Posted in art, family life

fizzy apple painting

Our last apple project for the season was fizzy painting on apple templates. The basic idea is to paint the shapes with baking soda paint and then paint over them again with colored vinegar, to create the chemical reaction and “fizzes” on the paper. We used yellow baking soda paste (just baking soda and water, mixed to a spreadable consistency) and red and blue vinegar, so that in addition to the chemical reaction the boys could see the principles of color mixing. Finally, the website I’d found the idea on suggested that the shapes could be cut out and used for fall decorations after the fact (and their apples did look quite nice!), either on a garland or as sun catchers in a window. So there were a lot of different facets to this project.

Rondel demonstrating various phases of the process, from painting to taste-testing (just a heads-up that while baking soda and vinegar are completely edible, they may not cause the most pleasant reaction in your stomach if you eat too much, as Rondel discovered the hard way):

The baking soda paste was difficult to paint with using our foam brushes – it may work better with standard brushes, but I don’t have any of those yet for the boys. The vinegar went on pretty easily, although we did end up spilling a lot of it when one of the bowls was knocked over!

Both boys noticed that orange and green somehow appeared on the papers despite not being in any of the paint bowls, but they were far more captivated by the fizzing. At some point, they realized that they could make the whole bowl of vinegar paint fizz up by dipping a brush covered in baking soda paint into it, and they were both delighted and fascinated.


In fact, Rondel went so far as to mix all the paints together at the end, just to make the biggest fizzy reaction possible!

Limerick was too distracted by his paintbrush to notice. though…

While it wasn’t the longest activity, because we ran out of paint fairly quickly, it was a novel and exciting one; both boys asked me to make more paint when it was done, actually, which was a first for a “crafty” sort of activity. Maybe I just hadn’t made enough, since I had made way too much paint for our last craft, but I think their smiles attest to the success of the project even though the apple paintings themselves ended up in the garbage can:

I think I’ll need to plan another fizzing activity, though! I’ve already found a pumpkin one that holds some promise so we’ll see how that goes🙂

Posted in family life

Library time!

I think I’ve finally figured out how to make the best use of our local library! We have always enjoyed visiting it, but finding good books to read there or take home with us was always fairly unpredictable and dependent on what other patrons had been leaving out – it’s hard to browse the shelves with two babies/toddlers wanting to get out and play and read RIGHT NOW MOMMY!

So over the past couple months I’ve been doing a lot of preliminary research online, finding 5-10 books at a time that fit a theme of interest to either myself or the boys, placing a hold on them all, and then making a trip to the library when they’re ready for pick up. The library gives me a week to pick them up after they’ve been set aside for me, which helps when some are ready earlier than others for various reasons, and gives me some flexibility with actually getting over there.

At the end of September we found 3 books on apples and apple pies to celebrate fall and complement our apple activities (apple-printing in the archives, apple-pie baking at Grandma’s house, and apple fizzy painting coming soon!), as well as 5 dinosaur books to accommodate Rondel’s recent enthusiasm. All the books lived on our new display shelf and so were pulled out constantly to be read, re-read, and thoroughly enjoyed during their 3-week stay.

(Have I shown you the new shelf yet? It is one of the best simple changes we’ve made to the house:


It lets me get books off the bookshelf – where the boys can’t see them well or find what they’re looking for easily – into a visible space, and has encouraged significantly more read-aloud time! In fact, I liked it so much that we put a smaller one in the boys’ bedroom for their bedtime books.)

Today we took all of those books back to the library and were able to pick up another batch of books, mostly fall-themed this time, with a few extras that had caught my attention. Rondel especially is going to miss the books we had to return, but I’m hoping the excitement of the new books will help🙂 This serendipitous timing did require me to be proactive enough to start finding and requesting new books about 5-7 days before the old books were due🙂 I think a trip to the library just for returns would have left me with two very sad little boys, so I’ll need to continue to stay on top of the library cycle for this to keep working… we’ll see how that goes.

How do you all integrate the library into your family’s reading? Any great ideas you’ve implemented or challenges you’ve faced?

Posted in family life

being cute

Most of our park outings involve a snack; I’m not sure if it’s actually needed, but it’s become a habit and I don’t feel like poking the bear by trying to change it!

Anyway, the boys were being pretty adorable the other day during their snack:

I’m not sure why, but they couldn’t stop laughing about something! It was one of those moments that makes all the hard days worth it, when we are all just enjoying being with each other without anything special going on at all.

Posted in family life, Uncategorized

to my sons’ grandmothers

One of the greatest gifts my children have been given is the chance to know both of their grandmothers well and form deep, personal relationships with them. There is something special about the unconditional love and care of a grandma, particularly when coupled with their wisdom, experience, and maturity. When I am concerned about a certain behavior, my mom or my mother-in-law can provide the perspective her own years of child-raising have given her; when my patience has run out or my tank is empty, they can support me with their time and prayers; and when I worry more about my parenting or how people judge our family, they can simply give their love and acceptance to my children.

At family gatherings, I often notice some of our relatives looking askance at Rondel, for his odd physical behaviors (spinning, licking, etc.), or for his intense emotional reactions (especially in the uncomfortable, overstimulating environments that often surround family events), or for his particularity and attention to detail (which he hasn’t yet learned to express gently…). And it hurts me a lot. I want to go into “Mama Bear” mode and totally destroy the people who judge my son poorly, especially when they go beyond glances and start making snide comments. I try not to because that’s not the example I want to set for my children on how to interact with the rudeness and criticism of the world, but that’s my visceral reaction…

And so it means so much to me when my mother-in-law comments on how fascinating Rondel is, how sharp and attentive he is – when she notices his quirks and differences with affection and love instead of judgment. She’s not oblivious to his sensitivities and struggles, but she simply accepts them and loves him not despite them but because of  them, in a way, because they are a part of who he is. I don’t think I can fully express the gratitude I have for her because of that, despite all the differences we have in general about raising children🙂 And because I’m apparently ridiculously blessed, I know I can count on my mom to have that same attitude and perspective towards my children.

So thank you, wonderful grandmas🙂 Our little family is so much richer, emotionally and relationally, because of your presence and your love.

Posted in family life, Uncategorized

sensory bedtimes

After a grueling bedtime battle a couple nights ago, I decided our bedtime routine needed some adjustments, for Rondel’s sleep and my sanity.

Rondel has a history of sleep troubles. As a baby, he became overstimulated extremely easily and had difficulty calming his mind and body back down, even when he was very tired. We would mostly just have to pace back and forth holding him to help him slowly ease down into sleep; I could recite poetry to him but singing almost always made him cry. We could snuggle together lying down if he was in just the right mood: otherwise it was either not enough stimulation (and more pacing was needed) or it was too much stimulation (and the end of the world was at hand until exhaustion won out, since he panicked if he was left lying alone on the bed). Despite my personal fondness for co-sleeping, Rondel transitioned to his own bed early on, because any movement or noise during the night would wake him up, which would make him want to nurse, which would make him pee, which would wake him up again in a vicious cycle.

As he got a little older, we had countless tear-filled nights where we tried to separate the bottle from his sleep associations, hoping that it would help him self-settle after a midnight half-waking, and also reduce the peeing problem noted above. It did help – he doesn’t wake at all anymore to pee, and has only had two or three nighttime accidents since he learned to use the potty – but it was a long and painful process. We installed blackout curtains in his room to try to help him stay asleep longer and fall asleep more easily; we have either the ceiling fan or the humidifier on every night to create enough white noise that the sounds of the house or the nearby roads don’t wake him up. I even tried various essential oils, though I didn’t notice that they had any impact.

Lately, he’s been sleeping fairly well, and I had been happy with how things were going. We’d finally established a consistent routine that worked for both boys together without being overly lengthy or complicated, and while Limerick had been waking up with bad dreams or wet diapers, Rondel had mostly been sleeping through the night (a good 10 hours every night at that!). But that bedtime a couple nights ago was an entirely different beast – yelling, roaring, tears, and a very sleepless Rondel until about 3 hours past his typical bedtime. I knew none of us could handle that happening on a regular or even semi-regular basis, so I spent my down time at work the next day researching sensory/Aspergers/ADHD bedtime tips (not that he fits under any of those labels overall, but his sleep issues have some overlap). We already had the basics covered, with the blackout curtains and white noise, but one idea that I found intriguing was using some sort of a nightlight, particularly a non-constant one like a lava lamp, to give the mind something to keep it occupied in a monotonous way until it can wind down into sleep.

Tonight, by somewhat of an accident, we ended up with a flickering electric candle in a cut glass box, up on a shelf where Rondel could see it lying down, and he fell asleep with fewer random sounds/questions/comments/dinosaur roars than he has in weeks. He seriously just lay in bed, watched the candle flicker, and fell asleep in less than 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I’m going to try it again just in case!

Posted in family life

Preschool aggression

On the way home from church on Sunday Rondel very seriously let me know that he needed to talk to me about something that happened; having had such talks after Sunday School in the past with him, when I could tell something was bothering him, I expected it to be a story of some social altercation that didn’t end up going well, and I was right.

First of all, he told me that another boy had kicked him.

“What happened right before he kicked you?” I asked.

“I kicked him!” he announced.

Cue head shake. Of course a preschooler is going to kick you after you kick him!

After some more probing we unearthed that the other boy had gotten close to Rondel while he was playing, and Rondel didn’t want him to be there and so kicked him to make him move. Ok, fairly typical of a 3-year-old, but not ideal. I wish one of the leaders could help guide him through those situations instead of letting his insecurity and overstimulation get the better of him and turn all his social interactions sour😦 I just don’t know whether to laugh because it’s normal behavior, or worry about his aggression and his potential to make friends!

Posted in musings, quotes

patriotism vs. the presidential election

As the weeks go by, my hope for our nation in the upcoming presidential election is steadily eroding. We’ve narrowed the race down to two people who are known to lie and manipulate events for their own gain; one of them is, in my opinion, of significantly worse character and far more dangerous as a leader, but I honestly would rather have neither of them. I suppose the difference for me is that while I can find some things to respect about Clinton, despite my utter disagreement with her on abortion, I haven’t been able to find anything to respect about Trump. Being rich and marrying attractive women, his sole accomplishments in life, are not particularly worthy of respect in my opinion…

And the thought of Trump winning the presidency and representing my country on the global stage makes me blush with shame – to the point where I am tempted to abandon my country, flee somewhere else, attempt to build a new identity and integrate into a different nation, one that actually valued honesty, self-control, responsibility, and community. But these words keep coming back to me, the words of G.K. Chesterton that I’m sure I’ve quoted before:

My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it is more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. All optimistic thoughts about England and all pessimistic thoughts about her are alike reasons for the English patriot. Similarly, optimism and pessimism are alike arguments for the cosmic patriot.

Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing—say Pimlico. If we think what is really best for Pimlico we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne or the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico: for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles; Pimlico would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved…  If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is a mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

 – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

What our country needs is not for us to wring our hands in fear, or throw them up in dismay, or give up in despair; what she needs is for us to love her and to labor for her restoration and beauty. It is a harder and a more painful task, especially when faced with the anger and resentment of so many who don’t love their country or their communities, but a necessary one if true and worthwhile change is to take place. And this is where the virtue of patriotism lies, not in praising our country or her leadership no matter what poor choices are made, but in loving her enough to care about even the poorest and least likable of her people, to make right the things that are broken and rotting in her systems and communities, to see both her beauties and her flaws and admire the one while acknowledging and working to change the other.