BUGS!

3.20.2015

I debated writing this post...Most of you know I like to talk about lighthearted and fun topics on my blog.  Still, we're going through a living nightmare right now, and if anything, I hope my blog post will serve as an opportunity for me to not only vent my frustrations but also provide information for anyone else who may find themselves in the same situation one day.

We have bed bugs.  Prior to discovering this on Wednesday morning, I thought we simply had a few random beetles roaming the house.  See, like many, I believed bed bugs were 1) invisible to the naked eye, and 2) only present in homes that, for lack of a better word, are unclean.  How could we possibly have these invaders in our home?  We wash our sheets and vacuum every week, we make sure to wipe down our kitchen after we cook and eat.  We bathe every day.  We're clean people. 

On Monday, my husband woke up from sleeping in the downstairs recliner and found four beetles on him.  They looked somewhat like engorged ticks.  We killed them, looked for more on the walls, blankets, and carpet, and came to the conclusion that they must have been random beetles that found their way into the house.  We've already seen some spiders--a clear sign that spring is on its way (even though we have more snow predicted for today...ugh!)

On Wednesday, I woke up and found a "beetle" on my pajamas.  I started investigating our bed.  I pulled off the comforter and the sheets--nothing.  I pulled off the mattress pad and to my horror, there were a few smaller "beetles" and some nasty black excrement between our box spring and our mattress.  YIKES! 

I ran downstairs, typed in "What do bed bugs look like?" in Google, and my case was solved.   Simple. 
From NYC.gov
Except it is not simple.  There is nothing simple about these creatures.  I called an exterminator, and they came out to examine our house.  As suspected, they are in our bed.  But, as they pulled away the folds of our plush couch, they found more, and after turning over our dear son's mattress, they found more.  In one day, our seemingly minor nuisance of "beetles" turned into a full blown war against these disgusting, nocturnal creatures that, like ticks, bite you, and feed on you while you're sleeping.  My consistent itching and scratching wasn't due to dry winter skin, it was from bug bites!!!

Now that I know how to identify them (and their much smaller babies), I've become obsessed.  Obsessed with finding them, killing them, vacuuming them, etc. etc.  This weekend we will be laundering all of our bedding, clothes, towels, curtains, etc. in hot water and high heat and then placing them in plastic bags to be stored outside the house.  All books, toys, and other household items will be wiped down/sprayed with rubbing alcohol before going into plastic bags, and every single corner and nook and cranny of our house will be vacuumed before the exterminators arrive for not just one, but two applications that will happen during the next three weeks.  Yes, we have to live out of plastic bags for the next three weeks!

The first application, slated for Tuesday, will kill all current bugs, but the second application (about 14 to 21 days later) will be to kill a new cycle of bugs that may be hatching from their eggs. 

I feel violated.  These pests have been living in our home undetected for weeks, perhaps months, disturbing our sanctuary--our sacred, beloved, private place away from the stress of school and work!  I can no longer sleep because I feel like they're crawling on me at all times (the imagination is a powerful thing), and I've been washing our pillows, blankets, and bedding like crazy before we go to bed each night.  I woke up this morning at 3 a.m. after a very light, unsound sleep, turned on the light, and within ten minutes killed about 8 very tiny black dots.  I was tempted to go into my son's room to spot and kill more but didn't want to wake him from his peaceful slumber. 

For anyone that has gone through a similar situation, my heart melts for you.  It's not your fault.  It's not our fault.  They can hitch a ride home with us from a hotel, plane, train, movie theater, dorm room, hospital, convalescent home, etc.  They can come from clothing or a piece of furniture that we decided to buy and bring home from a thrift shop.  They can even hitch a ride to your house from a new piece of furniture that was housed in an infested warehouse or truck.  The possibilities are endless, and now after reading about bed bugs and talking to experts in the field, it seems that the number of incidences of bed bugs is on the rise.   One exterminator told me that it's so common that it feels like one in every five houses has them. 

This weekend is not going to be fun.  I have to sleep with these critters for four more days!!!!   The one light at the end of the tunnel is that our house will undergo a spring cleaning like it's never seen; it's a chance to get rid of old things and start fresh.  I can do without the $1200 extermination bill, but if that's what it costs to have peace and not get bitten anymore, then it's worth every penny. 

I used to sing to my little boy, "Good night. Sleep tight.  Don't let the bed bugs bite."  I now HATE that song.  These bugs are going down!

Six Days Until Spring...

3.14.2015

I'll admit...at the beginning of January, I prayed for snow.  It was a little disappointing to have a brown barren Christmas.  Two weeks later, the snow started, and it never stopped.  I did some investigating to see if we broke any records this year, and it turns out that we did.

February 2015 has officially made its way into history as the coldest month in Connecticut.  The average record temperature for the month was a balmy 16.1 degrees.   (This beat out the former record set in 1932 of 16.5.) It also was 13 degrees colder than our usual 29 degree norm for February.

Although our state is buried in 50+ inches of snow, we did not set any records here.  Connecticut's record was set during the winter of 1995-1996 when the state averaged 115.2 inches of snow.  (Hmm...I was a Junior in college back then...you think I would have remembered this winter.)

So, with all these very interesting facts, I only have one more very important detail on my mind--THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING IS ONLY SIX DAYS AWAY!

I am not complaining; the snow has been beautiful this year, and we've had many cozy snow days to cuddle up and stay home from school and work.  Still, at this time of year, the snow is crunchy, dirty, and hard.  Our last day of sledding was last week because instead of falling into white fluffy snow, we were skidding on ice trying to avoid "road rash."  It's time.  It's time to say goodbye to winter.  We want to go to the park; we want to go on the swings; we want to see the first sprouts of tulips, hyacinth, and daffodils.





We are READY!  Goodbye Winter 2015 with your -5 degree temperatures and your wind chill that makes it feel like -25!  We are ready for warm sun, gentle breezes, and soft rain showers.    You are not here yet (more snow showers on the way this weekend), but I expect you to come knocking next week.  Our door is wide open.


Our last day of sledding for 2015.


The Maple Syrup Project

3.07.2015

It's hard to believe it's March in Connecticut when our yard still looks like this:



We had yet another snow day on Thursday, March 5th with five more inches of fresh snow...

Still, the snow hasn't stopped Lewie's kindergarten from going outside and exploring nature; their latest project is collecting sap for maple syrup.  Here is the latest note from his kindergarten teacher:

"I'm sure your child has told you about our maple syrup project.  My neighbor, Christopher, now 19, has been tapping trees since he was just 11 years old.  He started out with an idea and tapped a few trees.  Over time, he had dozens and drove his parents' lawn mower from house to house collecting sap every day, and now he and his partner Joey have turned this hobby and passion into a great business.  They've built a sugar shack, outfitted it with equipment, and do everything from tapping and tubing to collecting to boiling to packaging and selling.  Such wonderful, inspirational boys."

She continues, "Christopher was kind enough to come to school last week and talk to the children about the process.  He and the children went on a maple tree hunt.  They then all helped in the drilling, tapping (hammering), and hanging of the buckets.  Our job now is to check on our buckets daily and collect sap.  This exciting project lends itself to rich and meaningful learning opportunities.  We have been reading non fiction books and articles about maple trees and the sugaring process.  We are writing in our journals and drawing and tracking our discoveries in our nature notebooks.  We will be collecting, measuring, weighing, and graphing our totals.  The children are checking the daily temperature and determining if it's a good sap day or if it's too cold."

The best part is that Christopher and Joey will be holding an Open House on March 14th where they serve a pancake breakfast and sell their yummy maple syrup.   The entire class (and families) are going so we can enjoy the syrup that was made from the sap that the children have been collecting in their buckets...  We are really looking forward to this breakfast!



That's my boy hammering away!

Check out the snowshoes the boys and girls have been wearing on their adventures!

I have to admit that up until now, I didn't know very much about the maple sugaring process, but I'm now learning a lot from my six year-old.  I'm so excited Little Lewie is getting this type of exposure.  He's learning much more than how to collect sap or even how to see the perfect beauty of the great outdoors; he's learning that dreams, such as starting your own maple syrup business, can start with a simple childhood passion.  (I just love Christopher's story.)
 

Nature's Classroom

2.26.2015

February has been a COLD month.  We've had four or five days of temperatures below zero (breaking all sorts of records), and many of our days have been in the teens or single digits.  (Yesterday my car thermometer registered -2.)

The cold weather has kept our family from going outside and enjoying the snow as we've been choosing indoor activities instead, but this doesn't mean that Lewie hasn't been enjoying the outdoors.  Since he goes to a kindergarten that has "Nature's Classroom" as part of the curriculum, they've been going out on explorations in all kinds of weather.  (Last week, I picked him up in the middle of a snowstorm, and he was outside making a snow fort!) 

Here's a letter that was sent out by his wonderful kindergarten teacher in mid-February:

Dear Families,

What fun we have been having with all of this snow! The children and I have gone on snow hikes, done some sledding and shoveling. Next week, we are going to get out there on snow shoes! Thank you all very much for your cooperation in providing the children with safe and appropriate outdoor gear. It is much appreciated.

Winter has been a time of great inquiry for the children. We have been experimenting with the ice and snow. We learned that liquid flows. It does not have a shape. Water is a liquid. A solid has a shape. It is hard. Ice is a solid. The children have been tracking their adventurers and discoveries in their nature notebooks. They have been drawing and labeling.

In the coming weeks, we will be tapping trees and beginning our maple syrup project. Keep your eye out for more news and information on that.

Last week we read about groundhogs in honor of Groundhogs Day.  We read some silly fiction books about the holiday and funny groundhog characters. We also studied groundhogs and worked with non-fiction materials. We learned some great new vocabulary. We now know what kits are and how groundhogs hibernate in burrows

Through our gardening lessons we have met many objectives:
We understand that change happens to many things
We can describe proper body care such as eating a variety of foods
We recognize that food is fuel for our body
We use observation skills
We understand plant adaptations for winter 
We understand that insects, birds and other living things depend on plants for winter survival

We have been hard at work with our reading! The children are doing beautifully with the literacy centers that I now have in place. They really enjoy rotating through and spending "private time" with me, partner work time with friends, listening time with books on CD and skills reinforcement time on the computer. Reading is great fun and celebrated in our room!
 
 
I have to say that getting letters like these really make me happy that Lewie's attending this kindergarten.  Childhood should be about fun, wonder, exploration, and imagination.  Building snow forts is just as important as learning to read; taking outside hikes is just as important as math drills.
 
I hope many years down the road, Lewie will look back at this time in his life with fondness.  I only wish there were more schools that would adopt this type of curriculum...
 

Happy Valentine's Day Week!

2.16.2015

This year, we're celebrating Valentine's Day for seven straight days.  This decision came partly out of necessity (the snowstorms here have been brutal), but it mostly came out of our desire to celebrate our friends and family for longer than one day.

For us, Valentine's Day Week started last Friday, February 13th.  Lewie had his school Valentine's Day party, and parents were invited to attend.  I was thrilled to be able to use my lunch hour to go participate, and Lewie was ecstatic that I was there. 

Instead of the usual store-bought Valentine's Day cards, we spent Thursday evening making our own heart cards out of construction paper.  We also went to our local pharmacy down the road to buy everyone little gifts.  Lewie picked out pretty pens and stickers for the three girls in his class; "cool" little tow trucks for the two boys in his class;  a colorful scarf for his art and Spanish teacher, Miss Gabby; and a Willow Tree Angel for his very special kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Kranz.

When we picked out the gifts, Lewie immediately started to daydream about what his classmates might buy him.  I stopped him in his tracks: "Lewie, I have an important secret to share with you.  Getting presents is nice and it makes us happy, but giving presents to others is pure joy.  You'll see."  I then proceeded to tell him that we were buying these gifts for our friends because we want to make them happy and to show them how much we love and appreciate them.

The Willow Tree Angel Lewie chose for his teacher because she loves flowers.
 It's called "Sunshine."

Making our heart Valentine's Day cards.


Lewie w/ Mrs. Kranz and his classmates.


Yay for Valentine's Day!!
After Lewie's Valentine's Day party at school, we spent the weekend making sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies to deliver to some of our other special friends this week.  Since we had a snowstorm/blizzard on Valentine's Day, we barricaded ourselves inside.  My husband and I agreed we would have a date night sometime this week, and in the meantime, I'm prepared to use our last four days of "Valentine's Day Week" to show Lewie the true joy of giving.  Just like last year for Random Acts of Kindness Week, we'll be delivering special surprises to unsuspecting friends, family, and even strangers.
  



All set to go!

How was your Valentine's Day?

Miss Kristen

2.10.2015

Like all parents, I am so proud of my little boy.  I am proud of what he learns in school; I am proud of his imagination when he builds amazing objects with LEGOs, and heck, I am even proud of how he can jump and swim under water without holding his nose. (Yes, I'm a pretty typical mom!)

Still, there is one thing that makes me the proudest, and that is that we are raising our child to be one sweet, kind, compassionate soul.  From day one, Little Lewie has been a very sensitive boy who is genuinely concerned about other people's feelings.  He likes making people laugh, and he easily becomes distraught if he thinks Mommy or Daddy might be angry, frustrated, or disappointed in him.  Although I would like to take credit for Lewie's "good behavior," I myself can't really pinpoint whether his loving personality comes from nature or nurture.

As you can imagine, his warmheartedness extends to the classroom.  His teachers adore him, and over the years, we've had teachers offer to babysit just so they could stay connected.  Two of his teachers from last year even came to Lewie's birthday party!

Still, we were pleasantly surprised when Miss Kristen, Lewie's summer camp teacher, called us out of the blue to come visit during her winter break!  Since she was home from college, she asked if she could visit Little Lewie, and so a pizza party was arranged.  She even bought Lewie a special Thomas the Train puzzle and "match" game for Christmas (which was so not necessary)!



Little Lewie was so happy to spend the afternoon with his favorite teacher, and we were absolutely thrilled to see her again too.  In fact, as far as we're concerned, Miss Kristen is now family.  We look forward to another great get-together in the summer when she moves back home from college.

Yes, we've been blessed, even spoiled, to have such amazing teachers for Lewie.  (Even his current teacher, Mrs. Kranz, has been bringing in her son's train toys, so Lewie can enjoy them during "Free Choice Friday.")  I am so happy Miss Kristen reached out to us last month.  Staying in contact with a teacher that's known my son since he was three is pretty special.   

Let it Snow!

2.01.2015

It's hard to believe only a few weeks ago, I was complaining about having a "snowless" winter.  Now we have about 12 inches of snow on the ground due to a blizzard and some other random snow days. 

My colleagues at work want it to end, but while they're praying for an early spring, I'm secretly wishing for a few more weekends of white stuff.  It's fun to play in the snow, and it's even more fun to play in the snow on a day when I would normally have to be at work!

Here are just a few pictures of our 2015 winter adventures both at home and at Woodbury Ski area.

A quick winter shot of Lewie sitting outside on our snowy porch.

Daddy building a snow man.  (We helped, but it was definitely his project!)

Our long, skinny, pine tree from our side yard.  It was once a Christmas tree of ours from the 1980's.
 (Yes, I still live in the same childhood home.  I'll write a post about that someday.)

Playing around when he's supposed to be helping Daddy with the snowman.


Riding on the "magic carpet" to go snow tubing.








I wish I could have taken more action shots of us snow tubing, but quite honestly, standing at the bottom of the mountain put me right in the "line of fire" so to speak.  The tubers were basically bowling balls, and I was the pin ready to be knocked down at any moment from all directions...

While snow tubing has definitely been the highlight of our winter so far, I must say that our snowball fight at home came in a close second.  It was Daddy against Little Lewie and me, and Daddy kept winning by using his Ninja moves to throw us down in the snow. 

I couldn't fight back because quite honestly, I couldn't stop laughing.  Heck, I was laughing so hard, I couldn't even stand up...  Little Lewie made me laugh even harder because he kept saying, "Look Mommy, I'm protecting us," but the reality was that his little snow balls weren't even hitting a target...  We were no match for Daddy; he definitely had the upper hand.  Still, one day, the tables will turn...