Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Blog

I've migrated to another blog.  It is under construction, like every other aspect of my life, so don't judge to hastily.  It will be pretty soon enough.  I have been waiting to post to it, and announce it, until it was done, but that is a tiny bit laughable.

Come on over!

[ I am no longer linking to the new blog. Email me at norabelle at gmail.com for the new addy.]

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gratitude Friday

I am so very grateful that a little rain, a low point in the yard, scrap wood and a vivid imagination makes for an hour of wet, happy, creative, amusing play.

My daughter is Wendy walking the plank, and her brother is Peter Pan about to swoop in to save her.  With much splashing and planning and discussion and compromising.

It is my parenting coming to fruition, all the seventeen million reminders, playful parenting, modeling behavior, teaching respect and cooperation, frugality, and joy.
It is nice to see.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is It April ALREADY?

This post is so clearly brought to you by the sandbox I built and installed last summer.  It is about 30 feet from the new French doors, and has captivated the kids this year.  I may find time to make it prettier shortly, but who really cares?  Now that the weather is warm again, the yard is their amusement park and they can spend hours out there playing on the swing set, hammock, sandbox, deck, and gravel pit.  They paint on the easel in the grass, kick the balls that decorate the yard, and seem to be teaching themselves how to play leap frog with the most hysterical outcome.  Lots of pouncing, squashing, and reconnoitering before the next physical fiasco. 

I'm not sure I'm doing this whole parenting thing right, but the kids? They take up all my time.  Perhaps if I ignored them more, or if they liked to play by themselves more I'd get more done, but most of the time I am attending to them all day and then Homestead Mama comes home after an 11-hour work day about 10 minutes before their bedtime and reads to them, we put them through the 20 minute bed time ritual and then go downstairs, collapse on the couch together, talk about the day or how we really should submit our taxes soon and then watch a DVR show and go to sleep.  It isn't glamorous, but it does work for us.

Here's what I have been doing of late:

:: Tending to a friend's chicks and planning our own coop and flock.  We are set to order a bunch of Sussex, Black Australorps, Barred Plymouth Rock, and Silver Wyandottes.  With a couple Ameracaunas for H-Mama, as she wants the colored eggs. All hens, save for one rooster for Monito.  He wants to name it Big Shot after his favorite character in our current favorite book.

:: Easter! And the requisite lengths of rope in the baskets. What? You didn't get your kids rope for Easter?  Silly readers.  It is the new tape.  It ties in (hardy har har) with the pirate theme we are sporting in this house.  A lovely relaxing hour can be had by a mom sitting and being tied up.

:: Training the boy to not say "You IDIOTS!" to his sister when he gets frustrated.  Thanks a lot, Cruella DeVille.  He only uses it in the plural, because Cruella hurls the insult at the Badden Brothers.  The boy hasn't figured out that his sister is a singular, and this makes is just funny enough that I can't take him seriously.  I take him more seriously when he says "You ASSHOLES!" at his blocks or Playmobil vehicles.  He learned that from, um, Homestead Mama!  Yes!  That's it!  Bad, Homestead Mama.

:: Enjoying the new game my kids have developed, Shoe Fighting.  It happens in the car since we have a micro-minivan instead of the cavernous Odyssey.  When they get a little nutty they have begun pummeling one another.  It is like thumb-wrestling, but with feet, and kicking.  So much fun!  I was parked next to an Odyssey at the grocery store the other day and once I had strapped my kids in I leaned into the wide open side door while the mom-owner was returning her cart to the kiosk. Oh my goodness, we could have comfortably slept our whole family in there.  I stood half in, half out of the vehicle, mouth agape, as I mentally ticked off all the things I could fit in there.  A whole additional child + car seat!  All our vacation packing!  A stroller AND some bikes!  I was ready to sign on to a 13 mpg car right then and there.  Sigh.  Mommy porn, for sure.  I should note that except for not being a cavernous minivan, our Mazda 5 is awesome and I have NO regrets.  If we do have a third kid, though, watch out! 

::Pequita has reached a phase where she mimics a lot. Me, H-Mama, her brother.  This means that much of the time she is either swearing (us) or reduced to almost-three-year-old behavior (her brother).  Good times!  Tantrums, misbehavior, whining, she does it all with a 7-second delay after her brother.  Because is isn't enough to live through the first time!  She is potty trained during the day, and we still diaper her during nap times and night just to catch any accidents.  Today, she opted to stay in her diaper after naps until she pooped in her diaper, something we are working with her brother on.  She stalked in to the room I was in and demanded, "You will change my diaper NOW."  I snickered quietly, and tried to make it a learning experience.  Mistake.  She got increasingly upset and really just wanted the stinky dipe off right away.  I hope the experiment is over, and she won't do it again.  Her stress levels are such that when it happens, it is like a 4-alarm fire. She cannot understand her brother who still resists the change and would prefer to wear his poop around with him for comfort for many long minutes (hours) after the fact.

:: Watching the wildlife return to our yard.  Birds are flocking to the feeders and nesting bags we put out (mesh bags full of yarn & fabric scraps for the birds to use as nesting material.)  Recently a ring-necked pheasant traipsed around our yard for a while, much to our amazement and joy.  The next day, we encountered his body on the road near the house.  Someone had hit him but good with their car.  I stopped the car and let the kids see him.  Pequita remarked that her "heart was very sad".  Mine too, little girl.


:: Cooking up a storm.  I'm using up the fruit and meat in our freezer as fast as I can.  Sunday, rhubarb chutney with fresh ham.  Behold the glory of chutney spices!

Recently, several no-knead bread options, Mongolian beef, gingerbread and pies galore.  We have a half side of grass fed beef in the freezer, and are about to pick up a half lamb, and a whole young pig, all non-certified organic and really yummy.  We need to clear out as much as we can before the influx occurs.  On the list of things to tackle soon: Greek yogurt, hot dog buns from scratch, cole slaw (to use up the last of our stored cabbage), and sausage and pate with all our meat.

::Yard work!  Clearing fall brush away, landscaping when I can fit it in, raking, seeding, digging.  We'll have to start mowing this week, which takes about 2 hours at a time since we have 1.5 acres of tended yard.  Plus an extra hour if we mow the path through the meadow. We need a goat, but won't get one until AFTER we have a small barn for it.  Can't wait for the goat's milk, goat cheese, and free brush removal.

:: Double-digging my garden patch.  Last year, my six 4' x 4' raised beds were more to keep the kids and dogs off my planting area.  This year, I'll move them to the edge of the garden and they will become our dedicated strawberry and asparagus beds and I'll leave our regular garden plots on the bare ground.  This patch took about an hour to dig; three more to go this year.  I'll expand more next year; this year, three 4' x 12' beds will have to suffice.

:: Sitting watching the sky at sunset, sunrise, and any time in between.

:: Many cookouts and campfires.  Homestead Mama likes to be active, so will putter in the yard and then burn her gleanings. The kids love to cook their dinner over the campfire.  Up next: foil meals.  Wrapping a potato, some meat and veggies up in a piece of tin foil and setting it in the coals to cook.  

:: Seed starting for the aforementioned garden.  I still have to plan out my layout, companion plantings, and buy starters for whatever doesn't sprout.  This year, we saved our Easter egg shells and started sunflowers and pumpkins in the shells.  

:: Many walks on the property.  The children have A LOT OF ENERGY and need to let off steam in a large area where the creation of another game along the lines of "Shoe Fighting" can be avoided.  We go out into the field and pick weeds, look for birds nesting, track deer, play with our ever-present dogs, and throw things.  It is really fun, always different, and makes me love our investment in 10 acres.

:: Playground and friend play dates.  At least 4 times a week.  The kids are so different from last year.  Pequita was already a master at climbing and physical activities.  This year, she can (be still my heart) make it up to the tiny, bendy branches in the climbing trees before I even know she's gone.  Monito is finally, for the first time, in charge of his body in a way that clearly brings him great satisfaction.  He runs, jumps, climbs, and vaults with reckless abandon and much success, something that has eluded him until now.  He's seen his sister's mastery for a long time and now it is his turn, which is an obvious thrill.  Both kids interact in a whole new way with other little kids.  Pequita has made new friends on the playground, and will hold hands and prance off with sweet little girls to find privacy and giggle and play.  Monito seems to prefer boys he already knows, but the fact that he wants to interact with anyone other than Mommy is huge.  He loves his friends Nate and Desmond because they will rough house with him, and chase, run, sword fight and frolic with him.  He woke from his nap today saying that he dreamed of having a tea party with green balloons and cookies and all his buddies were in attendance and then they played pirates until dark, when they lit a bonfire and cooked things all by themselves.  This is such a huge developmental leap for him - it is both thrilling and heart breaking for me.  My babies are really growing up.  Yay!  (Sob.)

:: Organizing.  Purging.  Yippee!  Homestead Mama made me promise not to ever throw any of her stuff away without asking her first.  Sadly (for her), she works an hour away and I am home with the clutter of a lifetime of collecting.  I have been taking bag after bag of lovely goods to the thrift store and getting my tax deductible receipt for our donation.  In the long run, she'll be happy.  In the short run, she is thrilled at how the house is looking.  Somewhere in between she'll figure out what is happening, but I'm hoping for the best.  I made a play kitchen for the kids using some cube shelves from the local unfinished furniture store and a couple things from Lowes.  They love it, and by winter they'll probably want to be inside long enough to use it a lot.  I still have to cut a door for the 'fridge', but I have a big day of sawing planned for the near future.

:: Pirates!  Did I mention the pirates?  Pequita loves her face paints still, and chooses black and pink.  This equals 'Ballerina Pirate' for her.  Monito chooses more traditional colors, but they are still actively dressing up and whacking. 

:: Pequita is undertaking the effort of reading.  I have been resisting the urge to push them, drill letters, numbers, words.  I have been tortured in a small way by the kids who can write their names already, or write many words by the time they are 3. My mother was an amazing, patient, skilled teacher of Kindergarten through 3rd grade for over 30 years and suggested that I wait, not push them, and let them lead.  All along I've been teaching in the abstract; I read books constantly while tracing words with my finger, spell and sound out words in a general way that they haven't seemed to notice.  Both kids can count up to 30 or more with a minimum of 'five-teens' and can sing the alphabet and recognize a few letters.  Lately, Pequita has been identifying letters, asking how to spell things, and wanting to "read" to herself and her brother.  Yahoo!  I feel like the genie is out of the bottle.  We are hot and heavy into Pequita-led school now, and she loves it.  Her brother is watching and picking things up even as he ignores her.  I'm about  start having a letter per day that we focus on, which should make a proper game out of it all.  Pequita now stops me as I read so that she can 'read' to us; many times her version of the story is much more fun that what was on the page.  In the car there is always a big stack of books between their car seats in back.  She selects a books, asks Monito what page he wants to read and then narrates the pictures to him.  It is a perfectly cooperative experience that they both love.

:: ASL.  Monito asked for Signing Time, a DVD series we haven't seen in a long time.  I started checking them out of the library again and we all hunker down to learn how to sign.  The kids really like it, and practice all the time.  We are all getting better; Monito takes particular interest and pride in his signing.  I can't recommend this series highly enough.  It is wonderfully done, fun to watch, and easy to learn from.  The songs are catchy enough that I don't mind catching myself singing them in the shower.

Friday, April 2, 2010

(this moment) (now with pictures)


My dad set up a quick 10-day trip to London for him and my mother.  They are staying in a B&B in Lyme Regis for a few days, then off to a flat in London proper for the rest of the time.  The flat is kept by a friend of theirs from church.  I've included their view from the B&B.  I'm not jealous.  I prefer to think of their trip as research for when they accompany us on our next trip over, during which they will offer support and childcare so Homestead Mama and I can spend our evenings sipping wine in cafes instead of doing childcare duty in the hotel room. 

A girl can dream, at least.

This Moment

I was awakened by rustlings across the bed at about 6 this morning. Pequita had peed through her sleeping diaper and Homestead Mama was changing her. Then they settled back down together, Pequita cradled in the crook of a warm arm, nursing and aiming my reading flashlight while H-Mama reads an Easter book to her in a breathy whisper. Monito was spread-eagled between us* dozing; in the time it has taken me to type this into my blackberry, he has migrated over to nurse with the other two and a new book has been started. Flashlight ownership will come into play shortly and bargaining for turns will begin.

I suppose this could count as my gratitude Friday post, eh? I'm grateful that I get to doze and rest in the morning, even though I miss nursing. I know the kids love this stolen time - many mornings Mama has left before they wake up, and she doesn't get home until their bedtime.

Our day will be filled with errands, hours at the park in the 70 degree sun, naps, and then an afternoon where I work hard to keep my head from exploding as I try to put the house to rights as the children try to play. We are hosting an Easter egg hunt and pot luck brunch on Sunday morning; since it will be cold on that day I'll have to really clean the indoors.

*the twin bed that now flanks our queen is working great. So much space! Some day the kids will start spending their whole nights in the nursery and H-Mama will go back to our perfectly-sized queen. Probably when the kids get married.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Amish Horse Auction

Over the past weekend, we went to an Amish horse auction.  It was our first time, but we'll definitely go back.  When we do, I will make a bigger effort to get our daughter to dress less like a princess and emphasize the dignified darker colors.  Blending in is ok as a survival tool.

There were many things for sale that we may have enjoyed biddng on but the kids refused to participate in quilt browsing, preferring to frolic with the myriad rabbits, pygmy goats, chooks, or horses - Oh! the horses!  Each one had to be cart-driven by one of the hosting Amish men to show off their chops.  This fellow seemed to be the local Amish favorite, causing a wave of twitters amongst the young Amish girls I stood next to.  He was a handsome fellow, almost making the dutch boy haircut work for him. 

It definitely speaks to who I am that I simply couldn't get past the sad fact of all that black suiting made of polyester double-knit.  Gack!  There is nothing less comfortable, less attractive, and scratchy.  It can make you sweat on a 30 degree day,  but it does indeed wear like iron.  The poor Amish elders must miss the days of wool and cotton.

There was much physical investment that helped the naps and later bedtimes.  Bale jumping, ring around the rosy, and running amongst the barns. 

  We passed the parking lot on the way back to our car.

Very nice, but I love my Mazda.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sylvia Plath channeling June Cleaver

Having just posted about how fabulous my evening went, I was going through the post-mortem of the day with Homestead Mama.  I described having a hard time keeping my temper this morning and was ready to beat myself up until I realized that it isn't the kids or my mood - it is the multi-tasking that is killing me.

At 9:17 this morning I realized that I was in various stages of doing all the following AT THE SAME TIME:

-feeding the kids
-feeding the dogs
-packing the diaper bag for the day, including hydration, snacks and lunch; diapers, spare clothes, toys, wallet, phone
-washing my hair (in the kitchen sink)
-dressing myself
-calling 3 doctor's office to get 2009 yearly out-of-pocket expenses mailed to me since I need them for taxes and can't keep track of it myself over the course of a year
-dressing Monito (this involves laps in between bits of clothing)
-dressing Pequita (this involves NO HELP, but close monitoring to ensure warm clothes and a minimal of filmy princess garments)
-making/drinking Earl Grey (I lose my tea mug 47 times a morning; this evening I finally found it on a low shelf next to the potty in the bathroom)
-cleaning the breakfast mess up in kitchen
-planning the grocery list in case I made it to the store (requires computer)
-breaking up a (few) fights between kids
-called insurance company to argue an ultrasound not being covered
-gathering library books to be returned (forgot a DVD in player)
-getting kids dressed in coats, mittens, hats (fuck winter!  I'm ready for no layers!)
-rushing to get returnable bottles packed in car to cash in at grocery store
-re-dressing kids as dramatic play caused them to undress to the skin to play "Beach"
-creating new ritual of holding hands in circle and taking deep breaths with children to keep from doing bodily harm; evolved into Ring around the rosy (Thank you, Larry Cohen!***)

We made it to the library and home for naps by 12:30, and were up, fed and perky with the house vacuumed and rugs out freshening in the cold winter sun by the time the 10 year old for whom I do after school care got off the bus at 4pm.  Nothing to show for the day, but holy moly, I feel like I need a medal.  Seriously, I may have to institute a job-review chat once a month with the wife just for the external validation.

***Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen is the single-most useful book I've read about parenting.  I cannot recommend it enough. 

(this moment)

Inspired by SouleMama.

They're Here!

The babies are here.  Not the chicks I'd have expected; we are waiting until it is warmer and we have a coop-like structure built.  No, the snakes have hatched.  We'll have reptiles sunning themselves on our rocks for weeks now whenever the sun is out.  I keep meaning to turn the ugly garage cinder block foundation into a lovely painted, raised-bed flower bed but can't because I'm not sure the snakes will keep breeding there if I do.  That and a total dearth of extra time and energy, but who's counting.

June Cleaver Moment

Most days the children miss their Mama.  She works at a demanding job she loves that is an hour away; most nights she doesn't get home until 6:30pm and their bedtime is 7pm.  She loves her job and is really good at it.  She stands out in a sea of coworkers who are waiting to retire as she works to help a population of people who don't much want to even help themselves.  Her job allows me to stay home with my kids, something I've always wanted to do.  I only resent it on REALLY tough days, when I'd rather have her with us than helping other people. 

We talk about her a lot during the day.  The kids call her several times a week to cry about an imagined slight, an actual cut, describe a new milestone, tell her they love her, or ask if she'll bring home ice cream.  I facilitate as much contact as possible but do shoulder much of the child rearing. 

My first attempt at teaching them about days of the week ended up with us having 'week days' and 'Mama Days', a.k.a. Friday night and the weekend.  Anticipation of time with Mama is high, and in the most recent developmental spurt, during which our eldest was heartbroken at her Mama spending so much time away from her, we threw the bedtime schedule to the wind and instituted "Mama Friday Nights". Friday is library day and we check out a DVD of a current favorite (right now 101 Dalmatians and The Jungle Book are in heavy rotation) along with our books for the week and a book on CD for Mama to listen to during her commute. By dusk on Friday I have the kids bathed, jammied, fed and ready for loving.  Mama gets home as early as she is able and retires into the family bed with both kids and a sweet treat to watch their movie, snuggle and nurse to their hearts content.  It is the sweetest time for all of them, and I am not remembered until hugs are required right before they are sent to sleep in the nursery 90 minutes later.  

Many weeks by Friday night I am haggard, hair sticking out, nerves frazzled, kids watching Little Bear on TV and me scrabbling to feed us all.  Today, though, was one of those magic times where I was able to present my beloved with a vacuumed and swept home, aired out with frigid-but-fresh air and Nag Champa incense, clean kids, dogs fed, harmony abounding and good food cooling on the counter.  I made a meal from Epicurious, Spicy Beef Cobbler.  Of course, I used our free-range beef, put in black beans, used whole wheat flour and halved the cayenne so the kids would eat it.  HUGE HIT!

So I get to feel like a proper stay-at-home success story.  Lord knows H-Mama doesn't expect it, but I like to feel like a successful professional mom who has it all well in hand.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I discovered today that my pillow wafts the scent of shaving cream.

Every morning that my father is visiting he and my son shave each other; being a trusting man, he willingly hands over the razor to my not-quite-three year old and coaches his razor around the terrain of his face. My dad said that he feels as though he goes through a can of shaving cream per visit, as there are days when Monito shaves two or three times. So now I will fall asleep with my pillow whispering to me about love and connections and family, trust and bonding and manly rituals.

Sweet dreams indeed.


We returned from our outing this morning to witness this entertaining sight.  Dad and I may have encouraged the dogs to keep the raccoon treed until the second car with the kids arrived so they could see our dogs in action and admire the raccoon, but we did hold the dogs back when the raccoon descended.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gratitude Friday

My parents are in town this weekend.  I am grateful that they are expecting to move here - to the house we own across the street! - next summer.

I am grateful for my my clean car; I took a nap with the kids and my mother washed, vacuumed and detailed the whole thing.  I don't know what the kids will snack on now that the stray Cheerios and Goldfish have been removed from between their carseats.  Look - you can see the carpet!

I am grateful for spring!  We spent the whole day outside - playground in the morning and a hike at a nearby wildflower preserve in the afternoon.  Warm sun, sweet smelling air, and grandparents.  Nothing better, save for weekends when Homestead Mama can join too.

I am grateful to be able to tell my parents all the time that I love them, that I see now, as a parent myself, how hard it was to raise three kids close in age and do such a good job of it.  I am grateful I had kids in time for them to have a chance to know and adore their grandparents.

Signs of Spring

Wonderful people all over the blogosphere are posting myriad pictures of lovely spring images, snowdrops, buds, seed trays covered in tiny sprouts, kids in short sleeved shirts.

What does spring mean to me?  The snakes are back!  They slip out of the cracks in our garage foundation in order to sun themselves on nearby rocks.  In a few weeks we'll have many baby snakes to keep the adults company.  It could be worse.

I love spring!