This Week’s Project Download…

You would think that with  my husband home I’d be able to get a lot more done with the the extra hands.  No such luck.  However, I am happy to report my husband took on a couple of projects this past week.  He busted out his muscles and did quite a bit for us!  Thank you, deary (insert belly rub)!

The weather was great this weekend.  The kids spent both days outside, ALL day.  One of the things I love about our little homestead is that the kids can go outside and literally play to their hearts content.  They can bike up and down the road with no worries.  They can trek in to the woods and explore.  This weekend they set up a plank headed towards the pond so they can put some chairs out and, as my daughter says, “chill”.  The best part of the weekend… all of our neighbor kids were out four wheeling together.  Everyone had so much fun!

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I have a love/hate relationship with my brother-in-law.  He is extremely free spirited and will show up at our house on a whim.  I hate that.  My kids love him to pieces, and there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for my kids.  I love that.  So, I accept his quirkiness and feed him a ton of food every time he shows up for a visit.

A few months ago, while my husband was away at sea, he shows up to the house.  As he is playing WWF with the kids my daughter’s bed breaks.  She has been sleeping on a bed held up by a few old books.  This week my husband made a bed frame for my daughter out of pallets.  Some may think it’s a bit cheesy, but she loves it!  He put black lights under the slats that creates a glow in the dark effect at night for her.

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Speaking of pallets… we have a bunch of them.  A trip to a box store proved pay dirt.  We’ll be making a potato bin as well as a lettuce/herb garden.  I’ll be sure to post pictures once they are built.

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The tree house flooring is near completion.  The kids are quite eager to finally get their bean bags inside.  My daughter created the first sign for the tree house.  I hope that in a couple more weeks all will be done and the kids can spend countless hours hiding away.  I am hoping for this tree house to be the ultimate reading room for them!

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My reading was very poor this week.  I’m trying really hard to finish a book I had been so excited to read.  Unfortunately, my progress has been slow.  I am bound and determined to finish it this week though!

A couple of weeks ago I read “I Funny: A Middle School Story” by James Patterson (yes, the same James Patterson that writes thrillers – he also writes children’s books).  It was a quick read about a boy, Jamie Grimm, who wants to become the world’s greatest stand-up comedian.  Jamie has a lot of personal obstacles but keeps a wonderful sense of humor.  He decides to enter a contest called The Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic.  I found myself cheering Jamie on the whole way.  He is an extremely likable boy who is amazingly strong.  Not only was this book clever and funny, it was heartwarming.

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This Week’s Project Download…

Happy Maple Syrup Sunday!

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In Maine we celebrate Maple Syrup Sunday on the second to the last Sunday in March.  Did you know that Maine is the second largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S.?

Here are some other interesting factoids:

– It takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make one gallon of pure Maine Maple Syrup.

– It takes freezing cold nights and warm sunny days with temperatures in the 40’s and up before the sap will run.

– It takes approximately 40 years for a sugar maple tree to reach tapping size.

Our home has once again taken on the challenge of tapping our own trees.  Each year is a bust for us when it comes time to make syrup.  But I am determined to one day get it right, without having to spend thousands of dollars on industrial equipment.  We shall see what the next couple of weeks bring.  Hopefully it will be some syrup… even if it’s just a small pint!

I didn’t get much done project wise.  I think I needed some down time after all the stress from the Pinewood Derby.  I also needed a couple of days to get this house in order before my husband came home.  His patrol is finally over and the kids and I will have some time with him before he takes off yet again in another month.

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One thing husband and I did was start some cool weather crops down in the basement.  Using grow lights we (or should I say he) planted cabbage, brussel sprouts, onions, peas and beans.   We are so excited to finally get the garden started this year.  We have so many ideas and plans.  I hope to have an over abundance of crops.  Enough to share with our friends and neighbors!

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I love knitting, although I love yarn more.  I wish I had more time to knit and learn more knitting techniques.

Last summer, when I found out I was having another baby girl, I began knitting a blanket.  Here we are over 8 months later and the blanket is no where near finished.  I’ve promised myself that this darn blanket is going to be finished by the time summer arrives.  That should give me more than enough time… right?  Let’s hope so!  Or else Baby Girl will end up using this blanket as a towel cloth instead!

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This week I read “Touch Blue” by Cynthia Lord.  The story takes place in Maine so, of course, I had to enjoy the book.  I always love how authors depict Maine and New England in general.  It’s so refreshing and peaceful.  I can literally smell the ocean air and feel the sand gritting between my toes.  It’s fantastic.  In “Touch Blue” families volunteer as foster parents to meet minimum state requirements to keep their school open on the island where they live.  The story focuses on 11-year old Tess and her new, older, foster brother Aaron, a veteran of the foster care system.  I particularly like how each chapter begins with a superstition.  My favorite is Chapter 16, ‘If you write your wish beneath the stamp on a letter, the letter will carry the wish with it.”

Life’s Lesson… What is Winning Worth…

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Ahh… not only is spring around the corner, it’s Pinewood Derby time.  The Pinewood Derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts in the Boy Scouts.  Cub Scouts, with the help of parents, build their own cars from wood, usually from kits that contain a block of pine, plastic wheels and metal axles.  Truth be told, I didn’t know what the derby was until last year when my son joined the Cub Scouts.

The derby came right at a time when my husband began a 2-month patrol.  If you ask me (and him), horrible timing.  I panicked.  I have no clue how to build things, let alone build things that are suppose to move.  A neighbor offered to have my son build his car with their son.  At first it sounded appealing but after a lot thinking I knew this was a project my son and I needed to tackle on our own, even if dad wasn’t around.  In the end, we did it!  My son and I built a derby car!

At one point in the building phase I considered making a Facebook status that said, “who needs a man when a tool-deficient mom can do this?”  But I quickly remembered the kind old man at Lowe’s who quickly showed me how to operate my dremel tool in 10 seconds (I tried for hours at home and couldn’t figure it out).  I remembered the YouTube video (featuring a man) showing me how I’ll sand and polish the wheels.  Last, but not least, I remembered the numerous emails back and forth to my husband asking his advice.  And, most importantly, I reminded myself that this project was not about me, but about my son.  About us working together.  So, instead, I kept my lips sealed.

You see the whole idea of the Pinewood Derby is to encourage a bond between a boy and his parent/guardian.  They should work  together.  And, yes, they should build a car that looks cool and goes fast.  But the overall focus should be on fun and growth.  Right?!?!  At least that’s what I think.  However, I get the distinct impression that the derby is more about dad’s flexing their muscles desperately attempting to out race every other grown man.

I have worked hard with my son.  My son drew his design and was very adamant that his design was “the one”.  When it came time to saw I did the work.  But he helped sand and he painted.  He guided me every step of the way, down to the “x marks the spot” carving he wanted on his car.  It truly was a project he was 100% involved in and had 100% input.

These past few days have been an overflow of emotions.  I’ve broken down in tears three times… all over this damn derby car.

It all began when a fellow parent posted pictures of his son’s derby on a social media site.  Looking at the car I immediately knew it was a car completely made by the parent.  As I looked at that car the only thing I could think of was how much my son will be disappointed because his car didn’t look as “cool”.  I began to obsess at how I could just do something to make his car better.  And as awful as it sounds, I even contemplated buying a car on eBay.  Thank goodness for my husband and my wonderful kids.  They quickly snapped me out of this horrible funk.  However, it led me to do some research and reading on the whole concept of competitive parenting, parents taking on their children’s assignments as their own.

Did you know that a recent study found that up to 70% of kids will plagiarize, cheat and pass off others works as their own before they graduate college?  The study suggested that kids are under greater pressure than ever before to succeed, and that they have a greater number of daily stressors than any other generation.  It’s a tough world out there, I get that, but does this mean parents need to start doing their children’s work for them?  Don’t you think that by doing more for our kids we are actually doing less, creating the inability to learn about life’s lessons on their own?

This derby has inspired me to create a rule in our house:  Projects will be done by our kids.  My husband and I buy materials, advise and even make suggestions.  We encourage the kids and guide them but we also make sure they take ownership of the project/task.  They need to learn how to develop skills to complete a project from beginning to end.  This new rule came at a time when my daughter was also assigned a project in school.  Sh needed to create a poster on why our family loves Maine.  It was a family project.  My daughter insisted I come up with all the reasons why we love Maine.  I helped, but I left the rest to her.  And guess what?  She came up with the best reason why our family loves Maine, on her own!

Whether it’s a derby car or some other project, when parents give their children sufficient guidance and freedom to let their imaginations soar (without imposing their own viewpoints or worse, taking over entire projects) we give our kids the confidence and self satisfaction that helps them grow into secure, assertive adults.

I like to think I chose the high road on this one.  Was I tempted to cheat after seeing all of those pictures of glossy pieces of wood and glue?  Hell yes I was, but I didn’t.

We did this together and made the most of what we have, time and love.

And that is what I love the idea of living simply, and the whole homesteading movement.  I think perhaps Robert Frost was right.  Choosing the road less traveled may very well make all the difference in the world.

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**At the completion of writing this blog I came across a movie on Netflix, “Down & Derby”.  It’s a comedy that satirizes the desperate behavior of parents who compete with one another through their children.  It was a hoot to watch… and made me thankful I never went off the deep end.

**To read Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” click here.

This Week’s Project Download…

It was another whirlwind week here on the homestead.  And this morning it was tough programming the kids to wake up earlier than normal because of daylight savings time.

I am proud to say that the derby car is complete!  Just in time for the races this coming weekend.  Just some minor sanding and paint touch ups.

I’ll have a special blog post on this project and my many lessons learned.

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I didn’t have time to do many projects this week (I’ll get to that in a minute).  I was able to make a peppermint citrus scrub though.  It is extremely easy to make.  You can use sugar or salt, both will gently exfoliate the skin.  The cooling sensation of the peppermint oil helps soothe itchiness, and the coconut oil (or another other oil you choose to use) moisturizes.  I like the citrus because it is very invigorating and immediately wakes you up and has a wonderful clean, spring/summer scent.  We definitely need that up here in Northern New England!

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Here’s how to make the scrub:

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar or salt.   (I personally buy the cheap stuff since I won’t be eating it)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil .  You can substitute olive oil, almond oil, apricot oil, avocado oil, or even use a combination.  
  • 2-4 Tablespoons orange zest.  You can also use lemon or grapefruit zest, it’s really your preference.
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable glycerin.  I’ve read it’s optional, but it does add extra moisturizing properties.  
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil.
  • 10-15 drops orange essential oil, or any other citrus of your choice.   

Instructions:

Mix sugar, oil, zest, and vegetable glycerin together. Depending on what type of oil you use, you may need to add more or less to get the proper consistency. Make sure there is enough oil to make the sugar stick together, but not so much that it is floating on top.

Gradually add in the essential oils until you’ve reached the desired scent. It may take more or less, depending on the type of oils you use.

Store your sugar scrub in a glass container.  I put mine up on the kitchen window sill.  The great thing is that this scrub also makes an awesome gift, especially in the summer when we’re all out in the garden getting our hands dirty!   Just rub a small amount of the scrub on your hands or body and rinse with warm water.  

Honestly the sky is the limit on this scrub.  You can add any scent and oil you choose.  I think my next one will involve lavender and rosemary.  

This week I really had to focus on my daughter and her school work.  I was so nervous about her learning and study habits.  Thankfully, everything turned out just fine.  I just need to ensure I stay on top of her and encourage her.  She has been reading “My Life as a Book” so I read it as well.  I must say this has been of my favorite books she’s brought home so far!  Maybe it’s because the main character reminds me of a cross between her and her devious brother!

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The kids enjoyed a wonderful few days with dad as he made a quick visit home (thus the lack of projects I could complete – there was too much excitement at home).  Unfortunately, the visit was short lived and he’s out patrolling our waters again.  It’s only for a few weeks and he’ll finally be back home for a decent amount of time.  Just in time to get the garden going!

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This Week’s Project Download…

Happy Sunday!  It’s snowing at the homestead this morning.

This week I had one focus… derby car.  We’re slowing making progress!

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I was able to make a quick batch of homemade vanilla extract.

It’s so simple… vodka & vanilla beans.  Just add 6 – 7 vanilla beans (split down the middle and cut in half) to about 4 cups of vodka.  Store for 2 – 3 months and that’s it!  I purchase my vanilla beans from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I paid $23 for 4 oz of vanilla beans (about 25 – 30 long beans).  That is a lot cheaper than my local grocery store.  They had ONE bean in a glass jar for $11!

Pure vanilla extract.  Not that imitation stuff!  And they’ll make fantastic gifts for the holidays!

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This week I also started (and finished!) another book borrowed from my daughter’s teacher.  This was a great book!

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Technology at its Finest…

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Technology has come a long way hasn’t it?  I remember the days of the 8-track tape, cassette tape, rotary phone, knob dials on television, dot matrix printers, and the walkman.  In today’s world everything is at your fingertips, all with a simple ‘click’.

I love technology.  I certainly wouldn’t be here typing away if I didn’t.  I’ve ordered online.  I do my fair share of Facebook posts.  I upload cute pictures of my kids via Instagram.  I’ve even ordered some burgers online.

But you know what I haven’t experienced… until today?  A virtual playdate.  Yes, a virtual playdate.

There is an app out there called “ooVoo”.  I’m sure most of you have heard about it.  ooVoo is a video and instant messaging app .  It’s basically like Facetime (for all you Apple fanatics), but you can chat with up to 12 people.  I only know this because yesterday my daughter asked if she could download ooVoo on her iPod as well as the home iPad.  As soon as that app was downloaded the door to her room was closed and she disappeared.

Now normally I wouldn’t have allowed my child to disappear in her room for hours fully hypnotized by today’s technological advances.  But all I could hear was four girls, friends since they were in pre-school, giggling and chatting away about the silliest things.  And when evening came they met up again after their showers and all picked out which pajamas they would wear.  I don’t know this for certain (because my old, batty self was asleep within minutes of setting my head on the pillow) but I’m sure they all fell asleep together while online.  For me, that is the awesomest form of a sleepover.  No real girl drama to deal with, no crazy screeching sounds… and if there was a simple click of the red ‘end call’ button would cease it all.

The next morning it was another ooVoo day.  Totally bad mom for me to allow yet another virtual playdate take place.  But you know what?  Every time I checked on my daughter she was online crafting with her gal pals.  At one point they were all on sewing machines.  Yeah, that would not be possible if they were all at my house.  Lunch time came and they sat down and ate together.  Then came the painting of nails… each girl on the screen polishing away.

It’s okay… I know you’re still trying to grasp this whole concept, but it really worked and it worked well.  Not only did it make my daughter happy to see her best friends over the long holiday weekend, it connected them on a level where there was no fighting, no yelling… no drama!  Just 100% pure girl’s day.  And, for me, that was worth it… even if I get criticism over this new found virtual playdate concept.  If anyone, Scary Mommy would support me.

P.S. Tomorrow my daughter and her girlfriends have a “real” in-person playdate.  They’re getting out to enjoy the outdoors up in our neck of the woods… ice skating and sledding.

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It’s 2013… Another Journey Begins!

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As I close the door on 2012 and open a new one in to 2013 I am excited for what lies ahead.

2012 was the year to focus on my ultimate goal.. to be as debt-free as possible, which will allow me to stay home with my kids and take up homesteading.  I am happy to say that goal was achieved and I am fully prepared to bid adieu to the corporate working world and say hello to the simplistic, homesteading way of life.

I can stay home, raise my kids, take care of my family, garden, learn new skills and, top if off, raise some chickens and get some beehives.

Thus today begins another journey.  Join me for another year of storytelling, education, soul searching, and, yes, some more husband belly rubbing!