Monday, May 31, 2010

Bastian Turns Five

As always, we journeyed to my mother's house for Bastian's birthday. She was unfortunately on call all weekend (she's a Certified Nurse Midwife) which in her busy practice means that she doesn't get any sleep because she's at the hospital nonstop. She did make it for the party, however. Usually we have Grandma around to bake the cake and make all the food (so rough, I know), so this year my sisters, husband and I had to do all the hard work. My mother is a wonderful cook and baker, so while the rest of us are perfectly capable, she really enjoys the work and is generally more skilled.

Natalie and Bastian baked the cake. While working on it, Natalie had the following text conversation with a friend:
Friend: So did you finally find something to do tonight?
Natalie: I'm baking a cake.
Friend: It's 11:30!
Natalie: It's for my nephew's birthday. He's helping me.
Friend: What's he doing up?!?!
Natalie: Well I'm not putting him to bed.
I found it amusing anyway.

She iced the cake the next morning.
Bastian again helped.
Bastian requested that his cake have Dora, Diego, Boots, and a gnome on a rocket. I had no idea what he was talking about. I did suspect that he wanted the whole cake to look like that, so the characters were in icing, but I knew there was no way I was going to pull that off. Aleks and I scoured Target for figurines. We did find some miniature garden gnomes, but then he explained that Bastian wanted a World of Warcraft gnome and not a garden gnome, which I am told, looks like a "fat little Santa Claus." The World of Warcraft gnomes evidently look totally different. I was also informed that the rocket he spoke of was not to look like a spaceship, but more like a bomb. I did not understand this whole idea at all. Alas, we found nothing else resembling any of it in the store, so I had to come up with a new plan.

Good for me, I'm pretty smart. Because that's what it takes to come up with the solution to this. I found pictures of each of the required parts in a Google image search, printed them out, then glued them to cardstock and taped them to skewers. I even cut out the word, "Five," for Diego, Dora, and Boots to hold. Turns out, I'm awesome and my solution was perfectly pleasing to my new five-year-old. Whew.
At some point in our party, Bastian found this in the attic room and became the Big Bad Wolf for quite awhile.

After a poison ivy scare and a subsequent bath (as well as a resulting very bad mood for mama), we had cake and candles and wishes.

Aleks and the cousins went off alone again. Aleks performed with his feet.
Then there was swimming in the hot sun.

Because we camped out for Aleks' birthday last August, it became evident that we were expected to camp for all birthdays from now on. Or at least those birthdays belonging to the boys. Jim had a big pile of brush for burning. We lit the whole thing on fire. It was a really, really big fire.
Then we roasted marshmallows and made s'mores with them. We also roasted hotdogs. When it became bedtime, Aleks told us all a scary story. I discovered then that his love of fantasy has created a total love of story-telling in him. He is ingenious with words. I can tell that it's all mostly borrowed at this time, but the metaphors he used and the way that he phrased things was brilliant for his age, even for borrowing. Our friends Amanda and Nick camped with us and they were thoroughly impressed by Aleks. They went on at length about how smart he is. I couldn't help but be proud!
And so, Bastian is five now. My youngest baby is very much no longer a baby. Sigh.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Some Things They Did While I Was Vacationing Without Them: Visited the ER

Aleks apparently stuck rice in his ear to see how much wax would come out on it (it was an experiment, clearly). Jon thusly got his first solo trip to the Emergency Room with both kids in tow. I've never even taken both kids to the ER by myself. To countless doctor's appointments and other assorted emergencies, sure, but not the ER. Aleks' experiment obviously failed. He had to get both ears prodded, washed out, and then had to be watched at home for signs of infection. Fun stuff. I got this photo texted to me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Things They Did While I Was Vacationing Without Them: Hessler Street Fair

We go to Hessler Street Fair most years, but I thought for sure that with my being gone in Florida (where I swam with sharks, natch), that the kids would for sure not make it. Turns out, Jon is much more motivated then I give him credit for. He and Anna and our neighbors all walked down together to the "Hippie Fest," ate ice cream on a front porch as always, listened to Early Girl (well, maybe not, maybe just overheard), spent a majority of their time in Harmony Park, and brought home "Hippie Frogs" (I'm told that's what these are called). Sounds like a good time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Some Things They Did While I Was Vacationing Without Them: THE Sleepover

Jon really had it together and planned a sleepover while I was gone. It had been so long since the kids had had one that they quickly forgot that I was going to the beach without them. At one point, he was alone with five children. They walked to several parks, ate pizza and wings, and watched lots of movies together in bed. Aleks took some random, formerly electronic toy apart at the playground. He collects junk like this. He has big plans to build...something, but has yet to enact them.

Some Things They Did While I Was Vacationing Without Them: Full-Scale Battles With Neighborhood Children

I don't really know what's happening here, but I'm sure it's close to what it looks like. My children engaged half the neighborhood to have an epic war. The photographs aren't great, but I prefer to crop out the faces of the children who do not belong to me as...well, as they don't belong to me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some Things They Did While I Was Vacationing Without Them: Chipmunk Rescue

I don't know all the details in order to properly tell the story, but apparently a baby chipmunk was captured by the neighbors cat, so Aleks, Bastian, and the three little girls from three doors down who we have become very good friends with, all had to rescue the baby and set it free. So that's what they did.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Boys Who Love Each Other

I am putting photos up retroactively because, well, because I was out of town and busy and sometimes this happens. I apologize for it not being a real blog. As if it matters!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I decided that maybe it was time for the boys to try something more structured, especially since Aleks has been calling for school lately (due to the fact that all the kids on our block are in the same class, practically). First, we went swimming with the slightly-far-away homeschooling/unschooling friends. That actually worked out well and Aleks decided he'd rather do that once a week then go to school. So kudos for that. I'm also going to sign them up for swim lessons this summer and we hope to join the homeschooling co-op in the fall. Even though they're too structured for me, the kids want more kids, and they seem old enough now to make it through a whole day, so more kids they'll get.

Finally, we decided to go to a day camp session this summer at one of the local nature centers. Aleks chose the swamp session in August, so Bastian will go to the younger group who meets at the same time. The guy who gave me the pamphlet about all this when I was tabling for the Food Co-op at a Beyond Pesticides forum told me that they have scholarship funds and that to his knowledge, they didn't usually use them all.

I held onto the pamphlet for awhile then tried to call the woman who was in charge of scholarships. I called her 7 times over a couple of weeks and finally got through today after never hearing back. Of course, the scholarship applications were due April 1st and have all been awarded, but there may be additional funds coming in, so she suggested I apply anyway.

As it turns out, this application is ridiculous. The regular application is just fine, but apparently the scholarships are achievement-based rather than need-based, as I had anticipated. Thus, more than a simple check-mark next to the session(s) we wish to attend is required. In fact, much more than I could have suspected. In addition to the application for the camp, plus the application for the scholarships (including a demand that you "comment briefly on any volunteer experiences or applicable circumstances you feel might strengthen your application for achievement-based aid" and provide a reference contact from your child's school (or another person in the community)), a letter from the child explaining why they'd like to attend is required as well as a letter of recommendation from someone who is not a family member. Good lord. You'd think we were in Manhattan and not Cleveland.

Bastian is permitted to draw his letter of explanation, which is fine except that I have to help him know how to draw since he doesn't know how to, or rather, has not yet become willing to experiment much on his own. So I had to hand-hold both boys through the process. For Aleks' letter, to ensure correct spelling, he first dictated what he wanted to say to me, then copied it onto a separate page. Both boys got very bored very quickly. Sigh.

They look happy in the photo anyway.

Arachnid Find

While planting seeds in pots of dirt leftover from the Big Dirt Dig, I discovered these hatching inside the corner of the desk I plan to recover from the brink of death here at some point, which for the time being rests on our back porch.
Watch them move:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lots of Dirt

Growing things requires dirt. This year, we talked about making a sunflower house for the boys, but then Natty wanted to do a raised bed, so we went with that instead. We built the raised bed out of found boards and sticks to hold them in place. This made it very rustic and properly Hobbit-like.

Then we ordered dirt to fill the space. Based on some algebra problem I couldn't quite understand, the woman at the garden center said we needed 5-1/2 yards of dirt (topsoil plus humus). So we bought that much and had it delivered.

Since our garden is technically in the next door neighbor's yard, we needed to dig it all pronto in order to get our dirt off their driveway. It took five hours. The kids, er, sort of helped. By "helped" I mean stamped the dirt pile down to make it harder to dig.

By the end of it, Natty and I were sunburnt and achy. Especially since we're all sorts of out of shape. Our seedlings aren't looking too hot either, but luckily my farmer friend Lynn had an accident with her plants and we may get a deal on some unknown tomato varieties. Of course, I always think that we're going to fail miserably at gardening and still somehow we end up growing things. How is a complete mystery to me though.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Violet Syrup

We had the boys and neighbor girls spend the afternoon picking violets for violet syrup, which we plan to use as a simple syrup for making lemonade. Unfortunately, they were so insistent we make it, that by the time the violets had fully steeped, they were already asleep and missed the best part when I added the lemon to turn the violet tea from green to purple instantly. Recipe came from this blog. Natty watched the color change in their stead.

Violet Syrup

2 cups fresh violet blossoms
3 cups boiling water
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 lemon, squeezed and strained

-Boil the water, remove from heat and pour over violets, cover and let steep for 2 hours.
-Strain the violets *you will have a vibrant green color, it will turn purple when the lemon is added
-Put violet water back into pan, add sugar and bring to a boil
-Add lemon juice, watch color change to purple
-Reduce heat, simmer for about 10-20 minutes until the solution thickens

The violet syrup will keep for a month if kept tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Use for pancakes, angel food cake, between layers of vanilla cake, as the simple sugar for lemonade, and/or violet coolers for a refreshing drink.

- from 5 Orange Potatoes

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Painting with Natty

Bastian is just starting to come into his own with making images. This seems to have been an accidental image, but based on what it looked like, he decided what it was. Natty wrote out what he dictated. At the very end, much later, he added, "He is going super speed." It now hangs on our refrigerator.
Beside Bastian's painting, hangs Aleks' chameleon.
Natty painted Esteban. She is displeased with the result, but the rest of us were quite happy with it.