Sunday, June 26, 2011

Moment of Wonder: M---


This kid fills me with wonder every day (though sometimes it's of the "I wonder why a ten-year-old can't follow a basic direction like, 'Go take a shower,'?" variety).  Today he played the last three games of the season--yes, I sat through three solid games of baseball.  He pitched, he hit, he struck out, he center-fielded, all with energy, enthusiasm, skill, modesty and good grace.  He also ate two dough boys, a cheese sandwich, a bag of skittles, ten clementines, a freezie pop and a bag of potato chips.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Moment of Wonder: Salamander


A fat salamander at home under a rock by the front door.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Double-Crap-Stuff

It's been a long day.  I woke up this morning groggy from the benadryl I took last night to stave off the wheezing from the dusty books I've been sorting.  I dragged myself to the pool and endured a Crap Oreo with Double-Crap-Stuff day at work and hurried to pick up the boys from daycare.  C had to work late, all three of them had baseball games (fortunately at the same location) and I had snack shack duty.

When we got home, I reminded them to quickly get dressed in their uniforms and come down to eat the leftovers I was heating up in the oven.  Of course that didn't work, and E and Z just ran around.  I finally herded Z upstairs and found his t-ball shirt and handed him a pair of sweats.  "Too late; I'm already wearing shorts!"

"You should wear sweats."

"Why?"

"Because it's cold out."

"So what?"  Fine.  Freeze your butt.  I opened the window to shout to E, who was running around on the deck, and put dinner out on the table.

"We have to leave in 20 minutes if you want to be on time for your game, so please sit and eat."  Of course that didn't work, because the hands on the clock are meaningless to six-year-olds, and the beginning and end times of things are mysterious happenings driven by the will of adults.  I finished my dinner, cleared my place and sat on the couch with a book, announcing that we weren't leaving until they ate everything on their plates, and that we were already five minutes late for M's warm-up (and my snack-shack gig).  This aggravated M, who tried to hasten his brothers.  I gave my at-least-once-weekly "baseball isn't my thing, it's yours, so if you want to do it you need to get ready to go and not hassle me" lecture, to deaf ears, rounding off with, "You're not playing baseball again next year!"

Finally, we arrived at the school.  I fried burgers, dispensed nacho cheese from a can.  Caught a few glimpses of M pitching.  Chased away E and Z after their game ended and they tried to scam candy bars.  We left after M's game and pulled into the driveway at 8:35.  "OK, guys, what do you need to do when we get inside?"  M: "Put on my jammies, brush my teeth and get into bed."  Z: "I forgot what M said."  E: "butt-head!"

Once inside, of course, it was the run around the room throwing stuff until Mom gets mad routine.  M finally got himself into bed with his book, Z got into his pajamas and brushed his teeth and he and I went downstairs to read, leaving behind E, who had goofed around so much (I got mad, he got madder and called me a "Horrible woman"), I told him to just go to bed naked, with no tooth brushing or stories.  He met us on our way back up the stairs, book in hand.  "Sorry, you wouldn't get ready, so you missed your chance." I said, feeling not very sorry at all.  He started crying, and yelled, "I'm not coming upstairs until you read another book!"  But once I turned out all of the lights he came up.

I cuddled him in bed and reminded them that they were going to their friend J's house for a playdate tomorrow.  Z held my hand, twisting my wedding rings.  "I don't want to go on Clifton's bus."

"Why?  Is he mean?"

"I don't know."

"M, is Clifton mean?"

"I don't know."

"Have you ever ridden on his bus?"

"No, but you don't have anything to worry about, as long as you behave yourself."

I remembered how they classify busses and asked, "Is Clifton's bus a BlueBird or a Peterbuilt or a Caterpillar?"

"Peterbuilt?  Really Mom?" Said M.  "It's Thomasbuilt."

"Oh.  Well, why not M___built?"

"Or C____built?" M said.

"Or Andreabuilt?" Asked Z.

"Yeah, why not Andreabuilt?"

"How did you know there was Caterpillar?" E asked.

"Because I went to school bus school." I said.

"Was it made out of school buses?" Z asked.

"No, it was in a school bus.  I just drove around."

"Really?"

"No.  I went to school in a brick building."

"What country was it in?  What state?  What continent?  What opposite continent?  What town?  What city?  What neighborhood?"

"The United States.  Colorado.  North American.  South American.  Englewood.  Englewood.  I don't know...I don't think our neighborhood had a name."

Just when I thought I had changed the subject enough, "Well, I still don't want to ride Clifton's bus.  Can't you come pick us up and drop us off?"

"No.  I'll be at work.  You don't have to go if you don't want to.  Good night.  I love you."

Just as I was leaving the room, M asked, "Can you die of Lime disease?"

"Uh, yes.  Why?  Do you have Lime disease?"

"No."

"OK, good night."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boys' Room Overhaul, Complete!

Things finally quieted down enough over the last couple of weekends, that I was able to finish completely reorganizing and decluttering the boys' room (before pictures and Round One here).  The first thing I needed to do, was finish some furniture.  My friend Tina and I trekked down to the unfinished furniture store in Scarborough back in early april and completely freighted my car with pieces

Here's Tina, surveying the load, thinking, "If only Volvos were a little boxier."  That's her toy chest strapped to the roof.  It actually made it all the way home!


Now, in an ideal world, I would furnish my house with beautiful antiques and handmade objects d'art, but this is not an ideal world (nor is it, as I like to refer to the blogs I love to hate, Another Perfectly Perfect Day in My Perfect Life), and my budget doesn't extend to (nice) antiques and handcrafted furnishings, so I figure unfinished is the next best thing.  It provides employment for some (marginally) skilled Mainers, makes use of locally abundant materials and does not come from a big box store.  Plus, it gives the boys and me a chance to work on our carpentry skills, like sanding,


and painting.


Actually, their attention span was quite minimal with the sanding, and I only invited Z to help with the second coat.  I painted E and Z's shelf with Milk Paint in Salem and finished M's shelf with Osmo Polyx Oil, which is the finish on our wood floors in the house.

I love, how they turned out, and how they fit in the room.  I wish I'd put them in nine years ago.  I informed the boys that the deal with the shelves was that they cannot leave toys, trinkets, books or novelties on the floor, period.  They're having a hard time adjusting to this dictum (please see the before pictures to get why), but they love running and rolling around in all the clean space.

The shelves fit perfectly under the window, flanking the preexisting red bookshelf.  M immediately turned his into a paper-airplane-making station.

I stayed up till midnight the night before the big birthday party, cleaning M's "office."  This was taken a couple of weeks afterward, after entropy started to set in.  I took no "before" photos--it was so scary, the lens would surely have cracked.



The other side of the closet--I think we need to go through the stuffed animals and get rid of a bunch.  I actually eliminated about half of what we had a couple of years ago, but I swear they reproduce in the closet!

So much space for launching airplanes!

The still tidy books and clothes area.



I also washed the windows and the curtains, evicted spiders and dusted and vacuumed.  I even went through M's drawers a second time, after I noticed him standing before his dresser wailing, "I can't find any shirts I like!"  We got rid of about half again what t-shirts he had left in his drawer after round one.  E and Z still have enough shirts for about six kids, but I'm not quite ready to purge them all.  I read an article about a family that kept only seven each tops and bottoms per season.  I'm not quite ready to go that minimalist--I don't do laundry regularly enough to pull it off anyway.

This was probably the hardest room so far, but I'm so glad it's done, and I'm hoping that the openness will lead to less distraction and delay when the boys get ready for bed or school (it hasn't happened yet, but I can always hope!).

Next on the list is the stairwell, which doesn't sound too bad, until you learn it's also our home library.  I need to purge a major amount of books, to make room for all of the ones heaped in piles here and there, but I'm not exactly looking forward to it.  I also want to paint our exterior doors this month...I wonder which (if any) job will win out?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rhubarb Pudding

This recipe was always a staple in our house every spring/early summer when I was growing up, and I try to make at least one batch of it every year.  The original recipe was called "spring soup" and called for crushed pineapple, but this year, I decided to use strawberries instead, which adds an element of planning ahead--you either need to cut and freeze rhubarb (whose season here in Maine is May through early June) to save for strawberry season (early July) or freeze and save enough strawberries to last until next rhubarb season.  While I can't attribute it to any sort of planning, I did happily find a yogurt tub of strawberries at the bottom of our freezer, and I do like the addition of them.  Because strawberries are so much sweeter than pineapple, you could probably cut back on the sugar, which I did not do this time, but will try next time.

I made a double-batch on Memorial Day to take to our friends' house.

Rhubarb Pudding

In a large saucepan, combine:

2 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup tapioca
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 cup strawberries, quartered

(be sure to stir in the tapioca after you add it, to prevent it from clumping in a frog-spawn-like mass in the bottom of the pan)

Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the tapioca pearls turn clear.

Remove from heat, chill and serve, or eat hot out of the pan with a little half-and-half poured over it.  (Actually, I just recently learned that all types of pudding are intended to be served chilled; to this day I prefer my vanilla pudding warm because that's how we always ate it when I was a kid, probably because my mom thought, after dinner, "Hmm, pudding would be good," and cooked up a batch, by which time it was too late to chill it, and who wants to wait hours for their dessert anyway?)  It also makes a good breakfast, and is best served if you're married to someone with an aversion to tapioca and all things with the word "pudding" in them, and if your children are put off by the chunks of green stuff floating around in it (my own children discovered the joys of this dish last summer, and now I no longer get to eat the whole pot-ful myself!)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Suddenly Summer

What is it, about summer, that you sit there all winter, waiting and waiting and waiting for it to end and finally the snow melts and it rains for a couple of months and then one day it's all sunny and the grass is three feet high and the bees are buzzing in the second- or third-round of wildflowers and you're all of a sudden like, "Wait!  How did it get here so fast?" And then you grab on, like digging your fingers into the mane of a giant, flying lion, and hold on for all you're worth, trying to soak in a ray of sun, catch a whiff of flower scent, dig your toes into hot sand before it's all over and you start the waiting again.  Or is that just me?

Summer here has come on rather suddenly.  The lilacs have already come and gone.


I planted six lilac bushes when we moved in, nine or so years ago, and only one of them is finally starting to flower.  But, not to sound ungrateful or anything, it's a white lilac, so not nearly as fragrant as the traditional, er, lilac-colored ones.  I know of a secret lilac bush, though, growing in the woods across the road, near an old cellar hole that I may one day explore, and was able to collect one single bunch before they passed by.  It's truly my first (among many) heartbreak of the season.

Even before the lilacs went, the violets did.  For weeks there were millions dotting the neighbor's field, then all of sudden, just when I had a spare moment to pick them, they were nearly gone.  I had the Friday before Memorial weekend off, and spent most of the day drawing birds (yeah, I'm wild and crazy like that, and yeah I'll tell you more about it later this week), revising poetry, and playing Amazing Stay-At-Home Mom, with two loaves of banana bread waiting hot out of the oven when the boys and two of their friends got off the bus.  In between all that, I managed to collect a smattering of wilted violets to make a very scaled-back recipe of violet jelly.


It tastes just about like you'd imagine a little lemon juice, a lot of sugar and some grainy pectin (because the recipe called for liquid pectin, but instead I tried to substitute granular) would taste like.  That is to say, quite tasty, and look at the pretty color.


In the meantime, I keep getting distracted by these:


(This one is, I believe, a lancet clubtail...note that my mildewey window frames are not distracting me all that much).  Whenever I step outside, I find my attention drawn by a dragonfly and I have to follow it around, sometimes with binoculars and sometimes (as with the specimen above) I am able to catch them in my bare hands (though not very often).  I have a net coming soon, and then all will be lost, because I'll be chasing dragonflies and damselflies all over, trying to get them to tell me their names (which is not easy).  I noticed when I was shopping for my net, that many (most?) people catch dragonflies in order to kill and mount them in a collection.  This had never occurred to me--I do not need more stuff to gather dust, and I do not understand the need to posses whatever we admire (though perhaps my desire to identify them is another form of the same need to posses).  Anyway, I'm obsessed.  I even dragged my family on a walk to the river on Saturday, which I almost never do between May and August because the bugs are too ferocious, in order to hunt down more of them.

Speaking of rivers, we've already gone on our fist open-water swim (not counting Z's dip into the ocean at Hermit Island).  On Memorial Day, we spent some time floating down the Sheepscot near a friend's house, then trekking back up through the woods to do it all over.  The kids were terrified at first of the current, then they couldn't get enough (despite the bugs that were intent on devouring us).

C spent most of Memorial Weekend mowing the lawn.  It was the first time anyone had mowed around here, because the ground was all covered with snow, then it rained for like a month, and then, all of a sudden, the grass was knee-high.  He had to scythe it first, then borrow his dad's power mower (we just have the reel kind).  He mowed areas that have never been mowed, or get cut once a year at best (because we have five acres, some woods, some open, we have no defined "yard" and the mowing is left to creativity).  Even though I'm, on principle, anti-lawn, I just walked all around it, barefoot, after it was done, marveling and tempted to take pictures (I resisted temptation, and alas there are no lawn pictures to share, and, alas alas, the lawn continues to grow and needs mowing again and now I remember why I hate lawn).

Finally, in a true prelude to summer, we attended our first fair, my favorite fair of all, the Fiber Frolic this past weekend.  We watched border collies round up sheep (and goats), petted bunnies, looked at all kinds of gorgeous yarn, said "hello" to llamas, made felt balls and ate yummy food.









I bought a weaving kit for the boys, because it's something I've been wanting to do with them, and I just haven't pulled off the "meat tray" version...maybe the actual peg loom will get me more inspired.  And I bought a drop-spindle kit for me, because goodness knows, I don't have enough hobbies that I don't have time for.

I hope your summer is off to a roaring start, and that you hang onto that lion's mane!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Catching Up

Apparently I took an unplanned bloggy break last week...oops.  Must have been recovering from the madness of Birthday Season, or something, because every night I opted for some other activity (e.g. baseball games, sleep, reading) rather than firing up ye olde laptoppe.  But here I am again (just as Blogger is doing maintenance and won't let me upload photos!!).

I love this post of Emma Bradshaw's about "glamping" (as in glamour + camping) in reference to my last post about luxury camping (her blog was the first place I ever saw or heard of anyone camping with real dishes).  The sleeping bag/quilt she links to is gorgeous (and apparently the "cotton kills" adage doesn't apply in England).  I do think I was negligent in my post about not mentioning camping luxuries my parents provided--we had a canvas tent, which my mom carpeted in thick furniture blankets and a corduroy quilt, custom-made to match the tent's footprint, and my dad made a big wooden box with lift-out silverware tray for all of the cooking essentials.  C and I covet The Box, though it would fill the entire way back of the Volvo.  They did not, however, make campfire fondu.  Mole-in-the-hole for breakfast and little balls of pancake batter deep-fried in bacon fat in the grease wells of our griddle was as gourmet as it got (sorry, Mom).

I'll be back tomorrow, if Blogger has finished its maintenance, with llamas, dragonflies, lilacs and more!  Hope you're all enjoying this most lovely June (wherever you are).
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