Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Compromise



I read an article in last Sunday's paper that I held onto as the perfect blog commentary. I stewed on it all week. The article was from the AP called "Plugged in ....and impatient." It discusses how kids today have immediate gratification so engrained by technology that we're raising a generation of impatient people. Examples being given range from DVR's and the ability to fast forward through commercials to exposure to the commercials themselves. It's all true. 

I remember a humorous incident when Sid was 5 and she came running into the kitchen saying: " you've got to dial 888-555-1234 within the next five minutes to get this toy on sale, you need to be 18 to call."  Brian said "are you 18?"  she shook her head, "I'm not 18 either I guess we can't call from our family."  She bought this and did for quite some time. On the heels of that both kids learned that with commercials you don't always get what they say you do.  The commercials sometimes make things look a lot better than what they are.  Best example Floam. What a wholehearted disappointment for all!  When Charlie was 4 he figured out how to fast forward the DVR to get past commercials in his favorite Discovery Kids show (keeping in mind the DVR didn't exist when Sid was 4, see how quickly technology changes)?   As parents, we're not much better, as we quite enjoy the DVR ourselves!

This all being said I come back to what seems to be a focal point for me recently. Balance. One of the big reasons we moved to the farm was so the kids could roam free, explore, have unstructured, innovative playtime and not rely on the TV or Computer for entertainment.  I suppose this is partially selfish.  Brian and I love to watch them play and make up games.  The kids love to play spy and we love to "catch them" spying.  We also wanted to give our kids time to develop and explore without feeling like they had to be involved in 10 different activities.  That's not to say they're not involved.  Sid does Tae Kwon Do, Violin & Girl Scouts and Charlie does Tae Kwon Do & Soccer.  We just limit what they can be involved with for both of us (parents and kids) so they have time to explore and be creative, and we can have more quality, not running from activity to activity, family time.

It's all a compromise.  Technology is phenomenal and we all love it.  It's a tool, we utilize it as a family, and then also update lessons we learned from our parents, so the kids can make good decisions about how to use it and when to stop.  For example, "are you getting a squishy head" (too much TV/Computer)?  Amazingly the kids almost always know the answer to this themselves!  Sidney has become a huge fan of Google.  She researches topics of interest and then teaches us about them or formulates a paragraph to turn in at school about it.  So overall, finding a balance with the plugged in society and the simpler things in life is the key.  If my kids can have the best of both worlds and become good decision makers, I've done my job.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Violinist


Just a quick post to show you the link to an article in the Racine Post regarding the violin program Sidney's involved in (look close you can spot her in two of the photos). She had her first traveling concert on Wednesday, they went to 3 schools for performances and she loved every minute of it!

Thanks to a wonderful instructor she absolutely loves violin!  She was so excited the night before and was just glowing and bubbly. She let me know that "tomorrow's going to be the biggest day of my life!"

Congratulations Sweet Pea!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Snakebites

What a wonderful weekend!  I'm sitting here looking out the window at the kids running around and playing like banshees.  We accomplished a ton and enjoyed a ton, what a fantastic combination.  We got the rest of the garden in & the fence repaired and cleaned up the last of the clearing projects for the season.  Brian and I had a 'date night' and went downtown, had dinner at Ivanhoe and went to see Racine Theatre Guild's rendition of Godspell (Brian was a real trooper for me on this.  He did drama in high school too, but is NOT into musicals).  Then we took the kids to see Night at the Museum, Battle of the Smithsonian.  We are now preparing for our first Kickball practice.  Yes that's what I said, Kickball.  We joined a co-ed adult league here in town with a group of friends and are looking forward to having some fun, w/ striped knee highs and all!  (oh yes, this is all post Brownie Troop overnight on Friday ;)

The drink of choice that has taken root this weekend have been snakebites.  This was a favorite of mine when I lived in England and had forgotten about it until recently.  There's been a fair amount of reminiscing this weekend too.  From the Snakebites, to Godspell (the first high school play I was involved with), to hearing from my High School drama teacher through facebook (crazy the same weekend I had tickets to Godspell).  It's been a great start to summer!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On my honor I will try....



We just got back from the year end Brownie overnight at Trefoil Oaks.   I never dreamt it was possible to complete so many projects in 18 hours.   We built a shelter, made tacos in a bag, did tie dye shirts, made and decorated do-rags, made ice-cream in a bag, made ribboned hair bands,  made breakfast (thanks to Paige) painted and decorated with acrylic paint 190 nails, made trail mix, went on a scavenger hunt, made autograph picture frames and had their year end badge ceremony (take breath now).  The girls had a blast and they were so good (truly, you learn to completely block out 19 girls screaming and running around at once)!   The success of this was all thanks to some very dedicated moms who with Melina and I braved the madness; thanks Paige & Melissa!!!

When I was in labor with  Sid I distinctly remember thinking to myself is this so bad that I wouldn't do it again (you know, because everyone says you forget the pain... yada, yada, yada)? Well of course you all know my answer to that ;}  But I found myself thinking the same thing last night on this first overnight adventure as a Girl Scout leader..... I'll be there next year!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blasted Helicopters


I was just enjoying the end of a beautiful afternoon.  80 degrees at 6:15.  Kids fed.  So I go out to peruse any new sprouts in the garden.  It's a nightly ritual of ours and I'm solo this evening, so I'm doing a little extra weeding.  Most of the weeding to date is pulling out little buck thorn trees that sprout and threaten all of the veggies.  It's cloudy, we might get some rain tonight.  Suddenly, a big gusty wind comes up and it drops about 15 degrees.  Then I hear it and look up.  It looks like a blizzard of maple helicopters flying my, and the gardens, way.  Its really whipping around and I'm pelted in my short sleeves with these little beasts, that once were pretty flowers and in a few weeks will be the bane of my garden existence as I start to pull them.  Grrrr......

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

To Tea or Not To Tea


A number of years ago, we went to Austin to celebrate my brother-in-law's graduation from Law School.  It was a great weekend.  After graduation we went to a restaurant called the Eastside Cafe.  They had the most amazing hibiscus iced tea.  I searched for years for it, and couldn't find it anywhere.  I found something close in the Yogi Tea 'Seven Berry Anti-Oxidant.'  I've gone through stages of tea drinking in my life, but have picked it up again since I found this.  I swear it makes me more relaxed and focused.  It's either, the lack of caffeine in it, something with the herb combination, or it's all in my head :)  whatever the reason it's great!  Check it out!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mantra



A friend of mine Kelley, from work, gave me a cookbook last week called: From Asparagus to Zucchini from the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC). It was a fantastic gift and had me engrossed all week, well, in between reading chapters of Hunger Games which was also distracting me from my farm duties. In fact, I discussed with a friend of mine how crazy it is that I have so enjoyed these middle school/high school reads of late. Are the books being published now just more mature than when we were growing up? Hmmmm..... I've decided, we must just be young at heart. Yup, that's it!


My head was swimming last week in all of the possibilities. Should we become CSA farmers? Should we just do a farm stand and provide produce and eggs to friends? Then I start brainstorming all of the other things that I could do. Use some of the raspberry harvest to bottle raspberry vinegar, make rhubarb marmalade, etc. etc. etc. Then I heard a great interview on Here on Earth about foraging. So Saturday afternoon I started picking flowers for dandelion wine. All great ideas. As you can see I'm on possibility overload! I need a mantra, something that I can repeat over and over like 'I don't need to do all of this now', or like the picture 'for my little lambs' or  'If I grow it, it will come.' Well, maybe that last one would be counter productive and just ingrain in me a greater sense of urgency.


So I've decided to do what I can, which this second year seems to be coming much easier, pace myself and pick up a good book in-between (high school one or not)!


We did get a lot done in the garden last weekend. All of the green beans and drying beans are in. We also got the onions, carrots, tomatoes, basil and swiss chard in. Everything is moving along nicely. Brian completed his annual century bike ride on Sunday and we got to meet the baby lamb's at Kelly's families farm. All in all very productive, very busy, and I still finished a book!

Quiet Little Bulldog....



Sidney never ceases to amaze me. Is she my little mother hen to all, or is she my little bulldog? Her teacher has dubbed her the 2nd grade's own social worker. She's always trying to help resolve conflicts on the playground, or stick up for the little guy. On the flip side of that she's very quiet and reflective and seems to be very shy. I'm learning however that the shyness must just be in new situations and around grown-ups.


This morning, that little guy was Charlie. I once again confronted him on wearing his glasses in school. He just doesn't want to do it. He only needs to wear them in class and I know they'd help tremendously. But there is one boy who makes comments about him when he has his glasses on, so he won't do it. Well, Sidney wants him to point the kid out to her so that she can have a talk with him and straighten things out.


I let Sid know that I think it's wonderful that she's so helpful and protective, but she's going to have to let Charlie resolve this on his own. We've discussed it and he know's what to do. I also challenged him to look around the school at the kids he knows and notice if they in fact also wear glasses. I think he'll be surprised. Besides, his personality is MUCH larger than a small Harry Potter-esque pair of glasses.



Monday, May 11, 2009

Potatoes, Little Green Bags, and Chickens on the Loose Oh My!





I thought a garden update was in order.  We spent yesterday afternoon and today doing some more prep work of our rows (we've added 5 more this year) and we planted about 100 potatoes.  They've got awesome names like Purple Viking, All Blue and Rose Finn.  I can taste them now!  We chose varieties this year for the potatoes and onions that do well with extended storage.  As we work toward sustainability, we're trying to make our organic food supplies last as long as possible into our winter months. 


Brian made a wonderful dish last night for me for Mother's Day.  He made a warm pasta with a goat cheese bechamel sauce and put these baby radishes with the greens on on top.  Wonderful!  This was our first dish out of the garden this year and all from the basic task of thinning the greens so the radishes will continue to grow.  Also note my little green bag....these Debbie Meyer bags work great!  They can keep produce fresh like nothing I've ever seen.

We also are exercising patience and forethought this year and putting in a drip irrigation system in the garden as the plants emerge.  So far so good.  This is a picture of the peas and they seem quite happy!  So we're on our way and as with a marathon are hitting a good steady pace.  Having the first year under our belts seems to have this year off and running much more smoothly. 
 An interesting note on chicken culture :)  The yearlings were allowed out of their run area to have free range of the whole property for the first time since last fall's unfortunate massacre.  They are VERY happy!  I know chickens are supposed to be stupid, and I'm not saying they're intelligent by any means.  However, they do seem to have memory of things they did before (when they were free).  Sid also took great pleasure in introducing them to the babies.  They have to maintain separate living quarters due to diet until September, but we figured they could all play together as a way of introduction to co-habitation.  Fortunately so far, the hens are very social and even if they weren't headed to roost, will follow you there quite willingly.  I'm off to roost myself.  Good Night!



Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!


It seemed about a perfect day outside.  It was sunny and warm, I'd just come from a  luncheon for the YWCA focused on empowering women, eliminating racism and, I was listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR.  The interview was of Amy Dickenson from the Chicago Tribune.  The topic was her new book and Mother's Day.   She made an interesting comment about Mother's Day and how it has become a confused holiday.  Who do we celebrate?   Our mom?  Our daughter who is a mom?  Our grandma?  Or is it a celebration of the women who brought you up or "mothered you" at some point?

I'd introduced the blog to my  mom this week and we'd discussed mothering too.  It is interesting.  As a mom you  are thrown into a sink or swim situation as soon as your baby is born.  You're just supposed to innately know what to do.  You find yourself scouring the bookshelves at the library or bookstore for parenting books.  You know, the ones that have all of the latest philosophies on how best to raise a well adjusted, confident kid.  The topic that there seems to be a hundred conflicting views on, and every one of them is convinced they are right.  You turn to your mom for advice, you turn to your friends who are mom's for advice, you look to Lorelai Gilmore hoping you can do it all and still be hip, and in the end you become a mom yourself.  Through trial and error and a lot of heartfelt help.

Times change.  For example, I don't think today we could carpool several kids to school in the back of a VW bug when they're all in booster seats until age 8.  With every generation there is social, technological and environmental change.  I would say that every parent, regardless of generation, thinks back to their up bringing. What things that were perfectly normal then would you never consider for your children?  Remember, seat belts weren't always the thing to do!  I don't think that mothering itself has changed so much as evolved with the time you're mothering in.  

As your kids get older it gets easier in some respects, they are more independent.  It gets harder in some respects, they are more independent.  How many of us said: "when I have kids I'll never say that?"  How many of us reflect, laughing now,  and say "I sound just like my mom!"  Thank God for that!  I'm a happy adult with a beautiful family that I can say my mom had a big part in making me the mom I am, generational change or not.  Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Redecorate


**Warning, this turned into a long post!

We're finally going to do it.  We're getting the last of our belongings moved over from the other house.  I'm not sure why we've waited so long.  Is it the cost, or have we just held on to the old neighborhood a little more by keeping some of our stuff there?  Over the last almost two years, I think we've found we can hold onto the neighborhood without being there.  So the final chapter of the move is being written.  

In planning for the remaining big stuff to be moved over, we're re-arranging the kids rooms.  Sidney has been desperately wanting a forest/rain forest room.  So I sold to her the wall towers of my old bedroom set (that is dark Cherry wood) will look like large tree trunks---re-use.  I can then make large green frondy pillows to put on top and make look like trees.  Hook, line, sinker.  We're on our way.  

A funny aside...I went to Sid's violin lesson at school yesterday.  We were discussing the new room and she was talking about playing at being a vampire and hunting animals in the forest.  The little boy (Logan)  said ahh you're a vegetarian vampire!  For those of you who understand this thread,  I had to bust up laughing!  8 year olds with their vampire lingo down!

Charlie, gets something too.  The kids have been sharing the dis-assembled bunk bed set, so now Charlie gets the bunk beds to make his intergalactic fort under.  He also gets Sidney's old dresser---re-use.  Now that's the best piece of furniture I've ever bought!  It began as Sid's changing table, then Charlie's changing table, then Sid's dresser, now Charlie's dresser AND it still looks great!

We found some cool old retro curtains in the barn from God knows how long ago.  They're a wild print and we've tried to incorporate them somewhere in the house and they just don't quite go.  Now they do look a bit rainforesty!  Sid loves them and they fit perfect on her windows, maybe they were there many moons ago----re-use.

It is amazing to me how easy it is to find new life from your old stuff or old stuff you find.  In theory, nothing left at the old house we should need now 2 years later.  In fact it should be donated, right?  Well there's a new life for the old stuff, which by the way most of we've had since we were kids.  Moral of the story....Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Redecorate!

Legacy Planting




It's Asparagus Baby!  Yes we did it.  After a failed attempt last year, we planned, worked our butts off and now have a large Asparagus bed planted!!  Brian did the rototilling and I shoveled load after load into the wheelbarrow and we had the spidery looking crowns planted on Sunday afternoon.  Brian was so bummed last year that we didn't get this task accomplished.   I think for him this is the biggest gain yet in our gardening adventure.  He feels it's the most rewarding of our plantings because it's the gift that keeps on giving.  With any luck at all, our grand kids will enjoy the fruits of our labors.  We'll have asparagus in the early spring, decorative ferns between the barns in the summer and a blazing yellow show in the fall.  Best of all, it will do it all on it's own again next year!  I'm off to look up the Asparagus recipes of our future :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

At Play?

When I was a kid we had our neighborhood posse.  Summer and warm weekends were great for tag, kickball, or Nerf football in the street.  One of our favorite games was "war."  There was no real objective that I remember.  We had no idea what we were "fighting" about.  It was like an intricate game of hide and seek, trying not to be captured by the other team.  We spent hours strategizing and I don't remember any of us winning or losing, just days playing and planning.

As a parent, I've vowed not to encourage play that includes pointing guns, or terms like "I killed him."  

With warmer weather here, everyone seems to come out of hibernation.  It was a beautiful day yesterday, all of the neighbor kids were out and having a great time together.  I was out last night, and Brian told me this morning that all of the kids were playing with their Nerf dart guns (seemingly replacing the Nerf football of my youth, yet safer than the cap guns we played with).  What were they playing?  War.  As Charlie put it, they were using "sleep darts."

How do I feel about this?  Is this just natural kid play?  Think about it.  We had cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, "war."  Is it harmful or just kid fun?  Are we over-sensitive to the thought of these games post 9/11 and with persistance gang violence?  But when we were growing up it was on the heels of Vietnam and still gang violence.

My brother (who I still call Billy) and I seem fairly well adjusted, and our neighborhood "posse" from youth grew up to be productive adults and not desensitized sociopaths.  So I guess everything in moderation as long as there's no malice.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Little Bird



Two years ago when we were driving to Kansas, we stopped to get gas.  It was the middle of no where in Iowa, and right across the street was a horse drawn carriage with an Amish family.  They were selling all kinds of wonderful handmade stuff.  We bought this great little bird house and couldn't wait to see all of the birds that would flock to it.

I guess three's a charm.  This is the third spring that it's been hanging, and our first family-to-be has taken up residence.  I don't know why I'm so fascinated by this, but I've found myself stalking this mama and daddy bird with my camera.  They are so small I can't wait to see what the babies look like!

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