Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer - Week 1

School's out for's out FOREVER...OK, not forever. Only about 10 weeks for us this time. Which will probably completely fly by. The first one is whizzing past at an amazing pace.

The kids had to go into school on Monday for 2 1/2 hours to get their report cards and watch movies. Don't even get me started on how ridiculous that is - since they got out 2 hours early on Friday... Right, not starting on that.

So we went out for a celebratory lunch at McDonald's and ice cream at DQ on Monday and then spent the afternoon at a pool party our lovely neighbor threw for all of the kids in town. Yay!

Yesterday we went to the Philadelphia Zoo and had a great time. The weather was just right and the kids were extremely cheerful and cooperative. Amazing!

We saved our lunch money by packing sandwiches and redirected the budget to rides! All three of us pedaled a Swan Boat (and only ended up in a bush once!) and Sprout rode a camel. Tater was going to ride a pony, but changed his mind at the last minute. He decided he was too big and was afraid he was going to crush a pony. Much as we tried to convince him that he wasn't that huge, he wouldn't do it. Oh well.

A treat of Dippin' Dots and all was well. Not even any begging for face painting. Unbelievable! We sprung for the family membership so we'll be going back again sometime this summer, and in the fall, and the get our money's worth! I'll do a post later in the week with zoo pictures. I took lots!

Today (Wednesday) we met my mom at Hank's Place in Chadds Ford for a late breakfast.

Then we accompanied her to the Dansko Company Store in West Grove, PA. Sprout was very excited about shoe shopping until she realized there were limited choices for kids. Like, apparently only Amish children can get shoes there.

They actually wanted these. Um, no.

Sprout then got her heart set on these - which are more reasonable from a fashion standpoint, but were too big and not summer-appropriate. So she is thinking maybe they could be school shoes in the fall.

After Nana found her new shoes for her trip to Paris, it was still fairly early so we decided to go check out the Eldreth Pottery shop/factory in Oxford. What a great idea!

Their Oxford location is back in farm country, and we put great faith in the directions that the nice ladies at Dansko had printed out for us and finally found it. The front of the shop was surrounded by painted pottery birdhouses and birdfeeders - so cute!

We were looking around in the shop when we were directed toward the back to go see how they make the pottery and got a full tour of the production facilities.

This guy showed us how to make a bowl on the pottery wheel (in about 2 minutes).

See how fascinated my children are?

Then this nice lady showed us how she does the hand painting.

And no, I don't know why Sprout is doing that with her arms.

Here is a close-up of the painting - which turns blue when it is fired. Weird, right?

Then we also saw where they do molded pieces and where they paint the more colorful redware - which I love and covet. Didn't know I did until I saw this big display of it. But I think we look good in front of it, and therefore must have a house full of it. It's only logical.

So this was one of those days that I am sure didn't sound all that fun to the kids (shoe shopping? pottery?). But it turned out to be super cool and interesting.

Tomorrow we are headed to a kid's session at Super Suppers. The kids get to make a dinner, a snack and a dessert. They love to cook, so I think they will enjoy the chance to do so without their neurotic mother freaking out about sharp knives and hot stoves.

After they "cook" we are going to meet friends at the Crayola Factory in Easton.

This week is not indicative of the pace that we will be taking for the rest of the summer. We are really going at more of a breakneck pace than we will be maintaining from here on out, hopefully with lots of time hanging out at the pool and playing.

But it's been fun so far!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fine Art

How do you like this fabulous piece of art? It was painted especially for us by a young (very young) artist.

You know her as Sprout.

She did this one when she was about 4. I liked the abstractness of it and thought it looked like many of the random artworks that you could buy to fill your walls. So I got this nice frame and hung it on my wall.

This one is a Tater original.

I believe that the lines were made by driving a toy truck through paint. Very emotive, I think.

Then we have this example of a multi-media composition, I think this was a Sprout, but I can't be sure. Colored tissue paper. The rainbow-ness of it is moving in the direction of clearly pre-school art. But I love it nonetheless.

And finally, a Pollack-like splattery thing. I think this is a Tater. I should have labeled them so that my poor, weak brain cells wouldn't have to search for the answer.

I have these hanging in my "formal" living room and dining room. I think the abstractness of them is key to it not looking like my kids' artwork is hanging all over the place. But maybe it just looks like my kids' artwork is hanging all over the place and no one has called me on it.

Either way, this could be a good idea for what to do with some of the huge piles of artwork your kids bring home from school at the end of the year. It makes them feel like "real" artists to see their work hanging in real frames on the real walls.

And I love that the art on our walls means something to us.

And, yes, I know you can see my reflection taking the picture in almost every shot.
I meant to do that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Birthday Traditions

I grew up in a family with many traditions. Many of these traditions surrounded major holidays: tree trims, Father's Day dinners, creamed onions (!) for Thanksgiving...but I don't really remember a lot of kid birthday-related traditions.

We usually had a monthly birthday-fest with all of my cousins to celebrate whoever's birthday had happened recently. My birthday in August was frequently pre-empted by our beach vacation (which I was OK with...the beach is a good thing to be pre-empted by!)

But around here, we have some birthday traditions.

The birthday child wakes up to this:

Wears this:

Usually gets some of these:

And frequently gets to spray some of this:

He/she also gets to pick a restaurant for a dinner out. And chooses a treat.

Tater chose Isaac's for dinner, and Milky Way Farm for ice cream.
He's an excellent decision maker.

We usually have a kid party - although I think we may have just had the last "big bash".

And then there is the family party. Tater's usually includes some sort of water play element - we have a Slip-N-Slide ready to go, if our yard isn't a total swamp. Sprout, with a birthday very close to Halloween, has done costume parties or scavenger hunts.

We call it Birthday-palooza...and I am fairly sure the kids feel adequately celebrated. And if I ever tried to skip even one of the elements...I am fairly sure I'd be in a boatload of trouble!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Super Seven!!

Seven. Seriously? Seven?
That can't be right.

He was just a little velvet-headed baby in a basket.
He was just in one of those baby-slings looking at me like I was insane to do that to him.
He was just freaked out by the rocking horse that talked to him.
He was just unwilling to touch the sand on the beach.
He was just telling me that I should cook the green beans in the toaster.
He was just bringing me paper flowers.
He was just convincing his sister that it wasn't so scary to ride the bus.
He was just six...and I was just getting used to the idea...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saving Blankie

I'd like you all to meet Blankie.

Blankie has seen better days. He has been a constant companion to Sprout for over 9 years - some of those more constant than others. When she was an infant and toddler she took him (and Lambie) everywhere with her. Back in those days Blankie was a gorgeous chenille blanket from Churchill Weavers - which I discovered has apparently gone out of business. Sad face.

Back in his heyday, Blankie looked sort of like this...but pink. And no, I don't know why he's a he. He just is.

Anyway, Blankie has been crumbling before our very eyes. Behaving much like the museum-bound artifact that he is. We attempted a "fringectomy" and stitched around the edges to stop the unraveling. He has several huge scars where we sewed huge tears back together. He is a mess.

A week or so ago Sprout was lamenting his sad condition and broke down in tears that he was going to completely fall apart and then she would need a new one.

Did I mention the company that makes them has gone out of business? That you can get one on eBay - but it will cost you $200 (!) and that she is 9 1/2? All of these factors add up to a great big negative on a replacement strategy.

So I came up with the brilliant (I think) idea of sewing Blankie to some sort of soft, supportive backing fabric that would hold him together and allow him to live a long life of soothing the jangled nerves of my pre-pubescent child. Sometimes a girl just needs her Blankie.

I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and found this nice velvety/veloury fabric. The goal was for it to be super-soft and thin enough to be cuddly once it was hooked onto Blankie. This fit the bill nicely. And the stars are cute.

My original plan was to sort of quilt Blankie onto the top of the fabric. And no, I have no idea how I was going to do that. But once I laid him out on top of the new fabric, I had this great brainstorm that I could just sort of fold up the sides of the new stuff around him, like it was the binding on the blanket. Like a frame around Blankie.

Doesn't he look sad all laid out there, like some animal pelt? Poor Blankie - don't worry, it will get better...

So I wrapped the edges up and pinned them. Blankie is missing a huge hunk of corner so the end result isn't square, but I think that is somehow more fitting.

I even carefully (sort of) mitered the corners so there wouldn't be so many layers of fabric to jam through my underutilized sewing machine.

Where is that thing anyway?

So I found the sewing machine, and after breaking the needle, annoying the bejeezus out of the nice lady at Jo-Ann's with my sewing-machine-needle-buying cluelessness, finding that there was actually a spare in the machine (oops), tangling the thread several times, and remembering how much I adore my child and why it was worth doing all of everything sewed up. Whew.

I think the end result is quite fabulous. He even looks pink again with his new backing. I did some vertical lines of stitching across Blankie's surface to stick him down to the backing so he is firmly attached.

And no, they are mostly not straight. And his scars are all still showing.

But I think that's OK. He's not going to be modeling anytime soon. And Sprout has been walking around hugging him and wearing him and loving him. And she's pretty happy with me, too.

Ah, the things we do for the love of a child. The things we can fix, we fix. The things we can't fix, we try to find a way to fix anyway. And sometimes it actually works out. I love it when that happens!

Friday, June 5, 2009

You are SUCH a Mooch!

I have a problem. I am addicted to books. I have piles and piles (and maybe a few more piles) of books that I am reading, plan to read, think maybe I should read, or think someone else should read.

My children have inherited this sickness and each of their rooms is full of shelves of books and piles of books. And they want more books. Always more books.

Of course, this is a good sickness to have. But it can take a toll on the wallet. And yes, there is always the library. But I frequently can't find what I want at the library - and I also have some patience issues (I know, shocking) and so off I go to Barnes & Noble and drop more cash for more books...

And then I found that mooching can be such a good thing! Now I am also completely addicted to the
Bookmooch website.

Basically, you list all the books you have (from all of those piles) that you would like to give away to a new home. People who want those books "mooch" them from you and you send them off to their new families. You pay postage (media mail - about $2.50 per book) to send the books away, and you get "points" in return.

Then you take your points - one point per book generally - and use them to mooch new books that you want. And they are sent to you FOR FREE!!

If the books you want are not immediately available, you can build a wishlist, and when one of them becomes available, you get an e-mail. It is such a beautiful system.

I have given away 40 books (!) and gotten 30 FREE ones in return (and I have enough points to get 14 more!)

You can find TONS of kids books on Bookmooch. We have gotten a bunch of "Magic Treehouse" books and a bunch of "The Littles" books. Also lots of bestsellers, current books, older books. The most current will take a little while to get to Bookmooch (people must buy, read and decide they no longer want them first) - but I got all of the Shopaholics for free (not proud that I read them...but I didn't pay for them!)

If you can control yourself (as I frequently can not) at the bookstore and just write down the books you'd like and then go check Bookmooch, you could save yourself a TON of money.

And it is earth-friendly! Recycling at it's finest! Great lessons to teach your kids - patience, cheapness, and reuse/recycle!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What is happening to me??

I am actually excited by the fact that the Jonas Brother, Ashley Tisdale and Mitchell Musso are coming out with new CDs. So I will have more selection on my "kids mix" on my iPod.

So not good...