The Forest

April 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Kid Conversations

I love eavesdropping on the kids while they are playing.  Here’s a conversation they had while playing Star Wars in the yard while I was working on our chicken coop in the garage.

Ben “The Stormtroopers are coming, hide!”

Ethan “I see Darth Vader, he’s in the forest!”

Ben “That’s why he said ‘Use the Forest, Luke'”

Ethan ‘Not Forest, FORCE.  Use the Force”

Ben “Lookout, he’s using the Forest!”

Review: Momma Rock’s Rules

April 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

When the Parent Bloggers Network asked me to review Mama Rock’s Rules I was a little apprehensive because I am not a fan of parenting books. I decided to try it out because I am a big fan of Rose Rock’s son, Chris Rock. What I discovered was not a book filled with sassy humor and stories, but a wonderful collection of great parenting advice.

My problem with other parenting books is their need to promote their rules by knocking down others. My parenting style is not scripted and certainly not found in any one book, but is an accumulation of my own experiences as a kid, things I’ve picked up along the way, and decisions I’ve made with Heather when discussing the best way to raise our children.

Mama Rock’s Rules is not a checklist of parenting rules you must follow, but a collection of advice and techniques of a mother who raised 10 kids plus 17 foster children in addition to being a school teacher. The book is broken into small bite sized sections that make it perfect for parental reading when you sometimes only have a few minutes at a time. Many of her lessons were what I would call ‘common sense’, meaning that I would either find myself nodding in agreement for something I was already doing or shaking my head in disbelief for something obvious that I had not thought of.

Here are a few of her rules that really struck home with me:

  • Warnings May Be Bad for Your Health
    This one is a pet peeve of mine, but I sometimes find myself doing it and always regret it. Warnings used at threats are ineffective. Kids just learn that they can ignore them until you get real mad. Instead, Mama Rock says to lay the rules, let the kids know the rules, and enforce the rules.
  • Catch Your Kid Doing Something Good
    Mama Rock stresses the importance of instilling self-confidence and self-reliance in your children. The best way to reward them for this is to give them the freedom to make their own decisions, but keep an eye on them and let them know when they’ve done something great or make a good decisions. For me, this really hits home with sports. When Ethan is playing hockey, I am off the clock. I watch him and his coaches so I can talk to him about practice later. I cheer for him and all the kids. I do NOT yell instructions or tell him to skate faster or pay attention. This is his time and I want him to focus on his coaches and his teammates, not me. I’ll go over to him during games to give him his water bottle and a thump on the helmet to tell him he’s doing great, but otherwise I keep a respectable distance. When Ethan first started sports he was incredibly shy and would not want to leave the sidelines, but now he is interacting with his teammates, learning from his coaches, and having lots and lots of fun.
    After games I make sure to ask him what his favorite part was and what his best play of the game was. He’ll now ask me the same. Which way will a kid be more likely to listen to your advice: If you yell it from the sideline or they ask you for it afterwards?
  • You Can Always Count on Comic Books
    Here’s a tip that caught me by surprise. Mama Rock emphasizes the importance of reading, but she also emphasizes the importance of keeping it fun. She used comic books as an example of a great tool to get and keep kids reading. Some people turn their noses up at comics, but, as she explains, they are often great stories and the artwork keeps the kids interested as well as helps them learn new vocabulary. This gave me flashbacks to my childhood when my friends and I would trade comics and discuss our favorites in middle school. While I sometimes didn’t have the time to pick up a book, I always would grab a comic for a quick read.
  • Join the Congregation of Expectations
    Mama Rock emphasizes the importance of discussing what type of behavior is expected of your child BEFORE you go into the grocery store, restaurant, friend’s house, etc. Keep the expectations realistic, spell out the rules, and be prepared to enforce them. We take our kids out a lot and for the most part they always behave really well, but this little tip is so damn logical. How fair is it to your child to take them into a restaurant and expect model behavior when they do not know what behavior is expected of them. By the time they are getting restless in the restaurant it is often too late. I’ve started doing this with the boys and I see it working.
  • Embrace the “H” Word
    As in homework. This was something we lucked into with Ethan. When he was three he always heard his uncles talking about homework so he thought it was something the cool older kids did. Since then he always has his “homework” that he works on. He’ll grab a pad of paper and a pencil and eagerly jump into bed at night and work on a drawing. As he’s gotten older we’ve incorporated learning letters and words. To him, this is a fun and rewarding activity.
    Mama Rock talks about the importance of setting up a work area for the kids and making yourself available to them. Her example is having her kids works on their homework in the kitchen while making dinner. While visiting my mom a few weekends ago I set Ethan up with a pencil and paper while I prepared lunch. I told him to pick a word and I would tell him how it is spelled. He didn’t hesitate to pick big words and I would tell him how it was spelled letter by letter and he wrote the words and drew a corresponding picture for each one.

Mama Rock’s Rules is filled with great advice such as this. I was originally planning on passing the book on to a friend after I had finished, but now I plan to leave it on the bookshelf and remove from time to time because I’m sure I’ll find another rule to help me as the kids get older.

Unplugged Project: Birds

What a fitting unplugged project for us this week! We have had our baby chicks for almost a week now and they are certainly a project but we’ve had quite a few other bird encounters as well.

If you haven’t been at our blog to see the chick posts you really should scroll on down and take a peak at our cute little babies! Yesterday they turned one week old and Ethan noticed that their tail feathers are just starting to poke out. I couldn’t get a good picture of the new feathers and, even though they are cute chicks, their butts aren’t their best feature.

On Saturday we went to John’s work for an Earth Day celebration where we saw a raptor show. We gave Ethan the camera to take pictures and he got some good ones. While there Ethan and Ben each built another Blue Bird house to bring home. We didn’t bring home the $15 stuffed eagle pictured below next to the real one and that made for a sad Ethan (for a few minutes anyway).

We also have been busy watching a Robin build a nest in the bird feeder outside our dining room. She has laid 3 eggs now and every time we sit down for a meal we watch her as she sits on them. She is pretty happy we have a suet feeder right next to her but I know the other birds would like their seed feeder back as soon as she is done with her nest. Further down our porch we have some Phoebes nesting, they come back every year. The boys are learning to tell the difference between a lot of birds.

So we didn’t actually make anything bird related specifically for this project but we did, out of coincidence, have a very birdy week just the same!

What is a mom?

April 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Parenting

This weekend’s blog blast is about what makes a mom. With Mother’s Day approaching the Parent Bloggers Network is teaming up this time with Microsoft and its “Portraits of Mom” campaign that runs from April 19-May 11, 2008. I wasn’t going to participate this week because being a mom is so important and special and hard to sum up (for me at least) but I am giving it a quick go last minute.

Lets assume we’re talking about what makes a GOOD mom, I think I’m a pretty good mom (super mom at times and not so great at other times). A mom is a woman who happens to have kids and does her best to see that they grow up loved, safe, happy, and healthy. She puts her kids first but doesn’t let the world revolve around them. Depending on the moment a mom is fun, cheerful, grumpy, patient, or any mood regular people have but despite that a mom always makes sure her kids know they are loved no matter how she is feeling.

Right now I am a pregnant with my fourth baby and I love being a mom. I love the stage of motherhood I’m in with 3 of my kids still little and the anticipation of meeting this new baby I’m growing. The brand new baby stage is amazing and since we want to stop at 4 kids I’ll want it to go by slowly with this last baby. Of course it won’t though, my oldest is 5 1/2 and I don’t know how that happened so fast. A woman learns along the way how to be a mom and I’m not looking forward to the stage where I learn to let go and my kids don’t need me much. Maybe by then I’ll be prepared and it will come naturally but right now what comes naturally is holding onto them and loving them and making sure they are enjoying their childhood.

Baskin-Robbins 31 cent Scoop Night April 30th!

April 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Family Activities

I love ice cream and I wish we had a Baskin-Robbins somewhere near us, especially when I heard of this great event they are having on April 30th:

I think you would enjoy the upcoming Baskin-Robbins 31 Cent Scoop Night as a fun, affordable way to celebrate the warmer weather with the kids. On April 30th, from 5 to 10 p.m, Baskin-Robbins is hosting the second annual 31 Cent Scoop Night. During the event, you can visit any of Baskin-Robbins 2,800 stores nationwide for a 2.5 ounce scoop of ice cream for only 31 cents.

Baskin-Robbins is partnering with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and donating $100,000 to the organization. During the event, many local fire departments will be at Baskin-Robbins stores to discuss fire safety and even getting behind the counter to scoop ice cream. Many firefighters even let the kids climb on the trucks and it is a great way to interact with other parents and kids in the neighborhood.

Wing feathers starting!

April 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Chickens

Our chicks are 5 days old today and are starting to look bigger. They are also starting to sprout little tiny wing feathers. Its very cute (as is everything about them but the poop).

Ethan and I can tell them all apart very easily now despite the 4 Ameraucanas being pretty similar. The 2 Wyandottes are different colors so they are very easy (Chicky-Poo is the yellow chick who will be a Silver Laced Wyandotte and Loretta is a red-brown chick that will be a Golden Laced Wyandotte). These birds are really not a lot of work so far and every day they continue to get more fun.

A new addition to the playfort

April 25, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects, Our Life

As if John doesn’t have enough projects to do already (chicken coop, pool deck, bathroom redo, etc…) I added another this week, but it was a very quick one. I thought it would be fun for the kids to eat lunch in their fort more so I decided John should put up some pulleys, clothes line and a bucket so I could send them their snacks direct from the porch. I’m sure they’ll use it when playing too.

John just mentioned to me that building the chicken coop (which is coming along great so far) is getting him thinking of building the kids a playhouse. So I’m not the only one thinking up the new projects and a backyard can never be too fun!

John’s instructions on building your own are below.

How To Build a Lunch Pail Pully System

This was one of those quick and easy projects that had me wishing I’d done it sooner. The parts cost roughly $15 and installation took 15 minutes.

Part List

  • 2 Pulleys (I used nice brass pulleys because I expect they will hold up better)
  • 2 Carabiners (to connect the pulley to my lag hook)
  • 2 Lag hooks (These are threaded at one end with a circle at the other)
  • Clothes line
  • Bucket
  • Clip for the bucket (optional)
  • Clothes line pincher (optional)

I bought everything at Lowes. The bucket was in one of the paint lanes, but everything else was in the rope and chain lane within 15 feet of each other. Get your bucket first and throw all the other pieces inside it to make a nice self contained project.


  • Drill pilot holes at each location. Holes should be a little smaller than your lag hook. Also make sure the holes are high since the bucket will be hanging below the clothes line.
  • Screw in lag hooks.
    TIP – Put a screwdriver through the hole and use that as a handle to turn the lag hook.
  • Clip the pulley to the hook using the carabiner.
  • Thread the clothes line through the pulleys
  • Optional – I found the clothes line pincher (my name for it) alongside the clothes lines at Lowes. It lets you pull the line tight and pinches it so it won’t pull back out. I expect the clothes line to stretch over time and this is an easier way to keep pulling it tight.
  • Optional – I bought another clip which I tied to the clothes line and clipped to the bucket. It works, but the setup is a little ugly. I might modify this later.
  • Attach bucket. You could skip the 2 optional steps and simply tied the bucket to the clothes line.

The setup works great, although it is a little bouncy. I went with a plastic bucket so it won’t rust, but a metal bucket might bounce less. The boys enjoyed helping me set up this project and especially enjoyed the first “cookie test” when it was all done.

Its nice out, no time to write!

April 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Pictures

More Chicken Pictures!

April 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Chickens

I had started to get pretty nervous that getting these chicks would be too much for me while pregnant with baby #4 but now that they are here I am glad we got them. The kids love them and are having a blast with them. They are very cute and seem healthy and happy so far. I am feeling less worried that they’ll be hard to care for. John started the coop last night and its all planned out and seems like it won’t be too hard for him to build. Plus I think it will be cute when its all done!

*They do poop a ton already, I am trying to edit out the poop in pictures but as you can see below its not that easy when the chick’s toes are in the way (that is our only yellow chick, its Chicky-Poo).

2-day old chicks!

April 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Chickens

Our babies came a day early! I picked up 6 noisy little chicks from the post office after lunch yesterday. They are cute and seem healthy. I gave them food and water and they ate and drank right away and just kept at it. They are a lot more cute and alert than I thought they’d be. The little peeps and chirps are fun.

I had hoped to give them all people names but the boys saw some show one day with chickens and so we have a Chicky-Poo and Fuzzworth. The others are Lola, Loretta, Hen and Leia.

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