Ostara Fun for Everyone

eggs

The spring equinox is upon us, and the girls and I have been having fun getting ready.  While looking for ideas of things to do with them, I noticed a serious lack of information on the Web about how to include small children in Pagan/Wiccan celebrations.  So I thought I’d share what we do with you.  If you are looking for some other great ideas, I highly recommend the book Circle Round by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill.  It is chock-full of stories, songs, and craft ideas.

I’ve been telling them the story of Persephone and reading them Rupert’s Tales, story-poems about a sweet little rabbit who is learning about the different Pagan holidays.  We’ve been listening to a lot of Ostara Songs, but the big favorite is by Lisa Thiel.  Laurel likes to sing along with that one, even if she gets most of the words wrong.

Yesterday we made Ostara cookies, because nothing says “spring” more than the marriage of eggs, butter, and flour.  Get the recipe for these super good gluten free sugar cookies here.  We painted them with “cookie paint” before they were baked.  Just mix half an egg yolk with a smidgen of water and some food coloring, then let your little artists have at it.

Cookies are good for any reason, any season.

Cookies are good for any reason, any season.

Today we dyed Ostara eggs.  What makes Ostara eggs different from Easter eggs?  Not a dang thing.  I wish I could tell you that I made my very own all natural dyes from different plants, but I would be lying.  I am too sick and tired to do that stuff right now.  So a Paas egg dying kit from Target was what we used.  For the record, the “magic crayon” that comes with it is useless.  I was so let down that my pretty designs didn’t show up.  Thankfully, the girls didn’t care.

Laurel made all of the pink eggs.

Laurel made all of the pink eggs.

Since eggs are such a big part of Ostara, tomorrow we’ll be celebrating by eating Ham, Egg, and Potato Bake off of the adorable plates that the girls picked out at Target.  For dessert it is traditional to have custard, but I’m making a bunny shaped vanilla cake with coconut icing.  Because….cake.

Seriously, how cute are these?!

Seriously, how cute are these?!

Long before dinner, however, the girls will wake up to their Ostara “baskets.”  Traditionally, these would be made from wicker or grape vines or some other lovely natural material.  But my girls get baskets as Easter.  This year for Ostara they are getting metal pails filled with gardening supplies.  Then we will plant the little seeds they got in mason jars, so they can watch them grow.

My herbs are already sprouting!

My herbs are already sprouting!

I don’t think we are going to actually hide any eggs for the girls to find this year, since it is still pretty cold outside and our new puppy would eat anything we hid in the house, but they will enjoy eating them all the same.  Luckily, they are still to young to know any differently.  And before you get up in arms about the lack of candy in their buckets, have no fear…. they will get plenty next month when they get to pretty much do all of this over again, but on a much bigger scale.

Happy Ostara!

 

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Painting Cookies!

They look good enough to eat...all in one sitting!

They look good enough to eat…all in one sitting!

Today Laurel and I made cut-out cookies.  I wanted to make up for making cookie-looking non-cookie ornaments the other day.  Because I’m all about fairness.  And baked goods.

The fates smiled upon our house today, and Laurel was on her best, most adorable behavior.  So after we put Ellie on the school bus we broke out the cookie dough we made yesterday.  Laurel picked out which cookie cutters to use, and helped to cut the dough.  The only fuss she made was when I wouldn’t let her roll the dough out herself.  (That’s a quick way for it to end up on the floor!)  She told me how many of each shape to make, and we had a great time.  Then it was off to the table to decorate them!

If you have ever made cut-out cookies with a young child, you have seen the way they apply sprinkles.  Usually it involves 1/2 an inch of colored sugar on top of each cookie, non of which actually melts, and it just gets everywhere.  So I wanted some kind of (less messy) alternative to sprinkles.  Enter…..Cookie Paint!

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Paint + Cookies = One happy Lil’ Bear!

I remembered seeing a post somewhere at some point about making cookie paint out of egg yolk and food coloring, so I decided we’d give that a shot.  And it worked great!  Laurel loves to paint more than anything in the world, so it was a natural fit.  I decided on a limited pallet of colors, and only made red, green, and blue.  The blue didn’t really want to come out blue because our egg yolks were very yellow.  So it was sort of greenish, but I didn’t really care that much.  If you want a truer blue, I’d try using the egg whites.  I’m not sure how that will turn out, though. It might make them extra crispy.  You’ll need to add a bit of water to the yolk/food color mixture as well, to thin it out a bit.  And you don’t need much of it.  I probably could have split the yolks up and used only half a yolk per color, instead of a whole one.  In any case, I love how they turned out.  The paint got really shiny and pretty.  We will definitely do this again!

Truly Scrumptious

Truly Scrumptious

Gluten Free Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup gluten free flour (I used King Arthur’s Multipurpose Flour)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

– Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Mix in the dry ingredients.
– Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour.
– Preheat the oven to 350 F.
– Roll a chunk of the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Remember to flour your rolling pin (or wine bottle or other rolling implement).
– Break out your favorite cookie cutters and have at it.  Remember to dip the cutters in flour if they start to stick.
– Put the cookies on a cookie sheet.  Use parchment paper if your heart desires it.  I don’t bother.
– Take the left over dough and squish it up with another chunk of the unused dough.  Repeat the rolling/cutting steps until your cookie sheets are full.
– PUT THE REST OF THE DOUGH BACK IN THE FRIDGE.  Otherwise, while you decorate the first batch, your dough will get too soft and sticky and you’ll never get it rolled out.  Trust me.
– Decorate your first batch of cookies however you want.
– Pop those cookies in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
– Cool on wire racks.
– Once you have a free cookies sheet, get the rest of the dough out of the fridge and start rolling/cutting.  You get the point.
– Devour.

 

Cookie Paint

1 egg yolk per color
1/4 teaspoon water per color
a few drops of food coloring

In small bowls, containers, or ramekins mix up a yolk, the water, and some food coloring.
Make sure you use CLEAN paintbrushes.  Not the ones your kids were using the other day that you just sort of half-assed rinsed out.  Either use new brushes or give the ones you have a proper cleaning with dish soap and hot water.  Use a different brush for each color; don’t try to rinse between colors. It will water down the paint too much.Again, if you use yolks that are a dark yellow, you may have problems with some of the colors.  I had to add a lot of red to make the paint red, not orange.  You can try the egg whites, but I haven’t tested that theory yet.
Paint the cookies!

Elfing Around

The Elf on the Shelf.  You’ve seen them in the stores, on Facebook, and all over Pinterest.  They are everywhere, and they are watching you.  Well, not you exactly, but they are watching your kids, taking mental notes on their behavior so they can report back to the big guy at the North Pole.  Because that’s what they do, in case you haven’t been sucked into EotS culture yet.  They are basically creepy little tattletales, sent to your house to spy on your kids for Santa Claus.  Every night they fly back to the North Pole to hang out with other elves and give their reports to Saint Nick, then they fly back to your house before morning.  Some elves just hang out on the same shelf every day.  Some hide, so the kids can find them.  Some get into all sort of mischief.  The only rule is that the kids can’t touch their elves, or they lose their magic and can’t fly to and from the North Pole.

So creepy its cute.

So creepy its cute.

Meet Fjord, our Elf on the Shelf.  He falls into the mischievous catagory.  He gets up to all sorts of hijinks.  The girls love him, and I have to admit I take great joy in coming up with stuff for him to do.  I can’t wait until they are old enough to really understand the no-touching rule, so I’ll have more options on where to put him.  But I think I do pretty well for having to keep him out of reach.

If you are looking for some ideas for what to do with your EotS, here is what Fjord did last year, when the girls were two.

Checking out the star lights on the ceiling fan, and adding one of his own.

Checking out the star lights on the ceiling fan, and adding one of his own.

Fjord decorated the Christmas tree in the girls' room with mini paper ornaments.

Fjord decorated the Christmas tree in the girls’ room with mini paper ornaments.

Just hanging out!

Just hanging out!

Gone fishing

Gone fishing

Baking cookies

Baking cookies

Fjord turned our refrigerator into a snowman!

Fjord turned our refrigerator into a snowman!

Chillin' in the freezer because he was homesick.

Chillin’ in the freezer because he was homesick.

Playing dreidel on the first day of Hanukkah

Playing dreidel on the first day of Hanukkah

Even elves need a spa day every now and then

Even elves need a spa day every now and then

Pretending to be a reindeer

Pretending to be a reindeer

Uh-oh!  Someone touched Fjord and now he's sick.

Uh-oh! Someone touched Fjord and now he’s sick.

He made it snow!

He made it snow!

Wrapping presents for all his friends

Wrapping presents for all his friends

Zip-lining across the dining room!

Zip-lining across the dining room!

Fjord feels pretty, oh so pretty!

Fjord feels pretty, oh so pretty!

Little bugger got into my sewing box

Little bugger got into my sewing box

He wanted to go with us to the Christmas party

He wanted to go with us to the Christmas party

Even little elves know the reason for the season!

Even little elves know the reason for the season!

There you go.  Consider yourself inspired. Now go buy an elf and have at it.  Start making memories while terrifying your children into good behavior.  You can even buy snugly elves for the kids to play with, if they just can’t keep their hands off of you EotS.  And changes of clothing, if you are so inclined.  But don’t buy the movie.  Seriously.  We paid $15 for “An Elf Story,” thinking it was a real movie.  It’s not.  It is a 30 minute made for TV special.  That’s right.  $15 for 30 minutes.  Waste. Of. Money.  Not to mention that it is complete drivel.  Spend the $15 on something else.  Or just mail it to me.  At least I won’t insult your intelligence for half and hour.  Unless you want me to.  Your choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

Black Friday.

The day that millions of people go into battle mode so they can bag the best deals on everything from big screen TVs to fondu pots to whatever the crazy super popular toy is this year that their kids will break ten minutes after getting.  People have strategies, back up plans, coupons.  They have memorized the sales fliers and recruited their friends and families to join them in their crusade for cheap stuff.  It is consumerism in all its insane glory.

Oh, how I hate it.

Katniss has nothing on your great aunt Betty

Katniss has nothing on your great aunt Betty

The only time I have ever gone shopping on Black Friday was three years ago and it was completely by accident.  The girls were about four months old, and Ellie had had heart surgery a few weeks before, to fix a heart defect that she was born with.  Then she caught pneumonia.  So she was in the cardiac intensive care unit of the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital for five weeks.  We spent the girls’ first Thanksgiving at the Ronald McDonald House.  A (very rich) family down there pays to have a caterer come in for the major holidays.  It was really nice….except that Ellie was still in the hospital.  Laurel tasted her first solid food in the form of a lick of mashed potatoes, which she did not like.  After dinner, we went back to the hospital to sit by Ellie’s bedside, like we had been for three weeks straight at that point.  Not the most festive first Thanksgiving, but we were just happy to all be together.

Laurel's idea of how to eat turkey

Laurel’s idea of how to eat turkey

Ellie couldn't wear her bib, but she liked the colors

Ellie couldn’t wear her bib, but she liked the colors

If you’ve ever spent a long time with someone in the hospital, you will know that time stops having any meaning.  Every day is like the one before.  So, the day after Thanksgiving was just that; another day in the endless march of days until we could take our little girl home.  It was also the day I ripped the only pair of jeans that fit my post-partum body.  So I decided to drive back home to Allentown and pick some stuff up, pet the dog (who has still never forgiven us for abandoning her for over a month), buy a couple new pairs of jeans from Lane Bryant, and hit Target up for some more diapers.

Everything was going really well; there was practically no traffic on the turnpike, Piper was SO happy to see me, even the cats were excited enough to glare at me reproachfully from the cat tree.  Then I drove to Target.  My first thought was, “Wow.  They must be having a sale or something,” when I saw the packed parking lot.  Then it hit me…..yesterday was Thanksgiving….which makes today…..BLACK FRIDAY!  Oh My God.  I need to shop on Black Friday.  Shit.

I won’t lie.  It was terrible.  I was tripping over people left and right in the baby section, just trying to grab a box of diapers.  Then I had to wait in line forever; the only person with one item among throngs of people with one, two, or even three shopping carts full of stuff.  A nice lady took pity on me and let me go ahead of her.  I almost cried in gratitude.

Then I drove to the mall, because remember I needed to buy jeans.  I didn’t have a choice.  I literally had no pants that fit me.  Dear Lord.  Never again.  If I ever find myself in a similar situation I will just wear pajama pants.  I don’t care how fat and/or sloppy I look.  I will never go shopping on Black Friday again.  Ever.

So what do we do the day after Thanksgiving?  (Other than sleep off our turkey comas.)

We decorate for Christmas, of course!  Down come the paper turkeys and painted pumpkins, down come the pilgrim hats and native American head dresses, down come the Halloween decorations we thought we put away but apparently we didn’t.  And from the attic, down comes the Christmas tree, the ornaments, the stockings, the three thousand creepy-ass nutcrackers that Chev collects, and the nativity.  On goes the Christmas music, and the decorating party commences.

Picture 076

Please ignore the fact that my dog is biting her ass.

The past few years our tree was kind of lame, but the girls are older now, so we have brought out some of our nicer ornaments.  All in all decorating went really well.  Laurel was sticking things on the tree like a pro.  Ellie, as predicted, couldn’t figure out how to do it and got really frustrated and pissed off and soothed herself by kicking the plastic Christmas balls around.  But that was bound to happen anyway.  At least there were no tantrums or injuries involved.

Giving Ellie a lift

Giving Ellie a lift

Giving Laurel a lift

Giving Laurel a lift

So that’s what we do on the day after Thanksgiving….we gather around as a family and ring in the holiday season with songs, lights, and the occasional impromptu dance break.  While other people are fighting over the last video game system, we fight over who gets to hang the last ornament on the tree.  While stores are making money, we are making memories.

And I love it.

Our little elves

Our little elves

Thankful

Tis the season to be thankful.  A lot of people (myself included) do the whole 30 days of thankfulness on Facebook, and most of the posts look like this: “Day 22 – Today I’m thankful for my wonderful partner/children/parents/friends/family/ect.  They are the wind beneath my wings!  Love you guys!!  xoxoxxox”  And while I am in fact very thankful for all of those people, it’s kind of a given.  The things we normally think of to be thankful for are pretty basic:  our families, our friends, our homes, our jobs, our faith, our lives, our health.  That’s the go-to list of stuff people are generally thankful for.  Or they are thankful for something going right in their lives, like getting a new job or their kids getting good grades.  And that stuff is awesome.  But that’s not what this post is about.  Today I’m going to give thanks for things most people may not think are “thank worthy,” but that are things I am thankful for nonetheless.

1. I am thankful for being poor.
Yes, that’s right.  I’m thankful for our lack of money, for our penny pinching, for our barely scraping by, for our “oh shit we bounced the account again” lives.  Why?  Because it has taught us how to live with less, and how to appreciate what we have even more.  We don’t have cable, so we don’t get sucked into the 30 different TV shows we use to watch religiously.  Instead, I follow a handful of shows on Hulu Plus.  (Gleeks of the world unite!!)  The girls aren’t inundated with commercials and cartoons telling them that the only thing girls can be is pretty pretty princesses.  We can’t afford to eat at restaurants very often, so when we do it is special.  We can’t afford to buy pre-made anything, so I have become a kick ass cook.  We can’t afford to buy a lot of clothing or toys for the girls, so I have learned to sew, and found my new passion.  We can’t afford to take cool vacations to theme parks, so we take the girls camping and instill in them a love of nature.  Being poor has helped us see what really matters, and what doesn’t.  Of course, I wouldn’t turn my back on winning the lottery, either.

2.  I am thankful for never finishing college.
My mother will kill me for this, but I’m glad I never finished college. I wish I had never gone at all.  Think of the money I could have saved everyone.  I never really had huge ambitions like some of my friends.  And heaven knows I’m terrible at finishing the things I start.  (My mother can wax poetic about this for hours.  Hours, I tell you.)  Some people feel they are destined for great things.  I’ve never really been one of them.  I had great idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but in all honesty, I never really saw them working out.  However much I’ve bitched about working retail or as a secretary, I really do like it.  I like not having to take my job home with me at night.  I like not having to deal with deadlines, crazy bosses, and mass quantities of stress.  I like my quiet, simply life.

3.  I am thankful for my crappy little house.
Chev would disagree with this one, but I like the quirks that came along with this house.  So, the water in the bathtub is always set to shower.  Its annoying, but it is ours.  So the windows in the living room leak cold air.  Our first place together (fondly referred to as “The Hovel”) was WAY worse.  So the floors are creaky and old.  At least the girls will never be able to sneak out without me hearing them.  So our neighbors are kind of dicks.  We don’t really ever need to talk to them.  I love our little house because it is ours.  Not some crappy rental.  Not something that belongs to one of our parents.  Ours.  Our little piece of creaky, leaky, crazy showered heaven.

4.  I am thankful for the girls’ craziness.Yes, every scream, cry, shriek, and growl.  Every toy thrown, every shin kicked, every hair pulled.  Every jump off of the couch, every jump on the bed, every climbing of the cabinets.  Every time out, every hug, every kiss to make it better.  Because even when they drive me crazy, I know that this is just a phase, and that one day I’ll look back and laugh fondly at what little imps they are.  And when they are oh-so-cool teenagers, I will miss this.  I will miss the time when their worst troubles were not wanting to share or eat their peas.  I will miss the time when a hug mended a broken heart and a kiss healed all wounds.  I will miss being able to make things better just by holding on to them tightly.

5.  I am thankful for the sleepless nights.
Ellie still sleeps with us.  We don’t even bother putting her in her own bed anymore, because who wants to get up in the middle of the night?  Some people will scoff and roll their eyes and talk about how we should sleep train her.  How she’ll never want to sleep in her own bed.  But you know what?  One day she will want to sleep in her own bed.  One day she’ll outgrow us.  And I will miss this.  I will miss having a little head snuggled up on my shoulder.  I will miss her little baby snores and her sweet toddler smell.  I will miss Laurel climbing into bed after having a bad dream, and only Chev can make it better.  I will miss the crazy tangle of arms and legs and heads that pushes Chev and I out to the edges of the bed, hanging on in silence because we don’t want to wake our slumbering angels.

6.  I am thankful for the mess.
There are toys everywhere in my house.  In the girls’ room, our room, the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the bathroom, the hallway, the yard, and even the car.  There are paper chains and painted pumpkins and toilet paper turkeys in my living room.  There are dinosaurs protecting the pantry door.  There are naked dolls (why are they always naked?) lined up in my hallway, having a parade.  There are stuffed animals everywhere.  Seriously, everywhere.  I found one in my coat pocket the other day.  No idea where it came from.  But there it was, inside my glove in my coat pocket, keeping warm.  My mother comes over and talks about clutter and how can I stand it?  But I don’t see clutter.  I see imagination taking wing.  The blocks all over the dining room floor aren’t really blocks.  They are lily pads, and Laurel was making her toy animals jump from one to the other.  She asked me about frogs and how they lived the other day, and BAM!  today there is a swamp in my dining room that her toys have to navigate.  I told Ellie about reindeer last week, and today she found every single reindeer toy, book, and picture in the house and put them all on the coffee table.  Then she showed them to me, signing “reindeer.”  She was so proud of herself.  But I was prouder.  So don’t look at the mess when you come to my house.  Look at the ways the girls are learning.  Unless you are offering to clean it up.  Then you can call it a mess all you want.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from me and mine!

The Best Part of Waking Up

When you dream of having children, you imagine sleepy Sunday mornings full of cuddles, with everyone snuggled up in bed, talking and giggling as you all decide what kind of pancakes you are going to make from scratch for breakfast, and what kind of great adventures you will have that day.  In your head it looks something like this:

Don't they look happy and cozy?

Don’t they look happy and cozy?

And sometimes, it really is that great.  I mean it.  Sometimes the sun is shining and the birds are singing and everyone wakes up happy.  Sometimes the girls climb up in our bed and we all snuggle and talk before going downstairs, where I make gluten free blueberry pancakes for everyone.  And it is wonderful.

Today was not one of those days.

Today started with Laurel crawling into our bed at around 5:30am.  Ellie was already in between us, as she usually is, because she woke up in the middle of the night and I was too tired to put her back in her own bed.  (This is called co-sleeping through laziness, by the way.)  Luckily, Laurel wanted to lay in front of Chev, on the edge of the bed, so Chev wrapped her up in her arms and we all went back to sleep for a bid.  A very little bit.  At around 5:45am Laurel decided she wanted to sleep in the middle of the bed.  The problem, of course, is that Ellie was already there, and unlike so many of my friends’ twins, our girls do not co-exist in a sleeping state.  This is what followed:

Laurel wiggles down between Chev and Ellie, trying to push Ellie out of the way.  Ellie wakes up and whimpers, then sticks her feet against her sister and her back against me and SHOVES.
Laurel:  No Ellie!  No kick-a me!
Ellie kicks her.
Laurel kicks her back.
Ellie:  RRRRRRRRRRR!
Laurel:  Sissy, NO!  I no likes it!
Ellie grabs one of Laurel’s “buddies” (Did I mention that Laurel sleeps with an entourage of four stuffed animals?) and tosses it of f of the bed.
Laurel: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!  Dat’s my Merida!
Laurel smacks Ellie and climbs over Chev (who has actually been asleep up to this point), to retrieve her Merida.
Ellie stretches out with a contented sigh.
Laurel climbs back on the bed and body slams her sister.
Laurel:  ELLIE DAT’S MY SPOT!!!!!!!!
Me:  For the love of God, will you two please knock it off??
Ellie:  AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!
Ellie sits up and grabs all of Laurel’s buddies and throws them off of the bed.
Laurel starts jumping up and down, screaming incoherently, then manages to fall, knees first, into Chev’s back.
Chev:  AAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!  Oh my God, my back!
Laurel:  hehehehehehehehehe
I sit up and grab Laurel.
Me:  Laurel, that isn’t funny.  You hurt Mommy.  Say you’re sorry.
Laurel:  No!  I can’t!
Me:  Yes, you can.
Laurel:  Stop talking to me.
Ellie crawls over to Chev and gives her big hugs.
Laurel:  NO SISSY, DAT’S MY MOMMY!
Laurel lunges out of my arms, and onto Chev, where she tries to pry Ellie off of her.
Ellie:  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!
Laurel:  MY MOMMY!!
Chev:  Everyone get off of me!
Me:  Oh my God, come on, all of you.
I scoop up both girls and carry them down stairs, where they get cold cereal and gluten free freezer waffles. Chev nurses her wounds before joining us.  I start counting them minutes until I can leave for work.

Happy Sunday, folks!

Ellie is an "H is for Hell" and Laurel is a "Snow Angel."

Ellie is an “H is for Hell” and Laurel is a “Snow Angel.”