Wednesday, January 27, 2010

History Lesson - Rag Curls

"That night, though it was the middle of the week, Ma bathed Laura and Mary all over, and she put up their hair. She divided their hair into wisps, combed each wisp with a wet comb and wound it tightly on a bit of rag. There were knobby little bumps all over their heads, whichever way they turned on their pillows. I the morning their hair would be curly."
-Little House in the Big Woods,
Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Never Ending Sweater

Yesterday I mentioned the Never Ending Sweater. I've finally made enough progress on it that I think it deserves it's own post.

This sweater was started a year ago, hunting season 2008. It will be a miracle if I ever finish it, and that's kind of sad, because my husband deserves to have a nice, cozy, hand knitted sweater to wear. But hey, it's not my fault he's 6'4" with an arm length to prove it.

So here we have the main body and one sleeve. Obviously, there needs to be another sleeve, then it all gets joined together and knitted up to the neck.

At this rate, I just might finish it by next hunting season. :-)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Secret Drug

I'm pretty sure knitting is like a drug.

Every time I have a knitting friend over, we will sit and talk for hours on end about every intimate aspect of our lives, needles clicking all the while. Inches of sweaters grow beneath our needles as we discuss first parenting troubles, then grocery budgeting, and eventually even relationships and sex. So long as our fingers are flying, all the secrets come out.

But this isn't only an adult drug - it works well with children, too.

Chloe and I spent nap time today sitting beside each other and
knitting- she on her doll scarf, me on the Never Ending Sweater. And we were talking. And as she got her rhythm, one stitch after another, row upon row, she started talking. First she talked about feeling shy sometimes, then went on to talk about how she feels when she's at her dad's* - a subject that has always been off-limits for her, something she likes to keep to herself. This mother-daughter relationship is growing by leaps and bounds because of an age old craft.

So if you ever wonder what your daughter is thinking, or want to hear any secrets she has, teach her to knit, then just sit by and listen as she pours her heart out. This is one drug I hope to employ for years to come... I just hope she doesn't give up knitting as a teenager - and that she doesn't figure out my secret!

*Nothing bad about her dad's house, just details she doesn't generally divulge.

A homeschool experiment in digestion

So ever since Chloe picked out the human body model from the bookstore, we've been studying the digestive system in depth. (Love how topics come about naturally from her own interests!)

Yesterday was the stomach, how food enters the stomach and the acid breaks down the protein and calcium and the rest of it makes it's way to the small intestine.

We did an "experiment" - more of a hand-on illustration actually, but effective. We poured half a small glass of milk. The glass was the stomach, the milk was... well, milk, and we used vinegar as the stomach acid. I let her pour some vinegar in on top of the milk and we got to watch it curdle - process the protein and calcium from the milk.

Okay, so I gagged. I'm not a big fan of milk, and watching it curdle wasn't a pleasant experience for me. But it really was a pretty neat way to see acid at work in a way she could relate to it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The point of organization

I've spent an inordinate amount of time (and if we're being honest, money, too) on the Great Organization Project of 2010.

That is to say, I'm sick of drowning in what feels like clutter. So I'm overhauling the whole house. Rubbermaid bins, Sterilite drawers and bookshelves abound as I find a place for everything and haul boxes of junk to Goodwill each week. Every spare minute is spent finding a place for each miscellaneous object that keeps moving around from place to place with nowhere to actually belong.

I bought drawers for the girls' craft table, then labeled each drawer so there is no questioning what actually belongs there.

I bought a bookcase ($25 at Wal Mart, heckuva deal) and spent a day building it (only 4 pieces left over! I consider that success!) and moving books all around. We now have a shelf dedicated to homeschooling books and supplies. They're organized too - science books, animal books (in order by class), math, reference, classic literature, educational magazines, and books about homeschooling and education. It's like a library. It makes me happy.

Our fridge is plastered with notes, lists and schedules - school subjects to work on each day, our calendar for the week, grocery list, meal list, to-do list. It's not terribly pretty, but it sure is effective.

I'm not done yet, having yet to finish all the cupboards and drawers in the kitchen and some parts of the basement, but I've made a substantial dent. I know pretty much everything we have in the house, and I can tell you where nearly anything is. That feels good.

All this work, all the hours spent moving things around, labeling and straightening and culling, it all came to a point this weekend. I had Free Time. Lots of it. So much, in fact, that I spent two hours watching a movie with the kids, another two hours reading them library books, half an hour playing learning games and another half hour playing fun games, playing dress up and play-doh, and having a tea party. Not to mention enough time to complete about 6 inches of sweater knitting, read half a novel, scrapbook five or six pages, and sleep in a bit with my husband this morning.

Free Time is a luxury for any mother. To think that I managed to create some makes me feel Darn Good. Things are running smoothly - the house isn't spotless, but it could be in about fifteen minutes. I know where my keys are, there's food in the fridge, and school for tomorrow is all planned out. The kids are sleeping soundly, the cat is snoring next to me, my husband will be home from work soon.

Ah! It's like bliss! I tell you, it pays to get organized.

I feel rather smug, and I almost feel ashamed to be bragging so shamelessly about this incredible feat. Except that we all know it's not going to last more than a week, because such is the Life of a Housewife. And now that I've written this (as Murphy's law so clearly states) everything will go wrong tomorrow.

But for tonight, I'll enjoy it. It feels good to relax.

For all of you that have Organization on the top of your New Year's Resolution list, I support you fully - it's worth the effort!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Candid Camera

Here's an idea for some good home videos... give a seven year old a digital video camera.

Then use the result of the experiment later, when you're needing to embarrass her in front of boyfriends. Way better than naked baby pictures.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Desperation in the Cold

I have this thing about being cold.

That is to say, I don't like it. No, actually I hate, despise, abhor being cold.

I'm in the throes of a love affair with rice heating packs. A simple cotton sack filled with rice, then microwaved for a few minutes. Or several minutes, if you're me. Before I go to bed at night, I heat mine for five minutes, then put it down by my feet in bed. (Those pioneer folk really had something with those hot stones at their feet in their wagons. Smart ones, they were.) Five minutes is far too long for any normal person without an intense aversion to being cold. But it's just right for me. The pack is so hot that it would probably actually blister if given the chance. I put my feet on it for about three and a half seconds, then pull them away quickly to let them cool. Then I do it again. And again. I tell you, it warms me the whole way through. And I'm sure my husband loves my continual moving since he's got to be up at one in the morning.

Similarly, I don't like my showers hot - I like them scalding. I want to have to inch my way into the water to avoid actually burning myself. And I don't see anything unreasonable about putting my clothes into the dryer for a few minutes to warm them before I put them on.

With a good illustration now of just how much I hate the cold, you'll realize why this next paragraph indicates the possibility of insanity:

In a moment of sheer, house-bound desperation, I took the children to play at the park.

I did. We wrapped up in scarves and hats and winter parkas and walked to the park, carefully trekking over huge patches of ice, because we all desperately needed some fresh air and some Active Play.

Active Play is practically nonexistent in the winter. Active Play is reserved for summer days when the grass is green and the sun is shining and no one has to think about being too cold.

The girls had a fabulous time, carefully stepping around patches of ice on the stairs in order to go down the slides, sliding down and landing - thump! - in mounds of snow a foot deep. I stood on the sidelines and breathed warm breath into my scarf, trying to keep from getting frostbite on my nose.

We lasted about thirty minutes before the dog and I were both shivering and miserable. I gathered up the children so we could begin the treacherous journey home, sniffling and shielding our eyes the whole way. I hope they don't think this will become a regular thing. But a good lesson was learned - children can have plenty of fun on a playground covered in snow and sometimes it's worth braving the miserable, bone-chilling cold to get out of the house!

Mother Nature, please feel free to bring us Spring at your earliest convenience. We're ready.

Mid-winter Spaghetti

Ya know what's darn satisfying?

Serving a meal to guests that is made primarily of garden vegetables, in the Dead of Winter.

The guests: My mother- and father-in-law

The meal: Spinach linguini made from scratch with frozen garden spinach
Spaghetti sauce made with tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, bell peppers and garlic from the garden, plus an onion and some mushrooms and tons of spices.
Elk meatballs
Homemade bread

All those hours of work in the kitchen chopping and blending and freezing and canning really pays off when you can have garden veggies in January!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Holiday friend gifts

Each year, I make something special for a few close friends for Christmas. This year, it was aprons. Because I'm kind of obsessed with aprons, and I think all my friends should be, too. I made quite a few, but only thought to photograph a couple of them. All were these same two styles in whatever funky fabrics seemed appropriate for each recipient. (Sorry for the crappy photos. I was too busy sewing to make time to take nice pictures.)

This was a matching mother/daughter set for a friend and her five year old little girl.

Last year, I made a few recipe books with fancy little scrapbooked recipe cards for each of my personal favorite recipes. One friend in particular really loves hers and uses it frequently so in addition to her apron, she got another 5 recipe cards to add to her collection.

And a few photos of some of the thank-you cards and such that were sent out for all the lovely holiday gifts that we and the girl received:

Friday, January 8, 2010

7 years goes by too fast...

Isn't amazing how fast time flies... quickly we mature as mothers... easy it is to forget just how tiny... happy one little girl can make us... little moments slip through the pages of our memories... personalities (and giggles) develop and much pride we find in those we love...

...and how fast hair grows?
My birthday princess is SEVEN today!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Potty Talk

"Mom, what's a sphincter?"

It's alright. You can snicker. I did.

Between a potty training two year old and a six year old suddenly fascinated with the process of digestion, my world revolves around Potty Talk.

"Mommy poop?"
"Yes, Mommy poops too."
"Daddy poop too? Daddy poop toilet."
"Yep, Daddy does poop on the toilet. Good job, honey!"
"Izzy poop outside. Izzy poop big."
"Yes, Cora, dogs go potty outside."

In our house, when Littlest One does her business on the toilet, we do the "Poopy Dance." Nope, not kidding. How gross is that? But it makes her smile, and makes her proud. Ah, what a mother won't do to make her children feel successful.

Chloe used a bookstore gift card to purchase a small human body with smooshy organs that can be taken out and explored and put back together. It came with a comic book of sorts that explains all the organs and shares lots of facts about the digestive system in as gross a manner as possible, much to the delight of my first grader.

"Here's the bladder. Did you know it fills up with pee?" she explains, with more glee in her voice than should really be deemed appropriate.
"Mom, what's this word? U-R-E-T-H-R-A."
Nothing like speaking frankly with a child about her body.

Gosh I love this parenting stuff. You just never know what topic will come up next.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

After Christmas Shopping

Here's a great money saving tip for all: have a child right after Christmas.

That's when all the best toy sales happen, so they get lots of stuff for their birthday. :o)

To be honest, I'm "Christmased out". What was once a neatly organized closet full of toys is now an uncontrollable mess, all due to the great new gifts the kids got. And now I've got a birthday to contend with.

I did hit up Borders last night to see what I could find. I ended up finding a magic kit, an origami kit and a couple of activity-type books. They were 50% off plus we get a 25% homeschooler's discount, so I scored pretty well there. If you homeschool and don't already know this, go to all the book stores in your area and fill out paperwork, show them your letter of intent to homeschool, and you'll get 20-25% off any books and CD's, so long as it can somehow be attributed to learning. We have Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Hastings, and all of them offer the discount.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Stress Relief

We're in Nebraska, spending time with the full extent of my US in-laws. Everyone's here - a guarantee that I'm going to be tense and nervous and kind of twitchy.

One important thing I've learned about myself: cleaning and cooking really are where I'm most comfortable. If my nerves start to overwhelm me, all I really need is to find a kitchen to clean or a meal to cook, even if it's in someone else's house.

Andrew and his brother brought back some pheasant they'd shot. Once I set in to de-boning them and making a meal, I think I actually managed to take my first deep breath of this whole trip.

Good to know I've found my place in life. Glamorous, isn't it?