Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On Stick Forts and Ramshackle Gardens













We spent the weekend in true Reintjes style working in the yard on ramshackle projects using bits and pieces of things lying about.*  The boys are hard at work on a new fort that Chris cleverly designed by sinking sticks in the ground and telling the kids that they needed to gather up all the sticks in the yard they can find to build up the walls by making a kind of wattle fence.  It's a win-win.  The children get a fort and the grown ups get the sticks cleared away.

It will take a lot of sticks to finish off those walls.

We also worked a bit on shoring up the garden.  It's September and the tomatoes are finally tomato-ing.  That might tell you something about our gardening skills.

We should probably not be allowed to make gardens.  This particular one was designed before we actually knew what the sun situation would be in the new backyard during the summer.  Spoiler, there's significantly less sun there than there was in the winter when the trees were bare.  Really, we mostly positioned the garden to disguise a very ugly cement wall.  If this were our forever house I would have put in hydrangeas there, but we didn't have time to grow up bushes large enough to cover that amount of ugly wall so a garden it was.

Really I like to think of all of our gardening endeavors as practice gardens until we actually have a home of our very own to put in a real professional garden.

So far we've learned that:


  1. We shouldn't plant tall things in tall planters or we won't be able to reach the vegetables to harvest them.  
  2. We should always check where the sun will shine before we plan our garden.  
  3. Also, we should put the garden somewhere we'll actually remember to look after it.  This might not work if you are like me and like the idea of gardening better than the reality of actually tending gardens.  
  4. On a related note, we probably should check our garden more than once a week.  
  5. Don't overplant the garden.  The plants will grow larger than we think they will. Really.
  6. It's silly not to harvest the lettuce.  Just make a salad for goodness sake.  But lettuce plants can turn into pretty amazing flowers if you let them just go to seed so maybe they weren't a complete waste.
  7. Maybe next time we should just stick with herbs.  My chives are doing very well.  You might even say I'm a master chive grower.  

There are probably other lessons in there as well, mostly revolving around not planting overly ambitious gardens when you have babies in the house.  I doubt we'll ever really learn that particular lesson though, hope does spring eternal.



*When I say "we" I mostly mean "Chris."  I mean it was raining most of the time and someone had to stay dry inside listening to the end of their audio book and tending the baby, right?  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

On the Birthday Boys and Secret Surprises










This week Chris and David had back to back birthdays--as they do every year--but this year posed an new problem in choosing the best time to celebrate since their birthdays fell on week days and Chris leaves for work before the children are awake and doesn't generally return home until well past the time when they are supposed to be in bed.

Luckily for us, at the last minute Chris' boss decided to take a day off so he was able to take the day off as well.  When the cat's away and all that.  Actually, when the cat's away the mouse tends to leave the office just a wee bit early and then bring all of his unfinished work home to complete in the evening, but for the sake of the birthday story lets all imagine him playing.  So we were able to celebrate both birthdays together on Chris' actual birthday.  David wasn't the least bit upset that he got to have the cake he chose and open all of his presents a day early.  On his actual birthday his Cubscout pack had their annual rocket launch anyway so everything worked out perfectly.  Right down to his chosen special birthday dinner of microwave Star Wars mac n' cheese which I think is really gross but was nevertheless an ideal thing to give the children for dinner when I needed them to eat at 3:45 in order for them to get to the rocket launch on time.

We picked out some excellent presents for David, including a wallet and some already beloved Calvin and Hobbes books which I will likely regret giving him but I was most proud of the surprise I was able to pull off for Chris.

Years ago his old bike was run over by my car--it's hard to say for certain who was at fault really, but I maintain that the bike must not have been properly stored in the garage for it to have found it's way under my tires in such a small space.  Anyway,  he's been without a bike for the past seven years or so. This year our new neighbor gave me his wife's old bike, and another neighbor gave us a children's bike trailer so everyone in the family had a bike/way to be transported by bike but Chris.

Well, no more!  I saved up my spending money and tracked down a refurbished street bike on Craigslist that very much resembles that wonderful, crushed, bike of old.  I managed to pick it up (with the assistance of a neighbor who watched all of the children who would have blabbed my secret), sneak it into the house, and hoist it up into the attic where it stayed for almost a month unbeknownst to anyone but me.  On the day before Chris' birthday I snuck it back down out of the attic and hid it in the baby's room where I retrieved it during one of my many, many, many, many, many late night nursing sessions and brought it out into the kitchen for him to find the next the morning.

He was pretty surprised.

I love giving really good gifts, and I really love pulling off great surprises.  I'm not always successful because I'm really bad at telling lies--my face always gives me away.  So successful secret surprises must be so secret that no questions at all are asked me about it.  Once questions start, the whole thing will inevitably fall apart.  Luckily, he never imagined I'd try to find him a new bike and I think he was genuinely shocked.  

Let the family bike rides begin :)  

Monday, July 3, 2017

On Adventures in Homeschool Planning and Creeks











I've been mostly buried in a pile of homeschooling plans and books and papers for the past two weeks as I attempt to get everything squared away for next year.  I'm shooting for an August 1 start which will give us plenty of time to take a week off in between terms this year and still finish by the first week of May.  I always finish by the last week of May in general because I just can't do lessons after Memorial Day, but I think having all of May off sounds so much better don't you?

My main problem now is the fact that the stores, who can be relied upon to routinely jump the gun on putting out all holiday goods months in advance of the actual holidays, have yet to put out their school supply displays.  And my mind won't rest easy until I have procured all of the children's school supplies and created the fantastic new binders that I have envisioned for each of them.  I'm thinking Trapper Keepers.  That's still a thing right?

Don't worry, I have managed to crawl out from under my piles to have some good old fashioned summer fun and get some nature adventuring in with the kids while we can.  This particular park was beautiful and so, so shady.  It must have been ten degrees cooler inside than out and there was a creek.,,,,and who doesn't love a creek?  I'm not sure what was past the creek exactly since once the children laid eyes on it they were done with hiking and just wanted to frolic there for the rest of the morning.  Maybe one day we'll be able to get past it but somehow I doubt it.  It was a pretty magnificent creek.

Friday, June 9, 2017

On a Bit of a Vacation










 




Whenever I say that we took a vacation I generally mean that we took a trip to visit some subset of our family that it's been much too long since we've seen--and this vacation was no different.

This time we loaded up the van and drove the ten hours to get to our family in Michigan and it was glorious.  Giant dunes were hiked, fires were enjoyed, wine was drunk, children frolicked, family was visited, and visited, and visited, touristy souvenirs were purchased, birthdays were celebrated, and everything was just lovely in general.

I left with a jar of cherry salsa, chocolate covered cherries and a Petoskey stone that was not found, but purchased from a store specializing in selling overpriced souvenir stones to tourists.  I don't care, when you're a tourist with no knack for finding your own Petoskey stone you do what thousands have done before you and pay someone else to do your legwork.

It must be the mark of a good vacation that I hardly have any pictures at all and it's probably a testament to the beauty of Michigan that over half of the pictures that I do have are just shots of the gorgeous scenery.

Michigan really is beautiful.

In the summer.

Living as close to DC as we do, I have a fairly constant longing for peace, quiet, and wide open spaces and last week we were able to soak up all three in spades.  Of course now comes the momentous task of digging out from the vacation mess and readjusting to regular life.  I very cleverly planned our last week of homeschooling to be this week, because who doesn't want to come home from vacation and have a week of standardized testing and exams?

Wish us luck--only one more week until summer break  :)  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

On Turning Seven and Marshmallow Fights



















We've been alternating birthday parties for a few years now since I don't have the mental energy to throw full blown parties for this many children every time, but this year Henry really wanted a full blown party--and since his party desires coincided with my desires to get to know our new neighbors better I figured we should go for it.  He wanted basically the same party he had when he turned five, except instead of a "war guy" theme he asked for a "Revolutionary War" theme.

I guess that's what happens when you move down the street from Mount Vernon.

We attempted to play capture the flag with the addition of weaponized marshmallows-dipped-in-flour.  I divided the kids into teams of Red Coats, Colonists and medics and they set to work building forts out of random things in our yard.  Lucky for them we have a lot of random pieces of brick/wood/pallets/other bits of detritus in our yard.  They made some pretty epic forts.  Once the forts were constructed the kids started playing capture the flag which degenerated pretty quickly into some sort of game that involved mostly running around the yard and pelting each other with marshmallows with the occasional dirty flour marshmallow snack break.  I'm sure there were rules of some sort or a goal of some kind.  I didn't really care, the kids all played happily until I realized it was fifteen minutes until the party was supposed to end and called them back for cake eating and pinata wacking.  I call that a party success!

Originally I wasn't going to make a pinata at all, but when Henry looked at me with his big sad eyes, what could I do?  I felt a little bad about hitting an American flag with a bat but I thought the British flag would be too tricky to make, what with all the diagonals and all.  Don't worry, the children were very respectful as they broke the flag to pieces and shoved each other to the ground in their attempts to collect all the candy they could for themselves.

It's every man for himself on the battle field.

Overall it was a pretty good party if I do say so myself, and I think we made a good impression on the neighbors to boot.  Henry even had so much fun he didn't have one complaint all day, which was basically a birthday miracle :)

Also, I can't believe my little guy is already seven.


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