Thursday, April 29, 2010

the ants go marching

Did I mention we're learning about bugs this month? Can you even resist these little guys. Not only cute but earth friendly too since they are crafted from egg cartons. We read Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg and Hey Little Ant by Philip and Hannah Hoose prior to and after this project. You will need an egg carton, black or red paint, black or red pipe cleaners (or chenille stems as I've learned they're called in the craft store), googly eyes and glue. Cut your egg carton into three sectioned pieces (head, thorax, abdomen...Oh! I know a really cute song!) and let your child decide if he/she wants to make a red ant or a black ant. Paint the entire thing and let it dry. Once it is dry, I poked holes for the legs and antennae. I also threaded the legs through because when Kate tried to do her ants legs she ended up tearing the egg carton. It was a wee bit too difficult for five and under. I forgot to mention, we used three longer sections of pipe cleaners instead of six small ones. I found the six smalls ones tended to fall out too easily. The preschoolers were able to handle putting the antennae in though. The last step is to glue on some googly eyes and they're done. Ready to march across your kitchen table or on into a picnic. These are adorable if you have a whole lot because you know the kids want to act out the stories with them.

And here's the song. I know you didn't ask but you really do want to know this song.

Head, Thorax, Abdomen (sung to Head, shoulders, knees and toes)

Head, Thorax, Abdomen, Abdomen
Head, Thorax, Abdomen, Abdomen
Six legs, two antennae, and an exoskeleton
Head, Thorax, Abdomen, Abdomen

I am so good at finding something to complain about

Okay, so I've been on the South Beach diet for just shy of a year. I cannot express how happy I am I gave it a try. I really was such a sceptic but it actually worked. I reached my goal weight and since then have really only loosely followed the diet. I think cutting out the amount of carbs I was eating and filling up on vegetables instead has been key for me. I still eat out and I still indulge in ooey gooey desserts occasionally and at celebrations I cut myself some slack. Not only did I reach my goal weight but I continued to lose weight and am slightly under my initial goal. I feel great and have a lot more energy.

But you know I have to complain, don't you. Here's the problem. I have all these clothes that don't really fit me all that well anymore. I may have lost nearly 30 lbs but you wouldn't know it because I'm still wearing my extra larges and size 12's. I'm just so cheap I hate to go out and spend all kinds of money on new clothing for me. Some of my clothing I bought just before I began the diet and it's practically brand new! And part of me is worried that this is a fluke and I'm going to wake up one morning needing those size 12's. I really need to go out and do some shopping for me but the Yankee spendthrift part of me is telling me "no!" I need to tell that Yankee to shut up, get in the car and get myself to the store.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

from caterpillar to butterfly

If you're looking for an easy fun science-y craft to do with your kids, then you've come to the right place. We've been learning about insects and you can't do insects without reading the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. To go along with the book the kids worked on a series of little crafts. First, of course, they made the caterpillars. To make the caterpillars you need pompoms, glue and a clothespin. The kids ran a line of glue and then squished about six little pompoms into the glue. After they dried we clipped them onto some flowers and leaves so they could eat and worked on the chrysalisis. You need toilet paper tubes, glue and green ribbon or crepe paper. I wanted to use crepe paper but had the ribbon so that's what we used. The kids painted the tubes completely with glue and then wrapped ribbon around the tubes. These took a little longer to dry but all the more time for the caterpillars to stuff themselves. As soon as their chrysalisis were dry, the kids slid their caterpillars inside and placed them back into the leaves and flowers. Now all we had to do was wait for the metamorphosis to occur.

The caterpillars hung out in their chrysalisis for a week or so. We were finally ready for the last step. For this we needed markers, round coffee filters and a spray bottle of water. First they colored the filter with the markers. I encouraged them to color as much of the filter as possible. Then they sprayed it lightly with the water. This caused the colors to bleed together. When it was dry (and the kids were napping) I slipped the caterpillars out of their chrysalisis, scrunched the filters together in the middle and clipped them onto the caterpillars and put them right back in the flowers where I found them. The kids woke up from nap and immediately noticed the caterpillars had transformed into beautiful butterflies. Katie asked me how it happened and our friend A answered for me "It's just magic Katie."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the picture of innocence

They may look sweet and innocent but do NOT let their looks deceive you. They are toy chewing, counter jumping, table climbing maniacs. One minute they are snoring on the floor and the next they have someone's shoe, book, action figure in their mouths. I do plan on bringing them to training classes but right now it's not in the schedule. One night Sam had had it with their shenanigans and handed this list of rules to the puppies.

Too bad they don't know how to read.

Monday, April 26, 2010

brown bagging it

Being a Mother is an overwhelming job. There are so many times a day, heck multiple times an hour, that I just want to scream with all the demands being made on me. It starts as soon as I wake up in the morning. I have to make breakfast for myself and usually five or six kids. I also need to pack Sam and Teresa a lunch for school. I am not a big fan of cafeteria school lunches. The offerings lean toward the less than healthy. My older two get to choose one day a week to buy and the other four days I supply their midday meal. I have to tell you, there are days when just the thought of having to pack their lunches is enough to turn me into a weeping mess on the floor. I don't know why. It' not that hard but when you're in the middle of breakfast and dressing kids and not having enough caffeine in my system it seems like the impossible. Times like these I can't help but wonder once again, how my Mom managed. Our school did not offer hot lunch. Everyone brought a lunch every day. When my brother Terry started school there were eight of us she had to make lunches for. Eight lunches every single day. Eight. The thought of having to make eight lunches makes me want to crawl into the corner and suck my thumb.

She did have a system. She had to have a system or she would have gone insane. She bought big bags of chips and divided them up into single servings sizes as soon as she got home from the store and kept them in a big jar. Woe be to you if you were found filching a bag of chips out of said jar. She made the same lunch for everyone, with slight variations. My mom would line up the brown paper lunch bags and write a name on each one. I loved how she made a smiley face out of the two o's in our last name. Then she'd pop an apple in each one. Next she'd lay out the bread on the center island along with the condiments, lunch meat and other sandwich fixins. She'd make the requisite number of mayo, Miracle Whip and mustard, bundled them into baggies and the little bag of chips went in last. This lunch rarely varied. During Lent we got cheese sandwiches and sometimes she changed up the type of chips but for most of my school days, from first grade through twelfth grade, that was what I got for lunch. Every morning I came down for breakfast to that long line of stuffed brown paper sacks. I never once gave a thought to all the time it took her to assemble them. I don't think I ever once thanked her.

You'd think being from a big family, we'd take whatever Mom gave us and not be very particular. Just be glad we managed to get some at all before the others ate it all. [As a joke my Mom taught us this grace "In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Who eats the fastest, gets the most." It's only partially a joke and mostly true. If you really wanted seconds, you better eat fast.] But no, we were picky little bastards. I liked miracle whip, not mayo and definitely not mustard. Terry had to have pb and j. Never bologna. Everyone had their own special request. Ungrateful wretch that I was, if she accidentally gave me Kath's sandwich, I made sure she knew about it. As did the rest of us. She made eight lunches every single morning while simultaneously making sure eight kids got dressed, bags packed, fed, hair brushed and on the bus.
Many days, the morning rush gets to me and I holler at my kids because they're dilly dallying or bickering. I don't remember her hollering at us to get going in the morning. She walked through the house knocking on our doors and woke each of us with a quiet "time to get up." Some of us required a second or maybe a third "time to get up" but she never rushed us around by yelling. She did yell however if we missed the bus. Can you blame her? One memorable morning my younger sister and I were arguing over the best way to make the bed (stupidest argument ever) and when we can downstairs the house was very quiet. My Mom had a look of shock flick over her face as the two of us tromped into the kitchen and then she hollered at us to beat the band. The private school we went to was a good half hour drive away and I'm sure she did not relish the thought of losing an hour out of her day or keeping us home either. Luckily two of my older siblings who drove to school were still home and they could take us. As a rule, we made sure we did NOT miss the bus. One or two of us was sent out to watch for the bus from the porch or sidewalk. As soon as it was spotted coming down the road, the lookout had to race up the front walkway, into the front door hollering "BUS!!!" as loud as humanly possible. Children would come thundering towards the front door from every direction and pour out the door.

I imagine my Mom must have sat down in her rocking chair with her coffee once we all disappeared onto the bus. Sat down and thanked God that she was done with lunches and hunting for socks and making sure gym uniforms were on underneath uniforms and sneakers packed into bookbags for twenty four hours. She made it through the craziness of the morning. The house belonged to her and one or two little ones crawling around on the least, for a few hours, until we galloped back in later that afternoon. I think of this as I stand in the kitchen with two little lunchboxes on the counter in front of me and I realize I have got to stop complaining and whining about how difficult my mornings are. Thank goodness I have a way to put my relatively easy life into perspective.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

it's a bird eat fish kind of world

While taking pictures of the sweet little Mallards in the river, my kids and I witnessed a scene from Planet Earth firsthand. A seagull swooped down out of nowhere and scooped a fish out of the river right there in front of our very eyes. It was amazing and freaky and as Katie said "that's very sad for the fish."

you can call it a bribe, I call it a reward

I co-slept with all three of my children. Not something I ever thought I would do. But it felt right and worked for us. Sam and Teresa transitioned into their own beds relatively smoothly. I thought I was such a smart Mom for figuring it all out and everything going off without a hitch. And then along came Katie. My baby. Who was in no hurry whatsoever to be in her very own pretty big girl bed. I tried laying down with her upstairs, but within an hour of falling asleep, down she'd trot and climb into her spot in the middle of my bed. I kept telling myself she was so little still. There was plenty of time for learning to sleep on her own. Which is perfectly true. But truth be told, she is no picnic to sleep with. She sleeps with both arms and legs flung out and thrashes about often whacking Joe and I in the head. She has the endearing habit of rubbing her own, or someone else's, ear when she sucks her thumb and I'd been jerked awake once too often with her latching onto my ear and pulling hard on it. Ouch!

So for the sake of my sanity, and my sleep, I decided we needed to make a better effort at getting her to sleep upstairs. My sister used the tried and true sticker chart to get her son to sleep in his bed so we figured we'd go with that. Teresa made up a chart and picked the completely random number of 30 sleeps in order to earn her reward. It actually wasn't a bad choice. After thirty sleeps upstairs, it should be a habit. Little did I know it would take her nearly a year to fill that chart. There were times when I suggested abandoning it, but Katie would have none of that. She liked her chart but she just made the transition at her own pace. I knew she would get there so didn't stress that it was taking so long. In fact, I relished the times she came down and slept with me more and more, as the frequency of those moments decreased. Now she sleeps upstairs all night with not a problem at all. She occasionally comes down early in the morning for some Mumma cuddles and I don't even mind when she grabs my ear and twists it inside out.

Friday, April 23, 2010

bloggography lens challenge

Manic Mother

This weeks bloggography challenge was to use the lenses we have and make the most of them. I have the standard 18-55mm lens that came with my camera as well as a 75-300mm telephoto. I rarely use the telephoto so I broke it out to see what kind of photos I could get with it. Let me tell you, it's not like using my regular lens. I was often too close to subjects or just felt like the images I captured were flat. We have a couple swans in our pond at the moment and we walked over to see if I could get some good photos with the telephoto, but again none were all that good. Today we all went into a nearby town right on the water. There's a delightful little park near the waterfront the kids and I like to play in. Some bachelor Mallards were paddling about in the little river that runs through the park and this little fellow obligingly posed for a few photos. I was very pleased I finally got something. I still need to learn more about what this lens can do but am not as intimidated by it anymore.

I simply ADORE the curly little tail feathers!

Don't forget to hop over to Manic Mother's and Better in Bulk's blogs to check out the other photos entered in the challenge.

it's baseball time...all the time

A new season is upon us. And if you think I'm talking about Spring, think again. I mean Baseball. It's practice time all the time. I think I should have made sure we had two boys in close succession, just to spare Joe and I all the batting and pitching and catching we have to do. Why did I not think this all out carefully nine years ago? No, no...I really don't mind helping Sam practice...mostly because it's Joe who is the preferred partner in all this baseballness.

I get the biggest kick out of how much Sam adores playing baseball. He loves the stats and the pace of the game. He is beginning to understand the strategies behind the plays and it's like someone's taught him a secret code. I'm constantly being barraged by "Mumma, if there's someone at second (first, third, bases loaded, bases empty) and the ball is hit to you know where you should throw the ball?" He takes charge out on the field, keeping track of strikes, balls and outs. He pesters the coach to play positions that are still beyond him right now. He is beginning to like the little boy heaven, otherwise known as the dugout. It's noisy, it's dirty and everyone sits really close together but he's more and more at home there each year. He shines when he's hailed the hero by his teammates when he brings a glove full of bubblegum for the whole team. I'm starting to realize, the kid I think of as not very athletic, is actually a pretty good baseball player. I never thought I'd say this, but oh, how I LOVE little league baseball.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

it was one of those days

I have had one of those days every parent hates. I woke up to Teresa spiking a fever of 102.5 and complaining of a severe headache. As the morning wore on she got slightly worse. We kept the fever barely at bay with Tylenol but when she told me her neck hurt I was really worried. Joe wondered out loud if this could have anything to do with the small metal charm she swallowed the day before. I had forgotten all about that. A quick trip to Dr. Google's office and I was taken straight to panic stricken hell. Lead poisoning, cadmium poisoning, tears in her esophagus or intestines, intestinal blockages. I was convinced she had them all. Joe reminded me to take a deep breath and GET REAL! A quick call to my Doctor father and I felt a little better that she wasn't in imminent danger.

I still didn't feel right though. You know that second sense that Mothers have? The one that tells you it's not quiet because the kids are playing so's because they are coloring all over the living room walls. That second sense of mine was all up in my face and I was having a very hard time ignoring it. Teresa is used to being sick. She has asthma and doesn't remember a time when she hasn't had to have breathing treatments to help her breath. If she gets the slightest cold, it can progress to pneumonia overnight and that has landed her in the hospital many times. She doesn't complain (well, most of the time) and she is usually very good about knowing when she needs her treatments. After dealing with this for six years now, I've got a good idea when she needs more than just her usual drugs and when we only need to up the number of treatments she's getting. But today I felt like I wasn't able to read the situation. I watched her breathing as she slept and felt like it was off. Something wasn't right. I pressed my ear against her back and listened. Under the nearly ever present wheeze, she seemed to be moving air well. But still I couldn't shake that feeling that something just wasn't right. Her fever came raging back to 103 just before lunch and she was clutching her head with the pain. I called the pediatrician and within minutes I got a call back. When I described what was going on, I was told "take her to the emergency" I needed no second urging.

We got to the ER and they actually put us in a room right away. With her neck pain and fever and head pain, the doctors were thinking meningitis. They didn't want her in a common waiting room and they even turned a switch on so that the air from our room did not circulate back into the rest of the hospital. After her first examination the doctor decided she did not have meningitis. Hearing that I was able to breath again.

Unfortunately it was a busy afternoon in the ER and now that Teresa did not seem to be a priority we did A LOT of waiting. She slept much of the time. Lucky her. I didn't even have the luxury of an old magazine. I read and reread all the boxes and manuals for the equipment. I think I know how to operate those electric paddle thingys now. When she was awake we played I spy and word games and math games. At one point she got very weepy and choked out "Mumma, I really really miss my Sam." Poor sweet girl needed some love and attention from her big brother. Chest xrays and abdominal xrays, blood draws and lots and lots of questions. Teresa met each of these unpleasant events with her nervous little smile and her unquenchable curiosity. She asked the techs about how the machines worked and what they were doing. Even though she can barely get the words out because she's coughing so much or having difficulty catching her breath, she can't stop herself from trying. I had flashbacks of when she was a toddler and she'd get sick like this. Spending hours in the same ER and she'd be swinging her little legs and singing as best she could in between breathing treatments. Her pediatrician calls her "the happy wheezer." Finally after four plus hours in the hospital, we were given the go ahead to go home complete with a zpack for our troubles.

We've been home several hours now. She's complaining of shoulder pain when she breathes or laughs, when she's awake, which actually hasn't been much. A new pain, but I think it's connected to the pneumonia. I've got her nebulizer set up next to the bed and a basin for throw up, motrin for pain and fever and cold clothes in the fridge. I didn't want to spend my day in the hospital. I don't take any pleasure in the fact that my second sense was right. I hate seeing my bubbly little girl struggling to breath and in pain. But I'm glad I listened to that little voice and that I wasted a day reading the ingredients in those little disinfecting wipe packets. And I'll do it all again tomorrow...but I really really hope I don't have to.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm telling myself it's big ONLY from a 3 year old perspective

The other morning I was cleaning up after snack and getting ready for circletime. The kids had already headed in to the playroom and were negotiating who was going to sit where. This is big stakes stuff in case you were wondering. They spend endless amounts of time picking a spot and then suddenly realizing it's not THE optimum spot and try to move last minute and the other kids are brutal. They won't let anyone squeeze their bottom into their territory once they've claimed it. I was taking my time cleaning the baby's hands and face and wiping down the table so all the moving and a shaking were finished when I told them I was coming over. One of my three year olds called back to me "Okay Ree...and don't worry, I saved a place for your big bum. " Well, there's a big fat reality check for you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Swing

by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

ladybug, ladybug

We've been blessed with such beautiful weather lately. Which translates into plenty of time spent outside. I love my backyard but sometimes you just want to go out and explore the big wide world. For us, that means we go out tramping around on "our bogs." Now, I don't know about your kids but mine (my own and my daycare kids) are unable to walk out in nature without filling their pockets, hands or buckets with rocks. We return from our ambles with enough rocks to construct a wall. Most of these we put out in a table in the backyard filled with interesting natural materials for the kids to play with. A select few are chosen to go home or get put into their collections. After one successful rock collecting trip we decided we would use paint to make some ladybugs.

You will need rocks, red and black paint, qtip and a paintbrush. The children painted their rocks completely red and we let them dry. A couple hours later they used the qtip to paint a black area for the head and then dotted it for the polka dots. A little more drying time and they were finished. You could add some wiggly eyes if you like too.

The kids made entire families of ladybugs and played with them all afternooon. Even after the daycare kids took their bugs home I still had a windowsill filled with the polka dotted beauties. You know, they say ladybugs are good luck and with this many around, I'm expecting a windfall!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

no thanks, I don't need any help...I mean it

So, okay, my kids have been on this lets help Mumma kick lately. Which sounds really nice...doesn't it. Kids helping Mom. Mom is happy for the help and kids are all proud and happy. But in reality it's really not working out that way. It all started with tea.

I drink several cups of tea each day. Even late in the evening. The caffiene never keeps me awake. C'mon, I've got three kids and I take care of several others all day long. Nothing could keep me awake. I got Joe a Keurig for Christmas last year and I LOVE that machine. First Teresa was the one who realized she was perfectly capable of operating the Keurig and she began making me cups of tea. Lots of cups of tea. I thought "how sweet!" and drank my cup after cup of tea thinking what a love she is. Well, not to be outdone, Sam and Katie wanted to get in on the tea making lovefest. So they started making me tea too. Apparently, my sitting down is code red for "get Mumma a cup of tea!" because as soon as my butt hits a seat, they race to the kitchen to get to the Keurig first in order to make my cup of tea. Then the two who aren't fast enough start to wail because "I WANTED TO MAKE YOU A CUP OF TEA AND HE/SHE WON'T LET ME!!!" This scenario repeats itself multiple times a day. This sweet thoughtful act of kindness now leaves me with crying kids and me having to defuse yet another situation blown way out of proportion.

Sam seemed unable to get a jump on the tea making, so he decided to branch out. When I'm not drinking tea, I'm drinking water. So Sam smartly decided to quietly start bringing me cups of water everytime one of the girls brought me a cup of tea. Not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, I thanked them all and announced there couldn't be any more thoughtful kids anywhere. However, I wasn't feeling all that grateful despite the kids good intentions. I was sloshy and uncomfortably full and tired of constantly negotiating someone's hurt feelings because they didn't get to help me.

Next they started "helping" me pick up toys but it seemed like whatever one picked up was EXACTLY what one of the others was just about to pick up. More crying and finger pointing and soothing of wounded egos. Same scenario when they decided to "help" me make beds and put away dishes and match up socks. Over and over and over the good intentions melted down into drama and someone always ended up unhappy.

Finally the camels back broke. One morning Teresa got the brilliant idea to help me bring the clean baskets of laundry upstairs. As she marched through the kitchen with the first one I was instructed "DON'T LOOK! I'm giving you a surprise!" This of course, captured the attention of the other two and they jumped up and raced to the basement to lug up laundry baskets too. And once again, the yelling, crying, wailing ensued. Which is why I found myself yelling at the top of my lungs, "FUSSING IS NOT HELPING!!! I am so sick and tired of everyone HELPING me!!!! JUST. STOP. HELPING. ME."

I think I should teach them how to pour me a glass of wine. That might help. Or better yet, mix up a pitcher of sangria.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

and the winner is....

Congratulations Liz! I will mail the set of love notes off to you ASAP.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

bloggography challenge rule of thirds

Manic Mother

This weeks challenge was to remember the rule of thirds when taking a picture. I always tend to center my photos. But when I see the rule of thirds done well it makes so much sense and the resulting photos are so appealing. It's funny because I very consciously went about trying to take photos with the rule of thirds in mind and more often than not I'd find I'd veered back toward center without fully realizing it. It's a hard habit to break. I did get a couple that I liked and this photo of Katie loving on Daisy is one of my favorites.

By the way, I do have two other kids but Katie is the lucky one who spends all day with me so unfortunately she gets her every waking move photographed. The other two are spared the agony because they're at school.

Link over at Manic Mother or Better in Bulk to showcase your own photo. While you're there, check out the other amazing photos.