30 July 2009

Something Weird is Going On Here

My son has apparently developed some bizarre obsession with my mop. Please note that this is not something to which I can in any way relate.

He pestered me for two days to let him mop the kitchen floor, and finally I remembered my own advice and said "Sure, let's mop the floor."

First, I explained, we needed to sweep so we didn't make mud. Then we got really hot water in the mop bucket (which I located without too much trouble). That, I explained, was so it would dry right away. I showed him how to wring the mop out very thoroughly, and he was off. When he got tired of the mop, we switched and he took the scrub brush for the stubborn spots. He actually did almost half the floor before he got tired of it and asked to stop.

And I let him stop right away when he asked. I figured up to that point he had been having a good time, and I'm hoping since I let him stop when he stopped having fun, he'll think of mopping the floor as an enjoyable experience he may want to repeat. It seemed to me that lessons in perseverance and finishing the job could come later. I hope I'm right.

(It wasn't until two days later that the oldest monkey informed me he had wanted to mop the floor because he "doesn't like dirty floors." I consoled myself with the idea that, someday, his wife will be really glad that he pulls out the mop, rather than just complaining. This is in contrast to Monkey #2, who wandered into the kitchen several weeks ago and informed my husband "I'm tired of walking on this dirty floor!" When she grows up, she'll have to have her older brother over, a lot.)

(Please note that, despite what my children may think, my floor isn't really that dirty, that frequently. At least that's what I tell myself.)

Want to see something else a bit odd? This is Monkey #2, carefully feeding birdseed one piece at a time into the hole on the vacuum where the hose is supposed to be attached:

She spent a good two or three minutes at this. I have no explanation.

27 July 2009

In which the Mad Scientist is my Hero

There are many things I love about my husband, but one in particular for which I am very grateful is his many abilities in the area of home improvement and general maintenance-type stuff. For this, I am indebted to my father-in-law (Thank-you!!).

Anytime there is something to fix, one makes a choice between saving time, or saving money. (Sometimes one decides to save both, knowing that trying to do it without help will save neither). Our expendable income being somewhat limited at this point means that, usually, we have to go with the saving money route.

We did actually get a quote from the mechanic for fixing the several issues our car is currently having. Since each issue was going to run between two and three hundred dollars to fix, a $200 trip to Auto Zone and a Saturday afternoon seemed like a real bargain.

Here's my hero, changing the brake discs:That one in particular was rusted quite fast. After giving it a series of successively more convincing taps with a regular hammer, the Mad Scientist went on-line for advice. The general recommendation was, get a four-pound hammer. (Apparently this is known, in car-repair circles, as the "BFH," for reasons which soon became obvious). Several thwacks later, the disc slid off with no further trouble. Another satisfied customer recommends the BFH.

Monkey #1, of course, was watching the whole process with fascination. Once the disc came off, he offered to help get the rest of the rust off it, and proceeded to pound away:

Then he turned it on its side to pound the rust off the edges. And Monkey #2, of course, followed suit. The four-pound hammer was a bit much for her, however. She prefers a less ostentatious hammer:

And then Monkey #3 came out and gave it a go as well. That disc was thoroughly abused, but after all the trouble it gave the Mad Scientist I think it got what it deserved. And now I don't have to wonder whether my brakes will work each time I hit the peddle, and we did save a bit of money. Want a tip? If you're going to do work on the car yourself, get a quote from the mechanic first. Then you can feel really good about how much you saved, and it all seems worthwhile when you think of what it could have cost.

23 July 2009

In which the Mad Scientist has a brilliant idea

When we first moved in to this house, I decided the small area at the side of the backyard was perfect for one of those little cast-iron firebowls. I could picture it so easily - a small cheery fire and a few comfortable lawn chairs, occupied by us and maybe a few friends. It would be beautiful! The only problem was, those firebowls cost quite a bit of money. I think the cheapest one I've seen was about $60. That may not seem like much to the average person, but we're on a grad-student stipend and like to eat, so it was out for us. I kept hoping I would find one at Goodwill, but never did. (Quiz: How do you know you're really poor? Answer: When you go through Goodwill thinking "Goodness, that's expensive!"). So there I was, with a beautiful mental picture, and no way to make it happen. I hate that.

Then the Mad Scientist had a brilliant idea

He dug a firepit! We had the brick circle already because there used to be a Rose of Sharon there. (Those things are out to take over the world, I swear. They're nearly indestructible too, but the monkeys managed!). So he just dug a pit in the center and ringed it with brick. And voila! We can build a cosy little fire, and even cook over it. Everyone loved that part, especially when we did marshmallows. Monkey #1 wouldn't touch his, and insisted on having it fed to him, because he didn't want to get sticky:

Monkey #2 couldn't have cared less about the mess, and thought the marshmallows were great. Predictably, she got it EVERYWHERE:

We decided not to risk that with Monkey#3. He just got plain untoasted marshmallows. He took as many as he could hold, before his older siblings got them all. Then he gnawed through them like a mouse, and got all sticky anyway:

Oh yes, and then there's me:

Looking gracious and refined, enjoying my meal in a hurry before the monkeys wreak havoc on something else. (For the record, there's only water in the tankard.)

A few weeks later I reset the outer ring of bricks in a smaller circle and filled in between the two brick rings with rock mulch. I scraped the rock mulch out of my front flower bed, where it was preventing anything from growing. So the cost for the firepit was $0, because we only used what we already had on hand. I love our new firepit!

21 July 2009


True confession: My children are in love with Thomas the Tank Engine. (This is one of those humbling things every parent goes through sooner or later; I swore my children wouldn't have anything to do with characters that appeared on sheets, wallpapers, and anything else a child might possibly acquire. Now they love Thomas and Bob the Builder.) The Superintendent of the railway, Sir Topham Hat, apparently is a loud sneezer, and finishes every example off with "Bless me! What a noise!" My children think this is hysterical, and repeat it often.

Yesterday I overheard Monkeys #1 and #2 discussing this phrase, with much hilarity. Now it happens that the Mad Scientist is also known for the explosiveness of his sneezes. So Monkey #2 decided "When Daddy sneezes HE should say "Bless me, what a noise!" too! That would be funny!" And Monkey #1 agreed "Yes, because Daddy sure is a loud sneezer!"

I can't wait to tell my dear husband. :-D

18 July 2009

If I can explain it, anyone can

Could I climb up on a soapbox, just for a moment or two? I'm sorry, I know they're a bit obnoxious. It's just that every once in a while I really can't resist a brief chance to declaim my opinions...And really, what else is a blog for?

You can stop reading, and come back another day. I won't be offended.

Still there? Alright then. The Yarn Harlot did a post for Canada Day, as she always does. And I always enjoy learning a bit more about one of our closest neighboring countries. This year, however, she was a bit short on time, so rather than discussing things she loves about Canada, or why she's proud to be a Canadian, or foibles of Canadian knitters, she simply posted a list of quotes about Canada.

Which was great, except that a few of them were pretty apparently designed to show, not how great Canada is, but how ridiculous the U.S. is (at least by comparison). (I suspect that this was merely oversight on her part, not a deliberate snarkiness. Things sometimes don't come across as we intend on the internet. I choose to believe the best).

One in particular generated a strong reaction:
We'll explain the appeal of curling to you if you explain the appeal of the National Rifle Association to us.
- Andy Barrie
That reaction being a large number of Americans who replied with some version of "I can't explain the NRA at all!"

I attempted to reply with my own comment, and if it had gone through that would have satisfied my need to address the issue, and y'all wouldn't be reading this. (My original comment was to the effect that we should all learn to appreciate the differences in our countries rather than attempting to make them be the same. If we could do that, we could enjoy that there is a country where people enjoy curling, and another country where people reserve the right to protect themselves without government interference.) But the computer lost it, so here we are.

This is the explanation for the NRA: Are you aware that judicial precedent in this country states that the police have no obligation to protect individual citizens from criminals? People are always saying "Why do you need a gun?" And when the answer is, for self-defense and protection, they say "That's what the police are for!" Actually, it isn't.

In the case of Warren vs. District of Columbia, you have a city (that would be Washington, D.C.) that has forbidden not only the bearing of arms for self-defense purposes, but even the right of citizens to keep them in their own homes. Then, having made it illegal for its citizens to possess the means of protecting themselves, the city has the gall to claim it has no responsibility for protecting them. (And that was upheld by the court, because it's true. It's also true that the city infringed on a constitutional right with its handgun ban, as was pointed out in another case, later.)

To wind up my declamation and make my point (I heard that sigh of relief!): Americans are not guaranteed personal protection from the government. Therefore we are guaranteed the right to protect ourselves. The NRA tries to prevent that right from being rescinded by the government (that doesn't want to take over the responsibility for protecting us). You may not agree with it, but it's not hard to explain.

15 July 2009

At least the Monkeys liked it

My mother once attempted to turn the whole family into vegetarians. It was a failed attempt, but definitely left a mark. My siblings and I all know what constitutes a balanced diet, and we've all sworn off Spinach Lasagna for the rest of our lives.

Monday night I went to my local C.H.O.I.C.E.S meeting, which is a natural parenting information network. The lady who spoke has Celiac disease, which can only be treated with a completely gluten-free diet. She shared some thoughts on healthy eating in general, places to find good prices on natural foods, and a few recipes. One was for cookies, which she had samples of. I thought they were pretty good.

So, today, the Monkeys and I baked cookies. It was great, because these cookies are actually really healthy. I didn't tell the Monkeys that though. Oh no, I'm smarter than that. I just told them we were baking cookies, and then when they tried one I said "Do you like it?" And they did! I was so excited! So I let them have as many as they wanted. I'm a cool mama like that.

Then the Mad Scientist came home. Hungry as always (and he's ALWAYS hungry), he grabbed a cookie off the cooling rack.
Chewing carefully, he hesitated, and asked "Do these have bananas in them?"

I could tell he wasn't too enthusiastic, so I got a bit defensive. "Well, yes. They're gluten-free! And, they have no sugar in them, so they're really healthy! So you can have several, if you'd like. The children really liked them!"

He replied "Oh, that explains it. Actually, I think they're terrible." Then he laughed, and said "Bananas, gluten-free, and no sugar. It sounds like one of your mother's recipes!" (Don't get too upset, Mom, he's only going by what the boys have told him. I, of course, deny any responsibility for whatever he has heard regarding your healthy recipes.)

So apparently the children and I have developed our taste for healthy food further than the Mad Scientist has at this point. I'm still working on him, though. :-) And for those who would like to try the cookie recipe, here it is:

2c. oats, ground (a coffee grinder works great)

2/3 c. almonds, ground (coffee grinder again. I have one just for spices and things)

1 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1 1/2 c. mashed bananas

1/4 c. oil

1 t. vanilla

3/4 c. raisins (optional)

Mix dry ingredients. Mix bananas, oil, and vanilla in a food processor or with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add to dry ingredients. Add raisins, if using. Shape into cookies and bake on an oiled cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

(Recipe adapted from Simply Natural Baby Food, Olson)

I didn't actually measure my banana. I just used two, plus a piece of one Monkey #3 was eating, because it looked to me like I needed a bit more. Then, the dough was gloppy, so I added some more oats. (I'm really precise like that, with my cooking and baking.) When I got what I think of as a cookie-dough texture, I dropped it by spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets. After they came out of the oven, I realized these cookies don't spread by themselves, so if you want them flat you have to flatten them before baking.
Please note, that if you care that these are gluten-free, you need to buy gluten-free oats. It didn't matter to me, so I just used regular oats that I already had.

10 July 2009

Impromptu Bath

You know how, sometimes as a parent, you evaluate how much mess it's worth? Like, "Yes, finger paints get all over everything. BUT, they wipe right off, and they'll keep the kids busy while I make dinner." Or, "Yes, if we go to the beach they'll get sand all over the car. BUT, I won't have to entertain them all morning." (That one only works for older kids).

Tonight after dinner, Monkey #3 climbed into the tub. I thought "Ok, no problem. He'll be happy playing with the tubby toys while we finish dessert, and then we'll get all the monkeys ready for bed. So, if he gets a little wet, no biggy, because I'm going to take all his clothes off in ten minutes anyway."

Yeah. Well, Monkey #3 had his own ideas. I should have been concerned, or at least checked on him, when Monkey #1 came in (repeatedly) and told me he was in big trouble, that he was in the tub, running water, with his shoes on. Now, "big trouble" to me would be, if the tub was overflowing, or some similarly epic mess was being made. I knew that wasn't the case, because Monkey #1 wasn't panicked enough. I heard the water go on, but I figured, well, it will just run down the drain. His shoes will get a little wet, but that's no biggy either. So, I brushed off my oldest child's warnings, because I was sitting down relaxing, and I didn't want to get up.

The Mad Scientist investigated first. He walked back into the kitchen shaking his head, and said "Well, you could post a picture on your blog." And when I grabbed the camera he said "I thought that would concern you." Ha. I need blog fodder. In my camera and I went. Here's exhibit A:

Uh-huh. He plugged the drain, and proceeded to fill the tub about 12" deep with water. With all his clothes still on. And his shoes. Can you see that, in that picture? Shoes, still on. Still, he's one very happy monkey.

After I finished taking a picture and began to assess the damage, I said "Monkey #3, HOW did you do this?" And he very obligingly grabbed the faucet handle to demonstrate just exactly how one turns on the water in the tub. He was thoroughly pleased with himself, and I really didn't have the heart to get upset. After all, everything I had been thinking was still true. He was just a whole lot wetter than I had anticipated. So, I let him play for a few more minutes.

That's when we discovered that he can get himself out of the tub. At that moment, the mess acquired the potential to achieve epic proportions, and I finally did something about it.

06 July 2009

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Monkey #2 adores her older brother. I can tell, because she repeats practically everything he says, verbatim. As soon as the sentence is out of his mouth, she says it all over again, word for word. In fact, if she can figure out what he's saying before he's done, she'll chime in and finish the sentence with him.

I'm not sure how he feels about this, but it drives me batty. I keep thinking "SAY YOUR OWN WORDS." I don't say that, though. I tell her, "Sweetie, you have your own mind. You don't need to copy everything Monkey #1 says; you can say your own words."

Tonight while buckling everyone into the car to pick up the Mad Scientist from work, I had one of those stellar parental moments. You know, when you've been around pre-schoolers for so long, you start to sound like one? Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about, because I don't believe for a minute that I'm the only parent who has ever done this. (Doesn't mean I'm proud of it; that's why I'm stalling the confession).

Monkey #2 was whining, and rather than quietly asking her to stop, or something similarly mature, I started whining back at her. Yeah, just me and the middle monkey, whimpering in the back seat. And Monkey #1 said "Mama, you have your own mind. You don't need to copy everything Monkey #2 says; you can make your own sounds."

03 July 2009

Note: Multiple Children Not Necessarily an Indication of Deafness

One of the things that always surprises me, as a parent, is the way everyone else knows how I should be parenting my children. It tends to make me a bit ornery, so I could really relate to Lora Lynn's story about less-than-child-friendly San-Franciscans.

Once upon a time, we were driving to PA from IN to visit the Mad Scientist's parents, and we decided to stop at a hotel the first evening. This hotel, like most, had a continental breakfast included in the cost of the room. This breakfast left a lot to be desired.

I try hard to feed my family healthy, wholesome foods. Presented that morning with rubbery "scrambled eggs" that had obviously come out of a box, white bagels, white toast, white english muffins, orange juice that was mostly water, and a selection of sugary, dyed cereals, I decided "healthy" wasn't really an option. As I was trying to determine what my children would like to eat that I was willing to feed them, our fellow diners were horrified to hear Monkey #1 ask for coffee.

Now, I come from a long line of Norwegians. Norwegians are well known for drinking coffee, and Norwegian children typically start coffee at a very young age. Many parents will give their children sugar cubes dipped in coffee as a treat, which is their first introduction to the beverage. So, even though I wasn't completely thrilled when the Mad Scientist first determined that Monkey #1 liked coffee, I decided to chalk it up to heritage, and stress about more important things. He drinks it well-diluted with milk, with a little sugar, and I'm sure there are much worse things I could be giving him.

Apparently our fellow diners didn't agree. As I handed Monkey #1 his cup of coffee-flavoured milk, the high-school girls behind me (eating the sugary dyed cereal I wouldn't let my children have) began a discussion of my parenting abilities and breakfast choices that gradually increased in volume, until one announced in a voice I couldn't have possibly failed to hear "I'm just saying that orange juice would be a little HEALTHIER!"

I decided to laugh.

01 July 2009

A good wife

Daniel Boone said that all a man needs to be happy is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife. Monkey #1 hasn't thought much about a gun or a horse yet, but apparently he's given the "wife" idea some careful consideration.

The other day Monkey #1 was telling me all about when he'll be grown up and have a wife. I took the opportunity to offer some words of wisdom, and recommended "Make sure you get a good wife, because a bad wife won't be much fun." He very sincerely explained, "Yes, a bad wife wouldn't make herself pretty or fix food, and then I'd just have to go fishing, or hunting bears, all the time."

Even when I realized he was thinking about hunting and fishing to get food, rather than to escape his wife, I still had to laugh.