Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

cranberry juicing

It's that time of year again. The time of year when the bogs are flooded and berries are churned to the surface and they bob in blue black water as they're herded into the waiting trucks. I can't help myself. Even though I have witnessed the harvest time upon time upon time, I am drawn to it like Odysseus to a Siren. I was feeling a little blue when "our" bogs were being harvested because it was raining. I couldn't take the kids out in the rain and I was missing it. It really sent me into a little sulk. But then, the clouds lifted for a bit and the rains stopped and I bundled up the kids, leashed the dogs and off we went.

The kids seem as fascinated by the harvest as I am. The big machines, the bright bobbing berries in the pond of water that didn't even exist the day before, the water spraying everywhere from the truck, the incredible noisiness of the trucks and conveyors, the people waist deep in water and berries, all combine to make it an irresistible multi-sensory experience. After getting our fill, and needing to thaw out, we head back to the house.

The kids had picked up wayward berries on our little field trip and their coat pockets were full of them. I explained how each was filled with a pocket of air and demonstrated that stepping on one produced a delightful "POP!" My little group of scientists conducted the same experiment and sacrificed nearly every one of their berries to the quest for higher knowlegde...and really fun popping noises. Katie held on to her very last berry though. I asked her what her plans for it were and she replied, "I'm going to make cranberry juice."

She set to work as soon as we got back home. Katie dragged a stool over to the counter, got out the juicer (the old fashioned kind) and began juicing. It was hard work.

She had made big promises to her friends that she was making them juice and they were eagerly watching her progress. Talk about pressure.

At this point she realized her little red berry was all squeezed out.

She pulled the glass over and poured out the fruits of her labor. As the one solitary little drop of juice dribbled into the glass Kate remarked, "Mumma, I think we're going to need a LOT more berries."

Rather than pick up the berries we needed for this endeavor from the roadside, I purchased a few bags from a local farmstand and consulted google for a recipe and we were good to go. The kids measured out the berries, washed them and dumped them back into a pot.

After adding some water, we put the pot on the stove to boil.

Twenty minutes later out berries had all popped and the water had turned a bright crimson. Time to bust out the strainer.

Once the juice was strained, sugar was added and it went back to the stove to simmer some more. A half an hour later, we deemed it done and poured it into a pitcher and into the fridge it went. The kids were giddy with excitement that soon, very soon, they'd be drinking cranberry juice made with their own two hands.

Bottoms up!

I can't always take an idea one of the kids have and go with it. Some are just impossible (planting an entire banana, you know, so a banana tree will grow), some are just impractical (let's see how long it will take us to walk to Mimi's house), and sometimes we're just too busy (Sam attempting to eat his alphabits alphabetically before school in the morning...taking waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy too long buddy). But as time and climate and practicality allows, we follow these whims and wonders of our kids through to the sweet end. And when they yield fruits such as the smile below, it is all worth it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

just dumb luck or brillant parenting

I'm constantly changing the rules as I parent. I don't know about you, but what works for me one day, doesn't always seem to work the next. When Sam was a newborn, I vowed he would not watch television. Nope, not my boy. That lasted until he was around twenty months old and I gave birth to his lovely but very needy baby sister. Why, hello tv!

But, he was only going to watch educational PBS or children's music videos. Shows such as Blue's Clues, Little Bear, The Wiggles and Thomas the Tank Engine. HA! Even I got sick of Blue's Clue's and The Wiggles. One little switch to the Cartoon Network and enter Scooby Doo stage right. Let me tell you, once on that slippery slope Cartoon Network, it's next to impossible to jump off.

He figured out the remote control and very often I would come home from a night out to find him clicker in hand, flicking through the channels at midnight. "Hi Mumma. I just seeing what on." Dear God in Heaven, what have I done?

So, I decided, fine, he watches tv, and not educational tv, but stupid tv, but he won't watch more than an hour a day. And that's final. I'm not budging on this one. The problem with that however, is the enforcement. I get busy with life and next thing I know I forgot all about policing Sam's viewing and he's been sitting there for three hours.

So, he watches tv. They all watch tv. It could be worse, right? I still draw random lines in the sand over what shows are appropriate and which ones aren't. This summer I lifted the ban on Phinneas and Ferb but I refuse to allow Sponge Bob. His voice drives me absolutely insane.

Even though I've changed the rules many times concerning tv viewing in our household, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm happy about it. I routinely rant and rave over the "STUPID TV!!!" I threaten to never turn it on again. I curse it and rage at it. It causes Sam to miss the bus on a regular basis because he gets sucked in and loses all track of time. It takes him thirty minutes to get dressed if the tv is on and a fraction of that if it's off. He's been reduced to tears on outings when he realizes he is missing his favorite show. He seems to have forgotten how to play when I make him shut it off.

I usually let him watch a show or two while getting ready in the morning. He asked and I saw no good reason to say no at the time. But it has been a huge problem this fall. The black hole that is our tv became a blight upon my very existence. The other day, during one of my rants, I told him no more tv in the morning until he'd finished all his jobs. By jobs, I am referring to all that he needs to do to get ready for school in the morning; things like getting dressed, brushing teeth, putting his pj's in the hamper. I expected protests and sobs. I expected him to ignore me and pick up the clicker immediately upon waking like he always does. However, he nodded his head and said not a word. The next morning he got up and ticked off every one of his jobs and was ready for school nearly 40 minutes early. Then, instead of flicking on the boob tube (why is the tv called a boob tube?), as I fully expected him to do, he ran outside with the dogs. Knock me over with a feather here.

It worked. One of those chance grasping at straws ideas worked. I usually put all kinds of thought and heartache into figuring out a solution to these kinds of problems and consult all the experts. But this I just threw out there as I hollered. And it worked. Okay, I know this solution seems pretty obvious, but it just never occurred to me that it would actually for real work.

p.s. We are half-way through week one with this new regime and still going strong!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

look closely

If my many many many walks and rambles with small children has taught me anything, it is that no walk is complete without immersing oneself in the world around us. The kids don't just walk along the path. They slowly meander along and look down, up, all around in no hurry whatsoever. The journey is everything. Check that, what you find on the journey is everything. They insist upon picking everything up, from rocks to sticks, to acorns to leaves to discarded plastic to berries to flowers. If it's in their path and it's portable it will be picked up and inspected, tested and played with. Most of these finds are dropped by the wayside but some select few are deemed treasures and make their way home for a visit. I sometimes get a little irritated at the slow pace of the walk and painstaking care they give to the nature finds. "Come on! Let's go!" I want to say. I'm glad I've learned to stifle that voice. I have learned so much from gazing intently at the holes in acorns and the pinecones stripped to a bare stem. Not to mention the joy that wells up inside to feel a little hand slip into mine or a little body nestle up against mine when we stop. I pretend that I am the one teaching them, but quite honestly it's completely the other way around.

Anyone remember those picture puzzles National Geographic Kids would feature? They had a grid of about twelve photos taken really close up and you'd have to guess what each one was. At least I think it was National Geographic Kids. I'm old, cut me some slack.

Anyways, all the nature walks with my little ones inspired me to create a book along the same lines. I went out with the kids and a camera and got up close and personal with some nature finds. I also went out again on my own to throw in a few surprises. The kids cannot get enough of this book. It is something they can read on their own and they love having to guess even though they've memorized what every picture is. I was floored by how accurate their guesses were even on our first reading. These kids know their nature science. Here are a well will you do?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

most kids ask for a dog or kitty or teddy bear but not my kids

This one asked for a dolphin

She asked for a Beluga Whale. The balloon man said he couldn't do that but he could do a Killer Whale. My little Marine Biologist informed him they are actually called Orca Whales and that would be fine. Although I don't know why he couldn't just make the Orca whale using all white balloons and call it a Beluga. But, I'm not up there twisting balloons into animals, so I should just keep my mouth shut.

I'll have you know Sam's first choice was a bison. The balloon man nixed that idea, so he settled on a scorpion. Which I think the balloon man pretty much knocked out of the park.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

a prime example of biting off one's nose to spite one's face

On weekend nights Sam likes to sleep out in the living room. Who am I kidding, he'd sleep there every night, but we only let him on the weekends. Our routine those nights is for him to choose a couch to sleep on and I tuck him in with a pillow and quilt from the quilt basket along with plenty of hugs and kisses. One night Sam asked if he could have just a little bit more time on the computer, "please, pretty please, with a cherry on top?" Being the mean mother that I am, I said no and sent him out to the living room while I tucked the girls in. Later, when I went out to take care of Sam, I found these little notes taped to the arm of the couch he was laying on.

I didn't know whether to cry or laugh after reading them. The kicker was him clarifying that it was "not opposite day" because isn't that exactly what anyone's first thought would be? Apparently, he really wanted to make sure to drive his point home. I managed to convince him to take a blanket and pillow but he still would not let me kiss him. Sam being Sam though, he didn't stay mad all that long. He came in my room a little later with tears on his cheek and said he didn't want me to kiss him still , because he was still a little angry, but could I please kiss him in the morning.

Monday, October 4, 2010

my baby is a preschooler but I'll be damned if I stop calling her my baby

Taking that first step away from Mumma onto that road to Independence. While I am over the moon thrilled for her, I am more than a wee bit sad that she's not all mine anymore. Apparently, I'm not all that good with sharing.

To say Katie rocked her first day of preschool would be an understatement. She was giddy with excitement over starting school and wanted to leave for it already the moment she woke up. Unfortunately school didn't start until 11:45. Made for one loooooonnnnggg morning. Finally the big moment arrived and Katie marched out the door and could barely hold still for pictures. Notice the chewed sandal she wore. Thank you Mudge for that. Why she couldn't wear another one of her 352 pairs of shoes, I just don't know.

She hopped out of the van and practically ran up the ramp to join her teachers and classmates. Yes, I am a dork and I got all teary and proud to see her so eager and ready to be a big girl in preschool. And ready she was. She loves school. That first day she came home and announced, "Mumma, I made a new friend!" Shocked and surprised as all get out that friends could be found in school. The second day she informed us she made another new friend, although this one she could not remember the name of. Only in preschool are you friends with people and not know their names and it really doesn't matter.

She had her first little bit of preschool homework the other day. They learned all about the letter "b" and she was asked to make a list of words that started with the letter "b." Homework she knows all about and she got straight to it, wandering around the house saying "buh, buh, buh, dog! nope. buh, buh, buh, table! nope. buh, buh, buh...." She finally came over to me after a short brainstorming session and was ready for me to help her list her "b" words. We wrote bike, basket, backpack and bar (which she pronounced "BAH" My lord but that girl has the worst Boston accent evah!) and her last two words...bra and boob. Um, yeah, I edited her list a little bit.