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Monthly Archives: October 2010

it’s magic!

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I’m not sure how it started, though I suppose I can blame it on the season. Over the past week Pia has been asking for a magic wand. A real magic wand. A wand that can turn people into toads or cats or whatever. What am I supposed to do with this? I mean, other than the obvious, which is to say that there is no such thing as a magic wand. Lately I feel like I’m saying that about everything. “Are witches real?” No. “Are monsters real?” No. “Are robbers real?” Well, yes, but they don’t live around here. (On the robber note,  it turns out lies like that don’t get you anywhere. She followed up by asking where they do live and, fumbling, I said they live in big cities so that they have more people to steal from. So she said, “like where Aunt B lives?”. Um. Yeah. Sorry about that Aunt B. Pia will never again stay at your house.) Anyway, I feel like all I do is tell her things aren’t real. So the magic wand thing came up and after repeated requests I was like, okay, let’s find out how to make a magic wand. I mean, I’ve read Harry Potter, I can roll with this.

It turns out that there are, indeed, instructions on the internet for how to make a real magic wand. This shouldn’t surprise me. But it did make it much, much easier on me and made the whole process much more authentic. The “directions” said to find a stick “whose shape and size attracts your attention”. Good. That was the first stick Pia picked up. Then it said to look on the stick for images of animals, plants, letters, whatever and circle those in paint. Pia identified a patch of lichen and then painted the whole stick red. To add a little pizazz to it we coated the whole thing in glitter glue. Thank god for drying time as it gave me time to think how I was going to make the wand seem magic.

Once the wand was dry we had to “dedicate it” and followed the words on the website. There was something about a drawing a circle around you with your wand and greeting the elements as you faced north, south, east and west. We had to light a candle. It was all very authentic feeling. Pia was delighted.

The very first thing she wanted to do was turn Jim into a frog. We told her that young wizards like herself need to start with simple spells. We suggested popping balloons. Jim would hold a balloon, Pia would say her spell, and POP! went the balloon. Amazing! And it happened again and again and again. The wand really was magic!

The next test was to take it outside to see if she could make leaves fall off the trees. We headed out to the sugar maple in our neighbors yard. Surely it would be cooperative. Pia lifted her magic wand, said her spell and….

… just like that a leaf fell from the tree. And again. And again. Each time she said her spell a leaf fell from the tree. I was amazed and sent many, many silent thank you’s to the tree.



waste reduction challenge

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My family, along with three other families in our little town, are taking part in the Waukesha County Waste Reduction Challenge. We are recording our garbage and recycling weights for 5 weeks and attempting to decrease the amount of garbage we throw away through whatever creative ways we can employ the 3 Rs. The results have been mortifying for me. I am a bit of an eco-freak and pre-parenthood we were quite the bees knees when it came to not throwing much away. But man alive things are different now. So, I am attempting to take a very close look at what on earth we are throwing away… and you get to help me! Channel your inner voyeur and check out what we have thrown away in the past 3 days:

I have, for obvious reasons, excluded the used kitty litter. And, there should be 3 pull-ups in this picture, but they sort of stink.

Ok. Let’s assess. All of the obvious recyclables went automatically into the recycling bin so you aren’t seeing the paper, tin cans, glass jars/bottles and plastic jars/bottles. But some of the items in this picture are recyclable if you go a bit out of your way:

  • Plastic caps. Aveda collects these and uses them to make their new bottle caps. I just found this out and am perhaps a bit more excited about this than a normal person should be.
  • #5 plastics (like yogurt, cottage cheese, and other soft cheese containers). There are at least two local grocery stores that collect these for recycling. I can’t put them in my blue bin at the curb, but I can save them and bring them to these stores when I go.
  • Totally minor, but the paper outside of the gum boxes are paper, so rip that off and put it in our regular blue recycling bin.

As for reuse, I really should bit the bullet and make some super absorbent overnight pull-ups for my girl. And as luck would have it the ever fabulous Sew, Mama, Sew just ran an incredibly detailed, everything you would ever need to know about making cloth diapers, mini-textbook in this post. So I have no excuse. Well, except that whole time thing.

Ok, so taking out those pesky items, our garbage pile now looks like this (it’s like Highlights, for adults!):

And now I basically just feel guilty. Almost every one of these items could be avoided at the purchasing end.

  • I could use handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues (but it’s allergy season!)
  • I could buy yogurt exclusively in the large containers instead of the neat plastic sleeves (though I will say these are way cleaner AND they make Pia eat much more yogurt than she would otherwise)
  • ziploc bags. sigh. this is something that was never even in my house pre-kids, but now are a staple because they are so dang handy.
  • Chocolate chips, which we go through like water, could be purchased in bulk in a reusable container. (but that option isn’t available at my local Piggly Wiggly, so not such an easy choice.)

I believe the other items… cough drop wrappers (I cough. a lot.), band-aids, empty scotch tape roll, bird seed bag… are legitimate garbage. Thoughts from the gallery? I mean, nice thoughts from the gallery? Not like, crazy woman, you took pictures of your garbage???


is this so wrong?

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I am an enormous Bruce Springsteen fan. This is not a huge revelation, of course, to those that know me well. But I have tried to keep my obsession deep, deep affection for the man under wraps so that I do not adversely affect Pia’s musical tastes. I have sat through many, many, many listenings of “B-I-N-G-O” and “Who Built the Ark?”, so I have put in my time in the children’s genre. (Ok, ok, full disclosure, I actually love listening to “Who Built the Ark?” because Pia sings along and on the refrain she says “no one” instead of “noah” and this cracks me up to no end.) But in the past two days something remarkable has happened. Pia has discovered Springsteen.

This started innocently enough. Pia loves the song “This Land is Your Land” and we searched on You Tube for a fun version. It just so happens that Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen sang a lovely version at President Obama’s inauguration.  So we watched that a few times and, well, we all know how You Tube makes all these connections and you find things you never knew existed. Like Springsteen’s cover of “Twist and Shout”. And you don’t know dancing until you have danced with your 5-year-old to this video. Oh, the smiles. The rollicking good times of this song led to his cover of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love”. Which, well, I mean…. swoon. This song sealed the deal for Pia. She sings along and mimics all his hand motions. She refers to the song not by it’s title, but just as “my favorite”.  The only downer to all of this is that she frowns on me singing along.  I was, sniff, shushed during “Glory Days”.

front yard pumpkins

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We finally harvested our enormous volunteer pumpkin that has been leisurely sprawled across the front yard for the past couple months. It seemed like it was time, though I will miss watching people walk by our house and stop and stare. I assume the thoughts going through the minds of those people are split between “wow, big pumpkin!” and “who on earth would grow pumpkins in their front yard?” Honestly I hadn’t planned on growing pumpkins in the front yard, they just started growing. But now I believe it is the perfect use of a front yard and intend to grow pumpkins there every year. Just to give the neighbors something to talk about.

We also raked leaves. The leaves at the house-that-Robin-should-buy in fact. I figure we should tend to the property until I finally wear Robin down and she buys the house just to stop me from pestering her. Her house has a lovely sugar maple and makes for great leaf-jumping piles. And, frankly, that is reason enough to buy it because the pictures we could take of Tea and Pia each year in said piles would be priceless. What is missing from this picture? Tea. Of course.

how do i forget these things?

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Today we went on a long family hike. It was lovely and beautiful and all good things. We caught grasshoppers. We rescued wooly bear caterpillars. We ran down hills and gazed across vistas. We smelled flowers and looked for animal homes. More than once I found myself squeezing Jim’s hand while we watched Pia scamper ahead and thinking, this is it. Nothing else really matters. We are together, we are happy, we are experiencing things as a family. How often I forget that this is the important stuff. How many weekend days have I sent Jim and Pia off to play while I cleaned the house or caught up on laundry? How many weekends have I wasted because I thought having a clean house was more important than the three of us being together? Yes, a clean house is important, as is having clean underwear in the drawer, but I need to find a way to better work these things into the week so that I don’t spend my weekends missing this…

…or this…

…or just being with her…

Sigh. Good times.

library party for pia

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Today my firefighting Badger turned 5. It was almost, nearly a perfect day. Except that Tea wasn’t here to celebrate with us. But, since Tea is such a sweetheart, he sent birthday wishes to Pia from the other side of the globe.

This morning our playgroup (minus Tea) came over for a little party for Pia. The general theme was ‘library’, so we played a few library-ish games. In the first game the kids had to pretend to be librarians finding books on the ‘shelf’ (or in this case, on Pia’s bed) and bringing them back to me, the library patron, as quick as they could. I handed them an index card with an image of the book I needed and then they ran to the next room to find the book. Here is Lou referencing her index card in her right hand while thinking about picking up “Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom”:

And then Lou dashing back to me after finding the correct book “The Elephant in my Backyard”.

They were very speedy librarians.

In another game they had to pretend to be librarians shelving books. I had a basket full of books that were predominantly one color (mostly blue, or red, or whatever) and six shelves marked with red, yellow, orange, green, blue and black. They had to then shelve the books according to color.

In the last game we had ‘library story time’ (which was ridiculous as they could hardly sit still) where we read “Peek!” by Minfong Ho. In this book the father plays hide and seek with with his daughter and as he searches for her he comes across many different animals (a dragonfly, a dog, an elephant, a crocodile, etc). After I read the book I told them these animals were hiding in the front yard and they had to find them. The kids had fun searching…

…and finding…

…all sizes of animals. The kids then turned it around and wanted to hide the animals for the moms. Very cute.

Jim took the day off work so he could properly celebrate Pia’s birthday and so he could be our chef at the party. He made spinach pie which Pia had requested, but which met mixed reviews from the other kid partygoers. I do love the fact that my daughter actually requested spinach pie, even if it meant some of the kids just had apple slices for lunch!

The party broke up just after lunch as Pia had to get to school. Before the kids left everyone got a little goodie bag. Pia and I had made these story dice for her friends and each kid got a pair. Really, I need a pair of story dice myself as Pia asks me nightly to tell her a story and often I find myself fumbling for a story line. At least if I rolled, say, a fox and a house with a red chimney, I would have a place to start.


Also going along with the library theme, each kid got personalized bookplates. Unfortunately my printer ran out of ink after printing just three sheets, so each kid got only three bookplates, but it is a start to putting their stamp on their personal library.


fabulous fall

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The weather has been gorgeous the past week, chilly at night for delicious sleeping and warming to 70 during the day. As a result we have been spending most of our time outside, drinking in the loveliness.

While Pia was in school this week I tackled a project I’ve been thinking about for ages. And, as with most projects that have been bouncing around in my mind for forever, it turned out to be very simple and rewarding. We had a few birch logs which we had arranged in a circle as stools, imagining little children sitting on them and chatting. But, as little children never really stop moving, the stools were never used. So I took them from their circle formation and created a ‘path’ of stepping logs. To make them stable I pounded 2-3 feet lengths of rebar (or other strong metal rod type things that I could scrounge in the garage) into the log halfway, then flipped them over and pounded the log-with-metal-rod into the ground. It was immensely satisfying. I got to use a sledgehammer.

For those of you who have been wondering about the fate of my eggplant, well, it is a complicated story. The plant grew beautiful and tall and was a sight to behold. It produced two eggplants that I tended to with care and was waiting patiently for the perfect day to pick them. Sadly, a little girl got to them before me and picked both little eggplants and used them as drums. I was crying inside but handled it like a grown-up. However, the eggplant gods were watching and somehow produced this late season gift for me. It was delicious.