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Archive for April, 2012

The sun!

We used to live somewhere where it was typical to be over 90 degrees for most part of the summer.  When we moved here in June it was still cool and dreary.  By August we had something like 72 minutes over 80 degrees.  When I’d tell people we had moved from California, they’d apologize for the weather.  I’d reply, “My hometown is experiencing a heat wave.  It’s 112 there today.  I love Washington!”

What I’m trying to say is the sun isn’t a constant presence here in the Pacific Northwest.  I can see why the Twilight series was set here.  Of course, if I was a vampire, I would be sparkling all over the place, I’d live in Texas. I’d probably tell everyone I was a stripper by night and the glitter was impossible to wash off.  The cover story is paramount.

We’ve had quite a few days of sun this winter.  Every time the sun comes out, I shoo the kids outside. They whine and complain.

Mike:  I’m freezing! 

Me:  Put a jacket on.  Find some gloves, get a hat, locate a scarf, I don’t care.  Go outside!

Marshall:  Mom, the sun may be outside but it’s still only 32 degrees!

Me:  That’s okay.  You need the vitamin D and I need the peace.  I will give you hot chocolate when you come inside, but for now go outside and pretend you’re warm!

This week we’ve reached warmth.  It’s been a long time since we’ve been warm.  I was able to open the doors and windows.  We spectated some baseball in the sunshine.  We even needed sunglasses!  It was amazing.

We were out running errands and the kids were complaining of being too warm.

Mike:  I can’t wait until we get home!  I’m going to put on shorts and a short sleeved t-shirt.  I’m boiling here!  Maybe we could set up the water slide! 

Me:  You do know it’s only 67 right?  (I’m pretty sure we’ve acclimated.)

Marshall:  I don’t think we’re going to be able to go to California this summer?

Me:  Why not?

Marshall:  It’ll be too hot.  How will we survive?  Can you believe we used to wear a sweatshirt at 67 degrees and now we want to go swimming?!  Maybe we should vacation in Canada…

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Marshall left to go camping with the scouts on Friday morning.

It’s like someone cut off my right arm when he’s gone.

I have no one here to be my man power to help with my crazy ideas.  There isn’t anyone to shake their heads in disbelief as I walk around Home Depot trying to decide which drywall to purchase to make my chalkboard wall.  Their also isn’t anyone who will help me tip it into the cart and then get it to the car and shove it into the back of the minivan without complaining.  Hence, the drywall is still at Home Depot.

It is much quieter with this kid gone though.  He is constantly singing, humming, and all around making noise. I’m pretty sure this boy will either grow up to be a famous rapper (any other kind of musician is totally out of the question because unfortunately he was blessed with my wonderful lack of rhythm and being helplessly off key and out of tune, ALWAYS.  Yes, even my rendition of the ABC song is painful.

I’m pretty sure that the constant noise which seems to constantly spew from his mouth will be absent at camp.  Marshall was in charge of dinner for night 2.  While we are standing around they are talking about missing dinner for night 2.

Me:  Marshall, you should tell them you have dinner.

Marshall:  No, they know.  I signed up for it.

Me:  No, I don’t think they know you actually brought the food.

Marshall:  No, it’s fine.  They know.

Me:  Seriously, Marshall, they don’t know.  They’re talking about buying dinner. Tell them you have the spaghetti!

Marshall:  No.

Me (to the boy in charge):  Marshall has dinner.

Boy (to Marshall):  Dude!  Why didn’t you speak up during that hole conversation?!

The quite is a little bit unnerving though. It makes his absence so much more acute.  I’m sure he’s having a great time right now.  They’re probably telling scary stories in his tent while having a farting contest, or whatever disgusting thing tween boys like to do.  Or maybe he’s exhausted from hauling that massive pack around. Whatever he’s doing, I hope he knows how much we miss him here at home.

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I am a spur of the moment person.  I don’t plan, schedule, research, or do any of those responsible kind of things.

I had decided to paint one of my walls downstairs with chalkboard paint.  While at Home Depot buying more hardware for the chicken coop, I dragged Dave to the paint department to look at the chalkboard paint choices.

Dave:  What did you want to paint?

Me:  The downstairs wall in the hall. 

Dave:  Why?

Me:  Don’t you think it would be cool?  Mckayla and her friends would love it.  The kids could practice their penmanship on it.  It’ll be great!

Dave:  Not to burst your bubble, but our walls are heavily textured downstairs. 

And that’s why I need the voice of reason.  If it wasn’t for dave I’d have wasted $20 and who knows how many hours painting a chalkboard wall which no one would use because it would be bumpy.  I have ideas for this chalkboard wall.  It may involve a large piece of lumber, but it will come to fruition!

You would think that I would learn to run my ideas by someone, anyone really, before I dive head first into them.

I haven’t though.

I have been wanting a patio table on my deck forever.  It would be nice to take our studies outdoors on the rare occasion that the sun decides to shine.  It would also be nice to segregate the noisy kid.

Yesterday I had an epiphany.  I already own a picnic table.  It resided under the trees in my front yard.  The problem with living under the trees though is that it’s too cold in the shade to sit out there. What’s a girl to do?  Move it!

I recruited Marshall and McKayla to help me carry it around to the back of the house.  We went to lift it and it moved 2″, and I’m being slightly generous here.  The whole thing is made of 2x4s and 2x6s.  It probably weighs 1000 lbs.  We called in Mike and dragged/moved this beast across the front yard and to the back of the house.

When we got to the back we were met with obstacle number 1.  The stairs.

McKayla:  What are we going to do now?

Me:  I don’t know, maybe we can drag it up to the backyard and kind of tilt and drag it over the railing.

McKayla:  Should I channel my inner Hercules? 

We decided to carry it up the stairs. It was no small feat.  When we got to the turn we couldn’t get the darn thing around the corner.  We took off the benches.  No dice.

We attempted to take the deck railing off.  Thankfully, we couldn’t figure out how to disassemble the deck.  I’m pretty sure that Dave would not be terribly impressed with the table, if he had to reassemble the deck.We sat there brainstorming until we decided to just HeMan it over the railing.  I’m amazed that this beast didn’t crush the railing as it precariously perched on it before gravity took over and did it’s thing.  There were a few harry moments when we almost squashed mikey as Marshall, McKayla and I pushed from the bottom while he guided the top.

Already, we’ve eaten lunch out there.  It was especially gloriously because the sun decided to shine this weekend.

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When we lived in California, we were part of a homeschooling art class.  It met a friend’s house.  The kids learned how to use many different types of media in a very non-stressful, nonacademic format.  Well, McKayla did, the boys usually spent the whole time engaged in Nerf warfare. It was very informal but informative.  It was the highlight of our week.

Mike is my social butterfly.  More than anything he really misses the weekly get together with his best friend.  A few months ago he asked if we could start our own art class.  I can draw a pretty darn amazing stick girl, dress and pigtails included.  That is where my artistic ability ends.  We brainstormed all of the things that we knew how to do and people would be willing to learn.

Mike:  Cooking?

Me:  Sorry, I don’t think our kitchen is big enough to handle a brood of boys.

Mike:  Nerf warfare!

Me:  No. How about a book club?

Mike:  BORING!  How about crocheting?  You could teach us to make a stuffed animal.

Me:  I don’t think I could teach boys to crochet.

Mike:  cake decorating?  Then we could eat a whole cake every week!

Me:  Sorry, not my expertise.  How about a painting the treehouse club.  I could teach everyone to paint?

Mike:  NO!

Me:   How about sewing?

Mike:  Okay, we could try that.

I sent out an email on the various email groups we belong to. The first meeting we had 5 boys ages 6-9 and Marshall.  We made a pillow case.   Mike would like you to know that he did not choose a pink pillowcase for himself, but made it for his sister for her birthday.

 

The first class was a learning lesson.  I thought we could cut the pillow case out and sew the whole thing.  The attention span of a group of young boys is not that long.  Trying to direct a group of kids who have never sewn, was chaotic to say the least.  All I can say is, I am so thankful that my mom happened to be visiting during that first class.

Marshall made his brothers coordinating pillow cases.

After the class Mike and I talked about what we liked and what we didn’t.

Mike:  I want to play more! 

Following this lead, we decided to cut the sewing time down to 30-45 minutes and then the boys could play until everyone was ready to go home.  Honestly, I do very little teaching.  It’s more of a play date masked as a sewing club.  Everyone brings their moms, so the adult to kid ratio is 1:1.  Most moms have a basic knowledge of their sewing machine and can sew a straight line.

Week 2 we cut out a patchwork pillow.  I provided square templates and the boys cut out squares.  Then they played.

Week 3 We sewed together the front of the pillow.  What I really love about this project is how forgiving the patchwork was.  Yes, corners might not actually meet up, but if seams aren’t very straight, it’s hard to tell.  Even the boy whose material looked as if he gnawed it rather than cut it with scissors had a pillow that looked amazing at the end!

Week 4 we sewed the back and front together and stuffed them.  The hardest part of the whole project was the hand sewing to sew the stuffing closed.  Boys don’t particularly have the patience or fine hand eye coordination for a hidden stitch.  While the boys played this week, Jake and another sibling made tiny pillows.

Week 5 We lost a few families and gained some new ones.  We tried our hands at sewing a pattern.  The boys decided they’d like some new jammies. Actually, they’ve been coveting army and baseball fleece that they’ve spied at the fabric store and this was the best project we could think of to use it for.   I chose a Simplicity So Easy Pattern.  JoAnne’s only had ONE pattern so I ended up making my own patterns for the boys to cut.

This week we finished the jammies.  They turned out amazing!  I think my favorite part about the sewing class is seeing the individual boys.  I love seeing which fabric each boys chooses.

The twins have also been bitten by the sewing bug.  Jake was lucky enough to be given one of the boys extra pirate material and we whipped up a pair of jammies together today.  I pressed the pedal and Jake guided the material.

Nate also wanted a pair of Jammies.  We didn’t have enough pirate material, but I did have a pair of Dave’s pajamas which have been waiting far too long to have a hole repaired in a rather unfortunate spot.  He was very excited to have a pair of Daddy pants.  Nathaniel was not even remotely interested in guiding the material.  Instead he pressed the foot and I guided the material.  It was definitely an adventure.

Our next project will be a quillow (A quilt that turns into a pillow).  I think we will do this one.  I know there are much easier patterns, but I need something that will not only interest the 7 year-old but also challenge the 13-year-old.  Hopefully this isn’t something that will frustrate everyone.

Do you have any ideas for some sewing projects that a boy would love?  I’ve scourged the internet and have come to the conclusion that sewing is not only primarily done by girls, but also for girls. If we wanted to make tutus or dolls or an easy dress, I could find hundreds of patterns and ideas easily. Alas, I don’t think a pink tutu clad doll would be very appealing to these boys.   I’m thinking of designing some kind of nerf gun carrier, maybe a messenger bag.  Please give me some ideas.  I don’t want to reinvent the wheel.

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I chose lime green and purple because I need something bright and cheery to look at during the long dreary days of winter next year.  It was not the most popular choice among the boys in my family.  It doesn’t matter though, I love it!  It turned out much better than I could even imagine!

The day before my Dad left we went to the feed store and bought 4 chicks.  This coop is supposed to hold 4-6, but I figure they will probably want a little space.  This way they can each have a corner and look out and pretend they’re alone.  I can only imagine what it would be like cooped up with a whole bunch of girls.  Someone would be loosing some feathers and I’m sure it wouldn’t be me.

The kids are enamored with these little gals. They are very fun to watch. We are keeping them in the garage to save them from Frank the cat.  Plus, these little guys are noisy!

The boys wanted to test out the coop on the grass today.  Marshall and Michael carried it from the garage to the grass.  It was heavy, and Mike needed to rest often, but they did it.  I’m glad because the weight was something we were concerned about.  The chicken tractor needs to be moved every few days to give the ladies some new pecking ground.  This job will most likely fall to the boys.

Nathaniel really wanted to crawl up into the roosting part of the coop, but I’m not sure if the ladder is load tested for a preschooler. In order to assure that we wouldn’t break the thing on the first day out of the garage we secured the ladder in the up position.

After putting the kids in, we thought about letting them test the security of it over night.  You know, make sure the coyotes couldn’t get in.   Nate wasn’t a huge fan of this idea.

The kids are very excited to put the little gals in here, but we have quite a few more weeks before they can regulate their own temperatures. It’s like we are running a NICU unit for baby chickens.  Plus, we chose one who ended up with pasty butt.  Aren’t we lucky.  Of course, we got one with a nervous tummy.  We get the pleasure of wiping her hiney and feeding them some yogurt/feed mix.  Thankfully, she seems to be on the mend.  She is the one that Nate and Jake chose.  They named her.  Pooper McPooperson.  Poor thing.

Nathaniel still afraid of them up close.  The whole time he was saying “Okay, Pooper McPooperson, I’ll let you sit in my lap.  Okay, you can stand in my lap. Oh no, Pooper, don’t move.  Oh no!  Pooper don’t flap your wings!  Oh no!  Mom, I’m done!”

Jacob, on the other hand was much braver.  That is until Ducky here decided to poo all over him.  It was not fun.

Mike named his Spot because she has a small brown spot on her head (completely unseen by anyone but Mike).  Hopefully it’s not a piece of dirt on her head.  Marshall chose a beautiful bird.  She has feathers on her feet and an amazing stripe down her back like a squirrel, hence her name, Squirrel.

Hopefully these little gals will make it to adult hood.  Honestly, some days it’s questionable if these kids make it to adulthood some days.

 

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I am an alarmist.  I’m in the camp of people that thinks our government might collapse in the near future, bringing the dollar down with it.  It’ll be greater than the Great Depression.  Okay, I might not really believe that.  But the mere mention of food shortages, downward economies, lay offs, and etc, I start collecting nuts, dusting off the old sewing machine and looking up how to make my own water barrels on Bing.  (yes, I am trying to conform to the culture here and instead of “googling” something, we “Bing!” it here).

Dave is very lucky that we didn’t buy a house on the other side of the street.  That side of the street is all meadow, unlike this little patch of forest we own.  If we lived across the street, we’d already own two pigs, two goats, two mini cows, and two sheep.  It would be like a mini Noah’s ark at our house (it rains enough here).  Alas, we live in the forest and I’m pretty sure livestock likes open spaces not second growth forest.

Thinking about becoming a tad more self sufficient (aka: prepared for the zombie apocalypse), I bought the most amazing book ever at Home Depot.  What?  You don’t buy all your books at Home Depot?

Abandoning the farm concept (for now) I have plans for a large garden and a tilapia pond (okay, a gold fish pond) and a berry patch and some fruit trees and chicken coop.

I’ve been talking to Dave for months about the garden.  We’ve picked a spot but I’m not completely sure it gets enough sunshine and with this Seattle weather, it’s impossible to tell because we so very rarely have a full day of sun.  I went to a gardening class, read the master gardener website, and checked out copious amounts of books on gardening in this sunless damp place we call home.  (I know, I’m a walking travel brochure).

I think Dave has finally given in to the fish pond.  I’ve picked the location.  Just before I decided to break ground Dave took me to the pond store (yes, we actually have a store here that only sells ponds).  After pricing the whole shebang, I could feed our family and the neighbors for a year and still have enough left over for a large television.  For now, the pond will be an imaginary one rather than a real one.

This really only leaves the chicken coop.  I think Dave thought that he could put me off long enough on building it to steer my interests elsewhere.

After scourging the whole internet for chicken coops, I decided on a chicken tractor rather than a traditional coop.  I figure it’s not permanent.  If chickens aren’t are thing, I can sell it on craigslist, given the chickens to my neighbor and pretend the whole ugly mess never happened.

I found some plans online and we went to Home Depot.  (It turns out that the return on this investment may never happen.)

The plans I bought were made by an engineer, it was full of hypotenuses and geometry.  It was written more like a novel and less like plans.  It was accompanied with a google sketch file.

After lots and lots of cutting, it was finally time to start putting it together.  With every helper under the age of 20, you can add an extra four hours for each hour of “help”.

Dave had told McKayla that she could decorate my coop.  I imagined a neon splattered paint job which channeled 1987.  I would be forced to look outside my window and see this “hip” monstrosity for the next 10 years.  I vetoed her painting, splattering, or muraling my coop.  I am a great mom like that. This of course meant that I had to choose paint colors for the coop.  It also meant that my dad did most of the painting too.

We went through all of the left over paint in the garage.  Fire engine red, army green, mustard brown, creamy sand, white, forest green, royal purple, and daisy yellow.  Then we went to Home Depot for the coordinating color.

The kids helped.

You may think that many hands make light work.  Really though, many hands make stressful work.  Many hands also make messy work.  And many hands make noisy work.

Take note of the kids “paintin clothes”.  One child chose clothes too big for him.  One kid clothes too small.  After vetoing about 20 different outfits, I finally gave up.  Please don’t take note of all the junk in my garage.

After hours and hours of painting and assembling it finally started to look like a chicken tractor.  I think at this point we had to go back to home depot for different hardware, more paint and more wood.  So much for the shopping list.

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I can not even begin to tell you how adorable T-ball is.  It’s even more adorable than it was ten years ago when McKayla was in T-ball.  I didn’t think that it could be possible to get any cuter than a little girl with pig tails.  Somehow, following a week of major games, minor games and multiple practices, perspective starts to sink in.  It’s adorable, and all that matters at the end of the game is what kind of snacks you got, not who won or loss or if the umpire was fair and there isn’t even a small amount of self flagellation.

Nate was first to bat.  He swung and missed.  Loud clapping and cheering was still heard from the stands though.

Then he swung again.  He didn’t miss this time, his aim was just a little bit too low though.  “No highs! No lows! Wait for the perfect pitch!”

The third time, he didn’t exactly miss the ball.  He swung the bat so hard that he swung around and hit the ball on the second time around.   He’s an amazing bunter.  We might as well let him play up next year, just skip a second year of t-ball altogether and play farm.

There are no outs in t-ball.  I’m not sure if it’s because 4-6 year olds will cry uncontrollably if they get out or because it’s near impossible to get a group of 4-6 year olds to play as a team.  Either way, he made it to first base.  Do you know what else I love about t-ball players?  I love how willing the players are to pose for the camera.  I can’t get the older boys to even glance at me in the stands let alone pose and wave.

As a side note, don’t you just love how tiny those little cleats are?

Jacob waited patiently for the whole team to bat.  He was the last batter, this means that he gets to hit a grand slam (by default, but still a grand slam)  Someone has to bring all those runners home.  This may look like some serious strategy talk.  It’s not though, it’s really a consoling.   Jake was upset because the helmet was too big.  Near tragedy when you’re four.

After the pep talk, he approached the plate with determination.  He hit the ball on the first try.

The importance of a grand slam was a little lost on him though.  Or maybe, he realized that speed isn’t really necessary when you’re the last batter in t-ball.  They’ll wait for you.  This is him leaving third and moseying his way to home.  I particularly love his hands in his back pockets.

Sometime during Mike’s first t-ball game, he whispered to me (in a very audible volume), “Baseball is stupid.  All you do is sit on the bench and wait for your turn to bat.  Then you sit on the base waiting for everyone else to bat you home.  Then you sit in the outfield waiting for the ball to come to you.  Which it never does.”  Out of the mouth of babes.

It also seems to be a sentiment held onto by his younger brothers.

What should you do while you’re doing all that waiting on the field?  Pick up all those rubber pieces from the turf field, of course.

Or, maybe you should stoicly stand in the outfield day dreaming.

That is, of course, until the ball comes your way and all the parent’s hear the Peter, Paul, and Mary song in their heads.

The second inning was even more adorableness.  I’m really sorry that you couldn’t be there to be part of it.  It was much of the same, batting, hitting, running, walking, complaining.  Then there was Nate pitching (which really only means he stands in the general area of the pitchers mound, with a helmet on because I’m guessing one daisy picking kid too many took a ball to the head.)

And when you’re the pitcher, what position is the perfect compliment for your twin brother? Of course, it’s the catcher.

When Mike was old enough for t-ball, he did his classic fist pump and said, “YES!  NOW EVERYONE WILL HAVE TO COME AND WATCH MY GAMES! IT’S MY TURN NOW!”

Nate and Jake don’t seem to have that kind of drive (or egoism), they really only care about the snack. It was the thought of the snack that got them through the game.  At the between inning slump, it was the enticement of rice krispie treats and cheese sticks that made them don their batting helmets with as much determination as a tired four-year-old can.

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