Monday, May 30, 2011

Beanie Queenie Turns 4!

When she was born I had all sorts of good intentions about calling her "Laney". I would call her by her whole first name only occasionally, and then it would be pronounced "Eh-léna" like my friend Elena or like Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Mask of Zorro. She'd be the little blonde version with a yellow rose in her teeth. Hmm. And probably a bit shorter as it turns out.

Anyway, it never crossed my mind that she'd be called "Eeee-layna" so much by everyone that pretty soon that's what she'd be.

That is, when she's not "Bean".

I've tried to recall just how she became "Bean", but the memories are fuzzy. Maybe it was because she was 23 inches long when she was born and looked a bit like, well, a bean pole. Maybe it was because she was a "coffee bean" and woke up promptly at 5 am every.single.morning whether it was Sunday or not. Maybe it was because she was a "jumping bean", crawling at 4 months and walking/climbing at 9. Maybe it was that "bean pod" sleep sack that she wore to bed every night and could still crawl AND walk in!

At any rate, the nicname stuck like a bad toupée and she still introduces herself as "Bean, 4 years old". I get a lot of weird looks for that, especially when we're out in public and Emmy has a sudden need to introduce the family to random strangers in the check out line.

"HI! I'm EMMY!! I'm 5, and this is my brother Joshua. He's 7. This is my little sister Bean, she's 4, and that's my baby sister, Evelyn. She's ZERO."

"What's her name?!", they'll ask, trying to be polite and wondering if they're just hard of hearing or if I just have a cruel sense of humor: name the rest of the children lovely, normal sounding names BUT HER.

Of course, the silliness grows exponentially when little ones learn how to rhyme. Joshua Boshua, Emmy Slemmy, Beanie Queenie, Mama Quama (???), Grandma Pajama, and Grandpa Campa all answer to their Sesame Street names without hesitation now.

So yes, Beanie Queenie became a very grown up four years old a couple of weeks ago.

Her birthday last year was a total, complete bit of a flop. I didn't even make her a cake.

At all.

It was... not my best mommy moment, I'll admit it.

This year I was determined to do better. I was going to have the BEST cake EVER! The ingredients had all been purchased days beforehand (yes, all 9 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter!), the totally awesome yellow tutu swimsuit that she'd flip over (that definitely won't be fitting her anytime soon) and plans made for family to gather for pizza, cake and ice cream that evening.

And then.... reality hit. Emmy started out the morning of Elayna's birthday puking her little guts out, I quickly discovered that I had made two layers of the cake with 9 inch pans when the recipe was for 6 inch pans, and not quite enough ingredients to make a second batch of batter (who needs green, blue, and purple, right? ...RIGHT?!). By noon I was ready to throw in the towel, except for that cute little blondie that insisted on spending her whole birthday in the kitchen with me, "helping". How could I turn that down?

(recipe found here)

We plugged along, somehow made it to the store and back in time to continue baking and frosting before dinner time (including the 2.5 dozen cupcakes thanks to all the extra batter), and despite a little mishap where I threw the camera into the side of the cake, it actually turned out all right. I just have one thing to say about that rainbow cake:


Seriously, if y'all are thinking about giving it a go: DON'T!!!

Or at least, for the love of all things sane, MODIFY the recipe! Take a few white cake mix boxes, whip 'em up, throw some food coloring in, and stack those things up! The frosting was good, though... NO! Resist the white chocolate buttercream and just make up some white frosting, for pity's sake!

Okay. I feel better now. Moving on.

Despite the excitement and joy here, we will have to wait till next year since it is way too big and we are way too far away from the store I bought it at to exchange it. I don't know, but I get the feeling that if we just hide it till her next birthday we'll still get a pretty good reaction from reopening it!

It's hard to believe she's already 4 years old. She's still my little sunshine girl.

Happy Birthday Bean!

Four years old now!

I just love black and whites!!!

See my flowers?

Bye now!

Oh, and by the way, forget everything I just said about all of her nicnames. Besides being Bean, which I suspect to some people she always will be, she is simply, "Layna".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Ants Go Marching One by One, Hurrah, Hurrah

What I HAVE accomplished today: 2 loads of laundry, dishes, meals, school, trying on the girls' summer clothes to see what fits.

What I have NOT accomplished today: getting dressed.

Well, okay, that's not entirely true. I DID get dressed today.

Somewhere around 1:00 pm.

But my clothes drove me nuts, so I put my jammies back on around 3:00.

And trust me when I say that the two hour time window I just described was really, really sort of exaggerated.

Sometimes I feel like my hormones or something are all out of whack and I can't stand the way my clothes feel! The waist line, the hems, the seams... ALL of it!! So yeah, I'm wearing my fuzzy Christmas jammies and in complete denial trying not to think about where my little Emmy's clothing issues might have come from.

But Emmy's issues are a complete, individual, unique blog post that I will get to some other time. I promise. You don't want to miss it.

Meanwhile, life has been insanely busy here. We are thisclose to being done with school, if I can somewhere find the motivation to get those last few days organized and on my to-do-list radar which seems to be totally malfunctioning on a regular basis now that the sun is shining and the grass is green. 'Give me a good book and send the kids out to play' is my new motto.

Er, well, it will be anyway. Just as soon as school is done.

Oh, and in case you were wondering how that whole application process went with the homeschooling blogger stuff, I made the cut! Woot! Okay, more about that later!

So the other day we were out cleaning the yard after winter and spring storms had thrown lots of little branches around the place. We went from tree to tree, hauled enough branches to make an impressive bonfire and grew bored of the constant bending over and straightening the crick out of our backs. Or maybe that was just me. The kids got bored of the whole work part of it and started throwing old walnuts across the road into the field. Most of them made it *almost* to the yellow dotted line.

Someone squealed with delight as she picked up a rotten walnut with a colony of ants scurrying around inside, and like a flash of lightening, I remembered something that had been sitting in my office for over a year:

The Ant Farm!

available at Amazon, of course!

I bought it for Emmy's *ahem* 4th birthday and promptly lost the ticket that you have to send in to get ANTS to populate the thing.

Yep. I know. Lame-O Mommie-O.

Even better? It sat in my office ON ITS SIDE until that day we found the ants in the walnut. What difference does that make? Well, let me tell you!

Inside this clear plastic thingy is a big solid blob gel. It's supposed to go from one wall to the other and from the bottom most of the way to the top. Without any gaps. When it lays on its side for 18 months, however, it settles to one side. And when you're in a huge hurry to get the thing set up and get the little bitty ants into it, you might not notice that there's a big bubble on the side so you take the little wand and stick it down in the gel and do nothing but make a path straight from the top to the middle of the bubble for the ants to FALL into.

Strike one.

In my hurry, I naturally didn't stop to read the directions until I was completely failing at transferring the ants from the walnut to the habitat. No, no, that didn't come until I had shaken a bunch of nasty rotten walnut bits into the nice clean habitat, had a dozen or so crawling up my arm and had children jumping up and down around me screaming, "They're getting out! They're getting OUT!!!" because they're quick little critters and don't CHOOSE to stay in the gel when the lid is OFF.

Strike two.

So I frantically shoved the lid on ("Momma!!! You cut an ant in HALF!!!") with one hand, grabbed the rice cooker (???) with the other, threw the ants (walnut and all) in, closed the lid, and shoved the whole thing in the fridge.

Yep, the fridge. What can I say? That's what the instructions TOLD me to do.

The kids stood there by the fridge with blank expressions and looked at me like I'd completely shorted a fuse.

"What?! They needed to cool off, they were getting WAY too riled up.", I said, and brushed an ant from my cheek.

Half an hour later I took them back out and shook the rest from the walnut before transferring as many as I could to the gel. The others were quite active and they busily hauled around the handful of eggs that had come with them. They were a bit disoriented and the eggs made several circuits around the gel, but I figured they would get it figured out eventually.

The kids were fascinated. The ant farm went from the counter to the table, to the bookshelf, to the windowsill, to the laundry room, to the... hmm. I'm not sure where all they went.

And then they were dropped. About 48 hours into the experiment someone picked a fight over who got to look at the ants. Nevermind the two clear sides that each could have had all to themselves, apparently the viewing of the ants could only be done by one child at a time.

As if it were in slow motion, I watched the corner of the ant farm bounce off the kitchen floor, bounce off the island, and eventually settle on its side on the floor. It was like an avalanche of jello, overtaking the ants where they stood, surrounding them with gel that they couldn't escape!! The horror!

The children assumed the ants would scurry around with the same level of excited energy they did at first, fixing all the shifted gel to the right places and opening up their tiny little tunnels, but I knew better*.

Ants don't recover when they look like this:

Oh yes. I'm doing a great job farming my ants, here, I thought as I carefully placed the ants on a high shelf where they obviously wouldn't might recover from their unfortunate fall.

It was no use. The instructions CLEARLY stated that the ants should not be bumped, jostled, or moved too quickly. Personally, I think the instructions should have also clearly stated that the thing should not be laid on its side for more than 2 hours or the gel will settle! CLEARLY the two maybe-not-as-coincidental-as-they-seem-at-first circumstances are a fatal combination! And with today's penchant for having warning labels on our warning labels, something MUST be in the works for this very disturbing sort of situation:

"Ant Farms for Dummies". Write it down. Gonna be a best seller.

Poor ants.

Strike three.

*At some point, maybe during the midnight hour, those ants (and their farm) may or may not have made their acquaintance with a tall black plastic bag and the leftover oatmeal. But *I* would like to plead the 5th on that.


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