Thursday, July 31, 2008

You Know What, Mama?

Ben turned to me on Tuesday and said to me, very seriously, "You know what, Mama?"

"Yes, Ben?"

"You really need to take Julia to Target."

"Why's that, honey?"

"Because, Julia wants to buy me a birthday present, and you only have four more days till my birthday!"

"I'll keep that in mind, Ben."

Never mind that in actuality I had five more days!


Ben's Loose Tooth

Ben has his first loose tooth! I simply can't believe it. How can time go by so fast? He is turning six on Sunday and that just seems impossible....

He's very proud of it.

And Julia's proud, too, because she assured him he'd get a loose tooth when he was five. She was beginning to think she'd lost her touch!


Daily Quote

Because you're not what I would have you be, I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.

--Madeleine L'Engle

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Greatest Neighbors in the World

I mentioned our around-the-corner neighbors Linda and Dennis around Halloween time. They are the older couple who live on the busy street around the corner and walk their dogs on our quiet street. They also brought the treat bags in a wagon through the neighborhood, with their tiny dogs Charlie and Bear dressed in costume.

My kids are in love with those doggies, so we often talk in the front yard as they go by. We give them chicken eggs sometimes, and they repeatedly told us all fall, winter and spring that we can come swim in their pool any time we want to, even if they aren't home. Their kids are grown and gone, and they hate to see the pool go to waste. They welcome friends, especially those with kids, to come over any old time to swim.

Now, in the cool weather, it was easy to say great, we will. But as it became summer, I wasn't sure what to do. We have nice neighbors here, and we chat cordially when we see anyone outside. But it isn't like the fifties where we come into each other's homes, borrow sugar, or play cards on Saturday night. I wasn't sure about gregarious offers of pool use. But then again, I thought their offers were certainly genuine, and I didn't want to hurt their feelings, so yesterday when we had nothing to do (for the first time this summer, it felt like!) we got our suits and sunscreen on and walked around the corner with a carton of eggs as a thank you.

At first we didn't think they were home, because nobody answered the bell. We let ourselves in through the back gate and were about to get in, when Linda came out the back door, all smiles and welcomes, with Bear and Charlie in tow. She hadn't heard the bell as she'd been bathing the pups for their trip. She was over the moon to see us! She told me how they'd thought we weren't going to come, that we hadn't taken the offer seriously, and that they'd even come by to invite us again but never found us home. (See point 1 above about the first chance to come over!) She kept saying how glad she was, how welcome we were, how we should come any time we wanted to---and that it was especially great we'd come because they were off to their house in Maine tomorrow (today) until September 9! And that we can come as much as we want to while they're gone, because the pool stays in better shape with people swimming. (They have relatives coming to do the chemicals and care.)

So how is that for the best neighbors ever? The kids are so happy that we have a pool to go to when we want to swim, and I'm happy it's not our pool to care for! And it is a lovely inground pool with lots of comfortable furniture to lounge on (including a hammock and garden swing). We had a great afternoon swimming and playing.....I love it.


Have You Met Mrs. Meyers? all know I am not a fan of housework. I do it because it needs to be done, but I get little if any enjoyment out of the act of cleaning--my happiness comes from it being over! That said, I love Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products. They don't do any animal testing, they all smell gorgeous, they are all biodegradable and made from plant extracts, and they just make me happy if I have to clean something. Target carries their products, but not at an very inspiring price. I've been buying the all purpose cleaner there in geranium (my favorite scent so far) because you can water it down so much that basically they can charge whatever they want. I fill a spray bottle almost to the top and add perhaps 1/4 cup of cleaner to that. The smell is still beautiful and it cleans very well. And that way, I can let the kids spray the counters as much as they want to without worrying they are wasting this expensive cleaner or poisoning themselves.

That said, I was shopping on the other day. I was looking for Mutt Mitts (which are degradable dog poopy bags, because we all know how much I loathe plastic shopping bags and all the damage they do to the environment!) and this site seemed to have the best price I could find. I noticed that the site gives free shipping for orders over $25, so I certainly wanted to take advantage and started poking around. I was ecstatic to find the entire line of Mrs. Myers for a lot less than Target sells them for, so I kind of went a bit berserk!

Let's see, what did I get? In geranium scent, I got the laundry detergent, hand lotion, liquid soap and room freshener (which I will NEVER stop buying! It smells so good sprayed on the beds and near the kitty box!) In rhubarb, I got dish soap, countertop spray, window spray, and all purpose cleaner. Finally, in lemon verbena I got the surface scrub (like Ajax or Comet but natural). I was going to get the dryer sheets, fabric softener and I think there were even more, but I figured that was enough cleaning to get me started! I was surprised not to find a floor cleaner...maybe you're supposed to use the all purpose cleaner for that. So I ended up getting another all natural product for the wood floors.

The best part is, I never left the house, I didn't pay shipping, and my products arrived in two days. Go! I am your friend for life now.


Daily Quote

The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.

--Julia Margaret Cameron

Monday, July 21, 2008

Puff, the Magic Dragon

We had the pleasure of driving out to the Barnes and Noble on Nesconset Highway by the Smithaven Mall yesterday evening to see Peter Yarrow (of the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary) perform. He has coauthored a picture book and CD of Puff, The Magic Dragon and nominally was at B&N for a book signing, but the real draw was the performance. He sang songs and talked and related with the children watching in a way that was just magical. You could see everyone was hanging on his every word, the kids were smiling and singing and clapping along. He spoke of the present times being a return to the ideals of the sixties, where if we all just pull together we can change our world to one where peace and justice reign. That he held everyone in thrall is just the only way I can think of to express what went on.

The line for the book signing was pretty long--we waited around 40 minutes, I think, and were about halfway down the line. Part of the reason it was so long was that Peter spoke to everyone, signed the book or mementos they'd brought, gave hugs and took photos. I honestly think he is about the most sincerely caring person I have ever had the pleasure to meet. It was obvious that he was genuinely glad to meet each person, not just going through the motions as I imagine many celebrities do. He looked right into your eyes as he spoke, he put his hands on the children's hair or hands, and his hugs were real rather than perfunctory. Just talking to him for a few moments was amazing.

Anyway, I just wanted to share because it was a really fun evening, and I guess I'm a bit star struck. I think he put it best when he noted, "I wrote this song in 1959 (Puff) and the fact that four year olds know all the words never fails to amaze me."


Daily Quote

You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.

--Pearl S. Buck

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cecily G.--a Book Review by Emma

Everyone knows the Curious George series, by H.A. Rey. However, you may not be aware that George is actually in other stories of Rey's, one of which is called Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys. I took this book out from the library because Emma loves Curious George, and of course Rey's illustrations are wonderful. I have always thought that Cecily was a bit of an odd story, but as usual, it takes the perspective of an almost-4-year-old to really cement that idea!

Cecily G. (short for Cecily Giraffe--get it?) is lonely when all her friends and relations are captured and sent to zoos. George, his mama and seven siblings are sad because their forest has been cut down and they have no home anymore. When Cecily meets the monkeys, she is delighted to have some lively new friends and invites them to live with her. They share many wacky games---the monkeys love to SKI, and since there is no snow, they tie Cecily's head to a palm tree and use her neck and back for a ski wonders where monkeys would get skis, much less learn to ski when they live in Africa, but I guess we're just suspending our disbelief for the sake of the story! Cecily also makes a good seesaw, bridge, parachute jump and hook and ladder when her house inexplicably goes on fire. She also manages to walk on stilts, and the monkeys turn her into a harp by tying strings to her head, nose and front feet (the rest of her sits curved appropriately so that she looks like a harp...)

However, when Cecily turned herself into a sailboat for George and his family to ride at the beach, then takes off her skin and hangs it to dry on a clothesline, Emma reached her breaking point. Shaking her head, she announced,

"This story is just not realistic!"

Enough said.


Grandma's Visit

You might have noticed that I haven't posted in the last week--or is that hoping for too much? :) Anyway, the reason I haven't posted is that we had our annual visit from Matt's mom, Barbara, who lives in Georgia. Though we've had the best intentions of visiting her, it hasn't happened yet...the drive is far too daunting at this point in our lives, and airfare for six is out of our reach! So she makes the trek every summer.

We picked her up last Saturday (the 12th) at LaGuardia, and basically didn't stop again till she left yesterday morning! In that week, we went to the beach, Splish Splash, the aquarium, the movies to see Wall-E, Greenport, Adventureland, and shopping. In addition, we ate out a lot, and Matt and I had two dates!

The first was originally dinner and a movie, but surprisingly, we couldn't find anything we wanted to see. So we settled on dinner and going to the beach to watch the moon and stars over the water. We ate at the Meeting House Creek Inn, a restaurant that we have long wanted to go to, but never have before. It was a delicious dinner with a lovely view of the marina, the sunset and finally the full moon. Very romantic and lovely.

The second date was to see "1968: Rock the World," an original musical at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. It was a great show, full of laughter, tears and great classic rock songs (sung by the actors, not the original artists' recordings). We go there monthly for children's theater productions, which I adore, but it was nice to be there at night with just my hubby! After the show, we walked through Port Jefferson, and had some delicious ice cream and cappuccino at the Frigate, an old fashioned shop that sells ice cream and gelato, Godiva chocolates and fudge, and a myriad of other tasty treats. We'd like to go back with the kids for their family sundaes, where you choose the size (ranging from 4-12 scoops!) and then choose flavors and toppings. Sounds like lots of fun! After the ice cream we walked down to the water and watched the ferry for a bit, then meandered home.

Anyway, the week was full of fun and went by really quickly. It's always fun to see Grandma!


Daily Quote

Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale.

--Hans Christian Andersen

Friday, July 11, 2008

How Do People DO That?

Rachel and Julia went to a wonderful science camp at Brookhaven National Laboratory this week....well, it seemed like the whole week but was actually only Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Our homeschooling group does this camp every year, and I have always heard that it's educational and terrific fun. Plus--it's free! We never signed up for it because I always had babies and toddlers, though, and it begins at 9:30 in the morning, which doesn't sound very early to the average person, but for my family it's WAY too early!

However, this year was the last year Rachel could do it, and I knew she and Julia would have a blast--plus each of them had a best friend going, so it seemed like I should just buck up and do it. Before I say anything--I will say I am very glad we did it. Both girls had a lot of fun, they got T-shirts, nature journals, knapsacks with a compass, those wooden snakes that twist back and forth realistically, bookmarks, balloon copters, rainbow 3D glasses, UFO balls--which show electrical circuits using your hands' warmth. They built K'Nex models of racecars, made a windmill, took a nature hike where they made plaster casts of animal footprints--foxes, deer and wild turkeys, mostly--had a scavenger hunt where they learned to use a GPS unit to go from place to place to get more clues and in the end found a beeping rubber snake, learned about box turtles and tracking animals for scientific purposes, and used tracking devices with radio waves. They also learned about generators, hooking wires to power a lightbulb by cranking it, and made rockets powered by Alka Seltzer. The counselors were great, they got to see a lot of friends they hadn't in weeks, and they learned a lot. It was really great.

And Ben, Emma and I got to have some time together, which doesn't happen too often. We went to our favorite huge thrift store and got some neat toys, to a playground, swimming at our friends' pool, and on the last day had a morning at the mall. (Which doesn't sound very exciting, but we only go to the mall twice a year or so--it's 45 minutes away-- and they think it's a huge treat!) We ate lunch out and talked without bigger kids interrupting all the time. It was very nice.

And now I come to the point of this blog entry. After just three days of having the whole family get up early--7:30/8:00, that is, and get everyone dressed, washed, brushed, fed and out the door by 8:45 or so, I was ready to collapse! Not that the kids were horrible about getting out; they wanted to go. But in Rachel and Emma's cases, we were forcing them out of bed an hour or more before they were ready to be awake (that goes for me, too!) and it was just not fun. We were only gone till 1:00 in the afternoon, but we had errands to run, and the days flew by so quickly--before I knew it, I had to make dinner and then it was bath and bedtime.

So basically, this is just a love letter to homeschooling--because if I had to get the kids out the door every morning from September till June (and keep in mind, probably FAR earlier than 8:45!!) and then do the evening crush of homework, dinner, bath, family time and bed---I would go stark raving MAD!!! I pity all you schoolers out there!


Daily Quote

Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

--Franz Kafka

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Find The Treasure In Every Day, A Poem by Julia

Julia has written another beautiful poem....I am so proud of her!


Find the Treasure In Every Day

There's treasure all around you,
it's just that you can't see.
Not in a pot of gold,
a diamond or a ruby.
Life is filled with treasure,
like inside a good book,
or what's inside a pocket of a coat up on a hook.
Oh, life is filled with treasure,
for the young and for the old--
it's not in all the jewels in the world,
not in a pot of gold.
Oh, life is filled with treasure,
You'll find it every day.
And once you have found it
You can shout, YAY!

Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road?

My friend Carol sent me this via email, and I was very amused, so I thought that rather than forward it, I'd post it here. It is the answer to that old riddle from the point of view of many political/cultural icons....


Why did the Chicken Cross the Road?

The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a CHANGE! The chicken
wanted CHANGE!

My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to
engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side
of the road.

When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross
the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure -- right
from Day One! -- that every chicken in this country gets the chance it
deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.......

The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must
first deal with the problem on 'THIS' side of the road before it goes
after the problem on the 'OTHER SIDE' of the road. What we need to do
is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his 'CURRENT'
problems before adding 'NEW' problems.

Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he
wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn
from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to
give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not
live his life like the rest of the chickens.

We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to
know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is
either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image
of the chicken crossing the road...

We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been
allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it!
It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's
intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY! You can see it in his
eyes and the way he walks.

To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the
chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

To die in the rain. Alone.

Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth?'
That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, my friends, that chicken
is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we
boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal
media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side'.
That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple
as that.

In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told
us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

I have just released eChicken2007, which will not only cross roads, but
will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check
book. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken. This new
platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^(C%

Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the

I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of

I invented the chicken!

Did I miss one?

Where's my gun?

Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

Daily Quote

We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Oh, How I Love My Shiny New Fridge!

We finally did it! When we moved into this house almost two years ago, we knew the refrigerator was awful. But it was one of those things you ignore and ignore and ignore, till one day you can't ignore it anymore. A few months back we had the dryer serviced, and I was chatting with Bill, the repairman, as he wrote up my receipt. I asked him about old appliances, and he said that older washers, dryers and dishwashers were far superior to new ones--that as long as they worked, never give them up because most of his calls were to fix new appliances. It occurred to me to ask him how old he thought the refrigerator was (the house was built in 1950--we knew it wasn't that old, but it's hard for the layperson to tell!) because we'd wondered when we'd need to replace it. He examined it and said he thought it was 28-30 years old! Yikes! He dryly suggested we might want to replace it soon, as it was probably costing the gross national product of some small countries to run it.

That was what pushed Matt over the edge. If you know him, you know he's all about saving the environment, conserving energy--and he isn't allergic to conserving money, either! We agreed that a new refrigerator would come after the floors were redone. So we were idly talking yesterday, and decided to look online to see if there were 4th of July sales going on...and there were...only till today, though. So we got ready and drove over to PC Richards, and within a half hour were signing the papers for a pretty Frigidaire. It was delivered today and I am over the moon!

Now, for all you people out there who have new everything---NO, it isn't stainless steel. Our kitchen is gorgeous old wood, and old fashioned. Our other appliances are white, and stainless would have looked totally out of place. And NO, it isn't a side by side, or a bottom freezer, or a French Door model. It is your typical freezer on top model. Why, you ask? Because in our beautiful kitchen, the space for the fridge was carved out in 1950. And they made refrigerators in few styles and sizes. In order to get one of the huge fancy ones, counters and cabinets would have had to be destroyed. And I can tell you that wasn't going to happen! Likewise, it has no ice maker or water dispenser, because it isn't next to the sink (and therefore the plumbing) and we wanted no worries with having to plumb it. We're simple people, and we don't mind pouring our water from a pitcher or actually making our ice in trays like the cavemen did.

That said, is isn't the bottom of the line crummy fridge. It has glass shelves, one of which slides so you can put small items like yogurt there and see what you have. It has humidity controlled crispers, the shelves that are skinny so you can adjust them a multitude of ways, and the door--my favorite--has buckets rather than the typical metal strip that holds most things, until you slam the door hard and stuff falls out the bottom. It has a HUGE butter door, and the buckets move wherever you want, and they hold gallon containers, and two of them have blue rubber liners in case stuff spills (we used one in the bucket we're holding eggs in, for a cushion.) And there's one of those shelves with the strip along the bottom, just in case you get nostalgic. And the freezer has a neat wire basket that goes along the door and tips out at an angle, so you can put things like ice cream bars in it and they don't get squished or fall out when you open the door. It is bee-yoo-ti-ful.

When the guys brought it in and moved out the old one, I was repulsed by what was under it--so foul. Cat toys, magnets, small toys, mounds of dust, pieces of dog kibble. Really gross. So I will be diligent about vacuuming under this one, I promise! I shed no tears when they hauled that old one out of here, let me tell you. Good riddance. And here are some photos, before we put anything in it. Admire the shiny cleanliness--you know how long THAT lasts!


This is the tip out shelf in the freezer door....

Boring old freezer, not much of interest here.

Interior--the shelves adjust freely, and the one under the cheese drawer is the one that slides. LOVE that feature!

Door---look how much space! All those buckets will hold gallon jugs, the bottom row holds a lot too. Look at that butter case! And imagine how many eggs go into one of those buckets! We have 23 in there at the moment, and there's still room for at least a dozen more. Awesome!

Ham and Cream Cheese Bites

Today, I experimented with some simple kitchen ingredients, and created a great lunch that everyone loved. It consists of a ball of simple buttery tart crust dough, ham (deli, smoked, etc.) and cream cheese. I had made tart dough, and then flattened it, spread a small amount of cream cheese over it, and then placed small squares of ham on it afterwards. Roll it up, bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes, and you're good to go!

Here are some photos to show the steps one by one.

Step 1: Flatten a small amount of dough with your palm, with smooth it with your fingertip.

Step 2: Spread a small amount of cream cheese over the flattened amount of dough.

Step 3: Add about 4 or 5 squares of ham onto the dough.

Step 4: Start rolling the dough towards you, covering the cream cheese and ham as you go.

Step 5: The dough is all rolled up into a small tube filled with cream cheese and ham.

Step 6: Pinch each end of the tube together with your fingers.

Step 7: Fold each pinched end over and press gently.

Step 8: Place puff on cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. (The temperature also varies depending on what tart recipe you use.)

Step 9: Enjoy!


Fresh from the Garden....

We picked these yummy veggies tonight after weeding the garden. As you can see, there's a nice ripe tomato in the center of the photo, with some purple string beans and basil surrounding it.

Ah, delish.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Princess of Procrastination I am only the Princess of Procrastination. I sat down this afternoon and began my paperwork. First, the easy stuff--I printed up my Letters of Intent (telling the district my kids will not be partaking of their dubious educational opportunities...) for Rachel, Julia and--boo-hoo--Ben. Now I have THREE sets of reports to come up with 4 times a year...

Then I went through the calendar from mid-April to the end of June and typed up all our field trips (there were 8) and adjusted the extracurriculars. Cut and pasted that for both girls. Then I wrote up Julia's end of the year assessment--since this was a standardized test year for Rachel, her assessment is simply attaching a copy of her test results....yes, the test where she got 99th percentile. I printed two copies of each letter of intent and Julia's assessment. Then I went and ate lunch with my family, and we watched 4 episodes of the "Brady Bunch" we'd recorded for the kids, and then we went out for a nice bike ride....

Look on the bright side. All I have left to do is the meat of each girl's report, and printing them out. And the weekend's only half over. I think I'll be fine.

And if I'd stayed inside at the computer, I would have missed the bunnies on the lawns, and Ben coming very close to actually riding his two wheeler. He's at that stage where he starts pedaling, but then gets scared and brings his feet onto the pavement. I think that he'll get it soon.

I'll post the hooray message when I get the paperwork all squared away!


Daily Quote

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Queen of Procrastination

Some time ago I referred to my dear husband as the King of Procrastination, in reference to house painting. Well, apparently we're well matched, because I am the Queen of Procrastination, in regards to homeschooling paperwork. Silly New York homeschooling laws require me to submit four quarterly reports and an annual assessment. They give us the dates the paperwork is "due," however, it is just a guideline to split the year evenly into quarters, because the law clearly states that we can set our own schedule as long as we hand in the required papers per school year. In general, I follow their guidelines though, because we follow the traditional September-June school year, and it's easier than scheduling it myself.

HOWEVER. We have been done with school work now for about a month, and have I done the paperwork? NO! And is it hard to do the paperwork, you might ask? NO! It's one of those jobs that you dread and dread, but then once you sit down with the books and the calendar for field trip reference it takes all of a half hour, and you wonder why you avoided it for so long....well, I've been doing these reports now for eight years and I haven't gotten any better at not procrastinating. But I think this year takes the cake. I have never made it to July 4th without handing them in!! I guess I know what part of my weekend plans are....


PS: You might wonder what kinds of activities take precedence over doing these reports. Well, the answer is--everything! Checking email, talking on the phone, gardening, playing Crazy Eights, throwing a ball for the dog, checking the chicken coop for eggs, baking a cake, mowing the lawn, taking the kids for a bike ride, grocery shopping, even cleaning the bathroom--I have done all these things rather than write up this paperwork. Sigh.

Daily Quote

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sweet Kitties

Who could resist these adorable kitties?

First, Molly washes Bo's ears....

And then he returns the favor. When they are not scratching at the furniture, they are just so cute I can't stand it!


Summer Flowers

We picked our first big bouquet of the summer on Monday and took a picture of it...I am just getting around to posting it, but better late than never, right?

Also, I wondered if any of you know what this flower is:

It was in one of the perennial or wildflower seed mixes I scattered in the garden. I absolutely love it--when you're looking at it in person it almost looks like it's made of paper. I am hoping there will be masses of them soon! So far I am very happy with the way the flowers are coming up, and am looking forward to more surprises like this little beauty.


Ben Takes Photos

Ben was fooling around with the camera the other day and took this photo of me, Emma and Julia. I liked it, so I thought I'd share.


Daily Quote

After all is said and done, more is said than done.