Thursday, May 31, 2012

Woodshop Project

Over Memorial Day weekend Mark and the boys worked on making treasure boxes together. The idea of the treasure box is for each boy to have his own space where he can store interesting objects he finds and wants to keep that are only his, and not to be touched by his brother. 

Mark has been working long hours at his new job these past few months, so the boys were deliriously happy at the idea of doing something with with him in the workshop. It took them two half-days to build the boxes. Tommy and Ben loved using their dad's tools and just hanging out with him in the workshop. (I won't lie - I loved having some peace and quiet in the house so I could get things done!)

I should add that the boys have experience using and have had instruction in the proper use of the tools they are shown with. We only allow them to use tools we are confident that they are comfortable with and can use safely!

Step 1: Sand down pieces of the boxes (which Mark had prepared beforehand).

Step 2: Adhere sides together using wood glue.

Step 3: Once the wood glue is dry, hammer nails into each corner. This makes sure the boxes are extra strong (and kid-proof).

 Sadly, sometimes thumbs don't fare so well when 5-year olds are wielding hammers. But the tears dry quickly and the little builders move on with life. And they learn to be more aware of their thumbs!

The remaining steps in this process aren't in pictures because the kids didn't help with the rest: Mark finished them off with the sinking of nails, staining, and final sanding.

Final products!

Ben's treasure: rosemary from our yard and some interesting rocks he found.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Baby B at 3 Months

Happy 3 months, Baby B! Here's what you were up to this last month:

- You are getting more snuggly. You like to nestle your head in the crook of my neck and curl up there. This is usually how you fall asleep in my arms.
- You weigh 11.5 lbs. You fit into some of your 3 month clothes, and are starting to fit into 6 month clothes. 
- You are still sleeping through the night. For most of the last month, you would wake up anywhere between 3-5am and need a diaper change or simply a pacifier. But for the past week you've been sleeping straight through the night without waking up. Yay!
- You are tolerating tummy time for longer periods, especially if someone is on the floor with you talking to you. You're under doctor's orders for more tummy time; apparently, your neck and back muscles aren't as strong as they should be, so we're working with you to make them stronger. 
- You are having 'conversations' with us. We'll go back and forth babbling and smiling at each other for a few minutes. It's been amazing to see the difference between my boy babies and you as a girl. They weren't 'conversational' until much later. It makes me eager to see if you'll talk earlier than they did too. You have gotten really smiley this last month.
- You've just recently discovered that you have hands. You will move your hands around and stare at them while they move. When I'm holding you, you'll study my shirt intently and open and close your hands while you move them around, like you're trying to figure out how to grab on to something. The other day you were staring at the base of my neck and scratching around at it, like you thought there was something to grab onto. Ouch! 
- You are no longer being swaddled for sleep times. I just lay you down and tuck a light blanket around you and you go out. Often, you don't even have a pacifier, you just put yourself to sleep. You are definitely the easiest of my babies in the sleep department!
- You rolled over (from tummy to back) for the first time just this last week. 

We love you Baby B, and we can't wait to see how you grow this next month. 

(Photo by Ben)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Family That Reads Together

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
— Emilie Buchwald

Monday, May 21, 2012


Tommy and Ben have entered a new phase of catching critters and keeping them in jars. I've been saving jars of all sorts for the past few years, hoping that they would be useful some day. I never thought they'd be useful as a house for various creatures like insects, lizards, frogs, and poisonous spiders.

We let the kids keep the critters for as long as they're safe, then we make them release their little friends. One day Tommy caught three frogs and put them in the same jar. He discovered that if he rolled the jar slowly, the frogs would jump along, kind of like a froggie exercise wheel. This kept him captivated for quite awhile, until I made him give the poor frogs a break.

I was the hero the day I caught a black widow spider and popped her in a jar. I eventually let her go, far away from the house. It was really interesting for us to be able to watch and study this spider up close, without worrying about getting bitten.

This new phase has me saying things I never thought I'd say. Like, "Please take the frog outside. Why? Because I don't want frogs jumping around my house." and "No, you cannot keep the black widow forever." 

Each new day brings a new set of critters. I can't wait to find out what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cherry Picking

Each year the first of the trees in our orchard to ripen is our cherry tree. For the past two years, our cherries have always been full of bug larvae (gross, right?), rendering them inedible. But this year we finally got wise. We put tanglefoot around the base of each fruit tree a few months ago when our trees were flowering. Tanglefoot is tar-like sticky stuff that is supposed to attract harmful insects away from the fruit. It looks like it did the trick because we didn't have any larvae this year. 

Figuring out what to do with a tree-full of cherries hasn't been that difficult. We picked three quarts of cherries and served them at a party, where they were devoured in an hour. The next day we picked another two quarts, and they were almost all gone by the end of the day just from our family eating them. 

In another week, we'll have another ripe cherry tree. And in another month or so, we'll have peaches. I love summer!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tommy at Five and a Half

You are a bit older than five and a half now. I still haven't quite gotten used to having a five year old, and in (what I know will feel like) just a few months I'm going to have a six year old!

As you get older, you are becoming a more concentrated version of your younger self. I suppose this is true for all people as they grow up, but it seems like it's more noticeable in you compared to Ben. For instance, you've loved cars since you were a baby, and you still really love cars. Every time we go to the library I'll ask you what kinds of things you want to learn about so we can get books about it. When you were three you would simply say "cars". You still say "cars", but add, "Actually, I want books about how cars work. Like how the engine and the motor works, and the brakes. And I want to learn about rally cars too. Because they're really cool." It's amazing to me that you've held on to your love of cars for so long, and it makes me wonder if they'll have anything to do with your occupation when you grow up.

You are such a good big brother to your foster-sister. You are always asking to feed her, touching her, talking to her, and asking how she's doing. One Sunday morning when I was getting everyone ready for church, you fed and and held her for about forty-five minutes while I got stuff done around the house. It was such a big help!

You have a dichotomy within yourself: you have a serious side that makes you ask thought-provoking questions like, "Why didn't God kill Satan right after he tempted Adam and Eve? Wouldn't that have made everything better?" But then two minutes later you'll be bouncing off the furniture or rolling around on the floor with your brother saying unbelievably silly things. It must be a 5 year old boy thing. 

Your reading has really taken off. You are doing well with your daily lessons, and you are getting more fluent with your reading. You are finally starting to see that being able to read helps you understand the world around you. You are noticing that you can read things like road signs and book titles, without me having to prompt you to tell me what they say: "Mom, look, that says, 'Now Open'!". 

I'm looking forward to seeing how you grow from now until your sixth birthday! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Water Balloons

Now that the weather is warmer, the latest fun thing to do around here is to play with water balloons.

Ben was throwing balloons at Tommy, and got two of them to burst square on Tommy's back. Tommy wanted to returned the favor. Obviously, turnabout is not fair play in his book.

Then we decided that the tiny water balloons weren't enough. We started filling up the party balloons. This particular balloon was a tough one to pop, and Tommy didn't actually get wet when Mark threw it at him. Bummer.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spring/Summer Garden 2012

This is what my garden currently looks like. Most things were planted back in January. Every January since we've lived in this house (this is our second so far), we get a heat wave. I convince myself that it's going to be a warm season and that it's okay to start planting seeds. Inevitably, the cold and rain starts back up, and it's winter as usual. This year was no exception. Luckily everything survived, even if a lot of things were slow growing during the cold season. As soon the days grew warmer and the sun came out, everything sprang up and started growing very quickly. 

I'm at the point now where I know what my family likes to eat vs. what is easy to grow: carrots, lettuce, snap peas, chard, tomatoes, spinach, leeks, and asparagus. Then we planted some new things just to see how well they would grow: pumpkins, butternut squash, and basil. Then there are the things that only I eat, usually juiced and added to the blender for my morning veggie drink: kale and beets.

This gardening thing is going so well that I'm starting to fantasize about expanding it even more. This isn't a reality right now though; it will take a small bulldozer and a few weekends of work to make that happen. But someday.