Monday, March 31, 2008

My Son Rocks

The Unplugged Project theme this week is "rocks."

We did not use any real rocks, but have faith -- there is more of a connection than the bad pun in the title.

I wanted to do an Easter craft with the kindergarten religious education class I teach at our church. Like usual, my first stop for ideas was the Bible section of my favorite site for paper crafts -- DLTK-kids. They have a good selection of Christian and secular Easter projects for various ages.

I really liked the "Angel Rolled the Stone Away" craft. It is simple, fun, cute, biblically accurate, and a good review for the kids. It obviously needed some modifications for our situation, however. We do not have the time or storage space to paint any of our crafts, so we used crayons. Additionally, since roughly half of the kids attend mass after religious ed., I did not think that arming them with loose paper rocks would be such a smart idea.

Now here comes the reference to my rockin' son. Agent 002 and I did a practice run of the craft on Friday afternoon. I played around with the balled up rock, trying to figure out how I could affix it to the plate so that it would not become a projectile. I was okay with making the rock stationary since (according to the Bible) the rock was already pushed aside when the women arrived at the tomb on Easter morning.

Without saying a word, Agent 002 picked up the stapler and produced this:

Then he spent the afternoon moving his rock back and forth, telling Agent 004 about the resurrection. Alleluia!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Did I Really Say that it is Spring?

From all of those egg posts this week, you may have gotten the impression that spring had arrived in our neck of rural suburbia. Not quite true, as you can see in these pictures of our tromp through the woods this morning:

That last photo shows Agent 004 in her "bear cave." I am hunting her down with my camera à la I'm Going on a Bear Hunt.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Haiku: Spring

As winter recedes
tides of mottled detritus
wash the spring ashore

WFMW: Bringing Cookies to the Party

It is Works for Me Wednesday, the day on which I wow the world with my acts of home-making wonder. Please don't laugh at me when you realize that all of my tips are things that you, your mama, and your cousin Thelma have been doing for years.

Disposable containers irk me. Call it just another sign of our affluent society, but I just can't see any justification for the financial and ecological cost of single-use plates, bowls, and containers.

How difficult is it really to put plates in your dishwasher after the meal?

In fact, I feel the self-righteousness rising up in my gut when we go to a party where there are stacks of styrofoam plates, bins of plastic forks, and coolers full of un-recyclable juice boxes.

This is a moral imperative, people. Disposable is wasteful!

Here's the rub: I hate chasing down my bowls and platters at the end of a party. Especially because I rarely want to stay until the end of a party. So when I am asked to bring something along, I lean toward disposable packaging. But I just can't bring myself around to purchasing Gladware for this purpose. Then I devised a simple, unwasteful (but tasetful) solution -- gift boxes. Look at those egg cookies the Agents painted this weekend:

Shirt boxes leftover from Christmas are the perfect size, quite stable, and very cute. These were a hit at Easter dinner at my sister's house. I sent a dozen cupcakes off to a PTA event* in a gift box last week, and they fit perfectly as well.

I keep a stash of used boxes** in the art room for impromptu gift-giving, marble painting and contained sensory fun, but even if you don't hoard Christmas wrappings,you may have something equally useful around the house. I know from experience that a single-layer cake fits snugly inside of a cereal box, and that shoe boxes are very versatile containers.

I can feel good (or at least better) about the container being discarded at the end of the day, since it is something that otherwise would have gone to waste.

Works for me!

*Yes, you read that right. P-T-A. And yes, I was in fact humming Harper Valley P.T.A. as I smeared homemade chocolate buttercream across the cupcakes.
**Yes, the waste of single-use wrapping bothers me as well, but that is a topic for another post.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I Wanna Be Like Gabe

As siesta was wrapping up this afternoon, Agent 002 came upon me reading blogs. He peered over my should at Heather's Unplugged entry.

Can we do that? I want to make humongous Easter eggs!
And he went right ahead and found a balloon to start another egg-tastic craft -- balloon decoupage:
It is currently hanging from the light fixture until it dries. Agent 002 can't wait until he gets to pop the balloon :)

A side note, another of our other egg projects was also inspired by Heather's blog.

You may have noticed that some of our paper Easter eggs have patterns on them. These were created by wrapping yarn around a toilet paper tube, dipping it in paint, and then rolling the tube on the paper eggs. Heather and her sons did this (much more neatly, I must add) last summer.

Which just goes to show you that I am not, in fact, very creative, but I have a good memory for other people's good ideas. I can only hope that every once in a while, something I post here inspires someone else.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Eggs

Eggs have always been considered a symbol of nature's rebirth in the spring. They have naturally taken on added significance at Easter, the rebirth of humankind through Christ's resurrection.

Thus, like most American families, we dyed hard-boiled eggs on Saturday.

We also joined our neighbors on a hunt for plastic eggs,

painted paper eggs,

and poured sugar glaze onto egg-shaped cookies
To see other egg-ity fun, check out this week's unplugged project.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Raise a Peep to the Lord!

The talk of the Mommysphere this Holy Week is the over-commercialization of Easter. Christian moms are concerned that Easter egg hunts and candy-filled baskets overshadow the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that we should be celebrating.

But you know what? As far as I am concerned, Walmart got it right on this one. This day is about candy eggs, bunny cake, and jellybeans; it is about brightly colored plastic eggs hidden under the couch; and it is about eating an enormous feast.

It is even about Marshmallow Peeps on a bed of plastic grass.

What do Marshmallow Peeps have to do with the resurrection?


Easter is about joy. Christ is risen. Did you hear that, people? Christ is risen. From the dead. To save us from our sins. Christ is risen! The gates of heaven are open, and we are saved.

There is no way to express in human words the infinite joy of Easter, so we say it in chocolate. And in marshmallow. And in pork and in mashed potatoes and in hot cross buns. This is our biggest party of the year.

Christ is risen! Raise a peep and praise the Lord.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Thursday, March 20, 2008

When You Don't Think They are Listening

This event occurred the week of October 1, 2007.
Your kids are listening when you least expect it.

No, this is not a post about embarrassing revelations; it is about a little boy and a painting. An illustration of heaven, in fact.

Some months ago, while I was on my internet diet, I read the story of Jacob to the children. Imagine the scene painted by Norman Rockwell : the well-coiffed mother with Bible open on her lap, baby nestled on her chest, a toddler under one arm, and a preschooler on her knee. A darling five-year old boy with a cowlick sits next to them listening intently. Except, in place of the boy paying rapt attention, substitute Agent 002 bouncing up and down on his knees, and picture the baby wriggling so much that he knocks the Bible off of the woman's lap every seventeen seconds. But otherwise it looked just like Rockwell painted us, I promise :)

In typical 3-year old fashion, Agent 004 asked a million and seven questions about the story. She was particularly caught up on the color of heaven, which is purple in the illustration on that page of our children's Bible.

All the while, Agent 002 bounced away on the other side of the tent with a toy in front of his face. It bothered me that he was not listening, but I decided to leave well enough alone and be happy that two of the four children seemed to be learning something from this experience.

A few minutes later we retired to the "red room" to play. Agent 004 pulled out a puzzle, Cousin F started coloring, and Cousin P crawled into the pool of rice. Agent 002 donned a smock and started painting at the easel. I watched him make broad strokes of red, then cover it up with swashes of blue. Then he flipped his brush over to etch into his painting with the blunt end of the brush.

In an accusatory tone, I asked him what he thought he as doing.
"Making the stairs so that the angels can come down from heaven into Jacob's dream."
He had painted the entire story, including the elements that were only in the illustrations he had never seen. He had been listening the entire time -- to my reading and to his sister's queries.

A glimpse of heaven through a five-year old's eyes (or is that ears?):

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

WFMW: 5-minute Pick-Up

It is my solemn duty to bequeath wisdom upon my readers in the form of a Works for Me Wednesday post each week. For more of my brilliance, check my WFMW archive. To find out what others are thinking, go to Rocks in My Dryer.

Let me start by telling you what does not work for me -- cleaning the house for 15 minutes straight. Flylady might tell you that "you can do anything for 15 minutes," but it just ain't happening here. Blame it on a busy schedule, four small children, or my minuscule attention span, but by the time 15 minutes has elapsed I have gotten sidetracked three times over. The normal stuff of life happens -- a diaper needs to be changed, a toddler needs a bandaid, the IM notification beeps... you get the picture.

What is manageable, however, is cleaning for 5 minutes. Okay, not cleaning, exactly, but managing the mess. I set a timer and walk around the house putting things back where they belong. I set aside 5 minute increments throughout the day -- after lunch, before dinner, and as the kids go to bed -- and also "take 5" as the mess demands. 5 minutes is also, coincidentally, the same amount of time that a 5-year old child spends in time out, so my timer is frequently already set for the correct increment. I even use my little darling's time outs as an opportunity to tidy up a bit.

I have recently started getting the kids in one the game - setting the timer and seeing if they can get a small job done in that time. On good days, Agent 002 is very excited when he can "beat" the timer. Even on bad days, it sets a limit on the kids' defiance I set the timer, and let them clean. I do not nag except to notify them when they have two minutes left. At the end of five minutes I put any remaining toys out in cold storage for the rest of the week. Cruel, yes, but it gives them great incentive to get the job done.

Here is an example of a mess-induced 5-minute-pick-up. This is our art room at 11:17 and 11:22 this morning. It still doesn't sparkle, but it "works for me."
Updated at 12:05 pm to include pictures

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Haiku: Circles

This is a scribble I created on the day that Agent 004 was born, four months before we learned of her existence. It would be another eight months (three days after the first anniversary of her birth), before she became our daughter.

She was not yet mine,
But I knew it in my heart --
Love you, baby girl.

Power Tools Unplugged

I didn't think that we would participate in the Unplugged project this week. We had a very busy week, capped by an all-day meeting on Saturday. On Sunday morning we went to mass, then religious education, where I attempt to teach 21 kindergarteners about God's love. Satisfying, but very tiring.

By Sunday afternoon, I was wiped. I laid down for a nap when the Agents did, but slept far longer than they ever do. And I woke up to this:
Mr warillever had been working on the mudroom project, but had stopped to teach the kids how to use his Dremel. The kids appreciated the time -- look at Agent 002's tribute to his Papa:
And no, I do not loan out my child-watching, pancake-cooking, house-remodeling man, but I might be tempted to rent him out for the right price.......

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Things They Carried (to Town Meeting)

The kids attended town meeting with us this morning.

To keep them entertained, they were each allowed to fill a backpack with quiet toys and books.

Agent 002 chose a Transformer, his stuffed Grover, and five My Little Ponies.

Agent 004 chose F's "baby" (yes, the same one she declared dead on Tuesday), a blanket, a plastic baby bottle, and a baggie of flubber.

I brought along the town report, water bottles, carrot sticks, apples, lollipops, and a thermos of coffee.

Fortunately the meeting only lasted three and a half hours this year.

Friday, March 14, 2008

100 Things About Me

There is a tradition in the blogging world to write a "100 Things" list as your hundredth post. I have far surpassed 100 posts, but have never listed more than 8 things about myself.

  1. Mr warillever and I have been married for nearly 8 years.
  2. No, I was not a child bride,
  3. but mr warillever says that I was a "mere child" when we met.
  4. I was 17; he was 18.
  5. That was freshman year in college.
  6. Yes, we were that sick couple that dated all through college
  7. and were engaged senior year.
  8. We got married a year later
  9. at the Catholic church on campus
  10. even though neither of us lived in the immediate area anymore.
  11. I was in Massachusetts, mr warillever was in Vermont,
  12. and the church was in New Hampshire.
  13. Right between us, actually.
  14. I was a full-time volunteer the year after college
  15. working with the immigrant community in my home town.
  16. I then joined mr warillever as a Social Studies teacher
  17. which was a great thing to do,
  18. but was never going to be my career.
  19. We left a few years later for graduate school,
  20. and spent three glorious years in the midwest.
  21. That is when I started this blog.
  22. We bought our first house,
  23. tended our first garden,
  24. and wound up with a cat.
  25. I worked in a library,
  26. which I enjoyed very much
  27. and I went to library school part-time.
  28. So I have a Masters degree,
  29. which I received in Mother's Day 2005
  30. which was somewhat sad because I was not yet a mother
  31. but was very very impatiently waiting to be one.
  32. We finally got to meet Agent 002 just three weeks later
  33. with mr warillever's graduation,
  34. the sale of a house,
  35. the purchase of a house,
  36. and a cross-country move in between.
  37. Yes, it felt that crazy even then.
  38. I know this because I blogged about it.
  39. Which is why I keep this blog up,
  40. and why I resurrected it after a long break.
  41. Actually it was this post that brought me back to blogging.
  42. I had forgotten that Agent 002 used to do that.
  43. This is the closest thing we have to a baby book,
  44. because I am not one of those crafty scrapbookers,
  45. and I don't even print out pictures of the kids
  46. even though I have a digital camera addiction.
  47. I took 643 pictures last month.
  48. I am aware that this might be considered disturbing,
  49. but I am okay with that
  50. because all four of them are at their cutest stage ever right now
  51. and I need to record it for posterity.
  52. Of course I thought the same thing 6 months ago.....
  53. Even on the days they drive me crazy (especially on the days they drive me crazy)
  54. I love these kids so much.
  55. I love watching them learn,
  56. I love watching them create,
  57. I love watching them come closer to God.
  58. And I love being a part of their growth.
  59. Even physically part of their growth, since I am the one that feeds them.
  60. Feeding my family makes me happy.
  61. It is the truest combination of art and love and science.
  62. My favorite dinner is Cincinnati Chili;
  63. it is one of the few beef dishes that I cook regularly. (recipe)
  64. I eat mine 5-way.
  65. I have never eaten it at Skyline,
  66. but I have ordered it at Steak n Shake.
  67. I have never actually "ordered their name" at Steak n Shake,
  68. which is because I don't like steak (or hamburgers).
  69. Despite my distaste for beef, I cook it at least once every two weeks,
  70. but usually hide the beef in a sauce (Cincinnati chili)
  71. or under vegetables (beef stir fry).
  72. I also cook fish at least once every two weeks,
  73. but my frugal grocery habits don't allow me to buy fresh fish very often.
  74. I stock up on canned salmon and tuna when they are on sale,
  75. and have established quite a repertoire with those two staples.
  76. My favorite is salmon burgers with Swiss cheese and Dijon mustard on homemade buns.
  77. I make bread nearly every day.
  78. Sean the First inspired me to try baking my own bread.
  79. He once let me try a homemade bagel.
  80. I have never tried making bagels,
  81. but I do make pretzels with the kids.
  82. I like pretzels
  83. and bagels.
  84. I'm a salty snack person,
  85. not a sweets-eater,
  86. but I do like black jellybeans
  87. and bread pudding.
  88. Nevertheless, I make make desserts frequently
  89. becuase mr warillever loves to eat them,
  90. and becuase I love to cook with the kids,
  91. but I don't have the patience to have them cook dinner with me.
  92. Some of my best memories are from baking for holidays with my mother and sisters.
  93. There is something special about the smell of soda bread and simmering vegetables.
  94. I am the youngest of five children,
  95. although our son is the oldest of my parents' six grandchildren.
  96. We live within an hour of my parents
  97. and all of my siblings
  98. which is incredibly valuable to me,
  99. and the major reason we moved to this area.
  100. I am grateful to have friends who will read through a list like this.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Three is Such a Cheerful Number

Agent 004 to a distraught younger cousin whose doll had gone missing:

That is sad. Dolly is probably dead.
To that same younger cousin, upon trying a new food:
Ham is very good. It is chopped up pigs. You like piggies.
To an older brother with a scary dream.
The monsters in your dream won't eat you. Only real monsters eat kids. Did you see a real monster?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Agents are Reading

We're not talking Dostoevsky here, or even Seuss, but the agents are reading books.

Agent 002 brought home a little flip-book from school to practice on -- I See a Butterfly.

This just happened to be the same day that Agent 004 made it through In My Hat from Hubbard's Cupboard, and homemade productions called The Cat That Sat on the Hat and Jan is a Cat.


WFMW: No-Spill Batter

Welcome to Wednesday at reprehriestless warillever, when I give you the little tips that "work for me." To find more handy-dandy tips, visit Rocks in my Dryer for Shannon's weekly WFMW carnival.
Today we have a cooking tip from mr warillever. Yes, you read that right -- a cooking tip from my blessed and wonderful but hopelessly culinary-impaired husband.

Mr warillever makes pancakes nearly every Sunday. He mixes the pancake batter in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, then pours the batter from the spout into the warm frying pan.

No mess, no dribble, and no ladle to put down between batches.

A splendid hack, and one that I have taken on with gusto. I now mix batters, sauces, and dressings in my liquid measuring cups, then pour without a mess.

Works for me!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Jonah and the Giant Fish in the Great Foil Sea

These collages were completed during my internet diet last fall, but they fit well with this week's Unplug Your Kids "shiny" theme.
Jonah and the Fish, according to young children:

After disobeying God, Jonah is caught in a storm at sea. Agent 004 artfully symbolized the storm by wrinkling her foil (or at least I would like to believe that is why the foil is so crinkled).

Jonah is swallowed by a large fish covered in glue: (Cousin F's work)

The fish delivers Jonah to the shore, and then the fish all live happily ever after. Look at those fish smile: (Agent 002's work)

Haiku: Kindness

"Do unto others"
is a very simple rule,
but hard to follow.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Why Can't I be a Comma?

Or a question mark? Or even an ellipses?

You Are a Colon

You are very orderly and fact driven.

You aren't concerned much with theories or dreams... only what's true or untrue.

You are brilliant and incredibly learned. Anything you know is well researched.

You like to make lists and sort through things step by step. You aren't subject to whim or emotions.

Your friends see you as a constant source of knowledge and advice.

(But they are a little sick of you being right all of the time!)

You excel in: Leadership positions

You get along best with: The Semi-Colon

Friday, March 07, 2008

Boogie Woogie

The whole quarto was grooving to some jam band* favorites.
Look for the little foot tapping to the beat on the right edge of the frame.

*Yes, I both own live-recorded jam band CDs, and let my kids dance to the instrumentals.

Thank you, Internets!

Thank you for all of your advice about digital file storage.

I have already started backing up my files onto CDs. Those of you who suggested DVDs may have misunderstood what I meant when I said that my laptop is "elderly." My poor old computer does not know what a DVD is, and would probably set it on fire if I asked it to "burn" one.

Speaking of fire, the librarian in me decided to burn a second set which will be stored off-site in case my house burns down. Well that and so my father will have access to my photos. Have I mentioned that the digital camera addiction is a hereditary trait? My father pushed off his retirement for three months so that he could purchase a Sony Mavica.

I thought (briefly) about storing my photos online, but decided against it for a variety of reasons. The biggest reasons is that I wouldn't have instant access to the photos like they were on my hard drive. Thus, I will buy sime thumb drives for active use of the photos. Once I do that, I will delete the files from my computer so that the poor thing can function once again.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

WFMW: Help me Find Some Space

It is a backwards "Works for Me Wednesday," in which I get the opportunity to ask your advice. Please help me, pretty please?

No, not space away from my children (although that would be nice sometimes), but on my computer.

You see, I have an elderly laptop with only 18GB hard-drive. I also have a digital camera addiction. Blame it on record snowfalls and some really cute kids, but I took 643 pictures in February alone.

I have defragmented, done a "disk cleanup," and deleted duplicate files. And we are still at 97% capacity. There is17.44GB stored on the computer.

Short of buying a new computer or external drive, what can I do? What do the rest of you camera hounds do with your pics?

More Questions: Who can view pictures on online storage sites like Shutterfly or Picasa? I would be a little skeeved if total strangers could see pictures of my kids taking a bubble bath.... Can I somehow ban strangers while giving Grandma permission?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Big Brother

Agent 002 pulls Agent 004 to the library.

Rebirth of Haiku

Although I am not a poet, I am still willing to scribble a few lines now and again. This is my entry for "change" at the new haiku blog One Single Impression.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Singing our Lives Away

The "unplugged" theme this week is music.

I haven't done much with music except to have it constantly available. Although I frequently rotate toys out to cold storage,* there is always a basket of musical instruments for the kids to play with. The Agents are well aware that even though screaming is prohibited in the house, I always allow loud music. This frequently results in a four-child heavy metal band screaming gibberish at the top of their lungs. All in good fun, right?

I also sing all day. To keep myself from screaming in frustration, I have set many of the standard household commands to music. For instance, when one of the children squirms at dinner, I substitute that child's name for "John" in the song "Sit Down John" from the musical 1776 (obviously skipping the blasphemous phrase in the original). To keep the military discipline up, our clean-up song is set to the tune of a reveille bugle call:

It's time to clean up
It's time to clean up
It's time to clean up the t-oys

It's time to clean up
It's time to clean up
It's time to clean up the t-oys
Each of the children has a theme song. P started to recognize his (which is sung to the tune of "Copa Cabana") by the time he was 5 or 6 months old. Agent 004 loves hers because it has choreographed kissing throughout. F's song is an ever-changing version of "Frere Jacques." Agent 002's is my favorite: it is an original tune with "I love you" in both English and Russian. He frequently requests it when we snuggle.

Here is a snippet of the song that allows me to blog. Sing along to the tune of The Muppet Show theme song:
It's time to go to bed now.
It's time to get some sleep.
It's time to lay your head down.
Its time to get some rest now.
At the *** house today.

Why do we always do this?
As if you didn't know.
It's kind of like a torture
To have to make you go.

It's time to go to bed now.
It's time to get some sleep.
It's time to lay your head down.
Its time to get some rest now.
At the *** house today.

*cold storage = our three-season porch

Sunday, March 02, 2008

So Small

The world is so big, and Agent 004 is so small.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


This week's obsession has been construction. We started the week off right with cracker structures for breakfast on Monday.It took the Agents two days to build this train station out of cardboard. The vestibule (based loosely on Washington DC's Union Station) is built of interlocking toilet paper tubes.* I love the detail that went into this project. You can not see it very well in this picture, but there is a train in the tunnel and people are waiting on the platform.

*We read about "TP tube tower blocks" in Steven Caney's Ultimate Building Book. Cut four equidistant slits on one end of each tube. To connect the blocks, hook the unslit end of one tube over a tab on the block below it. With practice, you can make rigid panels, slanted walls, or huge towers out of the tubes.
Here is Agent 002's wooden block house just before demolition. The wrecking balls have been a big hit all week.
As you would expect, we also read many books about construction. Agent 002 selected the books and checked them out on his very own library card. Here are quick reviews of our favorites.

Steven Caney's Ultimate Building Book by Steven Caney

Not a story book (or even a book that small children would like to page through), this is a valuable resource for a parent or older child. It is full of creative ideas like "TP tower blocks" and "cake blocks and frosting mortar." It also provides technical explanation of why certain structures are stronger or more efficient as well as the history of many of the materials.

Underground by David Macaulay

Again, this is not a story book, and the vocabulary is far beyond a preschooler's comprehension. Nonetheless, this is Agent 002's favorite book because of the detailed illustrations. He was fascinated to learn about the infrastructure of a city and all of the goings-on below the surface.

Up Goes the Skyscraper by Gail Gibbons

A step-by step description of how a skyscraper is built. The book is approachable for small children but does not oversimplify the process.

A Day in the Life of a Builder by Linda Hayward

Like the title implies, this books follows a builder throughout the day as he supervises the construction of five homes. It is cute, simple, and introduces the business and customer service sides of construction.

Construction Zone by Tana Hoban

A picture book, Construction Zone provides an action shot and a close up of various pieces of construction machinery. The only words are the labels on each page, although there are verbal descriptions of each machine at the end of the book.