Sunday, December 11, 2011

Woodshop Meets Etsy

For the past 8 months, the chiddlers and I have had the privilege of studying woodshop with two very awesome teachers. It rocks. We attend class once a week and -- every class -- each come away with one toy, handmade from scratch. When I say from scratch, I really mean it. This is serious from-scratch business, yo -- no pre-cut wood here.

Generally, class starts with a little measuring and sawing.

Often followed by drilling (hands down, Micah's favorite activity a la woodshop).

Can't have a class without a lil hammering.

And, of course, screwdrivering (a mouthful, I know, but sounds better than the alternative).

The final products, in my opinion, have been nothing short of amazing.

Choo-choo by Eli; Rainbow rocket by moi; chopper by Micah

These are just a select few of the creations we've churned out over the past few months. Like I said, every week is something new and exciting. I get a little choked up in attempting to express how fun, valuable, amazing and downright awesome in every imaginable way this class has been for the three of us. The kids are crazy for it and I, well... let's just say I've actually started dreaming woodshop, concocting in my head the following weeks rainbow rockets and little toy robots. It's just so fun and so satisfying and it don't hurt none that it teaches the kids all kinds of mad skillz, particularly of the mathematical variety (logic, measurement, problem solving, oh my!). I can feel this veering in to a blog post about woodworking and how important and wonderful and amazing and, sadly, underused it is as a teaching tool for kids, but let's just leave it at that and move on to the part, as promised, where woodshop meets etsy.

Over the summer, Eli developed a wee bit of an obsession for money. Money was suddenly just. so. cool. He loved every thing about it. "I just looooove the look of paper money," he said while gazing longingly at a five dollar bill, much to the amusement of my goddaughter. But even better than admiring it's inherent beauty? Counting it. Yep, counting money is seriously the bomb. It started with the cute lil piles of change I found around the house (always adding up to exactly one dollar).

And then, one late night, things took a turn for the crazy, when he went on (what I can only describe as) a one dollar pile making bender. See for yourself:

It was out of this love for money that operation lemonade stand was born. Then, still high off his success with the OP, he asked if he could get a job. A real job. He just really wanted to make money. I offered to pay him to do odd jobs around the property, but NO, that would not suffice. He wanted a job that would allow him to contribute to the overall income of the family. Mooching exclusively off the ol' rents was apparently no longer gonna cut it. When we came up pretty blank on job ideas for a seven year old, he started making things to sell, mostly in woodshop class. I mentioned in passing that he might have better luck selling his handmade wooden toys online; that I could set up an etsy shop for him. He was all over it. Micah, of course, wanted in on the action, too, sweet as it was. And, thus Brothers Make was born.

The rest is history. It's been a blast. The thrill of each sell is off the charts (even if their only customer is my brother). They recently sold a couple ridiculously cute handmade Christmas ornaments (check 'em out here and here).

I just think it's so cool that we live in a world where kids can sell their adorable handmade art online. The only downside being that they've now started charging for pretty much everything they make. Yep, David and I have to fork out a buck or two just to hang hand drawn kiddo art on the fridge.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Amazing Wonderful Normal

Since I finally have some good news to report on the health front, I figured it's time do a little bloggy CPR. Yep, time to breathe some life back into this baby!

Life is so good! I feel amazing! I think what I actually feel is simply normal. Possibly even healthy (not to get too totally carried away). But for someone who's been battling Cushing's for a decade followed by a year of panhypopituitarism, normal -- and especially healthy -- is FUCKING A-MAAAAAAAY-ZING. I have a urge to scream it from the roof tops: "Hey, ya see this chick here?! Meeeee! Yeah! I don't feel sick. Not terribly so anyways... and it's only gonna get better from here on out. YAH BABY!!!!" But since shouting from the rooftop of our smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-the-woods home would be utterly pointless and unheard, I think a little letting loose right here on the internet is in order. Say it with me people: WOOOOOOOOOLLY WOOOOOOOOOOLY!

Now, I have to admit that maintaining this state of normalness is an arduous process involving a daily drug regime that could rival the likes of most any medical patient (or raver).

Clearly for any normal person, this would be more than enough medication to get you through a day. But for is post-Cushing's panhypopitters? Nope, not so much. In addition to the candy-store of goodies pictured above, I also baste myself thrice daily with hormonal gels. And then there are the nightly injections (the butt ones are particularly riotous).

Crazy, I know, but worth it.

Life is settling in to a new fabulous wonderful normal. The chiddlers are amazingly adaptive and have weathered the last few years with unbelievable grace (and cuteness). They're sweeter and more full of love than ever and are just doing fantastically. Eli is crazy into evolutionary biology, particularly predator-prey relationships and prehistoric sea life. He adores swimming (though, not with prehistoric sea-life; in fact, he often warns that if you were to find yourself thrown back in time into the Jurassic, no matter how dangerous it seems on land, NEVER EVER GO INTO THE SEA!!!). He also loves chemistry and usually has some chemistry project going (either on our kitchen counter, in our fridge or in our freezer). Other interests include: math, astronomy, money, marketing, economic and woodshop. Also: kenkens.

Micah, my super affectionate little sweetie, has become a passionate hiker. In addition to our regular hikes around the Rancheroo, we've been tackling one very long strenuous hike per week as a family. Recently, while we were hiking Tablerock, a lovely volcanic plateau 30 minutes from the Rancheroo, Micah received a ton of praise from passers by (it's VERY steep and not generally thought of as a kid friendly climb). One particularly impressed passerby stopped Micah: "How old are you... only four, wow, you are the youngest person I've ever seen hike to the top of Tablerock!!!" To which Micah responded: "Welllll... I do eat a lot of protein" and then flexed his muscles... Arrrrrrr! As we neared the top of the trail, he so appreciated all the encouragement he received from the hikers heading down the mountain. "You're almost there!" they cheered him on. On the way down, he extended the same encouragement to next generation of climbers. "You're almost there!" he exclaimed and then watched as they melted into puddles of goo from the overwhelming cuteness. We had to ask him to put it to a rest, though, when we were almost a quarter of the way to the bottom and he was still doling out the you're-almost-theres.

Other Micah odds and ends: he's crazy for phonics and in the past week has surprised David and I with how much he's able to read (a lot!). He's loves to bead, is learning french, loves everything math, and bursts out into song and dance every chance he gets (which, as it turns out, is often). His favorite expression is "Don't let the cat out of the bag."

Speaking of letting the cat out of the bag! I think I should do just that (sorry, Micah). Yahhh see; we've got news! We're planning to move! Not immediately, because we have some pretty major travel we want to do first, but sometime in the nearish future, we're planning to leave our property (anyone in the market for a Rancheroo?), so we can move to a different part of the valley. It's been a hard decision and, in many ways, a sad one, but, as much as we adore our property, we've developed absolutely no connection with our closest town. I won't go to into the details, but suffice it to say that the town just plain sucks, errr... I mean, it doesn't suit our needs or personalities. On the other hand, we're quite charmed with another nearby town (about 45 mins from where we currently live) so we've decided to make the move out that way. We'll find another place in the woods, of course. And don't worry; it won't really be like giving up our Rancheroo, just moving on to a new one (we're even planning to call the new place Rancheroo Take 2). Everyone I've told so far has expressed surprise and sadness about our plan to leave this amazing property. I have to say that it's a pretty freakin' awesome feeling to know that so many of our close friends and family have fallen just as in love with this place as we have. In your honor, we promise that Rancheroo Take 2 will be equally epic! And near a town that doesn't totally suck!

We're all pretty stoked. Micah liked the idea of moving to a new house but was emphatic that we continue living in the woods. Eli agreed completely but had to admit that the city did offer some lure to him: "I would be the richest kid on the planet if I lived in the city!" Not following his logic, I asked what the fuck he was talking about (maybe not quite in those words). "Well," he explained, "think of all the costumers I'd have for my lemonade stand!!!"

So yeah; life is good.

Thank you to everyone who helped us through the fucked up shithead of a nightmare that was Cushing's. They say it takes a village to raise children. Well, apparently it takes a network of friends an family, scattered about the US and Canada, to raise children when their mother is in the throes of battling a hormone-secreting pituitary adenoma.

I truly cannot express how grateful we are for the outpouring of love and support we received. You all rock my world.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Tale of Two Hundred Soaps

In the past few months, I've whipped up over 200 bars of soap. I know! So much soap! I've actually been making soap for years -- David (hubby) and I took a class while I was preggers with Eli (8 years ago!) and have since enjoyed making ridiculously yummy soap on a limited basis. Just a few batches a year. Nothing crazy fancy; enough that we never need to buy it and have a little left over for gifts.

Things on the soap front took a turn for the serious about a year ago. As I was recovering from my various brain surgeries, I discovered that soaping tutorials (yay youtube!) were a lovely & relaxing way to spend my time. In particular, I'm became crazy gaga for Soap Queen TV, a series of soap making tutorials by the very talented and experienced Anne-Marie of Brambleberry (which also happens to be my favorite place to buy soap making supplies).

Turns out that in addition to being damn fun, watching these tutorials turned me into a darn fine soap maker.

Six months ago, after dozens of friends insisted that my soaps were professional enough to sell, I opened shop. Serendipitously, around that time, my brother and his super rad ladyfriend got engaged (yay!) ... and clearly, they needed 200 bars of soap as wedding favors for their guests. The rest is history, and it's been months of mad soaping around here!

A lil sample of the madness:
Organic Lavender Divine. This cold process baby smells as good as it looks.

Rainbow soap! A very time consuming and detailed melt & pour project. While working on it, I swore that I'd never do it again (SO time consuming) but when I saw the final product, I was won over. Who doesn't love sparkly soap rainbows?!?

Four Flowers. Named for its fragrance. Scented with the essential and fragrance oils of four flowers: lilac, lavender, jasmine & saffron.

Strawberry Cake soap. Smells just like it sounds. Yum.

Green Tea soap. Again, smells just like it sounds. Double yum.

I also discovered that soap making is a great way to express my inner math nerd. Pi soap! Yay!

During one particularly silly evening, bordering on delirium (wheeeeeeeh!), I thought it'd be fun to make a soap that looks exactly like strawberry lemonade (it was!)

It was so popular with the chiddlers that they decided to make another just like it, only this time less soapy, more drinkable:

Eli loved the drink just as much as it's soapy predecessor and it quickly became the prototype for his latest obsession: Operation Lemonade Stand. Yep, he now sells these beauties at the playgroup for 50 cents a pop.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Shit My Kids Said (And Did) In 2010

My kids regularly say funny shit. It's awesome. Hands down, it's my favorite thing about hanging out with young children. They're outrageously funny with little to no effort at all. I love kids.

With no further ado, I present the 2nd annual Shit My Kids Said.

(Each is a stand alone quote or conversation...)

Eli, when asked if he was excited about our impending trip to Texas: "Yeah! Sarah gets to get her tumor out and there's gonna be A SWIMMING POOL AT OUR HOTEL!!!"

Micah, in a not uncommon fit of nerdiness: "What comes before A? Are there negative letters?"

Eli: "I'd love to eat nothing but peanut butter chips for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, but can't cuz I would get sick and die."

Eli muses further re: nutrition and human resilience: "I wonder if I could survive on just jellybeans and candied cherries if I took a vitamin everyday..."

Micah, on the not-so-pleasant things in life: "Eli hates blackberry prickles; Sarah hates Cushing's; David hates weeds. And I... I hate gloves that don't fit me and all kinds of stupid stuff."

Eli, the kid with the very endearing trait of loving fresh fruit more than anything else: "Try not to use all the peaches in the pie!"

Eli and his friend Alix, wielding a squirt gun and a giant net: "Does anyone know where the cat's hiding?"

Micah to his pop: "No seriously, David-- it's your bedtime. Go eat your bedtime snack."

David, to Micah as he "hides" to escape bedtime: "I can still see you when you're covering your eyes. It's extremely cute, but I can still see you." (Okay, so that was a daddy quote and not a chiddler one, but how sweet and cute is that?)

Me, to Micah at the grocery store: "Please don't call me a boobie head so loudly in public." Micah, in response: "I'm not calling you a boobie head; I'm just saying that you have a BOOBIE ON YOUR HEAD."

Micah: "I'm afraid that's not quite enough. I need A WHOLE BAG of cookies."

Eli, to David, re: the bear who rearranged our garbage late one night: "Why didn't you sneak up behind it and hit it over the head with a pot?" (Yeah, David. Sheesh. Why didn't ya?)

Micah: "Could megalodon survive on land?" Eli: "No." Micah: "It could only survive in the sea?" Eli: "Right." Micah: "It couldn't survive on land cuz it didn't have any legs?" Eli: "No, that's not why. It's because it had no lungs... only gills." (Not particularly funny, I know, but I couldn't resist-- mama loves her little geeks.)

Eli to Micah, about how David is the smartest person ever... "Way smarter than Sarah even." (BALLZ.)

Eli shares the secret to eternal cuteness: "I'm gonna be even cuter when I grow up... cuz I'm gonna wear bunny ears all the time!"

Micah, telling me about his time machine: "We were in the time when bacteria was the only life on earth and then we traveled back even further... to the BIG BANG!!!"

Eli, eating a BBQ steak on the deck with his bare hands & teeth: "I'm eating like a caveman!"

David, to Micah: "What do you want for a bedtime snack?" Micah: "Cream cheese off toast." David, confused: "Ummm, you mean just a chunk of cream cheese?" Micah: "Yah!!!"

Eli: "I would never punch my parents... unless they hit me or Micah with a stick." (I was actually glad to know that he'd punch ANYONE who hit him or Micah with a stick.)

Eli: "I'm gonna be a farmer when I grow up. I'll kill chickens and cows for people to eat and I'll share my food with everyone who is good. But no bad guys will be allowed to eat it... no bad guys or giant rat creatures."

Me, to Micah: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Micah: "A nose on a nose floating on a floating butt."

Micah, looking for any and every excuse to delay sleep: "I don't want my door half closed; I want it a quarter closed!" (This first happened towards the beginning of the year when we were still charmed by such a cute and nerdy excuse for evading sleep. We, thus, responded in a kind and compassionate manner. But now that he's made the same or some similarly ridiculous excuse almost every night for the past year, we just get exasperated and yell back: "Fine! A quarter close it yourself and go to sleep... ya nerd!!!")

Eli: "What if you stuck a banana inside a chicken with no head!? Would that taste good?" (This one comes from David, so I have no idea what sort of context we're talking. I think I'll keep it that way.)

Micah, to me: "I was trying to start my video game, but I accidentally checked your email!"

Me, to Eli: "What would you like for lunch?" Eli: "Donuts" Me: "We don't have any donuts." Eli: "How about cake? Do we have any cake?" Me: "Nope" Eli: "Cookies?" Me: "Nope" Eli: "Pie?" Me: "Nope, were all out." Eli: "Okay, I guess I'll have some carrots."

Micah: "Hey David, how do you spell spider barbecue?"

Eli, to me: "Is there anything as gross as a walking talking fart?"

Micah, peeking up at the sky on a cloudy day: "I can't see the sun anywhere!" Eli, in response: "Oh, just keep a look out for A GIANT BALL OF FIRE in the sky. You'll see it eventually."

Eli: "Popsicle starts with P." Micah: "No it doesn't-- it starts with pop!"

I'll leave you with a story from this past summer. We spent several nights of stargazing on a blanket next to our house. Micah spotted his first shooting star (!!!). Eli -- in hopes of one upping his bro -- claimed to have witnessed "a giant sparkly green ball of gas zooming all around the planet." Micah thought Eli's claim was hilarious but -- not to be outdone-- claimed that he could feel the earth spinning beneath him. Sigh. Stargazing with the chiddlers. Sigh.

Well, that's it for last year. If you're itching to get a head start on this year's hilarity, check this out.