Sunday, April 28, 2013

Duct Tape and Free Time

Sometimes I am concerned that a lack of free time in general is going to produce fewer inventors in our kids' generation. Overly structured time leads to less idle brain noodling, right? Seems logical.

I am less worried today than I was before, because if there are more kids like my youngest out there, we should be just fine. I came upstairs this Sunday morning, after watering the garden, to find her deep in the middle of a serious activity.

I thought she had gone up to the playroom to watch TV, but I heard her talking to herself in what sounded like a judge’s scoring explanation. Seated in a corner of the playroom (she must have had to shovel a clear space first) she had a piece of paper and pen and a ton of duct tape rolls. They were all different patterns and colors.

As I got closer, I could see it wasn't haphazard. It rarely is with her. She was rolling the duct tape rolls to see how far they would go. She then was pairing up the rolls with like distances and scoring the distances of their combined rolls. She was keeping careful track of the results on her paper.

“I'm doing an experiment,” she said, not looking up at me but sensing my presence. “I’m seeing how far the different duct tapes will roll and which ones will roll the farthest.”

She kept going with her experiment.

“They have different amounts of tape on them so they roll different distances,” she explained as she rolled.

“Ah,” I said.

“This is very confusing because this rolled a two and that rolled a two and that rolled an 8 and that rolled an 8 so now they have to verse each other. These two rolled a five so they have to verse each other. Wait, I'm losing track. Add that to that and they got a 13 and that got a seven. Oh wait, orange and pink got seven and four so they got an eleven! I have to see which got third now.”

All in one breath without looking up. Impressive.

“First place is orange and pink, second is denim and Hello Kitty, third place is zebra, cheetah and rainbow, and last place is purple and grey.”

I was pretty impressed by her tracking skills.

“It took some thinking to add up all their rolls,” she said with a sigh. “The orange and pink have the least tape on them and they have less weight and rolled further.”

She made some marks on the paper.

“The grey and purple have the most tape and the most weight so they didn't roll very far.”

She is seven, ya'll.

Like I said before, I'm not as worried as I was before.

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Guerrillas in the Midst: Earth Week Seed Balls

Guerrilla Gardening. Sounds a bit odd. I picture a housewife from the '50's (read June Cleaver) sporting greasepaint on her face and a camo apron, stealthily slinking through her petunias, spade raised at attention. Beware aphids, everywhere!

In the real world, guerrilla gardening refers to a growing movement of urban hipsters (read Zooey Deschanel) who surreptitiously green up nasty vacant lots and other bare places in their concrete jungles. Often moving under cover of darkness, they clean up trash, pull weeds and plant flowers. Some places sport high, razor wire topped chain link. Alas! But wait, the guerrilla gardeners have developed a work-around. Undaunted, GGs (soooo tired of typing guerrilla gardeners. Drat-did it again!) have come up with recipes for little seed-filled missiles to toss nonchalantly over fences. Wherever they land blooms after a few rains. This does, of course, assume no scary junkyard dog runs off with them.

 So, back to me. I know, I know, so needy! I don't live in an urban environment. I live in the 'burbs. Not far enough out that I can have chickens but far enough that I've had a wild turkey in my yard. And yes, the bird, not the booze.

Anyway, you would think out here that everything is verdant, lush and landscaped. That beauty abounds and flowers flourish.

I say nay, nay.

There are still ugly strips of weedy neglect, frontage road wastelands, parking lot medians that need a little something extra. So there is room for improvement, even out here. Plus, who doesn't like to see an unexpected burst of flowers?

We decided to fix that by making our own seed balls.

One of the girls' pals was in my elementary school garden club last year. She shares our affinity for growing things and so we invited her to join our Secret Society of the Green Thumb. Okay, we aren’t really called that but it sounded cooler that way.

In honor of Earth Day, and the eventuality of spring, we gathered to mix up a batch of these little flower grenades.

After poring over many recipes, I came up with a hybrid that seemed to be the best fit for us. Here is how we made our seed balls, er bombs, er grenades…

 Clay: We used Crayola air-dry. It was too chilly this morning to dig up native clay, but if we do this again, that's the route I will take. Some recipes call for powdered or dry clay, but breathing in the silica particles if the powder gets in the air is dangerous so I wouldn't use that method with kids. Buy it at Hobby Lobby or Wal-Mart.

 Organic compost: Some folks don’t have any hang-ups about the compost being organic or not. I use organic gardening products in our home garden because we eat out of it so I had organic. You can get some at Lowe’s or Wal-Mart.

 Seeds: I think you should always use native species when doing this with flower seeds. That way you don’t do more harm than good. We chose native Texas wildflower seeds from Lowe’s.

 Water: Self-explanatory.

Butter knives for portioning.

That’s it.

Now for the fun part. My friend Amber and I gathered our three youngest girls (the older two joined when middle school let out) together on our driveway. I spread a plastic tablecloth on the ground for a smooth, non-porous surface and assembled all the ingredients.

After a quick tutorial (to follow) the girls took off. Cranking out missiles like pros.

I kept up with jotting down quotes until my fingers were too caked with clay to handle the phone. I lost track of who said what, but here are the highlights.

First, cut off a chunk of clay and flatten it into a pancake-not paper thin but not ¼” thick.

 “Ooh, it’s like we are making a pizza,” one of them instantly said.

Next, sprinkle a layer of seeds on the clay.

 “This is like granola,” another said. “It can be a dessert pizza!”

“Like we added granola to white chocolate dough.”

“Or it could be sugar-cookie dough crust,” suggested their pal.

Now add a generous layer of compost.

sorry, fuzzy pic.
“Now add the chocolate to the top.”

Then drizzle a little water into the mix. Not enough to goop it up, just to dampen the compost.

 “Now you drizzle on the chocolate syrup.”

I told them to use the knives to cut the “pizzas” into quarters.

“What is quarters?” asked the youngest.

“Cut it in half and then in half again.”

“Oh, in fourths!”


“So this is like a math, gardening, cooking show,” said the youngest.

Scraping the dough up carefully, ball up each pie piece, containing the soil and seeds in the center of each ball.  Then roll the balls in more compost until they are coated. “I lost my Earth Truffle,” said the youngest as she dredged one in compost. “Oh, whew, I found it!”

 The compost will feed the seeds as they grow and the clay will hold it all together and keep birds from eating the seeds too soon.

Of course, as we reached this step and the balls started accumulating, they started discussing what else they looked like.

 “Ummmm, it looks like a big rabbit came by here with a stomachache,” said one of the girls. (Aren’t girls soooo much more delicate than boys?) They all dissolved into gales of giggles.

And then, just when I thought I had lost them to potty humor, the middle child said, “I'm gonna teach my kids how to do this.”

Melting Mommy!

On that note, we wrapped it all up. We now have a good stash of truffles. I’ll post back about how we dispersed them. The hubby has a really great idea involving a golf club and a vacant lot…we’ll see!

P.S. The youngest wants me to remind you that even if they look like truffles you can’t eat them!

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Village People

“I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves,
Everybody’s nerves, everybody's nerves.
I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves,
and this is how it goes.

I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves,
everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves.
I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves,
and this is how it goes.

I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves,
everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves.
I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves,
and this is how it goes.”

Got it? Great. Repeat that for about 15 minutes. Getting the picture more clearly now? Ahh, cringing a bit aren’t you? This is the water boarding-esque torture that my uberpatient friend Amber endured while ferrying my normally sweet youngest to gymnastics today.

In her very kind way she let the madness continue due to the fact that is was “fascinating that she didn’t breathe the whole time.”

I must applaud her for the fortitude to not stop the car and leave my seven year-old, inanely singing, on the side of the road. But that’s what we do. We help our friends, even at the risk of going mad. What would we do without our friends? It truly does take a village.

With a hubby that is frequently on the road and three VERY active children, my village saves my life daily. Whether it is with a kid taxi, meal suggestion, lunch invite or an ear to listen to whining about the daily grind. All are valuable and I am blessed to receive all from my myriad of pals.

We have to help each other or we would lose our minds. We no longer live in a world where we can just send Janie and Johnny out the door with a PB&J and a smile, calling out “see you when the street lights come on sweetie!” and collect our wits (and dust bunnies) while they are gone.

We shuttle to activities, games and classes because it isn’t really that safe to let our kids run wild anymore. I try to give my three as much outdoor time as possible, but they just don’t have the type of freedom I enjoyed as a child. Consequently, there is stress. Stress to get from place to place in a timely manner. 

"Do we have the right leotard/shoes/hairband/water bottle/snack/bat/glove/bag/mouth guard/vest/etc. we need for the four places we have to be on Tuesday?" 

"Is there gas in the car?" 

"Can I be in McKinney, Flower Mound and Lewisville all at the same time?" 

The answer to those questions is very often “No!” but we do our best.

We pre-prepare, we plan, we set the phone alarm five minutes sooner, we double check, but we still slip up. Someone ripped her tights, a jersey is dirty, a water bottle spills on homework, or a snack hits the ground.

Life happens.

Often in those moments when it feels like either Mayhem or Murphy (you know, the one with the Law) is stalking you, it's a maternal angel who swoops in to save the day. A friend, a fellow mom, bringing spare bobby pins or an extra Caprisun to the rescue. A ride home or a pair of eyes on a dropped-off child to ease my worries when I leave. 

These are the folks I know will see dirt on my floor and laundry on my couch and still hang out and share a cup of joe anyway. So thankful for their grace! 

These are the ladies who are my support system and my team. They are my village and my joy. I am thankful for and blessed by all of you-this and every week. May I be there for you when you need help too. And maybe, just maybe, together we can come up with a song that gets on our kids' nerves!

"Ever feel like this?"

Friday, April 19, 2013

Faith and Hope in The Face of Tragedy

This has been a bad week. A tragic week. Historically, too, this has been a tragic week. The assassination of President Lincoln, the sinking of the Titanic, the Oklahoma City bombing and Columbine. All happened this week. Now the West, Texas factory explosion and the terrifying events in Boston make it a sad and scary time.

Having young children makes this also a week of dichotomies. On the one hand, you want to keep an eye on the events unfolding. On the other hand you want to shield your children from the questions, the pain and the innocence-robbing insanity.

You want to save them from watching the explosions-accidental and intentional. The constant barrage of images that evoke tears and questions you can’t always answer.

You want to show them, too, that America is a nation that comes together to bring fugitives to justice, to serve and protect, to donate blood and open homes. It is important to explain to the kids how we should behave in those moments of barest humanity.

On this week of tragedies, past and present, we still have reasons to celebrate. Celebrate life, family and community. Reasons to celebrate God. I tend to go out into nature, to my garden to cope with the stress. I look at the beauty God has created and the amazing ways He has designed it all to work.

We released ladybugs today and they immediately began foraging for food, devouring the gnats that were sheltering under the romaine leaves. They came out of their mesh bag, their captivity that was all they had known, and instantly went to work.

I took the kids out there to divert them from the TV crawl. They were able to release these beautiful creatures and learn about why we need them. They were able to look closely at a beautiful caterpillar on the parsley that will soon become an even more beautiful butterfly. They were able to pick fresh broccoli from the plant and snack as they observed.

Innocence and beauty and perfect design. All preferable to horror and fear, pain and sadness.

Perhaps the greatest reason to be glad this week is that the 6th graders at our church, including our own sweet girl, are being Confirmed tomorrow.  I can't think of a better time to equip these precious children with the knowledge and assurance of their God. In a time of terror and sadness, to know you can reach out and find comfort in the arms of your God is more powerful than any disaster.

Our prayers and hearts go out to the people whose lives were shattered last night in an explosion in West, to those whose victorious moments at the finish line of the Boston Marathon turned to shock and terror. To those who have huddled in their homes all night and day in Boston, unsure of the location of a madman. Prayers, too, go out to people across the nation that struggle to know why these acts of terror continue to threaten and assault us.

My faith is in God and I pray for comfort. For the words to tell my children. For the words to tell myself. I am thankful for the journey that over 80 kids are about to embark upon to grow their faith in Christ, and know the peace that comes with that faith. God, please grant peace.

I leave you with some images that give me peace. I hope they provide some for you.

God Bless.


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