Thursday, June 30, 2011

Blueberry Muffin Makers

I am always looking for activities that kill two birds with one stone. Multi tasking is my forte. If I can find a project that entertains the campers and yields a product, my work is done.

I bought a ton of blueberries on sale. We had blueberries in our cereal. We ate blueberries for snacks. With a few too many blueberries sitting around on a rainy day, we made blueberry muffins.

In order to keep the small hands busy while I was checking email and doing Lord knows what, I had the kids pick through the blueberries. They were instructed to remove any ugly berries, any squished berries, and to look for stems or leaves. This bought me ten minutes of silence and a chance to download the Barefoot Contessa Blueberry muffin recipe from Food Network.com.

I used this recipe but substituted the Nearly Normal Gluten Free Flour. I kept everything else the same.

The kids assisted me by cracking eggs, measuring ingredients
and sampling the batter along the way. I have found that regardless of what we make, they eat a ton of the finished product if they helped create it.

These were simply amazing. I would bet that they would have eaten them if I had made them by myself, but then they would have missed out on all the fun.

Rainy summer days in pajamas, making blueberry muffins- it does not get any lazier and tastier than this. Meet the muffin makers- two birds- one stone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Creative Reading

We all know about creative writing. This blog, according to Mitchell is a prime example of creative writing. Yes, I embellish, yes, I am sarcastic and yes, it is my blog and I can tell my side of the story, my way.

Charlotte on the other hand is a creative reader. She grabs a book, any book, and tells the story. The story according to Charlotte.

Here is an example of her amazing ability to "read" one of Jeff's published books.

The girl is a creative reader. As much as I would like to take credit for her knowledge that Pluto is no longer a planet, anyone who knows me in real life would bust me. Any planetary information is from Jeff. Facts about Pluto are taught by Daddy. Details about Prada come from Mommie.

Creative Reading, Creative Writing, when it comes to my children, as long as they are learning, I am fine with all creativity.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day Two, Easton Art Fair

The kids did so well yesterday at the spectator part of the fair on Saturday. Today, the Easton Art Fair offered projects for the younger set, so we took complete and full advantage of this free field trip.

Welcome to Camp Helene field trip, day two of, The Easton Art Fair.

I was not high when I decided to take them all back by myself. They totally impressed me yesterday, so I was confident it would be day two of the same.

WRONG.

I could blow sunshine, moonbeams and leprechauns up your ass, but I won't waste my time pretending this was pretty.

I wanted a decent group photo to frame for Nana's birthday next week. I had to take 52 shots to getthis one. Normally, they pose, smile and do the obligatory photo thing right away so they can move on to the fun stuff. Not today. Cue the torture and drama.

While they created a paint your own pottery tiles, it was all fine and dandy.


Charlotte asked me to draw a penguin in pencil so she could color it with the glaze. This portion of the crafting went very well. We pick up our tiles in July after they are fired in the kiln.

Against my better judgement I took the four lunatics to the kite making station. I knew it was a bad, bad, bad, bad, idea to have four kids coloring and then trying to fly kites. I needed this kind of problem like a loch in kup***. They initially fought over who would get which color kite. I cited my Summer Camp Mantra, "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit!" Eventually, decisions were made about colorsand they began to decorate with markers. I stood back horrified at the way they acted. I kept my sunglasses on in the shade to hide my evil stink eye glare.

As I predicted, four kites, four kids, and a small patch of grass is a recipe for disaster. I warned them to stay away from each other. I explained that the kites would get tangled and ruined if they ran into someone else. I suggested we wait until we were in a park or at home, but they could not wait to fly these cheap ass, easily destroyed kites.

The fun

lasted all of three minutes before there was a public display of drama. I replaced a string for Charlotte within the first five seconds of use. I quickly snapped the "happy" photos, knowing this kite flying would be short lived. Somehow, I just knew still photos would not do the scene justice.

I got this short video segment right before the onslaught of destruction and complete meltdown.

Overall, it was a complete fail when three of the four kites were broken. There was not a snowballs chance in hell I was going to play kite triage nurse all day. When the hissy fits started, we packed up the pile of kite remains and got out of there.

I was pretty sure the patio diners at Brio were mildly entertained by my freak show.

Clearly, I pushed my luck. Remind me next year to skip the kites and bring along another camp counselor. How many more weeks of Camp Helene? I may need additional back up.

***loch in kup
Loke-in-cup
A hole in the head
The Duggar family needs another baby like a loch in kup.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Easton Art Fair

I schlepped all four people to the Easton Art Fair at Town Center. My plan included getting these kids some fresh air, broadening their minds with some artisan works, and forcing them to walk around and expel every ounce of energy they had.

This is an annual free field trip. This year, I got smart and dressed my campers in their swimwear underneath their clothes. I used the splash pad fountains as a reward for those who listened, stayed together, held hands, did not touch any merchandise and kept a good attitude.

This was my idea of a good time during the weekend portion of Camp Helene.

We took some action photos for the blog,



under the guise of showing Lillian and Samuel the Easton fountains. We are in countdown mode until the mishpocha*** come to visit us. This will be a must do with all six of the monkey cousins.

The kids really did well. I am at a place in the parenting gig where they pretty much know what is expected of them. This makes attending an outdoor art show possible.

We stopped to enjoy the trains, which are always an entertaining hit. This year there was a performance artist on the street near the railroad station.



My kids were totally enthralled with his mime routine and neon painted get up. At first they thought he was a statue, but when he started posing they were really in awe. Charlotte wanted no part of his act. At all.

The children's craft fair is tomorrow. I have already suggested that we come back to make kites and paint pottery tiles like we did last year. Another one of my free field trips has been executed without fail.

Who wants to sign up for the second week of Camp Helene? Hurry, there are two openings for 4 & 5 year olds left. There is a mishpocha discount if you qualify.

***mishpocha
missh-poka
family, a clan of relatives
The entire mishpocha was at the wedding in Cincinnati.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Winning Means to Us

Oh joy, the lessons of summer camp. You win some you lose some. Rainy days make Camp Helene more challenging, but we choose to embrace the non pool days with other games and activities.

After I won the parent prize at the Market District earlier this week, my son, the genius, won the jelly belly guessing game. CJ was the closest child to estimate the actual number of beans in the container. He guessed 788 and there were 780. He was off in the calculation by 8 friggin beans. Math wizard or just some dumb mazel***?

I ventured to the store and activity center to collect and to allow the kids to play and craft under their supervision. This summer camp counselor used the opportunity to drink a latte and catch up on all the trashy gossip magazines.

Needless to say, CJ was totally excitedto take home a jar of 780 artificially flavored and artificially colored candies. His fellow siblings were very happy for him, but they wondered how this was going to work out- for them. Cue the drama.

Since childhood is all about life lessons and enrichment, I had to give CJ the choice of what to do with the candy. I explained that it was his, fair and square. He won. He could eat them, save them, share them or give them away- only he could decide.

At age five, he made a wise and diplomatic ruling. He told me the other kids could have all the orange, purple, pink, red, and fuchsia jelly beans and that he would eat the other colors. He knows that he can't have any of the candy with red dye, so that automatically made his division easier. Believe me, there were plenty of green, yellow, white, blue and black one left one the colors were segregated.

I doled out the jelly bellies in a method that was fair- using a dixie cup to give each child their share of the winnings. It is amazing how you can encourage small people to get buckled by offering two jelly bellies to the kids who get themselves ready to go. I used these tiny candies to motivate the masses. Some might call this bribery, I call it incentivizing- six of one, half a dozen of the other- it is how I am surviving here at Camp Helene.

This week my campers have learned about winning-sharing-dividing- and all four of them made it through a whole week of camp without permanent damage to their spirit.

It is what winning is all about- it is what winning means to all of us.

***Mazel
Good fortune, luck or a congratulatory wish for success
Maaa-zul
With his Mazel, Jeff should buy a lottery ticket.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Panama vs. USA

It could be said that it is always Panama versus the USA at our house. With Argenida here, it is rare that her Panamanian heritage is not influencing the kids. We influence and Americanize her, and in turn, she makes sure the whole house is under the Latin spell.

Last night, Panama played the United States in soccer. This game was televised on one of the Spanish speaking stations, so we planned to make an evening of it. I made a half Panamanian, half American dinner. Instead of the traditional Arroz Con Pollo, I mixed in our American version of chicken, along side the Panamanian rice and beans.
Note to self, fried chicken with rice and beans is good in theory, but is kind of nasty in reality.

I decorated some store bought sugar cookies for Argenida. I did not have time to make homemade cookies during our busy, action packed camp session, so I had Jeff print some Panamanian flags at the office, and I taped them to toothpicks to create a festive dessert.



I think Argenida appreciated my enthusiasm and creative spirit, even if the dinner sucked balls.

As we were waiting for the soccer game to begin, I played some Latin music on my i-phone. I had to find my camera so that I could video tape Charlotte dancing without interrupting Shakira on my i-tunes.

Here is all the proof you need that these kids are soaking up the Latin culture.

As for the game- the USA won and will go on to play Mexico on Saturday. This is awesome because Argenida's boyfriend, Edgar, is from Mexico. We have another rivalry match to plan for. This time I will make enchiladas and margaritas as he cheers for Mexico and we have some Jimmy Buffet songs and frozen cold beverages.

Forget the kids learning about Latin culture- gimme enchiladas and margaritas and I will be able to survive this whole Camp Helene thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Camp Giant Eagle Market District

Speaking of lame cost cutting measures, Jeff determined that if I was not working full time this summer, I would be the camp counselor. Enrolling four kids in a day camp here is out of our budget. Welcome to Camp Helene.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am the summer camp counselor for the 4 & 5 year old group. I painstakingly plan, transport, execute and supervise a daily field trip, teach make-shift, do it yourself swim lessons, and I create and direct arts and crafts. Camp Helene serves lunch daily, and is a 24/7 program for almost 12 full weeks. FML.

There is only so much mental health medication I can take before I am in a stupor. Therefore, I rely on the free field trips and summer programs to get me through the sessions here at Camp Helene. I maximize the camp day by supplementing and delegating some of the work load.

Ahhhhhh, yes. There is a solution to the 24/7 problem. Camp Giant Eagle Market District. This week they have a fun filled carnival theme where every day is a different big top kind of party. When we checked in on Father's Day Sunday we got a punch card for the week.These kind souls were actually ENCOURAGING the kids to come five times this week. As if you had to twist our arms? Oh hells to the yes, my kids were all over getting punches so they could win a prize.

Speaking of prizes...at check in there is a little guessing game. As I sign the crew into the activity center, my kids salivate and attempt to guess how many candies are in the container. They are all fierce and competitive so clearly, these kind of contests are brutal for me. I help each one make an educated guess and I pray for the best possible outcome.

This week, I was the adult contest winner from Sunday. I won a prize package of pop corn related items, kettle corn, and other various movie night stuff. The kids were so excited when we arrived today. We claimed my prize, they played, had lunch upstairsfrom the cafe and they all made a guess at how many jelly bellies were in the jar.

I have a feeling there may be a merger of Camp Helene and Camp Giant Eagle Market District. When this camp counselor needs a break, the fine folks at the activity center can take over. I don't need no stinkin punch card to motivate me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Costing "Cutting" Measures

The good thing about hair cuts, is that eventually, the hair grows out. Awwww, geez, I sure hope so, for the sake of the former, Curly James.

In an effort to save $15, Jeff decided to give CJ a hair cut, lest I take him for a special day that included a trip to the barber shop. Jeff trimmed CJ up a while back, and it was ok. This time, not so much.

This do it yourself project took place on the back deck, while I was attending a Condom Couture meeting. I was planning a fashion show while my husband was giving my son a fashion DON'T.

It will grow back. Eventually.

Here is the photographic proof of the butchering of my boy. You will notice the bare patches, the uneven front hair line,


and the general loss of any shape or style. No amount of product can compensate for the this hair cut.

Somehow, Jeff's cost cutting, hair cutting methods are best saved for those that actually compete with a $6 hair cut place.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eli at Lai Lai

In keeping with giving each child a bit of one on one attention, I took Eli out for a special day. Alone. With me.

He was chosen because this morning, he exhibited the best behavior. There was hysteria when the others realized he got a special day and they did not. Too bad, so sad.

Believe me, if there is one thing you can do to encourage the monkeys to tow the line, it is to reward the one that does.

We started by taking my virus laden laptop to the repair center. Then, we headed over to the barber shop where Eli got a nice summer hair cut. He got to select a lollipop after he sat nicely for the stylist, and there was no one to fight over colors with. No one else wanted what he wanted and he picked without pressure from peers. This is what shows me how important it is to give him the undivided attention and special days out.

Eli ate his dum dum sucker on the way to Lai Lai to have lunch with Daddy. It wasn't until we were seated that I noticed what color of lollipop he had chosen.
Apparently, the blue smurf color is cotton candy flavored. Ewwwwwww. (Note to my naysayers: See, I allowed him to eat pure crap, without a fuss. So much for my whole food, dye free, HFCS ban.)

We had a great Chinese lunch at Lai Lai. The lunch special comes with soup, an egg roll, crab rangoon, entree and rice. This is Eli sampling all of the various elements of his lunch. The lemon chicken there is amazing.



Eli could not wait to take home the leftovers for dinner. Thankfully, Chinese food from Lai Lai is the antidote for blue sucker stained tongues.

I am quite sure Eli will remember this day for a long time. Now that I got a blog post up, we can refer back to the photos as needed.

Lai Lai Bye Bye.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Jeff deserves more than one day a year to honor his contribution to our wacky bunch. He deserves a week, but is lucky to get the day. So we maximized our efforts to give him what he really wanted: A DAY OFF!

The kids crafted

Happy Father's Day cards as I whipped up a Sunday breakfast extravaganza. I chilled the diet coke ever so nicely, cut up a ton of fresh fruit, scrambled the eggs, and toasted the bagels. We allowed Jeff the guilty pleasure of sleeping late. When Eli went upstairs to noodge*** him with a cold glass of the precious diet coke, it was the ultimate wake up call, past 10:00 on a Sunday.

All four kids
showered him with lots of juicy smackers, big hugs and plenty of loud love. They delivered their cards
made without any spelling assistance,

in accordance with five year old, sound it out spelling. We presented him with a look book of the photos
from our family shoot. Please note the matching outfits and professional photography- you know who you are.

By the way, these hardback photo books are a deal from ArtsCow- when they run daily specials you can get them for about $9 shipped. The real cost is your time creating the project. We also made our Daddio a few tee shirts and ball caps using the same images- it was a theme. I used Vista Print for the hats & tees, and added them to my order of free postcards that I made as invitations to Mitchell's graduation party. The actual cost was just shipping and even then I spent less than $13 for the whole order. I am always planning for the gift giving holidays ahead of time. I am patting myself on the back for this, mainly because Jeff was very adament that we did not spend any money on gifts. CHA CHING!

The day continued with a trip to the activity center at the Market District, where Jeff had lunch, listened to his i-pod, checked emails, and zoned out. The kids all played nicely as I shopped for the ingredients for our BBQ cookout to be served at dinner. When we got home, Jeff napped and I made yet another meal. Wooo Hooo.

Happy Father's Day honey- you deserve a week but better be satisfied with the day.

It is really just three meals a day over here, with gifts and naps thrown in for my pleasure, yeah, right.

***Noodge
Noooo-ge
To nudge or prod in a pesky way.
The kids kept noodging me to buy them pillow pets!

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