Thursday, June 26, 2014

Into The Wilds With Six Kids

 A few months ago I told a friend that I was going to take the kids camping this summer. We hatched a crazy plan to go together, with six kids between the two of us. We pulled it off, and it was a lot of fun! We went to a place called French Creek State Park. It was beautiful!

Here's Rowan, who knows how to rock ruffles, even when fishing for minnows. There were TONS of minnows!!

Katie leading Rowan through the woods. This place had lots of trails, and we just kind of explored until the kids got tired or bored, then went on to the next thing.

These flowers were growing along the dam, and I just couldn't walk past without taking a picture.

This! Marvel of modern society. Seeing this pretty much made my day. How hilarious is this? You put in cash or credit, and you can buy all manner of live bait, which arrives in the slot like a bag of potato chips.  I wanted to buy worms just for the novelty of it, but I refrained.

I used my fire building skills, along with my enthusiastic helper Tyler, who asked ALL DAY when we were going to 'match the fire'. I sent the kids to forage for wood in the woods and empty campsites. James hung around and 'wood hardened' about 5 sticks. I don't even think there is such a thing, but he would heat it up, walk it to the water pump, douse it, and repeat. Thankfully I didn't end up being branded.

I asked James and his buddy Hudson to let me get a picture of them. This is what I got: dueling marshmallow sticks.

And goofy expressions. These two pretty much kept themselves entertained, between the paracord I brought, James' pocket knife, and all the critters to catch.

There were tons of these itty bitty little frogs. I am pretty sure we stepped on a bunch without knowing. Aren't they cute?

There were also scads (does anyone use that word anymore??) of microscopic minnows, which were scooped up for bait. The kids' idea of bait is a little sketchy. They alternated between using these tiny minnows, and hanging an entire (shelled) clam on their hook. I think by the end I had properly explained to them that no, the fish cannot fit that in his mouth. Nor will you catch anything with that giant shark hook you found. It helped that they sat and watched the little sunnies congregate around their hooks, AKA the free lunch truck, without getting hooked as they nibbled away on giant oyster steaks.

This kid was in heaven. They all were, really. Here he is with a jar of minnows. FYI: Minnows have a very short life expectancy in captivity.

I caught a turtle! This trip gave me the opportunity to use the skills I honed so carefully in my childhood: catching critters and following the fishing line until you find a hook (or lure..). This turtle was so cool and I wish I could have gotten a better picture. I about got sucked into the mud catching this little guy. He caused a lot of excitement and fighting over who got to hold it next, until Tyler decided that he needed to go back and hurled him into the lake. That poor turtle took the flight of his life and has since developed a nervous twitch. Somewhat like the toad Tyler decided to 'help him fly', except that after his flight there was no twitch, nervous or otherwise. After that, I dusted off the old 'animals are our friends' speech and he made nice with some frogs.

Rileigh was much nicer to the turtle. If I had more time to make its acquaintance I would like to have figured out what kind it was.

This was the larger of the two lakes there, and it was fun of lily pads! Just off to the side here, we saw lots of downed trees that were sporting the handiwork of some beavers. Katie was the first to spot this. Apparently they have listened when I point out all sorts of things to then, because now they are starting to notice things before I do. They have eagle eyes!

James was really patient fishing. He kind of got the fishing bug while were there, and he buckled down and concentrated. He would sit very patiently with his little homemade fishing pole and wait, and wait and wait. If you know James, you know that he does not yet excel in the patience department but he did good. When we went to the lake the last morning, he told me 'Mom, I'm gonna catch that one fish that hangs out by the boats!' and I told him he had the mind of a fisherman. He didn't catch the rainbow trout he was after, but he caught a sunny and a mystery fish. Although both fish were smaller than a deck of cards, the smile on his face was huge! For the rest of the day, he would look at me and say 'I can't believe I caught two fish! I caught fish!' Priceless.

I'll post a few more pictures tomorrow. I had fun taking pictures! :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Because Inquiring Grandparents Want To Know...

 I took the kids camping this week. We went with a friend of mine and her three kids. Two adults, six kids and we all made it back alive! Its a miracle. I took a zillion pictures, and I will post more later, along with stories of our adventures, but for now here are a few....

Friday, June 20, 2014


Tonight I intercepted Tyler out of bed. He was sitting in the window sawing open the praying mantis case he found with a butter knife. He has been waiting for it to hatch since he found it on Tuesday and apparently it has been FOREVER. For the record, I don't see anything in it so maybe it was a dud? Already hatched? All I can say is that I am happy that I won't wake up to hundreds of baby praying manti creeping around in a jar. (Rachel, I am sorry you have to read this!) I sent him off to bed and went to check on Helicopter, the sick chicken. I have had bad chicken luck lately. This one may be egg-bound and I am trying to coax her along. I thought for sure she was a goner but she made it through the day and ate a little this afternoon. We'll see. So....when I came back in, I found Tyler, out of bed AGAIN, running around in his diaper with his string bean legs, chasing a moth with a 2 by 4. Seriously. What is up with my kids!? They are ridiculous. Thankfully no windows were broken, and he is miraculously asleep now.

In other news, I had a custom order from my Etsy shop and as it turns out, the lady is from Guam! I have realized in my interaction with her that this is what makes Etsy unique. The chance to 'talk' with customers and personalize the sale. It is pretty cool. The funny thing is, when she told me she lives in Guam, I wanted to ask her all about Guam and was she a native? Military? Other? What does it look like? What food do you eat? Because inquiring minds want to know. I decided not to be the crazy lady, though, and kept it mostly business. But seriously...Guam! I have a baby dress going to Guam. Gnarly, man.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Early Morning Adventure

This morning we were walking to the bus when James saw something on greenbelt. I looked over and we weren't sure what it was, until it popped its head out. It was a turtle! Considering we just finished watching several episodes of Turtle Man, this was pretty nice timing. It was just on the edge of the grass very near the road. Upon closer inspection it was a snapping turtle and a pretty big, burly one at that. It has some battle scars on the shell and although the shell wasn't huge (about 9" long?) the legs and head were ginormous!! Due to the nature of this particular beast, we just looked from a friendly distance and then started to go to the bus stop. Right at this time, one of the township maintenance men showed up and asked if there was a turtle. We told him yes, and he said he would move it to the creek. He got out, grabbed his gloves and approached the turtle. At this point I am thinking 'Dude, you look like a guy who might value his digits, and those gloves don't look like they would stand a chance against those jaws' but what I said was 'good luck!' When he came close enough to see it, he remarked 'wow, that really IS a big one' and thought better of the ol' catch 'em with your (almost) bare hands approach. He decided to get a bucket, only he didn't have a bucket. With some quick thinking, he used a large trashcan he had and coaxed it in. It did try to snap at the shovel at which point he declared 'Definitely a snapper!' which was pointing out the obvious. If you haven't seen a snapper, google it. They are kind of like freakish dinosaur turtles. At some point during this, a neighbor came down saying that this particular turtle stayed in her yard, and that it visited all the time and that HE lays eggs in my yard, and HE lays eggs in my garden every year, and bla, bla, bla. All the while, I pondered whether she realized what she was saying. Poor turtle is going to have an identity crisis. However, once dropped at the edge of the woods, SHE promptly took off at high-turtle speed to the creek. The excitement was over, we missed the bus and drove to school happy.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Strawberries, Etc.

We went to the Farmer's Market today. I bought myself 4 quarts of strawberries from the 'seconds' table. Oh, how I am a sucker for that stuff. I am very good at convincing myself that yes, it would be a fabulous idea to buy two cases of tomatoes for $12 even though I know I have to do something with them ASAP. Guess what I did this afternoon? I made Strawberry Rhubarb jam, Berry Rhubarb Salsa, Strawberry Vanilla Bean Syrup, and this sketchy Brown Sugar Banana Butter that seemed like a good idea at the time. Another one of those 'I just want to try it' recipes. I think it will end up sweetening bowls of oatmeal this winter. After that, we made homemade ice cream, because guess what folks?! My excitement for the week was finding a Cuisinart ice cream maker at the thrift store for $10! Yippee!

In other news, I am still eating at least one microscopic radish a day. Tyler wipes them off on his shirt and comes to me saying "I brought you a treat!" and watches me eat it. Do you think he himself would consider a radish a 'treat'? Probably not.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Garden

The kids and I have been slowly working to plant the garden this year. I have my trusty helper Farmer Tyler, AKA Captain Squatchy, who has helped the most this year. He is pretty well fascinated by the whole thing and can be counted on the plant seeds, not necessarily in the appropriate location or with the recommended spacing. In fact, he practiced a new technique I will call 'cluster planting' wherein it appears he dumped the entire contents of a pack of radish seeds within an 8 inch square. Every day he pulls one or two, washes off the microscopic root and feeds it to me. This also has the unintended but useful side affect of thinning them so he might actually produce a radish or two. The kid remembers nearly every plant he has planted and what it is. Katie also has her own patch which is planted with an assortment of flowers, mint and the odd tomato plant. James has opted again for Indian corn, this year planted from his very own seed! New this year are potatoes. I have a friend who writes a column in the Home and Garden section for the local newspaper in Grand Junction, Colorado. She wrote up a company nearby that raises potato seed and sent me some delicious looking taters from there: reds, fingerlings, and purple potatoes! They are looking good so far, and I attribute a large deal of the garden's success to a generous application of composted chicken manure. Its like gold, baby! I am also rollin' in the lettuce and rhubarb, which makes me very happy. Rhubarb is da bomb, yo.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Chappy Campers + Neighborhood Intrigue

Yesterday Chappy took each of the kids separately to work on projects. Rumor on the street is that they also stopped to get frosties. Katie got to ride to Lowe's and pick out spray paint for her birdhouse (purple!), James got to wield a pocket knife and came home with a motor, and Tyler...well, I am not sure what he did. I call this Chappy Camp, and they seem to love it! In fact, I dare say the come back Chappy Campers...har, har!!!!

When we got home from church today, I noticed that the neighbor a few houses down had a very fancy arch of wisteria and flowers over their sidewalk, with balloons and banners. These particular neighbors are not very verbose so I know nothing about them. A bit later, I looked out the window to see the makings of a spectacle. I realized I have lived in suburbia too long when I am staring unashamed out my front window to see what was going on! But you would to, because this is what I saw. A little back story: these particular neighbors are of the Asian persuasion. Can I say that? Its pertinent to how I figured all this out. Anyway, there was a large congregation of people standing on the sidewalk across the street. They were in suits and ties, long dresses and there was a professional photographer and videographer. The thing that was most curious is that each of the men was holding something that looked like it fell somewhere in between a giant covered dish and an urn, and each of them was turquoise. To give you an idea of size, you could fit a pretty big turkey in one. Under each dish/urn was a bright red cloth. The men in the front had something else covered in red cloth. The man at the end held a huge rectangular box on his shoulder. They were there for quite a while and it left me time to devise several theories: was this the Vietnamese version of an Quinceanera? Was the long box filled with flowers? A large rodent? Dancing leprecauns? And at what point will a golden elephant waltz in to the picture? It was all very interesting, especially since we live in a neighborhood where the typical party involves a couple dollar store balloons, chicken wings and a few cases of beer. All these people lined up in some sort of procession, and as this was happening my next-door neighbor walked right out and asked them what they were doing. Yes! Thanks to his snoopy-ness, I now have the D-L. As they stood in their driveway staring I walked over to ask him what was going on (making me equally as snoopy). Turns out it was an engagement party. Each one of those giant urns WAS filled with food, and the large box on the guy's shoulder contained............a roasted pig! Seriously. I briefly considered dressing up and crashing the party at that point. The procession arrived at the house, where there were about 5 young women in fancy matching dresses standing in line, along with a bunch of other people. They took the urns and brought them into the house, and then everyone followed in. Very interesting, I tell you. So I googled it and found that yes, this is a 'thing' and in Vietnamese culture the engagement is nearly as important as the marriage and there is a lot of symbolism and tradition tied in to this celebration. You learn something new every day!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Epic Cake + Miscellaneous Ramblings

A while back, I got the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. One of the recipes that caught my eye was for S'More Cake: graham crackers in the cake, chocolate filling and toasted meringue frosting. I have wanted to make it ever since but the occasion never arose. Last night, our small group peeps had a pool party/BBQ and I decided it was time! So I made the cake (recipe here). I will admit sometimes I make recipes just because they sound fun to make and the eating part is secondary. I like trying recipes. Everything went smoothly til I needed the torch. The torch was MIA. Houston, we have a problem. First I tried a match. It worked, but I figured the kids would be graduating high school by the time I finished. I briefly tried using a rolled-up paper torch but figured I had a greater chance of burning my house down than toasting the cake. Then I had an idea! Call Dad! It was one of the stranger requests: 'uh, yeah, Dad, do you have a torch? Because I'm kind of in a hurry to get to this party and I have a cake I have to basically light on fire and I can't find the torch...' So I threw the kids and the bathing suits and the cake in the car and headed over. I ran in, torched the cake and ran out. Nothing unusual, not at all! You will have to take my word for it, but the cake looked pretty cool and tasted great. I should have taken a picture.

In other news, after a long, dark winter, I have busted out the canner and commenced jamming. I was shocked this year when we actually ran out of jam...horrors! I usually make enough jam to last a millennium. So far I have made (don't drool on your keyboards please) Ginger Vanilla Rhubarb Jam, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (can you hear the angels singing?) and a new and ridiculously delicious Strawberry Mango Jam. Now to make the other 874 new recipes I want to try... :)

P.P.S. Boy, I am good at rambling. So, my kids are apparently very spoiled in the food department. The other day, Tyler asked for his 'favorite syrup'. I am actually out of it til peach season returns, but I got out some similar peach jam instead and tried to pass it off. But no! He wanted the stuff with the 'black spots' in it. Because doesn't every 4 year old ask for Peach Syrup flecked with vanilla bean seeds? Recently, Katie and Tyler were over at a friends house having a tea party. She said you could tell they were my kids because Tyler kept serving up imaginary food like 'Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam' and 'Lemon Basil' whatever...these kids are goofy!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Not-So-Funny Prank

So tonight the kids had a visit and we got back around 7:40. I wrangled them all upstairs to get ready for bed while James did his reading (again with the homework!). I got the younger two settled in, relatively speaking, and James went up to get ready. The next thing I know, he is trying to bamboozle Tyler into going into the bathroom and I heard a thunk. I ran upstairs hoping to cut the shenanigans off at the pass. Too late! My darling, sweet and civilized 8 year old had decided it would be hilarious to booby trap the bathroom by pouring hand soap on the floor. Rrrrrrrrr!!!!! As he slipped and slid all over, giggling hysterically I tried to keep myself from going all crazy-mom on him and handed him a pile of towels (which equals more laundry....super annoying!!) and told him to clean it up. Seriously. You decide to do this at 8:15?? Now they are super quiet under threat that there should be ABSOLUTELY NO TALKING, DO YOU HEAR ME??!!!! Ahh, the sound of silence. And the residual smell of hand soap. Whatever.

Other random tidbits: James came home and informed me that I need to put more...and I quote...."Exciting stuff" in his lunch. What?????? Isn't making your lunch at the end of a long school year enough? I mean, I know I've been slacking off and getting less creative with it but really? You're lucky you get a lunch. Especially after the previously mentioned tomfoolery. Instead of saying all this out loud, I asked him what exactly he considered 'exciting'. At which point, he informed me that I should continue putting a green apple in his lunch every day, because he ate it for snack. And I should also continue to pack chips and salsa. So basically, the only new and exciting thing he added to the list was a cookie. Its a good thing that kid is cute! Also today, I busted out ye olde canner and made the first jam of the season!! Freshly picked strawberries along with freshly picked (at the store) mango made for a new and delicious combination!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

End of School/Beginning of Farm

Today I hit the end-of-school wall. As in, I don't want to pack another lunch, sign another homework folder, fill out another permission slip, send in another $5, or time another fluency test. I might have groaned audibly when I cracked open the kids' homework folders to find....homework! Seriously?? With only 2 1/2 weeks of school left (yes, that's a whole other story) don't you think they could cut us all a break and just give up on the homework? To add insult to injury, James brought home multiplication homework last night. I imagine they are introducing the concept for next year, but it seems a little ridiculous to teach them multiplication during the last 2 weeks of school.

In other, more exciting news, our CSA started! I have a half share this year and it was soooo good to be back. I was so close to laying down in the strawberry patch and staring up at the blue sky but decided better of it what with having two kids with me and all. It was so nice, until all the pollen kicked in and decided to have a convention in my sinuses. But I have strawberries! Fresh strawberries! And I just might make some Strawberry Rhubarb Jam tomorrow in honor of spring.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

My Brain Just Exploded

First of all, blogging 2 days in a row? I'm on a roll.

Tyler just finished doing his biz-ness in the bathroom. Why do they always save that for when you just finished tucking them in? Is there some sort of Murphy's Law for that? So he is sitting in there, talking my ear off while I was in the art room. The thing is a) I have the hearing of a 60 year old drummer who's been to too many Aerosmith concerts, b) I have been going all day and I am tired, c) I just want SILENCE! So, because 4 year olds are all sorts of perceptive and full of empathy, he sat there and rambled for what seemed like an hour. A few of the topics he covered:

  • Remember that one time, at that one place, with that one person?
  • You know, where there was that one thing, and the giant boat, and the people said we were going to.....right mama?
  • How many days until the farm opens?
  • Wow! Only 2 days! That's like in two days, right mama? 
  • So two days is like tomorrow and then one more day, right mama?
  • When we go to the farm I am going to pick my own food. I am going to get lots of carrots for Giraffey (his stuffed animal) because Giraffey likes carrots, right mama?
  • You eat food and it comes out your butt crack. But why is it shaped like that?
  • When you flush the toilet the water vibrates and spins, and then it makes a whirlpool.
  • Can you wipe my butt????? When I'm bigger I'll wipe my own butt. 
And now he is sitting in bed pontificating on the subject of gravity as it applies to flying, and how the moon is in outer space with Jupiter, and why do we never go to Chris's house? I think my head's gonna explode. I mean, he's cute and all but if he doesn't go to sleep soon I'm gonna have to slip him some tranquilizer...ha!

In other news, James reported today that he thinks he was 70 or 80% good in Sunday school today. Good enough, right? And Katie...oh, that girl. There is a little boy on the bus that picks on her and it seems he is trouble all around. When I talked to the bus driver about it she had already written him up a few times. I was talking to Katie about different things she could do or say, and I may have thrown in a few one-liners in jest. Which I forgot about until she told me the other day with her cute, gap-toothed grin that she was going to put me in the hospital for 38 days to find my pair of grown-up teeth. Apparently they actually listen. Oops! :)