Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hermie Watch: Waiting for wings

As we're waiting for Hermie to grow its wings, we've taken the opportunity this week to learn about butterflies and caterpillars.

The first fun fact, we looked up caterpillars and learned that the excrement has a fancy name - frass. That will impress the science teachers.

Actually, we're excited to find out that, based on Hermie's coloring, it is likely a Monarch. And we're about 10 days away from seeing him in full glory. While we waited, we decorated a page and imagined what Hermie will look like as a butterfly.

We also looked up videos about the chrylasis process, which is actually pretty cool. Here's a video we liked:

It's hard to contain her excitement, but it's been an interesting week!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Not dead yet: Our adventures with Hermie

Sunday, we officially became a family of five. Congratulations are in order.

You see, my oldest became the owner of her first "pet." While gardening, we stumbled on a green, striped caterpillar, and we brought it indoors. My daughter filled the container with leaves for the caterpillar to feast. She christened it "Lilly."

By morning, "Lilly" had become "Hermie," named after the Hermie the Wormie books. And whereas the evening before she couldn't keep her hands off Hermie, she suddenly was concerned Hermie was going to bite her. Hardly. Though the thing was eating (and digesting) its heart out.

Hermie made the travels to daycare, where it entertained a dozen children. Somehow it survived that and the drive home, despite me accidentally turning the thing on its side in transit.

This morning, Hermie wasn't going anywhere, and the kids were worried.

"He's dead!!" they screamed.

I assured him Hermie was only sleeping, cleaning out the container, gently moving the caterpillar out of the way. But I wasn't sure.

This afternoon, we had our answer.

Turns out, Hermie's going through the change, and a chrysalis is forming. It will be a fascinating experience for the kids to watch Hermie evolve!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sometimes, there are more important things

Sometimes, there are more important things than blogging. There, I said it.

Yes, I love to write. And sometimes, it falls behind. This is one of those months. I'll be honest. It's been a toughie.

In the last few weeks, we've dealt with a loved one with a cancer scare and a friend of my husband's family who committed suicide - both tough to deal with, tougher at times when you're miles from home and can't do a darn thing but pray.

In the last few weeks, work has gotten more intense - a pattern I see continuing through at least April of next year, if I'm still standing that long.

In the last few weeks, we've dealt with work being put off due to a knee injuries, coupled with co-pays and daily daycare without the income set off. Not to mention the pain my husband dealt with on a daily basis.

In the last few weeks, we've had even more financial crises (as if we hadn't had enough) - trying to prove to the state that our children were ours on our taxes (I'd be happy to send a diaper as additional proof!), the loss of our financial aid due for this school year due to a community college error ("Sorry" doesn't cut it) and now the ominous "check engine" light glowing on our car that has 178,000 miles on it (that just doesn't say cheap fix).

Throw in a few tantrums or 12 (mine included), daily battles over bedtime and many sleepless nights (for what I wish were good reasons), and my creativity just isn't flaring.

So yes, sometimes there are more important things than blogging. Like hugging your children and reading a story. Or resting your head on your husband's shoulder the one night he's not in too much pain to cuddle. Or just remembering why you're a family.

So today, this is your chance. Pick up your phone. Call someone you care about. Remind them that you do. It's far better than reading a stranger's words on a screen.

Dressed for success for $1.45

Can you spend too little? It's tough to tell. And given the consumer-driven culture and the back-to-school blitz, you almost feel like your child should be in a brand-new outfit for weeks.

Today at the Green Phone Booth, I wonder what's wrong with me for paying $1.45 to dress my kid for school. Yes, I may simply need more things to worry about in life...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why I love my farmers market

What'd you do this weekend? I'll be asked. And I'll tell them the truth, we went to the farmers market.

Sometimes I'm met with an raised eyebrow, others and eye roll. But here's the truth. For our family, it's the place to be on a summer Saturday morning.

While we might go to a different one every now and then, we always return to our trusty market. And here's why.

The people.

No, not the food. We can get tomatoes or cucumbers or herbs just about anywhere. And to be honest, this little market pales in comparison to the variety at other locales.

But it's about people.

Our vendors have watched our children grow from infants to savvy shoppers, picking out their own plants and produce on occasion.

My daughter has her favorites, too. First we catch up with the Pepper Guy, discussing how our tomatoes are growing, commenting on the garlic, him offering her a head or two to plant this fall or vastly miscounting the number of peppers he's throwing in our bag.

Then we wander to another booth, where the owner comments that she doesn't see us at her farm stand as much this year (a change in open dates, combined with an overly aggressive planting at home and a change in evening schedules, sealed the deal).

Then to the mom and her kids, who each sell their organic produce in the shade. (Even the children are in the act this year, growing their own.)

See, we could shop just about anywhere. But it's about the people we see each week that make the difference.

This is my contribution for the July APLS Carnival topic on farmers markets. Join us for a wrap-up on July 18!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My harvest helpers

Two things have caused chaos in my garden this season: First, the unpredictable weather. The next, my helpers.

Having two harvest helpers means new challenges for me, who's trying desperately to keep my garden going in my spare time. Usually they drown a plant (or more likely, themselves) in their sweet attempts to water the garden. Other times, it means finding my produce in the most likely of spots.

Like green tomatoes tossed around as balls in the backyard.

Or cherry tomatoes floating in a pitcher.

Or purple beans floating in a puddle.

Or tiny radishes lying, forgotten and shriveled, on the pavement.

Funny how they don't want to help pick my weeds...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Geist farmers market

Weekday farmers markets are usually a challenge for me. The great news is that they're open just in time for hungry stomachs at dinnertime. The down side is they're usually closing shop by the time I'm arriving.

Last Thursday, though, after my day off, we took a family trip to check out the Geist Farmers Market in northeast Indianapolis. It's a smaller market, but great if you want to skip the store lines. Vendors had everything from lamb, beef and cheeses, to chocolates, homemade marshmallows and cupcakes. While the spread seemed a bit light on the seasonal produce, we were able to find tomatoes, zucchinis and red and yellow cherries (which my kids couldn't get enough of). You could still find plenty to make a full meal without having to go to Kroger.

Given the selection, it's a great option for north siders who want something fresh on a Thursday night, but not necessarily a "destination" market for people making a long drive. The Geist Market is located at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Hours are 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 30, 2010.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Greening your little girl: 9 ways for less waste

Bows, jewelry, doll accessories and more. Usually strewn over the house. It's the sign of a little girl in the midst.

Today, I'd thought I'd share nine simple ways to "green" your little girl, saving you money and from cleaning headaches and hopefully helping reinforce a little creativity as well.

Early on:
Watch the excess! It's easy, particularly when they're tiny, to load up on adorable dresses and more. Instead, dress for comfort - and practicality. Trying to button up the back of a dress on a little one who can barely hold her head up is not the easiest way to go.
Save small items. Those tiny newborn or 0-3 clothes are so adorable, but are worn for such a short period of time. Consider holding a few outfits back for doll clothes. They fit perfectly on Cabbage Patch dolls, many other baby dolls and lots of stuffed animals, we've found.

Go neutral. I know, it's easy to fall into pink excess. Instead, invest in neutral colors and styles (I swore by onesies and pants for both kids) and even consider dressing your darling in (gasp!) boy colors and clothing. I swear she won't recall wearing blue doggy pajamas.

Be nostalgic. If you've saved a few favorite toys from childhood, you can't get much greener than that! (Though I will say, today's Barbies have had an "adjustment" or two since our childhoods.)

For preschoolers and older:
Buy big. Conisder buying a size up for summer nightgowns. The long, flowy dresses are great for dress-up and can last you two summers instead of one this way! Likewise, buy larger t-shirts which can be baggy one year, "regular fit" the next.

Encourage creativity. It's tempting to buy a lot of accessories for baby dolls, Barbies and American Girl, but it takes up space, costs unnecessary dollars and robs your child of an opportunity to use her imagination. One of the things I remember from my childhood was sprawling Girl Scout cookie boxes creating a mammoth mansion in my bedroom for my Barbie dolls. Let their imagination take them wherever it needs to go - from laundry basket "boats" to tents or castles.

Don't discount second hand. Cheap princess dresses? Who needs them? While I know many people who swear by stocking up on the Halloween clearance, I'd rather let my daughter wear something that will hold up better. We've gotten so many Sunday or Easter dresses, likely worn two or three times and given to us for free, that my daughter uses them to play dress up or go to church. It's an economical way to indulge yet be practical.

Encourage sharing. It's tough to pass up a toy (even if you haven't played with it for months) or a treasured piece of clothing. What's worked for us is giving to another kid in need or sharing an outfit with a younger friend.

Teach priorities. I've been blessed that my kids don't realize they have a choice in suggesting gift ideas, but we also don't let them watch a lot of commercials or go down the toy aisles. Instead, we focus on what we can do for other people. We also reinforce that each family has different rules, and that it's great we can enjoy other toys at our friends' houses. It's a hard lesson (one good for me to recall on many occasions!) but I hope well worth it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lately at the Green Phone Booth

Sometimes, life gets a little too busy. I'm enjoying this three-day weekend bit, particularly now that family is napping, company have happily visited and returned home, and the birthday has passed.

Thought I'd pass along a few posts I've recently done at the Green Phone Booth:

Enjoy your three-day weekend!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fancy Nancy party on a budget - and no one cares

Fancy Nancy birthday parties - they're a budget-buster waiting to happen.

Yes, you can do your Fancy Nancy party all swagged out. And believe me, it's tempting. If you've read her stories, they're replete with boas, bows, sparkly things, tutus and accessories gallore. Truthfully, a call to excess.

But we kicked up the creativity and with a little help from the second-hand shop, had a Fancy Nancy tea party where the guests were crying about leaving three hours later. Here's how we did it:

Invest in fine china. Or not so fine. It doesn't matter whether your dishes match or not. We went to Goodwill and bought tea cups, china plates, cordial glasses for mini parfait glasses, and linens, all at a price likely cheaper than disposable plates with curly-headed girls on them. Tres fancy. (The best part? No worries about it being broken, and they've been "returned" to Goodwill as freshly washed donations.)

Design it for dress-ups. Let's be honest. Every little girl's fancy dress gets worn once or twice and handed down to someone else. And we had more Sunday dresses than we knew what to do with (even with donating quite a few of them already). So we purposely hung on to a half-dozen or so, laid them out in my daughter's room, and let the girls who didn't come tea-party ready dress up if they desired.

Have a "fancy" feast. Our "tea sandwiches" were nothing more than flower-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The girls also enjoyed mini fruit kebabs on toothpicks, jelly roll sandwiches and cut vegetables and dip. Dessert was cupcakes and a make-your-parfait bar. A simple menu tweaked to be fancy enough for five year olds.

Tap into those creative juices. Let your guests design something fancy, as opposed to just giving them a bag of lip glosses and plastic clip-on earrings. Preschool and early school-age girls are into doing their hair already, and so we bought plain headbands and jewel stickers for them to make their own fancy headbands. It kept them busy for a few minutes, and it gave them something fun and mildly useful to take home.

Watch the waste. Yes, I sprung for boas at the craft store, but realized that those 6-foot boas really could be cut in half for each girl. (Cheaper, and safer too.) And we opted to cut a craft I'd considered, simply because I forgot to prep it. (But really, did we need paper butterfly placemats? It wasn't missed.)

Let the good times roll. Sometimes, the best things are unplanned. I really regret the fact I didn't get photos of the girls, in their fancy dresses, when they ran outside for an impromptu game of soccer.

Was the party a success? I think so. My daughter thinks so. Worse, she's already put in a request for next year: a "Mamma Mia" party.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

While you were working...

Day offs for me come far and few between, so when our day care needed drivers for a trip to a nature park in town, I jumped at the opportunity to spend the day with my kids, get outdoors and enjoy the moment. And we did.

We came face to face with American toads...

Went for a nature hike....

Played in the water...

And dug under rocks to find bugs and other creatures...

That's the way summer is supposed to be, and I think it's becoming lost in the land of Wii. Me, I'll take a morning like that any time.