Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's Fair Time!

I'm so glad that GranMama and GranPapa could help us drop off all of our fair entries this morning. We brought the wagon with to haul our projects from building to building, but it would have been quite a feat to juggle baby, entries, wagon and an EXCITED Alexandra!

The volunteers are always so cordial and warm to Alex when she drops off her pieces. Every person commented on how much work she'd put into her entries, and she was positively beaming by the time we'd dropped off the last piece. We had a scare with her clay sculpture-- a leg had fallen off her polar bear when we arrived... luckily GranMama happened to have a toothpick in her pocket ?!? and we were able to repair him!

Justin entered his shell art and painting, but was so ready for a nap at the end of the morning!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Emily Emerges!

While I was loading the dishwasher (for the fourtieth time) today, I about dropped the plate I was holding when I glanced over at our Chrysalis/butterfly box and saw a beautiful black Swallowtail butterfly clinging to a branch of the 'tree' we put in there. After recovering from the shock, I called the kids over. We sliced some fruit and dipped a cotton ball in a simple nectar for "Emily" (Alex told me that it was that specific caterpillar) to enjoy whilst her wings dried.
In a few hours she was flitting about-- we got worried that she would damage her delicate wings on the sides of the box (or get caught in the netting, as the holes are bigger than we'd like), so we brought her outside and watched her flutter away. Alex was momentarily sad, but we know that we will see her again, happily dancing in the breeze when we play outside. And soon her two friends will come out and join her!

Summer Story Table: Three Billy Goats Gruff

I feel like we've taken a LONG while off of our Story Table rotation, but we've been busy with summer! It's been so rainy out lately that we've had some time to set up a new story. An oldie but a goodie-- The Three Billy Goats Gruff. We're using a wonderful woodcut-illustrated version by Susan Blair from my childhood.

Our first step was to build up a mountain with a bridge and a grazing meadow. Alex's kindergarten class told/acted this story near the end of the year, and so she knew the details by heart. She very carefully selected each rock from our nature table AND the front rock garden to form the mountain.

The goats are Mama-made from my wooden toy making phase a few years back. (The troll is too...)Then we made sure the bridge was high enough for Mr. Troll to live under. We added the clay toadstools from Justin's badger birthday cake to give him a little ambiance. Also a piece of blue wool for a river.Even Justin gets in on the action... he likes to hide the troll in 'funny' places-- like under the river or behind a bush. He thinks he is hilarious!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rainy Day at the Market

What does your family do on a rainy day? I can't believe that mine geared up and went to the Woodbury Farmer's Market with me. Thanks, Dave, for being a super-supportive husband! It was our first visit this year... since we have our CSA, we don't really need lots of other produce. However, I've been itching to get some canning done, so we went in search of pickling cucumbers and maybe some carrots? Well, we found the cucumbers... and some Mammoth Dill, so the rest of the day was spent in the kitchen.
We had some plums that were just about to be over-ripe, so I also 'whipped up' a batch of ginger plum chutney. (I say 'whipped' in quotes because it was a very long simmering/thickening process. I would plead 'false advertising' from the recipe) We won't actually know if it's edible or not for three months, which is the suggested time to let the vinegar in the chutney mellow a bit and the sweetness of the plums and brown sugar re-emerge.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Opening Ceremony Feast!

To celebrate the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, we planned a massive feast, featuring dishes from around the world. (All I have to say is *thank goodness* for Trader Joe's!) Although we ate more processed foods in one evening than we have in months, it was a really fun night. We had planned on letting Alex stay up to watch part of the opening ceremonies. However, it was getting too late (especially because I thought they started at 7:30... I know, I fail at reading ET/CT timetables). So, after we loaded up our plates with lots of goodies, we pulled up a recording of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies. It was a 'recap', and done in about 15 minutes. Perfect amount of time for Alex to enjoy the festivities and flare. After we put her to bed we realized that we'd actually missed the first half hour of the REAL opening ceremony. I almost called her back down to see the horses and carriages tearing around the 'countryside', but we decided to stick with bedtime. About twenty minutes later, when the childrens' nightmare/ literary villian scene took place I was SO GLAD that I stuck with the plan! I can't even imagine trying to get her to sleep after seeing those black-clad demon things jumping all over the kids' beds!
But I digress.... the best part of the evening was the preparation. Alex worked really hard as a "cleaner" to get the "restaurant" ready. Then she helped in the kitchen as a "sous chef". Finally she was a "waitress" who made a gorgeous menu for all to enjoy.

Friday at the MIA

We brought Auntie Rorie with us to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts today. While not as much sketching took place today as our last trip, the kids had a great visit. To Justin's delight there was a large PUPPY at the entrace to the museum! His other favorite thing to see (how do I know that? It was the only other thing he tried to run towards and climb on) was the Czechoslovakian Tatra T87 in the design section. He even got a postcard of it to bring home! Alex enjoyed the medieval art as well as the Art of India and Southeast Asia. She and Auntie Rorie were able to discuss their favorite Ganesha sculpture in detail.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

...pat pat...

If you visit our house, you'll surely have both kids vying for your attention. This is Justin's way of inviting you to snuggle up next to him and read:

Her OTHER sport

Besides swimming in the Olympics, Alex is going to be a runner. "But don't worry because I'll just jump out of the pool and run to the race. You can drive." Looks like she'll being joining her "Fairy Godmother" Cathleen in some future triathlons.

She metaphorically laced up her new running shoes this morning to run to swim lessons (normally I run and she rides, but today she was eager to get going). Even Justin wanted in on the running action...slowing us all down significantly ;-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I now have a full-fledged swimmer! In the last few weeks, Alex has conquered her fear of jumping into the pool.... and at the same time figured out that it's really easy to swim! We've been dragging Auntie Rorie (and Auntie Carrie) to the pool to practice, practice, practice. Alex has declared that she wants to be a swimmer in the Olympics. I think we may have to break our no-tv rule for a few swimming and/or diving events in upcoming days!

As for the boy...While Justin enjoys koala-bearing around with me in the pool, this is what he'd much rather be doing:

For the record, that's a bag of "ray-ray" (raisins) that he's noshing on.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Meep, Meep!

Justin thinks it is absolutely hilarious to squeeze someone's nose and say "meep meep". All I have to say is "thank you, Auntie Rorie, for your influence" :-) Percy thanks you, too...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fair Entry Prep!

The Washington County Fair is coming up, and we spent the day getting a bunch of our entries in order. Justin is entering shell art and a few pieces of artwork. Alex has a slew of projects-- from needlework to photography to arts and crafts.Cutting and tying her easel-loom woven 'rug' (technically more of a welcome mat, but she did it ALL).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The continuing saga of the Caterpillars...

Exciting News! All three of our Swallowtail caterpillars (or "cat-ra-ra", according to Justin) have entered chrysalis! The coolest part of the transformation was that the whole family (well, besides the little guy who had fallen asleep at naptime) got to watch the final caterpillar transform.

By the time the last, plumpest caterpillar decided to attatch herself to our stick, the other two had transformed into their cocoons. Alex noticed "Amelie" wriggling around.... a LOT...

Here she is, from the top of the jar in...
As she wriggled, a crack formed on her back, splitting her old skin and revealing a bumpy green 'shell' underneath.
Now we know why she had been eating constantly for the past week. That little thing put away a LOT of dillweed and carrot tops! She was building up strength and energy to wriggle out of her skin.
It was amazing how quickly the process went. I'd estimate she transformed within seven-eight minutes.
Those 'lead wires' that she attached herself to the stick with must be one of the strongest substances on earth. Two tiny strings kept her anchored while she twisted and contorted to work off her outer layer.
Then her dried up 'husk' curled up, and our soon-to-be-butterfly wriggled around until it fell completely off. It was really interesting to see the protective coloring that the chrysalis(es?) developed. The first one to turn remained bright green, like a leaf. The second one mimicked the tree bark so closely that we couldn't see it at first. Amelie's started out green, but over time also turned to a tree-bark brown.
Dave bought some netting just in time. We carefully transferred our branch to a box with netting on the front. Hopefully we can all watch as at least one of our friends burst forth into a beautiful butterfly in a few weeks!

Monday, July 16, 2012

When Life Hands You Red Clover...

... Alex taught me a valuable parenting lesson yesterday. Redirection is not only good for children, but for Mama as well.

On the way home during our morning bike ride, Alex's legs apparently stopped working. They were exhausted. Too tired to pedal. Unfortunately, her new bike is too big to strap to the back of the Burley, so we really had no other option. I was about 20 feet in front of her when she failed, so I parked my bike and the trailer and ran back to encourage her to just walk her bike up the slight incline we were on. No luck. As I was trying to pep talk her, I saw the Burley start to shake back and forth. Justin was done sitting. Especially now that we were motionless. I grabbed Al's bike and ran it back up the path just in time to stop Ze Boy from capsizing my bike and trailer all in one fell swoop. After settling Justin back down with a promise of some raisins, I glanced back to see how far Alex had walked up the trail. She was still laying on the ground, apparently unable to muster enough energy to even move. As my head turned, I saw hers drop back to the ground. To make sure I saw how serious her situation was, she had turned a half-quarter and flopped her legs at a dramatic angle. It was at this time that I about lost it. Justin was tired of being strapped in, I was ready to just ride the darn bikes and have FUN doing it...stomp. And then I realized that there was no way I could force her to ride. As I stood by my bike, I noticed a butterfly flit past and land on some gorgeous red clover right next to the path. Then I remembered seeing a FB post about making red clover lemonade. As long as we weren't going anywhere, Justin and I could harvest some blossoms. I unstrapped Justin and we started gathering and putting the flowers into Alex's bike basket. Once Alex saw us engaged in a task that had nothing to do with bike riding, she popped up and wanted to help. Once we'd gathered 'enough', I told her that her job was to carefully transport the clover blossoms home in her bike basket. Without a complaint about her legs or energy level, she hopped on the bike and we had a nice ride all the way home. She wasn't fighting it, I wasn't stressed-- we were all excited about our upcoming kitchen adventure.To finish our lemonade we took a quick trip to the store to buy some lemons-- after Alex juiced them ALL (we found a .99 juicer at Goodwill today, too), we added some honey, some raw sugar, and the red clover tea (we boiled the blossoms for about 10 minutes to break down the herb a little) to the juice. Voila! Red Clover Lemonade!We didn't add as much sugar as a normal lemonade recipe calls for, so it's a bit tart, and very 'honey-ey'. And a delicious shade of pink!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"No Cookie"

A few weeks ago, I told the kids we were going to the store. Apparently to Justin that meant "Target", where he often schmoozes his way to a free kids cookie from the bakery counter. To me, it meant the fabric store, where there is "NOOOO COOKIE". I was informed of this fact from the time that we parked, throughout our trip, and all the way home. Alex and I thought it was pretty funny, so we laughed, thereby encouraging Justin's class clown antics. Whoops! Now "NOOO COOKIE" is his fail-safe line to get everyone laughing. Dave captured it on camera the other day.

("NOOO RAYRAY" means no raisins... his punchline is developing!)

Introducing Amelie, Emily and Annie

Three Black Swallowtail caterpillars that Alex discovered munching on my Dill this afternoon. Justin was napping, Dave and Rorie were working/studying and I was reading while Alex played outside with her neighbor friend. After a while, I decided that it was time for her to come in-- too hot! As I approached the back door to break the news to Alex, I saw her hunched protectively over a small nest-like structure on the back deck. I got closer and saw her 'treasure'- a small green caterpillar with yellow dots and black bands. In my mind this is what childhood (not to mention summer in general) is all about. The freedom to explore and discover. She created a little nest for her 'friend' out of a spent firework base (cardboard) and lined it will the dill that she observed the caterpillar nibbling. Then she found some broader leaves to make a bed and 'cover'. I volunteered one of my new pint and a half jars to house our new friend during this transitory period of her life. The whole family got really involved (these things are CUTE!) and Dave was out cutting just the right branch for Amelie to form her chrysalis on. On the way back to the house, they found two more caterpillars who joined her in her new Palace. And now we wait. And 'the girls' enjoy lots and lots of dill until it's time for them to become beautiful butterflies.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Justin's Big Boy Bed!!!

Or... "Two Steps Forward, One Step Back..."A few nights ago we decided Justin was finished with his nook (pacifier). He wasn't convinced too easily, but he transitioned well. No nooks for naps or night-time! Hooray!!

And then we discovered that he could crawl out of his crib. Which involved him precariously perched on the rim of the crib, dangerously teetering over an inevitable concussion. Sooo, it was time for him to graduate to his big boy bed.

Alex transitioned about this time, too... but she was such a direction-follower that I didn't really have to 're-baby proof' her room. This kid I love, but I wouldn't turn my back on him for an instant. And yet, here we are, proposing to shut the door to his room and let him roam unfettered.

Our room design had to change. So-- after giving him his 'freedom', we took some furniture out, moved everything away from the oh-so-tempting blinds (and even made those blinds obsolete by purchasing a temporary paper, cordless blackout shade to replace them) and basically rocked his little 18 month old world.
So he got his nook at bedtime. And he slept through the night, woke up and played quietly until Alex went in to get him. She then changed his wet diaper (?!?!? HOORAY!) and brought him into the master bedroom to snuggle with Mama and Daddy. Best night ever! We'll let him keep the nook for a few more nights!