Stephen and the kids went to our garden today to clean up for the winter.  I was in docent class, so they took care of it without me.  It sounds like everything went well.

We cleaned out the cucumber and pumpkin vines a while back.  Between the powdery mildew and some animals, we didn’t have any pumpkins.  We had picked our carrots and didn’t have much else grow except tomatoes.  Our tomatoes were crazy.  We had pint after pint after pint of cherry and grape tomatoes.  We also had a decent crop of Roma tomatoes.  The problem with Roma tomatoes is that they ripen a couple at a time.  That was a hard adjustment for me since I canned 120 pounds last year – in two days.  Most of our tomatoes went straight to the freezer and at the end of the season, I made some sauce.

So, for today’s clean up, we mostly had tomato plants and stakes to clean up.  I suggested that Stephen take a garbage can with him.  That turned out to be a good idea since the waste truck was a bit of a walk from our plot.  We didn’t think to take a rake, but someone lent them one.  That turned out to be useful for raking tomatoes that had split and fallen into the beds.  Our stakes were muddy, so Stephen and the kids went back for them later in the day when they could take towels to wrap them in so not to dirty the car interior.

We had used single green plant stakes.  They turned out to be rather useless for our huge tomato plants.  Next year, we need to invest in much beefier stakes.  We also need to plan on more room per tomato plant.  Our plants took off and shaded a good portion of other plants.  By the end of the season, we had a tomato garden.

The kids are still the highlight for many of the adults and couples at the garden.  They enjoyed all of the attention during the garden visits.

We plan to plant another garden next summer.  We’ll probably try to start some plants indoors and have an earlier start with a more comprehensive plan.  Hopefully, our weather will be a little more garden friendly next year as well.

 Posted by at 9:50 PM

Today I took Nick and Sally to Eddy’s Fruit Farm in Chesterland to pick apples. We met a friend of Nick’s there, as well as his parents and grandmother. I enjoyed meeting them, and it turns out that his Dad and I have some links via my alma mater.

In any event, the purpose of the day was apples. As Lyn may have mentioned, the tree fruit crop this year was hurt badly by this spring’s weather. Some U-pick farms don’t have picking at all this year, while others, like Eddy’s, are open for picking fewer days than usual. That said, the picking was great today. The trees were laden with ripe apples. Here and there they were even bunched like grapes down a heavily-bent branch.

As usual, the picking on the low branches wasn’t very good near the entrance. There were still some to get up high (I’m over six feet tall, which helps) and, of course, the farthest corner of the orchard is always the least-picked.

We started with Golden Delicious. Nick spent some time picking with his friend, while Sally picked with me. She was full of giggles when she picked one apple and had the other one come along for the ride.

There was a chilly breeze blowing despite the sunny day, and Sally was cold. Worse, she was missing her nap, so she soon asked to ride in the stroller. A few minutes later, she asked, “Daddy, can I pick from the stroller?”  I found a low-hanging branch and let her try. After she picked two of the four apples on that branch, she was done and ready to nestle under her blanket. We switched to picking some kind of red apple, and Nick decided to give one a try. It disappeared quickly, so it must be good.


We picked 49 pounds of apples, which comes to about a bushel and a quarter. I was impressed with our haul until Lyn told me it took 21 pounds of apples to can 7 quarts of applesauce. Ah, well, I can pat myself on the back for hauling all 49 pounds to the car while pushing a stroller and conversing with an inquisitive Nick. Yes, there are special skills daddies develop.

All in all, it was a good outing. We left a few apples on the trees, but if you go, be sure to call first to check hours and availability.


Nick has been taking swim lessons for a while now.  There was a several week break in the summer, but today was the first day of a new session.  Sally is also finally old enough.  Well she is almost old enough, but since her birthday is next month, we thought we would try it.  Both kids were super excited today.  Sally packed her swim bag this morning 8 full hours before we needed it.


Sally loves her “swim bag” and made sure to hold on to it and the elevator.  Nick forgot his goggles and borrowed the yellow ones from Sally.  His lesson was first, so Sally spent some time in Kid Kare before her lesson.  That worked great since then I didn’t have to watch her on the pool deck during Nick’s lesson.


Nick’s lesson was mostly a review of past skills.  He did well and still loves the water.  Sally couldn’t nap today since she was so wound up.  I was just hoping she would actually like the lesson since she was so keyed up.


She couldn’t be happier.  I’m glad she was so comfortable in the water without me.


There were 5 kids and 2 instructors in her class.  The instructors trade off and work one on one and in groups with the kids.  She was really relaxed.


She even liked it on her back.


These dumbbells are used to help them float while they move their hands to swim.


I think our first lesson was a huge success.  I just hope that next week comes with an afternoon nap first.

 Posted by at 8:11 PM

The end of September brought us to Farmpark, one of our favorite family places, once again. This time was for the Fall Harvest Festival and Antique Tractor and Farm Engine Show, which is a bit of a mouthful, but lots of fun.

It was a grey day that threatened rain, but we went anyway. Right when we walked in the door, Nick and Sally found the Western Reserve Spinners and Weavers Guild practicing their craft. The ladies of the guild were friendly and patient and had just the right touch answering Nick and Sally’s questions, or in at least one case, just keeping on spinning as Nick inspected the wheel from all angles. I thought it was very nice that they were perfectly happy to stop their craft to answer questions from our two little ones. The weaver answered particularly many questions, and showed Nick and Sally all about her loom and the patterned weave she was making.

We went outdoors next, and saw quite a few fascinating tractors and other machines. I think I enjoyed this part the most, though Nick found some interesting things to look at, too. Sally quickly saw enough tractors and machines and preferred to stay comfortably cozy.

Farmpark had a corn maze to explore, but for the little ones, they also had a straw bale maze. Sally was hesitant, but Nick ran right in. Soon she saw the fun he was having and decided to dive in and had fun, too.


It was lunchtime, a very important time of the day for two young ones (and their father), so I tried to hustle them to the car. But no, they saw the woodcarver and had to stop. I’m glad we did. He was every bit as wonderful with them as the spinners and weavers were, and patiently explained what he was doing and let Nick and Sally touch anything they wanted except his blades, which he kept a little less obvious than safer things. Sally was tired and started out watching from her stroller, but soon she wanted to get into the action as well.


He explained to them that they could carve, too. My protective instincts got a little worried, but he soon explained to them (and to me?) that the chips he cut off with his knife were the same thing as the dust from sandpaper, and that sandpaper was like thousands of tiny knives that they could carve with. They jumped at the opportunity to participate and soon were discovering how sandpaper turns rough wood into smooth.

By then we were well into lunchtime. My plan for our grumbellies having collapsed, I invited Nick and Sally to lunch in Farmpark’s cafe. That’s a rare treat in our frugal family. Just to make it better, we sat next to some good friends that our family knows well. It took a few reminders to get all the kids to eat instead of playing. We went home tired, fed, and sleepy. It was another great day at Lake Farmpark.



Last year when we toured the preschool that we eventually chose for Nick, the only thing that I didn’t care for was their snacks.  The school provided a snack each day, but it rotated between animal crackers, fish crackers, vanilla wafers, etc.

Nick gets his share of junk food, but I really didn’t want him to be excited for school because he was getting a processed snack every day.

Over the summer, a new director was hired and the next thing we knew, parents were asked to help by providing healthy snacks for the class.

Of course, I am in love with this idea.  Today was our first turn.  We brought in sliced cherry type tomatoes from our garden.  It’s cool that Nick got to pick them and then take them to share with his class.


He reported back that some kids liked them and others didn’t.  But that’s ok, at least kids are going to get exposed to many different snacks this year.

I’ll have to think of some other good ideas moving forward.  There’s 14 kids in the class, so we’ll have to bring snack in a little more than once a month.

 Posted by at 4:00 PM

Before I had kids, I worked for the National Inventors Hall of Fame.  Specially, I worked the Camp Invention program.

It’s been almost 5 years since I worked full time for camp.  Now, I am busy raising my own little campers.  Many days we have craft sticks, boxes, paper, markers, tape, scissors, glue, paper bags and more out in our house as the kids experiment and create.


Recently, Nick started wanting to build more “real” things from his designs.  Some safety goggles were in order.  Sally and Nick were both excited when they arrived.

Most of our toys are used as part of creations.  They are rarely used for their intended purpose.

It’s awesome. It’s messy. It’s fun. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Nick started preschool today.  He’s four and a half and will have one year of preschool before kindergarten.  Nick’s been counting down the days until preschool for weeks.  He has been super excited to start.  He’s really super excited to not have to take naps, since he’ll be in school from 12-3PM.  He’s also very interested in snack time.


I took a few obligatory photos outside of the school.


Today, he went for an hour and a half, tomorrow is 2 hrs. and then on Wednesday, he’ll go the full 3 hours.  There’s no separation anxiety with him.  He’s very used to being away from me for a few hours at a time.  I think Sally will have the bigger adjustment.  Today, she had a play date since siblings weren’t supposed to come.  Hopefully, she’ll be in a good routine to nap while he’s at school by the end of the week.

 Posted by at 11:01 PM

While we were out of town for the Labor Day holiday, we found a Farmers’ Market to visit.  This was the Fulton Street Market, the oldest and largest in Grand Rapids.  It came recommended by my cousins who live near there.  There’s a campaign going on to raise money for restrooms, but the port-a-jons are welcome whenever you are traveling with kids.


This pepper display was the most colorful stand at the whole market.


The kids enjoyed dancing.  Nick looks like a chicken.


Sally was glad that she talked Stephen into a ride on his shoulders.


Markets that are under cover tend to be pretty nice.  It’s a bit more community like since all of the stands are set up the same.  We didn’t buy much since we were traveling, but it was sure fun to stop by.


We ended up with a fabulous granola bar that I wish I could duplicate, some jerky and a loaf of bread.  It was a great way to start our Saturday.

 Posted by at 9:54 PM

While traveling last week, we ran across a “Little Free Library”  I had never seen or heard of them before.  Basically, any person or group can buy or build a box and make books available to others.  There are over 2000 of these around the world.  I was surprised to see one in the Cleveland area.  I’ll have to go visit it.

The mission of the libraries is to promote literacy.  We are very lucky in this area to have a great library system.  Not all areas in the world have these services available.

I think this would be a great project for a preschool or church group.  The possibilities are endless.

Here’s what the box we saw looked like.  It was near a few shops and a parking lot in Michigan.


When you register a box, you get an official sign and number.


I’ve just started reading about the organization, but I really like the concept.  I’m not sure my construction skills are up to the test.  I’m reminded of some not so square boxes that I built for an 8th grade science fair.  Maybe Nick will be better at making containers with Stephen.


Sometimes Nick and Sally fight like cats and dogs.  Most of the time, they truly enjoy each other.  The other day at breakfast, they decided to share a chair.  I don’t even remember why.  I remember Nick saying, “It’s better than getting kicked!”  Apparently when Sally sits next to him, he gets kicked a lot.


Yesterday, they asked us to come in and see their TV.  They were sitting on the couch watching their crazy looking, creative TV.


They had a toy tool box lid up on a box.  The blue thing is a music player that was on.  There were test tubes in the container next to the box.  The creativity the kids display is amazing.


On a typical day, our living room is filled with cardboard, boxes, craft sticks, tape and much more.  It’s so much better for them than TV.

 Posted by at 10:29 PM