Friday, April 29, 2011

Homemade Friday: Natural Dyeing Day!

About a year ago, I hosted a morning of natural dyeing in my backyard. Another mom from school came over to share a lot of information about this fun craft. I remember we had red dye from cochineal and a great - albeit sensitive - indigo dye, but I cannot remember what the yellow dye was made from.

I hosted another dyeing day at my house a couple of weeks ago, as part of a donation I made to the school's silent auction. I made my very first dyes and I really wish I could adequately sum up how gorgeous a bunch of boiled yellow onion skins can become. And FYI: I later boiled red onion skins and just like the Internet had promised - they made an olive green dye. Go figure. I also made orange from madder root and indigo.

And despite the rain, the other moms and I had a lot of fun. We made these!

I mordanted the silk, felted wool, and cotton with alum. I am thrilled to have the wool, because I have big plans for making more felted crafts. The silks turned out predictably well, although leaving them out in the pouring rain over night was not a great choice on my part. Ed helped the kids tie-dye a few shirts, but we're going to do this again. They needed to let the color soak in a bit more, and needed to be kept out of the driving rain. As it stands, the color is pretty light, but they still love them.

Lucky for me, I volunteered at Miriam's Kitchen on Monday morning, and a shipment of yellow onions came in. The chef agreed to give me the skins, so I am already prepared to make another batch of yellow dye. Now I'd like to find a few more natural dyes I can make from other things around my home (rather than ordering them from Dharma Trading Company as I did for the dyeing day. The Lew Freeman Memorial rosebush (the last of about 75 roses that were on our property when we moved in) is set to bloom soon, and I'm going to boil those buggers up and see what I get. I tried boiling azaleas tonight but they produced no soluble color.

Some of the ladies who attended the dyeing day are ready to plan another for the fall. I'm ready, too. I love this stuff! Maybe my mom will make Helen a little linen sundress that I could dye sometime. Wouldn't that be cute? She wears a 3T!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cherry Blossoms!

A few weeks ago, at the peak of the cherry blossoms, Grandpa Dick came for a visit. It was a little cold the evening we went, but the trees were beautiful, and the company was grand.

I attended an evening photography class the week before Grandpa Dick's visit, so I was trying my hardest to shoot without all the auto settings on. It's harder than I remember. And, as seen in the photo above, I clearly forgot the rule of "don't take pictures in dappled light". Sigh.

The hardest part of the evening, was walking along the tidal basin. I had half my attention on the trees, and the other half was in constant worry mode because I was *certain* that Helen one of my children, would end up plopping in what looked like very cold water.

I don't actually have any photos of them walking precariously close to the edge of the rather full sidewalks, because I was terrified that if I took my camera out, they'd start focusing on my rather than where they were walking, and that would be the end of them.

Luckily, no children ended up getting wet on our adventure.

I love this time of year in DC. We don't typically get very much Spring, but what we get is truly delightful.


Monday, April 25, 2011

So Now What?

First, let me point out that we eat a LOT of shellfish in this house. Typical weekly menu is:

Monday: Clams or Mussels
Tuesday: Fresh Fish (Tuna, Salmon, some white fish)
Wednesday: Pasta
Thursday: Shrimp
Friday: Pizza

On Saturday or Sunday, we might have shrimp again. You see, the kids love all these shellfish, and they're a good source of protein. Plus, the clams or mussels are super easy and cook fast, and the shrimp are super flexible, so it takes a little of the boredom factor away.

Last November, Helen was super ill at night, going through almost her entire pajama wardrobe. Although I am super careful with mussels, I figured I must have accidentally served her a bad one. Lesson learned.

Then, at the turn of the year, she ate roughly 25 - 30 clams (ridiculous, I know - she LOVES them), and was a puking machine later that night. I wrote this off as over-eating and rich food. I puke when I overeat, so it didn't seem that strange to me.

In March, Helen ate a ridiculous amount of crab legs loaded with butter, and she had a repeat performance of her previous two illnesses. Notice a pattern here? I didn't.

Finally, this month, Helen ate a ton of mussels (cooked by Ed, this time), and it was a full-on disaster, so I decided Helen had become allergic to shellfish.

A couple of days later, Ed gave Helen shrimp for lunch, and that night, it happened again. On this particular night, I was ill, and went to bed early. Apparently around 11:00 Connor had an itchy leg, and Ed told Connor he could slip with him in the guest room. At midnight, Helen joined their little party. She snuggled up next to Ed, and promptly threw up all over him.

I slept through it. My sister declared that Ed had officially become the mom in this house. For one night, it was awesome.

Now we were totally convinced Helen was allergic to shellfish, and I spent the better part of three days flipping the universe the bird because I have told many, many people, that I cannot parent to an allergy. And, this particular allergy is devastating because when I draw a Venn diagram of the foods Connor likes and the foods Helen can eat with a shellfish allergy, the intersection is salmon and french fries. That does not bode well for this house.

Finally, I took Helen to see the doctor. After relating all of my excellent detective work to the nurse, she said "Dr. B. will be in to talk to you about your shellfish free life" but then Dr. B. came in and reminded me once again why I adore him. His response to all my data? "This could be mere coincidence."

I took Helen down to the lab for a blood test, and we got the results back today.


Which means she does not have an allergy to shellfish, but now I want to know - what the heck caused all that puking? And do I really want to test this out by feeding Helen shellfish again?


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Time to Get a New Strategy

This was a big year in egg hunt world. Connor made the leap from the pre-K group to the K-5th grade group. Buoyed by his success in previous hunts, he decided to adopt what would be a very ill-fated strategy. Skip all the regular eggs, look only for golden eggs.

Helen was having none of that strategizing, and since she's solidly in the upper echelons of her class - being that she can self-propel fairly rapidly - she had no trouble going with the tried and true strategy of picking up anything near her feet. She ended up with a golden egg - yay - and a basket full of other eggs as well.

Connor's hunt went off at the conclusion of Helen's, so Ed and Connor darted over to the "big kids" area and that's when things went South. Really South. As I was selecting Helen's prize with her for her golden egg, Connor got out-paced at the start of his hunt. This, apparently, threw off his entire game. So, rather than reaching down and picking up an egg, he wandered around, looking only for golden eggs, seemingly completely lost. He found one. And when it was clear there were about a dozen eggs left, I gave him an egg with candy in it as well, bringing his total to 2.

Then, of course, the sobbing started. And that's when some random person dropped another golden egg in his basket, unbeknownst to both of us as he hid behind a bush sobbing into my shoulder. Yes, he had been warned by Ed that a better strategy would be to just reach down and grab what he could, but what does Ed know? After all, it's been a while since Ed ran around picking up plastic eggs, and didn't Ed remember - last year Connor was the OLDEST in his group and he rocked it.

Oddly enough, earlier in the day, Ed had told Connor about needing to wear shoes in the area of our home that used to contain a functioning bathroom, in order to avoid the mishap of stepping on a nail. Connor asked Ed "is that a lesson you learned the hard way". I'm not sure what Ed's answer was, but the ol' egg hunt strategy appears to be a lesson that Connor learned the hard way.

And the worse part? I think he took his friend down with him who unfortunately saw the logic in Connor's strategy.

Connor had a more successful hunt this morning, given that all the yellow eggs were reserved for him, and all the pink ones were reserved for Helen.

Happy Easter! And better luck next year, Connor. At least you won't be the youngest in your group. That's a tough spot to be.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

If Only Attitude Was Everything

The kids have been roller skating at night lately. We go to our neighbor's house, which is endowed with both a flat pad of concrete out back near an unused garage, and a pretty flat driveway out front, which is often car-free.

At some point two days ago, Helen fell on her bottom. Hard. It most definitely hurt. But physical pain is nothing, in comparison to having to admit there's something that she simply cannot do. So, rather than cry, Helen picked her little bottom off the ground, and with bottom lip quivering she shouted - "THAT DID NOT HURT".

Only clearly, it was quite painful. And tears welled up in the corners of her eyes, and I asked her if she wanted me to hold her, and she steadfastly shouted once more - "THAT DID NOT HURT". As if she could will away the pain.

And man, I felt sorry for the little girl, because it clearly hurt, but I didn't want to hurt her pride any more by insisting I hold her, so I asked if she wanted to skate some more and she shouted, quite reasonably "NO!". So I quietly asked if she'd like a little hug, or if she'd like to come with me inside, and I offered to carry her since she had skates on, but she wasn't about to show weakness, so she shouted to me "NO!".

So then, as I was holding back laughter at the ridiculousness of it all, trying to show some empathy for this little girl, who is more stubborn than anything you could imagine, I asked her if she preferred to just stand there for a while.

And, with the tears now almost falling from those big blue eyes, she said "yes", because Helen knew that if she made even one move, she could not possibly hold it together and pretend it didn't hurt. And so she stood. Until finally I convinced her to come with me and pick a flower and deliver it to my neighbor's porch.

Pride. It can really get in the way sometimes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And the award for favorite granddaughter goes to...

My sister has two incredible daughters, who are fast approaching the age when they will no longer want to hang out with me. Too bad for me. They make competition for favorite granddaughter on my side of the family stiff. My nieces have an advantage in this competition, it would seem, based on proximity to my parents. They have the benefit of being able to call my parents for a sleep-over, something my children just don't have since a sleep-over requires a plane ticket and an adult to accompany them.

But let's face it. Helen is also incredible. At age 3, she can twist most anybody around her finger. Today, she decided that despite the disadvantage of distance, she was going to win "favorite granddaughter" of my dad, hand's down.

Here was our conversation in the car.

H: Mommy, why is Grandpa Rodney an engineer?

Me: Because that's what he went to school to learn how to do. To be an engineer, you must be very good at math, you must be able to solve problems creatively, and you have to be really smart.

H: I'm going to be an engineer.

C: (sensing that something might be on the line) Me too! I'm also going to be an engineer.

H: Well, I'm going to be the kind of engineer that builds roads.

C: Not me. I'm going to be the kind that drives trains.

Don't worry, Connor, you get to be favorite grandson by virtue of being the only grandson. And Grandpa Rodney is not one to shy away from long drives across the country, so I presume he'll enjoy long train rides with you as well.

Helen, my dear, I guarantee that your Grandpa Rodney will burst out laughing as soon as he sees this post, and then he and your Great Aunt Connie will rush to the phone to report who read the post first. And in that conversation, your Grandpa Rodney might just admit that you are his favorite granddaughter - though he'll never admit this to anyone else.

It's OK though. We know.

Monday, April 18, 2011

First Official Road Race! Kids Fun Run

A few weeks ago, we received notice that several streets near us would be closed due to a race being run in the neighborhood. For a while, Ed has been looking for a fun run for Connor to participate in, and this fit the bill. And, neighbors received a small discount in registration fees - woohoo!

Ed signed Connor up, but never knew quite how long the race would be. Helen decided she wanted to participate, so on Friday when I went to pick up Connor's packet, I signed Helen up as well.

I was hosting a "natural dyeing day" at my home (more later) that morning, so Ed piled the kids in the double stroller and hiked the few blocks to the starting line with them. I gave him the camera, but Ed and the camera do not get along, so even though Ed positioned them at the start of the race, and it would've made a fabulous photo, he got nothing. Which may be payback for me not being there. He's done this before, you know.

He did, however, stage this one after the event.

The race turned out to be longer than Ed anticipated (A MILE!) and Connor wasn't about to be slowed down by Helen, so off he went. Ed met him at the finish line. Connor reported he had to stop and catch his breath a couple of times. Helen needed mobility assistance to finish the race.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Preparing to Vacation: Williamsburg, We're Looking at You!

Since having children, Ed and I have stuck to three broad categories of vacations (1) lake or ocean destination (2) family trips and the (3) annual ski trip. I have attempted to break out of this rut by visiting my friend Vickie in New York City. We have had varying degrees of success with that trip.

For a few months, I've been tossing around the idea of doing a family vacation. I'm not quite ready to do it Grandpa Rodney style, which would require me to purchase a station wagon, throw one of my children in the "way back" and deem the other one King/Queen of the back seat and then drive for two weeks to the edge of the country. Luckily, I can drive to the edge of the country without putting two weeks of wear and tear on the family car because I live very near the ocean. Instead, I'm prepared to do a modified trip whereby I strap the children into their respective car seats and drive somewhere they've never been.

And where will we be going? We're shooting for Williamsburg, Virginia. We figure this is a good vacation spot for our family. First, it's about a three hour drive. That's manageable, and could be considered a warm-up for when we drive all the way to Upstate, New York later on in the summer to meet Ed's family.

Second, Connor loves "old-fashioned" things. We visited historic Cold Spring Village, just outside of Cape May last year, and both kids had a ball. They love seeing artisans perform their crafts, dressing up in "old-time" clothes, and playing games from the "old days". And obviously Colonial Williamsburg will have plenty of that!

Third, Ed and I enjoyed a couple of visits there a few years ago, and I've been a couple of other times, so it seems manageable. (Note: the last time we were there with my parents, we were at a Christmas dinner, and Ed was selected to sing a verse of a Christmas carol. If there is one thing that Ed is not suited to doing, it is singing in front of an audience. I missed it, because I had left the table briefly!) I suspect that rather than sitting in pubs at night on this trip, we'll be winding down from visiting sites more focused on kids, so the trip will likely be quite different than the last one we took. With the ready excuse of kids, we plan to hit Busch Gardens one day!

Finally, while Williamsburg has a lot to offer, it also offers some activities that won't be overwhelming. My recollection is that Jamestown Settlement is pretty interesting, but also fairly low-key. Recently, I learned Williamsburg has schooner cruises, which is icing on the cake and will be a perfect end to our trip.

So...we're taking deep breaths here, and looking forward to this family vacation. Now we just have to make the reservations! Stay tuned...


Friday, April 15, 2011

Homemade Friday: Waldorf Heavy Babies

I attended a heavy baby making workshop at the kids' school last Saturday. I now completely understand why heavy babies cost $90+. They're really hard to make. Really hard.

Luckily, the workshop was led by two moms in the school who are absolute handwork experts, so I was able to walk away with two babies that looked great.

I started with the kit from Dream Pixie. I had the clothing pre-made which is a good thing, because I never would've finished the project had I had to sew clothing for the dolls.

For the record, Connor has never been interested in dolls. Except this one. He's carried it around a bit, played with it, and slept with it every night since I made it. It was no surprise that Helen loved hers.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

60 or GO

This morning, we met with a contractor about building our planned screened porch. As part of the project, Ed and I are to purchase a fan that they will install. Ed noted that they suggested a size between 60 and 72 inches.

Ed gave Connor his notes and Connor looked up at me and said "GO!. Mom, I can read this word and it's GO". On the one hand, I'm certainly proud of Connor's accomplishment at reading the word "go". On the other hand, I'm not so impressed with Ed's chicken-scratch handwriting.

And for the record, Connor was completely baffled when I said "actually, that's the number 60. Your dad's handwriting is just so sloppy it's impossible to tell whether that's a 6 or a G".

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vocabulary from Helen

Helen's use of language is nothing, if not inspired. She regularly identifies objects with perfectly reasonable names, but are terms used exclusively by her. For example, this weekend she needed to wear her "belt rope". She needed this to hold her tights up. In order for the "belt rope" to work, it needed to be in a double knot.

For the record, a "belt rope" is a piece of fabric used as a belt and tied, rather than being closed with a traditional buckle. The particular piece of fabric she was using was actually a belt from a pair of maternity shorts I wore when I was pregnant with her.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring is Here! More Babies, More Cute Clothes From Organically Grown

Spring has been throwing us for a loop here at chez Connor and Helen. One day, it's warm enough for Helen to sport some of her Spring / Summer wardrobe, and the next day, she receives the dreaded news that it's cold again and she must wear pants or tights. We've had some success with the compromise of shorts beneath pants. But mostly, we argue about the merits of sandals versus sneakers. You can imagine which camp Helen is in.

She just about flipped her lid when a super soft onesie arrived in the mail from Organically Grown. After first exclaiming how much she loved it, and then attempting to put it on (she's small - but not that small!), she set about determining which of her babies would get it (none - it's too nice!). After that was decided, she then tried to decide which of the three new babies in our lives would receive it. I had requested a size 3 - 6 month for a friend who attends school with Helen, because her baby is about 2 months old - and since she goes to our school, there's a good chance she cares about being organic. It's been a few weeks since I've seen the baby, and when she came for a visit on Friday, I knew instantly that she'd grow out of this onesie in a couple of weeks. And it's too cute to not go to someone who can get as much use out of it as possible.

So I gave it to the next Spring baby on my list - whose mother loved it. She even noted when I gave it to her that she could "feel good about having Baby D wear it".

Pretty soon, a woman in my office will be adding her own Spring baby to the mix (yes - that's a total of four - and I know another one on the way as well!), and I'm in the process of choosing which one of these super soft treasures I'll gift her at her office baby shower.

I'm thinking of going with the lion outfit, in honor of the lion cubs at the National Zoo these days. These and others are selling on Amazon. Up close, these duds are so cute, that even my friend Ellen of the always coordinating outfits would approve. I guarantee it.


Thank you, Organically Grown, for sending me the onesie. It's being sported by one of the cutest babies I know all around DC.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Homemade Friday: Plant-Based Dyes: Onion Skins for Eggs

About a year ago, I hosted a natural dyeing day where a super nice woman from Connor and Helen's school brought over three dyes prepared using plant based ingredients. I fell in love with it, but never followed through with plans to host another day - until now. As part of the silent auction at school last Fall, I donated a day of dyeing, which would include me mordanting fabric and making dyes.

I have never done this by myself.

As the day for the dyeing draws near, I'm getting a little nervous. So I decided to at least try to make a small batch of dye prior to the event, to make sure I could pull it off.

On Wednesday night, I put a handful of onion skins in a tiny pot. I covered them with water, and then simmered them for about 20 minutes. Magically, the water transformed into a beautiful gold color. Ed came up with the idea to dye some eggs. I had some dye from the prior event (cochineal) left in my basement, so I heated that up so the kids would have two colors.

I'm in love with natural dyes.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

More Art

Connor's portfolio grows daily, it seems. I love how all of a sudden, kids just seem to magically "get" something. This is a donkey that Connor crew for his friend's birthday. It's his friend's 5th birthday, so there are lots of groups of 5 stickers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Air and Space Museum - Helen vs. Tour Guide

On Sunday afternoon, we visited the Air and Space Museum near Dulles. It's a huge airplane hangar, with several planes that you can look at and say "someone actually flied in that thing?". And of course, there's a collection of many other planes that actually appear safe. On one wing, it also has a space shuttle. The space shuttle is enormous, and not unlike witnessing David up close for the first time. Wow.

After touring the museum, we went up into a tower akin to where an air traffic controller works. Think: No light! Lots of computers!

The floor above this, which you can also walk around, allows a 360 degree view of the area around the museum, which includes Dulles airport. Planes approach non-stop, and it's pretty cool to watch.

There's a tour guide that talks about planes landing and tosses out somewhat random, flight-related facts. At one point, he asked the crowd "I'm thinking of a word that is five letters long, and it is not 'pilot'. What makes an airplane fly?" Without missing a beat, Helen responded "wings". And, for the record, not one other person - almost all of whom were adults - made any response at all. She was uncharacteristically quiet with her answer, so I said loudly "she just answered 'WINGS'", and with that, you could see all of the adults counting "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" in their heads as they confirmed it was a five-letter word. I actually thought Ed had prompted Helen, but he informed me that he hadn't said anything to her. The tour guide about fell over when he realized this tiny being had answered his question. He then asked Helen the follow-up question "can you name an animal that flies?"

Helen paused, thought for a moment, and responded "butterfly".

I love that girl.