Archives for August 2011

Transformation

I will be one of the first to say that Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene was overhyped. We were on vacation in rural Maine, almost completely cut off from technology other than sketchy cell phone service, and even we knew that a hurricane was brewing.   The random Twitter or Facebook update informed us that we better get home, get ready, and prepare for the worst.  Being a lifelong New England girl, I have experienced my share of hurricanes.  They absolutely do not intimidate me.  Having seen wildfires burn in the distance from my home in San Diego, with soot and ash literally raining on my classroom, I scoff at an extreme weather warning up here.  New Englanders know how to prepare, we know what to expect, and we can handle almost anything.  Plus, we get a heck of a lot of warning.  So the little itty bitty rainstorm that showed up on Sunday night, with absolutely no wind, caused me nothing but intrigue, not fear.  We didn’t even lose power.

I get the feeling Mother Nature doesn’t appreciate my general disregard for her prowess.  Yes, that’s a Jeep.  Under a tree, roots and all, in a culvert of a parking lot.  Water is not supposed to be in that equation.  Actually, I don’t think the tree is, either.

As every media outlet has pronounced, Vermont got the brunt of the drama from Irene.  We had plenty of rain this summer, and got plenty more in an extremely short period of time.  Add a lot of dirt roads to the mix and a landscape that encourages waterfalls, valleys, creeks, and gorges, and you get the perfect recipe for unbelievable flooding.  And, being New Englanders, we didn’t really think it was going to happen until it was.  But even then, we knew we could handle it.

Take me and JDubbs, for example.  We turned on the Weather Channel Sunday and we heard hurricane, flash floods, and winds up to 85 mph.  We shrugged, turned it off, and went on our merry way.  We packed our bags with enough gear for us and the kids for one night away, certain we’d be back the next morning.  The only reason we went to my in-laws’ in the first place (other than the yummy food and babysitters) is that there was a reasonable chance a tree could fall on our house.  We live in the woods.  It happens.

The storm started just as the kids went down for their nap, so what did we zany New Englanders do?  Jumped in the car and headed toward the river.  Suddenly storm chasers didn’t seem so outrageous to me; it was exhilerating!  We took videos of the waterfall at the Quechee covered bridge that we know so well, marveling at the vibration under our feet, the literal roar of the river charging beneath us.  Only once a massive tree hurtled over the falls, only to shoot back up in a collision with the rocks below, did we realize maybe this wasn’t the smartest thing we’ve ever done.  Not interested in orphaning my children today, thank you very much, especially over something so stupid.  Back in the car, back home.

Put the kids to bed, back in the car, back to the river.  Harder to get there now because the river had taken on a mind of its own and decided that these measly banks and roads that encompass it were really cramping its style.  The laws of physics were suspended.  Where the river usually rushed thirty feet below the bridge, now it was actually passing through it and over it.  Through a bridge that was unbeliveably high, where teenagers idiotically jump to enjoy the freefall.  A bridge that used to look like this, from the river’s point of view before the waterfall:

over the falls, that usually looked like that:

Yesterday, the bridge looked like this and this:

The river devoured the road.  That’s all there is to it.  You can look down where concrete used to be and now see running water.  The back of that real estate office is gone, their paperwork and office supplies littering Main Street.  Simon Pearce, the restaurant and glassworks shop that you know I love so much from this post, was underwater.  Remember how I took Jax to go see the glassblowers and how awestruck he was by their art?

Well, that workshop is a mangled heap of metal because the river knocked down the wall and made that space its very own playground.  And that glassblower, I’m sure, is now out of a job.  At least, until Simon Pearce rebuilds, which we all very much hope it will.

After the storm, JDubbs and I returned to our street only to be met with a less-than-friendly neighbor.  Meet Mr. Giant Sinkhole, Esquire, and admire my cell phone photography skills.

He ran the width of the street from end to end.  And climbing through him wasn’t a piece of cake, either.  He was deceptively deep and unstable.  Although I’d take that over our driveway any day.

Those are the pipes that the quaint little brook that flows through our property uses to make its way downstream and follow its destiny to join the big river, which will later merge with that same aforementioned waterfall.  Except usually, you can’t see the pipes.  Seeing them is bad.  Makes it hard for the mini-van to navigate, to be honest.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the town had it fixed that very day.  Why we were high up on the priority list, I’m not sure.  Maybe because it’s a dirt road so it only took a dump truck and a grader ten minutes to accomplish.  Maybe because the road was completely inoperable.  Maybe they went in alphabetical order or pulled a name out of a hat.  I don’t care; I’m just glad to be back home, with electricity and running water.  Not everyone up here can say the same.

On the way home we passed by the Quechee Green, where we admired the propane tank now resting beside my favorite willow tree and the swamp that was once a soccer field.

You are familiar with this park if you’ve been around here long enough.  This is where the Balloon Festival is held, where we took family photos on Father’s Day (same willow tree), where we play in the evenings and run the dog around, where I held my first professional photo shoot.  Needless to say, I am fond of this place; now we have to bring our rainboots.

That night I once again put the kids to bed, jumped in the car, and headed to the river.

The evening was full of poignant contrasts in some of my favorite places to take my kids, as well as to photograph.  My mind had a hard time processing the before and after.

Remember the fabulous red door beneath The Parker House?

Here’s what I found:

Those photos are somewhat misleading in their devastation because the main restaurant and inn are ten feet above this scene.  Luckily for them (and us), the water only got into their storage area (or so I hear).

Surprising myself, Mending Wall by Robert Frost rose unbidden to my thoughts when I came across this new landscape and this now unfamiliar spot.

”Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun,

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

 

Ah, Frost.  No one does New England like Frost.

The sun set upon another photographer, capturing mood and light as best he could, just like me.  At least the colorful sky made the scene less bleak and we marveled together at the transformation before us.



Again, I was inspired to recall a line of poetry, dragged from the recesses of my mind by the somber tone and some strange need to make order out of chaos.  I am not being romantic here; I literally thought these words as I stood there.  Another New Englander, Henry Wadworth Longfellow, from his poem The Rainy Day:

 

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.”

I’ll interpret those words at that moment like this.  Life is not going to be easy every day.  There will be rain and there will be clouds, but most of the time, there is glorious sunshine.  I’ll try to remember that on those rainy days, and watch with pride as the people around me band together to begin rebuilding their homes and communities.  Times like these remind me of the good in people and the strength in groups, and how we always seem to come together during difficulties.  We have our home, we have our family, and even our belongings.  We have to work to regain the beauty of our communities and to help support local businesses, but in the spirit of the people I’ve already seen out there, picking up debris and filling in holes, I know this transformation can only lead to growth.  And my kids will be out there playing in their rainboots, having just as much fun as before, making mud pies.

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Aftermath

Would you believe that we’re back in our home?  Tomorrow I will tell you the story, but for now, here is a photo of the aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene on the covered bridge in Quechee, Vermont.

Now, up to sleep in my own bed.  More than I could have hoped for.

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Come On, Irene!

Hello beautiful bloggy friends!! It’s been too long and I have missed all of you, your comments, our interaction, and of course, your blogs!  I hope you have enjoyed all my favorite crafts, and maybe some of you are new here and didn’t see them the first time around.  I hope maybe I helped one or two of you get through this weekend, especially if you are like me, and dealing with that bitch Hurrican Irene.  She actually wasn’t as terrible as we were expecting up here in Vermont–virtually no winds, actually–but the flooding.  Oh, the flooding!

Do you remember the day that Jax and I took a photo walk and ended up at the waterfall at Simon Pearce in Quechee?  Well, take a look at that same view earlier from the covered bridge this afternoon.

Waterfall Flooding

And if that video doesn’t work, just picture the Apocolype via crashing waves and fallen trees.  That is pretty much par for the course for all of the Upper Valley at this moment.

JDubbs, the kids, and I rolled in to our house at about 6:15 last night, quickly unpacked, did a load of laundry so Jax could have some underwear and Em could have some pjs, then slept–only to wake up this morning and head to my in-laws’ house (on higher elevation) to spend the day and see what trouble Irene would bring.  Apparently our driveway was already in the process of being washed away (not paved, obviously, and a small creek ran underneath the end of our driveway), and a large sinkhole had appeared in our street early this afternoon when JDubbs tried to return home.  The roads to our house are flooded, and I have no idea when we’ll return home.  Hopefully we can at least hike there tomorrow because, stupidly, we didn’t prepare for the worst and do not have nearly enough clothes for an extended stay.  We also have to pick up Baxter, our dog, from the kennel tomorrow, and he will add an extra level of craziness to the mix.  So the moral of the story is, I may lose power tonight, for who knows how long, and although I love and miss you all, I don’t know when my act will be together enough to resume my normal routine.

In addition, I’m supposed to start the new and improved blog design process tomorrow!  So maybe when we meet again, Rub Some Dirt On It will be prettier, I will be home again, and hopefully, we have a driveway!  Fingers crossed!

Thanks for being here, even when I’m not.  I truly appreciate you all, and hope that Irene was at least kind to you.

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Favorite Craft #7: Em’s Treasure Basket

How many times have I sent you over to Modern Parents, Messy Kids now?  A dozen?  And you’re still not following them?  Tsk, tsk.  Well, I will continue to share my brilliant finds with you, and today is no exception.  I absolutely fell in love with the notion that Every Baby Should Have A Treasure Basket, my Em included!  I am not brave enough to try to sensory box with Jax quite yet, but maybe once we are spending more time outside I’ll be more brave.  For now, I’m focusing on entertaining baby girl enough to get some things done once in a while, now that we’ve entered that frustrating time of I-slept-for-ten-minutes-in-the-car-and-that’s-all-you’re-gonna-get-all-day toddlerhood.  I curse this stage, and am often left with a full inbox or a dozen photos left unedited because she is straight-up refusing to take a nap.  I have pulled out this treasure basket three times this week in the aftermath of Mommy-time interrupted, and it has been a goldmine every time.

Here’s what you need:
1.  a basket, or some kind of large container, with or without a lid depending on baby’s age. A lid would be a nice challenge as baby gets older and maybe once the novelty of the treasure basket has worn off.  I really do think an interesting, attractive container would be better than a plain-old tupperware bin that looks like every other storage unit in your house.  This is a “treasure basket.”  Let’s treat it as such.
 
Here is the verbatim definition of what should go in the basket, as quoted by MPMK:
 
According to Anna, an early education and art specialist from The Imagination Tree, treasure baskets benefit babies age 6-18 months by:

• encouraging them to use their senses to discover, explore, investigate and examine new materials/ shapes/ colours/ tastes/ textures/ sounds/ weights/ quantities
• developing their thinking skills
• promoting open-ended and independent play

You can go to The Imagination Tree and scope out Anna’s treasure box that she made for her baby, but all you need to do is compile some “treasures” that are intriguing to baby’s senses, especially touch and sound, and that allow baby to learn and explore his or her world.  There is no “purpose,” per se.  It’s all about discovery (and by the way and not surprisingly, this is a Montessori technique) and you may be surprised which items your baby gravitates toward more than others.  I am sure that your 12-month-old would choose different treasures than mine.  I’m sure that in 3 months, they would both be attracted to completely new things.  As their brains develop, their interests may change.  Or maybe Em will always go for the jewelry first; we’ll see!
 
So here’s what’s in Em’s treasure basket:
 
 

2.  Manhattan Toy Beads Wood Rattle
3.  tissue paper
4.  small Oball
5.  2 wooden blocks
6.  some Megablocks
7.  2 plastic circles from Jax’s clock
8.  2 heart-shaped bracelets
9.  teething keys
10.  toy tambourine
11.  felt
12.  a crinkly, squeeky baby toy
13.  plastic measuring spoons
14.  2 Megablocks little guys
15.  terrycloth washcloth
16.  comb
17.  tiny board book
18. blabla mini cat rattle
19.  clutch purse with a clasp
20.  take n toss cup with lid, with three big acorns in it
21.  a rock
22.  beaded necklace 
23.  zebra rattle
24.  toy cereal box with rattly cereal inside
25.  pink polkadot ribbon
26.  2 crayola jumbles
27.  a wooden piece with holes from Jax’s Melissa & Doug toolbox
28. egg shaker
29.  Christmas bell
30.  a pinwheel from Em’s birthday party
31.  small tupperware with snappy lid
32.  a sunhat from Anne Taylor Loft that looks ridiculous on me
33.  chenille burp cloth
34.  Playskool Wheel Pal
35.  Educo wooden car
36.  pink stuffed birdie that tweets
37.  paint brush
38.  broken Blackberry

You may be surprised to learn that they recommend 50-100 items in a treasure basket for Em’s age group, but I think 38 is sufficient for now. I can trade things out easier if I only have so many!

So, the question remains, how does she like it? 
I would dare to say that for the amount of effort it cost me to put this basket together, this project is a homerun!  Uninterrupted, only partially-supervised fun at our fingertips!
I  keep the basket in my bedroom so that it doesn’t become mundane and something she gets all the time.  I won’t let her brother play with it; it’s something special and all hers, and I wouldn’t use it if he was around.  Mostly because he’s in a monster “mine!” stage, and I must admit that several of the items in the basket are, in fact, his.  In order to keep the treasure basket as an entirely positive experience, I want to eliminate any unnecessary drama as possible.
Three afternoons this week, after she woke up and Jax was still napping, I brought her into my room and we played with this on the floor.  The first day I was there to participate and observe.  She explored happily for 25 minutes, only needing me to assist and explain what certain things were for (like the purse, which has a bit of a confusing clasp).  I think she would have played longer had she not needed a snack.
The second time we used it she played for 45 minutes with only minor interaction on my part.  I sat on the floor with her and made sure she didn’t turn any of her treasures into a chocking hazard (as you should, as well), but I kept busy on my laptop and she played happily on her own, sometimes just creeping over to show me something that she found interesting.  The third time I wasn’t on my computer, but she still played rather independently of me for about 45 minutes.
All three times she gravitated toward three things: the girlie things, like the beads, the real-life things, like the measuring spoons, tupperware, and cell phone, and the things she could “sort.”  This is not surprising given her developmental stage, but I do love when she goes straight for the necklaces and purse! 
The acorns were a huge hit, because of their unfamiliarity and because they made a very cool sound rumbling inside that take-n-toss container.  She opened it, pulled them out, put them inside the small tupperware, closed that, and repeat, about 100 times.  Then she mixed them with the measuring spoons.  She also loved the sound of the beads inside the tupperware.  Anything that was noisy was a hit, like the tissue paper or tambourine.  And even though I tried to make this basket non-sexist by including traditionally “boy” toys, she didn’t even glance at them twice.  I guess stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason!
And next time, I am going to definitely include my spare lens cap.  I should have known; every baby’s best friend!!
I hope that you will take the ten minutes necessary to create this sensory delight for your 6-18 month old.  I promise you it will entertain and educate them, and allow for you to get a few extra minutes to yourself!  If you make one, be sure to link back to me, so that I can find out what treasures work for you and steal them when I need to give Em’s basket an update!
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Favorite Craft #6: Coffee Filter Butterflies

This was the first day we attempted to paint with watercolors.
I liked it a lot better than regular paint. Just as colorful, half as messy. Unless you count the potential for flooding, but if you keep the dipping water to a minimum, you should be all right.
For our maiden voyage, we wanted to go easy. I found a really simple and low-mess idea for watercolors for preschoolers. Painting on a coffee filter.
Apparently since coffee filters are a porous material, it creates a more watery watercolor, meaning that the colors bleed and blend into each other in a very cool Impressionist kind of way. You could also use paper towels for the same effect.
We taped ours to newspaper so that it would lay flat. It was impossible to get off so I just cut around it.
And voila! Pretty coffee filter art for one and all!
The last step is to take your coffee filter and morph them into butterflies.  I think they came out awesome.
 
 
Don’t you love it?  I just pleated the coffee filter like a fan, pinched the middle and then wrapped half a pipe cleaner around it.  Leave a little for antennae!  It made such a big difference from just a plain colored coffee filter.  Now it feels like a little work of art!We gave them as gifts to my sister and niece for their birthdays: a simple, great way to make someone’s day! 
 
Teachable moment idea:  as you’re transforming the coffee filter into a butterfly, you can talk to your kids about metamorphosis.  You could even pull out Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar for reference.  Jax was hardly intrigued by the folding of the filter, which was the most exciting part, so it would not have been a very useful lesson for me, but I think an older preschool kid would get a big kick out of it!  Let me know if you give it a try!
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Favorite Craft #5: Homemade Binoculars

…Something That Was Fun and Easy To Make!

Binoculars! How cool are those?
I got the idea from Crafts by Amanda and I have to say that hers came out prettier than mine. Not too surprising since her crafts are being featured in Parents magazine! You should check out her site; it has an amazing array of easy crafts.
So enough of the prelude; how do you make these awesome binoculars? Easy.
You Will Need:
1 paper towel roll or 2 tp rolls
1 sheet of felt
(Amanda used camoflauge felt and they looked awesome. I couldn’t find any so I used red)
Scissors
Craft Glue
Craft Foam to match the felt
Rubber bands
twine or yarn
(I used ribbon in a pinch until I got to my mother-in-law’s house to steal some twine)
a pen

Directions:
If you’re using a paper towel roll, you’ll need to cut it evenly in half. Make sure you have a handy little helper nearby to assist in the measuring.
Our measurements were a wee bit off (who would have thought with such a handy helper?) so we had to cut a bit off one end until they were even.
Then you lay the felt down and place the two tubes on top. Cut the felt evenly in half.
Picture taken before felt cutting. Obviously.
Now you roll the tube in the felt, gluing as you go, to create a cardboard burrito (sounds delicious).
Trim off the excess felt, but do your best to make it match up perfectly to the other side so that your tube is perfectly wrapped in felt and the edges line up. Glue it as neatly as possible (aka maybe take the glue from your handy helper at this point). You can keep him or her busy with
rubber bands!
Although it wasn’t in the directions yet, I wrapped the felt in rubber bands early to keep the glued felt from coming loose. Amanda didn’t feel the need to do that, but she probably used better glue and actually measured things correctly. Doesn’t my felt look a little wonky? Yeah, not too big on measuring over here. We fly by the seat of our pants and cut where inspiration strikes. “Measure twice, cut once?” That’s for wusses.
You know I’m kidding, right? I wish I had diligence like that; I’m just more of a lazy crafter, as you know. I do a lot of instructions skimming.
At this point, Jax thought it would be awesome to do some improvisation in the form of shape-making. I turned my back for a second (never a good idea with toddles and glue), and heard a delighted little voice exclaim, “A heart!” I turned around to see
a heart, certainly. Of course.
Actually I thought it was pretty endearing. See, not big rule-followers over here.
Must run in the family.
So I de-smushed my tube as best I could (some of the damage could not be undone) and carried on.
Right. Back to the instructions.
Now cut the craft foam into 2 strips that will encircle one end of the tube, about 3/4″ wide.
Do you think I measured? Nope. But it’s Amanda’s craft so I will try not to ruin it and will pass her specifications on to you.
Glue the foam strip to the end of the tube, lining up the seam of the foam with the seam of the felt.
Do you think I lined them up? Nope. I don’t even think I read that part of the instructions until right now. Maybe that’s why our binoculars look a little on the crazy goggles side.
Now cut 2 more strips of foam, these ones a little smaller (1/2″ thick). This is to give an impression of the front and back of the binoculars. I’m not even going to ask if you think I did this.
Then, as you can see, wrap both the felt and foam in little rubber-band straight jackets to make them stick.
At this point, handy helper got restless and took off with my role of ribbon. “A rope, Mama!”
Whatever.
So lastly, you put the tubes side-by-side so that the seams face each other. Interestingly enough, I actually made sure the seams were facing in (insert Ace Ventura quote here–“The laces were in! They were in!”) because my seams were looking a little questionable. Just the seams looked questionable? you ask. Okay, the whole darn thing looks a little questionable, but Jax thought it was super cool. Probably because he still thinks they’re red and not pink. Sorry, kid.
Put a rubber band around both tubes to hold them in place.
Use a pen to poke holes about half an inch from the 1/2″ thick foam. Insert your twine, yarn, or ribbon as the case may be, into the tubes from the outside. Then double knot the inside to keep it from slipping back out. Trim any excess. Repeat on the other side.
Put a generous amount of glue between the tubes on both sides and let it sit for a few hours (preferably overnight) to dry. Once dry, remove the rubber bands and enjoy the world through rose-colored binoculars!
As an aside, it makes it even more fun if your little binocular-wearing loved one has a big binocular-wearing loved one to take in the sights together.
Jax’s Papa is a bird-watching afficionado. Jax was so excited to bring his binoculars to Nana and Papa’s house to look at the birds with Papa. They filled up the birdfeeder together with birdseed (Jax was wearing pants at the time, I promise) and then came in to watch for birds with their own binoculars. It was too adorable for words.
And yes, you may notice our binoculars still have the rubber band on them. Well, Jax likes to use his muscles! so we had to keep the rubber band on; otherwise he can’t control his own strength and rips them apart into little telescopes. Which I guess wouldn’t be so bad, but not what I was going for.
I hope you and your little ones enjoy this rather painless craft! If you decide to make some, please let me know how it goes!
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Happiness Is…{vacation}

Since I am currently on vacation, I will keep my segment of this post short and sweet.  This is my cabin:

I am undoubtedly having a glorious time with my husband, his family, and my two wonderful children somewhere on a lake in Maine.  If you would like to ogle my adorable children or are just having withdrawal from me since I’ve been gone so long, you can see photos of last year’s trip herehere, here, here, here,  here, and here.  Let’s just say, I took a lot of pictures.

Happiness is taking time to unplug, unwind, sleep, and take photos.  Happiness is spending time with family and reconnecting.  Getting to know my nephew even better.  Having the water literally feet from my front door.  Time with my husband.  Just to name a few.  Hope you’re having a great week, too!

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