Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Fishing Derby

Our first family activity in our new town last year was the fishing derby.  The local Lion's Club puts on a fishing derby at the end of April, right after the middle school lake gets restocked with fish.  They provide free poles and bait for kids as well as a cleaning station for those who are lucky enough to get a bite.  This event is awesome, because our kids can get the opportunity to fish in spite of Mr. F. and I having no fishing gear whatsoever.

This year, I found out the date the night before, and despite me not being spontaneous, we had to go. The kids absolutely love it, even though 1) they have no patience for actual fishing and 2) they have yet to catch any fish.  The only thing we seem to catch is submerged logs and the worms that we already place on the hook ("Look! We caught a worm"). This year, I made sure to bring the camera so that I could take some pictures.





More pictures can be found here.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Easter 2017

I was thinking that taking pictures of our yearly Easter basket and festivities seemed slightly gratuitous.  However, Enna loves going through our pictures and watching the videos.  She mentioned prior to Easter that perhaps another animal would find it's way into the basket this year instead of Bunny.  It made me realize that the kids love seeing the pictures, and they like knowing what sort of things to expect--the sense of tradition.  So, please indulge me while I write another post about our Easter activities.  (I couldn't remember what we did last year--see, this recording is just as much for me as for the kids.  It turns out we spent Easter in a hotel after cleaning out our house for the final time and the day before we left to drive across the country.  So, no Easter celebration and not surprising, Enna has no real memory of what our Easter traditions are except from pictures.)

The Saturday before, we busted out some watercolors (tubed and concentrated) and painted our wooden eggs.  We had five left from two years ago (thank heaven!) and so each kid painted two and I painted one.  I was uninspired this year.  I rather liked the two characters that I had painted before (Humpty Dumpty and Little Red Riding Hood), but I was completely lacking in inspiration and skill. (Actually, I had an idea of painting a bunny or someone in a bunny suit, but I just couldn't figure out how to do that on a wooden egg.) So, instead I painted a field of flowers.  Finn went for spots and Enna went for whimsy.




The next morning, the kids found the Easter basket which consisted of some dark Hersey's kisses (nut and gluten-free!), a fruit bar, a fruit pouch, stickers, pencils, some novel sugary cereal, cards from their Grandparents, and a small gift: a game for Finn and a hamster for Eileen.


For breakfast, I had made some hot-cross buns: a special and yummy treat.  I kept it simple for dinner: Egg salad on toast, asparagus, fruit salad, and strawberry crisp for dessert.  As I write this, it sounds simple compared to other traditional Easter meals of ham, potatoes, cakes, etc.  However, it still required a lot of work.  I found a new appreciation for my mother who spent all this time on the food only to have us gobble it up, not really appreciating all the effort.  Parenthood really is an exercise in non-appreciation.  I am just glad that I have a few months before another holiday comes around requiring extra preparation and effort on my part.  Holidays are awesome for kids, not so awesome for me.  I am also appreciating the idea of family and friend gatherings: where the work is shared by all and not just the one.

After dinner, I tried to rally for the Easter egg hunt, however both Mr. F and I were wiped.  In the end, we had each kid hide the eggs upstairs for the other to find.  This was great.....until the four year-old couldn't really remember where she had hidden the eggs.  Also, she kept telling Finn where the eggs were hidden vs giving hints.  (Admittedly a difficult concept for a four year-old to grasp.)  This of course led to melt-downs from the seven year-old and headaches for the parents.  Despite all this, the kids had fun.  Phew.  We had the hunt inside our house since Finn had taken a bath and was in his pajamas already.  I then documented our unmade beds and cluttered rooms as I took pictures of the kids finding the eggs.  (Oh look!  Finn has hidden some eggs in the dirty clothes bin.  Charming.) Documenting our imperfect life right here.  You are welcome.


More pictures can be found here.




  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Kid pants x 10

Although I would love to make all of my kids' clothing, the truth is: Mama don't have time for that.  I have instead tried to focus on making items that I can't find in stores to fit my kids, namely elastic-waist pants such as sweatpants, lounge pants, etc.  Even if they have a drawstring, I can't cinch it tight enough to stay up without serious discomfort.

My sewing plans: 2 sets of pajama pants for Enna using flannel I bought for a baby's blanket that never got made when I had babies.  2 sets of sweatpants for each kid (navy for Finn and navy and purple for Enna).  2 sets of fleece pants for each kid (black) for camping and outdoor play in the damp PNW.  The grand total?  10 pants.  

Since I was going to make so many pants in one go, I wanted it to be the most basic pant pattern I could find.  The pant patterns I have (Oliver + S), while awesome, include lots of little details to make them special.  I didn't want to deconstruct them back to the basic pant pattern.  (Although in retrospect, I could probably taken the free Sunny Day Short pattern and just lengthened it.)  I instead chose to use Rae's Parsley Pant pattern.  The bonus to this pattern is that it is just one pattern piece.  You can then spice this pattern up by adding pipping, pockets, patches, contrasting stripe, etc.  For $10, I feel like I got my money's worth already by making the 10 pairs of pants.  

For the pajama pants, I made as drafted.  It has a bit of a flare at the bottom for a vintage vibe.  I did not add pockets.


For the sweatpants, I straightened the leg and added patch pockets (included in the pattern.)  For Enna, I made a size 2 and added 3 inches in length.  I also knew from the pajama pants that I really needed more length.  So instead of doing a fat hem like the pattern called for, I did a total hem of 1".  For Finn, I made a size 5 and added 4 inches in length.  For fabric, I used the 100% organic cotton sweatshirt fleece from Fabric.com.  I read that the polyester blend pills over time.  This has not pilled at all and has held up really nice.  It is *not* thick however.  I would say it is more of a lightweight sweatshirt fleece.  Still, I like it, and it has been great.  


For the fleece pants, I used the straightened leg pattern, added elastic to the leg cuff, and nixed the pockets since the fleece was so thick.  (Patch pockets would have added too much bulk)  For fabric, I used the WinterFleece from Fabric.com.  I had ordered a bunch of different fleece swatches.  I was looking for something substantial and that wouldn't pill.  This has been exactly what I wanted. I don't have a great pictures of these plain, but you can see them in action by looking at all of our camping photos with the kids in them.  Here is one of them:


After all that pant sewing, I decided that it was my turn.  I have successfully made a couple of Scout Tee shirts, and am working on fitting a Cappuccino tunic.  Those will have to be written about on a different day.  And of course, now that summer is on the horizon, I made a quick inventory of the kids' short situation.  Enna will be fine.  She has some hand-me-downs and the shorts that I made Finn a couple of years ago will fit her once I hem them to the right length.  Finn however, will need some more made.  I plan on making two of the sketchbook shorts and two of the parachute pants shortened for shorts.  And then!  I have visions of making the kids some hiking pants using the Field Trip pattern and sourcing some nylon fabric (using the info in this tutorial).  So lots of sewing in the works!

Monday, April 10, 2017

An April camping trip that was not a disappointment

I am not spontaneous.  Mr. F. is even less spontaneous, if that is even possible.  And it is an entirely within the realm of possibility given our two personalities that our offspring's childhood would be entirely spent at home doing our normal routine because that is all we can manage: basic survival.  However alluring as that vision might be at times, I do not want that for my kids.  I want them to have memories of adventures, fun trips and breaks from the ordinary.  I am currently re-reading The Happiness Project, and Gretchen Rubin states with some authority that people are happier when they plan activities that break from normal routines.  So there you go.  I am trying to make our lives happier, even though such acts actually create a fair (understatement!) amount of stress.  (But hey! According to Rubin, that is totally normal too.)

So, in January, I proactively started planning for a camping trip during Finn's spring break which was the beginning of April.  I suggested this to Mr. F., and the response I received was more or less this: "Whatever.  I can barely function on a daily level, but sure, plan a trip."  (In sharing this, I am not intending to disparage Mr. F. as I too feel similarly.  But unlike Mr. F., I actually get a bit of a kick out of big-picture planning as I am an N and he is an S.)  Mr. F. did remind me that before I committed our credit card number, I should perhaps look at probable temperatures and weather forecasts. (This is when his eye for details (S) really shines.)  He knows that I am a wimp with nightly temperatures below 50, and that our kids have yet to learn the skill of actually staying in a sleeping bag during the night.  The forecasted lows were a bit too low for my comfort of tent camping.  I started to despair when Mr. F. reminded me of YURTS!  (As well as cabins, but it that isn't as fun to say.)  Yurts have heaters!  Yurts have walls and a roof!  And it turns out that when you go camping in the spring in the Pacific Northwest.  Yurts are infinitely more ideal when it is raining.  No need to pack up a wet tent!

One of my children took immediate dislike to the thought of camping in a yurt.  "I don't like yurts.  I like camping in a tent better."  Never mind the fact that he had never seen or camped in a yurt.  Yet that did not stop him from throwing a huge fit about how this was going to irrevocably ruin our trip.  (Do I even need to tell you that he loved it almost from a start and thought it was the best thing ever?  No.  I am sure I don't.  This is such a classic kid move, and one that is going to render me insane by the time my kids are out of the house.)



The place of destination: Cape Disappointment--the southwestern most tip of Washington State.  It is where Lewis and Clark got a glimpse of the Pacific and where the Columbia river meets the ocean.  There was quite a bit to do and see even though the weather turned a bit inclement towards the end.  We visited the two lighthouses in the area, played on the beach which had really fine, dark, sand, biked on the nicely paved Discovery Trail, and ventured into Astoria across the bridge into Oregon for some lunch and to see the fun Victorian houses set on the hillside.






Unfortunately, I picked up a nasty norovirus from the campsite (or elsewhere) and spent the drive home feeling sick and vomiting up the nice lunch that we had.  My illness lasted a few days, and so re-entry was particularly rough.  Mr. F. went back to work, I stayed more or less prone in bed or on the couch, and the kids fended for themselves.  Luckily, we all survived although the house does look like a war zone.  But hey!  We are happier, right?  RIGHT?!

Some camping particulars: I have this dream to be super organized when it comes to our camping gear.  I would love to just grab totes and go.  That probably will never actually happen.  However, I did tackle one particular sore spot: the kitchen box.  In my various internet searches, I came across an idea of adding drawers to your tote to help contain things.  I tried it out this time, and it was life-changing!  Yes, things shifted around as you turned it right side up and then on it's side, but those were minor inconveniences.  It was so much nicer do have things organized vs trying always trying to find out where the soap is hiding.  (Answer: at the very bottom, buried by everything else. )  It also made it easier to keep it organized as things had specific homes.  We have two totes: one with the stove and some bigger items plus tarp, etc.  And then the one pictured. Our totes are smaller than the versions I saw online which could hold two sets of drawers.  


I am also including the menu since I am always insanely curious about what people eat when camping and the logistics of it all.

Lunch (on road): prepped potato salad, veggies and hummus, fruit
Dinner: defrosted pre-made chili, cheese, chips, broccoli, s'mores.
Breakfast: pancakes (plain and some with freeze dried blueberries added to batter.), flavored kefir, hot chocolate.
Lunch: Black beans and instant rice, cheese, veggies and hummus, fruit
Dinner: chicken fajitas, s'mores.  (chicken precooked before hand.)
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheese, flavored kefir, hot chocolate
Lunch: Ate out at Breakwater Bistro in Astoria.

I am interested in options for lunch on the way back home.  That is the hardest meal for us to plan, so if you have any ideas, please share them!

As usual, you can find more pictures here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Finn turns 7!


We celebrated Finn's birthday this month.  For awhile, Finn was set on having a birthday party with a few friends (4).  I don't know why, but this idea stressed me out big time.  Mostly, I didn't know what they were going to do and where they were going to do it.  The weather wasn't warm enough to send them outside, and I felt our indoor space was too small for 4 boys.  Then there was the question of entertaining them.  What would we do?  I asked for suggestions on Facebook but none of them really called to me or seemed easy enough to do. Luckily, Finn changed his mind (phew!). As part of school, he learned about Chihuly and got to make pseudo glass sculptures by coloring plastic bottles and melting them in an oven.  He also watched a portion of a documentary on Chihuly.  After hearing about what Finn had learned in school, Mr. F. showed him on the map where the museum was in Seattle and what sculptures where there. Finn decided that he would like to visit the Museum for his birthday.  Crisis averted!  Family outing to Seattle?  Not a problem.


Well, sort of not a problem. I have been avoiding going into the city since I didn't want to deal with traffic and parking if we took the car over on the ferry.  However, the alternative, the public transportation system, seemed a bit scary and mysterious as well.  Nevertheless, I pulled on my Big Girl Pants and decided maneuvering public transport was going to be part of the adventure.  (And Mr. F. took care of getting transit cards, etc.)  It was great!  The kids loved taking the bus.  Navigating transportation ended up pretty painless after downloading an app that let us know where bus stops were and which bus to take.  And while in Seattle, we got to see Auntie Yola! Now that I have done it once, I feel much more confident and see more trips in the future.

The museum was very cool (although, my kids were blazing through it), and I took a bunch of pictures.  Finn, too, was very excited to bring his own camera and to document the experience.  He took a number of pictures as well.  It would be nice to go back when it was not so crowded too.  (It was the weekend and a gloriously sunny day in Seattle so...) We had plans to go up on the Space Needle, but it was busy, and we needed to get back before they had an opening. Another trip is in order, obviously.



Finn requested waffles for breakfast; cheeseburgers, mashed sweet potatoes, and roasted carrots for dinner; and chocolate cake with white icing saying "Happy Birthday" for dessert (very specific).  (There was a huge episode regarding the cake and misinformation regarding the flavor of frosting actually desired, but it all was sorted out in the end, thank goodness.)

Finn is super into legos, books, coloring, and StarWars so his gifts reflected that: an adult animal coloring book, a jump rope, two lego sets (one StarWars), a couple of books, and some games.  He is not so much interested in having his picture taken.  There are not a lot of happy kid posing pictures.


This boy. He is an adult in a seven year-old's body.  It causes both him and us, his parents, some frustration at times. But he is so loving, sweet, helpful, intelligent, responsible, and fun.  He loves to see new places and experience new things, which makes him a great travel companion.  I just hope that has he gets older and is able to do more things, that some of the frustration he feels with decrease.

I took a ton of pictures of the day, especially at the museum.  You can see them here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Enna turns 4!


Enna at four is such a fun little person.  I really enjoy having her company during the day while her brother is at school. She is sweet, silly, funny, loving, and only occasionally difficult. She loves helping me bake (oatmeal, bread, cookies, etc.)  She begs to play games, her favorites being Enchanted Forest (a Christmas gift for the kids), Zingo, Animal upon animal, and Count your chickens.  She would play games all day if I were so inclined (which I am not.)  And she always wants me to read to her, or listen to audiobooks.  And, so much of what I wrote in this post is still 100% true.

For her birthday, she chose cheesy eggs for her birthday breakfast; a bean and cheese quesadillas with a "bacon and cheese salad" for dinner (that is verbatim); and chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting for desert.  So far, none of my kids have a favorite breakfast, dinner, or cake that they have repeated every year.  It is fun to see what the choices are every year.  The desert is always a wild card with Enna.  For a while it was going to be a bunny cake.  And then a hamster cake (?!)  A week to go, she decided chocolate cupcakes and strawberry icing was what she wanted, and since it was SO MUCH EASIER than anything else she had put forth, I committed her to that.



For gifts we got her the oh-so-wanted cash register (that her brother took an instant hankering to), a teapot for her play kitchen (an actual teapot since our old one that we were letting her use broke and a play one was not going to cut it.), some stuffed animals (of course! But not enough for her liking), and books.  (Have you heard of Brambly Hedge?  They are the cutest collection of stories about mice that I have ever read.  The style is similar to Beatrix Potter.  I find myself salivating over the food descriptions.  It is a perfect fit for Enna.)  Mr. F. also had Finn pick out a gift for Enna this year for the first time.  It was fun to see Finn so excited for Enna to open his gift.  He found a coloring book and a card he knew that she would love.




That was the extent of the celebrations.  If she is anything like her brother, I think she might want a bit more excitement for subsequent birthdays.  *sigh.*  Right after her birthday, we experienced a month and a half of sickness.  It was crazy and exhausting. I am knocking on wood that we are finished with it by now. I *am* thankful that both Enna and I could celebrate our birthdays sick-free this year which has not been the case in years past.

  

Monday, January 30, 2017

Creating a story: A day trip to Snoqualmie.

Like I mentioned a couple of posts back, I recently read, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I learned While Editing My Life."  The title and the jacket summary poorly convey the message of the book.  Actually, there is a lot going on in the book, with a bunch of takeaways, so I can see how it might be problematic to convey that in a short summary.  The gist of the book, or at least the main message that I took from it, was that you are the author of your own story, and how interesting or engaging your story is is your decision.  That is a bit of a simplification, but for the premise of this post, we are going to go with it.  The author also touches on the concept of the binding nature of shared experiences.  (Something that I have realized is important in our family relationship.)

So, I read this book, and I was all fired up.  MLK weekend was coming up, and I was determined to make that Monday a day of family adventure.  I did some quick research, and decided that a day-trip to Snoqualmie Falls and the town of Snoqualmie would be perfect.  I heated up some leftovers and put them in thermoses for lunch, packed some snacks, made sure that dinner was already made for our return home later that day, and I told the children of our plans.

Cue total melt-down from one of my children.  "I don't like hiking!  I don't want to goooooo!"  *lots of loud screaming, stomping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth*

What the book doesn't discuss is how to create a family story.  The author discusses his experience as a then single person.  It is hard enough to generate the momentum to write the story of your own life, how much more difficult is it when one (or more!) of your family is kicking and screaming the whole way?  The answer?  Difficult enough to want to bag the whole thing.

So feeling like a prison warden, I corralled the kids into the van, and we set off on our adventure.  And sure enough, once we got in the car and answered the question, "how long is this drive going to be," a dozen times, the kids really enjoyed themselves.  We made a quick stop to visit an uncle of Mr. F.'s, had lunch in the back of our van at a gas station (we sure do pick scenic stops!), and then drove to the falls.  This kids loved the falls, but tragedy struck again when we saw that the trail was closed due to unsafe conditions.  (I guess that is the risk you take when you go in January.)



Cue another meltdown.  The child who disliked hiking so much was now inconsolable about the fact that he/she could not actually hike.  *lots of yelling*

Again, what they never tell you in blogs, books, movies, etc.: family vacations are never really enjoyable for the parents.  If you, as a parent, enjoy your family vacations with your kids, I don't want to hear about it.  It is much easier for me to deal with life if I believe this is an unequivocal fact that I just need to come to grips with.

We instead went on a wee urban hike to a nearby bridge upstream from the falls and found stuff to throw in.  (Twigs, rocks, small children--I kid!--etc.)  Peace restored, we continued on to the town of Snoqualmie where there is a small railway museum with a bunch of retired trains.  We met up with Mr. F.'s cousin that just happened to live there, and let the kids wear themselves out climbing about. After I had frozen long enough in the nippy wind that picked up, we popped in the back of the van for another little snack where the kids proceeded to tell me that this was the best adventure EVER(!), and we drove home.




I guess you could say that our attempt at a small entry in our family story was a success!  But, man!  That success was at a price--the price of my sanity!  Of course I will continue to look for opportunities for us to explore and have fun, but the whining that accompanies these trips can really be a killjoy.  (But like everything else, I look back on these pictures and have a hard time remembering the bad parts, so I guess that is a good thing.)

I would love to hear what sort of stories you have been writing!  Please share.

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