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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Strong Ethnic Heritage

Oh the fun of family reunions. I've coined a phrase at our house. It's "strong ethnic heritage". When you come from a family with a strong ethnic heritage, you can have a lot of fun. Think of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, they had plenty of strong ethnic heritage. Think of Mexican families, Norwegian families, Italian families, etc. and you'll find examples of strong ethnic heritage.

I refer to my family reunion as My Big Fat Lebanese Life. I'm part Lebanese and let me assure you that there is a lot of strong ethnic heritage here. Our family tree spans over 30 feet wide when printed out on a plotter (see photo below). We've now started the 8th generation on the tree. There are over 1,090 names on the tree. We have a reunion every year and plan for about 250 each year to attend. (That's no typo--I mean 250!) We eat traditional Lebanese food, we fellowship and we reconnect. We meet the new babies and we mourn those who have gone before us. We play games and have a dance where we mix in the traditional Lebanese Dubke dance with modern music.

It's something to behold. And having seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I can put names of my relatives on the characters in that movie. We laugh harder than anyone at the antics of the Greek family. I wish everyone could have that strong sense of family and heritage. I've only missed a few reunions in my life and I cried every time I couldn't go. We make a point to take our kids and instill in them the sense of family and tradition. One of our family reunion slogans is, "It's not just a reunion, it's a way of life."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cookie Time

We were able to check another item off of our "Summer To Do" list this week. We made a Toll House Pan Cookie. The boys were thrilled to help. Each measured and added half the ingredients. Andrew wanted a turn stirring the batter, but handed it back to me. They decided to sprinkle half the cookie.

The best part was Nathan telling Daddy, "We made a cookie cake today!"

Friday, July 25, 2008

From the Heart....Cheryl St.John: Garden Sprite

From the Heart....Cheryl St.John: Garden Sprite

Check this out---we even made Cheryl's blog. :-)

Fairy Sprite

My dear friend Cheryl has the most fantastic back yard. Some things you should know about Cheryl---she is an author with a gift for writing Western Historicals, she is a collector of vintage and antique things; and because she collects things, her yard has lots of vintage and antique things sitting around making it look like a slice of days gone by. Cheryl (with the help of Mr. Jay) has a multitude of wild flowers growing and wonderful colors all over the yard. Below is a Cardinal in an antique bird bath.

To see any of these photos better, click on the photo and it will open up to full size. Make sure you tell Sean he did a great job of taking photos for me!!!

So why were we at Cheryl's house?? Well, at Rebekah's birthday, the idea was tossed out that her beautiful dress should be showcased somehow. The idea of bare feet in a garden was mentioned and everyone loved the idea. Since then, we've been scouting out parks and flower beds where we could sneak some photos. Only problem--Rebekah thinks all flowers are for picking and chooses not to hear "no" on this subject. Hmmm--picking flowers in the public parks...that is sort of frowned upon and is a little bit against the law.

Then we remembered Cheryl's beautiful yard. She's a bama (grandma) and would forgive Rebekah if a few flowers were picked. We asked and she graciously agreed. Her DH Jay spent the weekend making the yard beautiful and we took advantage of a slightly cool evening to take over their house and yard.

I wish we could have posed Rebekah by more of the 'things' placed around the yard. Rebekah put herself in charge of the photo shoot. The mission was to run as fast as she could away from the camera while yelling cheese. It was a game of catch me if you can. It only took a couple hours and over 100 shots, but I hope you agree that some of these are priceless.

After a few rounds of Peek a Boo, our princess was tired and resting on Mom. Love those cuddles!!

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mom to the Nth Degree

I'm so excited--I've found out where to get the MOM to the Nth degree shirts. Your 'degree' is how many children you have. You may have seen Kate (from John & Kate Plus 8) wearing the MOM8 shirt. I've just ordered myself a MOM3 shirt and can't wait for it to come. (I think they also have Grandma shirts.)

Best part--through the end of the month, there's a SALE. Select styles are 50% off. Check out these fabulous shirts from Couture Moms. I'll let you know when my shirt arrives.

For all you moms out there, you'll understand this funny story. I found these shirts through another blog. That mom was wearing hers (MOM4) in an airport and a man stopped to ask her, "Do you have kids?" She said it took everything in her not to respond with, "No, I just wear the shirt." As Jeff Foxworthy would say, "Here's your sign!"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Homemade Stain Remover

When I was making my own laundry detergent the other day, I wondered what to do with that little 1/3 bar of leftover Fels Naptha soap. I really don't want it just hanging around my house.

I had seen a recipe for a pre-treat stain remover using soap. I thought I'd give it a try. I'm still playing with the quantities because the article I read had none. Here's what I did.

Slice the soap into littler pieces and put into a glass jar. I used a pint jar so I could measure on the side, but you could use a smaller jar to start with. I put 1 Cup of soap bits into the jar. (I only had about 1/2 C of Fels so I used a partial bar of Dial soap for the rest). Make sure you don't use any soaps with moisturizers as these are oils you don't want on your clothes. Just plain types of soaps. Even hotel samples work for this if they are not the moisturizing bars.

I used equal parts soap and boiling water, but the end result wasn't the 'jelly' I was promised. I'm suggesting putting 1 part soap and 1 1/4 part boiling water. ie: 1 Cup soap plus 1 1/4 Cups boiling water or 1/2 Cup soap and just about 2/3 Cup boiling water.

When you pour the boiling water over the soap bits, stir them until they melt. Then let the mixture cool and put the lid on the jar. It should make a soap jelly substance. When you need to pretreat a stain, rub some of this soap jelly onto the stain and wash as usual.

Once I use up my pint of pre-treat, I'll let you know how the new ratio goes. I just know that 1/1 is not enough water. Let me know your results!

Keep watching---I've also given up shampoo and will let you know how my all natural hair

treatments go. So far, I'm loving it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Library Fun

Our school received a grant to have the library open during June & July. They worked with the public library in order for the books to count for the summer reading program. We were able to get this grant because of the large distance to any of the three closest libraries.

I have to give our teachers credit--they did an awesome job. Every library session, there are crafts or games or speakers. We've had so much fun and it's nice being just a few blocks from home. Over the past couple of weeks, both boys were asked to help with the speakers in their presentation.

Nathan was demonstrating camouflage of animals (while the girl next to him was bright and assumed to be poisonous by other animals). The folks from the zoo were at the library this day.

Andrew was able to help a local meteorologist create a thunderstorm inside the building. Turns out, this meteorologist is also a musician and he brought instruments for the kids. Andrew had the rain stick. They also had a clapper for a crack of lightning and two thunder drums. The video is the thunder storm in progress.

This is what Rebekah did. She is 'sleeping' in the empty shelves.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Call Me Granola

Let me tell you first of all the reasoning behind this post. Sean & Nathan tend to react over time to detergent and fabric softeners. I've moved to using only "Free and Clear" types of laundry products to keep out dyes and scents. I've also been increasingly dissatisfied over the past year with my laundry. The clothes seem increasingly dingy over time and I'm not a big bleach fan for whites (see above--kid and hubby might react). I also don't like pumping more chemicals onto clothes.

Now, some laundry facts I know.
  • The bulk of the lint in your dryer is fibers from your clothes which is why they wear out over time.
  • Detergents don't need to suds to be effective. In fact, the more suds you get, the more phosphate types of chemicals would be found in your detergent.
  • When everyone started going to 'super-concentrated' detergents, they took out the fillers (such as shredded styrofoam) to reduce the package size.
  • Tide can rust your machine over time and is one of the most harsh detergents on the market.
Armed with my knowledge, I started looking into making my own laundry detergent about 8-9 months ago. When I was looking, I could only find recipes for a liquid detergent that made 5 gallons at one time. Sean had a cow every time I mentioned making it. You have to admit, a 5 gallon bucket of 'slime' isn't something that's easy to store. I looked but couldn't find any powder recipes that people actually liked after they used them.

Recently, my friend Holly posted a blog that she made her own POWDERED laundry detergent. I was so excited and started researching. In the end, I decided to use her recipe and see how it went. I made it earlier this week and LOVE it. So quick and easy!! (I'm sure Holly thinks I'm ripping off her idea, but I'm so thankful that she kept going until she found me a powdered recipe that makes less than 5 gallons at a time!!!)

First you go to the laundry product aisle of your grocery store, Target or Walmart and pick up the following three items:

1. Fels Naptha Laundry Soap (or Ivory Bar Soap)

2. "20 Mule Team Borax'' or whatever borax they have. The 20 Mule Team brand seems to be the most common.

3. Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not Baking Soda and not the new powdered A&H laundry detergent) This ingredient was the hardest to find, but I got it at my Kroger store. My fancy Walmart didn't have it.

To make the detergent, grate the Fels Naptha (or Ivory) and make 2 Cups of shred. (About 2/3 bar of Fels makes 2 Cups shredded soap.) I used my Pampered Chef grater and had it done in less than 5 minutes. You can use a hand grater or even your food processor. Mix the soap shred with 1 Cup Borax and 1 Cup Washing Soda into an airtight container. Add 1 Tbsp. per load (2 if heavily soiled). It won't give you lots of suds, but it will clean your clothes better than the expensive commercial stuff.

This recipe makes 4 Cups of detergent which is 32-64 loads of laundry (16 Tbsp. per cup x 4 Cups = 64 loads unless you use 2 Tbsp per load which cuts it to 32 loads).

I'm also giving up on fabric softeners to go back to good old fashioned White Distilled Vinegar. I use the Downy Ball and fill it to the line with vinegar. It will remove ALL scents from the laundry and you will NOT have a vinegar smell on your clothes. This tip was all from Holly and I researched it out as well.

Vinegar is a natural way to soften clothes without harming the fibers of the cloth. It removes odor (like sweaty kid smell) and leaves your clothes soft. I don't like smells added to my clothes, but if that is important to you, check out Holly's find with her Dryer Sachets. She is in love with them, but I'm happy with my now smell-free clothes.

Other benefits I'm finding to the whole make your own thing are that I'm being more environmentally friendly, I'm using less harmful chemicals on my family and I am saving money. Everyone thinks money was my motivation, but in this case, not true. However, to give you a handle on the costs, the Fels Naptha was $0.98 for one bar. The Borax was $3.20 for a 76oz box and the A&H Washing Soda was $3.01 for a 55oz box.

I used 2/3 of the soap (let's call it a full $1.00) plus 1/8 box Borax (actually it was less, but I'm rounding up to make sure I'm not cheating on the price) at $0.40 plus 1/6 box Washing Soda at $0.51. For 34-64 loads of laundry, it cost me $1.91. Even at only 32 loads, the cost per load is $0.06 per load. For 64 loads, it's down to $0.03 per load. And I might have 2 boxes in the cupboard, but not a 5 gallon bucket. I'm thrilled.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nathan's Summer Fun School

Nathan went the same week Andrew did to the Summer Fun School. He was in the Didgeridoo and You class. It was all about Australia. They didn't have an end-of-week program, but below are some of the things he made during the week.

A didgeridoo (he made a dachshund doggie didgeridoo)---

A fish (check out the detail on this one!)---

The sang songs from Australia, ate some of the food and even spent a day in New Zealand.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Andrew's Summer Fun School

Back blogging to June because we never got his Clown School pictures posted. Andrew & Nathan got to do Summer Fun School back in June. Andrew got into the Clown School class. They spent the week learning about the different types of clowns, how to do clown faces, creating skits, etc. On the last day, we got to go see their clown performance.

Andrew's clown is Patriotic Pete. Can you guess why???

Andrew also did a magic trick as part of his act. Nobody would volunteer, so dad saved the day (I was running the camera).

Here is a video of Andrew's skit.

Rebekah stole his nose after the show. She had her binky (she calls it a gee-gee) in her mouth since she was a TIRED girl. She calls herself Geh-kah, so it's Gehkah with a gee-gee and a funny nose.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer Fun Checklist

When the Fourth of July came, it's a wake up call to me that our summer is on the downhill slide. We try to pack a lot of fun into summer, but at the end it always feels like we somehow missed the mark. I saw this idea on my friend Holly's blog and had to use it.

Everyone got to pick some items and mom had the final veto power. We created our list, made our chart and posted it on the refrigerator. We're diligently working to get everything checked off. There are a couple things that might not be realistic for us, but I know that in any goal, if you write it down your chances increase greatly that you will accomplish it.

We'll let you know how it goes, but we're happy just trying to get everything done on our list. And who knows--I just might get to dig those dino bones someday!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Great Parenting takes Practice

Last night, Sean and I had a chance to watch the latest installment of one of our favorite new shows, The Baby Borrowers. We especially like the tag line, "It's not babysitting, it's birth control."

As we got done watching these five teen couples battle with potty training, tantrums and the I want my mommy's, I remarked to Sean that it seemed awfully late since it was pushing 11p.m. He remarked that when stellar parents let all three of their kids stay up until almost 10pm, it's hard to watch a show and be done at a reasonable hour.

Hmmm--10pm?? Did we REALLY let the kids stay up that late?? Yup, we did. I let Rebekah watch one episode of Curious George while the boys played outside. My thinking--when this is over, everyone gets ready and goes to bed a little after 9pm. Sean didn't know my thinking, was walking through as George ended (on his way to deal with the 'ant invasion' as the neighbor kids called it) and started another episode. Well, seemed like it was a long time, but when it was over, I got everyone in and to bed. Oops, that was at 9:45 instead of 9:15.

Guess we might need a nanny to shadow us like the couples are shadowed on the Baby Borrowers. Next week--pre-teens. Can't wait for this one!!!!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Billy Goat Rebekah

Andrew took this video. Rebekah was mad because she couldn't have my digital camera, hence the lovely face. Nobody could believe what she did next. I think she's part billy goat.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


What's a sprayground?? It's a playground--made of water. We have one close to the new house but didn't get to use it much last year. It's on our Summer List and we made it there last week. About an hour during the heat of the day is all this mama can take. I'd like to go more often in the evening around dinner time. Picnic and frolic as it cools down at the end of the day.

At first, Nathan didn't want to do anything but go home. Rebekah wanted to run in circles around the edges, but NOT get wet. Andrew wanted the rest of them to stop whining and start playing. We met Nathan's friend from school at the sprayground and he was anxious to get Nathan to relax and have fun.

Eventually, Nathan got a girl to give up the water cannon. He wanted to squirt people and she wanted to be squirted.

Andrew taught sissy how to push the button to keep the water going and she made it her personal mission in life to leave no child without spray. She guarded the button and scolded the children as they tried to push it. Then (after she said no water), he picked her up and ran her through the rainbow sprayer. She decided the water was pretty fun and ended up soaked.

Eventually, Nathan got soaked as well. After about an hour and fifteen minutes, we packed up and headed home for lunch and naps. The boys didn't nap, but Rebekah and I took LONG naps. Good thing Sean was working from home that afternoon and could be the grownup in charge. I was too pooped after the fun in the sun to be in charge of anything but napping.
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