny!

He was pacing back and forth like a little old man, saying stuff like, "Let me tell you where every piece goes on the board. This is the King, and Queen, and these are the bishops, the horses are the Knights and the castles are the Rooks. You have the most pawns because they are the guys that are the least important..." Then he proceeded to show me how every piece moved, what it meant to be in check, that you win if you get to check mate, etc. We began the game, and he coached me when I forgot how a piece could move. At one point, he moved his bishop where I could capture it with my Queen, but just to make sure, I asked, "Can't my Queen get him now?" He smiled, and said, "I moved him there on purpose to see if you were paying attention!" Which is either adorable, or a very slick cover-up for a mistake!

Okay, in the end he beat me. Though he insisted it was a tie. I only had my King left, and he had his King and had regained his Queen by getting a pawn to the opposite side of the board...I'm not sure if this is a real rule or just something Matt lets him do, but in any case, he had the King and Queen, so we were basically just playing chase around the board, with me in check and unable to capture his King because that would place my King in check (against the rules....)

I feel pretty good about this. I mean, it's my first game in probably 25 years, (actually, maybe more like 30!) and he's pretty good for a five year old who learned to play six months ago.....that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!


Daily Quote

The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me?

--Ayn Rand

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Taste of Last Week

This girl had a blast!


Floors, Before and After

So you can see the difference!


And after.......



Home Again

We're home, and everything is unpacked and back to normal....and I am so glad! The story of the past ten days is a long one. The weekend of leaving was just crazy and hectic, but we managed to pack for a week of camping AND empty the first floor (including all closets, excluding the kitchen) of everything but what hangs on the walls and is on the shelves surrounding the fireplace. That was a job I don't want to repeat anytime soon, I can tell you! The worst part was that even after all that work, including packing up the car, we had to unpack and set up camp at Indian Island! By the time we fell into bed on Sunday, we were exhausted. Did I mention this was Father's Day? Poor Matt!!! We are having Father's Day next weekend for him, though we did give him his present--the DVD set of the original "Indiana Jones" movies. The rest of the day was something of a letdown in terms of Father's Day fun!

At first we were counting our blessings, because the rain that had been forecast never materialized. We finished out Sunday and had all day Monday at camp. We hiked, played cards, went to the playground, rode bikes, went to the beach, read aloud, cooked outside, and just had a lot of fun. We'd finished dinner on Monday and were making s'mores when the thunder began. Now, we aren't fools--the weather reports had talked of overnight storms, so we had (luckily!) secured camp, putting things in the car and under tarps. So when the rain began--like buckets being dumped on us---we were ready to scamper into the tent and ride it out.

We were eerily reminded of the storm we had camping last year---giant claps of thunder, pelting rain, and lightning lighting up the sides of the tent. We reassured the kids that Tuesday was supposed to be good weather and that we were fine. They were tired, so we promised we'd wait for a lull and then run to the bathrooms to brush teeth. Then we could just snuggle into our beds and listen to the rain. Too bad that never worked out. The rain just continued without a break--it was raining so hard that we kept thinking that surely it would end soon--and eventually Rachel decided to turn on the cell phone...there were several messages from friends inviting us to come to their homes to spend the night.

We talked for a few moments about what to do, because we'd really been looking forward to camping, we haven't been (successfully) in a few years and we didn't want to give up. Then I absently ran my hand next to the air mattress--and sure enough, it was raining so hard the floor was wet--and naturally, the bedding was too. That clinched it, because there was no way I was sleeping wet! We headed to East Moriches to our friends Trisha and Dan-- we'd already planned to spend Tuesday afternoon with them for swimming and a barbecue, they are homeschoolers too, so no worries about their kids having to get up for the bus--and, bonus! they have a pool! We grabbed pillows, clothes, Sophie and her stuff, bathroom bag, and a few random things the kids wanted, booked out to the car, and drove through the storm to our friends, who welcomed us with open arms, beds already made.

As disappointed as I was to miss camping, we had a wonderful week. Dan and Trisha are just great people and terrific friends--they opened their home to us as if we lived there. (And when you are a family with just one child, opening your home to a family with four children is truly exceptional!) Their daughter Chloe is such a sweet girl and is kind and generous to all my kids, even when they fight over her affections. We spent the week swimming and lounging, talking and laughing, cooking and eating, watching movies and generally acting like it was vacation. Trisha even made us promise that next year we'd come for a week's vacation--just for fun. Emma fell in love with Dan--I swear I could see tiny hearts flowing from her every time he walked through the door. He said something about how strong she was, and every time she ate anything she'd say, "Wait till Dan sees how strong I am after this!" It was very cute.

So the week flew by, and we came home on Friday to shiny, pretty floors. I am a bit disappointed with the fact that there is some scarring that I figured would be sanded down, but in actuality are too deep to be removed. But all in all, it looks so beautiful, and it feels nice on our feet, and we can see our reflections in it. We spent the weekend unpacking all the camping gear, doing the laundry, moving the furniture back into the house, unpacking books, candles, photos, toys, knickknacks, etc.....but it is now finished. And, bonus, we even rearranged furniture--which if you know Matt, you know is a huge accomplishment, as he hates change and always complains when I move furniture!

Another home project done. I haven't dared to bring up going on with coat two of the house painting project! I think I'll give Matt a break, let him have at least a week or two back at work.....


Daily Quote

Every heart has its secret sorrows which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Weekend of Insanity---or Why I Won't Be Posting for Over a Week!

I think I mentioned previously that we are having our floors redone...if I haven't--we are, and it's something I have been waiting for for a very long time! However, while this is happening we had the brilliant idea to go camping. It is a brilliant idea, in that we love camping and haven't been in a very long time, we need to vacate the house so the guys can work, and so we are killing two birds with one stone. However, it is also causing us no end of trouble to get ready for both these events simultaneously!

Today has just been ridiculous. First I had to get up early so we could all be at the park by 10:00 am for Rachel's softball game. (This alone is an insult that is very hard to swallow on a Saturday!) Then Ben and Julia both played at 12:00--Ben at a different park from the girls! So we were watching baseball entirely too long in the heat and humidity...and then we went home and rather than relaxing, we had to get started with the Weekend of Insanity....In no particular order, this is what we did:

Reorganized the attic, garage and basement storage rooms (we put on the A/C but let me tell you the attic was a real barrel of laughs in this heat!) including moving a dresser up to the attic and filling it with clothes for Julia and Emma to grow into.

Got out a bunch of camping gear from said basement storage.

Packed some things for camping--books and toys, kitchen gear and dry goods.

Did three loads of laundry.

Moved the sofa, the sideboard (which weighs about 1,000 pounds, by the way!), a wing chair, a few bookshelves into the garage.

Took down (and dusted) assorted picture frames, books, photos in frames, candle holders, lamps, globes, seashells, sheet music, etc. from living room. Put in boxes and took up to attic for the week.

Dismantled Emma's room and our room--including closets. That's toys, books, desk, area rugs, nightstand, knick knacks etc. etc.--I think we have way too much stuff!

Oh. And tomorrow. Before we go camping------we have to take apart the beds, the dining room table, move a couple of dressers, the piano, the dining room chairs, undo the computer and printer and move the desk, chair and printer stand----all of that goes to the kitchen, garage and basement. Wherever it may fit. (Hopefully it will fit!)

We have to prepare the cats, the guinea pig, the toads and the chickens for our departure, including clean cage/litter boxes/food/water, lock the cats up because of the fumes and the floor guys. We have to pack clothes, bathroom stuff, assorted gear/supplies we didn't get to today, the cold food, the dog stuff, and pack the car.

And by the way---once we do all this and drive 10 minutes to the campground--we have to unpack it and set up camp! Did I mention I will sleep really well tomorrow night???

But it will be worth it. Right? RIGHT??? Because we will come back to shiny, beautiful floors. And I cleaned up a whole bunch of stuff today, got rid of a lot of clutter. Made a pile that I will freecycle when I come home. Dusted all the little things that collect so much dust. And all the baseboards. And behind all the furniture (on the 1st floor, anyway!) And my attic looks stunning. And the kids' clothes are so nicely organized. And even though I am coming home Friday and leaving immediately for a Girl Scout camping trip that I don't particularly look forward to---that just means Matt will have to set the house up again by himself, which is a bonus, right?

Anyway, I will miss blogging, I wish everyone a Happy Father's Day--most especially to my fantastic Dad, who I will miss spending the day with as we normally do--and by the way, I have a request....wish for plenty of nice weather, OK? (I say, as I listen to a thunderstorm outside!) When I get back and the dust settles, I will post pictures of camping, tell you the highlights of the trip, and also post some pictures of my super beautiful new floors...........


Wild Cloud, A Poem by Julia

Julia wrote another poem I loved and want to share with you all:

Last night I lassoed a wild cloud, and I hitched myself a ride.
I lassoed it, climbed up the rope, and swung over the side.
It was very, very soft, even softer than feathers,
and looking down was quite a sight, trees and streams and heather.
I saw farms and berry bushes, rivers and fishies too,
And up there, way below me, waving, there was you!
I blew my thanks to the cloud and slid onto the rug,
I went outside, ran across the lawn,
And gave you a giant hug.

Daily Quote

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.

--Steve Martin

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pretend Games

Emma has been getting into pretend lately....I should clarify. She has loved dressing up and playing pretend for years already. But lately, she has been playing a different sort of pretend. Not animals, not princesses or fairies. More like she's pretending to have a career. Last week she played policeman, and lately she's been playing pirate. Wait, I guess technically pirate isn't a career...but it's still very cute!

ARGH! Ahoy, matey! Notice the outfit she chose to wear to be a pirate...yes, it was 85 degrees outside. Only when you're a little kid would you consider something like this!

The lamb was her prisoner--notice the handcuffs! I asked her what her prisoner's name was, and her reply was, "Well, usually her name is Soft Lamb, because she's soft and she's a lamb....but in this game, her name is Emily." She would not tell me what Emily's crime was....


Daily Quote

Maybe one day I can have a reunion with myself.

--Sebastian Bach

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Yesterday we had a wonderful day. We went with one of our homeschooling groups to Adventureland, "Long Island's Amusement Park!" We had a blast! The best part was that since it's still June, the park was relatively empty. The longest line we had to stand in was ten minutes, which was fantastic, especially with little kids. They have a very nice blend of kiddie rides and thrill rides. We were able to ride some things as a family, and Rachel and Julia were able to ride things alone or with me or Matt while the other went with Ben and Emma. It was great being able to ride what they wanted over and over again, too---their favorite local thing is going to Greenport at riding the carousel--but at $2 a person, we aren't going to ride more than once! Here, they could ride the carousel seventy times if they wanted, and lots more besides. The one disappointing ride was the Haunted House--NOT scary! It was basically just extremely dark, with a few light up tableaus and haunting music in the background. Emma was scared--the other kids just didn't like the darkness.

I got to ride a roller coaster for the first time in years--after having so many babies and young kids, I haven't been on one since the mid-nineties! And Rachel is finally old enough to enjoy them. They also have several water rides, which was nice since it was fairly hot. Another thing I liked (though I didn't know about it!) was that this is one amusement park that allows picnics right in the park--most don't. Luckily, I did bring water bottles, a huge thermos of ice water, and even coffee--because we went through all that, 2 large Cokes, 2 slurpees, 2 more bottles of water, and had Italian ices to boot! We would have been broke from buying drinks....the park has been open since 1962, and it has a very family oriented feel, unlike places like Great Adventure that are very impersonal. Rachel, Julia and I even had our picture taken by Newsday....I'll have to remember to check online and see if it's there today.

We played from 10-6 pm and enjoyed ourselves completely. This is going to be a place we'll have to go every year!

Daily Quote

I tell people, Don't take my advice. What do I know?

--Nick Lachey

Monday, June 9, 2008

Life in General...and I Love Whoever Invented Air Conditioning!

So much to report...I know I said I was going back on the blogging wagon...honestly, we have just been so busy. My parents came for the weekend, so we had lots to do with them, including the beach, eating lots of great food, and hearing my Dad speak at our Unitarian fellowship on "Icons of the Civil Rights Movement." A nice time all around.

The heat. It has been strangely hot for this early in June. We've done well--central air has been so wonderful, and we went to the beach yesterday and swimming with friends today. Our friends in East Moriches had a tornado come through and lost power! We had torrential rain and violent thunderstorms in the late afternoon yesterday--but as I was driving through East Moriches, it looked like a war zone! Trees down every few feet, someone's fence splintered, town trucks everywhere cleaning up. Meanwhile I haven't seen any damage in Riverhead.

The painting. It's on hold for now. Obviously we're not painting in this crazy heat...and next week is very busy, as I'll explain in a bit.

Activities. We went to Theater Three's original version of "Beauty and the Beast" on Friday and just loved it. They always do such a great job, and this was a new one, which was welcome. They were careful to note that it was not Disney's version; indeed, it was much better. As stated, we went to the beach yesterday and swimming with friends today. Wednesday we're off to Adventureland, Long Island's amusement park, with our homeschool group. So the kids are in a frenzy of excitement about that. And I am going with my friend Trisha to see "Sex in the City" tomorrow night, which we are both very excited about too.

Emma and Ben did beautifully in the pool today. They finally got in (I was in too, which of course helped, unlike last week when it was too cold) and at first they clung to the sides and just maneuvered around the edges of the pool, playing their own little game. Eventually Emma got brave and started swimming in her life jacket, and even came up with a great idea--using a pool noodle under the crotch strap of the life jacket so it wouldn't float away from her! Julia also improved a lot of her skills today, learning how to jump into the deep end, trying somersaults, and trying to go down the slide (she still won't do it from the top, but will scoot about 2/3 of the way up...maybe by July 4th!)

Wood floors. Next Monday, June 16th, is The Day. John the floor guy is coming bright and early. While I can't wait to have gorgeous floors--I could do without the work that we have to do to prepare! Poor Matt is going to have a heck of a Father's Day weekend. First of all, we have to move all the furniture from the first floor, and all the clothes out of the closets. That will be done mostly on Sunday (we'll take care of knick knacks, books, etc. on Saturday) but on top of that, we're going to go camping for the week while the floors are being done! So we'll also have to go through all the machinations for a family of six to camp for a week....sigh. I love camping, but I have to say the packing and the setting up of camp is just a total drag. Although, we haven't gone with the kids as old as they are now, so I guess that will make things much easier.

Then we'll have a hopefully wonderful week of camping--biking, hiking, swimming at the beach, etc. at Indian Island Park, right here in town. We'll come home Friday--which happens to be the day that Julia's Brownie troop is going camping at the Girl Scout camp in Yaphank!! Oh, yes--and did I mention that I'm the leader for that little excursion?! My comfort there is that Matt will be home unpacking the furniture and camping gear while I am at Camp Edey. So from June 15-23, I have an actual excuse not to blog! But I'll try to put a few things up this week. I have some stuff in mind...


Daily Quote

We have weapons of mass destruction we have to address here at home. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Unemployment is a weapon of mass destruction.

--Dennis Kucinich

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Altogether Too Much to Blog About!

First one, then the other, I guess. The past week has been very busy. Matt has taken several vacation days to---you guessed it!--continue the wonderful job of painting the house's exterior, the ill-fated job we cleverly began last October. After a long winter break, I am happy to say that the first coat is finished, and coat number two has been begun! Matt worked hard on Friday and Sunday by himself (it rained Saturday...) and Monday and Tuesday he worked hard with me beside him. The back of the house took a long time to complete, and he also had the nerve-wracking job of getting on top of the garage to paint the bit of second floor up there--we are SO grateful we bought a Cape, where most of the second floor is hidden under the roof line!! Luckily, our advisers were correct, and the second coat is fairly easy to do compared with the first. We are breaking for the rest of the week--there was rain today and so Matt is going to work the rest of the week, and my parents are coming for the weekend, so we break till we see what the weather holds next week.

On Sunday afternoon, I took the kids to Splish Splash while Matt painted. They had been disappointed to miss opening weekend (Memorial Day) because we went away, and considering I've been listening to "When do we get to go back to Splish Splash?" every time we've driven on the LIE or Route 25 since last day-after- Labor Day (the day after it closed for the winter!) it was time to go back. Although we all wished Matt had been with us, we had a wonderful time, and I was pleased to see that Emma can now go down the kiddie slides herself, which makes it much more enjoyable for me! She also is much happier in the wave pool--she'll bob in her life jacket when there are no waves--I still have to help her in the waves--as opposed to last summer's death grip on my bathing suit straps. She also rode "Mammoth River", "Splash Landing" and the "Hollywood Stunt Rider" with us, which meant I got to have more fun as well. Also, since it's June and not really tourist season yet, there were no lines, which was very pleasant.

Today we went to see a ballet in Ronkonkoma--we go monthly with some other homeschooled friends--and then went to a friend's house for the afternoon, whose pool is now open. The kids had a blast there--Julia swam in the deep end without any flotation devices, which is new for her. Emma and Ben flirted with the water--it was barely 70 degrees today, and overcast, which meant there was no way I was getting wet, so they had to make do. This unfortunately meant that they didn't swim the way they would have liked to, but I did keep telling them that between life jackets, noodles, noodle chairs, kickboards, etc. they had more than enough to keep them atop the water--and Rachel, Julia and their friend were willing to help also. They wanted no part of it, so I just had to say tough toads. There comes a point where Mama isn't going to be inconvenienced, you know? We're going back Friday, so hopefully it will be warm enough that people over 12 will be willing to get wet!

Anyway, sorry for not posting in such a long time--each day lately has sped by, and I remember blogging when I can hardly keep my eyes open! I'll try to do better....


Daily Quote

Philosophy is common sense with big words.

--James Madison