Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kids Made This: Hand Sillouhette Window Trees

These are so easy, but I wanted to write down the instructions just in case!

We traced the kids' hands and arms onto a piece of brown construction paper- if it fit on the paper, we traced it! Needless to say, Mimi (above) got quite a bit of arm into her tree!

I helped the kids cut out the hand sillhouettes, and we used watercolor paints on coffee filters, in all sorts of autumn-ish colors.  Once they were dry, I folded them into eighths and cut out leaves.

We made a simple paste of 1/2 cup of flour and a bit of water, cooked in a sauce pot until it was smooth and glossy, and used that paste to stick up our hand prints and leaves! I put the paste straight onto my leaves, but I put the paste onto the window for Mimi and let her stick the leaves into it.

Hand print idea from here
Leaf inspiration from here

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Jedi Mind Tricks and Points to Ponder

No pictures today- I saw a million things I'd have LOVED to have a shot of, but didn't have the get-up-and-go to get-up-and-get-OFF the couch.  

I sent the girls outside to play, all bundled up in boots and sweaters.  I looked outside, and all the sweaters are on the porch, and one of Mimi's boots is halfway down the driveway.   I asked Ernie to help her step back into it, and then I looked out to find Ernie pushing the stroller around in a tight spiral, both boots in the basket.  Mimi was on the steps, peeling off her socks.  They both put up a huge fuss when I moved the lunch I'd just set out for them to INSIDE, but you know what?  No sweaters, no shoes, no picnic.  I'm just a mean mom like that.  Guys, it's not September any more!  But even still, I wish I'd had a picture of Ernie holding Mimi's hand, carefully helping that (sweaterless, sockless, bootless) child up the front steps.  THAT was sweet.

I'd also have loved to take a picture of Mimi talking to me.  No one has lips like that child.  She can make a perfect upside-down-u with her lips that will convey to anyone, anywhere on this green earth, her deep dissatisfaction with the plan you just proposed.  Plus, those lips come in awful handy for aspirating the final p's and t's of her words. She loves her lip-PAHs.  

Since I am now weeks from my third trimester, and have been having what seem like constant and ANNOYING Braxton-Hicks contractions for days now, I've had plenty of time to sit, and here are some things I'm thinking about.
  • An arsonist burned one of our local church buildings to the ground Saturday morning, it's a total loss.  By the time the firemen responded, the roof was already collapsing.  Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the two congregations that met there (about 800 people total) have found a nearby building to meet in for the time being, but it begs the question: awful prank by a student from the high school next door, or a hate crime?  Is the arsonist planning on burning more church buildings?  Is the arsonist targeting all religions, or just LDS?  Or does the arsonist simply like to burn multi-million-dollar buildings in the middle of the night?
  • We do mail-in ballots around here, which arrived over the weekend, so I started filling mine out today.  TWO big voters pamphlets came too, to try and explain everything we're voting on.  Among the many issues,
    • State-owned liquor stores: shut 'em down and let private businesses sell hard liquor?  
    • B&O insurance: let private companies provide insurance, and at the same time strike the verbiage of the law that states that employees pay half the premiums this insurance?  (It's the insurance that covers a worker who is injured on the job.)  
    • Change the state constitution to allow a state income tax on people with income over $200,000?  (We already have a sales tax of nearly 10% in some counties when you factor in "sin" taxes and city/county sales taxes, plus hefty business taxes, among other taxes)
    • Re-instate the law that says any measure that increases taxes must have a 2/3rds majority rather than the simple majority the constitution calls for?
    • Then there's the candidates, none of whom seem to vote (or will admit to voting) along normal party lines, so that democrats are anti-government, and republicans are all for increasing government services.
  • Next Monday is October 25th. October 25th is when CSN promises the remainder of my order will ship.  The first part of my order arrived in August, but I've been getting periodic notices stating when the remainder will leave the warehouse.  Each notice clearly states when it is expected to ship, and firmly reminds me "This is within in the standard time frame."  My husband says they're playing jedi mind tricks with me.
  • I started piano lessons for Ernie this morning, with almost no prior thought.  I started by labeling the notes on her xylophone and showing her how to clap the rhythm of her song, and how to read intervals.  We went to the keyboard and pulled out an extra book to see what that said.  Needless to say, we crashed and burned, and she loved every minute of it.  10 minutes later she was demanding another lesson, INSISTING that what she was playing what exactly what was on the page.  Oh dear.  I promised another lesson next Monday morning, and pointed out that ALL of my students need to wait a week between THEIR lessons.  That didn't mollify her one little bit.  We'll plug away, but I fear I started out wrong, which is ironic because I've been teaching for a very, very long time.  But her feet are wet now, and we'll do lots of rhythm activities.  I was going to wait until Christmas...but by then I'll be four weeks from my due date, and thought I owed her a little more one-on-one time if we were going to start this process at all.  And she has Jingle Bells to learn on the xylophone.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Around the House Today

Sob. The kids have been in bed for an hour, and no naps are happening. Mimi is roaring like a lion. This is after putting them to bed late last night, and a rollicking kinder music class this morning! We stomped like dinosaurs! Sleep already!!

(Grandpa? Grandma? I am really looking forward to date night tonight...and I am truly sorry for what my children might act like at your house!)

So. Kids are nuts, but that's par for the course. Second load of laundry is running, bread is out of the oven, and my apple butter finally cooked down as much as I wanted and it's all jarred and processed and cooling on the counter. If you're wondering, apple butter is about the easiest thing in the world to make. Core and cut your apples, and fill the crockpot. Add maybe a cup of water so they don't scorch before they start breaking down, and crank that crock pot up! I turn it to low on the first day if I have to leave the house, and on the second day I turn it to warm if I have to leave. When it turns into mushy apple sauce, leave the lid cracked just a bit to let the steam out. Stir it every once in a while to mash down the apples and keep it from sticking to the sides. I never add any sugar to mine, but I sometimes add cinnamon. I bought a 20 pound box of galas from a local farmer, and they were plenty sweet on their own! If you're curious, a crock pot stuffed full of apple slices made 2 pints of apple butter, almost exactly. I didn't peel the apples this time, thinking I could always mash it through a strainer if I didn't like the peels in there, or use my stick blender on it...but I like the peels! Since I'm the only one here who eats apple butter, the peels stayed. Ha. (A crockpot full of apples makes about 8 cups of apple sauce, on the other hand.  I did that yesterday, the apple sauce is in the freezer.)    I have just a handful of apples left, and I'm wondering how well an un-baked apple pie would freeze?  I could just make an apple pie and eat it, too.  That would be fun.  But if Mr. Baby is really putting in an appearance in just a few short months, I want GOOD FOOD in that freezer!  My excellent husband, excellent as he is, is not a dinner cook.  (The man can make a mean pan of eggs, though!)  And, did anyone else notice this baby is set to appear 4-6 weeks before Tax Day?  No, that didn't escape my notice.  No, my husband can't exactly "take time off work," not if he wants to get paid by his clients!  (I have to say, though, that my husband IS very good at cooking when he has ample time to tinker through a recipe.  It's hard to take "ample time" to make dinner, though.)

I finished my hand-leaf-tree. I love how pretty it turned out!  The kids don't seem to care much whether or not theirs gets put up- I'll try and get E at least to get hers assembled, so I can put the supplies away.

We pulled out our Autumn decorations this week, and found the acorns that E and I collected on our afternoon walks when she was still a tiny.  Gosh.  She was 2?  The kids love sorting them and putting them in a collection of bowls I set out, along with some brazil nuts I found in the back of the cupboard.

That xylophone hiding behind the basket (the basket that holds all our kiddy musical instruments) has  been having a renaissance lately- I sat down one afternoon and wrote down as many songs as I could think of that could be played in a single-octave C-scale.  Jingle Bells....I'm a Little Tea Pot...Popcorn Popping...Joy to the World....there are more, but the big girl especially is looking forward to learning a song or two.  For right now they sing along while I play.  I can't decide how I want to notate the music for her to read.  Colored boxes?  One box equals 1 beat....and then 2 boxes of the same color, and joined together, would equal 2 beats?  That's the way I first learned rhythm, back in the Robert Pace method, and it seemed so simple to me.  I can't very well expect her to remember that the yellow bar is a G, can I?  Ha.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kids Made This: Painting the Leaves

Drat, I was going to wait to post this!  Fumble fingered the buttons :)

Ah well.  The kids and I tackled a painting project this morning- last week we traced our hands and forearms onto brown construction paper and cut them out, and this week we're painting coffee filters with watercolors to make leaves.  We'll stick these up in the window to let the sun shine through, I'm excited to see them all assembled!  The inspiration for the leaves came from here and the trunk from here.

I'm happy to say that while the kids started the morning as raving, beastly, hour of quiet painting and a great big lunch tamed them.  (Which is good, because our story reading time certainly didn't calm them down, they both ended up howling and crying for unknown reasons.)  And now they're asleep, and I hope they stay that way for a long time!  (Does anyone else know of a five-year-old who still naps?  Half the time she reads to herself for an hour or two, and the other half of the time she takes 2-3 hour naps.  I know, don't hate me.  I'm exceptionally lucky in this regard!)

I love how personalities come out in art work.

Mine: Get 'em done!

Mimi's:  She threw away the coffee filter, and used the paint brush as a re-fillable sucker (black was her favorite flavor.)

Ernie's: This is 45 minutes worth of painting.  The child is methodical.  Her aim is to make a Spring leaf (this one), and then a summer leaf, autumn, and then winter.

One thing I love about working with watercolors is that we can leave the project on the table until the kids are ready to come back to it, and it doesn't matter if the paint has dried up!  Certainly can't do that with cups of tempera paint.  I anticipate that E will spend a good portion of today's "piano teaching time" totally engrossed in her project.  Hallelujah.  Wednesdays can be a real slog in the mud if the kids can't find a peaceful way to occupy themselves!  (Yes, I always have activities set up for them to do, but since when do kids do what you planned for them to do?)

And just because it makes me happy, our art line is getting quite colorful!  This hangs on the wall behind the dining room table.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where I've Been

It's been a week since I wrote? Seriously??

Alright, my camera hasn't been very busy, and neither have my hands.

Ernie's been having tea parties with her dolls (notice the fancy shoes. They are excessively fancy, are they not?)

Mimi's been chauffered by her cousin, Siu Jeun. No, this didn't end terribly well- I think Siu Jeun ran her into a chair a few times, and she just might have run over his fingers while he was taking a ride.
We spent a morning delivering a very important item (the bathroom key and some homemade wheat thins as a special surprise) to Wonder Daddy at his office- the girls and I spent the rest of the morning at a local pier watching the sea gulls, barnacles, ferries, trains, cranes, planes, and really enormous shipping boats.
Meanwhile, at home, my life has been more like this. See, I had such good intentions: make the bread dough before church, so all we had to do for the weekly family dinner that night was hand all the guests a chunk of dough, point to the toppings (beautifully) laid out, and say "Make pizza!" My crust runneth o'er.

I find myself doing less and less but being more and more tired. I wonder if it has anything to do with the rapidly cooling weather, and the girls' manifest aversion to long sleeves, coats, socks, shoes, etc. and an increasing corollary aversion to going outside? I've taken away all the movies, except during the afternoons that I teach, so the mess level seems to be increasing...I swear socks breed like rabbits in most of the house (funny how that is, but there are never any in their drawers...hmm....very odd!)

Also, as hubby bemusedly pointed out, I'm ALMOST third trimester! Yikes. So....3 1/2 more months of being the Wonder Family Foursome. But the house is still running, AND we managed a grocery run on Saturday for the first time in weeks (it's amazing how long you can live on pantry staples if you have a well-stocked pantry and extended family members who willingly pick up eggs and milk for your fridge while they're at the store.)
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Yard Update

January 25th
February 27th
March 8th
October 4th

This will be known as the Year We Tore Out Everything And Tried to Re-Build It. My goodness.

See, in the first picture, my husband had just taken away a (leaning) block wall. We were going to spend a Saturday or two digging out the front, back to the OLD boulder wall that a previous owner had buried. Problem was, the boulder wall only came halfway down the driveway, and stopped. Drat. (That's the second picture.)

Enter My Uncle, The Contractor. He soundly rebuked us for attempting to do this with shovels and wheelbarrows, brought in a whole posse of Guys With Trucks, and made short work of pretty much everything. If we're doing the side yard, we might as well take out the driveway while we're at it. Oh, if you'll have the concrete truck here, let's take out the back patio and re-pour that...oh, and make a path along the side....a patio in steps....yeah, we'll take out the front entry steps... it was crazy. BUT, we love it. We love that an average sized person can now walk up the steps to our front door without getting stuck (it was that narrow before), we love the garden space out front, we love the places to sit. The kids eat lunch on the front steps nearly every day.

I love that so many people were willing to come and lend a hand for a project that clearly and quickly spiraled out of anything we could handle on our own, especially since my husband changed from employed to self-employed mid-project right about the same time I discovered myself to be pregnant. His time available to work in the yard dwindled while my energy and agility disappeared entirely, and we couldn't have done this alone.

We're still looking for a load of wood chips to come and mulch around the garden beds, and have plans for more plantings, but all in good time. For now, we have good soil and good sun, and a lot to be thankful for!

Around the patio I've planted wild roses, garlic, day lilies, crocosmia, lung wort, and star lilies. The top of the wall is bordered by a 4-foot-wide garden bed, where I've planted loads of June-bearing strawberries and more clumps of day lilies. I have about 200 daffodil bulbs we rescued from the earth movers, and they'll go in front of the garden boxes, and around the patio up top. We plan on getting blueberry bushes to plant along the right side of the yard, unless our neighbor on the other side decides in the spring he's ready to get going on the blueberry hedge he's wanted in HIS yard for years.

I am massively too late to plant anything in the garden other than radishes, but I have some very slow-growing kale in my backyard garden box I plan to chop down a bit and transplant to the front to see if it will survive. It's so shady in the backyard, it took 3 months for my kale to get 12 inches high, and by that time the slugs and bugs had already eaten feast after feast. It's either transplant or compost now!

Now that everything is in me pig headed, call me naive, but I really think we can manage a spring planting. Even with a Spring baby. We've come so far in this project, PLEASE let us have the presence of mind to steal the time to get a planting in next Spring!
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Glitter Fest

So...just so you know, if you're going to craft with the extra-stiff, glittery craft felt....the glitter doesn't stay put. At all. My thighs look like disco balls!

I guess I'm what Nancy would call fancy.

(Call this another sneak peek at Christmas 2010.)

Isn't that green awesome? Like ectoplasm. Or the Grinch. I think I'm really getting into the spirit of the holidays, don't you think?

This particular present ended up being finished during nap time....hooray! Except that it was WET, flexible, and enormous. Oh, and taking up most of my living room. No chance of carrying it around without smudging! Oh, and piano students were coming in 20 minutes. Hmm. A helpful facebook reply to my predicament recommended making it into a wall hanging. I still haven't ruled that out!
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Friday, October 1, 2010

Why We Love Handmade

Do I have to say more? Cousin Ming Wai has been dying for her very own Ernie-made "pillow doll" (remember that secret project she was making?)

I ended up zipping around the edges with my machine after E hand stiched the seams, because I didn't realize that every time I changed the thread for her, (duh) I never went back and knotted the end of the old thread. So her lovely, lovely stitching is still's just co-existing with my machine stitching.

We had a lovely birthday party for Ming Wai at the park with all her little friends, and wouldn't you know it: every birthday gift was hand made! I loved it. Loved it, LOVED it. Aunt LoLo nearly said "no presents" just because she didn't want everyone to feel obligated to go spend $20 in the toy aisle. Is that a local thing? It seems like a set-in-stone budget for little kids' birthday presents.

Flowered hair clips, bath bombs, a lovely little pillow case dress/tunic were all made by her friends and their mothers....I know that not everyone WANTS to make stuff, and certainly not everyone has the time, but I must say that it was nice (from a selfish perspective) to not be the only hand made/nearly-free-except-for-time-and-love gift to be found in those brightly colored bags!

Happy birthday, Ming Wai!
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