Sunday, July 26, 2015

#thecookieproject

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Yesterday, Grandma turned 90. The year she was born (1925), both The Great Gatsby and Mein Kamph were published, Mt. Rushmore was officially dedicated to be the site of the now famous monument (carving began 2 years later) and the Scopes Monkey Trial took place. Grandma is the youngest of nine children, and the only survivor of her siblings. She has three kids, 11 grandkids, and 13 great-grandkids. Today we celebrated her. The love in the room was palpable. To see an actual living, moving, laughing family tree all stemming from our A-Family matriarch. It is incredible. 

Although I am not blood-related, Grandma is my only surviving grandparent. She has taught me many things since our first meeting almost a decade ago, and I have tried to soak it all in. One thing Grandma is fiercely proud of is her baking. She is a true old-school baker. Nothing comes from a mix or a box, and everything is made with butter and love. Except the parve cookies. They are made with oleo and love.

Up until a few years ago, Grandma baked consistently. There were always cookies in the freezer, and when we would visit she would insist we eat a few. Then she'd tell us to wait a minute to eat them so we didn't break our teeth, and watch as we bit down. "Well, how are they? Are they any good?" she would always want to know. It wouldn't matter if you were there last week and had a cookie from the exact same bag. She wanted to know.

But she wasn't fishing for compliments. She did, in part, want to know if the cookie actually came out well, because baking is fickle like that and you don't want to keep feeding people awful baked goods. 

What she wanted to know was if the cookie was to your liking. If you had enjoyed that cookie. If it made you a little happier. And as someone who never used to bake more than an occasional boxed cake or my Italian meatball cookies at Christmastime, I never really understood or appreciated that until now. 

For Grandma's party, I wanted to make her cookies.

All her cookies.

All was pretty ambitious. I had to narrow it down drastically or go broke trying. I asked a few family members for favorites, took note, and set to work. Since this was largely done during the day, I took it on as a family project, in effort to teach my kids some of their heritage while honing math skills. 


We started with mandelbrot. I have made biscotti that hasn't turned out awful (and some that has) so this seemed like a good starting point. Julia the Child was all about making this, and did a good portion of the mixing on her own. Our house smelled amazing. I didn't let anyone touch a single piece until Hubsy came home. He tried it and said it wasn't quite right. It was good, but it wasn't really like Grandma's. 

Fortunately my recipe is dairy-free, and I have a DF friend who gladly took the "failures" off my hands. I tried again. And this would become the story of making 500 cookies. (Not an exaggeration. I feel a bit embarrassed about thinking I may have not made enough now...) 

The kids and I would bake. 

Then I'd torture my husband with something like this: 



Even if they looked right, I'd make him eat some to be sure. I became an anxious hot mess over the replication of cookies. Once they were deemed perfect, I'd splash them all over Instagram with my #thecookieproject hashtag to document actually getting it right. Friends got used to being taste-testers and I got used to running errands covered in flour and smelling like creamed butter and vanilla.


Every dough I made, I'd remember a story or comment Grandma had told me when passing on her recipes. Meringues will fall if you make them on an overcast day. Yeast dough is a joy to work with once you work some flour into it. Richard always loved the crinkle cookies best. I'd tell the girls what Grandma told me. And I'll tell them again. And again. They'll get sick of it eventually, but then some day they'll roll out yeast dough with their kids and comment on how their great grandmother always said the dough was a joy to work with once you got flour into it. They'll defy old Jewish bakers' wisdoms and make meringues regardless of the forecast, just to see what happens.


They will know that baking these cookies isn't only for a treat, it is a labor of love. In a world full of shortcuts, cookies like these shine. I know it is commonly perceived that stay-at-home parents have the luxury of time, but not like these cookies took. (Or any, ever. Time is an illusion.) Good thing my kids like to bake and my husband is willing to do dishes and laundry when I abandon adult responsibilities for a project of this magnitude. Even the baking dishes from the day. He's awesome.


Unwrap 72 Rollos? SURE! I wasn't doing anything with that hour.

In the beginning, I thought I'd just whip up a batch of cookies every week for a month and that would be that. In the end, it turned into a multitude of ingredient substituting (seriously, Nestle, bring back the Choco-Bake. What were you thinking?), bulk orders of brickle, grocery store runs and late-night, all-hands-on-deck cookie rolling. And we had fun. A lot of fun. 


This morning I found the giant tray I have never had need for and lined it with origami paper, since my doilies have been fashioned into doll blankets and Valentines. The cookie project capstone was Grandma's infamous chocolate cake, which must be made for every A-Family man's birthday, because it is what they grew up with and all they ever request. (This one I actually have down pat, for someone who "doesn't bake.")


I forgot the chocolate chip cookies in the freezer.
Meaning this isn't even all of them.


My husband drove to the party more carefully than he did when we brought our babies home from the hospital. No casualties were suffered.


Watching Grandma watch her family, all of which would not have been possible without her, I understood that although the countless number of cookies she baked over her many years were in part because they were delicious and in part that she found baking to be joyful and calming, the underlying reason for all her effort and time was love. Who doesn't love to make people happy? Baking is one way, a big way, Grandma conveys love. That's why she wants to know - are they any good? 


With the blessing to share, Grandma's (and Pillsbury's) Rollo-filled cookies recipe:





Thursday, July 23, 2015

I'm That Mom You Love To Hate: Post Office Edition

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That's right, today was a two-for-one terrorize the town day!

After going to Target we went to the post office. Because I apparently am a sucker for punishment.

It started out fine. We live in a quiet town. Our post office is small, and my children are mostly harmless in there, so long as I keep them away from the card stand. (Because that is my second least favorite sorting game: cards.) 

There was no line, so I put my important box I've been collecting stuff for my Bestie in for months. (That's our thing. We both have open boxes in our houses that we stuff full of stuff we must share with the other, because it isn't easy not living down the street from each other anymore. Occasionally we tape them up and mail them across the country.) 

Post Office Attendant, with a smile: That will be $48.

Me: Please hold while I pick my jaw up off the ground. 

The flat rate box is $18 and slightly smaller. My kids are quietly standing next to me. I have a roll of tape and I've written her address on an inspirational Dr. Seuss notepad page I keep in my car for this exact purpose. So many times I've had to change boxes at the last minute. I have learned. 

I tell the girls we are going to do a puzzle, borrow some scissors and go find a corner out of the way. We get to work. At first they are super helpful. 


This box is now 50% heavier, thanks to an entire roll of tape and the fact that my kids can't keep said tape out of their hair.

We make it work. A woman has come into the post office and is at the counter, so we get in line. I can't hold both a 25 pound squirmy toddler and a 25 pound box of books and random grocery store finds, so I let the toddler go. She was only going to throw out my back anyway. The entryway to our post office and the PO Box room has an echo. It is also a race track. The mailroom people have told me innumerable times that every child that enters the post office immediately starts yelling and running in circles, but I don't believe them. One day, my children will not see this space as an invite to test the laws of physics. Today was not that day. 

I at least manage to capture one with the bribe of a fun lunch. The other lays down in protest.

Whatever, kid. As long as you don't trip someone or start yelling again.
Just as I toss the gigantic box back on the scale and prepare to pay my $18, my preschooler starts to think of Maurice Sendack.

Preschooler: Why was Max's dinner still hot? He wasn't supposed to have dinner because he misbehaved!

Me: Would a mommy really send him to bed without dinner for being a bit wild?

Post Office Worker: Yes! You heard about that abused boy they just found, right? They think his mother didn't feed him for months.


...


And we're out.

I'm That Mom You Love To Hate: Target Edition

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Today we had to go to Target.

I love Target. I do. It has Starbucks, it has bananas, it has the BB cream I like, it has cheap and durable kid clothes and it even has toilet paper. It is the One Stop Shop for moms, without the grime, dirt and mullets of other box stores. 

That is why anyone shopping at Target between 7am and 3pm on a weekday should not be surprised to encounter That Mom. 

Little known fact: There is some sort of Behavior Roulette you unwillingly play at Target upon walking through the red doors. Every randomly generated number of mothers with small children will pass through unscathed. If you are the unlucky mom, my sincerest apologies, your kid gets triggered with some sort of pheromone that will make them bat$hit crazy somewhere about two thirds of the way through your shopping list. Which is only ever about a quarter of your overall Target experience. 

And that unlucky mom is the Mom You Love To Hate. Today, I was that mom. 

We grabbed the coffee, and my eldest even got me a little cup holder and set it up on the cart for me. Aw! How thoughtful! You can think of others!

Then there was the Dollar Spot. I try to run by this section usually, but with the impending Disney trip a meager six months away, I've been trying to buy up some dollar spot chothckis for fairy gifts, as if that will somehow stop them from wanting the exact same thing in the park with a 3000% mark-up. And today it was actually worth it. Princess and Frozen themed hair doodads, Ariel bath fizzies that can stain the resort tub and make my kids look like Violet Beauregarde just in time for the most photographed moments of their lives save birth and possibly their wedding days, and really cute notebooks that the kids can "journal" in or tear to bits. Bonus, the pack had a spare, so now I can keep my crazed notes in yet another place. (Pro tip: Post-its are great in the classroom, but suck at Disney vacation planning. I'm talking to you, Type B people.) 

Each girl chose one (princess, of course) sticker book with stickers with the promise to act like humans (not even civilized. I set the bar at human) whilst shopping. 

You know those sticker books didn't make it home. Sorry to the shopping attendant that finds them in a basket stand near the taco shells. 

So here I am, that mom. 

I remembered that Target had a Mickey shirt last time I was there. I trudge all the way through the clothes to find the rack. Looks like every other person my size got there first. Sorry kids, keep walking. 

Next, I want to see what size my geisha-footed preschooler's feet sprang to overnight. Of course, if one gets to take her shoes off in Target, the other must. Of course this is still early and I reason that letting a calm raptor lose in Candyland can't be a bad thing, so I take her out of the cart. 

 If they hadn't JUST had a breakfast of plate-sized pancakes, maybe. But no. Not today. They weren't loud about it, but they were tweaked. Which is why I couldn't sneak by the toy section. I took up a post in the main aisle and let them run up and down showing each other every. single. thing. It is still the stuff from last time we were here, but they are happy and accepting my standard "Ask Santa" response. (Because they know a surefire way to get hauled out of the toy aisle and not return for months is to whine for a toy. I do not play that game.) 

Thirty minutes after walking in the door, my coffee is gone and nothing is checked off our list. Time to get down to business. 

The next section was fun, because it is seasonal. And June means Back To School! The whole section smells like Crayola crayons, so I'm happy. The girls got to grab some crayons and put them in the cart, so they are happy. We cruise through the food section and I start to think we might actually make it out okay. 

Somewhere between grocery and home goods is the two-thirds mark of our trip. Cue the crazy. I laugh at the naivety of my thoughts not seconds ago, which just makes me look crazy. I asked an attendant for help, since the lids on display never match the storage container. In the eternity he is tracking them down for me, I lay down the cart law on my toddler. If you try to surf in the cart seat, you will get buckled in. 


A mother attempting to be helpful comes over and talks to The Angry One, who responds with much gnashing of teeth. She gives me a wry smile and assures me her teenager, waiting in the car, still acts the same way. Although I smile and nod at her kind sentiment, I can't help but think how nice it would be to lock the kids in the car and grab my stuff and drink my coffee and maybe pee alone while I'm living the dream. 

Two sales attendants, both somewhere in the 13-17 year age range, come over to assure me that the lids are in stock, they are just on the highest shelf in the furthest corner of the darkest back room. In Peru. They say this while trying to make eye contact, but staring wide-eyed at the red ball of fury I seem to travel with by choice. Go ahead and gawk, kids. Just doing my part to ensure the young and hormonal make wise choices when it comes to hanky panky. 

I remember that I came in with two kids. Someone capitalized on the situation and snuck over to lamps while I was monitoring her sister giving away free birth control. There she is, touching every lamp on the end cap to see if any one of them will turn on. I'm so relieved and upset to find her not ten feet away and not where I left her that I don't have the wherewithal to ask her if any one of them is turned on. Or point out that if she can turn those lamps on and off, why can't she turn off the one in her bedroom, ever?

We get the lids. I forget the flour, which I will regret in three hours, when I'm finally home and trying to bake something. Julia the Child has stopped the fury screaming and attempts to wriggle free or claw out of her buckle and has taken to screaming "HELP." at anyone nearby. This draws some cold, judgy looks from kidless people. Good. If my kid was actually kidnapped, people might notice. I usually hold to the idea that judgement is generally in the head of the person feeling judged, but one woman actually let out an obvious sigh and shade as she walked by. What kidless person goes to Target on a leisure shop on a Thursday morning and gets upset when a kid loses their mind? You knew the risk, lady.


I do, in an odd moment of clarity remember cat litter. And it isn't something I can ignore. My touch-every-last-thing kid is giving me the hard sell on these dog treats because she wants our dog to have "fashionable, sparkly, human teeth." Those were her words, not mine. I did mean to get our dog some treats for when we are on vacation, grab the discount treats, and everyone is disappointed they don't come with a creepy smiling dog on the package.

The Target gods smile upon us (or people cleared a wide path) and we find an empty line. The friendly grandmother cashier tells me all about her granddaughter who also has hair and likes Frozen and would love the hair ties I asked her to stealth ring up while I ignore my child asking me about every package of Pokemon cards and figurine. Thankfully, this isn't a gum aisle, so I don't need to play my least favorite sorting game the strung-out toddler loves to set up for me. The cashier asks the toddler for the dog treats, which I have used my ninja skills to maneuver into a barcode-up position during our conversation. Bad call, lady. I know her intentions were good, but that is a rookie move. Cue the wailing. In the end, she uses the zapper to scan it. It only took two of us to get that barcode face-up again. Of course, all this emotion reminds her that she was supposed to be angry about the buckle, and she starts yelling about that again. The sweet cashier who feels horrible even though I tell her my kid is just being heinous at the moment gives the girls some stickers and we run out of the store.


The sticker says "I buckled up for safety!"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Disney Fantastic, O2 Style.

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In searching for ALL the Disney tips on Pinterest, I came across some Origami Owl Disney-themed lockets. Since I have all this pent-up Disney excitement I can't let out, I thought I'd toss some into accessorizing. As one does.

If Up didn't make you cry in the first 10 minutes, your tear ducts should be checked. They may be broken. As soon as I saw a version of this locket, I knew what I had to do. 

I ordered a plate for my locket and decided to inscribe it with "Adventure is out there!" Unlike the original, I didn't want mine to be free-floating. 

The moment my plate arrived I grabbed my Glue Dots, tweezers, and flat-sided crystals. 




Glue Dots spread very easily. I got excited and slapped the house in the middle before I remembered a photo.


The rest is just arranging the gems and putting it in the locket. One Disney locket down!

Caw caw RAWR!

The Crazy Stuff We Do: Disney Dining Reservations

Pin It About a year ago, we started talking about going to Disney when our oldest was 5 or 6, putting our youngest somewhere between 2.5 and 4. Then we realized that our youngest will be free up until she is 3, which crosses with our oldest's 5th birthday. That just seemed all sorts of magical (free kid, 5th birthday...) so we had a date. And since whenever that was, I've been ready to go.

In 182 days, we check into our hotel. I know this because my wonderful Mouseketeer planner, Abbie, is on top of it and sent me a reminder. As well as the three alerts I got because I still haven't worked out the glitch between my phone and calendar. I've decided to make the reservations myself instead of having Abbie make them (I know every experienced person just rolled their eyes) because I won't be able to sleep and I get an hour jump doing it online. Even if it is the slowest time of the year to go to Disney.

Thanks to the billion contradictory tips I have read on Disney Dining, we have a basic meal plan and I am ready to reserve all the tables.

I just set my window up, so that in 32 hours I can start to configure them with the specific date and time I need the reservation.


And I'm torn. Part of me is able to recognize that this is insane. Who does this? Maybe Type A people do, but I am so very Type B that in the few moments when I really want something to work out and know it takes a certain level of intense organization for a short period of time, it gets to this level. I've written out the reservations so I don't need to deal with changing it on the computer itinerary at the same time, I'll just use a different color ink to make changes. Insane.

But, hopefully this crazy thing I will do will give us all the magical character meals we care to enjoy, especially on that special birthday. Because given the option, any mommy would do something this crazy if it meant their Believes In Magic And Loves Princesses child eating at Cinderella's Royal Table and at the Beast's castle on their fifth birthday.

May the reservations be ever in your favor.


Stay tuned to see how this pans out.


Update, 7/24/15: I won at the reservation game. All the character dining is a go! And date night, because sometimes you need to eat a meal with out Pluto. Or children.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Group therapy costs less.

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Today I traumatized my preschooler, six chicks, my dog, and the guy painting the outside of our house. And I did it in under 5 minutes flat. That's a record! So proud!


It started out with good intentions, as all the best Crazy Mom induced traumas do. We had a glorious morning that involved a trip to the playground, the library, walking to the deli for sandwiches, and then walking back to the playground for a picnic lunch and more playing. We came home, the toddler practically put herself down to bed, Miss V sat down to do a puzzle and I, in an amazing rare moment of silence, cracked open one of the books about chickens we checked out today. There was a suggestion about acclimating new chicks without a broody hen to the outside in tiny little bursts on hot days. Great! I have a wire fence that will hold them and is easy to set up, a willing preschooler, and ten minutes! I can do this!

I set up the fence and put all the chicks in a plastic sand pail. They were transported to a chemical-free scratch-and-peck paradise in the glorious heat of the day. I let them out and thought how much fun this would be to watch them explore. 


I've never raised chickens before, but I have brought my kids to the beach as infants. I've watched as a magical, relaxing, healing place turns into the stuff nightmares are made of. An infant isn't calmed by rolling waves, they are terrified by the crashing, fast moving ice-cold liquid you are trying to get them to touch. They aren't enjoying the sand between their toes, they are wondering why you are sticking their delicate feet into hot, gritty earth. You would think I would know better. But there I was, gently tipping my bucket-o-chicks onto the springy earth with a ridiculous grin on my face and clap-happy preschooler. 


The first to cry was Mama Hen, formerly known as Sadie Dog. I might as well have tossed them into the fiery core of the Earth. Her reaction would have been the same. She ran in circles, crying because her chicks were out and she couldn't touch them, while all six chicks tried desperately to follow her. 

Once I managed to get her to lay down (she's very well trained, but this tested her listening) the chicks came to her. 


Of course there was a fence, so they couldn't get to her. Then the chicks began to cry. They were so loud, the painter came to see what was going on. I had promised to pay him, and so I offered to grab the check I had left inside if he would just watch the chicks. 

This is when they started to stick their little heads through the fence, not realizing the rest of them doesn't fit. Our painter will likely just wait another day to get paid if anyone tells him to just watch the chickens while they get their checkbook. 

Sadie resumed running, the chicks started to escape (how?!) and Miss V started to get crabby because in all their panic, the chicks had ignored her offers of leaves and sticks.  

I had to shut it down and bring everyone inside. The noise was deafening, the chicks looked like they were going to pass out from fear (except our one brave chicken, Little, who decided to peck around a bit) and Sadie was nearing a heart attack. 




I went inside and decided to offer them a special treat of ground oats, which they absolutely love. They have had oats three other times, and after the first time they would come running when they saw the jar and I called "chick chick chick!" But not this time. As you can see, two have forgiven me (or love oats that much), one was on the fence, and three are actively ignoring me.


All in a day's work, people.



We have two.

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There are days where the girls are trying to claw their sister's eyes out over one of our 9,000 red, 2 x 2 Duplo blocks and in that moment I have many thoughts. 

Mostly How many more seconds until their father walks through the door?

But I never think we did the wrong thing by having a second. Okay, not anymore. There were some days early on with a newborn and a toddler where I thought that often.


I've mastered fielding questions regarding gender disappointment or "trying for a boy" and I honestly have no regrets or intentions because always at the back of my mind I have a thousand memories like this: 


They are each the perfect sister for their sister. 

I'm That Mom You Love To Hate: Playground Edition

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Yesterday my kids were whiny hot messes. After a day of errands and meltdowns and no naps, I knew today was going to require change. I thought of all our favorite museums that have both indoor and outdoor space, but I just didn't have the chutzpah to pack up The Stuff and go to a place to walk around. I tossed the kids in the car and decided we'd go to the playground in town. 

I set the kids free, smiled at some other moms, and found a dry spot. 

I'm that mom the Sanctimommies love to hate. 

Check out my 4.5 year-old hanging off this cliff. 

Can you spot my 2-year-old?


I can take better photos than these, but want everyone to see that I was all the way the heck over on the one dry bench spot like: 

hydrate.

It has nothing to do with it being 9am and my coffee being done and my second coffee not being made because I had to get the kids out of the house before they lost their minds, abandoning any hope of stuff like more coffee. I'm on that bench because I am. We don't live in one of those places you read about, where every type of mom is judging the other one, but if we were, I'd still act the same. And so should you. Not act like me, but do whatever you want. 

These are your kids. It is your life. Do what makes you and them happy. 

If you are at a playground and find yourself being Judge Judy, here are some things to think about:

Don't like the Hover Mom? Maybe she is protective of her kids. Or her only kid. Or her friend's kid. Or maybe her kid is a biter and she's tired of having to apologize to other moms when their kid gets bit. Maybe they have a special need that requires closer supervision. Maybe they have an inner ear issue and exceptionally bad balance. Go introduce yourself and tell her your kid's name, age, and your favorite candy bar. 

Have an issue with Bench Mom? Maybe she wants her kids to do some free thinking and exploring and the second she gets close their helplessness kicks into high gear and they stop problem solving. Maybe her kids are the kind that if she walks within 10 feet of them while they are playing they run and scream, thus interrupting their play and frustrating Mom. Maybe her toddler played the roll of Surprise Limp Noodle on the way out of the house and threw her back out and her chiropractor is closed on Fridays. (Sorry, was that too personal? I love my kids.) Maybe she needs 5 minutes to call a friend or text her partner the grocery list or check Facebook because it is the only adult interaction she'll have today until you go up and introduce yourself, point out your kids from a distance that makes you comfortable (unless you are a hoverer, but you can just yell, because it is a playground), and tell her about the last book (or anything) you read more than 3 sentences of. 

Is that Mom Group a little too chummy for your liking, while their kids run amuck? Maybe they haven't seen each other in a long time. Maybe they spend every day of every week together and still have awesome things to talk about every day. Maybe they are collectively watching each other's children out of the corner of each mom eye and aren't afraid to Village Parent when something goes down or a kid teeters on the edge of some cliff. You should definitely go ask if they are part of a larger group, and ask what their drive-thru coffee of choice is. 

The bottom line is that we are all in the same boat here. Judging just puts up a wall and often times the perception of being judged is all in our heads. If someone parents differently than you and helps (or "helps") your kid out, be it from jumping off the monkey bars or running into traffic, smile and thank them. Chances are they were genuinely concerned and aren't actually a Sanctimom, but someone happy to keep the closest child to them from injury. Maybe ask if they are from town. Because when we actually talk to each other and hear about other walks of life, we stop judging and we make friends. When we make friends with people that hang out in the same places with kids of similar ages, we build our Village. And little more is as important to parents as a supportive community of other parents to grow and learn with that are a car ride away. 


Incase anyone was worried, Miss V and Julia the Child both made it to the top of their towers without interference or injury. Neither had previously attempted this feat, both were extremely proud. 



Just don't tell her I was that close. She'll run away, screaming.







Thursday, July 9, 2015

We grow stuff!

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I kill houseplants. The two I have kept alive have names. (Actually, there is a third that has been alive for a few years, but I don't want to jinx it...) 
The first spring Husband and I lived somewhere with a patio, I planted a tomato plant in a pot outside. I moved it to North Carolina with us, and it lived for two years in the garden. I was hooked. 
Then we moved into a big house with a big garden and I resumed my work at planting plants that die or make a terrific salad bar. But V was 15 months old the first season we could plant our garden, and I was determined to teach my kids the work food takes. 
That year came and went, and then another. We are in our third garden year, and it is amazing. 

Here is the story of our 2015 garden, the most rewarding garden yet. 
Our garden in February: 
It got worse. That piece of wood is just over one meter and we lost it for weeks.



We waited so long for anything that wasn't snow-covered. It came. And finally, the ground thawed enough and the frost dissipated, and we planted stuff. Actually, this year, the plants were largely planted by the kids. I gave a demonstration and then backed off. The result? Plants are on top of each other and thriving just fine. 




I think what surprised V the most was that we instantly didn't have food. She likens the chickens to the garden now, when we buy eggs. "Some day soon we won't buy eggs, just like we don't need to buy beans or peas today." 





What did we plant? Our asparagus, lavender, strawberries and rhubarb (which is not working) came back from last year. We went to a garden store for sorrel and herbs and the clerk showed V. the purple potatoes. V. responded "What other purple plants do you have?" 

Answer: purple asparagus, purple beans, purple sorrel, purple potatoes, purple tomatoes, purple carrots, purple lettuce. We added non-purple beans, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli,  jalapeƱo, and peas, for contrast. 



It grew. 
And it grew.

I've learned a lot over the years. We maintain an organic garden and I don't have time to weed. Thankfully there is diatomaceous earth and soon there will be chickens. You can't grow cucumbers close to peppers, and I can't grow cucumbers at all. It is all about companion planting. And fox pee? You'll need it if you want to grow beans or peas. Don't spray it on a windy day. Something keeps eating our broccoli. I cooked a few precious, hard-earned pieces the other day only to realize I had cooked some culprits with the florets. This isn't Survivor. No broccoli and caterpillars for us. 

So why do I have a garden?

Yesterday, we were playing outside and the girls wanted a snack. I told them to go pick some peas, and they thanked me for such a delicious snack. Of course I told them this was the effort of their hard work. 

Tonight, all the produce on the table (potatoes, two types of beans, and peas) was planted and picked by my girls. From seed to plate, they did it. 


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Crazy Stuff We Do: Baby Chicks, Week 1

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If you are considering getting a few chickens as bitty chicks, you should be warned.

First, close your eyes and picture Ned Stark, leaning on Ice and overlooking Winterfell's fields. It doesn't matter if you have never read or watched Game of Thrones. You know the exact image. 

Brace yourself. Crazy is coming. 




Maybe some people approach this more methodically and in a circle-of-life way or buy one hundred chickens at once, so maybe you won't have this experience. But if you are like me, with a small home, a small coop, a big desire to have some fresh, healthy eggs, and ZERO idea as to what you are really doing, then brace yourself.

Here is a bunch of crazy stuff you should anticipate in the first week with bitty chicks. 

1) They will be cuter and fluffier and louder than you imagined. 
It will take minutes to name them.

2) Your Google-Fu will reach an expert level. Pro tip: Be sure to type "baby chicks" or "baby chickens" because straight up "chicks" likely won't get you the answers you are looking for. 

3) Something will happen and you'll find yourself trying to explain that you were using a heater on a chicken because of pasty butt and the color red and vents. 
Heating up Dinner.
She made a full recovery.

4) Your coop will be too small. Instantly. Whether the company shipped you extra chicks (surprise!) or you realized they are more addictive than potato chips, you will need a bigger coop. Prepare to sacrifice an afternoon to coop design and middle-school math. You will turn into MacGyver. But your chicks will be so happy. 



Chickie Corral
5) You will take crazy pictures.





6) You will start to tell people about your chick's personalities after a day or two with them, and marvel at how different each one becomes. That is what we, your chicken people, are here for. Don't tell your chickenless neighbor or the barista trying to make you delicious coffee at a red-doored box store of your frequenting. They won't embrace your crazy quite like another chicken person.

Warning!

Pin It
Whatever masterminds came together to put dog food into pouches (why?!!?) and then put them in the second shelf from the ground on an end cap... These people have never spent more than 2 minutes with a toddler. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Crazy Stuff We Do: How to find your people

Pin It We all want to find our "people." I'm not talking about your Ride or Die friend you met in grade school and will love always and forever, because that people is always your people, regardless of what kind of crazy you concoct.



I'm talking about when you leave home and have a profession and a passion and need to find a group of people that respect and understand both. It isn't easy. I used to think that it took me a while to find my Village, but I now realize that I came about it much faster than most.

How do you find those people?

You sniff them out by identifying your crazy in them. I'm dead serious.

I do a lot of things every single day that make me pause and think this is really insane. Just as fast, I know who to turn to for reassurance (because they do the same crazy thing) or someone who will get a good-natured laugh out of it (because they would never do that and love you anyway).

My friends are a phone call or text message or coffee date away. Maybe you don't have that. (I really hope you do, though.) So I'm going to start writing about the crazy things I do with its own little section. Maybe you'll understand and commiserate a bit. Maybe you'll shake your head and swear off that bit of crazy in your own world. Just don't get all Sancti on my blog. This is just for fun. Unless I'm doing something truly harmful, like feeding my husband Lily of the Valley accidentally.

I bring you, Crazy Stuff We Do.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Bubbles!!!

Pin It Raptor turned two last month!

I'm a January baby. V. is also a January baby. I have waited a long time to plan a summer birthday party.

We have a pool and a grill and a swing set. What else do you need?

Answer: cake and a bouncy house.

As awesome as the bouncy house was, we need to talk about the bubble table.


I'm sure this isn't an original idea. But it works.

When Miss V was a baby, we asked for a raised sand table as an amazing sensory bin. Her Papa and Nana sent one to her, and the fun commenced. We used it for water beads, for chopstick practice, and for a dinosaur habitat. This summer, I don't think anything but bubbles will go into it. It was that popular. 

First, we went to the Dollar Tree and I let Miss V pick out whatever we thought would make good bubbles. She came up with all this:


Paper plate holders, a pool noodle we cut up. mega horns, bins, and fly swatters. 

We fill the table with a few big containers of bubbles and go to town. Everyone ends up soaked in bubbles (fair warning given) and everyone plays until the bubbles are gone. 

So this summer, fill your sensory bins or kiddie pools or tupperware with bubbles and go nuts. 

FYI: The fly swatters are fantastic. Wave them in the air or hold them in front of a fan for a million bubbles. 

Chickens: The first 48 Hours

Pin It It took 48 hours to turn me into a Crazy Chicken Lady. No, it took 30 seconds to turn me, and another 47 hours, 59 minutes and 30 seconds for me to come to terms with that.

It took her seconds to accept her obsession.
In my late night binge reading about all things chicken (because when else am I supposed to read?! 2am is awesome.) I found Kathy, the Chicken Chick. Not only does she know everything about chickens, but she seems to be really good at keeping them alive and happy.

SPOILER ALERT: Researching keeping chickens is like researching how to raise children. Just try looking up chickens and garlic. Some people think any garlic outright kills chickens. Some tell you it will make eggs taste funky. Some tell you it is an amazing and you should feed them garlic every moment of every day, forever. Sanctichickemommies in full force, people. I gave them garlic. Let the hate mail commence.

So I found Kathy as a pretty solid resource and person aligning with my lifestyle (she grows a ton of herbs. I never thought I'd find someone who loves lavender as much as I do.), and decided to read as much as her blog pertaining to the one and under crowd as I could. We bought a plastic tub and the girls helped me set it up in preparation for our chicks, of which we thought we'd have three.

The post office, which I called with the regularity of calling my doctor the day before my induction with Raptor (baby 2), said the truck comes in at 6am, and I should expect a call shortly thereafter. I was up earlier than my children. At 11:30am, when they called, I chased my girls into the car and we claimed our (five) chicks.

Chickens were supposed to be part of our living garden. We take care of them, they take care of us, they turn to The Most Amazing matzoh ball broth ever after their laying days are done. I thought Kathy was a bit crazy when she said chickens were like Pringles, and how she features each of her 398472 chickens on her site, each with a catchy name and individuality. I opened that box and out popped six chicks. One jumped right up on me and into my V-neck. (Beware. Your boobs are warm and chicks dig that.) A few minutes later, I had managed to save one chick for my husband to name, and was googling how to expand coops. Kathy knows her stuff.
Guess which one my husband named.


I have done some crazy things in that time (post to come) all in the name of chickens.

 Here's what I have learned:

1) If you get less than a farm of chickens (and maybe even then) then maybe you won't instantly name and love them all. If this were some post apocalyptic dystopian teen novel I'd be able to not anthropomorphize my chickens as soon as I see their little chicky fluff and be able to eat them. But we live in New England, where people in suburban settings keep livestock as pets and see how smart animals really are, and then can't imagine eating them. But we will eat other people's responsibly farmed livestock and make amazing bone broth because TRADITION!

2) You will read all the blogs. I often wonder if the internet is a good idea. What would we do if we couldn't Google something and have a million opinions on the matter? Well, maybe I wouldn't have flown down the stairs after waking up the first night after the chicks came. How many blogs did I read where one just DIES? They sent a spare, just incase! My kids named them. Miss V told Husband that she was making a new country - New America - where she would take the chickens when they are grown to hide from him, just because he mentioned what some people do with chickens when they stop laying. (He also named his chicken Dinner, so...) But then maybe the one chick (Dinner) with pasty butt would have died by now. Regardless, here we are, people who don't sleep and Google all things. You will read all the blogs.

3) You will do crazy things. If you respect life and accept that you now are in charge of making these tiny things survive an existence much better than Purdue, you will start to do The Crazy Things. I've already promised to tell you my crazy things later (and it is hereditary, apparently) but just know that the sooner you accept you've become a crazy chicken person, you will find your chicken people and a community that embraces that insanity. And your normal village will love you for your uniqueness, because how else are they going to get fresh eggs?

4) They grow fast. You have kids and hashtag everything "The years are short." Then you get a puppy and ponder how quickly they change compared to your kids (which makes you feel a little better about how fast your kids do/don't grow). Then you get chicks and realize that 48 hours later they look like a different bird. And you CARE about that. (Embrace the crazy, K.)

They are really freakin' cute.