Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Little Green Thumbs

While at the store several weeks ago, I came across a temporary cardboard display box selling seeds. I realize that there are many, many of you out there that meticulously plan your gardens, shop around for seeds, build fancy boxes and the like, but I just want to let all of you know that I am not one of them; But the seed display was tempting. All those pictures of colorful flowers. All that yummy produce. All the things that the miserable winter had allowed you to forget right in one place. I closed my eyes and decided right then that I would just get a few.

Seed buying is apparently addictive behaviour. The rush of potential from one packet of seeds is suddenly not enough to keep you feeling euphoric, so you haphazardly toss another packet into the cart. I tried to walk away, but then I thought -- if my pizza is going to have home grown tomatoes in the sauce, I ought to at least get basil so that part can be fresh too. And then I remembered how much better Mexican food is with cilantro and added it to the cart too. I concluded with parsley figuring that I could always garnish the plates with it (you know, like I always do????)

But now, I had a new problem. Madelyn was holding pumpkin seeds; Adam was holding 20 or 30 varieties of flowers seeds. I would put some back and one of them would grab another.

They too, apparently were longing for spring and summer and using the seed display as an outlet. I figured what can it hurt? It's just a few seeds. They are only about a dollar a packet.

And before I knew it, $30 dollars was gone and my kids are talking about what they will carve into their pumpkins.

Well, here is my fly by the seat of your pants, try not to spend any more money, try not to have it all be deer food garden plan.

First I read the back of all the seed packets.

The sugar snap peas and the snow peas needed to be planted outdoors right away. So the kids and I moved a lot of rocks and got those planted. They are 2 inches high (and I will post photos soon). So far the deer have not found them.

The tomato seeds need to be started in a green house. (Really??? too bad I don't have a green house!) and the herbs (cilantro, basil and parsley) can also be started in a green house.

The rest cannot be planted until the danger of frost has passed. I looked it up online, and that means not until mid May. And though, that fact is rather depressing to me it is at least a gardening instruction I can follow. I happily put the pumpkin, zuchinni, yellow squash, corn, and sunflowers away in a drawer.

Now, I needed a cheap version of a green house. So I put a large banquet table in front of 2 doors we don't use, that have lots of sun and called it a green house. Then I used leftover egg cartons, filled them with dirt, and designated 1 for tomatoes, 1 for basil, 1 for cilantro and 1 for parsley. I called the kids over, and they had so much fun dropping a seed or 2 or 3 or 9 in each hole. We sprayed them with water, set them in the "greenhouse" and waited. I warned them not to be disappointed if they did not all grow, I mean afterall the seeds were kind of cheap and our methods not exactly orthodox.

But, darn it, all of them, I REPEAT -- ALL OF THEM -- sprouted and grew. And the kids love it. They love spraying them with the spray bottle, they even talk to them. In short, my kids are emotionally attached to them. My great plan of plant genocide is not going to work. They are simply not going to go away. And worst of all -- my kids have learned to count and they know how many of all of them there are. I explained how when 2 or 3 or 9 sprouts are all sharing one little egg hole that they will not be able to grow very well. I described how we would just pull out or snip all but 1 plant so that it can grow healthy. (from the shock in their eyes, you would have thought I was explaining to them selective abortion). Madelyn even cried a little, and so now I feel obligated to find a way to make this work.

I started looking online for a cheap place to buy little planter pots (there aren't any cheap ones in my range of cheap) but I did find lots of tutorials on you tube for how to make planter pots out of newspaper. I envisioned teaching my kids how to make all of these and I did. Julianne and Catherine can do it, but somehow I have now made well over 100 all by my lonesome. We carefully exhumed the little seedlings from their egg hole bed and pulled apart the 2 or 3 or 9 growing together and replanted them. I (again, very hopefully) explained how the transplant process might be a little rough on some of our plant babies and that they all might not make it.

But, darn it, all of them, I REPEAT -- ALL OF THEM -- have transplanted successfully. I am starting to wonder how anyone manages to kill their plants, they seem to be pretty resilient suckers.

The picture above is when I was halfway done transplanting them. I have now finished all the basil, cilantro, and the tomatoes. I just can't seem to get the energy to make another 75 newspaper pots to house all the little parsley babies. I mean who was I kidding when I thought I might want to garnish my plates with them???????

But it all comes back to my sweet kids. Especially my little Madelyn who has a plan for me each day. "Mom, today is the day. I have the newspaper, and the tin can all ready for you. We just need to make a hundred or so. I will count them for you." And she does. I figure that not only will we have fancy garnished plates, wonderful tomatoes, spectacular cilantro jalapeno ranch dressing, I am going to have kids that count -- REALLY WELL!

I wish I could tell you what I am going to do with all these plants. I just have this sick feeling that I have a lot of yard clearing, dirt hoeing, rock moving, and weed picking in my future.

I'll let you know how it goes. Oh, and if you happen to see me someday in the future buying a bow and arrow or even maybe a gun -- please now that my children are perfectly safe, but the deer are in big, BIG, BIG trouble.
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National Take your (son or) daughter to work day

The fourth Thursday of April is designated as "Take your daughter to work day". At Ernst & Young, the participants must be at least 8 years old -- so this is the first time any of our kids have gotten to do this! Julianne was as excited last night as she is on Christmas eve. We had picked her outfit and had it all laid out. Her bag was packed. She took a few books to read on the train, gum (for her and daddy), and breakfast. She was up at 6 a.m. and ready by 6:09 a.m. (bed made and everything!) Trent was ready a little while later (he got to sleep in a little -- he didn't think Julianne would enjoy leaving the house at 6:00 am to take the early train. )

Every morning here at home, we call Trent's office at 8:20 a.m. so that he can join us via speaker phone for family prayer. It was pretty fun to call and have Julianne be on the other end of the conversation. They were still at Grand Central terminal having just arrived and were making their way to the office.

They have a bunch of fun things planned for Julianne. She doesn't stay with Trent at all -- her program starts at 9 am and then goes to 3:30. They get to play Bingo (with their bingo cards being logos of clients), they have a philanthropy project, lunch, a couple of workshops and a speaker or 2. I can't wait to hear all about it.

The best part about this day is that Trent will be taking an early train home. I think they should rename it "Bring your daddy in to work late and back home early" day.

My little girl is sure growing up fast.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

An accounting of my 12 tulips!

One day they were all there and growing beautifully! The next day they were gone. Those blasted deer. (click on the picture and you will see it big enough to read the words)
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words

I love this photo. It will not win any awards, but it tells such a good story. So, pardon me for talking about this photo with you for a while.

First, It is a simple picture of the kids having a picnic. The story it really tells is that after months of reclusive winter cold, the sun has started shining here in our world and the world is coming alive again. It really is the joyous spring (which I held absolutely no appreciation for prior to moving here). Notice -- how the kids eyes are all squinting. Some are even closed. It is not bad camera timing, because they all turned out this way it is letting you all know just how bright the sun was. So bright that if you dared open your eyes and glance up your eyes would fill with tears and sting as the sun was so strong.
Have you ever seen such white arms and legs? For the past 8 years, despite the ample application of sunscreen all the kids, Trent, and I have had a pretty good tan. For me, this is the first time in over 10 years when I do not have any tan lines. I hardly recognize my own kids when they are in shorts and short sleeved shirts as they look so pale.

Check out what they are eating. They packed their picnic all by themselves. They each had 1 caprisun drink, 1/2 of a toasted tuna sandwhich, a helping of Kraft Mac 'n Cheese, 1 bag of chips and (my personal favorite) 1 mini-tupperware of applesauce. The reason it is my favorite is that Madelyn was in charge of the applesauce, so she found 5 Mott's applesauces in the little containers, opened them all and put them into a big bowl and then re-divided them into the little tupperware containers. (Good thing I pay extra for them to come prepackaged in single servings-- huh?)
Did you notice the bikes in the upper corner? My kids used to ride there bikes several miles every day, but since moving here we have hardly had the weather to use them. They had been bike riding all morning and having such a great time.

Now, check out Trent. He is eating lunch (taco salad) that I made for him. He is eating outside because he is too dirty to come inside. All this nice weather and he just had to get outside and work on the yard. He mowed, edged, groomed, raked, and more. His hours outside really made such a difference in the appearance of the yard! I knew he would be thirsty so I brought him the entire pitcher of water to drink from.

The yard was almost done and if you can see the next project Trent has on the horizon -- car washing. The cars are out of the garage waiting for their baths. By the end of Saturday, the yard was looking good, the cars were sparkling, and we were all exhausted! It felt so great!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This post needs a name -- Please vote from the list of 10 below!

I have been writing this post in my head for days. The first thing with any post is to have a decent title. I have been rolling around titles and been unable to settle in on one. Here are some other titles -- and if their meaning is not clear to you, you will just need to keep reading. Please leave a comment and vote for which title you like best!

1. All's well that ends well.
2. It isn't fun if there isn't a little blood
3. Heidi, Aaron, their 3 boys, and some of their stuff come to visit
4. Lesson's learned
5. Check, check, and double check
6. Humanity not lost, honest people still abound
7. Live right because someday you may really need a few miracles
8. Don't worry about losing something -- you will always get it back
9. Lost and Found, well actually Lost, Lost, and Found, Found
10. Lost in the Big apple

There is just a sampling of post titles in the running.

First, let me say what a great time we had. My kids are in heaven when their cousins are here.

The Baker family arrived Wednesday night at JFK. Trent picked them up. They were all excited to be in NEW YORK CITY to see the hustle and bustle -- everyone except their DVD player, case, dvd's, and IPOD touch which must have a social anxiety disorder so they hid on the plane in a bag together and were able to go unnoticed. Heidi and Aaron disembarked and only while waiting at the baggage claim did they realize their important "surviving a plane with 3 small kids" bag was missing. Thus began a series of phone calls which nearly always lasted too long and accomplished too little.

On Thursday we laid low, got re-acquainted, watched the kids play, took them to the Stamford museum and nature center (with the awesome park my kids love), had pizza and a movie (Journey to the center of the earth). Aaron got to spend a fair bit of time on the phone (with little or no progress on finding out if anyone found the bag).
Here are some pictures from the park.

On Friday, we caught the 7:27 am train in to the city. (yes AM! -- for all of you in the family who over the years have given Heidi a hard time for being late -- you should be ashamed -- we made the train with time to spare!) We saw -- grand central, rode the subway, went to ground zero, saw wall street and the New york stock exchange, trinity church and then went on the staten island ferry so we could see the statue of liberty, ate lunch, walked through battery park, rode the subway to 86th street, walked through central park, saw the met, the pond, the castle, took the subway back to grand central terminal and rode the train home. In the morning I waited in line at the 1/2 price place to get tickets to Saturday's matinee of The little mermaid. (Aaron still spent some time on the phone, but by Friday evening, he had word that they had found the bag, but he had to call and identify it)

On Saturday, we took the 10:27 train in to the city. The advantage for going on the early trains during the week is that you don't change trains, but on Saturday you always have to change trains in Stamford. We were all so excited about the day. Everyone, but Adam, Jared, and I were going to The Little Mermaid. Trent and I were then bringing all the kids home while Heidi and Aaron went to dinner and to see Wicked. We got on the train. We successfully changed trains and the train was so crowded we all had to stand. Right after the train started, Aaron looked around and said, "I left our backpack on the first train!"

Now, in that backpack was Heidi's wallet, credit cards, photo ID's (so she can take the plane home on Monday), diapers and wipes for the baby, changes of clothes for the boys, bottle, formula, Heidi's cell phone, Heide's makeup, and more! I started calling the MTA police to see if they can help us. Trent and Aaron are looking at the train schedule trying to see how quickly they can get someone back to that other train. I finally found a very kind police officer on the phone who agreed to try and reach the conductor of that train on his cell phone. Right then, Trent suggested we call some of our friends who live close to the train. It all worked out -- the train was headed back to New Canaan, the conductor was looking for the bag, our friend was at the train station and he was able to find it and take it to their house. It just left us in the city without any of those things. But we survived!

We ate lunch and then in the pouring rain the big group made their way to the Little Mermaid and I took the babies to Madame Toussaud's wax museum. We met up and went up to Trent's office and then headed back home. Trent and I took all the kids home and had a fun evening. Heidi and Aaron had a great time at dinner and Wicked.

We had a beautiful Sunday. The kids looked for Easter Eggs, we went to church where we were reunited with the lost train backpack. After church we had a yummy dinner, did another easter egg hunt outside and then Trent and Aaron drove to JFK to pick up the missing luggage. By Sunday's end -- everything had been found. Not one thing was missing. Just like Easter is the celebration of Christ's spirit reuniting with his body -- we had our own celebration of the reuniting of missing stuff with the owners. (OK, that may be stretching the analogy of Easter, just a bit!)

On Monday, the kids just played while Heidi and Aaron packed up. Julianne and Catherine were back in school. At one point Andrew got bonked in the head and bled profusely everywhere, but it turned out to be just a small gash. He was just fine, but it did look scary when Heidi rounded the corner holding him with the blood dripping everywhere.

We really had a good time. The kids are missing their cousins. We are missing the company. So everyone, come visit us.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Break 2009

Spring break. The title alone holds such high hopes -- that it will in fact be spring and that it will in fact be a break. In Texas spring break is held in March (slightly before the actual first day of spring) and you can see how my extended family spent their "spring" break at this previous post -- they came to see us in CT and return to winter.

But now it is April, and surely, surely if they call it spring break it ought to feel like spring, right?

I planned the whole week out with outside activities and adventures.

Monday's plan -- Go to the Beardsley Zoo with neighbors, leave at 9:30 a.m.

Monday's reality -- Watch the rain fall, give thanks that it is not snow even though the temperatures were hovering near freezing. Play with the neighbors at their house all morning and then at our house all afternoon. While the kids played, I checked the weather -- cold and rainy all week. Uuggh! Can I really do this all week? So I started searching for activities that were indoors. Thank heavens for the internet. While I searched, the kids were bouncing off the walls and I thought, "I really need to find a bouncy place, like pump it up, or bounce U or something for them to give all this energy a location other than my house." I found a bounce U in Stratford, CT (35-40 minutes away) and they had a open bounce on Tuesday! Yeah!!!!!

Tuesday -- go to bounce U and play with friends

Wednesday -- we went to the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven (about an hour away)with our neighbors. It was cold -- but that didn't stop the kids from dressing like it was spring. Trent called from the city to tell me it was snowing; I was happy to report that even though it was cold, we were not having snow.

I had printed out some pictures from the Yale website (that show in a grid- parts of their art collection) and gave them to the kids and told them it was like BINGO they had to find all the images on their sheet. They had a lot of fun doing it. Even Adam wanted to have a sheet and a pencil -- I should have known that something that would be awesome and fun for the kids and really help them look at each picture and piece would be a nightmare for me. First, if they couldn't find one, they needed my help (which I would have loved to give) but I was a little too pre-occupied following Adam and his pencil VERY, VERY closely to make sure he did not add his signature to any of the priceless masterpieces. They were all at his eye level and he just had a sneaky look to him. (or I was just exceptionally nervous). All the time, I was trying to imagine what the headline would be if he did.

"2 Year Old Defaces Picasso, Mom and Dad selling everything to raise $200 million"

"Jackson Pollack reincarnated in 2 year old"

"Andy Warhol painting gets a new shade!"

I need to give Adam a little credit, though. Not once did he try to do anything. He was absolutely great, I know, cause I was watching him the entire time. The only time we had any trouble was when my friend Moya was pointing out something in a Picasso painting to me and the security guard rushed over to inform us that we were setting off the alarms since her finger was within 1 foot of the painting.

Only the adults were reprimanded at the art gallery, isn't that fitting????

After the art gallery, we went to IKEA and had lunch, checked the kids in the play station and went shopping. I found all sorts of things I needed! (or wanted???)

We got home and then got the house all ready for Heidi & Aaron and their 3 boys who were coming to visit us from Utah that night. So I will finish writing about spring break with them in another post.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Funny Madelyn

While on the phone with my sister-in-law, Heidi, sweet Madelyn walks in and says . . . "Mom, Do you have acne?"

I said, "Acne???? Well I suppose I do get the occasional pimple, why?"

Madelyn responded, "Mom, on this commercial they have some stuff that will get rid of all your acne problems. Your face will not have any more red dots. It is amazing."

I am trying so hard not to laugh and I say, "Really? Do you think it can help me?"

Madelyn, shaking her head, "You should see the girl pictures with no red dots, you can have no red dots too."

I have since gone in the bathroom and stared long and hard at my face. I am trying not to take it personally.

The American Marketing Machine is alive and well!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Really, what was I thinking?

This post is going to be a bit random --

First, what was I thinking taking such pride in Adam finally being potty trained. After 2 days of perfection in that area and after earning all his rewards. He has had 5, yes 5 accidents just this morning!

I took back all his rewards, put the cars back into the locked tight water bottles (so he can see them but not play with them) and shockingly he did not cry about it, he smiled and said, "mom, I gotta go potty!"

I think he likes the game of earning the cars and once the game was over so was his going on the potty. So for the time being, each morning all the cars will start imprisoned and he will have to earn them.

Second, Trent and I have found ourselves watching Diners, Dives and Drive-ins on the food network a couple of times. Both times the food looked delicious and then ended up being a restaurant close by here in CT. We keep talking about going to try them out, but have not had the chance. But then Trent's dad was able to drop in for a quick visit. I picked him up at the train station and then decided what a great time to go check out this Barbeque place. So we drove to Fairfield to the Wilson's Holy Smoke Barbeque.

Here is Adam with Grandpa at the restaurant.

Here is Madelyn enjoying her beef brisket sandwich.

But what was I thinking? that i could really find a place as good as the TX barbeque I know so well and love. The place was fine, but it was nothing compared to brisket my Dad has smoked and cole-slaw made with my Mom's recipe. It was like a terrible tease. Close to the real stuff, but not quite.

Lastly, we took Grandpa to Compo Beach in Westport. It was a beautiful day, but I knew that the breeze coming off the water would be cold so I packed all our coats and hats and scarves so we could enjoy it. Adam brought all his dump trucks and rewards to play with in the sand. Madelyn, who had woken up that morning determined to have it be summer, was dressed in a light weight sundress (see her photo at the restaurant) and flip flops. I brought for her leggings, a sweater, socks, shoes, hat, scarf, and mittens. What was I thinking? that she would actually put them on???? She refused, took 3 steps out of the van and started crying to go home. I put her in the van and let her cry. Adam on the other hand all dressed for the weather was in heaven. He played with his trucks in the sand and had a marvelous time. (all the while Madelyn is still crying in the van -- which was not 10 feet away from where Adam was playing). The more fun Adam had, the louder Madelyn would scream. After 20 minutes, I told Adam we would have to go and then in what has to be the quickest mood switch ever, Madelyn was happy as a lark and Adam was screaming "I want stay!!! I want stay and play" What was I thinking? that Adam would be grateful for the time he had and be ready to go?

Thanks, Grandpa for hanging out on our adventures, trying new restaurants, seeing the beach, listening to kids scream, and mostly helping all morning when Adam kept peeing everywhere. (Grandpa even got to give Adam 2 baths!)
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Potty training -- boy style

With 3 potty training success stories under my belt (julianne, catherine, and madelyn), I felt well prepared to tackle the issue with Adam.

All 3 of my girls hinted at "readiness" from about 18 months on (woke up dry, wanted a new diaper when they wet, liked to sit on their potty, etc.) and with each of them it went like this.

Monday -- get rid of all diapers, potty train their doll, provide plenty of fluids, clean up accident after accident, keep showing them the fun candies that they will get when they succeed

Tuesday -- same

Wednesday -- some success 50 %

Thursday -- some success 60 % (one exhausted mom)

Friday -- not enough success, 100% exhausted mom, tons of laundry and a new package of diapers.

I had had enough and we were done. I tried hard for a week and I was done -- they were close, but i lacked the stamina to make it through.

With each girl I let 4-6 weeks pass, with not a mention of potty. Then I got the courage to try again and it went like this.

Monday -- get rid of all diapers, provide plenty of fluids, lots of candy treats, potty train their doll, watch potty movies, read potty books, go potty crazy -- a few accident, lots of successes.

Tuesday - Today -- nearly all successes!

It seemed with all the girls that that second time was a charm, they just seemed to get it and they were all right at 2 years.

So with my "EXPERTISE", I tried with Adam. I knew the first week was just the warm up, but I went through all the same motions. He was a little older (as he had been slower showing readiness, and it was the dead of winter here!) and the first week was trying.

He showed limited interest, could care less about accidents, cried when he succeeded, did not want the candy. I gave up Wednesday night.

So I tried again 4 weeks later. This time he did a little better, ate the candy so much he threw up, ended up running a fever and by day 2 I was done again.

He just did not have the motivation that the girls did.

My friend mentioned to me that her boys needed cars as motivation and then my sister-in-law who just potty trained her son said in her blog that she used cars also and so I went shopping and bought cars monday night.

Adam saw the cars and I told him that when he went potty he could get one. I was thinking I might try again next week (cause I like to start on a Monday morning), but he ran right down the hall, pulled off his pants, took off his diaper, went pee and earned his first car. He then went through all the steps I had done the past 2 attempts. He got out his "doll", pulled out his undies, got rid of all the diapers, etc. . . He definately let me know we were starting today, right now, at 7 pm in the evening!

He has had a few accidents over the past 3 days, but overwhelmingly he has had success. So far this morning he finished earning all his cars, all his stickers, and just got his brand new dump truck! I just needed the right reward!

Yeah for Adam. Yeah for Mommy. What a win, win situation!