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Monthly Archives: July 2010

happy surprises and the summer bowl

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Today we received a big box of school clothes, so there was a little fashion show of cuteness here, which led me to think about a little pink dress that I had knit two years ago for a 2-year-old Pia which had been set aside for some reason. I think it was because I assumed she had already outgrown it by the time I had finished it. Anyway, since she was in the mood to try things on I figured I’d test my luck and ask her to try it on, just to see. And lo and behold, that size 2T dress is a perfect 4-year-old shirt.

And she likes it. She actually likes it. This never happens with things I make for her. I have exhibits A through H in her closet of things I have made that she refuses to wear. So, this is a very happy surprise.

Clearly there is a bit of finishing that needs to happen on the shirt, like weaving in the ends. But even this didn’t bother her as she told me the strings are so that she can tie a toy onto them. Convenient.

Though maybe the 3/4 length sleeves give it away and make it look like it was intended for a smaller child. Hmmm.

In other news, good lord, where does the summer go? The past month has evaporated before me. Summer bowl projects? yeah, that bowl has been empty for weeks. Again, this is why I don’t work out. I can’t stick with anything. But, the bowl was unearthed last night as I cleaned off the coffee table from all the Cousin Camp debris that I hadn’t been able to face for the past few days. And my enthusiasm was renewed. Looking back through old Craft magazines for inspiration, I found instructions by Tiffany Threadgould on how to make photo cuffs out of plastic soda bottles. As luck would have it, this typically soda-less household had recently acquired a six-pack of Dr. Pepper due to my husband’s misled belief that buying it would enable us to win a Smart Car. (It’s complicated.) So, after selflessly downing some Dr.Pepper, Pia and I were able to make these from the empty bottles:

Granted they would have been much cooler if we had colored electrical tape lying around (as it was we had to use boring black), but they were still fun to make. And now I have a tape measure to wear on my wrist while I sew, even if it will require a bit of math each time I use it as it starts at 3 instead of zero. Oh, and if you have a girl between the ages of 8 and 13 at home I think these bracelets are a must-do before summer is over, so I highly recommend checking out the instructions in the above link. The possibilities are endless as to what you could sandwich between the layers of plastic.

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Pseudo-dental visit

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The plan was to go to take Tea to the dentist and then reward us him by going to the County Fair.

The dentist’s office fell through.  The wait was getting long (with no end – or apology – in sight)  for a pediatric dentist office and I was getting creeped-out that every single kid, regardless of age (and some were very young), went in for their appointment alone.   Kyle and I were getting frustrated (at the wait) and uncomfortable (at the practice).  We left.

I thought Tea would be thrilled to leave without seeing the dentist, but of course we’d done too good a job selling the visit, so he was unhappy as we strapped him back into the car.

“But I want to see the dentist!”

“I know, Tea, but we’ll see a dentist another day.  Let’s go to the FAIR!”

“But the DENTIST!”

“The fair is FUN!  We can see ANIMALS and eat delicious FOOD like ICE CREAM and FRIED CHEESE CURDS!”

“But you said we’d go to the DENTIST!”

“OK, Tea, your dad and I will give you an Extra Special tooth cleaning tonight at bed time, OK?  We’ll pretend we’re at the dentist!”

“OK!  YAY!”

The fair was a hit once we got him there.  His favorite thing was playing in a pit of corn, where he got so dusty he turned white.  My favorite thing was watching him milk a goat.

Eek. I don't know if I like this.

Oh yeah. I milked that goat. I am awesome.

Once back home we had to deliver on the Extra Special tooth cleaning – he spoke of nothing else for the half hour before bed.  Kyle and I flipped a coin to see who would make the big bucks (dentist) and who would do the work (hygienist).  I lost.  I asked Tea to lie on the pillow dentist chair and donned an eye-mask pulled over my mouth and nose my dental hygienist uniform.  I first counted all his teeth – 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom.  Huh.  I never thought to do that before, but now I know.  Then I brushed as thoroughly as I could and flossed.  I stuck imaginary film in his mouth and put a shirt radiation shield over his body before buzzing an electric razor one foot from his head taking an x-ray.

I called in Kyle the dentist to check his bite and read the x-ray films.  He was given a lecture about brushing his teeth carefully and then given an imaginary toothbrush.  We addressed him as Mr. Tea (ha!  obviously we used his actual name) the whole time and explained in great detail what we were doing.  He ate it up.  I think he had more fun than he did at the fair.  Let that be a lesson to us.  Except I’ll be honest – the fair was for me to eat the terrible foods I eat once a year.  Mmmmm.  After all those sweets I should make a dental appointment.

Splish splash

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It’s too hot to type.  Here are pictures instead.

I Survived Cousin Camp 2010

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This is the longest post EVER. I apologize for this. Get sucked in at your own risk.

This past weekend, for the 8th year in a row, Jim and I hosted Cousin Camp for our nieces and nephews. Cousin Camp began in 2003 as a solution to the quandary of what to give our ever increasing number of nieces and nephews for their birthdays. We wanted to give an event rather than toys and we wanted to make it cool and exciting. So, in lieu of gifts we decided to host a once a year ‘camp’ for all of our nieces and nephews ages 5 and up. Back in 2003 this was a little pack of 4 kids, ages 5 through 6. But each year a new kid has reached the sacred age of 5 (my siblings seemed to produce a new grandkid every year from 1996 through the present) and this year we had 12 kids attending camp spanning in age from 5 to 14.

The planning for camp typically starts in January. Each year we have a different theme to ease the planning of activities and crafts and the like. We have had Space Camp, Diggin’ in the Dirt (an archeology camp), Survivor Camp, Around the World (where they had to ‘visit’ different countries to figure out where their globe trotting Uncle P was), “Unplugged” (where they couldn’t use any electricity) and Small Edition (where everything was, well, small). This year our theme was Make 1 and each cousin was asked to submit a proposal for one thing they wanted to make at camp. The only limitation was that it had to be smaller than a kitchen chair.

This year’s shirt, painted (as always) by Grandma.

I, perhaps crazily, believe that when a kid wants to make something they should be given the green light and aided by an adult to help make it happen. This is why homemade scooters and propeller hats and the like are common in my life. I think making things empowers kids, stretches their creativity, gives them new skills and teaches them respect for the workers who make the toys and games and clothes and all the other material things that litter their everyday lives.  And beyond all that I just think it is fun to dream something up and make it, so we wanted to give the cousins a chance to do the same.

Their proposals started out so sweet and nice. One nephew wanted to make a model of the Capitol. A niece wanted to make a robotic lion that could play soccer. Another robot-dreamer wanted a robot to make him breakfast. Another nephew wanted to whittle a picture frame. My oldest nieces wanted to sew pants and a purse. Materials were collected. Kits were assembled for each cousin. We were prepared to make their dreams come true.

But then, somehow the weekend turned into weapon camp. Did I mention the majority of the cousins are boys? It started innocently. Cousin #7 wanted to make a viking shield because he is very into learning about viking history. Then Cousin #1 decided he wanted to make a bow. Cousin #3 and Cousin #6 didn’t want to miss out on the fun and they decided they wanted to make shields as well. Cousin #9 went off and made nunchucks on his own. All my waxing poetic about enabling kids to make whatever they dreamed of had boiled down to a bunch of tween boys in the garage hammering metal and screwing together boards. We drew the line at pointed objects, but they went ahead and made tennis ball-tipped bamboo ‘spears’.

I am a pacifist. I am a vegetarian. I’m anti-violence of any sort. But I gotta say, seeing the enthusiasm ooze out of these boys as they worked doggedly all weekend on their projects, learning how to saw and drill and plan and measure and shape metal … well, it was pretty cool, even if the end result was play weapons. After all, I am a girl and I only have a daughter, so perhaps I can’t quite understand boys’ fascination with weaponry.

As Jim was stuck out in the garage outfitting a little army, I got to hang out in the cool basement and work with the girls and one nephew who had chosen sewing projects. Cousin #4 made pajama pants and learned how to use a serger:

Cousin #10 made a quilt out of all the squares she had sewn buttons on to at her montessori preschool. She thought machine sewing was fabulous, but hand sewing a bit tedious:

Cousin #8 originally wanted to make a robotic lion that could play soccer, but ended up making a lion marionette:

The one major disappointment in the project department was for my littlest nephew (well, the littlest one at camp, my actual littlest nephew is four years away from attending). He is 5 years old and wanted to make an old-time Raiders uniform. He is very into costumes and details of said costumes. I thought we could stencil numbers on a black t-shirt and glue some black leather over an old hat to make a  leather helmet and call it a day. But he was fixated on certain details, like how the swords cross in the Raiders logo and which eye the eye patch was on. And the helmet was SO not was he envisioned (we used hot glue. this was a poor choice, but I didn’t want his first sewing project ever to be through leather). The disappointment was clear in his eyes and it is very sad to let down my godson. Alas, perhaps we can revisit the project at another time.

Of course, camp is always about other things besides the theme, so we did plenty of other things. Every year we kick off camp by signing in the newest camper who has to put his handprint on the Cousin Camp sign and write his name and date under the print. There is much excitement around this event as the older kids like looking at how small their hands used to be and how bad their handwriting was. And the new kid gets to feel extra special. After the initiation the cousins go on a treasure hunt around the yard to find their shirts. And we quickly round up the kids after they put on their new shirts and snap lots of pictures before everyone gets dirty and wet and covered in paint. There are many heated games of four-square, many climbs on the climbing wall in the garage, and many rides on our long skateboard. This year the cousins decided to do running races against the skateboard in the parking lot across the street. Despite at least two dozen races the skateboarders never won:

It takes a while to trust the longboard, as you can see Cousin #11 is hanging on for dear life onto Cousin #4:

We always go on nature hikes with a purpose. One year we made a distance-between-planets scale on the bike path. Another year we searched for bugs. On our around the world trip we pretended the woods was the Black Forest in Germany. This year we had the cousins bring their cameras and we searched for letters in nature to take pictures of:

Snow White was very helpful in pulling along some of the tired cousins:

Typically we spend much of our camp time down at the river trying to catch river critters like crayfish. But this year we couldn’t because of the bad storms we have had recently and the resulting flooding. But we were able to do our traditional evening game-a-thon at the school playground down the street where we play whatever the kids want. This year it was Fish Out of Water, Red Light Green Light, and Sharks and Minnows. After our game-a-thon we head back to our house for a campfire and s’mores and then off to bed in tents. Well, the “in tents” part is in theory. Almost every year some subset of the cousins decide they are too scared to sleep outside. This year, with the aging population of cousins, was the first year that four cousins decided not to sleep in the tents so they could stay up late and play poker. Sigh.

Ok. This is officially the longest post I have ever written and I applaud you if you have gotten this far. If I feel I have left out important Cousin Camp details I will pick up where I left off at a later date. But right now I have to go catch up on the sleep I was deprived of this weekend 🙂

Smelly kid

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Tea was a bloodhound in a past life.  He needs to smell everything.

There is no sneaking food around him.  It can be an hour since I ate a handful of crackers and he will awaken from his nap, sniff the air, lean in to me, and point an accusatory finger: “You ate my goldfish!”

I save empty spice containers for him to use in his play kitchen.  Cumin, ginger, cinnamon, garlic.  I don’t wash them out before letting him play with them, and he has learned their scents.  He uncaps them while “cooking” to tell me which spices he’s using to season his soup.

We visited an herb garden this weekend, and he went through it with his nose.  There was a volunteer there who kept trying to engage him.  “My son is looking for the basil”, I told her.  She showed us a “chocolate flower”.  “Where’s the basil?” he asked.  She led him to cups of leaves holding raindrops and told him that hummingbirds stop there to drink.  Not giving them a second look, he repeated, “Where’s the basil?”  She pointed out an interesting spiderweb.  “Where’s the basil?” he asked, growing inpatient.  She showed him a sage bush swarming with pollinators.  “Where’s the BASIL?” he pleaded.  Seriously lady, I thought, I know you think these things are more interesting to little boys, but really, my kid’s nose wants to smell it some basil! When he finally found it, he buried his head right in the leaves.  We had to drag him away.

Is there some way to nurture this passion?  A sommelier class for tots?  A perfume-blending kit?

Happy Halloween?

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Since I just blogged about Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, I figured I may as well write a post about Halloween, since I never got around to it at the time…  And honestly, with the summer storms we’re being pounded with tonight, I am almost wishing for fall.

Last October, Tea wore the vampire costume that Grandma Cookie sewed for Tea’s daddy:

Forget the stupid Twilight series – Kyle started the vampire trend decades ago.  The best homemade costumes are the ones I don’t have to make.  😉

We had a *very* small Halloween party, as half of the guests came down with the flu on the day of the party.  Pia and Tea had all the games to themselves.

They flew ghosts, pinned the warty nose on a witch, and played limbo under a broom.

They were really much happier once I stopped trying to make them do organized games and let them just play.  Halloween really is my favorite holiday.  I’m tempted to start planning right now for the next one.  Just thinking about it seems to have cooled the house 10 degrees.  Or perhaps that’s just the 12 inches of rain we got this hour.

Also refreshing

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Courtney and I seem to be on a similar quest for relief from the hot, muggy weather that has been smothering us here in Wisconsin.

My concoction was less creative but equally delicious:  I froze Thai iced tea into popsicle molds.

YUM.  And especially luckily for me, Kyle doesn’t care for Thai tea, and Tea doesn’t actually drink tea because of the caffeine.  This popsicle has made my exile to the basement more bearable while waiting for tornado warnings to expire.

The best part about making Thai iced tea today was my discovery that I could use our French press instead of my previous, very messy method of straining through a flour-sack kitchen towel.  I used 1 cup of tea and filled the press to the top with hot water (we have an 8 cup press) and stirred.  I let it steep for 20 minutes before straining.  I poured the tea in a pitcher and added about 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (I normally use cream but didn’t have any when the mood struck).  I drank some on ice and filled my popsicle molds.  I may now need a second set of molds so that I don’t have to deprive my kid of juice pops for the rest of the summer.

Now if only this tornado warning would end so I can run upstairs for another…