26 February 2011

Dreaming of Spring...

It's been a while since I posted - things have been crazy around here, but in a good way.  We've been doing some small improvements around the house that have been time consuming - preparing a playroom for the kids to set their projects up in, reorganizing the cupboards in the kitchen, moving three bookcases from the living room to the kitchen to make room for a used couch we found at a great price...lots and lots of changes this past week.  It's still crazy around here, but it's a great kind of crazy.

I'm also preparing for our spring planting - squeezing in a last little bit of research and ordering a few seeds to round out the garden.  As it ends up, we will have the following seeds to plant this spring:

a French Mesclun Salad Blend Seed Mixture - 14 varieties

Oregon Sugar Pod II (Snow Pea)

Blue Lake Stringless Beans

Golden Sweet Corn

Dark Green Zucchini
National Pickling Cucumber
Big Max Pumpkin
Sugar Pie Pumpkin

Tomato Family
Beefsteak Tomato
Roma Tomato

a mix of Grand Bell Peppers - including red, yellow, orange, green, white, purple, and chocolate
a mix of Hot Peppers - from mildly spicy to super hot

Root Veggies
Nantes Coreless Carrots
Danvers 126 Carrots

Italian Parsley

Walla Walla Onion
California White Garlic

Fort Laramie Strawberries
Crimson Sweet Watermelons

Mammoth Russian Sunflowers
Wildflower low growing mix - a blend of annuals and perennials that grow less than 16 inches high
Wildflower shade mix - a blend of annuals and perennials that only need 1-4 hours of sunlight daily

The boys are excited about their share of the gardening.  All three boys want to plant flowers, so each kid will get his own sunflower seeds to plant (probably three each for a total of nine sunflowers).

In our front yard, there is a large tree, right smack in the center of the yard.  Jonathan is going to outline a circle around the tree and fill that circle with flowers from the wildflower shade mix.  Then I am going to plant strawberries around the wildflowers for a pretty and productive plot.  The remaining shade mix is going to go on the north side of the house (which doesn't get a lot of sunlight).

Our driveway is flanked by the street by two large boulders, each set about two feet away from the driveway itself.  The area around the boulders is bare dirt, very unattractive!  So James and Jacob each picked a side of the driveway, and they are going to split the other wildflower mixture and plant around the boulders and up the driveway on either side.

I'll be the one doing most of the digging and soil loosening, but the boys will do the actual planting and watering of their flowers.  I think it's a simple project that will look great, and give the kids a sense of responsibility and pride in the property.  It will also be beneficial to the honey bees in the area (and since a lot of honeybee populations are dwindling, scientists have actually asked people to plant flowers this year to help the bees, so the boys will develop a sense of community as well as charity).

The veggie garden will be in the back yard, hidden from the street.  I plan to have three long raised beds in which to plant.  That's enough for starting out, don't you think?  After all, this is my first year gardening.

Our landlord is a truly awesome man for allowing all this gardening on his property.  He could have easily said no way to all this planting and harvesting, but instead he's being totally cool and allowing it, as long as we make it look pretty from the street.  That's a reasonable restriction and I have no problem with it. He's also been great with allowing us to foster animals in this house - again, he could have easily said no way.  Most landlords would freak out at the idea of a parade of animals in their homes, doing who-knows-what kind of damage - chewing damage, scratching damage, urine damage - but Mike is an awesome landlord.

So as a thank you to Mike, I spent a little bit extra and ordered an old-fashioned lilac tree.  I'll be planting it right next to the car port, in full view of the street, and it will remain there even after we move on.  I can't wait to show it to him - unfortunately, it won't arrive until early fall (since that's the best time to plant it).  But I'm still going to enjoy showing him his new lilac.  He totally deserves it!

I sure wish spring would hurry up and get here!

13 February 2011

Rainbow bread

Several months ago, a friend of mine went to visit her husband (who was working in the middle east).  She came back with lots of photos and stories, and one of the things she talked about was rainbow bread.  She mourned the fact that she can't find it in this country, because she really liked the colorfulness.

I had looked at the pictures she posted, and was also impressed with the colorfulness of the bread.  So this weekend, I decided to sit down with the boys and make our own version of rainbow bread.

I didn't have any red food coloring, so all I had to use was blue, green, and yellow.  I broke the dough into three sections and had each of the kids work the color into the dough.

It took a long, long time...

...but finally the dough balls were evenly colored.  The boys waited eagerly while the dough rose, and watched as I formed the loaf into a spiral of bright colors.  I think the worst part of the waiting was after the bread was cooked, because they had to wait an hour for the bread to cool before I could slice it open.

But it was worth the wait!

 I had planned to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the bread, but the kids wanted grilled cheese.

Even the dog wanted some, ha!  Both the younger boys want me to make this for their birthdays.  Sounds wonderful to me.  We can't wait to make this again.

05 February 2011

Winter storm photos

In the aftermath of the big winter storm, a lot of truly impressive photos have come out on the net.  I found the following photos at blogs.denverpost.com, and decided to share them with you guys. 

Several buildings collapsed from the weight of the ice and snow on the roofs.  Several trees cracked under the pressure.

The situation on Lake Shore drive made national attention.  For those not familiar with the Chicago area, Lake Shore drive is a long multi-lane thoroughfare that runs right alongside Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago.  During the storm, Lake Michigan developed 15 foot swells, which caused a lot of water to spray over Lake Shore drive.  Traffic there had already ground to a standstill during the storm, and the water sprayed over the vehicles and then froze, locking them in place.  Those vehicles (including several city buses) had to be abandoned. 

The following are some pictures of the situation.

Those were the photos I found online.  Now, here are a few I took of our own property after the storm:

02 February 2011


Yesterday I walked to the bus stop to pick up the younger boys.  This isn't something I normally do - the bus stop is at the end of the block, and James and Jacob are more than old enough to walk that far on their own.  But the big snowstorm was growing thicker, and a couple of cars were having trouble holding onto the road, so I wanted to make sure they stayed away from the road.

It was worse than I thought.  Living this close to Lake Michigan, we have almost constant wind, and gusts up to 55 miles an hour were whipping the flakes directly down my throat.  Breathing was almost impossible.  By the time I got to the end of the block, I was shivering hard and couldn't feel my cheeks.

Fortunately, the wind was at our backs on the walk back home.  The kids were excited by their "first real blizzard!"  I got them inside and gave them mugs of rich hot cocoa with whipped cream to warm up, then set them to doing their homework.

About 45 minutes after he got home, James came to me complaining of a headache.  Lately, he's been making excuses for why he doesn't want to do his homework, so I didn't quite believe him - then I saw something red on his temple.

"Hey, James, what happened to your head?"

"Oh.  Zach tripped me at school, and I fell and hit my head."

I took a closer look at the mark - it was a small abrasion directly on his left temple, surrounded by an inch of slightly swollen tissue that was going to discolor in a few more hours.  I began to suspect he had a mild concussion.

(which reminds me - why is it that the kids always seem to get injured when the resident paramedic ISN'T home?  Is it some sort of twisted version of Murphy's Law?)

I called Grandma Debbie, who works as a nurse, and she walked me through a few steps to see if he had a minor or major concussion.  I was freaked out by his eyes for a few minutes, because his pupils were dilating and contracting in a quick pattern, but we quickly realized that was because he was standing in the living room by the windows.  The storm was blowing snow around, and thus the light quality was shifting constantly - and so were his eyes, in response.  Once I took him over to an artificial light, the shifting stopped.

So James had a concussion - a mild concussion, to be sure, but still...poor kid.  I started to get angry that the school hadn't called me about him taking a fall, but he explained that it happened as he was getting in line for the bus ride home, and that he hadn't told a teacher.

I also asked about this Zach kid, the one who tripped him.  Turned out it was Zach who was tripped by a bully, and when he fell, he tripped James on accident.  Just one of those random things that happen, but I am still going to talk to the school administrators about this.

Night fell, and the storm and wind picked up in intensity.  The younger boys had lost their excitement over the blizzard - now it was just plain scary.  Didn't help that the wind howling around the house sounded like it came straight out of a horror film.  It had also found a crack in the attic, and occasionally something blowing around up there (probably an empty box) made hollow thumping noises.  It sounded like a ghost walking around in the attic, and the younger two were totally freaked out.

Bedtime came, and I made the decision to switch beds for the night.  James usually sleeps on the top bunk, but with his head aching and spinning, I didn't want him climbing up there.  So Jacob took the top bunk for the night, and James curled up on the lower bunk.

Around 11pm, James came staggering out of his room, announced "I'm going to throw up", and then made it to the toilet just in time to vomit.  This seriously concerned me, as I know that vomiting can be a sign of his brain swelling.  I called the ER and spoke to a nice male nurse, who walked me through the symptoms.  We discovered that James was still fine - he wasn't walking around like a drunk, he wasn't incoherent, and he had just thrown up - not projectile vomited.  I was told if he showed any of those symptoms, to call an ambulance pronto - but if not, he would be fine.

I gave James some Ibuprofen and rubbed his back until he fell back asleep.  Then I sent a text to Sean informing him of what happened.  He called a few minutes later to check up on the situation.

He also reassured me that James sounded fine - just had a killer migraine from the concussion.  He also informed me that his ambulance had broken down, and they were waiting for a tow truck to pick them up.

Fast-forward to this morning.  James woke up bright and chipper, headache gone - and declaring that Ibuprofen was some kind of wonder drug, which made me laugh.  We all trooped to the big windows in the living room to look at the results of the storm, and I opened the blinds to a chorus of "Oooo".

The snow was so high, it had covered the lower six inches of the windows.  This seriously impressed the boys.  The wind had sculpted the snow into peaks and gullies, and the effect was beautiful - stark and cold, but beautiful.

Then Jon groaned.  "That's a lot of snow to shovel, isn't it?"


He had such a woe-is-me look on his face that I laughed.  "No worries, Jon - we'll trade off on shoveling.  You don't have to do it all by yourself."  He brightened up at that.

While the kids ate breakfast, I called Sean to see if he was on his way home.  I reached him, only to discover that he and his partner were still waiting for the tow truck!  They are completely snowed in and stranded until the tow truck arrives, and he's not sure when he will be getting home.  I'm a little bit worried about him, because they are not the only ones stranded in this storm and it might be several more hours before a tow truck gets to them.  But my husband is young and strong, and they still have heat in the rig, so I know he'll be all right.

I'll post more updates as I can.

Update:  11:15am.  Went outside to shovel snow.  Was out there for over an hour and had barely made a dent in the snow.  Shovel broke under the pressure of the wet snow.  I stood there feeling like an idiot, wondering how I was going to get all this snow moved so that Sean could park the car.  Just then a couple neighbors driving by stopped and offered to help.  One of them even took the broken shovel out of my hand and told me to rest!

The neighbors across the street pitched in, despite the fact that they had been shoveling their own drive for three hours.  We ended up having three grown men, one woman, and two kids shoveling out our driveway.  I felt useless, so I ran inside and made them all hot cocoa.  Now the majority of our drive is shoveled clear, and there is a pathway cleared for safe passage to the front door.

As of this time, Sean is still waiting in the ambulance for the tow truck.

Update:  12:15  Sean is finally freed from the ambulance and is now on his way home.

01 February 2011


First of all, my apologies for not having updated this site before now.  I've been down with a particularly nasty flu and just wasn't up to typing much of anything.

Last Thursday was the day we went to see Cirque du Soleil.  It was wonderfully magical!  Alternating between breathe-taking acrobatic stunts and clowns whose antics were so funny, James literally fell out of his seat laughing.  If you ever get a chance to see Cirque du Soleil, don't think twice - GO!  It's totally worth it.

We decided to let the boys buy a souvenir with their Christmas money.  I had been leaning towards having them get a tee-shirt, so they could take it to school...and the boys loved that idea up to the point where we got up to the merchandise counter.  They took one look at the dragon masks and started clamoring for them.  And, admittedly, the masks ARE pretty cool, so I let them each buy one.

I meant to have pics up here the next day, of the boys wearing their masks, but unfortunately I fell ill and haven't been up to anything until today.  I plan to take pics tonight and will post them as soon as possible.

For those not in the area, we are under a severe weather warning and are expecting to have between 18-24 inches of snow dumped on us by tomorrow morning.  Sometimes during severe weather, we lose our internet connection (stupid wireless internet), so there is a very real chance we won't have internet until the storm clears - if you don't hear from me in the next day or two, no worries.