Even the Sun was Gold’n’Delicious….

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Today’s Muffin Tin Monday theme was apples. We live in apple country, and the kids are always up for a field trip, so PisecoMom and I loaded up our herd of happy apple pickers and moved our way out to the local You-Pick farm.

We started out picking in the rows of filled-to-overflowing trees. My kids were very anti-tart apples, and Pisecomom and her crew liked them on the sour side. Mostly, though, ALL of the kids liked running around the orchard and trying to avoid the camera. But, hey, I’m sneaky and I caught them all at least once!

Emily in Orchard
Nate in Orchard
Jediboy in Orchard
Anna in Orchard
Babygirl in Orchard

I even caught the PisecoMama snacking while we filled our bags.
Pisecomom in orchard

After we paid for our harvest, we lunched on our Muffin Tins full of apple slices, lots of dipping options, and crushed walnuts for sprinkling. Thank goodness that PisecoMom was in charge of the apple dippers, since I managed to run out of the house with the wrong bad, so I had disposable bowls, forks, napkins, and some coughdrops instead of the gluten-free pretzels, cheesesticks, and juice bags I’d meant to bring along.

Nate was brave enough to try the Ginger Gold apples again…and they were STILL too sour for him.

Sour Apple Face

When they were finished eating, the kids spent some time looking at dragonflies and trying to find more wildlife down by the irrigation pond (squishy, slimy green pond!).

Kids by Pond

After eating, we hung out with the farm animals for a while. Lex and I mostly just relaxed. She used my camera for some pics while I was making multiple trips to the potty with various combinations of children.

Since I put a picture of her at the top, I’m going to be brave and crazy enough to post one of myself. A completely unflattering one, but I have to say I was having SO much fun that I don’t really mind. I really was as happy as I look in the picture!

Leigh and Jos feed animals.

We managed to leave the orchard before anyone melted down. BabyGirl crashed in the car, and we hopped out at home to send the PisecoPals back to their house for some rest before Karate and Gymnastics.

It was a great day. The very best kind of sunny, funny, best-friends-and-best-fun type of day.

Baby Got a Brand New Haircut…

and I got the pictures to prove it!

Despite feeling half-dead (maybe 3/4 dead in some of our cases), we managed to drag out to the hairdresser yesterday to sheer the boy sheep and institute phase 2 of Anna’s hair-repair “Back To One Length” plan.

She was too blah to get pictures taken post-cut last night but managed to ham it up a bit for a couple of quick snaps this afternoon during one of our “Advil’s Working” moments.

Anna got a haircut.

Princess Snarky requested that I get an additional pose of her Evil Genius (trademarked, I’m sure) pose for The Internet People.

Evil Genius Anna

I enjoy the cute, short bob but she’s fond of longer hair. We’ve got at least one more bob in the future, probably around the winter holidays, before we get back to one single length with no visible bangs.

Our house is still full of semi-sick people who are primarily just laying around resting. Once we recover, the catching up is going to be insane. We’ve put off or put aside so many things while we’re sick that it may crash and cover us all in an avalanche of things left undone.


Pennies from Heaven or Headaches from…somewhere further South? – Blog Blast

I am the mother of three rabid consumers. They were exposed to consumer culture early and often, via heavy doses of commercial television and multiple sets of over-indulgent grandparents. When pressed for introductions, we frequently just call them “Gimme 1”, “Gimme 2”, and “Gimme 3”. Their collections of “stuff” fill up all the room in our moderately sized home that we, pre-children, wondered if it might be impossible to ever utilize fully.

Unfortunately for both our wallets and our little super-shoppers, giving birth to children with a strong desire to ACQUIRE MORE STUFF did not magically cause our financial status to change to comfortably-wealthy or come with their own little money tree where we can pick perfect hundred-dollar bills each morning to use for our spending sprees.

Learning to bridge the gap between want-to-have-it and do-you-need-it is an ongoing life lesson for the Chen family. Teaching our three kids the value of work and how to adequately control spending is important to us because we do not want them to become adults who fall into serious trouble with debt or who value possessions over people in their lives.

We have instituted an allowance plan that is helping the kids see the link between the money they have and the things they can purchase. Each child gets weekly allowance in an amount equal to the years of their lives. Our 9 year old gets $9 per week, for example, while the 4 year old is only given $4 as her weekly allotment.

From that allowance, each child must place 1/4 of their weekly total into long-term savings and at least $1 into a charity-giving account. The rest is used at their discretion to purchase snacks not covered under the family’s grocery budget, toys, and any type of extra-special treat that has not been previously budgeted for as a family expense.

We have a set list of things that are covered under the “Family Budget” rainbow. Comfortable and well-fitting clothing are a family expense, but clothing from specific brands or in specific designs that costs more than the average article must be paid for from allowance. Fruits/veggies/healthy snacks are a family expense, but candy, chips, or trips to McDonalds must be paid for via child accounts. Most books, school supplies, and hygiene items fall into the Family category, but special art supplies intended for single-child use, fancy bath or hair products, and the seventy-millionth new box of markers (bought because unnamed lazy children have left the caps off all the older markers and they’re no longer viable) are paid for by the kids.

Teaching the kids to take advantage of sale prices, plan ahead and save for major purchases, and think twice about impulse buys has taken some of the sharp edge off of their consumer hunger. We will continue to explore more ways of becoming conscious spenders, and I am excited to see what the folks over at the Parent Bloggers Network have to say on the issue.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about making wise financial choices can check out the MoneyWise Learning Tools sponsored by Capitol One.

Who needs the beach?

My kids were in the mood for some time outside, and Dave was conveniently participating in an office tennis tourney at the court across from our house, so we loaded up bags and neighbors and bicycles and headed off to the park.

I was attempting to scout some new portrait shots for an upcoming Not-Back-To-School mini-session event while also chasing kids and (sort-of) watching Dave play tennis. Because I wasn’t focusing on ANYTHING, I walked into the trunk of a massive willow tree with the camera up to my face. I heard my toe crack and knew it was not going to be a good thing. Yep, less than 10 minutes into the playing saw me limping and crying through the anguish of a newly broken toe.

But I’m the Mama, so I sucked up and kept shooting pictures. While I had been whimpering into my water bottle, the kids decided that the best place in the whole park today was the sand volleyball court. I got to shoot all kinds of “beach” pictures as they built and then destroyed a sandy version of the city of Atlantis, complete with King Triton’s castle.
Sandy Bottoms
Nate Playing Sand-Mover.
Anna in Sand.

The big girls (Kathy and Emily) grabbed some ice cream and got in some serious “no little kids allowed” girl-talk on the swings and in their own corner of the sandbox.

Beautiful Kathy
Em on the Swing

I got enough shots of the little folks in the potential snap spot that I determined it would be great for what I need. Of course, my kids were only partially cooperative, so the pictures I got of them are full of their personality.

Here we have a prime example of Nate’s “let’s get this done and move on” face.
Nate on Bridge
He totally has the same look on his face that Dave gets when he is humoring me but thinks I’m being silly.

Princess Anna had some trouble standing still.
Pretty baby girl.

Eventually, she managed to calm her body, but her eyes kept dancing.
Anna on Bridge.
Why, yes, she DID cut her own hair a couple of months ago and leave us to deal with “growing out the bang syndrome” again. She’s cute even when she’s got one of the world’s worst hairstyles. Of course, it looks fine when she wears clips, but clips never survive a trip to the park.

My favorite shot of today is this quick snap of Allie G., whose smile absolutely screams “I’m 7…and mostly toothless!”. She’s so full of joy, this picture just makes me grin every time I look at it.

Allie Urban Fence

I hobbled home tired, sand-covered, and completely happy even though the pain is excruciating. On the upside, having too much pain to sleep comfortably means that I had time to blog tonight instead of waiting for some unknown future moment of peace.

Off-Kilter and Out of Synch…

It’s been a strange, but very interesting, week around Casa Chen. Aunt Judy came down to spend a week with us before she heads to her next job up in Maine, and this weekend honorary Uncle Ryan came to hang out for a couple of days and take Dave down to the ‘Gunks (Shawnagunk Mtns.) for some climbing.

Our regularly scheduled activites and business fell by the wayside as we made trips to Chuck E. Cheese, lots of shopping for arts and crafts and fun activities, and plenty of hanging out and eating yummy things.

On Saturday, we had our normal morning swim lessons at the YMCA. Then we did the regular Saturday shopping trip at Wegmans, except we had a much bigger than normal list since we were prepping for a grill out with Judy, Ryan, and our friend Davey.

Dave, Judy, and Em dropped me and the little kids off at the grocery while they went to the mall. Nate and Anna were excited because we had enough shopping time (usually grocery is a ‘hurry up and get done’ activity) that they got to be the corn shuckers for this trip. It was their first time husking and de-silking the corn, and they were serious and thrilled in equal parts.
Anna with her corn.
Nate shucking his corn.

Today found us heading off to 5 Guys for burgers and fries, and then Coldstone for dessert. I snapped a few pictures with Em’s camera, and Anna made sure I got a picture of her with her daddy. She’s very much Daddy’s Girl, and loves him quite loudly and enthusiastically.

Anna and her Daddy.
Everybody loves Ice Cream.

Tomorrow starts another crazy week, with Em attending YMCA Camp Arrowhead and Dave and Ryan heading out for their climbing trip. Aunt Judy will head back to Rochester for a few days before coming back on Friday to hang out again on her way to her new temporary home in Maine.

I’ll try to blog more regularly again as things calm down. I’ve got great plans to post pictures of our newly reorganized school room, which I hope will happen soon.

Until then, it’s work and sleep for me.

Summer Time, and the Living is Easy!

Our friend Heather was kind enough to invite our family and the Piseco/Jedi Family out to her home in the country to enjoy some lunch, playing, and a splash in her pool.

Some of the kids had fun making their own pizzas.
Jamie making Pizza
Jossy making pizza.
Annie making pizza.
Ben making pizza.

And at least one of the kids just enjoyed eating it.
Nate having Pizza

After pizza, the kids hit the pool. The big kids spent their time in the Howell’s awesome big pool, and the little girls were in a baby pool on the deck.

Ethan spent some time lounging like a lizard on the deck.
Ethan resting

Em didn’t leave the pool till we practically dragged her out.
Emily on raft.

There was lots of watermelon eating, and plenty of sticky faces and fingers.
Campbell eating watermelon.Ben eating watermelon.

Wee baby Jillian sat for ages in her little pool, splashing happily and soaking up the sun.
Jill in the water.

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon full of fun, friendship, and a whole lot of love.
Girls hugging.

Happy Anniversary, Apollo 11.

Forty (thanks, Alexa) years ago today, Neil Armstrong climbed down from the lunar lander and captivated the world in black-and-white on their tiny televisions.

For my kids, the concept of being able to travel into space is more basic than wondrous. They know that there are researchers living in space, and that it’s quite possible that tourists will regularly fly into Earth orbit or beyond within their lifetimes.

I couldn’t convince the kids to be excited about any of the projects I had planned (a frequent occurrence), but we watched a couple of episodes of Bill Nye (Space Exploration and The Moon) and they worked with model magic while they were listening.

Em sculpting.

Emily decided she would build some Aliens watching over the “teeny-tiny Earthies”. I love her stereotypical green men and their little flying saucer, just hanging out behind our home planet.
Em's creation

Anna Banana wanted nothing to do with “Outside Space”. She decided she was going to build a coral reef and stick her favorite yellow cut-out fish on top. She requested frequent photographs.

Like this one, when she was telling me how she feels about the fact that her coral looks like pre-chewed gum:
Anna Blah!

And this one, of all of her hard work in progress…
Anna Sculpting

Or this picture of her finished, pink and yellow project:
Anna's fish

Oh, and my favorite picture from today. I can’t resist her puppy-dog eyes looking up at me.
Anna Pout

But, you say, I thought you had three children. I thought you had a son. Uhh, yeah, I do. He abstained from all activity today. He has, however, agreed that it’s pretty cool men walked on the moon long ago and has requested that we let him know when it’s his turn to go to Mars.

That’s Entertainment!

We spent today hanging out at Chuck E. Cheese while the painters continued to work on getting the outside of the house finished. After several hours of electronic fun at the House of the Lesser Mouse (because no mouse is more mouse than Mickey, of course), Dave picked us up to head to our classes of the night!

The kids had gymnastics while Dave was at the dojo. The Jediclan (are we still using fake names?) were 3/4 present at the dojo since Jediboy studies Karate almost every weeknight, so I picked up Baby Girl to keep me company while I waited at the air conditioned gym for our class to be over.

We spent our time talking, giggling, and sharing snacks at the “Gym of More Food”. I decided to do a little work on the laptop, so she decided to watch some Strawberry Shortcake on the Ipod. I was very amused to hear her little voice pop up next to my ear and say, “Leigh, take a picture of me.”

Baby Girl with an Ipod

This was the first time she’s ever asked me to take a pic, so I indulged a bit and shot several of her doing what she does best…eating and entertaining, all at the same time.
Babygirl with an Ipod