Monday, April 30, 2007

Working and weekends...

About all of my nights (6 of 7) are spent working. As soon as the boys fall asleep, I go into work mode, and pull out my desk, laptop, project folders and print out my to-do list. While I do check email and do work during breaks and naps during the day, in general my work happens between 8PM and 1 or 2AM. I know many moms who have children who quietly play on their own for a few hours a day while they work - but my kids just don't have that temperament! My husband is in grad school while also working full time, so his nights match mine and it works out for us (he graduates in only a few weeks!!!).

Some weeks there are many projects, deadlines and it can be hard to turn that off with everything running through my head - lists, ideas, messages. But I also know my children need me to be 100% present when I am with them. The mental switch is something I have a hard time with when it is really busy (don't we all). This weekend was one of the busiest - many projects in progress, a few "emergencies", plus volunteer projects all needing some updates.

To help out a little during naptime, my husband took out our oldest on the newest addition - a third wheel! After debating a few options, we decided since his regular bike is fine for riding around in the alley, that the third wheel would make us more mobile for family rides - and if he is tired he doesn't have to pedal. They went out for their first run Saturday. A was grinning from ear to ear and pedaling so fast (even downhill, I hear!).

Friday, April 27, 2007

Trees, Trees.

Today is Arbor Day!

A few fun books to read today.

The Tree

The Lorax

Sky Tree

Homemade playdough recipe.

We keep experimenting with different dough recipes. I personally don't like any with coloring. Food coloring stains and gets into carpet and I don't buy those instant beverage powders called for in some recipes. So we do natural beige. I am sure if you had natural food colorings it would work well.

I keep playing with the recipe too - A has texture issues, so to speak, so anything that leaves a residue is a no go, so I add a little more flour to ours (not as malleable). For us we still use other types of packaged soft doughs, but love making our own several times a year. The boys measure and stir the ingredients (but of course I do the stove stuff).

Homemade Playdough, (not edible)

1 c. flour
1 c. of water
1/2 c. of salt
2 tablespoons Cream of Tarter
1 tablespoon of Oil

Cook the ingredients until it forms a blob in the pan. Pour/scrape it out onto a plate or pan. Cover with damp cloth and let it cool down. Then it is ready to play with! Store it in the fridge in an airtight container.

What a difference two years makes.

Two years ago almost to the day. They say time flies but that just doesn't quite cover it, does it?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Attack of the toddler.

I know, this picture looks nice enough. A is playing in his shop, ringing something up, it is organized and stocked with groceries, toys, and bags. He is happy. But lurking, the two year old plots his next move (Jaws Theme Song Here and the blurry arm to the left). Suddenly, whoosh, he attacks. The shrieking "MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE DOOOOOOOOOOOO" (yes, this was edited, my 4 year old corrected me) gives the shopkeeper warning, and he turns to the sound, just as the rushing toddler reaches him. After a brief struggle with the bar code scanner, the shopkeeper concedes the hand-held device to the wild and insistent 2 year old, who replaces him as shopkeeper.
As a final warning, and to establish that he is in fact the shopkeeper, the toddler gives one last shriek, "MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" ...
...before happily scanning wooden items and placing them in canvas bags. The former shopkeeper, now reduced to the shopper, graciously accepts the bag, hands over all of his money as payment, and sings a song as he wanders off to the next thing. The ripples settle, and both are merrily playing, as if the toddler "incident" never happened.

Sustainable, local, ethical food...

eth•i•cu•re•an n. (also adj.) Someone who seeks out tasty things that are also sustainable, organic, local, and/or ethical — SOLE food, for short.

The ethicurean blog has been around awhile. I know I am a bit behind on blog reading - there are so many great ones out there and I am a busy mom of 2 little guys - but I just didn't even know about this one. I'm hooked now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I find it so interesting to see peeks of things with the boys. Personality differences, talents, interests..

For example, with art/crafts. A is now 4, but in all of his years generally doesn't have much interest in coloring or painting. He enjoys something like painting, in a way, but only if he can pile the biggest glob on paper and roll over it with a truck. Or, dump the entire cup of gray water from the painting onto the paper and roll over it. Play-doh, same thing. For YEARS A has had no interest in the cutting shapes, rollers, or other dough implements. Roll it flat, get out the tractor, run it over. Sandbox too - A, for years has been a machine digger, G is a wiggle his toes making sandcastles.

Sure, we make crafts...for A, glitter glue holds down cutouts of machines and sea creatures in shoe box dioramas. But his idea of fun is power tools. Or hammering nails. Assembling and taking apart. Figuring out how everything works. Anything with a screw in it, he has taken it apart and put it back together again. He reads books over and over (or should I say he makes his parents read over and over and over and over) until he memorizes facts, figures, statistics, information. He likes writing recently, but his handwriting/letters (well, for all 4 year olds) are big and blocky.

G, on the other hand, while only 2 is a different creature. He LOVES to draw. Teeny little swirly spirals, colors, filling in blocks. He loves to glue too. Glue little dots, pieces of paper, stars, shapes. He loves to paint. Swirly, different colors, lines, shapes. He likes play-doh. He rarely if EVER shows ANY interest in the huge bin of machines to choose from to smush the play-doh with. Instead, he likes to roll. Stamp. Cut-out shapes. Roll little balls (and throw them across the room). Make worms (and throw them across the room).

In the big picture they like the same things. Music - memorizing every word and singing at the top of their lungs together. Going fast. Jumping off of things that are very, very high. Playing ring around the rosy naked. Jumping on the bed. Bunny crackers. But I can tell even now, they are going to be soooo different. A is my little engineer (he wants to be a marine biologist he says, so perhaps same attention to detail), G my little artist?

Monday, April 23, 2007

How I Became a Pirate

We reserved this book at the many friends have kids into pirates. Mine, not so interested. I thought the artwork looked amazing, so I got it for myself!! After sitting down and relaxing, A really enjoyed the book. So much that I had to read it many times a day. He wanted me to get out the pirate "hook" and bandana for him to wear, and even put on a play silk sash. G, who is only 2 and not usually interested in anything but CLOSING any book we are reading, enjoyed the pictures too. He even put on the costume several times and ran around the house screaming ARRRRRRRRRRRRRR. And "hoydare" (ahoy there!).

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Photo of the Day - Ring Around the Rosy.

First sewing machine experience.

My sweet little (big) 4 year old tore his favorite butterfly canvas bag last week. The one that he uses to carry his trains, rubber insects, and collections everywhere we go. It wasn't very thick canvas, and so no surprise it tore. I asked him if he would like to make a new one with me, and that he could choose the fabric and straps and everything else. We could make it double strong with a lining of canvas. He was excited, and extended his assistance to wanting to sew on the machine and help with pinning, etc. I saw on another mom blog last week that her (a bit older) son was safely operating a sewing machine, so I said as long as we worked as a team we could, as there are sharp or pointy parts. He agreed. He picked his fabric, helped smooth it out and we cut it "together". He inserted pins with me, and helped prepare the bobbin. When we began to sew, he helped guide with his left hand, feed with his right, and push the pedal as he leaned against me. He was so focused and did a great job keeping the lines straight. Now, we didn't do anything complicated...the inside is raw edges and the straps (simple wide brown bias tape) are machine sewn right into the inside (not in between lining and bag), but he did it! It is very cute and very durable, and he has proudly carried his trains in it everywhere for the last 2 days since we made it. At a cafe today (great new local place, Indigo in Verona), he chatted away to a woman about how he sewed it with me, and how we make such a great team. I agree!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Home made plushies.

Whenever A sees something he likes, he cuts out the picture (he is an avid catalog collector), and brings it to me. He always wants to create his own home made versions of everything. He has improvements, new colors, changes, you name it, to make it exactly how he wants it.

We made this batch of plush toys after such a moment. The big one is a great travel pillow, and the little ones he said he NEEDED ... they have wheels AND a wrist tie. I don't often buy big chunks of fabric lately - I raid the remnants bin at the store and that way we always seem to have a little bit of anything and everything for our latest project. Worn clothing/blankets/towels/sheets also work great recycled into craft projects.

Baking, reading, rainy days...

Yesterday was a rainy cool spring day, so we were inside for the first time all week. A had said Wednesday was his baking day when he made his "schedule" so we made muffins. I have to say that baking ANYTHING with a spunky two year old in the house can be quite challenging! The boys love to measure, crack, stir, and pour. After the muffins went into the oven (the entire kitchen and crew covered in flour, eggs, and crunched shells), we read a few muffin and baking books including "If You Give a Moose a Muffin". When the muffins came out, we had to read it again as the boys picked all the blueberries out of the muffins before they could take a bite.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Magnet letters are fun.

Last weekend we bought some magnet letters for the fridge (round 02). A has been wanting to spell and is "writing letters" to all of his imaginary friends, so we thought he might enjoy them. This morning I heard a sound coming from the kitchen as I was dressing the toddler. Mmmmmmmmmmm-aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh-mmmmmmmmmmmm. Over and over. I went into the kitchen, and the 4 year old had spelled mom and dad with the letters! How amazing!
A little while later, he was going through his dictionary (he calls it his great big book of everything, after Stanley). He was looking at "T" because it has a train, tractor, tugboat and many other items all on one page. He asked what type of train was in the photo--it is a TGV (train à grande vitesse, which means "high-speed train", France's high speed rail). He went through the letters on the fridge many times. He is mostly just familiar with upper case letters, and not so much lower, so is wading through some of that with the whole set. He asked questions a few times, "Mom, is this a V?". He then had it. The train is a TGV. Voila!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Green on Sundance...

Did anyone see the new show on Sundance - "THE GREEN"?

I am always interested in seeing how much information and innovation will be generated by the current attention. Any new technologies or information we can use now? What more can we as a family do. My husband and I also like knowing about the science of things. So my tivo was set as soon as I heard about this new show.

I think the show was smart and interesting. The small blips of information and stories made it quick and easy to follow. Of course the people featured are innovative and passionate and I loved hearing from each person - both the well known (such as David Suzuki) and the regular people working to make an impact. The cinematography and music was very textural and dynamic (of course, it is Sundance). I am interested to see the next episode and where it goes from here!!

Monday, April 16, 2007

A glimpse into my crystal ball...

Most of the time I look into the faces of my boys and I see them in the moment, in their glorious small child spunkiness. Some days, I get a moment, just a glimpse, and I see something in a face, a gesture, a smile - and I see the face of who they will become. You know how it is when you look at small child photos of your partner/spouse and you just see some perfect replica of a feature in there, and can tell that it is them immediately? It is almost like that, the recognition...

The boys decided to play ring around the rosy together, got too hot running around, and took off their shirts. They ran a bit longer, and then sat on the couch to relax. They had this little joking/talking easy rapport going and were laughing with each other. That is when it happened for me...they were chattering away and relaxed and I could just see their faces in 10-15-20 years. It lasted just a moment, and then was gone.

Sometimes I think about it and wonder what they will look like, what they will be like... But for now, I will just look into the faces of my amazing little guys, and take the little glimpse here and there of the amazing people they will become.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Learning to pedal.

Last fall, G was just learning to pedal a little hot wheels type of toy, but hasn't ridden all winter. With all of his asthma issues and ear infections all winter he has just hated being outside at all until this week when it warmed up a bit (yeah, I know, almost a foot of snow earlier this week, but it was also in the 50s!). When the warm weather comes, all of the children from our block flood into our carriage lane on bikes, tricycles, scooters, hot wheels and every wheeled or ride on toy you can imagine. G saw everyone riding and decided he wanted to ride too. We pulled out the Radio Flyer tricycle and he spent awhile riding slowly back and forth as the kids whizzed past him, with his feet slipping off, always veering to the right. He was a little frustrated, but after watching his feet on the pedals for awhile, he finally had a rhythm, and was on the go. Not as fast as the bigger kids, and still in the perpetual right turn, but definitely moving without needing a push. He kept telling me - I ride bike mySELF.

After the storm - April is here.

It is hard to believe that only 4 days ago we had a storm that dropped almost a foot of snow. The day after the storm ended it hit 50 degrees and most of the snow melted, and by Friday it was all gone. Today we went for a walk on a nice trail that goes through beautiful Wisconsin farmland. The grass was green and the trees budding, the birds were chirpy and busy, and it was cool but sunny and nice. The boys walked almost a full mile (!) before the chilly wind hit, and then rode in the jogger stroller the mile back to the car. It actually felt like a nice spring day!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Luscious artwork - "Tree Ring Circus"

Tree Ring Circus, by Adam Rex.

I got this book for my 4 year old from the library this week and while yes, he loves the story, wow...I just love the artwork.

"2 tigers, 3 chipmunks, 5 poodles with capes, 1 lion, 3 squirrels, 2 key-stealing apes, 2 blue jays, 1 ostrich, 1 raven, a clown. A cat who climbed up and would love to get down. 2 sparrows, 1 chicken, a whopping big bee. 5 mice and a bear ...and a very full tree."

The paintings are gorgeous, the style includes vintage three ring circus signage/text and it is so interesting to look at. Definitely a great story and picture book for kids of all ages. I visited his website (illustration, blog, books) and found another book, titled "The Dirty Cowboy" - I put that one on hold and will hopefully have that from the library in a few days. Can't wait!

Go Organic! for Earth Day

I found this on and thought I would pass it along!

Want to go organic, but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. This April, more than 3,500 grocery stores across the nation and 40 leading organic manufacturers will come together to help consumers discover, understand and ultimately enjoy organic products as part of their daily lives.

Go Organic! For Earth Day
provides free money-saving coupons available at participating retailers throughout April, education on the benefits of organics, Earth Day events and a sweepstakes for an all-expense paid trip to The Crossings wellness spa in the scenic Hill Country of Austin, Texas. Delicious organic recipes, a fun "Test Your Organic Smarts" quiz, and a store finder to locate participating retailers can be found at Coupon books can also be obtained by calling 1-866-I-GO-ORGA (NIC).

And speaking of felt...

I have been working on what I thought would be a simple table runner forever. I didn't calculate appropriately the toddler factor. I thought that the super easy minimalist design stitched onto the felt and fabric piece would be quick to pick up whenever I had a minute. I didn't factor in that it is very long, so the rest of the whole piece is rolled up whenever I am working on the left or right design. This alone means that it is a giant toddler magnet, which draws a running/shrieking two year old right at it. Add in a few brightly topped pins, a needle and floss, and of course a mom not staring right at him for every waking breath, and, well, still workin' on it...

A is for...

A always wants one of whatever is being made. His request usually includes some out of this world custom addition - this time it was simple. An "A". Green is his favorite color, so that choice was an easy one. He wanted something bright for the A stitching, so we used white. It has a snap so he doesn't lose the treasure inside. Today that would be his little hedgehog. The stitches are not perfect, but that is a challenge with a 4 year old helping. G wants one now too. BLUE!!! Although as a spunky 2 year old, he isn't quite as much "help" in the process as his big brother is!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Painted Recipe Box

I love boxes. Not sure where it came from, but I see a box, I want to paint it. Doesn't matter how many recipe boxes, treasure boxes, "stuff" boxes, toy boxes, or well, boxes, I have, I am just drawn to them. I think boxes fill the void that canvas used to fill. I just don't have the time to paint a big white canvas anymore - and the boxes are quick, small, adaptable, and functional.

Snow, Part 2

Still going strong...the forecast has gone from 8-10", to 8-12".

The boys have been finding ways to keep themselves busy.

And yes, the four year old is still in his pj's. He said they were comfy and cozy for a snowy day at home, and who am I to argue?

Just the beginning - snow, snow, snow!

We are supposed to get 8-10" today. Nice day to cozy up at home with the boys, have some coffee, listen to big band, and do some crafts. We were expecting the storm so yesterday we made a run for supplies. Plenty of snacks, clay, paint, paper, colored pencils, and glitter glue. A also picked up a mazes book. Thus far today the boys have wanted to play at the train table and race circles around the house...A with his scooter and G with his big car. I get the fun job of being the toll taker. Every lap, I have to yell "STOP! Please pay the toll!!!" and I get a kiss. G has been doing this lately too - and every time A passes him he yells "TOP! peez pay ya toe!!!". He gets a kiss.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Photo of the Day - memories!

I was digging around in old folders looking for something, and found a bunch of images of my boys when they were just a few weeks old. They look a lot alike in these images. They are so beautiful it takes my breath away.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Signs of spring...and snow?

LinkThe weather has been so odd this "spring" (though we haven't had the blizzards here WI compared to so much of the country). It was 80 degrees less than 2 weeks ago, and now it is in the 20's at night, and snow flurries coming for the rest of the week. Somehow though there are signs of spring, bushes are budding, grass is green, and the leaves on the trees are beginning to peek out.

Red Handed

G found a little slot between the counter top and the cabinet base in the kitchen. It is his mailbox, and he has been putting anything he can find in there for several months now. Mail, bills, envelopes, drawings, scraps of paper, photos...anything that is paper-ish and looks like "mail" - although credit cards and cd's have made it in there too. This morning he was mailing easter cards!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Winging It Sewing - Kids Chair

Last fall I found an upholstered pooh rocking chair at a garage sale for $3 that was in good shape. This was great for me because I have such horrible allergies that anything new that is furniture with fabric generally has to sit in the basement for a long time just to air out enough to come into my home. It just needed a new cover. The same day I found 2 large pieces of fabric for $1 at a different garage sale that I thought would make a nice cover. When I (finally) got to making the cover I simply pinned the fabric together wrong side out right over the chair. Cut along the pins, sewed it up and put on a hem. It felt like it was NOT the most neat/patterned approach, but it worked. The cover fits well, there is a matching pillow (although the kids took it off to add our home made plushies to the chair for the photo) and I can slip it off and wash it easily. I am on the look out now for new fabric for a second cover...this one definitely gets a lot of wear since it is the favorite chair!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Getting into a rhythm

Well, A and I talked a bit, and he liked the idea of a "rhythm" to help him get through the day without worrying or obsessing so much about every little thing. We went over the sample rhythm I posted the other day, and talked a bit about what types of things he liked to do, what he wanted more time for, and what activities he would like to try. I then combined that with a few playgroups already in place and G's naptimes - and voila. He also planned a few items for specific days of the week - like baking bread, building projects, library visit days, nature walks, climbing gym, and computer time. He sure likes to plan. He wants me to draw a calendar with images for each day...maybe we can make a chart together.

After that talk, he repeatedly asked when will it be Saturday because that is his afternoon at the climbing gym with dad day, so we circled the day on a calendar and pinned it up for him. He wanted a little rope and a kid drawn with a harness so he would know it meant climbing gym. I think that is what he wants for every day of the week. I think I might need some big poster board!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Yesterday was a catch up spring/easter craft day. The boys had been so cranky with a bad cold earlier in the week, that I put our one a day idea off until then. We started off the morning by boiling the eggs. We then did quickie/pre-cut signs. A had a "spring has sprung" frog, and G did a "bunny crossing" sign. Before lunch we hung up a few spring decorations and read some spring & easter themed books. By afternoon they were ready to dye the eggs. A did great, and had quite a fun time playing around to find the best and most intense color. I thought I would have nice photos of kids and eggs and having a fun holiday crafty day. G, in his never ending 2 year old tantrums, is not quite as happy and sunny as his big brother in the photos...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Kid Crafts - Pinch Pots

We spent many hours inside over the past few months of snow, 40 below windchills and colds/flu. One of the favorite things to do is dig around in clay and make pinch pots. The 2 year old still just pokes chop sticks into blobs and throws it around, but the 4 year old has been changing his approach. At first, all he wanted to do was get some big construction machine with the best tires and run the wheels through the clay over and over. Well, he finally had a day with more interest and focus on creating an actual shape! We managed to do one set of pinch pots together, with mine a little curvy, and his as a big flower container. Our next step is painting them!

Vintage Sewing Supplies

My grandmother passed away a few months ago, and my mom brought me a big box of sewing supplies from her home. I have gone through the box several times, sorted thread, and admired the beautiful packaging. I just cannot bring myself to use any of it to sew ... it seems almost like if it made it this far as an object, it shouldn't be taken apart, to lose its focus and disappear into something. Even the wood of the spools is beautiful. Eventually, I suppose I will use the Clinton Dressmakers' #17 Silk Pins or the packet of 4 cent Penimaid needle point brass pins from J.C. Penney Co., Inc., or the Harper's Needles (10 cents). And I suppose that those items which came from woman's work decades ago will return to woman's work today. Is it better to think of my grandmother in the smallest stitch, the tiny pin as I sew or the individual zipper peeking out from a skirt to go unnoticed by everyone but me? Or is it best to admire it as a relic, a remnant of a time gone by, almost as a work of art? I suppose the essence of my grandmother is not in a few relics in an old sewing box, but perhaps is in the colors she chose, vibrant and rich and deep, not at all like the woman I have in my mind. In her younger days she loved purple and turquoise and salmon, deep orange and chartreuse and cool greens. My mom said well, maybe that is why those colors are left untouched - too bold and garish for her taste. I choose to think that deep in there was a bold and colorful woman, who every once in awhile peeked out in her choice of thread.

Photo of the Day

"Can you guess what I'm thinking mom?"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Photo of the Day

Her name used to be Dax, but my 4 year old only calls her "poop'a'licious", so she has a new name. And it fits her.