Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Well, Sure, Bean!

Bean just proposed a new family rule that sounds very exciting. Brandishing his foam dart gun, he suggested "How about every time someone coughs we have to shoot a light bulb out?"

Doesn't that sound like fun? Boy, think of the good times we'll have around here, especially when someone has a cold.

I think maybe we'd better lay off the western movies for awhile....

Monday, March 30, 2009

Snow Angel

I've been meaning all winter to get a picture of Roo in her "Angel Dress." Yesterday I realized that it was probably the last time she was ever going to wear it so I tried to pose her out front with the snowy yard in the background. She was very uncooperative, so this is the best picture I got. We loved this dress though, so this is an important part of the family archives.

When we would put it on her she would run around the house saying "I'm an Angel!" Those were good moments. One day she told us she was an "Octopus Angel." That was the best moment!

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Snow Ice Cream

The kids heard about snow ice cream from reading the "Little House" books, so this afternoon I caught Fish carrying a large hunk of snow into the house. "I want to make snow ice cream!" he told me.

"Absolutely NOT!" was on the tip of my tongue when childhood memories of eating snow ice cream suddenly flooded into my mind. Somehow I found myself saying, "Sure! Let me help you!" After all, it doesn't snow very often here, so it's not like they're going to beg for this every day. Whatever pollutants are in the snow probably won't hurt them if they only eat it a couple times a year.

I checked to make sure the snow was reasonably clean, then we put it into bowls. I sprinkled brown sugar on it and then we added milk and glycerin-based vanilla extract.

They loved it, of course. I used to love it too, when I was a kid. But my rush of nostalgia didn't sweep me along far enough to actually eat any of this rare delicacy. I let them savor every morsel. Now I need to go upstairs and clean up the aftermath. I hope they add this to their store of warm fuzzy childhood memories.
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Bring It On!

As of yesterday, we were in a pretty advanced state of spring around here:

This morning the world looks a little different.

I say, "Bring it on!" We still have firewood and I'm not done with cozy evenings cuddled up by the fire. I can totally handle another few days of winter.

P.S. The Rabbit has learned to climb onto the window ledge. She's pretty pleased, as you can see.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tall Cheese

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Applesauce Muffins

Per Allison's request, here is the recipe that Roo was helping me mix up when I posted those pictures the other day.

Applesauce Muffins

Mix thoroughly:

1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In another bowl, mix thoroughly:

2 eggs
3/4 C brown sugar
1 1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
1/2 stick (4 T) melted butter
1/2 C pecans
1/2 C dried cranberries

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Batter will be lumpy, do not overmix or muffins will be tough. Scoop into 12 muffin cups and bake 14 to 16 minutes at 400.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Not That We Needed Any More Hooded Towels Around Here....

...But I couldn't resist these from Land's End Overstock clearance.

Aunt Crocodile, they're starting to take after you....
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ten Homeschool Tidbits

1. Bean actually brought me a beginning reader from the library and said he wanted to read it. This is huge. I've been checking them out for months and whenever I would suggest he try to read even some of the words he would get angry or burst into tears. So when he brought me the book and said "I want to read this" my jaw dropped. And he read it. It contained about 65 words and he read most of them himself. I cannot tell you how thrilling this is to me.

2. I've been using "The Never-Bored Kid Book" as Fish's school curriculum. When Bean was doing his math exercises Fish felt left out that he didn't have any papers to work on. I realized I had these books and that they were perfect for a preschooler. Lots of cutting, tracing, gluing, coloring, etc.

3. Bean is doing very well on the piano. It was gratifying to see the way he took to music when he struggled so much with reading and other subjects. The toughest thing has been helping him remember to practice and to learn to practice adequately. Last week he was not able to shop at the family store because he did not practice the piano enough during the week. This week he is practicing like a dervish. The family store is pretty popular around here.

4. Cousin S is our violin teacher. We are all progressing under his tutelage and it has really helped me to have his old beginner violin book in the house. I like to play along with Bean when he practices the piano. If he goes too fast I get all messed up and then we laugh and I say, "Boy, I sound awful!" and Bean thinks that's hilarious. I think it's brilliant because he sees firsthand the process of learning something and how you are bad at it at first and that's okay. He's such a perfectionist that I have had a hard time getting him to understand this. He's also seeing the concept that you have to play something over and over and over again during one practice session to really master it-- another concept I've had a hard time drilling into his head just with my words. I also love the idea that he's watching his mother continue to learn and develop new talents in her ancient age.

5. For our Geography lesson on Tuesday I got a big map of the United States and drew in the routes of every trip our family has ever taken in the nine-plus years of its existence, starting with our honeymoon to San Diego all the way up through our trip to New Mexico this last Thanksgiving. It was really neat to see the resultant spider web. It reawakened my wanderlust and made me itch to add some new lines in new directions.

6. In conjunction with this I also added up how many states each of us has been to. The Rabbit already has 11 under her size-12-months belt. The other kids each have 14 because they have also been to the west coast states. (It hit me that the Rabbit has never been to Oregon, the poor thing! That's just wrong!) I've been to 39 plus DC and the Badger has been to at least half of them. I will have to check with him-- he's flown so many random places over the years that I can't remember them all. When we got married I was by far the more well-traveled spouse (when I met him he'd never been east of the Rocky Mountains except on his mission) but that's definitely not the case anymore. Since we're so centrally located right now I would love to take a few long road trips and get the 9 I'm missing from the Lower 48.

7. In general, our Tuesday studies lately have been very eclectic. After finishing our overview of each of the regions of the US last December we've just been checking out books from the library on things that caught our interest during our studies. I've been picking mostly books on physical geography and Bean has been picking books on American history, which he adores. On Tuesday mornings we sit down on the couch with a dozen books and just read. One book might be about life in Colonial America. The next one might be about tornadoes. Then we might read about a certain tribe of Native Americans. There's usually a "Magic Schoolbus" book in there somewhere as well. I guess we should re-label Tuesday since it's not just geography anymore. Everyone enjoys it though.

8. Spring soccer season is upon us. Fish has his same coach from last fall and Bean has a friend from last fall on his team, which heightens their enjoyment of the experience. I really love to watch them play soccer. I see them learning teamwork and physical skills, all while getting really tired so they sleep better. I can just tell it's a really good thing for them and that makes me happy.

9. The Rabbit can now stand alone for short periods of time. I can tell she can't wait to run. This is going to be an exciting spring for her.

10. Our making day project today is those little Fuse Beads that you put on a little peg board and then melt together with an iron. They were dirt cheap at the craft store and my kids are having a ball. Score!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seeing Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The Rabbit discovered this morning what happens when you hold an Ikea kid plate up to your face and look through it. Appropriately enough, her plate was green.

So was her pancake. This is one of the few days of the year when I voluntarily feed my kids food coloring. They really look forward to it.

Fish and Roo really like to help me in the kitchen lately. They're very good at stirring. Our green buttermilk pancakes were delicious.

Tonight's menu: green eggs and ham!
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The IDES OF MARCH are here at last!

So, it is now the 15th of March and I have something I need to say.

I am within 2 pounds of my weight loss goal.

Not bad, eh? I'm pretty happy. It feels so good to look in the mirror and say "Hey, I like the way I look!"

Next step-- building muscle tone and cardiovascular strength. This one is going to be tough. My kids do not like me to exercise and well, honestly, I don't really like to exercise either. But I've got to take care of myself. My kids need a healthy, energetic mom. What would it be like to say "Sure, I'll play soccer with you in the backyard!" rather than "I'm sorry, I'm too tired...."?

I successfully went without sugar from January 1st until today. The first sugar I ate today was an imported cookie that my sister sent me in a package a couple of months ago and that I put in the freezer to await today. It was very delicious. I also ate a Girl Scout Cookie Formerly Known As A "Samoa." It was also very delicious. However, I am concerned about my former sugar binge behavior coming back because I'm already sitting here thinking about what I'm going to eat next.

It really does make it easier to avoid overeating when you really like the weight you're at and you know that if you binge your totally cute skinny pants are going to be too tight. I just hope that's motivation enough for me to control my sugar intake.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

We Sell For Less

Bean has just had a big light flip on in his head.

He has suddenly made huge strides in his reading ability and what's more, he actually acts interested in reading now. This is such a change!

We were at Walmart the other day and he actually tried to read the words on the side of the building. I know many kids do stuff like this all the time, but he has never really done it before. Whether he didn't notice or wasn't interested or it was too hard I do not know, but suddenly he could read "We Sell For Less" and he was very excited. So was I.

We're cruising through his reading book now. He actually recognizes words he's seen before. Wow!

And writing! Look!

I used to not even be able to get him to write!
Being patient with Bean and his progress in school has been one of my toughest challenges. In addition to having to conquer my own impatience I have had to deal with the outside pressure that in order for me to be a decent homeschooling mom my kids should be performing in all ways above grade level and not at all below. I have had to work very hard on getting over caring so much about what other people think of me, as well as not judging myself by their standards.

I know I am doing what's right for Bean. And it feels so good to see his progress.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thank You, Ebay!

It took some patience, but finally I won a Britax car seat for my Rabbit on eBay for what I decided I was willing to pay for it. Ebay is funny that way. On auction after auction you'll be outbid and the price will go too high and then all of the sudden an auction will come along where no one else is bidding on it and it's yours for a song. That's what happened with both my violin and this car seat. And now I need to leave eBay alone for awhile. It's a dangerous place.

I'm really glad I got a Britax for the Rabbit. And I love the butterfly print! I think it suits her personality.

Plus, it came in the best box ever. Just ask my boys. I can tell you right where to find them, I can't get them out of the thing!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Shopping Cart Cover

Here, as promised, is a picture of the shopping cart cover I made for my friend. It was quite the hit at her daughter's birthday party. I got lots of compliments on it.

As I said, I had been looking at the ones on at the KozyPal website that are like, eighty bucks, and I realized that I already owned a pattern for such a thing (Simplicity 4225, includes patterns for a bunch of baby accessories like Boppy pillows...) All I needed to do was buy some pretty fabric. Pretty fabric isn't cheap, so even with the fabric on sale I still spent between $20-25 for everything necessary to make this. You could probably get it down to $15 if you could find fabric for a dollar a yard but you still have to shell out for the fusible fleece and the velcro.

So is it worth it? I never used one for my other kids and I got along fine, but then one day I borrowed one from my sister-in-law and I just loved it. Baby seems so much more comfortable and you don't have to worry about them getting rotavirus from sucking on the cart handle (Michele, I remember your story!) Of course, a lot of stores have antibacterial wipes for the carts nowdays. So, this is not a necessity but it's definitely a useful, fun thing to have. I made one for me and then I thought "I'll make one for all my friends having babies!" but after I made this one for Shannon I decided that it's pretty time consuming and I can buy something really nice with the same amount of money so I don't know how many I'll make as gifts. (Maybe I'll make BabyLegs instead!)
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A Pretty Dress

Roo has lots and lots and lots of pretty dresses, mostly hand-me-downs from Cousin Fiend. She loves to dress up (but she doesn't get that from me!) She loves it when we take pictures of her in her pretty dresses. So we take lots.

I love digital photography!!!

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Monday, March 9, 2009

The Awards Ceremony

We've completely revamped how we do Family Home Evening lately and it's been a lot of fun. In addition to Badger Bucks and the family store, we've been doing an awards ceremony based off some ideas I got in the book "Teaching Children Values" by Linda and Richard Eyre.

I made several award ribbons for specific things relating to certain values we want to reinforce. Right now there are four, though I plan to add some more. There is the "HUP" Award for honesty under pressure, the Brownie Award for secret acts of service, the "WWJD" award for trying to be like Jesus, and the "P&C" Award for being prompt and cheerful. The way I've adapted the award idea for my family is that every family home evening each member of the family will get an award based on what good things I saw them do during the week. We do it kind of like an Olympic medal ceremony. I call their name, they step on on the step stool while everyone hums something like "Pomp and Circumstance" and then I present them with their award and everyone claps. They love it.

This week Bean is getting the Brownie award because he unloaded the dishwasher without being asked. Fish is getting the WWJD Award because he shared his string cheese with Bean and Roo without being asked when we were on an outing one day recently. And so on. The ribbon is theirs for a week. Then they have to give it back so I can give it out to someone else at the next awards ceremony.

I was a little concerned about the idea at first because I wasn't sure I wanted to give the kids "prizes" for living values they should be living anyway, such as honesty. They should be living those values because it's right, not because they get recognition for it. However, I also think that you can't give your kids too much positive reinforcement, especially when they're little. I've noticed that for really little kids concrete recognition (such as a star sticker on their homework page) is very very motivating. It seems to me that this will build good habits that later will translate into doing the right thing because it's right.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

2.3 Miles

My vibrant friend Marianne and I went on a long, lovely walk today. When we were through we wondered how far we had come and I figured there had to be some way to calculate it. So I got online. Sure enough, google maps has Gmaps Pedometer. I also found another site called mapmyrun.com. Either one will let you draw your walking route and calculate how far you went. We went 2.3 miles and the time flew by with Marianne to talk to. If I can do this every day I'll be in great shape in no time!


If you haven't seen this video yet, you really ought to!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"I Got a Pink Car Seat for my Birthday!"

Up until a few weeks ago, I never thought much about car seats. They were required by law (and I would grumble every time the law raised the age for requirement) and I always bought them as cheaply as possible. I bought Bean's infant seat for $5 because it was a closeout and I got a rebate from my car insurance. I had never paid more than $50 for a car seat and I laughed at the poor suckers who would shell out 300 bucks or more for a piece of plastic with with some buckles and straps. A car seat was a car seat and raising kids doesn't have to be as expensive as some people make it out to be. That was my attitude.

Anyway, I was aware as the Rabbit approached her first birthday that I was going to need a new car seat. In fact, the state of the boys' booster seats is currently such that I really needed two new car seats (my boys trash everything they touch). I had noticed at Walmart that they now make the basic $50 seats with darling pink covers, so I decided I was going to buy two cute pink car seats for my girls. Two cute girls in two matching cute pink car seats! What fun!

I used the idea of a pink car seat as an incentive for Roo to buckle herself in the car. She was capable of it but wouldn't do it, so I told her that if she started buckling herself I would buy her a pink car seat for her birthday. She started talking about it constantly. We heard "I get a pink car seat for my birthday!" a hundred times a day.

Being the tightwad that I am, I couldn't help but wonder if I could get an even better deal on a car seat somewhere else. So I started snurfing around on the web looking for a screaming deal. This led to reading information about car seats and safety ratings. I don't know how I started reading about Britax seats, but I was really stunned by the reviews. Safety, comfort, ease of use... So many people said "I never planned on spending so much for a car seat but I'm so glad I did and I will never go back."

Well, that was all dandy, but there was still no way I could afford to buy a new Britax at retail price. So I decided to watch Craig's List. A couple days before Roo's birthday there it was: a gently used girly print Britax Marathon for a price I could afford. I arranged to meet the seller in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store that evening.

She was another minivan mom. She also had four young children. "Is this your first Britax?" she asked.

"Ummm... yeah," I replied. My first Britax? She made it sound like I was joining some kind of club, not just buying a used pink car seat.

"You're going to love it. All my kids are in Britax seats," she told me. "When we had our first my husband was in school and we had no money. My husband said there was no way we were going to pay that much for a car seat. I bought one anyway and after he had installed it once in the car he said it was worth every penny. And they're the only kind we've bought since then. We love them."

Well, cool! And now I had one for Roo without breaking the bank! She was so, so, so excited about her pink car seat. So was I. It installed very securely and when I put her in it she actually looked comfortable. Like she would actually want to sit in it. Like she would be much happier on one of our long, long car drives because it was so soft and roomy. Like she could take a nap in the car without waking up with a stiff neck. She also looked safe. The straps were wide and secure and snug and not twisted.

I was totally sold on Britax. But I quickly realized that I had a problem. I only had one. Roo was riding in comfort and security while Rabbit was now riding in this:

The contrast between the two seats is striking. Rabbit looks neither particularly comfortable nor more than barely adequately secure. Her straps seem thin and they're all twisted up. I try to tell myself that Rabbit's seat has been good enough for all my other babies, but every time I buckle my kids in the car I feel like my little Rabbit is getting second-rate treatment. And now that I've read what I've read about safety ratings my thinking has changed. My kids have always been fine in cheap car seats, but we've never been in a wreck. I pray we never will be in a wreck, but if we ever were I know that now Roo in her Britax would likely come out of it in better shape than the Rabbit and I just can't live with that.

There have been no other Britax seats on my Craig's List lately. So I've been watching ebay. And garage sale season is coming. I'm still going to do it the tightwad way, but I want my Rabbit in a Britax.

I remember now that when we were getting ready to have Bean, our midwife gave us some interesting advice. She said that you could skimp on a lot of things for a baby, getting things used and cheap or free, or simply do without--and that was fine--but there were two things that you should shell out for: a good childbirth class and a good car seat!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009


May we all look back on this picture in 20 years and say, "That's where such a grand, glorious thing started."

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Daddy Rides

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Thinking of You, Vera

During the 2005-2006 school year, Bean was enrolled in a marvelous preschool that taught voice and violin. He loved it and so did I. I've always wanted music to be a huge part of our home so the more musical training my kids have the better. Sometime during that year I picked up two tiny inexpensive violins-- a 1/8 size and a 1/4 size (they're so cute!) The intent was to have the boys continue lessons at home with me. The kids really really enjoy them and we've had a lot of fun with them.

Now, I do not play the violin. But I've always felt like I should be able to play the violin. Do you have things like that too-- things that you just feel like you should be able to do even though you've hardly ever touched them in your life? Me and the violin have a destiny. And a friend of mine who plays told me that it shouldn't be very hard for me to pick up the violin since I already play the piano. Another friend told me that you could buy a decent quality Chinese-made violin on ebay for $80-90 that would be just dandy for a beginner. I almost bought one back then but for some reason I didn't and then the whole thing slid of out my range of priorities for awhile.

Well, I got thinking about it again the other day and so I checked on ebay to see if the violins my friend had recommended were still there. They were selling them for $95 with "Buy It Now" but they also had several being auctioned every day. I decided to just bid low and see what happened. I didn't win the first several, but I wasn't serious about buying one right now so that was fine. But then I somehow won one for only $38. Oops! Yessssss!

I spent yesterday afternoon scraping and sawing and squeaking and enjoying myself tremendously. Between me and Fish we sound like a bunch of alley cats. Good times! (Sorry, Badger dear! Hope your ears recover soon!)

It makes me think of Dr. Seuss's ABC Book, which I'm sure all of you moms out there can recite along with me:

"Big V, Little V, Vera Violet Vinn
is Very Very Very awful on her Violin."

But I'm going to get oh, so much better. Oh yes. This was meant to be.

P.S. I bought the violin with the dark wood finish. Isn't it so, so pretty? I love it.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Highly Useful Readers

So I've had two of my astute readers send me links to photo tutorials on how to make your own BabyLegs. Thanks, y'all! I will be trying them out. I'm gearing up to start sewing my own pocket diapers too. I keep looking at them and saying "Duh, I could so totally sew these!" every time I change the Rabbit. Which reminds me I never showed y'all my prototype shopping cart cover that I made after spending a few minutes drooling at the beautiful and heinously expensive ones over at the KozyPal website. But first I have to show you what I accidentally bought on ebay that arrived today. I'll do that as soon as my camera batteries are recharged. Lots to look forward to here at the Birrd's Nest!

Modeling BabyLegs

After spending a ton of time on various cloth diapering websites, I became intrigued by a product called BabyLegs. They are basically leg warmers for your baby. Wearing them allows your baby to show off their cute diaper and also allows Mom to more easily change their cute diaper. I had to try some.

They come in a zillion colors. I actually bought my first pair at Target on sale. I like them, but they're not the warmest for really cold winter days. I think the girls will probably wear them more and more now that spring is around the corner.

BumGenius brand cloth diapers teamed up with the BabyLegs company and made a line of BabyLegs that coordinate with the colors of the bumGenius diapers. Recently Kelly's Closet had a promotion where if you spent a certain amount on their site you could get a free pair of bumGenius BabyLegs. Lucky for me, this promotion coincided with my needing to order a bulk amount of Charlie's Soap, which is what I use for all my laundry these days. So I was able to get me a free pair of these darling BabyLegs.

Even better, this purchase bumped my point total with Kelly's Closet up to where I could get a free gift certificate. So I got me a new bumGenius organic cotton all-in-one diaper in the fabulous color "Ribbit"-- for free! BumGenius overall are not my absolute favorite of my cloth diapers, but they are definitely the cutest. And when you pair them with the BabyLegs it really shows them off.

The Rabbit is now going to model them for you.

Show us the BabyLegs, Rabbit.

Great! Okay, now show us the diaper.

Fabulous! Now stretch so we can get a better view.

Perfect! Now we need an action shot.

The BabyLegs have gotten a little bit fuzzy from all her crawling around, but they do protect her knees nicely from my rental-grade carpet. And while they don't go up to the absolute top of her leg they don't slide down as she crawls either. Nor do they pinch. She seems to like them. I like them too.

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