Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Story Book Baby Shower

Husband's cousin Keith and his lovely wife Emiko are expecting their first baby. We never believed Keith would get married — having a child was unthinkable! But, love will make you do strange and sometimes wonderful things, and now a beautiful new soul will enter our world in a few short weeks.

To celebrate and help prepare the new mom and dad, Husband and I hosted a baby shower. Neither one of us has any experience with hosting a shower, but after 4 baby boys, we have lots of experience as guests! This being our first shower, I had to do a bit of research

I hit the 'net pretty hard (I am so loving my iPad) Martha Stewart's site was one of my first reference points, where I learned that we should have a theme.

I sat on that one for a day or two. I didn't want to do a character theme, not knowing which American characters may or may not have gone international (Emiko is Japanese). And I wanted it to be something that would benefit the baby, not just a theme for  theme's sake.

And I have a really tight budget, so home made and casual were the way to go. We tossed around a few ideas and decided on a storybook theme, asking each attendee to bring a book for baby's library. And after that, the ideas just flowed.

I made invitations based off the Pottery Barn Kids storybook invitation. The  Boy and I made paper flowers to hang from the ceiling. We also made little books to hang along a string, as a banner over the doorways. And I pored through the boxes of books in the attic to find just the right ones to place around the room as decorations. Final touch was a few vases of white and yellow flowers, wrapped in blue ribbon.

Paper accordion flowers

Book banner. Each "page" was made from the pages of a real book.

All the food was book themed:
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: meatballs
Peter  Rabbit: veggies and spinach dip
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: cookies
Willy Wonka: brownies
Heidi: assorted cheeses and breads
The Hungry Caterpillar: fruit salad


We had cupcakes made at Macklin's. Four dozen, 6 different flavors. I made little toppers representing some of the Boy's favorite books.

The take home favor was home made gingerbread men.

The happy parents-to-be

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fresh Air/Friendly Town III: the End of the Tale (Part 3of 3)

Here's a copy of the book we had made for our
Fresh Air child, from  Shutterfly

Miguel has returned home to New York and we all miss him. Maybe not the Boy so much, but the rest of us do. I am surprised by that.

During the week I reworked my management style a bit; I felt like I was constantly after him with a "Miguel don't...." That really isn't a very positive way of parenting. So I switched tactics and we tried to keep him occupied with lots of work and play.

To keep him busy, we had him help around the house. He truly enjoyed working in the yard: watering plants, washing the car, feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, and pulling onions.

When we weren't working, we were running! We took him to an old fashioned tent revival where John and Monika Bailey performed their knife throwing and bullwhip show. It reached the Boy at a very deep level, one of the "the most inspirational speeches I've ever heard," he said. Otherwise, Miguel thought the show was "cool."

All told, over the course of the week we: saw fireworks, roasted marshmallows, danced with sparklers 'round a campfire, caught lightning bugs, went bike riding, ate Italian ice (a first), explored a creek, went to the movies, had a play date with friends, went to an outdoor market, saw a knife throwing show, played with the sprinkler in the yard, ate soft serve ice cream (another first), fed animals at Lake Tobias, and finished by swimming in our neighbor's pool. Plus learned about chickens, cats, dogs, and gardening. No wonder we were all exhausted!

On Monday morning we headed back to the mall parking lot to await the bus. This was after a night of no sleep. Miguel was so entranced with our new kitten that he tried to pack her in his suitcase, I was awake all night listening for distress meows emanating from his room.

As we waited for the bus, Miguel and the coordinator's daughter played together picking up acorns. After a rough and tumble week at our home, in the creek, bike riding, and general outdoor play, Miguel fell and skinned his elbow. It was pretty nasty. Fortunately, having raised a brood of boys, I know to keep a first aid kit in the car. But, his playful mood changed immediately to one of deep sadness and he began behaving as though he didn't want to go home. Then he started to cry. He was the last to board the bus, sobbing all the way, clinging to my neck. It was quite pitiful and touching. 

The Boy and I waved til the bus disappeared, then headed home for a much needed lazy day of doing nothing!

At 5pm I received a call from Miguel. He was crying... He missed us already.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fresh Air Fund/Friendly Town II (Part 2 of 3)

So last night I decided to have a better attitude about stuff. Stuff being having someone's child living in my house. Husband said he pretty much knew I'd be annoyed the first few days of having someone in my home. But, he was willing to go along with it anyway. I guess I'm pretty predictable. After much rumbling, grumbling, and thought I resolved to be a better person.

Wouldn't it be lovely if it were that easy? One of my realizations was that I had wacky expectations. Somewhere in the back of my consciousness I saw this as an opportunity to "help" someone. Miguel doesn't need "help." I shouldn't have a social services agenda in mind. He's not going to leave our home as a Waldorf kid, or a farmer, or with impeccable table manners, or a with a renunciation of all things pop culture. At best, we can give him a fun week in the fresh air, enjoying all that nature gives.

This morning Miguel was up at sunrise so I took him out with me to do the morning animal chores. I'd been hesitant to do so because he doesn't really follow directions well. It's been a struggle to keep the household pets safe from his eager loving. My choice this morning was to leave him in the house with the kitten and puppy or to have him tag along with me. He actually followed directions quite well and was excited to collect eggs. He likes to run barefoot (as do I, but not in the chicken yard— blech); i had to shoo him out of the chicken yard with an admonition to put his shoes on. "But I have my shoes, Mom!" "Miguel, you need to wear your shoes, carrying them won't protect your feet." "Sorry Mom." As he steps in a big blop of chicken poo.

Temperatures here are soaring, like everywhere; after chores we hit up the dollar movie then headed to a local park . Emig park has a nice creek and swimming hole. Miguel loves the water and was fascinated with the little fish. He looks adorable with his swim goggles, doesn't he?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fresh Air / Friendly Town or How I Learned How Rotten of a Person I Am(Part 1 of 3)

On Monday we picked up our host child for a week's visit via the Fresh Air Fund's Friendly Town program. My head was full of hopes that we were able to provide a wholesome experience of country living and that our son develops a life long friendship, that we can each learn from the other's culture. Sounds silly, we're all from the same country. But New York definitely has a different culture than rural Pennsylvania.

We met Miguel (our host child) at the mall, where the coach bus from NY left 11 children for host families in our county. There must have been a bit of miscommunication and some skewed expectations because Miguel's first question was "Are we going to see a killer whale?" We really don't have those in the Susquehanna River or Chesapeake Bay. Sigh. He just got off the bus and I failed him already.

The first night went well, other than a little fear of the dark and too much love of our new kitten. (When she screeches it's because she doesn't like whatever it is you're doing, Sweetie.) We caught lightning bugs, played with the kitty, walked the puppy, and played basketball with the neighbors. By evening's end (midnight) the cat had had enough, I was exhausted, the Boy felt a little lonely, and Miguel was too excited to fall asleep. My mind was spinning trying to figure out what we'd do on Tuesday. I had already exhausted half the planned activities! I'm used to a fairly slow pace but Miguel was running from one activity to the next, faster than I could think up new ones.

Finally, everyone drifted off to sleep. I dreamt of Rumspringa, probably since I was getting up early to deliver a car full of chickens to an Amish meat shop for processing. Restless night.

After returning (from the meat shop) Tuesday morning, with many thanks to the Husband for going to work late so I didn't have to haul two little boys out of bed at dawn, the boys traipsed downstairs for breakfast. Immediately I started hearing "I'm bored. Can we play a video game?" The Boy tried to advise: "Sometimes when I''m bored I play an imaginary game. Mom won't let us play a video game." (He was correct!) This was followed by Miguel: "Can we go to the circus? Can you take us to the pool? Are we going to the zoo? Where's the kitten? I don't like toast. Can you go get the Legos?" With barely a breath in between.

It was kind of a rough day. Too much love on the kitty, some arguments between the Boy and Miguel, and that fast paced switching from one activity to the next. Yes, I caved. I let the boys play an hour's worth of Lego Star Wars while I had some alone time. Sigh. Failed again. But both boys were content.

When Husband returned from work, we headed to our high school for the annual third of July fireworks. (Yes, the 3rd of July.) After patiently waiting for darkness to fall, we were treated to an "oooh aahhh experience! Yeah! We succeeded! Sure that the boys must be exhausted we headed home to a bednight snack, and off to bed.

Or, in this case, a repeat of Monday night. "Ma (he calls us Ma and Dad) I need a drink of water. Ma, I want the kitty to sleep with me. Dad, I need music to sleep." around 1:00 in the morning I began losing patience. You really don't want to mess with my sleep, I get grouchy! I tried being sympathetic; it must be hard to be in someone else's home. And such a little boy, too. But our host coordinator said to do life as normal as possible. Treat the kids like a family member. He's probably lucky I didn't. Again, mama gets really grouchy when you mess with her sleep. Fortunately daddy does not. ( But don't mess with his food!)

I'm sure things will improve. If nothing else, I have reinstated "Alone Time" in our home, for the week at least. A wonderful hour where we each retreat to our rooms to nap, read, or just contemplate the ins and outs of our day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fat Uglies aka Cornish rocks

"Hey woman, what's up?" "Not much, what's up with you?" "Well, the kids got some chicks for Easter and we just can't keep them all. Do you want them?" Note: two years ago I would have said yes right away. I've learned a little since then. " Hmmmm, what kind are they?" " Oh, I think they're leghorns. My aunt got them for the kids at Tractor Supply." I've learned some, but apparently not enough for this is how I acquired the fat uglies.

They were delivered during a nasty thunderstorm so the men just stashed them in the garage. The next morning, quarantine pen at the ready, I opened the box to find... not 7 leghorns, but 7 Cornish rocks.

Monster birds, fat uglies. I consoled myself with the fact that someone else had spent the time and cash to brood them. I only needed to finish them off and get them in the freezer. (With the help of Amos Lapp at Lapp's Meat Shop.)

Ugh. So why do I despise thee, O Cornish rocks? Thy greedy disposition and lack of heart and hale. Thy smelly presence and gaping maw. I just think they're gross, that's all.

We raised a handful last year, my first time raising meat birds. Along the way I discovered that these birds don't do well in the heat. They won't get up and go get a drink or find shade. They'll die where they are for lack of a drink with a fount not ten feet away.

Their legs give out under the terrific weight of their burgeoning breasts. They live to eat, following you with their greedy eyes like a bad Jesus portrait, mouths gaping...."Feed me Seymour!"

And they smell. When people emphatically state, "Ew! Chickens smell!" I am convinced it's because they've driven by a farm of these noxious birds.

So today, after approximately 10 weeks of loving care, I have delivered my fat uglies to Amos Lapp's shop, open Tues, Friday, and Saturday.

Yes, we could process them ourselves, but for $3 a chicken, Amos and his boys do a great job. I have also found myself to be a bit squeamish. The last time I processed them myself I found that I couldn't eat them. I cooked them, everyone else ate, but I stuck to the veggies at the table. So I guess those birds got the last word that time.