Tuesday, March 30, 2010

a little love from me to you...a give away!

I've never had a give away here on my little piece of blogland. Heck, I don't even know if enough people read this to even justify a giveaway. However, we will soon find out. I was at Michael's last month and spied these in the dollar bins. Each little envelope contains four cards you're meant to put in your child's lunch box. I try to put a little note in the kid's lunchboxes every day but some days the morning gets away from me and I'm lucky if I even get the lunch in the lunch box, let alone a little note. These cards have some sweet words of love on one side and a fun fact on the other. I figured the kids would love them and it'd save me some time on those busy mornings. When I got home, I opened the envelopes and loved them so much I decided to go online and buy several sets. I discovered after I ordered, that the four bite size envelopes made up the first volume, which I had just ordered. I figured there was no need for me to have multiples of the same cards and decided to put them up for grabs here.

My kids love these. I think they love them more than my handwritten notes. Mostly because of the fun facts...at least that's what I keep telling myself. Sam tells me that he reads his aloud for his whole lunch table and the boys pass the card around afterwards. The other day he accidentally threw one away and he was in tears over it. These don't need to be just for lunch boxes either. They're fun to stash in the backpack, place on a pillow or in a pocket. To enter the give away for all four bite size volumes, all you need to do is leave a comment. It will stay open for a week and next Tuesday we'll choose a winner!

Friday, March 26, 2010

deep thoughts

Me: Whatcha thinking Kate?

Katie: Oh, I'm just hoping no sharks jump out and eat me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

bloggography challenge exposure compensation

Manic Mother

This weeks challenge was to become familiar with the exposure compensation button on our cameras to see how it impacted the lighting in our pictures. Spring was to be the theme for this week too. We've had some peaks and valleys in our weather lately. Lots of dreary rainy days and some gorgeous warm days. Spring, in the sense of flowers and green grass and all that, has yet to make an appearance however. My grass is still brown and we've no flowers budding. And sadly, I neglected to take my camera out when we were out and about on those spectactular sunny days. So I made do with my sad little jade cutting that sits on a windowsill forever yearning to stretch it's roots into soil. Please ignore the dust and cobwebs on it's foliage.

This first picture was shot with the exposure compensation set where it usually is at zero
f 5, ISO 400, 1/320 s.
Not too bad but a little bit dark.

Just to see what would happen I moved it to -1 and wonder of wonders, it's darker.
f5, ISO 400, 1/800s

For this last picture I nudged it up to +2.3 and liked the results.
f5, ISO 400, 1/250s

Not so bright that it's blown out and the light accentuates the shape of the leaves and the glass.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Manic Mother for choosing one of my photos from last weeks challenge as one of your favorites! I can't tell you how thrilled I am.

If you want to take part in the challenge or check out some of the other amazing entries hop over to Manic Mother or Better in Bulk. I'm always intrigued with how others interpret the theme and am often blown away by their photos.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

just one of the ways my kids torture me

So it's no secret in my family that I am a big ole fraidy cat. I scare way to easily. My kids love to hide and jump out at me just to see me jump and (their words) "scream like a little girl." I never fail to deliver. The last few weeks they've come up with a new and altogether creepy way to freak me out when I least expect it. We are now the proud owners of a three foot high Barbie doll. Dressed in clothing that would fit Katie. At first I relegated her to the basement but every time I went down there to do laundry or get something out of the freezer I'd catch her standing in the corner or perched on the counter and my heart would stop and I'd shriek as if someone was murderizing me. After the first couple times my family ceased being alarmed and decided to take advantage of the situation. So now I never know where she's going to turn up.

I'm on my way to make the bed and yargghhh!!!! she's standing in the doorway.

Looking for something to wear....aaaiiiieeeeee!!!!

You weren't thinking of taking a shower???? mawhahahahahaha!

There are just not enough words to describe how disturbing this one is.

Just when you thought it was safe to sweep the floor...eeeeeeekk!!!

Hellooooo! Need some help fixing lunch?

I'm telling you, she may have perfect skin, blonde hair, blue eyes and the measurements of a swimsuit model but she's more frightening than Chuckie.

Monday, March 22, 2010

my Irish blessings

I know both pictures are nearly identical but I included the second because it cracked me up that I didn't realize till I took this picture, after 5:00 pm, that Katie's skirt was on backwards. And did I have her fix it before we went to Panera for dinner? That would be a big ole nope. Teresa remarked incredulously, when I announced we were done after only taking two pictures "You're done? You only took two! Wow...this is a miracle." I wholeheartedly agree.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

an old Gaelic Blessing and a craft (look two in two days!)

May those who love us, love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts
May He turn their ankles.
So we'll know them by their limping.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

In the spirit of Saint Patrick's Day we made shamrock prints using, what else?, potatoes. You'll need green paint, white paper, a potato and a heart shaped cookie cutter.
Slice the potato in half. Press the cookie cutter in the cut side of the potato. With the cookie cutter still in the potato, slice around it. Remove the cutter and do the same on the other half.

Dip the potato in green paint and print onto the paper. I demonstrated how to make a shamrock with the hearts and we added a stem using our index fingers dipped into the paint.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

rainy days and rainbows

It's been so long since I've posted an art activity. I had grand plans of posting one a week. Little good all that planning did. We still do many crafts and activities but I've been horrible about documenting them. I am vowing to make a better effort. I promise. We've had some nasty windy rainy weather the last several days and it was starting to get us down. But I decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and we had a grand old time with the following activity.

Any child old enough to color on a paper with markers can do this on his/her own. All you'll need is paper (we just used plain old white computer paper), markers and a rainy day. I also put laminated place mats under the pictures to make transporting them back inside easier. Otherwise you drip rainbow drips all through the house.

The kids colored a vibrant picture with the markers and then we put on raincoats, boots and umbrellas and headed out into the wet. We placed our pictures on a flat surface (we used a table) by the door and weighted it down with rocks. Did I mention it was windy? Then after playing in the rain for a bit, stopping many times to check on our pictures, we decided the rain had finished painting and we could bring them in. The kids thought this activity was magical. I'm not kidding you. They did this over and over and over. Each one must have gone home with half a dozen pictures. We experimented with leaving them out longer and shorter lengths of time to see the difference in the finished pictures. They also made pictures with lots of coloring and some with just a little bit of coloring. So not only is this a worthwhile art activity, they're getting plenty of math and science too. But don't do this because it's educational. Do this because your kids will LOVE it. Just be prepared to have a LOT of magnets to hold up all the pictures they make.

No rainstorm would be complete without a friendly rainbow so we made a few of those too. Again I was too lazy to document the process but here are the end results. The rainbow at the top is made from a coffee filter. We put food coloring and water into muffin cups and dipped the folded coffee filter into the different cups and let it dry. Easy peasy.

The second rainbow is made from Fruit Loops. The kids loved this one because we had to sort the Fruit Loops first and you can bet there was a lot of munching amidst all the sorting. Once the kids had the cereal sorted I gave each one a white construction paper precut rainbow shape and a bottle of glue. I first demonstrated how to make a line of glue near the top following the shape of the arch for the first color. After that the kids needed no more instruction. They were able to place cereal along the line of glue on their own and then continue on making lines of glue for the rest of the colors. This took a little longer to dry because of all the glue. And you might want to make sure if you're doing this with toddlers they don't try and eat any gluey cereal (I learned this the hard way).

Monday, March 15, 2010

oh yes we did

Not one, but two puppies. Two lab/hound dog/great dane (YIKES!) mix, brother sister, cute as a button puppies. Call me effing crazy if you want. Because I will fully admit that yes, I must be crazy to go along with this scheme. Mudge is the brown one and Daisy is the black and white. The kids debated for several minutes, on the way home from picking them up, before the three of them decided on the names. Their full names are actually Mudge William and Daisy Rosaleena. We've had them for a week now and I am very pleasantly surprised at how well these two are doing. They are incredible puppies. Mellow, easy going, already responding to some commands and freaking amazing with the kids. They don't jump and knock them down or nibble on their hands or even chase Sir Fluffiness Himself.

They are rescue dogs from BigFluffyDogs.com. We had to go to New Hampshire to pick them up from their foster home. God love the woman that fostered them. She had eleven dogs and three cats in her home that was not much bigger than a trailer. Three adult bull mastiffs were her own, as well as the three cats. The other eight were puppies that had arrived from down South just two days earlier. Every one of those puppies were so stinking cute. All were heading to new homes themselves by the end of the next day so I didn't feel bad taking only (ONLY?!) two.

We've already gone through over 20 lbs of dog food in a week. I've come home to find everything within reach on the refrigerator shredded beyond recognition. I've had to wrangle remotes, shoes, stuffed animals, matchbox cars, poopy diapers, used tissues, books, newspapers and the squeaky things from inside their own toys from their mouths. I've had to stand out in the pouring rain, in the middle of the night, because they needed to go pee. I didn't want a dog now. I certainly didn't want TWO dogs. But I forgot how much comfort a dog gives. I forgot how funny puppies can be. I forgot how having a dog in my home makes me feel safer. And I'm so glad I didn't let my hesitation stop us from bringing these two crazy puppies home.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Someday she'll be too big to suck her thumb.
Someday she'll be too big to rub her ears.

But today...today...she's still not too big.

Friday, March 12, 2010

trash to treasure

Sam is a funny kid. He gets attached to things that my other kids don't. Odd things. Things you wouldn't automatically assume could be security objects. Part of this ties into his need for things to be the same as much as possible. It helps him deal with all the things that he can't control if he knows there are some things that are absolutely reliable. Like what he's going to have for breakfast every day of the week. Mondays are cereal, Tuesdays bagels, Wednesdays waffles...you get the picture. If I'm out of bagels I had damn well be sure I tell him well in advance of Tuesday morning of he'll be out of sorts all morning long. He extends this little quirk to things as well. He has to sleep with a certain quilt or blanket. There are particular pencils and erasures he must use for homework. He will, quite literally, start to have a meltdown if he doesn't have the ghost erasure to do his homework. And heaven forbid I put his lunch in any thermos other than the light blue one.

Thanks to our friend Donna (who saved my butt with the perfect Communion dress) Sam has a new item he's become attached to. The little green table as we affectionately call it. Sadly, our friend Donna moved away. Sad for us anyways, she's soaking up the sun down in Florida while we're still shivering. In the process of cleaning house as she packed, she came across a multitude of things she just knew we had to have. The green table, air conditioners, window guards (just in case my kids try to escape), and a Barbie doll the size of Katie (more on THAT in another post!). Sam saw this table when he came home from school the day it arrived and a look of rapture spread across his face. First off, it just so happens to be his very favorite color. And it's small. And there's only one chair. Sam loves having a little space all to himself and this little table became exactly what he had been looking for all his life and he hadn't even known it till that very moment. He claimed it as his own and that is where he sits every afternoon as soon as he gets off the school bus until dinner time. He sets up all his homework supplies on it and works away at his homework. Not exactly happily...note the pout.

He reads his books and writes important notes while perched in the chair. He watches tv and has all the necessary remotes, snacks and a drink in exactly the right spots on the table. One night he even asked if he could sleep there in that chair. I said no. Such a mean Mommy. He does get very upset if someone is sitting in his chair when he wants to sit there. Teresa has figured out that this upsets him and typical younger sister, she will sometimes take the seat when he gets up just to get him going. He's working on sharing his little green table. I had planned on putting the table in a more out of the way place but it doesn't look like I can do that now. Sometimes these attachments last a while and sometimes they are fleeting. The jury's still out on which way this one will go.

This is just for you Donna...Sam says "Thank you Donna. When you miss me Donna, I'll still be here. When are you coming back?"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

bloggography challenge exposure triangle

Manic Mother

This past weeks bloggography challenge was for me the toughest one yet. The last several weeks we've worked on iso, shutter speed and aperture in isolation, for the most part. This week was to try and see how they work together to create a good exposure. I haven't got to the point where knowing what settings to use in what situation is automatic. I've been trying to keep my camera off auto and I really love how the photos look when I get it just right but that doesn't happen most of the time. Getting the lighting right continues to be my biggest roadblock.

I took this photo at ISO 100 fstop 5.6 and shutter speed 1/100s

I got a much better result once I made a couple of changes. This photo was shot with an ISO of 800 fstop 6.3 and shutter speed remained the same at 1/100s.

We were also challenged to work with the settings covered in previous tutorials further. I took some fun action shots of Kate leaping from a little climber.

ISO 400 fstop 8 shutter speed 1/500s

ISO 400 fstop 6.3 shutter speed 1/800s

ISO 400 fstop 4.5 shutter speed 1/800s

I still can't look at a potential photo and have the magic settings pop into my head automatically but I do have a better understanding of what the different settings mean now and how they interact to create a better photo. I'm so excited that I can see the difference in my photos too. Jump over to Manic Mother's or Better in Bulk's blogs to link up your own photos or to check out everyone else's entries.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

small talk

Sam, Teresa and Katie received a Valentine's Day card from their Aunty Ann and Uncle Mark and each card contained a crisp ten dollar bill. Sam is my kid who loves to spend money. As soon as he gets allowance money or birthday money he is asking to head to the store to spend it. Even on Webkinz he will blow through every last kinzcash on lamps, rugs, appliances and garden accessories. Teresa on the other hand is like a multi millionaire in webkinz world. She goes to some place on the site and buys only whats on sale. This difference between the two of them always gives me a chuckle. Anyways, I assumed Sam would be wanting to head out to the toy store immediately upon opening the envelope and finding his riches. But he surprised me. He took his ten dollar bill and headed into my bedroom. I asked him what he was doing and he said "I'm putting my money in the bank." I reminded him that his piggy bank was upstairs and he said "no, not that bank. The big bank with ALL my money." I realized he wanted to put it in his savings account and I keep the passbooks in my room. When I asked him why he wanted to put it in the bank he answered. "Well....I'm saving up for something big." Visions of science kits, books, the bakugan of all bakugan filled my head. So I asked him what he was saving for as he headed down the hall to my room, to which he replied "A Toyota."

Teresa has picked up this funny new habit. She makes air quotes. It completely cracks me up and I have no idea where she's seen this. I don't do it or if I do it's not often enough that she would pick up on it. Just yesterday she was chatting with me as I made dinner about some of her favorite songs. "Our song on my (insert air quotes here) new Taylor Swift CD is so funny!" I have to stop myself from laughing at her because she thinks she's being so grown up using them. (The reason she feels her "new" Taylor Swift CD requires the air quotes is that it's actually the first album but Teresa got the second album first. So while it's new to her, it's not the newest Taylor Swift album. The fact that she uses her air quotes appropriately cracks me up further. )

I've mentioned before that Katie and I have extensive conversations while we're driving hither and yon. This memorable repartee happened the other day.

Katie: Mumma, how do babies get in Mommys' tummies?
Me: Well....the Mommies and Daddies make them.
Katie: yes, but HOW do the get IN the tummy?
Me: (wondering how much to tell her and how much does she really want to know...in other words stalling.) ummmm....the Mommy and Daddy love each other in a special way and when they do the baby gets in the Mommy's belly.
Katie: but HOW?
Me: (are you freaking kidding me? I have to have this conversation now? Totally chickening out) Well honey, that's how God helps out. Sometimes when the Mommies and Daddies love each other in the special way they make a baby and sometimes they don't. God decides when it happens and puts it in the Mommy's tummy.
Katie:how does God do THAT?
Me: (and this is where I throw in the towel) God's magic so he can just do it.
Katie: Oooohhhh, now I get it. Hey Mumma, did God go to Hogwarts like Harry Potter to learn his magic?

And just one more:
Unlike most kids his age who catch their parents showing each other signs of affection like hugging and kissing, Sam does not say "ewwwwwwwww!" and pull faces. He tilts his head to the side, flutters his eyelashes, clasps his hands under his chin and chirps "romance!" in a syrupy sweet voice. Kills us every time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Teresa is very glad she doesn't have to wear my old dress

The past few weeks I've been looking in Consignment stores and second hand stores for a first Communion dress for Teresa. I've looked online and the prices for these dresses is outrageous. I'm talking well over $100. I refuse to pay that much for a dress she will only wear for a couple of hours, if that. I had very little luck finding what I was looking for at the stores. What I have in mind is a simple A line dress that isn't too frou frou but still has some bling to keep Teresa happy. Luckily my friend Donna came through for me and she lent me a dress her niece wore for her Communion. It fit Teresa perfectly and was exactly what I wanted. Most importantly, Teresa was thrilled with it. I am beyond happy that this chore is behind us. All this dress hunting got me thinking about my own First Communion and what I wore. I clearly remember being dragged around from one store after another trying one dresses, which I abhorred, until my Mother finally found one that we both agreed on. My, how times have changed. Teresa's dress is simple in comparison to many Communion dresses but it still has the one I wore beat by a mile. A few years back my Mom came across my Communion dress and passed it on to me. I plan on someday working it into a quilt but I couldn't resist showing it to you all and I was astounded when I took it out of my closet to take a picture.

It is tiny! I was eight years old when I made my First Communion and Teresa is just seven and a half. Her dress is almost a foot longer than mine. In fact, my dress is only slightly too big for Katie who is four and a half. Was I really that small?

Monday, March 1, 2010

family portrait

Katie is all about drawing and writing these days. I get pictures, lists (that only she can read) and books from her prolific hand multiple times a day. This is one of my latest favorites. It's a family portrait. From left to right you've got...Daddy, Katie ("I'm little cause I'm the littlest"), Sam, Mumma and Teresa. I love Teresa's long flowing locks, the little circles she makes for our cheeks, the grass and sky she now adds to her pictures and that little zig zag over our heads (it's not a bird...it's an M because she made the picture for me, Mumma). I never get tired of her little drawings. I love to see how they progress and change from day to day. Hopefully some day soon, I'll have arms. Or maybe not. I think the little heads on sticks are so stinking cute. I think I'll save this forever. I'll just put it in the enormous pile of little pictures that's threatening to topple over on my desk.

shrinking violets

All my life I've been shy. I was painfully shy as a child and teen. I used to retreat to my books and spend hours just reading away. As I got older I realized I had to come out of myself more and throughout college and my young adult years I became more self confident and out going. I'm still not the life of the party but I'm nothing like I was as a youngster. Now that I'm practically a senior citizen, I look back and think about the people I was too shy to say hello to and the opportunities I let pass by, just because I was afraid to put myself out there. How stupid and self limiting. That I let being shy stop me from doing things is probably my big life regret. Don't get me wrong. I still have had some amazing life experiences. I decided against going to the college my sister was at even though that would have made things easier for me and went to a big school where I didn't know a soul. I traveled by myself to Ireland for my student teaching without having a place to live. I traveled to Germany and England alone and backpacked my way around those countries taking buses and planes and trains and making friends along the way. I made friends at bus stops and found roommates by posting signs on telephone poles. At the same time, there are experiences I did not have and people I wish I were friendlier too but I just didn't...couldn't. I wish being shy wasn't my defining personality trait for so long. Why this long lament about one of my shortcomings?

Lately I've been realizing that my kids have inherited this trait. Do you think it's a trait they can inherit or do you think they're picking up on my being shy and in the way that kids do, making my behaviour, their behaviour. I don't know the answer to this myself. I do know though that I see shyness in varying degrees in all three of my kids. They won't attempt something they think they can't do. They get embarrassed so easily. They hold themselves back.

Sam has social difficulties anyways so you add in a little shyness and he's in for a pretty tough time of it. If it's not him not understanding that he can approach a group of kids playing and ask to play too, it's his worry that he's not good at a game that holds him back. And in big groups Sam tends to feel safer if he retreats to something familiar and comforting, like a book. Teresa is a beautiful girl who loves to sing, dance and perform....at home. She is loud and bossy and knows her mind....at home. I've learned from her teachers that outside of our home she is not like this at all. She is quiet and reluctant to speak in front of the group. She does her own thing rather than join in a game that's already started even if she really wants to play. She backs down rather than stand her ground. Katie has always been a Mumma's girl. She never wanted to be far from my side. Separating from me has never been easy. What I never imagined was that it would take an entire year before she felt comfortable enough with her dance teachers to TALK to them. When I signed her up for her second year of dance she ran into one of her teachers and after hellos Kate began telling her teacher all about her birthday party. The teacher looked at me wide eyed and said "I've never heard her talk before." She won't approach children at playgrounds and shys away from them if they approach her. All three kids have no problems showing their true colors with family or friends we know very well but in situations where there is any bit of discomfort my kids retreat.

I cannot tell you how much this bothers me. I don't want them to look back and think "I wish I had..." I want them to experience as much of this wonderful world through people, travel and opportunities. I want other people to see and know how amazing and funny and talented they are. But here's the thing. There's really not much I can do about it. I talk to all three about being friendly. I encourage them to try new things. I sign them up for various activities to broaden their social horizons and experience a variety of activities...sports, clubs, enrichment programs. I can only do so much and then...it's up to them. I hope they aren't shy because they feel bad about themselves. I hope it's not that they doubt their talents and self worth. I don't think it is, because what I see and hear from them at home tells me they love who they are. It's just that they're not sure how the rest of the world feels about them and that matters to them. I don't want my kids to get hurt and I know putting yourself out there means they will, it happens to everyone, but I hate that something as stupid as being shy is already placing limits around them. And there's not a whole lot I can do about it. How incredibly frustrating. I hope they all eventually grow out of it. It really would be a shame both for them and the world if being shy kept them back.