Monday, March 31, 2008

Focusing on the Positive

In hindsight, I am realizing that last week's bout with bitterness may have been partially hormone fueled. While seeing a child I love being hurt for no good reason is very frustrating and upsetting, I know that dwelling in a negative headspace isn't good for any of us. Instead of focusing on what we are missing out on, what we are losing, what is wrong, I know I need to stay positive.

Nico will be coming home on Friday and we will have 48 hours to spend with her. I can't wait to hear about her fun adventures and see the pictures that she took. We will make the most of the time we have and show her just how much we love her.

It is hard to believe that she will soon turn 10. Unreal. It doesn't seem like eight years ago that Jay and I fell in love and I was introduced to his chubby, little 2 year old daughter. She was still nursing, still in diapers and barely talking. Over the last eight years, Nico and I have become really close and I love her just as much as the girls that grew within my womb. I was there when she learned to use the potty, lost her first tooth, learned to tie her shoes and ride a bike. So many of her life's milestones happened when she was with us and we have so many great memories of our eight years together. I know, even if our time together is now very short, that we have a bond that cannot be broken. I also know that I will be there for her as she teeters on the edge of the adolescent changes and learns to find her voice and speak her mind.

When I start to feel the bitterness about the current situation well up inside me, I will remind myself of the wise words in the Serenity Prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things
I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, March 28, 2008

So Much For Spring

Just when I was starting to get really excited about the coming of Spring, we wake up to a reminder that this is New York after all and Mother Nature may have other plans in mind. Overnight, about 7 inches of heavy, wet snow fell and coated all of the tree branches in the cold, wet stuff.

Theo, Nico's bunny, is doing well here. He has an unfinished office as his very own room and he really likes his time out of his cage. We set up boxes and a ramp and he loves to hide under a big piece of brown wrapping paper. The kittens love to play with him, and he chases them around and around. Kaya and Luna are having a good time bunny-sitting for their sister's pet.



Kaya is on day three of constantly wearing her new rollerblades. Because we had to rip out the stinky carpet that was on the main level of our house when we moved in and we haven't decided on the new floor goods, for now it is just painted plywood on the floors. That means Kaya has free reign to roll all over the main level and get the hang of roller blading.
I love the freedom of homeschooling and how it is a great fit for our family. When I was in elementary school, I would often get so sick of sitting at the desk for hours that I would break the leads of my pencils on purpose, just to be able to get up and stretch my legs and I walked to the sharpener. Kaya has the freedom to get up in between activities and do some cartwheels or skate around or dance. It fits her learning style and she doesn't grow to resent having seat work.
I also like that we can work at her own pace and skip over things that are too easy and spend more time working on things that challenge her. On a typical day, we work together for 1.5 to 2.5 hours but many of the learning experiences are just included in our day to day activities. For example, we do a lot of baking and Kaya is right there with me reading the recipes and measuring out the ingredients. Reading, following directions and fractions work all wrapped up into a fun activity with Mom.
Here is an idea of what we have done and will do today:
~She worked with pattern blocks and the activity cards that go with them. Kaya used to blocks to copy a pattern and we discussed symmetry and pointed out lines of symmetry within the design and shapes.
~Kaya studied her spelling list of "ack" words and wrote sentences using seven of them. I had her focus on using interesting sentences with adjectives.
~She helped me with the daily chores for Theo. We cleaned out his cage, fed him, refilled the water bottle and set up the things for him to play with.
~For today's math, Kaya did a round of addition flash cards and a few pages from her Money workbook. We did a quick activity where I gave her a money amount and asked her to use coins to show two different ways to show that amount.
We wrapped that up in time for her to watch Sesame Street with Luna and have a snack, which they are doing right now. Later today, I am sure she will ask to listen to a few more chapters of Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and we will also read a few of the books that came with the most recent Books Plus Kit from the library. The theme for the kit we have now is Other Countries, Other Cultures and it is full of great books and games. We will probably also play a few games of Mancala and Kaya will get some time to play Webkinz if she wants.
On top of all that, Kaya wants to go out and play in the snow for a bit and I am sure she will also be roller blading around the downstairs. Well, Luna needs me so my break is over for now.



Thursday, March 27, 2008

Whoowhee! She tires me out!




Yesterday was a beautiful day! The sun was out, melting away the last of the snow. The temps were up into the 50's and the sky was a brilliant blue. Luna Blue gained so much physical strenght and coordination over the Winter but had limited outlets for it because she never really liked wearing her snowboots or playing out in the snow. We made the best of things with plenty of obstacle courses and climbing structures made of couch cushions and blankets and spare matresses. Yesterday we were able to get outside for a decent chunk of time and Luna was on the run. Seriously, she was non-stop movement for a good 3-4 hours. Up and down the walking paths, up and down the stairs to the porch, go...go...go! I tried for about 15 minutes to get a good picture of her, but she was so quick I could only get pictures of her back! Ha!! Needless to say, after following her around like that, I hit the bed last night and was out like a light.

It was a good thing for me to get my mind off of things and soak up the sun. I laughed at my beautiful girls as they played. Kaya Jade wore the starter roller blades Grandma sent her all day long. Even on bumpy stepping stones and the dirt driveway. She's such a goof-ball. I was thankful for the beautiful setting of our new home, where you cannot hear traffic. The song of the birds surrounded us as they warm up their songs in hopes of attracting a mate.

An added bonus to the great day was the package that was waiting for us in the mailbox. The people from Snikkidy Snacks sent us a big box crammed full of sample packs of their snacks. Woohoo! Sweet! I couldn't believe it!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Saturday in Early Spring


Today is the first Saturday of Spring and while it is sunny and brisk outside, I can feel the little differences that the lovely change is on its way. I love knowing that all of the activity is going on as plants wake from their frosty slumber, and smelling the rich scent of mud drying in the sun.

Yesterday, our neighbors were up until 2am, boiling down the sap they've collected from their Sugar Maples. They ended up with two pints and yesterday gave one of the pints to Nico and Kaya. Wow! So nice and very much appreciated!
We had pancakes and vegetarian sausages for dinner last night and then Nico wanted to make another batch for breakfast this morning. With the grocery budget being a bit tighter, there are some things I compromise on for the time being ~ I don't buy organic or the more expensive items from the Natural Foods section of the store and a lot of our food is coming from Aldi. But one thing I cannot scrimp on is maple syrup. I'd rather go without than use any of the super-goopy "pancake" syrups out there. There's nothing like the real thing.

The pancake recipe came from http://www.allrecipes.com/
Good Old Fashioned Pancakes

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
(I also added a dash of vanilla to the batter and cut down the salt and sugar. I am a recipe fiddler.)
After breakfast and the usual morning routine, Nico and Kaya played a few games of Mancala and then wanted to walk over to the neighbors to see Dad as he split and stacked wood and to watch their horses. We bundled up and headed down the muddy dirt road that connects our properties.

Jay split and stacked nearly 10 face cord of wood yesterday and is trying to see what he can get done today. This is the time of year when many people try to replenish their woodpiles.

These gentle, giant draught horses are used in the logging business to pull logs out of the woods with far less impact than most mechanical means. They are amazing creatures and so huge, the pictures do not do them justice. I hope to get out to the job site soon to get some pics of these incredible horses at work.

The rest of our Saturday will likely be a combination of housework (I hope to get a load of bed linens out to hang in the sun), a few games of Mancala and/or Uno, some baking and watching a video this evening.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Catching Up

It has been a busy week, so I have admittedly slacked on keeping up with the blog. Luna is going through a phase of rapid advances in language and I cannot get enough of hearing so many new words and phrases coming from her mouth. Kaya has been very excited about learning and creating lately. It is truly a joy to be able to homeschool her and witness all of the amazing moments that come with the experiences of learning and growing.

This week, Kaya was interested in photograpy and took the following pictures.




She has also been interested in writing and has written a few haiku.
Sisters
I love my sisters.
My sisters play hide & seek.
We play together.

And here is a cute little craft Kaya made out of a toilet paper roll. Every day is a flurry of paper and glue sticks and markers and tape. Last night, we picked up Nico and she brought her bunny, Theo, over from her Mama's house. Theo is going to be our guest while Nico and her Mom go to Florida next week.



Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another Great Mailbox Day!

Today, the mailbox had two free samples of Simple Green cleaner and a $2.00 off coupon. I also had envelopes with 4 FREE Tofutti products, 4 FREE Frutabu porducts and 5 $1.00 off coupons, and some coupons for $1.00 off Ian's frozen snacks.

I am so glad that I decided to write to all of those companies. It has really been a positive experience and will go a long way to fill out the pantry and freezer this month.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Recipe Worth Repeating

A few weeks ago, I posted to one of my online boards asking for ways to use up a big bag of lentils I bought. Several people recommended Honey Baked Lentils and I finally got around to trying out the recipe a few days ago. YUM!

It is not often I find a recipe that is not only cheap but also devoured by my family. Everyone here had seconds and thirds, plus Nico asked that I make it again for lunch yesterday.

Honey Baked Lentils
1 cup lentils
2 cups water
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soysauce (I used Braggs)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ginger (I omitted this)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
salt & pepper
In a baking dish (I use a loaf pan) combine all ingredients. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 until tender, about an hour. I stirred at least once during baking because the onions tend to rise to the top. We serve with rice and like it all stirred together.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Adventures in Frugality

Yesterday, Kaya had gymnastics in the afternoon, thanks to Grandma for helping with the tuition for this session. On the way out of the driveway, I stopped to grab the mail and instead of a big, fat wad of bills I found a big, fat wad of coupons! Perfect timing as we were hoping to stop at the grocery store to pick up a few staples. Earlier last week, in an effort to stretch our food budget for the month, I went to over three dozen different websites and left comments and our address.

So far, we have received envelopes with coupons from the following companies: Amy's kitchen (lots of great coupons and FREE items), Lundberg, Odwalla ($1 off and a FREE item), Ecover, Method Home cleaners, Earth Friendly Products, Stonyfield, Quorn, Robert's American, Clif and Luna bars (FREE coupons) and Tofurkey. I also printed off a few coupons I found online for Tribe Hummus, 8th Continent soymilk, and Honey Bunches of O's cereal (which is for Jay's late night sweet tooth attack).

At the store, our original total was to be $55.00 and I had over $22.00 in coupon savings , so I got everything for $30 and some change. I didn't even use all of the free coupons I had because I was unsure if the store would redeem them and didn't want a big hassle at the check out. Now that I know they *do* redeem freebies, I will score big next time we go to the store as well.

Monday, March 10, 2008

March Food Blog Party

One of my friends is participating in a blog party showcasing some favorite recipes. Seeing as we have been baking a lot lately, I will share a yummy recipe we made this weekend. My girls love to help out in the kitchen and it truly is a great learning experience to read the recipes, measure out the ingredients, follow the directions and then eat the product of their hard work.



Apple Pumpkin Muffins
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (we substited a shake of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
1/2 vegetable oil
2 cups finely chopped apples
In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In another bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin and oil, stir into dry ingredients until just moistened. Fold in apples. Fill paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full.
For a crumbly topping, combine 2 tbsp of sugar, 2 tbsp flour, a shake of cinnamon and 4 tsp of cold butter or margarine. Use a fork to combine and sprinkle over the tops of muffins. This recipe made 12 muffins, plus had enough batter left over to make a little cake.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Updating From Our Weekend

Hmmm, for some reason, Blogger isn't letting me upload the pics of the girlies from this weekend. So, I will show you a project that Jay completed while we were snowed and iced in. He had the shelving material saved from when we moved into our last house. We never worked on the closets of that house like we had hoped, which ended up being a good thing. Our landlord turned out to be a creep and wouldn't have reimburced us for improvements like initially promised. So, now we have one closet finished in our bedroom (there are three in there) for mine and Jay's clothes. Mine go on the left and Jay made three smaller shelves on the bottom that will hold bins or baskets for socks and unmentionables.


Sweet! I am forever thankful to have such a handy partner! Doesn't he do nice work?


Friday, March 7, 2008

She's home!

It has been about 2 1/2 weeks since Nico was home, due to coming down with the flu at her Mom's house. It is really hard to go that long without seeing her, our family just doesn't seem whole while she is gone. So, we were able to pick her up yesterday evening and I cannot even explain how great it feels to have her home again. My eyes well up with tears just thinking about how complete our family is when she's here.

Last night, Nico and Kaya were up giggling until after 10:30. Nico told us over and over how much she missed us and how happy she was to be back and we made sure she knew just how much we missed her. After the drama of the custody battle, it is so great to see Nico without stress and happy again. It was hard to let go and agree to such limited time with her, but it has also lessened the pressure Nico feels. I will update later with pictures of the sisters reunited. :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Awesome! Free Food!

The grocery budget has been tighter these last few weeks, and on a whim I recently searched Google for free coupons for some of the natural foods we like to buy. I came across this site: http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/articles/organic-coupons-natural-food-coupons/ which had some great tips.

When I had a second, I would go to various websites and find the Contact Us page to leave a comment and my address. In today's mail, there was an envelope from Amy's Kitchen with several coupons enclosed. We got six $1 off any product, five 55 cents off any product and four FREE products! I hope the other companies I contacted send out such great envelopes! This is really going to help stock the cupboards!

New York in a Nutshell





60's and sunny on Monday, 20's and an ice storm on Wednesday. I don't really mind the crazy March weather though, it just makes the coming of warm, Spring days all the better.
The girls are staying busy today while running obstacle courses made of couch cushions and all sorts of household things. Plus, with school being cancelled, we have a few friends available to come over for a play day.






Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Oh, one more thing!

video

Kaya's favorite thing in gymnastics is the beam. She practices here at home on a piece of wood laid down on the floor. In class, she is the only one of the girls who can do a round-off dismount without being spotted by the coach. Honestly, if she could practice on a real beam at home, I bet she'd be up there for at least an hour a day. When the nice weather is here to stay, Jay hopes to build a decent beam outside for her.

Sorry for the poor quality, but here is a little clip of her doing her thing.

Did You Miss Us?

In case you were wondering why there was no post yesterday, just take a look at this!


Yesterday was an incredibly warm and sunny day. By 11:00, we were in the 60's. After a few weeks in the single digits and teens, it felt downright Summery out there. I was able to open all of the windows and freshen it up in the house, which was wonderful! After lunch, we went down to town to pick up a few things that were waiting at the library for us. We took a bit of a walk around town and noticed how everyone seemed to be in a great mood. When we came home, I cleaned out the car and the sunroom, sat out on the porch and read for a few minutes and then came in to clean some more.
Luna just had to wear Sissy's sunglasses, the little goofball! And here are a few of Kaya's latest pages for her Alliteration Book.













Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Few Pictures From Yesterday

Yesterday, we dropped off our old Books Plus kit and picked up a new one. The theme for the one we have now is Backyard Fun. My girls *love* opening up a new kit and digging through to see what is inside. It's like a birthday or something! Luna is most fascinated with the puzzle that came with the kit.
On Thursday, when Kaya was in the midst of getting sick, our opportunistic dog took it upon himself to reach up to the counter and polish off almost an entire loaf of carrot bread that Kaya and I had made earlier. Bad, bad dog. Kaya was so upset because she hadn't even had a chance to taste it because she wasn't feeling well. So, yesterday morning we made another loaf and Kaya got to taste the product of her work. Mmmmm.


Today is just a regular cleaning day where I catch up with a few things I've been meaning to do. I took everything out of the fridge, including the shelves and bin, washed it all out and put things back in nicely organized. I'm also in the midst of shuffling a few things around in the kitchen cupboards, trying to make it more efficient.
The girls are playing and Jay is in the basement working on some shelving he is putting together to go in one of the closets in our bedroom. Tonight, we're going to meet up with my Mom, my sister and her husband and have dinner. Looking forward to some time with the family and some good food!