Category Archives: Life/Kids

My, that’s a lovely PURPLE rooster you have there…

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First off, let me say WELCOME to those of you who are visiting for the first time today- I am so excited to welcome some new “followers” to the blog! I promise to try and keep it interesting for you 🙂

Isn’t he a “beaut”? That’s Alastor our (now purple) silkie rooster.  He had quite a run in with Molly, our biggest Buff Orpington hen last week, and frankly I think he’s lucky to be still be crowing.  She’s a bit of a beasty.   When I found him he was bleeding pretty badly from his head and comb, so my husband quickly grabbed some Blu Kote spray and well…now we have a purple rooster.  I’m wondering how long this color will last?  I’ve read that some chicken keepers use a substance called pine tar on injured birds, but I haven’t seen where to buy that yet or know much about it.  From what I have read though, the important thing is to cover the location of injury so that the red blood is not visible to the other chickens in the flock to prevent them from pecking at the injury.  We saw that happen the first time Alastor tangled with Molly shortly after his arrival this fall.  My youngest daughter and I headed out the coop to feed them some salad scraps and found him a with a bleeding gash and the hens all going right after that spot.  I had read about it, but was rather shocked to see how brutal they really were about it!  My 4-year-old was unruffled by it though.  She remembered what I had said about chickens turning cannibal (yes, OF COURSE the kids would remember THAT part about chickens!!!) and started shouting at the hens “DON’T EAT MY DADDY’S CHICKEN YOU CRAZY CHICKENS!!!!!”  She was a big help actually with getting him separated from the hens so we could treat him with blue coat and get everything settled down out there.  Quite a lesson.

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The last couple of days we’ve had a nice break from all the snow, so were able to get in and clear out their pen area and get them all outside during the days, which I think has helped the situation a lot.  They seem to be calmer and hassling each other a lot less.  I think we’ll all be really happy when spring finally comes this year!

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Valentine’s Crafts

Like anyone else with kids, our house is pretty much littered in holiday crafts. I spent the morning cleaning, and looking for a bare spot of wall or surface that didn’t seem to have some sort of Valentine item- cards and treats the kids are making for classmates, 876 pictures of hearts they drew this week for their dad and me, garlands of hearts we made with scrapbook paper, and glitter on everything- the typical scene. 🙂
It’s not that I am a particular fan of the day (ssssh, don’t tell my husband), but I will admit it’s a holiday that at least works well with the color scheme of our house- lots of red!!! I never used to decorate for holidays much before having the girls, and really try not to spend too much money on things like holiday decorations. Christmas and fall are so easy because nature works wonders in providing perfect holiday “decor” to use, but Valentine’s Day is a bit trickier.

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I decided to make a table runner because…well, I didn’t have one. This one took 5 blocks of felt for the length, plus extra for the hearts. Super simple and cheap- which is how I like my crafts. Felt, embroidery floss, spare buttons.

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I used a simple whip stitch to sew the blocks together and to attach the cut out felt hearts to the blocks. Add some buttons, and voila- cute, cheap, useful Valentine’s decor!
What is your favorite way to decorate for Valentine’s Day?

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So now I have to figure out how to cut some free hand shamrocks out for St. Party’s day……


Old traditions, new traditions

Happy New Year!

Looking back this morning on 2012, it was a year of learning- my youngest started her journey into the educational system, my oldest started tackling lessons in piano, and as a family we delved into the practice of raising our own chickens. All in all, a pretty good year.

We are starting out this new year with a couple new traditions- one of which is really a pretty old one. For Christmas this year, my sister-in-law expressed her and her husband’s wish to help start “hope chests” for our girls and their other nieces/nephews. We embraced the idea and looked forward to their first gifts – a set of steel cookie cutters for each! I love the idea of starting a box for each child to store useful and classic items that they can take with them when ready to start on their own, as families used to do.

After a little thought I realized that we already have wooden trunks that will be perfect to give as their hope chests- each previously belonging to their grandmother and great aunt. My husband and I are planning to also add something for each in the coming years, along with the gifts from their aunt and uncle. Amongst the piles of toys and fluff the kids opened, I loved the fact that one of those items is meant to last into their futures, and bring with them memories of the people who gave them. How fun it will be for them years from now as they make cookies with their own children and perhaps tell a few tales of the special aunt and uncle that gave them the cookie cutters!

Another new tradition was begun today with the gift of a “Blessings Jar” meant to encourage our family to stop and make note of the special moments in life that happen so often and are quickly forgotten. We will record these moments and place them in the jar, to be opened and read through next New Years Eve! I started it off with a note of thanks for the thoughtful friends who created this for us.

I wish you a very happy new year, filled with new traditions and blessings of your own.

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homemade laundry soap

I seriously can’t believe that I forgot to post about this earlier, and i realize there are a thousand other posts on the web with pretty much the same recipe for making laundry soap. I didn’t invent it but I sure the heck am glad that I found out about it! After making her own batch first, my sister in law convinced me to try this out during an exchange of emails bemoaning the amount of plastic we use in our homes and trying to find ways to cut down on our use of the stuff. I pointed out that the biggest plastic source in my home has always been laundry soap- usually a bottle a week. If you’ve ever met my kids, you understand the amount of laundry I do each week. So anyways, she suggested I try making my own in a huge batch to cut down on the plastic. Then when I figured out the cost of a batch versus what I spent on detergent each week I was totally sold on the idea. It’s been eight weeks now and we still haven’t finished the first batch- and we average 3 loads of wash per day. The supplies cost $10 (the 5 gallon Home Depot bucket was gifted to me by my kind sister in law, otherwise there would have been an additional one time purchase for that).

So the recipe for homemade laundry soap happiness:
1 cup 20 mule team borax
1 cup Arm and Hammer washing soda
1 bar Fels Naphtha soap
1 five gallon bucket
Hot water

In the bucket stir one cup borax and one cup washing soda.
Grate up 1 bar of soap (I snagged an old metal grater from my parents basement and have designated it for this particular job.
In a saucepan stir grated soap in 2-3 cups hot water until it melts.
Pour the melted soap liquid into the bucket with the powder mix.
Now fill the bucket with about 3 gallons hot water (about 3/4 full) and stir stir stir. Then stir some more.

Put the lid on the bucket and set aside for 24 hours.
When we opened it we found that it had solidified into a gelatinous blob, but that’s just fine. I pour about 16 oz into a large glass jar that has a screw on lid and add hot water to fill it, add the lid, and shake it well. We use about 3/4 cups per load – sometimes more depending on how dirty the stuff is. How well does it work? Well, we are 8 weeks in and still using it. The clothes smell fresh and clean and seem to be free of dirt. I have tried it on a few heavily soiled items and had to then treat them again with stain remover to get them fully clean- but honestly not many detergents will get extreme dark chocolate ice cream out of my girls clothes on the first try anyway.

We are sold on the stuff and I am already happily counting the savings we are racking up, not to mention all the plastic jugs we are no longer buying.

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Growing memories

What’s the best birthday gift you got as a kid? Do you even remember the gifts? I am trying to recall them for myself: lots of barbie dolls and books and cassette tapes (heh-heh, remember those?).
We celebrated our youngest daughter’s 4th birthday this weekend- a time to really hit “pause” and note how truly blessed we are with these amazing little girls. I often think that one of the hardest things to do as a parent is to just stop and really BE here with them – relishing the little moments of each day with the kids and creating memories that will last. Most weeks are just a blur of activity, with the hope that somewhere in there we are managing to teach them some valuable lessons about what’s important in life and how to do things for themselves.

Which brings me back to the birthday gift. Amongst the many sweet and adorable gifts generously given to my daughter, there was one unique and brilliantly simple one: a tree.

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Now I can’t really expect a 4 year old to grasp a tree as the most fun and exciting of all the gifts- but I applaud the givers for succeeding in a gift that will be memorable for sure. In time, we will see it as one that creates memories- as she plays in its shade, climbs its branches, reads her books under it. A gift that will grow as she grows. What a great idea!

Her Aunt wanted to give a gift that would model the importance of sustainability, which is a value we all work hard to instill in these kids- hoping to make it a natural part of their lifestyle as they grow.

We helped her choose a place in the yard for “her” tree, and she danced in the rain as we planted it. I snapped a picture of her next to it- it’s pretty much the same height as she is now- and we made a plan to take a birthday picture each year next to her tree. Creating memories, capturing moments in childhood. I am in love with this gift idea, and wish I would have thought if it years ago- and am thankful to have family as thoughtful as this in my kids lives.

The best part, I think, is that our 8 year old is actually kinda jealous of the tree, and asked for one of her own so she could watch one grow with her. “Plus,” she informed me “trees are really good for us.”

I think just maybe some of the lessons are working.


Making the best of the weather

Somehow, somewhere, winter got lost on its way here this year.  Normally by early February we are fairly buried in snow, frozen and cold.  Snow-days are declared and I wait impatiently for the plow-guy to arrive and create a path for me to get through to the icy roads and head to work.  Not this year.  This week  I spotted daffodils sprouting along the sidewalk at the office.  The kids are bemoaning the injustice of nature at having been deprived their winter sledding and snow play.  It’s jarring to look out the window at the sunshine and green lawns, and suddenly realize that it’s February- not April.  Instead of heading out to the annual ice-castle festival this year to visit the awesome structure built from ice blocks carved from Chautauqua Lake and enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the snowy park this weekend (no ice= no festival), the kids played in the woods and built a fort.  Not bad for a weekend’s worth of work when you are 8.  They started with the important part- a log couch and coffee table….

The chickens at my folks’ farm were certainly not complaining as they roamed around enjoying the sunshine, grass, and mud everywhere. 

I’m just going to pretend it’s winter out there and bake up some warm, fresh bread.


Remembering

It’s the same thing that’s on everyone else’s mind today… 10 years since that day. I couldn’t make it through the first 5 minutes of news program, internet coverage and facebook updates before the tears started.  I cried openly in public during the 9/11 video montage at church.  I am one of the lucky ones who didn’t lose someone close that day, but the sense of helplessness and loss for those who did is still fresh. In 10 years, I’ve become a mother and that’s where my thoughts turn today- to all the mother’s who suffered so very much loss that day.. and in the years since.  The kids aren’t really old enough yet to start asking about it- What happened? Why?  I looked at them today and realized I still can’t explain it…it was insanity and cruelty that I still can’t wrap my mind around.  But also, it was heroism– the amazing actions that people will take to help others…that’s what I’m thinking about this evening.  We’ve seen the ugliest part of humanity, and we’ve seen it trumped by the goodness in people, the willingness to give all that they have to help another and to stand for the freedom of all. There is goodness here in this world, and we’ve all got to hold on to that and make our choices each day to honor that goodness, to make it worth doing…


My Hero, Daffy Duck.

I was feeling pretty brave, you see… so brave in fact that I finally agreed to let my kids have a big sleepover with their 3 cousins at our house. No big deal, right.  People do this all the time.  My own grandmother had 6 of her own, how hard could this really be?  Heh heh heh…

So…armed with a minivan that will fit 5 kids and a “by the way” warning that a couple of them occasionally get car-sick, we started off with the 45 minute drive back to our house.  It was: too hot, too cold, the music is too loud, are we there yet?, we can’t hear the music, we want ROCK and ROLL!!!!!!!, Puff the Magic Dragon, No No No- ROCK and ROLL MOMMMY!!!!!!!  I blast them with some jazzy swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers- they cover their ears and scream, so I play it just a wee bit louder.  We’re off to a good start.  Are we there YET?  I just keep praying no one gets car-sick.

Here at home, all is well.  The cousins don’t visit very often, so they are pretty excited to check out all the toys, etc.  I’m a little worried because there is one little nephew in the mix, and well… we don’t have little boy stuff… but he seems pretty happy with the massive pile of my daughters’ dinosaur toys. (That’s probably weird that I don’t consider my girls’ dinosaur fascinations to be a boy-thing.)

So with a brief reminder that “Please, we don’t jump off the furniture, okay…” they are ready to go. I remind myself that I’m taking some vacation days next week, and will have time to re-organize and re-clean their bedrooms which I have spent most of my free time this summer organizing and cleaning… it’s all good…

Time to make dinner. This terrifies me.  Really, it’s been the thing I’ve dreaded the most about “The Sleepover” because dinner is not a pleasant occurence in this house.  My kids, normally peaceful, loving, kind and respectful children, become riotous anarchists at the dinner table.  Only at dinner.  Breakfast rocks.  Lunch is easy-peasy.  Dinner is the enemy (but the angst of dinner is really fodder for another post).  I’ve spent the week polling co-workers, grandparents, and my in-laws for dinner ideas.  The result: chicken nuggets, tater tots and corn on the cob… not exactly my idea of health and nutrition … and yet: dinner paradise.  I stand in awe as they all just eat, and eat. No complaints. No throwing food. No crying (Really?!?!? NO CRYING?!?!?). No deliberately spilling glasses of milk, or “accidentally” dropping dinner plates on the floor. I can’t believe my eyes, and I only have to tell my youngest to get back in her chair 3 times… wow.

A few more “please don’t jump off the furnitures” and the evening moves along with the  consistment rumble of a herd of elephants crossing the grasslands, leading the dog to have his longest fit of spastic barking to date. Finally, only a few hours past bedtime, they sleep.

And then they are up and having a screaming pillow fight by 6 a.m. I’ve been laying awake waiting for this.  Coffee. My husband leaves for work. Armed with more coffee, I gently repeat the “please don’t jump off the furniture” request a few more times, but realize they can’t even hear me.  I can’t even hear me.  Breakfast, this should help- until I realize that hubby (the one that just snuck out the door) bought 3 boxes of the most sugar-filled kids cereals he could find. Thanks, dear.

Enter Loony Tunes to the rescue.  It’s amazing to watch as Daffy Duck appears on the screen and they all stop moving.  The pillows drop to the floor. No one is screaming, tickling, jumping, bowling, tackling, or even talking.  Wow! Daffy Duck, huh? Hardly a peep out of them, this is amazing stuff! The classics to the rescue.

One last cup of coffee and we’re off … day 2 of The Sleepover continues.  I’m glad to know I’ve got Mr. Daffy Duck in my back pocket now…just in case!


Like a rock

Wanting to share a memory from childhood with my own children, I took them to spend  the hot hours of the afternoon walking the cool, shady trails running through “Rock City,” an expansive area of quartz conglomerate (also know as pudding stone) that was formed about 320 million years ago during the “Pennsylvanian Period.”  It is truly a sight to behold considering the enormity of the time and natural energy that went in to creating it.

Showing these amazing examples of our earth’s natural history to the kids make me admit with chagrin that I really should have paid a wee bit more attention to my college geology class in order to have better explanations for them to what created these enormous crevices and joints, instead of having to read it off of the tour guide map.  My dear friend, now a geology professor herself, will love reading me finally admit to this.

Still as impressive as it was when I visited here as a kid is Balancing Rock, a 1000 ton boulder resting in balance upon another large rock.  The rocks are cool to the touch despite the heat of the day, and covered in soft mosses and lichen.  You are surrounded by the peaceful sense that there truly are things in this world bigger than you, and that they were here before and they’ll be here after you, and they’ll never care that you didn’t finish that report at work yesterday or that the lawn is overdue for a mowing.  We are tiny in our existence, and yet we make so much noise about it.

The “Indian Stairs,” called that because it is believed they were built by the native Seneca tribe of the area in order to reach the lookout points that lie at the top of these rock formations, where the view goes on for miles and miles.  I had to giggle listening to the kids panting and breathlessly complaining that they would never be able to make it to the top…yeah, I remember thinking that too.

Of course, the kids walked the path too fast and chattered excitedly about heading back to the swimming pool and video games, but at least, for a few moments one afternoon I got them to open their eyes to some of the pretty amazing sights that surround us when you walk outside.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.


Become what you are

I don’t know exactly how this happened, can’t name the precise moment my reality shifted, but I find there is a truth that I can no longer deny.  I am a soccer mom.

It happened in small, seemingly harmless, steps.  1st there was a wedding… years later some kids… years later kids start playing soccer..and then this spring came the minivan.  Tonight, I stand here on the sidelines of the soccer field, and realize that…GULP… I have joined the ranks of the soccer moms.  Is it official?  Is there some sort of secret handshake? Do I get a bumper sticker?  The weird thing is, I don’t FEEL any different.

There was a time  in the long distant past (early 90’s) when my manic panic pink-haired, tattoo sporting, grunge music loving self would have fallen on the floor in fits of utter hysteria at this idea- and yet, here I stand- at the soccer field.  How did this happen? I suspect I cannot possibly be the only one pondering this question, but as I look around I don’t see any other faces sporting my same dazed and confused look.

I feel like yelling “Hey, don’t judge me! I loved Reservoir Dogs and yes, that’s the Pixies you hear playing in my car! I’m still cool, really! Honestly!” but I don’t think that would help my case…. because in fact, I am a mom of a soccer player in a minivan. The facts, as they say, are indisputable.

So, I look at it this way:  either try to hide from it, maybe trade vehicles with my husband and schlep the kids around in his car (balancing all the gear precariously on their heads to fit it all in) … or, embrace it. Take them and all their gear to the games with room to spare, cheer them on from the sidelines, and hell, maybe even get one of those goofy stick-family window stickers for the minivan (“vehicular Facebook” I recently saw a friend of mine term them)…

Life is short. I guess I’ll go with “embrace it” and get on with the day.  Just please don’t tell my former self, she would just die of embarrassment.


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