Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mill Street Neighborhood Party

Last weekend was the Mill Street Neighborhood Party, which we helped organize. Last year (the first year we did this), we had drizzle and temperature in the upper 50s; this year, it was humid and about 90 -- AND we did it two weeks earlier than before! Go figure.

One of the highlights was that Park and Recreation sent a youth worker over to organize activities with the kids -- you can see in the video that his shirt is starting to get soaked with sweat!

Mudpuppy's first food!

Mudpuppy tried his first taste of solid food last week -- mashed up banana. Judging from his expressions, the jury must still be out, taste-wise. But he's such a voracious eater, he has to start on something! Lately, he's been taking natural applesauce, too. I mix it up with breast milk and he takes it right out of the bottle. Next up, strained brussel sprouts. Mmm!

Cat Crazy

A couple of weeks ago, we found a mother cat raising five kittens under the floor of our garage. (This is possible because the floor of our garage, which used to be a carriage house, is made of wood. And it's rotting around the edges, leaving a gap.) The kids have always wanted a pet - especially a cat; the older ones have read the "Warriors" series (about a bunch of feral cats) avidly. So you can imagine their enthusiasm about the kittens, which they promptly named.

In any case, we discovered the cats wandering among boxs of siding (we're having our house sided). Apparently they were just old enough -- maybe about four weeks? -- to start exploring beyond the den. Starling and I were afraid they'd get smooshed by a passing car in the alley, or killed by an owl, so we contacted the Winona Area Animal Humane Society, who kindly lent us several live traps and lots of smelly cat food. We captured one kitten within an hour of setting up the live trap. A few hours later, I scooped up a second one after observing it wander in and out of one of the live traps without setting it off. (I had managed to sneak up on them after barricading them in the garage with long cardboard boxes from the siding.) And then we captured the remaining three kittens in the live traps overnight. Mama must have been too smart for her own good, though, because she never went for the bait -- a lovely heaping plateful of tuna fish. Mmm. She still comes around the garage meowing and looking for her babies to this day, poor thing.

All of this required several trips to the humane society, which was just about as wonderful as a trip to the zoo for the kis. Sadly, both Bear and I are horribly allergic, judging by the amount of sneezing and sniffling we did after every visit. Who knows, though ... maybe after Mudpuppy is out of diapers, we can experiment with a Siamese or another short-haired cat. Here's some video of the kids with one of the captured kitties, as well as visiting the humane society:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mother's Day Tea Party

So, we went up to the Twin Cities to visit my parents for Mother's Day; my sister was also visiting from Milwaukee with her three littlest girls. To celebrate Mother's Day, they had a tea party in the backyard:

We also spent part of the previous day ripping up the weeds at the top of the hill in the backyard in order to plant switchgrass. Hopefully, if it takes, it will be easier to maintain. We're laying black plastic over the area for a couple of summers to kill off the weeds and grass; then we'll try to establish even more prairie grasses.

Here is Mudpuppy (center) with his two baby cousins:

And Jaybird with her cousins:
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

April grocery update

Well, I said I would update everyone on my April grocery challenge. Our April grocery total was $561.43. Our coupon savings was $71.42. Compare to $679.81 and $33.66 for March. And, of course, our starting point was an average monthly grocery bill of $850.

The question people ask about this is, "Yeah, but how much time do you spend?" I have to say, grocery shopping has become a major chore and a major pain. I figure I probably spend about 5 hours a week, give or take an hour. If I eventually get to the point of saving $300 a month, that'd mean I'd be getting "paid" about $12.50 - $18.75 an hour. On the up side, it's getting more routine as I'm "trained in" on how to do this (e.g., focus narrowly on only buying items discounted 30% or more, plus whatever we absolutely need; never sort coupons in a windy parking lot; always read the fine print on advertised specials; not everything marked "sale" is actually significantly discounted, etc.). I'm also beginning to learn the pattern of how quickly we use stuff vs. how often those things are deeply discounted. Give me a year, and this stuff should be second nature.

My goal this month is to have a sub-$100 week. We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

First Communion

"Mouse" made her First Communion today. Here's a short movie I made from a few video snippets and pictures . . . obviously, the best parts didn't get recorded:

Mouse was both excited and nervous going into the big day (as she mentions in the video). Some 33 kids received their First Communion at our parish this weekend, but only Mouse and her friend from down the street had their First Communion at the 8:30 Mass. Father thanked us for getting up early! Because they were the only two kids at that Mass, they got some special treatment -- like welcoming people and passing out programs before Mass. Our pastor addressed them by name several times during the homily (which was excellent, by the way, but also extemporaneous -- so I can't link to it). Then, after the homily, the director of faith formation called the girls by name and asked them to stand up. Our pastor then asked us parents whether the girls were ready to receive Communion, to which we answered, "They are!" And then he asked the girls whether they were ready . . . we'd coached Maria about speaking up really well for this part, and she didn't disappoint. Both her and her friend (who is the daughter of a liturgist trained at Notre Dame) responded "We are!" in clear, strong voices. Our pastor and some in the congregation smiled a little at their boldness (usually the kids whisper the answer).

Mouse and her friend also got to bring up the gifts; Jaybird and Bear got to bring up the gifts as well, accompanied by Starling and another adult friend (the godmother of Mouse's friend and the godmother of Jaybird). When they were asked what they wanted to bring up, they both immediately asked for the bread and wine.

Starling had bought Mouse a little chapel veil for the occasion, but she didn't wear it for most of the Mass. I think she didn't have it on when she went back to welcome people, and she never thought to put it on after that. But since she was so invested in it, I reminded her to put it on before she received the Eucharist. So she wore the veil for her First Communion -- if only briefly.

We had a nice brunch after Mass, after which Mouse opened her many presents:
two rosaries
a Catholic Youth Prayer Book
a subscription to Magnifikid
a statue of Mary
a precious moments First Communion statue
a little knit purse

And of course she had also received a nice bouquet of flowers from her uncle and aunt in Alabama.

After gifts, the family of the other girl walked over and we had cake and ice cream on our back deck.

At the end of the day, Mouse got to choose a prayer from her new prayer book for family prayer time; she chose, "A Great Day" -- because, she said, "that's what it was today!" And then she made a "chapel" out of a cardboard box and her veil (laid over the box) and her statues, and knelt down and prayed a decade of the rosary.

There were definitely some bumps in the road today that I'm leaving out, but on the whole, it was really a beautiful day for Mouse and for those who love her.