Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kite Flying

The boys all three got kites for their birthdays from C's brother and his girlfriend. E had been begging to take his out all week, but I kept putting him off. C finally took them out Sunday while I was gone and again Monday morning. I missed out seeing the sea turtle and tree frog fly and apparently M's trick kite turned out to be a little, er, tricky.

Later that day I went out with him and a different kite. First we tried a traditionally kite-shaped kite that he was given several years ago. I don't know if it was the gusty wind or the kite's shape or what, but all we could succeed in doing was getting it to swirl around in loop-de-loops and crash to the ground. I ran back to the house and got his old standby triangular kite (while there I changed the string to regular kite string from fishing-line type string, because ever since he learned that fishing line has lead in it, he calls it "lead string" and freaks out about touching it. I need to figure out if all nylon line has lead, or only some, poor kid!), and I also grabbed my old kite of a similar shape, also switching its string because a long time ago C hooked it up to a fishing reel and since then, I never use it because it's big and heavy and not being a fisher person, I find the cast and reel action not exactly intuitive.

We finally got M's kite in the air--the wind was pretty gusty, so it was difficult--and I got mine up for only a short flight...I needed a lot more string, or a lot lighter, steadier wind.

I seem to remember making kites out of newspaper when I was a kid. Did this really happen or am I confusing my life with an episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show? Someone please confirm for me--in the 70's, did we make kites with the Sunday funnies? If so, what did we use for sticks (stays? what are those called?) and tails? Did they actually fly? I guess I should ask my mother or sister if either of them remembers. I've seen kite paper for sale here, so I guess it's technically do-able (but does the paper come with instructions??)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Earth Scout Eggs

We resumed Earth Scouts again this past Monday after a couple of weeks' hiatus. I had taken our ES vests and foraging bags along on a Mothers' Day hike two weeks ago, with the plan of collecting leaves in homemade leaf presses, but finally figured out that when we're away from home, the kids are much happier running along the trail, doing what they want to do, and not being coaxed into any kind of guided activity. Point taken. I didn't even consider doing EarthScouts while we were camping--since we were outdoors in nature for nearly three days straight, we didn't really need additional encouragement.

I still needed to do some needling and wheedling to get everyone outside together on Monday--but we finally settled down on some old sheets with the goal of looking at and drawing birds. Being a sunny and breezy afternoon, there wasn't much bird activity going on, but we drew some out of our heads...and then I remembered the goose eggs. C's mother had blown* out two of them when she was there the previous day, and there was one left in the fridge.
I ran in to blow it out too, but succeeded in blowing it UP...oops...and instead found two last duck eggs in our fridge and blew those instead (we have a regular menagerie of eggs at our house). While we waited for the eggs to dry, I read An Egg is Quiet, which is a gorgeous book (I learned about the book here, and our library actually had it!), and then painted our eggs with watercolors.

Eventually the eggs were covered and when it became clear no more would emerge, the troops wandered off to Lego's, baseball and bikes, and I found these little wooden egg cups I had bought for Easter with the thought of decorating somehow, but never go around to it. I think they're perfect!

*While cleaning out my bathrooms recently, I ran across two nasal aspirators (a.k.a. snot suckers) from the children's infancy, and it turns out that, despite C's and his mother's skepticism, they are ideal egg-blowers (b.t.w., if you're grossed out by the thought of it, I either never or rarely used them to suck snot, if I did it was a long time ago and I washed it well, and I pretty much consider all baby bodily fluids--at least my own babies'--relatively innocuous)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sailing, Sailing

I went to Rockland Sunday to visit a dear, dear friend who is moving to Western Colorado next week. While I'm extremely happy for her, I'm feeling very sorry for myself. While there, we went on a spontaneous sail in Penobscot Bay on their sailboat.

When her husband went out to fetch the boat in my new canoe (small compensation for being abandoned on the East Coast), he found the tide extremely low and got bogged down a bit. While we waited for our captain to unbog himself, we found all of these big red crabs stranded on the boat launch. Most of them were already dead and/or devoured by seagulls, but this one was still kicking and I transported him (her?) back into the water. I've never even seen big crabs like this in real life (alive in situ), so it was kind of cool, but also disconcerting.

It was a gorgeous evening...the off-again-on-again showers all day had given way to blue blue sky and sunshine. It was only the second time I've been sailing in all (13??) the years I've lived in Maine. I must say, the company this time was much, much more enjoyable. We saw two porpoises and one seal waved its flipper at us.

After collecting some paperbacks and house plants and wresting with canoe straps, I made the long, lonely drive home. Good luck in Colorado JM!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

First Local Meal of the Season

Saturday C and I found ourselves miraculously home alone--the kids were all gone at their grandparents'--for part of the day, and while I spent most of the time cleaning my kitchen (even mopping the floor for the first time in eons), I did get a chance to cook up a luncheon for two made almost entirely of local ingredients.

Our neighbor who has a small farm dropped off a half-dozen goose eggs the other day. Apparently the bottom dropped out of his goose egg market and he was driving them around the neighborhood giving them away.

C picked our first harvest--a bunch of gorgeous Easter-egg radishes.

I sauteed the radishes in butter (unfortunately not home-made) and salt, steamed and sauteed the radish greens and scrambled the greens with the goose eggs and some chives, oregano and sage picked from the herb garden.

A nice white wine would have finished the meal off perfectly, but all we had was water (very local!) To tell the truth, the radishes gave me a touch of indigestion. I need to review the cooking technique before trying them again (we had some raw and some in fritatta the next day and neither bothered me). Oh, and yes, goose eggs taste just like chicken eggs (despite C's mom--who was there sharing our alone time--claiming they taste fishy and don't conform to her "kosher" diet.)
P.S. New post up at Capital Walks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Do you ever have one of those days when you seriously question your choices in life and start wishing you had applied for that Watson Fellowship, traveled the world and, finally, settled in the South of France to write novels?

I recently had this email exchange with an old friend of mine from college:

Her: Motherhood seems really tough, but I think that you seem to be doing an excellent job!

Me: You would not have thought so this a.m. Z didn't want to get dressed, so I packed up his clothes to take to daycare. I put on his jacket and socks and he put on one of his shoes before he noticed he still had pajamas on! He started crying and dressed himself in the mud room. Then we got to daycare, and E got mad because I unbuckled his seatbelt for him and he wanted to do it himself. So I said, "fine! Just stay in the car all day." Z and I started walking toward the daycare, when I looked back E looked all sad, so I went back and got him, and did that thing you see moms do, where I dragged him too fast by his arm and he fell on his knee. mornings are the worst!

Her: That sounds like a fabulous morning! I totally cracked up reading that. Our morning went like this- we woke up at 7 and had coffee on the deck and listened to the birds until it was time to get ready for work. on the deck listening to birds? Other than the fact that I don't drink coffee (but tea would be fine), and it's still usually too cold at 7 in the morning to sit on the deck, and if you did sit out there, the mosquitoes would devour you alive, it sounds pretty g-d fantastic.

I was daydreaming about a quiet deck morning again today, which started out like this:

6:30 a.m. Get out of bed to change and wash the pee-soaked sheets in the twins bed.
6:45 a.m. Throw one twin in the tub and wash dried poop crumbs off the floor (don't ask). Convince M to get dressed. Dress both twins (without incident), and clip one's nails.
7:00 Try to get self dressed while listening to tussle over breakfast downstairs. Go down to find E moaning over not enough cereal in bowl. Add more to his bowl and milk. Pour Z's cereal. E continues to cry, wail and otherwise carry on, "That not enough!" Take away his cereal and eat it myself.
7:15 Go upstairs to get socks and last-minute items. Hear further crying and breaking pottery. Go downstairs to find one of my polka-dot bowls shattered on the floor
7:25 Sweep up shards and get M out the door.
7:30 Put E (still crying), who is tearing the couch cushions apart and throwing them across the room, out on the front step and tell him he can come back in when he's ready to put the couch back together.
7:35 Get stuff together, let E (still crying) back in.
7:40 Give Z a banana. E puts couch back together and grabs cereal bag, scattering Mesa Sunrise flakes all over kitchen and mudroom.
7:50 Put cereal on plastic container and give him a banana.
7:55 Put his shoes on and send him outside. Drive to daycare.
8:00 Tell Z he can take the monster truck, the airplane and the batman into daycare, but not the two cars which are M's. Z starts crying and cries all the way up the stairs, into daycare and follows me back down the stairs still crying.
8:10 Drive to work daydreaming about drinking tea and listening to birds on the deck. In Maui.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birthday Week Wrap-Up

We survived Birthday Season yet again--two nights of camping, two nights of celebrations with relatives, two baseball games and one birthday party with buddies. By Friday afternoon, as we drove toward the pool, I realized we had had pizza every night all week (plus one night camping...more on that below) and there was NO WAY I was going to stop for our usual Al's Pizzas on the way home, which made for three VERY disappointed boys when we went home and made spaghetti instead (leftover ice cream acted as a balm to their psychic wounds).

Camping was GREAT. The weather wasn't quite as cooperative as last year (what can you expect in May in Maine?), and we did get pretty wet Saturday night/Sunday, but we all had a good time playing on the beach, mining for garnets (that would be M), and hiking.

We had the infamous grilled pizza again. This time I made it with my usual Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day variation (half wheat/half white), instead of the dough I used last year out of an old issue of Martha Stewart Living. I think the gluten doesn't develop well enough with the no-knead version, and the pizzas did not hold up well to being placed on a grill, but they were tasty anyway. Next time I'll go back to Martha's version.

I freezer-paper-stenciled these shirts for all the little people (very late Thursday night b/c the shirts didn't arrive until Thursday!)

Arctic tern, cormorant, crab, laughing gull, sand piper, hermit crab and sea star. I was going for animals we might see while we were there, but as it turns out not a lot of tide pool critters look like much in silhouette, so I threw in the sea star.

The only minor disaster was M's cake got totally soaked in the bottom of the cooler, but he was OK with that, since he was getting cake again on his actual birthday. Even in the rain Sunday morning everyone seemed to have a good time (other than E who sat in the car while we loaded our soggy gear in saying, "Next time I not want it to rain." But even he got out of the car and came down to the beach, wishing the waves good-bye until all were drenched and shivery.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Milestones Part 3--Baseball

M had his first (and second) baseball game this week. We somehow managed to avoid T-ball the last two years, but this year he really wanted to play, and so now he's a member of the Whitefield Farm League team.

Now everyone always gives soccer mom's a hard time for being too wrapped up in their kids' sports, but soccer was easy--six weeks, one practice a week (by the end of the season it was too dark to practice anyway), one game on Saturday, one hour long (at least one got rained out). The kids run around after the ball for an hour, not always in the right direction, get tired, go home. Done. Most parents don't know much about soccer, so they don't have a lot to say (except one notable game at which one dad alternated side-line coaching his kid and saying to those around him, "I don't know anything about soccer.")

Baseball is a whole 'nother ball game (ha!). First, we started way back in March (in the gym because there were still two feet of snow on the ground). And practices were an hour and a half long (you could see the coaches checking the clock every five minutes). And they kept getting cancelled because of other events being held in the gym (raising the ire of some...causing great releif in others, i.e. me). And lots of politics...people constantly chattering about how much it cost and why it cost so much (rumor has it it's because the commissioner's daughter's team got their names on the backs of their jerseys, gasp!), why aren't there hats, why wasn't my kid put on minor league instead of farm league. And on. And on. And on. Now we have two games a week, 5:30 warmup, with games from 6 to 7:30 or 8 p.m.

At Tuesday night's game, there was pretty steady chatter behind me complaining that the kids got four pitches (instead of three strikes), that every kid was played through (instead of three outs), and that every kid was on the field (instead of the standard, what, nine?). It really interrupted my reading (actually I did watch the whole game--and not just because I thought the other parents would judge me because I was reading--but also because I was actually interested in watching the kids play--especially mine of course--and how they progressed in just one game).

The good things about it are: a. The coach is great (he's M's best buddy's step dad, and really good with kids and totally not into threatening/shaming kids or cutthroat competition...he's helping them learn skills and have fun...which in my opinion is what it's all about); and b. the kids all seem to have a great time. M is in heaven. And although he claimed he didn't like being catcher, he did great--even stopping balls by the end, throwing them to the pitcher, putting his own protective gear on after every inning. I'm sure it was tiring, but he seemed pretty proud standing out there in his protective shell.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Milestones Part 2--Boosters

Saturday I washed all of our carseat covers and carseats in preparation of moving E and Z into boosters. I cheated and did it a week early because: a) I never know if it's four years and forty pound, or four years or forty pounds; b) I had the time; c) I wanted to get one carseat cleaned up and ready to hand off to a friend. Also, I was sick of the buckles (C switched to boosters several months ago for this reason...but he rarely drives more than a mile with the kids). M, now eight (but nowhere near 80 lbs.) sits in the middle with a lap belt...because we have an old car with no center shoulder belt. Not the ideal situation, but one we have to live with for now.

As I was hosing off carseat bases (OK, so I've never had maggots in my carseats like a certain Hausfrau, but there was some serious nasty gunk under those seats!), I was inventorying in my mind the number of carseats we've been through--truly staggering:

1. Infant bucket seat for M (hand-me-down from a co-worker); outgrown in 3 months (thank god because my elbow was killing me!). Handed down to a friend b/c it would expire b/f I wanted more kids.

2. Cosco Alpha-Omega for M to replace the baby bucket (supposed to go from infant through booster). Currently used as a booster for one twin in C's car.

3. Baby bucket for twin purchased at consignment store for $10, because it looked like the narrowest one there (coming home from the hospital realized the base didn't work and C ordered a new one, with express shipping that cost more than a new carseat would have! Outgrown in 3-4 months; handed on to a friend.

4. Baby bucket for other twin borrowed from a friend and returned after 3-4 months.

5. Cosco Alpha-Omega just like M's only with brown cover instead of black handed down from a neighbor when C realized the baby bucket wouldn't work and called everyone he knew with kids to find a replacement. Handed on to a friend.

6. Graco toddler carseat/booster purchased for M to fit in my old narrow car (Volvo 240 wagon) with two baby buckets. Currently used as a booster in my car.

7. Another Graco toddler carseat/booster purchased for some reason (??). Currently used as booster in my car.

8. Old grey carseat handed on from a friend. Used in C's car for one of the twins when the buckle got lost out of one of the Graco's, until the twins outgrew it (that's when they moved to boosters in his car). On its way to the yard sale.

9. Another carseat/booster similar to the Coscos handed on from a friend. Currently a booster in C's car.

10. A butt booster purchased for M when I got tired of trying to squeeze my hand between two carseats to buckle him. Currently in the way back of my car in case anyone needs to ride in the front or M goes in someone else's car with a shoulder belt.

11. Another butt booster purchased for C's dad's car so he could take M places. Currently in C's dad's car.

12. Another butt booster purchased by C for his car when E and Z took over M's full-body boosters. Currently M's booster in (the front seat of) C's car (because he drives my old 240 which is too narrow for three kids!)
Whew! Three kids--twelve carseats! Crazy. It would have been much more sane to live in a bike-friendly town and get one of these, don't you think?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Milestones Part 1--Birthdays & Bikes

Big things are happening around here these days. Birthdays, of course--E and Z turn four on Sunday and M turns eight on Wednesday. This will be the first time all of my kids will be over four years old, which for some reason feels like a big deal to me. I may be able to get some things done around the house and yard for the first time in eight years. It also makes me a little nostalgic for the baby years...

After buying bike helmets for E & Z a couple of weeks ago, I decided to not hold them for the birthdays, but get them out to enjoy during the beautiful late April weather we had. In the basement we found three little bikes (M's old bike and hand-me-downs from two friends) and three training wheels (not three pairs, but three wheels)...which makes for only one bike. It turned out that this worked out rather well, because there's no way I would be able to push two kids up the hills and keep two kids from careening down the hills and un-stick two kids when they hit ruts where their training wheels are on the ground, but their rear tire just spins and spins. Instead they took turns, one riding to the road, the other riding back.

Someone who had older twins once told me that the "twin-ness" doesn't matter any more once the baby years are over, but I don't think this is true. It matters when you're learning to ride a bike, and there's only one bike or one parent. It will matter when they start school and we have to decide if they'll be in the same classroom or not, or when they get invited to different parties, or when one excels at something and the other doesn't. I think twin-ness will always be an amazing gift as well as a challenge for them and for us. They still refer to themselves in the first-person-plural much of the time. "After we sleep it will be our birthday?" "When we were babies we did..." I wonder if this is a natural part of the individuation process, or if I haven't done a good enough job treating them as individuals...

After a couple of days on our own driveway, I took them to the neighbor's house, who have a smooth, fairly level paved driveway, bordered by mowed fields (i.e. breezy and less buggy!) and beautiful gardens (I call it our park). When M was learning to ride a bike, C and I had a running debate about which driveway was better to learn on--our rocky, bumpy, hilly dirt driveway, or the neighbors' smooth paved one. He thought it would hurt more to fall on pavement, while I thought he would be less likely to fall on pavement. I still prefer the neighbors' driveway.

E is much more into the bike than Z, and more daring about going down hill than Z, who, now that he has finally figured out the pedal brakes, rides them down the slightest incline. It's funny, because many people who only slightly know the twins always say, "Z is the daring one." "Z's the one who always jumps right into the action." Actually, although they are both energetic and physical, neither of them jumps right into the action--they'd both rather curl up on my lap and hide their faces in strange situations and around strange people. But, in general (not always), E is much more likely to climb up on the dentist's chair, or hair cutter's chair, or try the new bike than Z. But possibly because Z is bigger (and maybe because he was born first, although I'm not sure if this is general knowledge), he is pegged as the "outgoing" one. Another "twin" thing--each of them always has to be considered (by other people) as a "type." The shy one. The active one. The naughty one. The loud one. I don't remember my singleton kid being typecast in quite this way.

P.S. New post up at Capital Walks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Speaking of Birthdays...

I made this cape for a little friend's birthday a few weeks ago:

(The reverse side is purple batik, because the fabric store I was at doesn't have much selection of solid colors and I didn't feel like driving an hour to save two dollars--but I didn't want to give up my vision, which for some reason was green and purple!)

It only occurred to me as I drove to the party that twins are technically two separate kids and that maybe they should give two separate gifts...damn!

The cape pattern is from the tutorial over at Puking Pastilles, which is GREAT. It's become my go-to gift for the younger kids, and I've made enough of them that it only takes about an hour. The hardest part is measuring the strappy part at the neck (and worrying that it won't work--but it does!). This time, I just traced one of the twins' capes with chalk right onto the fabric. Easy-peasy. Usually, I just make a big block letter for the child's initial, but since this little boy's name starts with S, I had to do the Superman symbol...which was a bit more of a pain in the butt than just a block letter (possibly because I'm too cheap/lazy to use fusible webbing to hold it all together while I sew). Now that E and Z have seen the Superman and Batman templates they of course both want Superman and Batman capes (the original cape design is for a reversible cape with Superman on one side and Batman on the other, but I just pick fun bright colors and the child's initial. Z calls it his Zonk-man cape). Maybe that will be our Halloween costume plan--Superman and Batman capes combined with a couple of freezer paper stenciled sweatshirts (please stop me from discussing, mentioning or even thinking about Halloween in May!)

For big kids' parties (to which we seem to get invited about three days beforehand), I have a big stack of these awesome blank comic books. Throw a few of those in a box or bag with some colored markers and/or a cool pen, and you've got a quick, easy, inexpensive and creative/unique gift. Sometimes, when we have time and energy, I'll have M write and illustrate a personalized comic book for the friend, which is fun. Not that I want to be a cheap-skate, but come-on, enough with the gift-giving arms race. I'm tired of feeling like I have to get something nicer/more expensive than the gift given to me/my child. I want to slow things down. Simplify. And minimize the crap-ola. If that makes me a cheapskate, so be it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lazy Mother's Day Cards

It just occurred to me yesterday that Mother's Day is coming up (OK, I knew it was coming, but I was in denial about my having to actually DO anything about it) and that I should get some cards for the various mother/stepmother/grandmother characters in our lives (there are a lot). I had to go to the health food store after work anyway, so I looked around for some cards there (none), and the card/gift shop on the way home has gone out of business (dang), so I was going to put the whole process off for another day when it struck like a bolt of lightening--my kids could MAKE cards!!

We haven't been doing much creative around our house lately...despite my big plans for this to be the year of Spontaneous Creativity. Maybe it's because the weather has been nicer and we've been outside more. Maybe it's because I'm so freakin' obsessed with organizing my house, I ignore my children and all else (including regular's one of those conundrums in life that organizing your house actually makes it messier...or maybe that's just me!).

I thought briefly about getting out crayons or paints after dinner, when I remembered we had all these little water color paintings the boys have made over the winter. I usually cut the water color paper in halves, quarters or even eighths to make it go further (that stuff's expensive!). Also, the littler ones seem to do better with the smaller paper...they focus right in and are careful with their painting, rather than making Rorschach blots (we made "butterflies" like this once, and now they always want to fold their paintings in half.

M wrote the messages inside a half sheet of card stock, folded in half. E and Z made some vaguely "E" and "Z" shaped squiggles. Then we glued the watercolors to fronts and voila! Mother's Day Cards.

(That would be two grandmas, three great-grandmas and one step-grandma, with two extra held in reserve for Father's Day).

On another note, I'm taking a poll: What is the appropriate age for a first pocket knife?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bird and Beaver Watching

Our Earth Scouts this mission this weekend (from I Love Dirt), was bird-watching. We headed out after much coaxing and complaining Sunday morning--I often wonder if I'm going to have the opposite effect on my kids and they'll turn out hating nature and the outdoors because I dragged them away from the things they really wanted to do (i.e. Lego's) every week--with binoculars in hand. The book suggested a scavenger hunt for birds--look for a brown bird, look for a colorful bird, look for a singing bird, etc.--but that seemed too complicated, so instead we just went out and looked/listened for birds.

When we heard or saw one, I tried to avoid being the annoying know-it-all mom, and instead of telling them what the bird was called, tried to get them to describe it: what color is it? what is it doing? what does its song/call sound like?

We made our way across the neighbor's field and checked out some pussy toes blooming in the grass.

We headed into the woods and down to the river where we found lots of signs of beaver activity...

and M did some exploring downstream.

We followed the stream bank upstream toward our property, checking out the beaver dam and lodge along the way.

I had never explored this part of the river before and it was pretty cool to get so close to a beaver lodge. I love how we went out to look for birds and ended up finding beavers (or at least their house and their nibbled branches).
The walk through the woods to the field was a little pucker-brushy, and E got very put-out by the black flies and the raspberry bushes in his face, so that I ended up giving him a piggy-back ride. Otherwise they seemed to have a lot of fun, until we got home and Z said, "Next time let's just stay home." Oh dear.
P.S. New post up at Capital Walks today!
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