Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Review



Well, we had a wonderful Christmas here with all the family, many of whom traveled to be here.    Christmas Eve was the big family gathering complete with a fun gift exchange and more importantly, homemade ravioli and lasagna, as is family tradition around here. 

Christmas day, as we sat down to eat our Christmas morning breakfast including homemade cinnamon rolls, the electricity went out.    We opened gifts next to our unlit tree and enjoyed the quiet.  The boys took their time and we played as we went.  Dan spoiled me as usual and just as we finished, the electricity came back on. 

About our green Christmas, although we opened gifts elsewhere too, here at the house, we managed to finish up with one kitchen sized bag of trash, a pile of recyclables and a pile of reusable bags (37 and counting) and tissue paper.  Not bad. 

Pictured are the homemade gifts I said I wasn’t going to make.  :)   I felt like something special was missing so, I started these aprons and chef’s hats a couple days before Christmas.  Two evenings and they were done, in secret.  The chef’s hat was the one thing Oliver asked for, that I could make, so I thought I should get it done.  Of course, if Oliver gets a chef’s hat and apron, so must Benton.  I got them their own kids spatula and Oliver got a few cookbooks for young kids. Oliver opened his and said “A chef’s hat!  I’ve always wanted a chef’s hat.” 

Their colds came back with a vengeance on Christmas, so we have been playing with new toys and watching a lot of movies around here the last few days.  Oliver said he didn’t feel like baking or cooking anything until he felt better.  I guess we have to wait a few days to try out the new cookbooks.

I hope all of you had a great holiday and I look forward to hearing your stories.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Green Christmas


Well, kind of green.  If you look closely, you will see that every gift under our tree is in a fabric bag.  No paper, no plastic ribbons.   I sewed most of them.  My mom sewed and sent a few last year and there might be one or two felt gift bags from Target’s dollar section. 

This fabric bag dream started four Christmases ago.  Oliver was barely 3 months old and my mom and brother visited.  After we were done opening gifts, I was just stunned at the amount of trash we accumulated and the number of gifts our 3 month old raked in.  So, the next Christmas, I bought some fabric and ribbon to sew a few bags. Usually, I wrap the gift itself in tissue paper (which we have been reusing),so you get the sound of opening a gift and then put it in a bag.

Last year I sewed a lot of bags in all sizes.  This year, I was so happy to get them out and start wrapping up gifts.  No wrapping paper to buy or ribbons to mess with.  Each bag has a ribbon sewn into the seam, ready to tie up the bag.   For now, I have even been reusing the metal rimmed tags I bought a couple of years ago.  I am either cheap or environmentally aware. 

Dan loves the gift bags.  What man wouldn’t?  The only problem is that he is the last to buy any gifts and so has to pick from the bags that are left.  I am going to make a few more bags tonight so all my gifts will get a bag too.

My mom still reuses a gift box she got from the Disney store back in the day.  It became a joke between Kenny and I.  We would wonder aloud whose name would be on it and what could possibly fit in it this year.  Maybe my kids will do the same.

Speaking of sewing, I had planned a few mama-made gifts for the boys, but I realized I would have to make them at night and, well, I’m tired.  And, I can tell already that they are going to have more stuff then they will know what to do with on Christmas day.  Six more boxes arrived today!So, I think I will save those projects for Valentine’s Day.

I hope your holiday season is going well.  I got my cards in the mail today.  That’s something.  Last year I never got past trying to get a picture of the two of them.  Now, onto a little crafting with boys and cookie baking.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our Christmas tree



It started out looking a little like a tall version of Charlie Brown’s tree. 

We have always got trees from a local garden store, but this year after moving to a new spot, they did not have trees.  Since we were all ready in loaded in the car, we went to the one nearby spot we knew would have trees: Lowe’s.  By one o’clock on Saturday afternoon, the trees were already a bit picked through, but we found one.  Next year, I think we’ll try a tree farm and get the full experience.

Oliver and Benton helped Dan get the tree ready for the stand and then swept the porch.  Later that evening (after the football game), we decorated the tree.  Benton was most excited about unwrapping each ornament. Oliver was more into the hot cocoa and picking the right spot for each ornament, which was pretty much the same spot for all the ornaments.
 
Oh,  I actually got a decent photo of both boys in front of the tree, but I am saving it for our holiday cards!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ready to love

This poor baby doll has been sitting around without hair or a face for the last 2 months.  This morning, as Oliver wandered in with his baby doll, I decided that I would finish Benton’s, today.  So, it took barely an hour to stitch on some eyes, mouth and secure the hair.  Although, I have done it before, I think I was nervous about messing up the eyes and mouth. So, I stalled. 

Now it is done, the doll looks fine, Benton loves it and that’s what matters.

Well, on to other unfinished projects.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Building Gingerbread Houses

Well, it is officially a family tradition.  For the last 3 years, during the Thanksgiving weekend, we have made gingerbread houses from scratch.  Yesterday, Oliver and I shopped for the candy and came home and baked all the pieces for 3 small houses.  We assembled them until this morning and did a little cleaning up.  The third house was for our friend Aderyl, who we had invited over to decorate with us.   After we were done decorating, Oliver and Aderyl read some Christmas stories together and Benton went back to playing with his trucks.

The decorating was fun and a little messy.  Aderyl was super helpful with the icing and clean up.  I think she had fun decorating her own house too. 

I used a recipe from this book.  The egg white icing recipe was from that book too.  By the way, I got the pattern for a small sized gingerbread house from here

Thanks for checking in on us.  I hope your holiday season is off to a good start too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beach Camping

Late fall at the beach was just lovely.  We drove all day to get to northeast Florida, but it all went pretty well.  We set up camp and it wasn’t long before the sun began to set.  We spent 3 nights on Little Talbot Island.   The campground was a little close to the road, but once we stepped onto the beach, it was easy to forget about the less than ideal camping spot.  It would be hard to come close to the quiet campground we experienced at Lake Conasauga, but the beach was quiet and just warm enough for Dan and the boys to take a dip.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Real Life Learning




We decided long ago that we would homeschool our kids, but I’m a former Kindergarten teacher.  So, I got all this school stuff up in my attic.  At one time I was so eager to get stuff out for the boys and start teaching them.  Fortunately for all of us, Oliver has not been shy about expressing his desire to learn things without much help from me. 

So, I have really tried to just facilitate learning and follow his lead as much as possible.  Oliver has learned so many things without any of that sit-down-schooling you might expect from a homeschooler.  I think we are really more like life learners.

Anyway, some folks wonder how kids will learn their letters, numbers, reading and writing without direct teaching.  The most wonderful part about little guys is that they want to learn it because letters and numbers are everywhere.  They have an innate desire to understand their world and more importantly, it is fun.

There were a few moments this week that I really noticed.  These are the kinds of things I use to write lesson plans for while striving to give the kids some real reason for learning the stated objective (which they were also required to recite if asked by an administrator). 

What a joy to to see Oliver discovering fun in what would be a contrived lesson in a classroom and watch Benton tag along too.

-Oliver and Benton both drew maps -  One morning they found some paper and markers and got started.  They worked on them for 3 days adding to them and telling us all about the rivers and bridges, lakes, beaches and the roads.  They respected each others’ work, but put their maps “someplace safe” when they weren’t working on them.

-Oliver examined a drug store sales flier for a good 30 minutes.  We talked about the prices and products, cents and dollar symbols.

-Oliver grabbed a piece of paper and pencil and asked “How do you write ‘We’ll see you soon?’”  After we worked on that he did a little decorating and we stuck it in an envelope, addressed it and walked it out to the mailbox,

We had a few rough spots, but in retrospect, it was decent week.  Between the illnesses and grumpy little people who kept hitting each other (nothing is perfect), every day presented learning opportunities.  They also went to art group and worked on art projects at home.   Oliver measured ingredients and rolled out dough for the pita bread we baked, dialed his grandma’s phone number, recited our address and proudly answered “Obama!” to the question “Who won the election?” from our insurance agent . We talked about the time on both analog and digital clocks, kept our calendar up to date, counted by tens, counted down from to 10 to blast off and played outside everyday. 

I know this is just the beginning, but right now, I am loving not being their teacher.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

That is the only decent picture of the two of them in costume.  They couldn’t stand still for 3 seconds and they hadn’t even had any candy yet!

So we knocked on a few neighbors doors here on our street then headed down to our business district in Kirkwood and went to all the shops.  It was fun to see a lot of the neighborhood kids.  A lot of kids got a kick out of Oliver’s penguin costume and the grown ups loved our little curly haired dog.  They raked in the candy and were quick to dig in when we got home.

Hope your Halloween was fun too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Art Group


A few moms and I started a art group for our kids who are not in any sort of preschool.  We have been getting together once week for a play, art and usually lunch.  We are rotating houses and so far the kids have enjoyed the regular get togethers and my kids are always excited to see what materials they get to work use.  We are not trying to put out masterpieces and we definitely not a particularly structured bunch, but we are having a good time.

We have been getting together for a couple of months and I haven’t remembered to take many pictures, but here are a couple.  The first picture is from our first activity - chalk and white paint on black paper.  The second picture is Benton showing off today’s project - paper pumpkins. 

I am trying to keep away from prefab crafts and create more situations where the kids just get to explore the available materials or techniques.  Today’s project didn’t really meet that criteria, but it is almost Halloween and the kids were excited to make their own pumpkin. 

If you’ve got a fun project idea for toddlers and 4 years olds, let me know.  I have several great books, but it is always nice to hear about a tried and true project.
 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lake Conasauga


Well,  Dan and I have given up on ultra-light backpacking for awhile.  As long as our kids still need to be carried on hikes, we decided to switch to an ultra-light camper.   We have done some tent camping since Oliver was born, but really, we haven’t done much.  We both realized that we needed to get way from our urban life and back out in the woods. 

We bought a light-weight tent trailer and headed out for several nights while my brother Kenny was visiting.  We so desperately needed a vacation.  The first full day we were there was the most relaxing day I can remember in months.  The kids entertained themselves or followed their dad or uncle around.  I actually had time to put my feet up and read a book alone in the middle of the day.  It felt nice. 

We went hiking the next day and I got my exercise carrying Benton uphill while Dan carried Oliver, who was tuckered out after hiking in and fishing his little heart out.

I loved sharing a camping adventure with my boys.  They played with sticks, got dirty and wet, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, collected firewood, and eventually fell sound asleep in the camper. 

We are already planning the next trip.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Birthday Celebration!

What a day!  We celebrated Oliver’s 4th birthday and Benton’s 2nd birthday.  We had a big group of family and friends who eagerly ate the food we made and the complimented the cakes I made for the boys.  At Oliver’s request, he had a green train cake.  Benton requested a blue cake and since his can easily say car, truck and bus, his cake had a bunch of fun road vehicles from Richard Scarry’s books.

The boys both really enjoyed having their grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, and good friends here to celebrate with them.  I haven’t gotten crazy into the kids party, so parties around here include yummy food for all and beer for the grown ups.  I have to admit I forgot to put out any special drinks for the kids.  Sorry folks.  I hope no one went thirsty.  My kids just drink milk, but I meant to buy juice boxes.  Anyway, this was the first year I did all the food and made two completely different cakes.  I can only do so much.

Thanks to all of you who came and to those of you who thought of our boys and sent your birthday wishes to them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First trip to the ER



We made it nearly four years (3 years, 363 days) before we had to make the dreaded trip to the ER.  Thankfully, it was not a major emergency, but Oliver did come home is a splint.   He fell off the arm of the couch and landed on his side, on his arm.  For a while, I wasn’t sure it was that bad, but it kept bothering him and I eventually realized he had limited movement.   So, the doctor’s office said go the ER for x-rays.  We have a Children’s Hospital at Emory University so the boys and I headed over there.  Three hours later we were going through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru for the promised chocolate shake. 

Oliver was quite the trooper.  The nurses and staff seemed entertained by his willingness to chat with them.  He always had something to say.  “My birthday is soon.  Birthdays have lots of cake and ice cream.”  He got upset after the x-rays.  He wanted to take off the little hospital gown.  “It is bugging me.”   He wasn’t so sure about the splint at first, but he let them put it on.


We got home close to 9pm.  Benton was asleep. Oliver ate chicken strips, drank his chocolate shake and told his dad all about the big day. 


This month has been crazy.  Jasmine, Benton’s eye infection, the fleas Jasmine left behind, and now a broken bone.   AND, we’re celebrating their birthdays with everyone on Saturday.  So, 2 cakes to make and decorate, food to prepare, a house to clean and gifts to assemble.  Wish me luck. :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

I can’t help myself...

Although I have lived in Atlanta more years than I like to admit, I am and always will be an Alaskan.  Other than being a mother, there is no other group I identify with more than Alaskans.   I read the Anchorage Daily News everyday.  I keep up to date on all the politics, scandals, bear attacks, festivals, construction and social issues in Alaska, and Anchorage in particular.

So, the day McCain announced Palin as his running mate, I can’t say I was surprised.  There has been much speculation in the political blogosphere.  I wasn’t surprised, but boy was I shocked and a little outraged.  My first thought was about her lack of experience and if McCain had lost his mind.  I could go on and on, but I’ll just say this, the argument that she has foreign affairs experience because Alaska is neighbor to Russia (as stated by dozens of GOP folks) is the most ridiculous thing I have heard.   It takes a skilled politician to say that with straight face.

All the rumors and social issues are completely irrelevant to me, this is about a person who is not ready to lead this county.  She lacks education, experience and knowledge about anything outside of Alaska. 

Which brings me to her first interview.  She looks and sounds like someone who crammed for a test.   She could not have an intelligent conversation, let alone and eloquent debate about national security issues.   I can’t wait to see more.

Her supposed expertise in national security is in energy.  Alaska supplies oil for 3.5% of America’s energy supply.  Doesn’t sound like much, but McCain says she knows more about energy than anyone else.  Please. 

As an Alaskan woman, I am horrified that she has become THE national icon for Alaska.  I have read many of the articles lately about Alaska and our oil based economy.  Many make Alaskans sound like a bunch of folksy people living off the taxes of the working class Americans of the Lower 48.  In particular, this Time Magazine article was the pretty embarrassing, and the numbers are questionable.

Palin’s ridiculously simple plan to help people with their energy bills,  emphasizes that image.  Handing out cash is so much simpler than coming up with a real solution like subsidizing rural Alaska’s skyrocketing heating fuel oil (which is significantly more expensive than Anchorage’s natural gas) or investing in infrastructure.  I can’t even guess how many communities in Alaska do not have adequate sewer systems, sewage treatment or even landfills.  Totally disgusting, but Palin hands out $1200 to every man woman and chid, totaling about 730 million.  Millions of which will go back to the Federal government in taxes, instead of staying in Alaska.  Surely that money could have been used in a better manner, but it was a quick way to make people happy.  Her 80% approval rate is not as impressive when you realize she just handed everyone a big check.  Where is the foresight?  Where is the leadership?

By the way, the Alaska Permanent Fund check that Alaskans receive is different than the Energy Relief check.  It was actually an innovative idea created nearly 30 thirty years ago to plan for the future.  The resources of Alaska belong to the people and the State earns various royalties and taxes when these resources are used.   At least 25% of all income that comes into the state is put into a savings and investment account.  50% of the interest earned, average over 5 years is pulled out for legislative use and some is sent back to the residents of Alaska.  The other 50% stays in the Permanent Fund.

Alaska is a place where no one pays state income tax, most don’t pay property taxes or even sales taxes.  Palin’s “maverick” personality, as it is being touted, is baloney.  She went after big oil, because that is where the money is at.  She took the Bridge to Nowhere money.  She, notably, dropped the “Thanks, but no thanks.” line from her stump speech when she gave it in Alaska this week.    She has gone after pork barrel money better than most Alaskan mayors.  She doesn’t care that Federal money is actually your money.  She only changed her behavior recently because it makes her look different from Ted Stevens, who has recently been indicted.  No need to be associated with him, if you are about to become the vice presidential nominee.  Out with the old, but in with a younger version of the same.

Want to learn more?  Check out www.factcheck.org or read the Anchorage Daily News
Click here for an interesting review of her interview last night. 

By way, I can’t believe her audacity to speak about national security on 9/11.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A new bag for Melanie

So, again without purchasing a pattern, I came up with this bag for Melanie.  The idea was to create a nice, but small diaper bag.  I hope she likes it.  I think I ripped out one seam, so overall I think my pattern worked.  Although, next time I might make the sides a little wider, but this bag should easily hold a couple sippy cups, diapers and personal items.  I’d also like to figure out how to put in a zipper closure on top.

I’ve had a bit of a bad attitude lately.  I noticed that I wasn’t sewing, exercising, or even cooking good dinners.  All sure signs that I was slipping into a slump.  Sewing this bag helped me feel creative again and I am pretty happy about how it turned out.


 This is just life with Benton.  He did this during lunch to pull my attention from sewing and back to him.  Good thing he is so cute!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Jasmine




Sadly, we had to say good bye to Jasmine today. 

She has been apart of Dan’s life for nearly 14 years and so, a part of mine for 10.  Although I have lived with her for the last 7 years, she has always been Dan’s dog.  Loyal to the end. 

She was a great hiking companion but was just as happy to hang out at home.  She was truly a loving dog who gently welcomed home both our boys and eagerly awaited their falling snacks. 

While remaining ever faithful to Dan, she managed to keep her eye on Oliver and Benton.  When Oliver came home from the hospital, he slept on my side of the bed.  For the first time ever, Jasmine started sleeping next to my side of the bed.  Later, when Oliver moved to his own room, Jasmine could often be found in there or sleeping beside Benton in our room.  Even this last weekend, she  found her way to Oliver’s bedside. 


She clearly loved all of us and would defend our home as loudly as she could. Lately though, her days and evenings were about Dan.  She had grown tired in the last few years, but she always perked up when Dan came home. 

She will be greatly missed.