Friday, May 31, 2013

Goat Adoption

Hello! How the heck is it already Friday?!  Whew.  This week has been a doozy, and I don't think things are going to ease up any time soon.  I'm just going to tell myself that's a good thing, since I tend to get more done when I've got less time in which to do it.

Anyway, yesterday we went to the zoo.  We're there a LOT, so we don't usually get any surprises.  But yesterday we met up with some friends and ended up in the Petting Zoo.  Normally, I hustle my guys right on past to see the more exotic animals, like the red pandas and the alligators. Thank goodness we didn't do that this time because we found the next member of our family: Jewel.
Seriously.  My kids harassed adored that little goatling, waiting on her hoof and, er, hoof.  Will hand fed her hay.  And hairbrushes. 
He even tried to crawl in the pen to get more hay for her, and couldn't stop petting her little barrel-belly.  Sarah was fascinated with the low-rider goats (thank you to my friend for coining the phrase), who looked like a cross between goat and bassett hound.
I'll let you in on a secret: I don't go to the Petting Zoo because all of the poop on the ground.  And the ensuing drama when a goat eats our maps.  I'm pretty sure I won't be getting away with that anymore, since we'll have to check in on our friends Jewel and Ramone (a low-rider goat Sarah and I are partial to). Isn't it nice to have friends who make you ignore the poop and just enjoy the moment?

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Sunday's trip to the Renaissance Fair had an unexpected side-effect.  See, I figured Sarah would be into the fancy clothes or the fairy wands, and Will would be into the swords and armor and stuff, and they were, to a certain extent.  But the real surprise has been their mutual fascination with learning to use their bows and arrows. 

As soon as they got out of the bathtub Sunday night, they begged Mike for archery lessons.  Being the kind of dad he is, he readily obliged and soon, 
arrows were whizzing all around the den. 

Impressed with my husband's hidden (to me) talent, I asked where he learned to shoot like that.  Unimpressed with my complete lack of coordination and inability to get an arrow to go more than an inch without throwing it, he replied simply, "I'm a boy.  That's what we DO growing up." 

Geez, Daniel Boone.  Make fun of the city girl, why don't you.

Sarah is a natural, so she and Mike are all Hunger Games about their skills.  Will and I need a little more practice, but it's hard when you're 3 years old and refuse to admit you're a lefty.

Anyway, we decided we needed some target practice.  But, since humans are off-limits and the critters in our yard refuse to cooperate, it soon became clear that we needed targets. 

Sarah got to work on hers:
By the way, I have no idea how Sarah knew what a target looked like. 
 It's crazy what that girl observes and picks up on.

And here's Will's target:  It says "BLAM!" in the middle.
Next, we hung our targets on the clothesline that's STILL up, despite the hubs' grumbling. 
This thing is so darn useful, it's going to have to stay up all summer. 
Do you hear me, Miguel? 

Sarah helped me shoot a little how-to video on archery, 
so get ready to be the next Merida or Hawkeye.

Here's Will at point-blank range: 

We bought these bows, but they're just PVC pipe, twine, and duct tape. 
 I am going to figure out how to make some more of these,
 plus the crossbows that we didn't buy at the Renaissance Fair.  

That's a lot of italics right before Memorial Day. 

Happy Thursday!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Carnival Weekend

Sarah has declared this past weekend : THE BEST WEEKEND EVER.  So, apparently, it's all downhill from here.  It was busy and super-fun, but I am tired.  And I didn't even host anything.

We kicked it off with a PTO-sponsored carnival at Sarah's new school.  I whined the whole way there (around the corner), but I perked up after a few slices of Papa John's.  
Sarah had an agenda:
 games prizes, cotton candy, and face painting. 
Mission accomplished.

 This weekend I learned some things:
  1. The pointy things on top of an owl's head are not ears.
  2. TOM's don't go with shorts (on me, anyway).
  3. I love winter. 
Saturday, Mike decided to host his own kind of carnival with games and activities including Take the Kids to Home Depot, Force Your Wife to Work Out at the Gym, 
Let's All Clean Out the Basement, 
and the real crowd-pleaser: Draft a Neighbor to Move Furniture. 

Here's how we felt on Sunday when the drill sergeant wasn't around to make us do chores:
"Walk the plank, you scurvy knave!"
Actually, Sunday was a day filled with learning about history, engaging young minds, 
and experiencing new things at the Renaissance Festival.

Aw, who am I kidding?! We were there for the food, toys, and costumes.
Sarah wore her wings and crown, even though it was Pirate Weekend at the Fest, but, apparently fairies are a thing with the Renaissance Fair-regulars.  
So are corsets, but I'd rather not think about that.

Camel-riding was first up on the to-do list. 
Will was a trooper, even though I could tell he was scared to get on at first. 
 He was smiling by the time the camel got moving.
A big thanks to the dad who volunteered to ride with the kiddos.  I know my offspring wouldn't have been as brave if he hadn't taken one for the team.
This camel-wrangler had to remind me to get a picture of the camel's head or else a picture of kids on the back of some hairy beast wouldn't make sense.  But... I still didn't get the whole camel + kids in one shot.  
Oh, well.

I know this knight was hearkening back to the good ol' days of the Little Ice Age in his full suit of armor. 
My guys were scared of him and his cronies until he pulled a giant purple "gem" from his pack. Then it was all good in the 'hood.  
Take a picture with two scary knights and a Friar Tuck with devil horns? Sure!
(These gentlemen were so nice, though, despite their intimidating appearances.)

No Faire experience would be complete without the obligatory "head-through-a-picture-with-a-strategically-placed-hole" photo op...

...And unicorn petting.
As for the food: we regret not having a giant turkey leg, but that 1/16th of a millimeter of pretzel that I begged my kids to eat was apparently really filling.  At least, that's what they told me.  

The toy situation got a little complicated when Will became dead-set on a rocket. 

I'll just let that thought marinate for a little bit.

But, everybody perked up when we noticed the wide variety of weapons made just for kids!  My little archers chose some very cool bows and arrows.  Will did experience a twinge of buyer's remorse when he noticed the awesome swords on display.  I, however, did not.

Highlight of the trip home:
That's a horse on a barn roof.

This is how they spent the ride home:
Passed out, clutching their very own starter weapons.  How sweet.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

All Systems Are GO!

Ever since the Mars ROVer thing last year, my peeps have been super-interested in outer space.  But, other than looking at some pictures and video of meteor showers and planets online, we really haven't done much in the way of exploring the final frontier. 

I finally got around to doing a bunch of loosely-related space stuff with my wee scientists this week.  Most of the ideas came from other blogs, but I came up with a couple on my own.  

The first thing we did was to read Berenstein Bears on the Moon.  Even though this isn't an informational text, it sparked discussion about gravity and how we get to space, 
and we practiced counting backwards.  

Next up was a space-themed busy-box.  
A pack of black and neon aquarium gravel and one of those astronaut-themed Toob sets were all that was needed to get my little guys talking and asking questions about satellites, moon-mobiles, rockets, and chimps in space.  
 Yes, you read that right.  A chimp in a space suit is included in this play set. 

In keeping with the kinesthetic theme of things,
 I also made them some space play doh (recipe found here).  
I really was going for a deep rich blue, but after emptying two bottles of blue food-coloring, I had to settle for more of a dark sky-blue.  Nobody really noticed or cared since I also dumped to containers of glitter in as well.  Sarah immediately pointed out that the glitter was like stars and started rolling her dough into "planets". 

We also have constellation lacing cards (fine motor), constellation connect-the-dots (numeric sequencing), and planet matching that we've been working on. 

Check out some other space-themed tangram activities we did. 
 I made my own tangrams by cutting out a pattern from several sheets of foam 
I got at Joann's, and they worked fine, but, man, do I miss the diecut machines at school! 
Here's more math-y goodness using star stickers and black construction paper.  This is not my original idea, but the point of it is for kids to recognize the number written on the paper and to stick that number of stars on the sheet.  Easy setup, big impact.  
I picked the one sheet where the stars don't match the number.  Doh!

For some fine-motor work, we strung some star-shaped beads.

My favorite part? Painting some watercolor planets!

We still have several other activities on tap, like going to the planetarium, making our own meteor shower (in the sand box), creating a meteor with dry ice, 
and stargazing during a backyard camp out. 

They got so into the space-stuff that they put on pool floats and pretended to "orbit". 
Her expression really reads "After picture of an alien abduction",
 but I promise, they really did have fun.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

DIY Silhouettes

Is it just my mom, or are all moms hard to buy gifts for? 

Sure, I can use my offspring for various projects and sentimental gifts.  Shoot, I can even get them to make something, and no matter how sludge-colored and lumpy it is, my mom will dutifully ooh and ahhh over it, proudly displaying it in a place of honor on her mantle. 

But sometimes I want her to make a big deal over my ugly creations. 

That's why I set out to make her a silhouette of the kids holding hands.  Not because it's ugly, mind you.  Silhouettes are classic and graphically modern, and my kids are a-DOR-able, if I do say so myself.  Win-win. 

* I don't think my kids' creations are ugly, either.  They're priceless works of art.*

So, here's what I did.

First, I gathered my materials:
  • Black cardstock
  • Photo
  • Xacto knife
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Tape 
  • Pencil
  • Watercolor paper
  • Picture frame
1. To begin with, carefully cut your photo out.  Make sure you cut around any details in the photo: curls of hair, the corner of a dress, any of these types of things make a silhouette more unique.
 2.  Once I cut my picture out, I put some tape on the front and placed the photo face-down on the card stock. 
 3. I drew around the cut-out with pencil...
 4.  ...lay the paper on the cutting mat, and carefully cut along the pencil lines with my Xacto knife.
 5.  Pop it in a frame, and you're all done!

Here's the finished cut-out, right-side-up.  Even though it turned out well, Will looks like a chunky-monkey compared to Sarah because he's in the foreground of the photo.  Next time, I would probably use a picture in which they're standing the same distance from the camera.
 Here's the final result, looking pretty professional, I might add.  Ready for it's place of honor on the mantle.
Sorry it's late, Mom!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Summer Bucket List

 I'm kind of a list person.  I feel an inordinate sense of satisfaction by checking things off lists, and, so, I usually make daily lists.  The problem is, those lists spawn other lists.  Soon, I'm biting off more than I can chew and paralyzed by the very activity that was supposed to make me more productive. 

With summer just around the corner, all sorts of list-making opportunities loom ahead.  Travel, school for me, camp, and a rising kindergartner in our midst are all events that necessitate detailed, multi-page lists.  So, like everybody else, we have a lot to pack into a very short amount of time.

In an effort to keep our very busy summer FUN too, I made a list of course.  

But, this list has been neutered.  This is a list that will NOT beget more lists, nor will it spawn the evil twins guilt and regret for not completing every single activity.  It's simple, straightforward, and just detailed enough to give us purpose and direction. 

So, here goes:

Summer Bucket List
1.Go berry picking
2. See a baseball game
3. Check out the farmer's market
4. Set up a lemonade stand
5. Have an outdoor movie night
6. Make a water blob or splash pad in the backyard.
7. Make Ice Cream in a bag
8. Go on a fossil hunt and make dinosaur eggs
9. Watch Fireworks
10. Make flag T-shirts
11. Make Snoopy Sno-cones
12. Attend a Zoovie night.
13. Picnic at a concert in the park.
14. Play at the Parthenon and feed the ducks.
15. Host a backyard camp-out.
16. One word says it all: DISNEY! (Probably will regret doing this one in mid-June with a few hundred-thousand of our closest friends.)
17. Make lanyards
18. Go fishing 
19. Take a family photo on the beach.
20. Go ice skating or roller skating (Might regret this one, too.)
21. Go to the planetarium 
22. Take baths outside (Kids, not parents).
23. Ride a ferris wheel.
24. Host a firefly hunting party!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sarah's Mother's Day Interview

Let's see how well Sarah knows me. 

Sarah Tells All!

I'd like to think that the "wind" superpower she talks about is influenced by all of the Ninjagos we've been watching.  But, maybe she just thinks I nag and yell too much...

I like to cook, huh? 

I like to eat.  Cooking is just a side-effect. 

By the way,  I'm intrigued by this "discussion" Sarah had with a little girl at school.  I hope it didn't involve scratching or hair-pulling...

Have a happy Thursday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Will's Mother's Day Interview

I did some interviews like this last year for Father's Day (here and here), so I thought I'd try it this year for ME.  

I love the little surveys that kids fill out about their parents, but only one of my kids can write.  And she can't spell.  

So, here's Will's interview all about moi!   (It's in two parts because a fight broke out in the middle, and the interviewer had to referee the match and put interviewees in Time Out.)

I wonder if that ever happens to Barbara Walters...

Will in the Hot Seat, Part One 

And here's part two.  Don't even ask why one is a link and the other one is up here.  
                                                   Me + technology + my kids = mess

Sarah's in the hot seat tomorrow.
 Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Eight Years

Today is our eighth wedding anniversary.  

I was looking for pictures on the computer, but I guess they all got moved over to the backup hard drive.  Since I'm a little bit afraid of that device, I had to settle for taking pictures of pictures from our wedding album.  

First and last time that's happened.
Favorite picture from that day
One of my most vivid memories from the wedding festivities was actually at the rehearsal.   We were up at the altar, and I was repeating my vows when my voice hitched and my eyes welled, and the enormity of the pact we were entering into hit me full-force.

Our wedding cake was an enormous strawberry shortcake, fresh, light,
and the best cake I've ever had.

It was a great day, but we've had even better days since.  

Sarah and Will get kind of offended that they weren't invited.

Here's a little trivia for you:  I approached Mike first and asked him to dance 
at a bar in Ft. Lauderdale.  
He turned me down.

At first.  

Then he came back over, we started fresh, and the rest is history.  Or current events.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Grillin' for Girls

The roles at our house are pretty traditionally broken down: I take care of the stuff inside the house, Mike takes care of the outside.  In other words, I don't cut grass, I don't get on the roof, and I don't kill varmints.  

As the sage Suzanne Sugarbaker once said, 
"The MAN should have to kill the BUG."

Blame it on my upbringing, but that's how the work broke down when I was growing up.  I scooped the dog poop; my brother cut the grass.  Dad grilled the meat; Mom made everything else.  The dogs took care of the varmints; Dad removed them from the porch.  Mike gets on the roof; I keep the kids from knocking over the ladder.

Lately, though, there's been a shift in my way of thinking.  At least when it comes to grilling.  Everything tastes better when it's grilled.  My kids (Sarah, in particular) will eat ANYTHING off the grill.  We all eat healthier, fresher, and lighter meals when the grill is involved.  But, if we have to wait for Mike to get home to fire things up, then it's really only an option one or two days a week.  Not cool.

So, the other night, I took the bull by the tongs.  We had chicken about to go bad, and hungry kids to get ready for choir practice.  I grilled up that chicken in a total of 30 minutes.  And it was gooooooood.

With that one quick decision, I discovered the truth behind the best-kept secret in the 
Guide to Being a Guy:  Grilling is just not that hard.


Every time we grill, Mike (and most men I know) go through this intricately choreographed dance involving precise temperatures, exact timing, and resting meat.  They are completely at the mercy of fire and protein, offering sacrifices and prayers 
for a good sear and crisp grill marks.
My version of grilling is much simpler than that.  Here are a few things I learned in my first few forays into grilling:

  1. Start the fire and then wait awhile.  Apparently, you don't want to stick the meat on right away, in the middle of a bonfire.
  2. Just like oven cooking, resist the urge to crank up the heat, or in this case stick your protein directly over the flames.  Direct heat = food that tastes and looks like a charcoal briquette.
  3. Don't forget to close the lid.
  4. Hamburger patties cook a LOT faster than chicken.  I learned this the hard way, with a phone call to my dad.
  5. Contrary to popular male belief, it's ok to multitask while grilling.  And I don't mean having a drink in one hand and tongs in the other.  It IS possible to make your sides while grilling the main course.
  6. Don't forget about the stuff on the grill.  (Another learning-by-doing lesson.)
  7. Your hair will smell like grill.  Just go with it. 
  8. The under-4-feet crowd will want to "help".  Between the raw meat and open flames, about the only thing mine could do was add the seasoning, which makes for interesting flavor combos.

Mike told me my burgers were a little crunchy.

I think he was mad because I went all Myth Busters on his grilling.  
I still think he should have to kill the bugs.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Lemony Lemonade Clothes

Remember how Will asked for his own lemonade-selling uniform?  
Ask and you shall receive, my friend.  
The perfect t-shirt to wear while drinking more product than you sell.  I just appliqued a little lemony-fella onto a shirt I already had for the man, and drew on a face and the stem-thingy. 

Of course, Sarah Jr. wasn't off the hook for a uniform either. 
I used one of my favorite sundress patterns ever (and it's FREE) found here.  
Now, before you get all like "Seriously, lady, get a hobby and stop sewing doll clothes," know that from start to finish, this dress took a YEAR to complete.  Not because it was so complicated, but because I'm that distractible.  

And most of the time I should be doing something else besides sewing.  Like getting a job.  Or making sure my kids stay alive.  But sewing is so much more relaxing than those other pesky activities. 

Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Laundry Day

Sarah goes to kindergarten next year.  I know she'll rise to the challenge like she always does, but it still doesn't seem possible.  I mean, we just brought her home from the hospital, like, YESTERDAY. 

Since she'll be among the youngest in her class, I want to try to prepare her as much as possible.  But it's kind of hard.  If she gets the slightest whiff of teach-iness from me, she goes into Evil Twin mode and all bets are off.  

There are some ways around her resistance to be taught by me.  The first involves an elaborate Cold War-esque ruse to wrap a lesson in a mystery inside an enigma, but I don't really have the patience for that.  The alternative is to sneak a little learning into playtime.  That's so easy with this age group, since the lines are still blurred between learning and fun.  

One thing I've noticed we need to work on with Sarah is fine motor skills.  Girlfriend is a triple-threat in dancing, baseball, and pool-noodle sword-fighting, but not so much on buttoning, snapping, or Legos.  If a tiny Barbie shoe gets stuck in a toy truck, she'll pass it off to Will "Meat Hooks" Brown, because, for whatever reason, he's got the hand strength
 and fine motor skills to fix stuff.  

Mostly because he breaks stuff in the first place. 

I've been giving her a lot of sewing, beading, and Play-Doh playing to do, and I've been looking into some other ways to sneak fine motor in. One of the activities
I've been meaning to do for awhile now is to have her hang clothes on a clothesline.  Simple, right?  But all of that pinscer-gripping is perfect for building strength in those little digits and getting them nice and strong for writing.

The other day, I finally got around to setting up a clothesline in the back yard. I gave her some clothespins and clothes, and away she went!

I'd seen Busy Bags with felt clothing for kids to string up, but I figured we'd use the real thing.  So, I hauled out some old baby clothes that I can't bear to part with, put them in a laundry basket, and brought them outside.
Both kids thought it was HILARIOUS that they could have been small enough to fit in some of those newborn onesies.  
Sarah thinks Dreft is the second-best smell in the world.  
Right behind cookies.

Will wasn't amused to the point of being motivated to abandon his mud pie.  
However, Sarah had a blast "hanging the wash" and practicing whistling while she worked.  
Believe it or not, it was a fun little activity for her, and it required minimal setup and zero cost for me.  I count that as a win-win all the way around.

Next up on my to-do list is to start a Mommy and Me journal, where we write/draw notes back and forth.  She's going to smell the lesson in that one a mile away.