Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ahoy, lucy...

like any mother, i see a little bit of myself in each of my children.
patrick has my analytical, serious nature.
chloe and i both avoid confrontation and like to keep the peace.
tucker likes things a certain way and is willing to fight to see it done that way (hmm... does that sound like me?)
when it comes to lucy, i have to dig a bit deeper.

having to search for similarities between me and my 3rd child speaks more highly of her character than it does of mine, let me assure you.  i think the reason we seem so different is because that girl is just plain fun.  for real.  in some ways, it's embarrassing to admit that i'm not... but, like i've mentioned before, i know what i am, and i know what i'm not.  i can have fun, but i don't see myself as fun.  on the other hand, if i had to identify the word in a person, i'd choose her.  sometimes it's annoying to a person with my - ahem - tendencies.  but, usually, it's just entertaining.

her latest pursuits had me lurking outside with my camera...

she's got this things for pirates.
i don't know why.  she hasn't watched any pirate movies lately.  or read any pirate books.  she used to have a thing for peter pan and, now that i think of it, recently asked me if she could watch it again.  
but i have no idea what would possess her to hang this particular work of personal artistic expression on her door (complete with phonetic caption):

 or make this hat and flag (which, incidentally, she named "jolly roger"):

and then recruit her brother to commandeer the back yard castle:

i love that she feels no obligation to be a certain way or play with certain people.  she has mentioned everyone in her class as a "best friend."  and she really means it.  i'm amazed at her ability to see the good, fun side of everyone... even the people some of us (ahem) might find annoying.  i pray that she keeps that quality - that ability to unconditionally love anyone in her path.  

i mean, really... who doesn't love lucy?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday's Tip

i enjoyed hearing about all of you washing your strawberries.  my apologies to those of you i grossed out.  i still hold to the fact that the public deserves to be educated.  still, we've all been eating dirty strawberries all along, and if you've determined that strawberry dirt will factor into your pre-determined amount of dirt consumption, have at it.  feel free to walk on the wild side.

this week's tip takes me back to my love of recycling odd items around the house.  

how many of you still have these lying around?

if you don't have kids, you may not recognize them.  but anyone who's had a teething baby knows what they are.  these rubbery water filled toys are meant to be frozen (or kept cold) and then given to a pitiful teething tot with sore gums.  my kids used them.  they served us well.

the tip is that they still serve us well.  i still keep these little guys in the freezer because they are the perfect ice pack when someone bangs a lip, bumps their head, or bruises a shin.  i love them because they have handles, they don't make a mess as they melt, and they are reusable!!  i just throw them in the dishwasher and then back in the freezer for the next inevitable catastrophe.  

patrick just used one this morning on his puffy eye.  no injury - just woke up with a puffy, allergy-irritated eye.  thank you, baby teether thingy.

ironically, we use these nifty gadgets more now than we did when our kids were teething.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the evolution of mama pig

it's been a while since i've talked about the kids.  it's not for lack of material - they give me plenty to work with.

lately, i've especially been noticing growth in chloe.  it's funny,...  she's only 7, but sometimes it feels like she's lived and changed a lifetime.  i guess that's what makes childhood so amazing.

chloe has never liked an audience.  maybe that's not true.  she's never liked an audience if she feels like they are being amused or entertained by her.  that feels like the same thing, but it's not.  she has always been very aware of what people think about her.  very aware.  she once overheard our pastor laughing with someone and interrupted to ask him if he was laughing at her.  she was only 3.  similarly, she's never been a big fan of us sharing stories about her with other people.  and i'm not talking about bad stuff; i mean the cute things.  she just gets embarrassed really easily.

chloe is not shy.  she loves being around people.  one of her favorite parts of kindergarten was enjoying all the playground drama.  (if you only have boys, you may be unfamiliar with this term.  trust me. it's very real.)  but still, she thinks a lot about what others are thinking.  i can remember being amazed at how self-conscious she was at 2 1/2 yrs old when she had her notorious mixer incident which left her partially scalped and quite traumatized (i don't even have a blog entry to refer you back to.  it was that long ago)  despite all the pain, she was most horrified at what people would think of her bald spot.  at 2 years old!

you can imagine how surprised i was when 2 Christmases ago, she decided she wanted to play the part of Snoopy in our Jr. Church version of the Charlie Brown Christmas play.  she told me it was because she wouldn't have any lines, but Snoopy clearly stood out - having to bark and wear a dog costume.  she loved it, though, and totally played it up.

as her first grade year has progressed, chloe has really grown.  although she loves all the interaction with her friends, she doesn't seem quite as consumed with doing everything just like them.  (she recently told me she didn't want to wear her hair in a side ponytail because that's what all the girls in her class do.  i was both impressed and grateful...)  so i wasn't totally shocked when, several weeks ago, she made this announcement:  I'm going to be Mama Pig.

every year, the first grade does a musical production of the three little pigs called The Three Piggy Opera.  since patrick was our first 1st grader, we were unaware of this special event until he came home last year and told us he had earned the part of the Big, Bad Wolf.  anyone who knows patrick knows how ironic and comical that assignment is, but that's a whole other post.  he did a great job, singing the part of the wolf, and we enjoyed the show.  the entire 1st grade participates, but there are about 8 main parts that tell the story while the rest of the 60+ first graders sing in the chorus.

when chloe made her announcement to our family, patrick immediately told her she wouldn't be able to do it:  "that's the biggest singing part!  you have to learn the longest song!  it's so hard to do!"
she was not deterred but rather seemed more determined as she simply responded, "i don't care.  i'm gonna be Mama Pig."

you can only imagine the excitement in our house when, a couple of weeks later, following auditions and lots of waiting, she came home with the news: I'm Mama Pig!!!

we've since heard her practice the song.  we all know the song.  she's picked out the dress she's going to wear.  she's been reminded of the audience that will be watching.  she's ready.  i'm so excited to see her perform - not because she'll be better or more special than any of the other first graders, but because i know how far she's come.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday's Tip

i think i should up the status of this post from "tip" to "public service announcement."  i feel very strongly about this one.  read on...

a few weeks ago, chuck sent me an email forward (he works with women.  there are a lot of email forwards) about how to properly clean strawberries.  i rolled my eyes (like i do when i look at most forwards) but decided to see what they had to say.  apparently, there are tiny "strawberry bugs" that look a lot like strawberry seeds and like to camouflage themselves on the fruit.  hmm... i'm not that squeamish, but it motivated me to "properly clean my strawberries" the next time i bought them.  

i'm going to share the process below.  you'll be happy to know that i never found any bugs... but what i did find might surprise you.  it surprised me!

this is how i, and most people, clean their strawberries.  we rinse them.  we rinse them well.

the approved method takes it a step further.  
fill a bowl with warm, soapy water.  (i use toxic-free dish soap...)

place your strawberries in the soapy water, letting them soak for a bit and then rubbing them gently to clean them.

once the strawberries have been cleaned, remove them from the soapy water and rinse them in a colander.  

wait.  did you catch that?  
look at the water that is left behind!!  unfortunately, i don't feel like this picture even does justice to the amount of dirt and debris that was left behind by my strawberries.  

the next step is to cut off the tops of the strawberries, just below the stem.  some people prefer coring, and i guess that's ok, too.  

this process left me with a bowl full of clean strawberries.  it also left me with a little more peace of mind.  true, a little dirt never hurt anyone.  and, i know there's a statistic out there about how many bugs we will inevitably consume in our lifetime.  but i'm grateful that this time, i wasn't the one feeding the dirt or the bugs to this face...

and i think he is, too.

just in case you are curious, here is the link to the official how-to-clean-your-strawberries place:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday's Tip

i love extending the life of "stuff."  i realize i run the risk of sounding redundant by saying that, but it bears repeating.  the idea of finding multiple uses for things and re-using items appropriately thrills me.  seriously.  i was recycling before i knew how cool it was.

you may be surprised to discover that this philosophy has carried over to my plants.  every fall, i make a game out of seeing which plants i can get to survive til the spring.  incidentally, if you keep pansies in planters and leave them out all winter (even with three back to back blizzards), you will have new growth in the spring.  amazing.  they aren't perennial - they just re-seed very easily... and are quite hardy.  i've been known to find tiny sprouting pansies in the grass under my hanging planters which i will carefully dig up and transplant into a garden or container.  i know, i know...  but, why not?

i really love playing this game indoors, too!  for a while, i wasn't having much luck with houseplants... but then i started working with the ones i had and discovered a few truths.
- no matter how well cared for, some plants just get old and need to go
- changing a plant's location in your house can give it a boost
- even a dying plant has something to offer

here are a few examples:
this is a Spider Plant - a very normal  house plant.  i like them because they are easy to grow, hard to kill, and very full and pretty.  but i love them because they have babies.  look closer...
see the tiny spider plants hanging from the big plant?  you can leave these on the spider plant as part of the plant's fullness, or you can start brand new spider plants with it.  here's what i do...
the babies are carefully cut from the mother plant and then placed in water (here, i have 2 babies in each bowl).  try to arrange them so that only their bottoms / roots are in the water.  they can live like this for a very long time (or until you are ready to move them) but the idea is to keep them in water til they grow a small root system.  once that happens, plant each in a small planter and keep them well watered.  
this "baby" is about a year old.  she is doing very well, but started out just as tiny as the ones pictured above.  in fact, she's almost ready to be moved into a larger planter and hung in a window.  and that's good, because after a while, even that big, healthy mama plant will start to look a little "tired" - but not before sprouting lots more babies.  incidentally, the big mama plant pictured at the top, started as a tiny baby from a plant i had kept for years.  now look at her!

another favorite of mine is the Wandering Jew plant.  Wandering Jews are more of a vining plant and are fun because of their purple color.  here is my original Wandering Jew:
she's not pretty.  in fact, she's on her last legs, which is why she hangs from a window in my bedroom where no one has to look at her.  it's ok, though, because she's served me well.  Wandering Jews are soooo easy to regrow.  occasionally, it will lose a "branch" or vine.  they can also be cut off.  place several cuttings in water, like this - 
over time, but rather quickly, these vines will start to root and will grow longer.  you may prefer to keep them in water as they are pretty this way.  in fact, the ones below have been in water for quite a while:
as long as their container stays full of water, they do very well.  they also like sun but don't need to be in direct sunlight.  this is a good example of a plant that you may want to rotate throughout the year - a fresh location or varied amount of sunlight is a nice change of pace for the Wandering Jew.

once your plant is very full, like the one above, it may be time to plant it.  here is a Wandering Jew that i started from just a few vines from the original:
she is very pretty and full, and although there are occasional dead leaves or dying vines, they can easily be removed.  i like to snip vines from this one as she is getting bigger - it keeps her from getting too overgrown and keeps my houseplant population growing.  

there are others!  i won't bore you with all of them, but try your hand at fostering some "babies."  what a great way to extend the life of your plants!