Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter 2011: Mr. Bunny

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Bunny, you can read the background here. For those familiar, let's jump right into some pictures, shall we?

Keaton and Mr. Bunny




Hutton and Mr. Bunny


I tried to get a picture of the boys together with Mr. Bunny but that didn't go so well.  My options were...

...neither boy looking at the camera...

...Hutt crawling away...

...Hutt covering Keats face...

... and some good 'ol jack assery...
Mr. Bunny says: Boys, boys. Let's settle down now.

So you'll have to settle for a picture of the boys in their Easter baskets instead.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter 2011: Breakfast with the Easter Bunny

I think I was just as excited as the kids, maybe even more excited, for our church's annual Breakfast with the Easter Bunny this year.  Last year I wasn't able to attend so as soon as I saw it in the bulletin after mass in March I was calling my parents and Collin's parents to see if they wanted to come (they did!)

The week leading up to it we were talking all about the Easter Bunny to Keaton, trying to get him prepped.  We got there bright and early and sat down to pancakes, sausage, apple sauce and the most horrible tasting coffee I've ever had in my life (no kidding, it tasted like cigarette butts) and about halfway through breakfast they made an announcement that the Easter Bunny was here!!  All the kids started scanning the room and when he walked in the door Keaton flipped around in his chair to watch him.  

After breakfast we made our way to "the line" so the boys could get their picture taken with the Bunny.  Cool man Hutt was chill about the whole thing.  Also, clueless.  But hey, calm and collected.

While Keaton was a little apprehensive.  Interested.  But apprehensive.

I did not have high expectations for this picture.  All I was really hoping for was to get both boys in the same frame.  A frame that included The Easter Bunny.  I'm not sure I ever told you about our Dinner with Santa at church.  Um.  Ha!  That's was awesome.  I was so psyched to get a cute photo with the boys with Santa and Keaton was so excited and then we got up there and he freaked out.  Would not sit on his lap.  Wouldn't even stand near him.  And so I think I have a picture of Hutt with him, but nothing of both the boys together.  So.  No expectations. Which is why I am absolutely THRILLED with this picture!  The Easter Bunny.  Both boys!  Both boys looking in my general direction!  We didn't get smiles, but we got all three subjects in one shot.  I say, success!!

Hutton totally grabbed that Easter Bunny's face and came out with a fist full of fur.

After taking a picture with The Bunny, we headed into the craft room where Keaton got to frost a sugar cookie with Mimi.

And do a little jig while eating said sugar cookie.

And then he got a tattoo on his hand with Busha.  He was a little skeptical about the tattoo.

We skipped some of the other craft stations this year because it was time to get our baskets ready and line up for the egg hunt.

The egg hunt is divided into age groups and usually held outdoors but it was crappy weather this year so they had it in the school gym instead. Both of our boys were in the first age group: 0-3.

We headed in and lined up around the perimeter of the court, Father said a prayer, and then there was a 3...2...1 countdown and the whistle blew.

Hutton may be young, in fact he was likely one of the very youngest in the room, but he gave those other kids a run for their money. As soon as the whistle blew Papa set him loose and he was the first one on the court.

Keaton was a little more shy at first but once he figured out what to do he was unstoppable.  He did not pause to look at the eggs or see if anything was in them, it was just one after another into the basket.  At the end I took a few from his basket and handed to the little boy next to us because he clearly had to many (this was church after all!)

After the egg hunt we bundled everyone up to head home.  Keaton talked nonstop about his eggs while Hutton promptly zonked out in his car seat. It was a good day.  The boys had fun, we had fun, and the Grandparent's had fun. I just love this holiday stuff and am already looking forward to next year.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

From our house to yours...wishing you a Happy Easter Season! 

(More Easter posts to come this week but for now there are eggs to be found and chocolate to be eaten.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Keaton's Favorite Bird

Untitled from Kate Konopacki on Vimeo.

That's right!  CaSondra is our winner - Keaton's favorite bird is the black and orange Oriole, that eats oranges.

(For the record, the first time he told me that they eat oranges I thought he was nuts.  I'm not sure why I doubt this kid, he is like a sponge and soaks up every little thing people say.  Like the other day when my mom was changing his diaper - a particularly bad diaper - and she exclaimed Oh shit!  He's still saying that.  Thankfully only we can understand him.)

(Also, I think we're going to need one of those bird feeders.)

CaS, watch your mailbox for your Easter prize:

The bunny was made by my Mom (Thanks, Mom!) - she made a pair of bunnies for me and I asked her if she'd be interested in making one for my Easter prize and she obliged - Mom's are good like that.

The flower pot and seeds represents New Life and embodies what Easter means to me. 

Speaking of Easter I have a number of Easter related posts in the works but between trying to hit a deadline for work, getting my house cleaned for guests this weekend, and attending my most favorite masses of the year, things are a bit busy around here.  So, they'll be up soon, but possibly after Easter.  Until then, Happy Easter, everyone!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dear Hutton: 9 Months

Dear Hutty,

I can’t believe I’m addressing you publically as Hutty, but here’s the thing, of all the variations of your name that are used around here on a daily basis: Hutt, Hutters, Hutter Butts, Hutter Butter, Hutton Button, Baby Hutt, Baby Ha, Ha Ba (both by your brother), and Hutton Button Bender (by Busha); Hutty is the one I use the most. I’m sorry Buddy, I hate it just as much as you do, but it’s what rolls off my tongue. So anyway, Mr. Hutt, you have officially turned nine months old. I wish I had some height and weight stats to share with you, but you’re going to have to wait one more month for that.

This has been an interesting month. Okay, fine, I’m not going to mince words, this month has been rough. Everyone has their “baby stage” that they find to be the hardest, for some it’s the newborn stage, for others when their baby starts to walk. For me it is nine months. I remember this stage with your brother as well; you’re mobile and want to see and touch and discover new things, but you’re not yet steady enough on your feet to fully explore and you can’t yet walk. There seems to be frustration on your part because although you can pull yourself up to the couch, coffee table, tv stand, etc., you can’t quite reach everything. And there is frustration on our part because we can no longer leave you unattended for more than 10 seconds or you will have bonked your head again or pulled the gate down on top of yourself (ask us how we know that.) But the biggest frustration for me during this age is the nursing strike. Your brother went through it too. You’re just. too. busy. to waste time nursing. Or evening drinking your milk from a bottle for that matter. You settle in just long enough to get a taste and then you pop up, making sure you aren’t missing anything. It’s especially frustrating if there is even the slightest bit of distraction in the room. This month you’ve cut out an entire bottle from your daily feedings, not because you aren’t hungry, but because you are too busy. How do I know this? Because while you won’t nurse during the day, you have no problem nursing all night long.

The nursing all night thing started about the middle of the month, right at the same time you and your brother both came down with nasty colds. It was your first real sickness. Runny nose, coughing, fevers, you had it all. Keaton came down with it first and you got it a few days later, combined it was a solid two weeks of warm baths followed by lathering you boys in vicks, running a vaporizer all night long, and lots and lots of rest and snuggles. During this time I wanted you to get as much breast milk as possible and since nursing soothed you, you often ate the whole night through. Unfortunately, you found this arrangement quite agreeable and breaking you of the habit has been tough.

Thankfully this month had its highlights too. One of those moments came the day, right as you were turning 9 months old, that you started crawling. You had been getting up on your knees and rocking back and forth for awhile. You’d started taking a few “slides,” usually three or four – the way you moved looked like you were on an ice rink learning to skate for the first time – and we knew you were on the brink of taking off. Then one day you just did it. You went from the three/four slides to full-time crawling overnight. And now you are moving quite fast. You also started pulling yourself up onto everything this month. Your favorite thing is the entertainment center, you love that tv.

At the end of the month we also moved you out of our room and into the nursery with your brother. It seemed that, without fail, you’d wake up within 30 minutes of your Daddy and I going to bed and we thought that you could sense us in the room. We’d been hesitant to move you boys into the same room afraid that you might wake each other up, but we decided to give it a go to see if it would help you sleep through the night. While you guys sleeping in the same room has had no affect on each other’s sleep, you’re still waking up in the middle of the night. So I don’t know, win? Lose? I guess I’d call it a draw.

This month you got two more teeth, a second middle bottom tooth and one on the top. Oddly though, it’s not one of your middle top teeth, no, it’s the tooth to the right of your middle teeth. Which I find totally odd and has earned you the nickname “Three Teeth” from Papa. You’ve added apples, pears, mango, broccoli, and cauliflower to your list of foods you’ve tried. Mango is the only thing you have outright refused. I think it was probably because it wasn’t ripe enough, but I suppose we’ll see when we try it again next time. You’re still wearing 6-9 month clothes, you LOVE bath time, Morty the Moose, and people tickling your chest. You HATE having your nose cleaned out, getting dressed, and sitting still for longer than 15 seconds to have your diaper changed. Your smile continues to be infectious and I hope that never, ever changes.

I love you sweet boy,

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Cause of my Funk

Years ago, long before Collin and I even knew each other, let alone were married with a house and two children, I heard the statement that financial issues were the #1 cause of divorce. I have no idea if this is still the case, but what I know is that at the time I heard this I could not wrap my mind around it. Why would money be the #1 cause? I mean it’s just money. What about infidelity? That, to me, seems like a likelier cause, doesn’t it?

Back then I lived in an apartment by myself. I had a rent payment and a car payment. Beyond the normal things like the telephone, groceries and utilities, that was it. Was I rolling in cash? Oh hell no. I cleaned the home of one of my friend’s moms for spending money. I was in no way rolling in it. But I wasn’t drowning in debt either. I had an elaborate tracking system for all of my credit card purchases and I paid off my bill each and every month. I was able to buy new clothes whenever I wanted. I had subscriptions to magazines and a membership to a pretty nice gym (it included free tanning, woo!) I could not understand why money would cause a divorce? I mean, budget better, what’s your problem?

Then Collin and I started dating, and shortly after, planning a wedding. The wedding expenses and honeymoon bills accumulated. We kept track of them tediously, had plans of how to pay everything off. Before the wedding we bought a parcel of land and started building a house. Things were going good. The family business had one of its best years. We built a duplex. And then another. And then a spec house. And then the real estate market, and the economy in general, crashed. People started losing their jobs. Stopped paying rent. Weren’t able to get a loan to buy a house.

Past tenants owe us over $10,000 in rent never collected. The spec house has been on the market for two years. We’ve had to lower the rent on our duplexes just to get someone, anyone in there. When fully rented we just barely cover the monthly mortgages. Not taxes. Not insurance.

Business hasn’t picked up. Collin has been off of work, on work, off of work for months. Every so often we get a chunk of change that keeps us going for a little longer. A bonus, a tax refund, something. And then we burn through it catching up on mortgage payments or medical bills or the fucking credit card that we can’t seem to fucking control. And then it’s gone. And we’re back to being sucked into this never ending abyss of financial woe.

I refuse to let this destroy our family but to say it hasn’t affected us would be a lie. I yell. A lot. Out of frustration and fear. I don’t know where the end is. I don’t know how far we will fall.

I get it now. I get how finances could be the #1 cause of divorce. I won’t let it happen. But I get it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Easter Guessing Game

I've been butting heads with this kid non-stop lately.  I think it is largely due to us having the same personalities.  And the fact that he is two.  This morning I was cleaning chicken to put in the crock pot and every time I turned around he had laid another dishcloth/towel on top of the raw chicken.  I am batty about raw chicken, I do not want it touching anything! Especially not my clean dish towels.  After the 3rd towel I yelled "Go!" and he looked at me and without flinching said "No! You go, Mama!" and I yelled back "NO.  YOU GO!" and then Collin walked in and I realized the ridiculousness of the situation - I was cat fighting with a 2-year old. 

Tonight before bed I hugged Keats and said, "I'm sorry we had such a bad day, Buddy." And he nodded his head and repeated "bad day." 


When I stop and just take this kid in, when I watch him grab a dish rag and start cleaning the counters, or listen to him "read" himself a book before nap, or when I ask him what he did today with Busha and he says "play cars. Outside with Pa." I am reminded how much I love this child.  Stubborn 2-year old streak or not, this kid lights up my life. 


Keaton is really into birds these days.  He likes to watch them out the window, feed them bread crumbs, and check on his birdhouses for eggs.  When I was thinking about the Easter guessing game I wanted to have here I instantly knew what the question would be. 

First person to correctly comment guessing Keaton's favorite bird will win a little Easter gift from me. 

He likes them all, but what do you think is Keaton's favorite bird? 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Soul in the Season: Spring 2011

I'm in a funk.  I'm floundering through life these days.  Everything feels off.  I've been snapping at Collin and the kids.  I've had trouble concentrating at work.  I clean the house but never make it to our bedroom or the bathroom because of my Type A neurosis that says rooms A, B, and C have to be clean before I can work on room D or E and as you can imagine A, B, and C need cleaning EVERY DAY, which means I never get to the back of the house and it makes me twitchy.  I cook but cooking means more cleaning (dishes) so instead of enjoying it I dread it.  I'm paying bills and balancing my check book on the fly, I don't feel like I have a good handle of what money is coming in or going out these days.  There are some big financial decisions we need to make and I'm dragging my feet, talking, talking, talking, but never taking action to get things straightened out already.

I feel like I'm failing at every aspect of life.  Wife. Mother. Employee. Housekeeper. Cook. I'm sucking at it all.  Something tells me there is something deeper bothering me, but I haven't figured it out yet.  So instead I keep floundering, I keep snapping at the family, I keep feeling generally like crap.

Every day we get a bit of sunshine, warm weather, I think this is the day things are going to turn around.  I know the calendar says April but up until last week it was still very much winter here. However,we've had a few days in the past week that have definitely said 'spring is here' and the thing I love most about spring is the aspect of new life.  The grass is back, the ground is more green than white or brown, plants are peaking through the ground.  New life.  The temperature is warm and the wind is blowing, we can finally open the windows and remove the stale air from the house and bring in fresh air.  New life.  We can start working in the yard, digging in the gardens, sweeping the entryways, raking the leaves.  Getting things ready.  Preparing.  New life.

Right now what I could use more than anything is a breath of new life.  I need to rid myself of disorganization and self-depreciating thoughts, I need to get up and move, make things happen and enjoy the beauty of this season.  So although this list is coming awfully late, I wanted to write it down and post it and I'm hoping doing some of these things will break this funk.  I'm hoping it will give me new life.

* Spring clean the entire house
We've lived here for over five years now and not once have we really scrubbed this house down.  We've done a few rooms, but not the whole house.  It's time.  We plan to go through each room one at a time, clean, organize, simplify.  I know full well this will likely take us all summer, but we need to start.

* Celebrate Easter with Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, coloring Easter eggs, and having an egg hunt

* Start and maintain a fitness routine
Maintain is the operative word here.  I've started many routines.  Every Monday I 'start' one, it's maintaining that is my problem.  But on the days I do work out I feel 100x better.  My mood is vastly improved, I'm not as anxious, I have more energy.    But then something always happens that derails me. 

* Read 2 books
I'm in the middle of a book right now and I'm really enjoying it.  But more than anything I'm enjoying spending a little time escaping and I find that reading is such a release for me.  Something I need to make time for.

* Plant an herb garden
We bought a new container for our herb garden this year and I'm so excited to get things planted.

* Place bird feeders
Keaton is really into birds right now and Papa gave us two bird feeders.  I want to get them up so we can talk about them and learn more about birds.

* Buy fresh flowers (tulips if possible) for the table.
It would not be spring to me without tulips.  However, last year the tulips in the store were just so-so and if that's the case it's not worth the money, so fresh flowers of some sort it is.

* Do something in celebration of May Day

What are you doing this season?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tap, Tap, Tap

A few weeks ago I received a Direct Message on Twitter from my friend, Kelly, that said:

Sap is running!

That was it.  Three words.  But as soon as I read those three words I was looking at my calendar and planning a weekend trip.  The sap is running.  It's maple syrup time in Wisconsin. 

I've never seen maple syrup being tapped from trees, but its been on my list of things to-do for the past several years.  Kelly and her family run a maple farm in Eastern Wisconsin and she and her husband recently moved back home to help with the business (in their free time, they are both still working full-time jobs and commuting an hour to and from the city.  Ugh.  Kelly, you are a better person than me.)  I've wanted to get over there to visit them for awhile and when she said the sap was running I knew it was time. Unfortunately our calendar in March was pretty booked up, but luckily the sap runs for 4 to 5 weeks and it was still running last weekend so we packed up and headed over.

Before we went out to see the trees and to the sap house Kelly took us to see her chickens.  If you've been reading for any length of time than you know I was pretty much in heaven.  I want chickens SO BAD.  Collin keeps telling me they smell but guess what??!!  No smell.  At all.  They were just beautiful, soft, tasty egg-laying birds.  Oh, and friendly, really friendly, I was quite surprised at how gentle they were. 

Kelly let Keaton throw some sunflower seeds to the chickens, which meant he was pretty much in heaven.  Busha loves birds and loves to feed the birds and Keaton has learned a thing or two from her.  His favorite thing now is to throw out any bread crumbs, "froom, feed birds, nom nom nom" (his words, not mine.)

While he loved feeding them, he was a little tentative to touch them.  But we did finally get him to pet this guy.

After the chickens we walked up to see the sap house. 

But before I take you there, let's go visit the woods....

Shortly after Keaton was born Kelly and Neil were driving through our area after visiting another farm up north to look at their tapping system.  I knew this, and yet driving over there on Saturday afternoon I fully expected to walk out into the woods and be greeted with lots and lots of maples tapped with a spicket, a bag and a bucket. 

Much to my surprise, and Collin's, we were both thinking buckets, the trees were tapped using these blue tubes - I do not know the technical term here - that were attached to each of the trees.  There was a vacuum that sucked the tap from the trees and more blue tubes that ran it through the woods and into a "collection bin." 

Kelly showing us the collection bin - once full they'll come with a tractor to pick it up and carry it to the sap house for boiling.
If you look really closely you can see some sap swirling around in there.
Kelly was such a great tour guide. There was another family there with us visiting and she explained it all to the adults and showed everything to the kids.  Like how the vacuum feels.

Kelly is expecting her first baby at the end of July - doesn't she look awesome!?

At the end of the season they'll take all of the taps and lead hoses out - throwing out the end of the tap and cleaning the lead hoses for next season.  When they re-tap the trees next year they'll move the hole to another part of the tree (Kelly, if I'm getting any of this wrong correct me in the comments, Please!!)

Hutt refused to drink his bottle before we left (the story of our lives these days!) and was crabby while we were in the woods.  But Keaton had a ball.  Although by the look of this picture you'd think it was the exact opposite.

I got to tromp around in Kelly's farm boots and now I want my own pair.  And chickens.

So now let's go back to the sap house...

We were lucky enough to go on a day where they were not only collecting sap, but also boiling it - turning it into syrup.

The sap that is collected in the woods that we walked through is hauled to the sap house by tractor.  The sap collected in the woods right behind the sap house is transported through the pipes/tubing directly into holding tanks in the barn.  It is then put into tubs like this until it is moved into the "cooker" - again, I do not know the technical terms here.  This tank was holding 836 gallons of sap.  The conversion of sap to syrup is 40:1, so this tank will make roughly 21 gallons of syrup. Preboiled the sap tastes sort of like sugar water, but not overly sweet.

This is the "cooker" which boils the sap - I'm not even going to attempt to explain the boiling process except to say it gets the sap really, really hot and boils it down to the correct sugar content and to 100% pure syrup.  There are no additives.  I think this is what impressed me the most. I buy the syrup bottles, they say 100% pure, I try to get brands that also say "made in Wisconsin" but I guess I never really let my mind take in exactly what this means.  100% means just that, it is 100% pure. maple. syrup.  That is absolutely awesome to me.  Sap. Straight from the trees.  Boiled. Deliciousness.

We got to taste test this batch and O.M.G.  Sweet. Sweet. Goodness.  We bought a gallon.  For ourselves.  Because this is the awesome thing, maple syrup doesn't freeze, so we stuck it in the freezer to keep it fresh and when our little bottle in the fridge runs low we'll just fill 'er up. 

The next morning Keaton woke up and asked for 'pa takes' (pancakes) for breakfast and I've been putting it in my tea at night as a natural sweetener.  And each time I have it I can't help but think, this stuff is AMAZING!

I'm so glad we finally made it over there.  Kelly, it was great to see you guys - thanks so much for the awesome day!