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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Five Hens Walk Into a Bar

I told you a few weeks back that the hens started laying and that B Daddy and I started a running egg tally. Would you believe that we have collected well over 100 eggs since the beginning of May? It is so fun to go back there and check each morning...with one hen the results were fairly predictable, but now that we have five the kids and I can play, "How Many Eggs?!" and "What Color Will They Be?" We all equally anticipate what might be behind the egg door each day.

After a few weeks of solid laying we had our first five-egg day. I took the picture above that afternoon. They're gorgeous right? So much more interesting than the dozen all-white or all-brown eggs you buy at the store.

We're now gathering about 3 eggs per day. And Hester (our original hen - now over 3 years old) is only laying 1 or 2 eggs a week. I joked with B Daddy that we needed to take her out back and wring her neck. Seriously though, I'm wondering how long we'll keep her around once she stops laying entirely. She eats and poops every bit as much as the other girls...aka a lotta work without much reward. I completely understand why farmers 'process' animals once they've lived past their prime. I highly doubt we'll eat Hester, but I'll keep you posted.

I went out today and snapped a few pictures of the flock for you bird-lovers.

Char- named by Squirt. We think she actually lays the white eggs. Funny, no?

 Daphne- named by Yours Truly. She's our skinniest hen by far. We thought she was a rooster for a bit because she's constantly chasing the other hens around and causing a ruckus.  

Cosette. This is the hen we "gave" to my mom for Christmas this year. 
Mom has naming and visitation rights and gets all of Cosette's egg production. 
She's our friendliest and most curious hen, 
always waiting right at the coop door when I come bearing scraps.

Marshmellow - named by SweetB. She's our plumpest hen and I'd bet money she'll replace Hester at the top of the pecking order whenever Hester's number is called. 

Oh and the title? No idea. It just seemed like the start of something interesting. ;)

Budding Musician

When it comes to lessons and camps for pre-school kids my philosophy tends to be 'less is more'. I believe there is plenty of time as they grow older for structured learning, but for now kids mostly need to PLAY PLAY PLAY. 

That said, we've enrolled the Squirt in a really awesome sounding music class for pre-schoolers called Let's Play Music! this week.

The Squirt is into music. I think he has natural aptitude for it - he'll call out the instruments he hears when songs come on the radio. (My favorite is trombone...I love that he can pick out a trombone.) My dad gave him a ukelele about a year ago and we bought a harmonica for him for Christmas. (P.S. Best musical instrument EVER. There are no wrong notes.) He asked for a tambourine for his birthday this year. We watch music videos on YouTube and then re-create them as family with the Squirt acting as director. This kid likes music.

While I did play percussion in the marching band (middle school- how I wish I had a picture to share with you) and join the chorus (high school) I can't read music and I'm not sure how to encourage the interest beyond what we're already doing...hence the music lessons.

And scarily enough I kinda see myself going Tiger Mom on the music thing. There's evidence that you can create an 'ear' for music by starting kids early, so we're giving it a go.

For your viewing pleasure today are a few videos* of the Squirt 'playing'.

*My always-present disclaimer when I post a video - these are strictly for family-readers andKid people who are really bored. If you watched and don't fall into that category - no complaining if you weren't thoroughly entertained. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Beach Bound!

We are heading to the BEACH in a few short days!! WOOHOO.

We're actually heading to visit my mom's family for a long weekend, but they live within 20 minutes of the beach, so we're pitching it to the kids as a beach trip. ;) In planning for the trip, B Daddy realized he has never been to the beach with the kids. (Save a long-weekend when Squirt was 6 weeks old.) Tragic, no?

You guys know how much a trip to the pool intimidates me, so you can imagine how I feel about the beach. The interminable sun. The SAND. The waves that will topple my tiny children and make swimming a farcical affair.

The picture above is from the last time I went to the beach (with my mom over 2 years ago.) We drove for 20 minutes to get there, spent 15 minutes finding a parking spot, 10 more minutes trekking over hot sand while dragging the children and all manner of bags with us - only to "enjoy the beach" aka hold the children in waist-deep water for 30 minutes before the combination of sun and sand defeated us. After which there was the 10 minute trek back to the car over hot sand which was now stuck to me in places I can't mention on a family blog, a 10 minute rinse off, 5 minutes of wrestling the sticky, wet kids into regular clothes and the 20 minute drive home.

This is where y'all come in. I need your help - surely you've been the beach with your kids? You know what works, what little things will mean the difference between a pleasant trip and one that will make me swear off salt water forever. I mean, I hear that people really ENJOY taking their families to the beach, so there must be something to it.

What are your best tips for surviving a fun day in the sand and sun with toddlers? I need everything you've got, pronto.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raising a Nation of Wimps?

I read the article A Nation of Wimps in Psychology Today this morning and found myself nodding and giving the author internal Amen!s at the end of each paragraph.

The gist of the article is that we (parents/educators/society in general) are sanitizing childhood by taking away discomfort and disappointment from our children whenever possible. This in turn has had a crippling effect on the psychological development of our children/adolescents. There is even evidence that cell phone use is contributing to this trend.

Here are a few excerpts that I found myself Amening to. It's a fascinating read - especially for parents whose children who have still not achieved the "markers of adulthood".

Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation."Life is planned out for us," says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. "But we don't know what to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared to academic achievement."

Kids are having a hard time even playing neighborhood pick-up games because they've never done it, observes Barbara Carlson, president and cofounder of Putting Families First. "They've been told by their coaches where on the field to stand, told by their parents what color socks to wear, told by the referees who's won and what's fair. Kids are losing leadership skills."

A lot has been written about the commercialization of children's play, but not the side effects, says Elkind. "Children aren't getting any benefits out of play as they once did." From the beginning play helps children learn how to control themselves, how to interact with others. Contrary to the widely held belief that only intellectual activities build a sharp brain, it's in play that cognitive agility really develops. Studies of children and adults around the world demonstrate that social engagement actually improves intellectual skills

It's bad enough that today's children are raised in a psychological hothouse where they are overmonitored and oversheltered. But that hothouse no longer has geographical or temporal boundaries. For that you can thank the cell phone. Even in college—or perhaps especially at college—students are typically in contact with their parents several times a day, reporting every flicker of experience.

The perpetual access to parents infantilizes the young, keeping them in a permanent state of dependency. Whenever the slightest difficulty arises, "they're constantly referring to their parents for guidance," reports Kramer. They're not learning how to manage for themselves.
Think of the cell phone as the eternal umbilicus. One of the ways we grow up is by internalizing an image of Mom and Dad and the values and advice they imparted over the early years. Then, whenever we find ourselves faced with uncertainty or difficulty, we call on that internalized image. We become, in a way, all the wise adults we've had the privilege to know. "But cell phones keep kids from figuring out what to do," says Anderegg. "They've never internalized any images; all they've internalized is 'call Mom or Dad.'"

The end result of cheating childhood is to extend it forever. Despite all the parental pressure, and probably because of it, kids are pushing back—in their own way. They're taking longer to grow up.
Adulthood no longer begins when adolescence ends, according to a recent report by University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank F. Furstenberg and colleagues. There is, instead, a growing no-man's-land of postadolescence from 20 to 30, which they dub "early adulthood." Those in it look like adults but "haven't become fully adult yet—traditionally defined as finishing school, landing a job with benefits, marrying and parenting—because they are not ready or perhaps not permitted to do so."

Take away play from the front end of development and it finds a way onto the back end. A steady march of success through regimented childhood arranged and monitored by parents creates young adults who need time to explore themselves. "They often need a period in college or afterward to legitimately experiment—to be children," says historian Stearns. 

The childhood we've introduced to our children is very different from that in past eras, Epstein stresses. Children no longer work at young ages. They stay in school for longer periods of time and spend more time exclusively in the company of peers. Children are far less integrated into adult society than they used to be at every step of the way. We've introduced laws that give children many rights and protections—although we have allowed media and marketers to have free access.

In changing the nature of childhood, Stearns argues, we've introduced a tendency to assume that children can't handle difficult situations. "Middle-class parents especially assume that if kids start getting into difficulty they need to rush in and do it for them, rather than let them flounder a bit and learn from it. I don't mean we should abandon them," he says, "but give them more credit for figuring things out." And recognize that parents themselves have created many of the stresses and anxieties children are suffering from, without giving them tools to manage them.

Fascinating no? What do you think? Agree/disagree? I could read stuff like this all day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Strawberry Picking

Last month we went to a local farm and picked 2 gallons of strawberries. I thought we'd be wading through strawberries for weeks and started pinning fabulous sounding recipes like Strawberry Grilled Cheese and Balsamic Strawberry Pizza - little did I know that they would all be gone before the week was out.

The farm was a short drive away and the kids and I practically had the whole place to ourselves. The Squirt was an excellent strawberry spotter - this was way easier for the kids than picking blueberries because all of the berries are so close to the ground. Sweet B was more of a meanderer...but by the time our buckets were full she was getting the hang of it. Blue Eyes hung out with me in the pack.

Do you like how all of us are wearing hats except for the tiny vulnerable baby perched closest to the sun? #mommyfail

The kids helped me make strawberry jam (I hope my grandmother is proud!) and I made a dee-lish batch of strawberry ice cream if I do say so myself. 

I have to say that I was pretty impressed with myself - heading to the farm with the three amigos without B Daddy. It's probably what gave me the courage to try the pool last week. (Which by the way we have been to again since that post. This may just be the summer of the pool.)

Have you ever been to a U-pick place? Did the fruit last longer than the drive home?
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