Fire Starters

Andy’s installing an underground dog fence today, so that left the boys and I looking for something to do. Today also happens to be our neighborhood garage sale day, so the two and I set out to see if we could find any awesome deals. We fared okay. (Actually, I did score a cast iron skillet, so I was pretty stoked.)

One of the things I found was a pack of cheapie crayons, all barely used. So, after we got home and put Reid down for a morning nap, Graham and I set up at the kitchen counter and made some fire starters.

No, I’m not talking about her.

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Or him.

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I’m talking about the myriad of little things you can use as pre-made kindling to get your campfire started easily.

There are ridiculous numbers of ideas out there on Pinterest, but we just finished a carton of eggs today, so Graham and I decided to try our hand at one in particular that has had rave reviews.

First, you start with some crayons – take the paper off.

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Then we started some water boiling in a pot to make a double boiler. I mean… I have an actual double boiler, but nothing I plan on melting crayons in anytime this century.

While the water was boiling, I pulled out our tinder boxes. One we keep in the laundry room, collecting lint. (Literally.) The other we keep in Andy’s shop in the garage, where he collects sawdust and wood shavings.

I had Graham stuff lint in each egg carton well.

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Then I had him sprinkle sawdust and wood shavings on top of the lint.

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This also would have been a great place to include the paper from the crayons too. Or even the cardboard from the crayon box, come to think of it. I didn’t think of it until later. Not like we were short any amount of wood shavings, though – as you can plainly see.

Finally, with our egg compartments filled, we had boiling water to melt our wax.

Going…

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… going…IMG_0685

… gone.IMG_0687

Ultimately, this only filled about half the egg cartons (this was 16 crayons). I ended up taking some sagging candle tapers [that we, for some reason, moved all the way from Texas] out of the closet and melted those down too.

But yes, after the wax is all melted down, you pour it on top of all the lint/sawdust/shavings/paper in the egg wells. Pour until you fill up the well and voila! 12 fire starters! Just tear or cut one apart from the pack, light the egg carton on fire, and that little thing will burn until your kindling catches. Very handy!

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We decided to make some super easy fire starters we had all our stuff out. We took some paper towel rolls (we had two that had been recycled lately), cut them in half, layered lint-sawdust-lint-sawdust-lint and so forth in a sort of tinder parfait, then we laid a sheet of wax paper over a sheet of newsprint, rolled up the lint/dust tube up and then twisted & tucked in the ends.

These paper towel starters are super quick and easy to make, but are better suited for a fire pit – where the wood is drier to start with – because they burn a bit faster. The egg fire starters are lauded for burning long enough to get a damp morning campfire started. Game on – because that is a tough gig!

Wish us luck – maybe we’ll try one of these bad boys out for some s’mores tonight. :)

Birthdays and Words

Last weekend was simply great. I had a birthday on Saturday – which is awesome in and of itself – but on top of it I was so lucky to have my parents up for a visit.

Right before my parents arrived on Friday night, Graham and I were setting the table. He said, "Oh, Mommy! We should make a menu so they know what we'll be eating!"

Right before my parents arrived on Friday night, Graham and I were setting the table. He said, “Oh, Mommy! We should make a menu so they know what we’ll be eating!”

I got to plan a day of fun. :)

We went out to breakfast, hit up the Dane County Farmer’s Market (favorite quote from my mom, marveling at the size and attendance: “They do this every weekend?!”), popped into the state capitol building (a first for me!), visited Clasen’s European Bakery, and ate some birthday cake from Trefzger’s bakery in Peoria, IL (a long-standing family favorite, from my mom’s growing-up days). Then everyone took naps after lunch. :) That night, mom and dad babysat the boys while Andy and I got to escape for dinner and a movie. It was a perfect day.

We stopped into the Wisconsin State Capitol building to look around while we were downtown at the farmer's market

We stopped into the Wisconsin State Capitol building to look around while we were downtown at the farmer’s market

We also stopped into a toy shop on Capitol Square. Reid did some hat modeling.

We also stopped into a toy shop on Capitol Square. Reid did some hat modeling.

Reid rode on "papa"s shoulders after the toy stop - he's clapping his hands at some violinists out front of the store (just off camera)

Reid rode on “papa”s shoulders after the toy stop – he’s clapping his hands at some violinists out front of the store (just off camera)

My beautiful birthday cake. Lemon chiffon - yum! yum!

My beautiful birthday cake. Lemon chiffon – yum! yum!

Reid reenacted his first birthday

Reid reenacted his first birthday

Lots of lovely greetings from family!!

Lots of lovely greetings from family!!

While they were here, Mom and Dad, Andy and I put our heads together and picked a date and location for a camping trip – together! Mom and Dad are going to come with us next time! Graham is so excited he is not going to be able to wait until August to go!

Graham, camping out on his bedroom floor

Graham, camping out on his bedroom floor

Today [Tuesday] I kissed my boys good-bye and headed to Chicago for some focus groups. I’ll stay the night here and head back to see their sweet and silly smiling faces tomorrow.

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Tonight, when I called home, Baby Reid yelled, “HELLO!!” over the phone. That kid just keeps picking up more and more words!! (We just recently banned the pacifier except for sleep, because his doctor was a little eyebrow-raise-y at how few words and sounds he was making at his 18-month checkup.) Things he has literally started saying in the last week as a result of the stay on daytime pacifier use:

“Weid” (Reid)
“Go-go”/”ya-yoh” (Hugo)
“Coo-KEE!” (Cookie)
“Bye-bye, Papa!” (First sentence, saying good-bye to Dad while he was visiting)
“Howp” (Help, not yet heard at home – but they say he says it at school!)
“Shoe” (Formerly “SHTHHH”)
… and generally tons of babbling sounds

I will say that, as a result, we have found a couple of instances of Reid sucking his thumb, but as annoying of a habit as that would be to have to break, it wouldn’t be as impedent to language development. So, as they say, we’re picking our battles. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, no?

Epilogue: Superfluous shot of the boys playing nicely together. Not fighting. No biting (::ahem::). Just… civility. Like the cover of a parenting brochure. ::contented sigh::

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A-Camping We Will Go

If you’re supposed to eat a pound of dirt before you die, then our boys must be at least halfway to goal after this weekend. Yes, we went camping – and for three out of the four of us (okay, four out of five if you count Hugo), it was for the first time ever.

To just decide to up and go camping when you have never attempted to lead a trip yourself is fairly daunting. Yes, inarguably a very economical way to entertain yourself for a weekend, but the cost of entry isn’t exactly nothing. We needed basically everything you need to survive a couple of days outdoors. Thankfully, we now live in Wisconsin, where it is just as likely that you would go camping on any given weekend as it would you go swimming at the community pool. Advice and secondhand camping gear has been ours for the picking.

On the advice front, I had the realization fairly quickly that the best way to solicit camping advice is at work. If, in the first five minutes of a meeting while folks are congregating, I wonder something in a fairly loud voice in the direction of the person sitting next to me, I’ll soon have 5 or 6 people chiming in with some great opinions on Debbie’s Camping Dilemma du Jour. Between my little work think tank, umpteen blog posts on family camping and 27 Pinterest pins – I felt comfortable enough to enter acquisition mode – looking into Craigslist and garage sales to fill out our needs for our first trip.

I’ve got tons of advice for first time campers for another post someday, but we’re fresh from our trip, so this needs to be written.

We had an amazing time.

I say this, and there were times that I’m pretty sure Andy wanted to huddle in a corner of the tent and pray for a cab to come take him home, but on the whole we left wanting more. Camping was a weird vacillation of high and low moments.

The Lows

  • Getting to the campsite too late on the first night, then having a hard time starting a fire (#stressful)
  • Graham not falling asleep until midnight on Night 1 because he was so excited
  • Reid falling down about 100,000 times – including biting his lip bloody about 15 minutes after we arrived
  • Realizing that the camp stove didn’t work, even after we tested it at home
  • Realizing that the non-working camp stove was our only means to have COFFEE the entire weekend ::tear::
  • Realizing AFTER we got home that our camp stove actually works completely fine, we were just reading the directions wrong
  • When the stake that held Hugo snapped after he bolted toward another dog (!!!)
  • Forgetting Graham’s bathing suit (He wore Reid’s)
  • Forgetting Reid’s shorts (He wore Graham’s)
  • Forgetting Reid’s pajamas (poor Reid, seriously!!)
  • The wasp that got into the tent
  • Not realizing how much Reid throws EVERYTHING on the floor until the “floor” is comprised of wet dirt and mud
  • Reid’s game of “Lets run as fast as we can into the poison ivy and make mommy and daddy do that funny dash they do”
  • Sub-zero temperature swimming pools
  • No community barbecue grills when your planned dinner was hamburgers
  • Having a 4-year-old around when something goes wrong – meaning you have to answer 20 questions about what just went wrong before you can move on WITH YOUR LIFE

The Highs

  • Sitting in front of a roaring fire that we built
  • Getting really good at building a fire from nothing but the materials surrounding us
  • Making and cleaning up after a meal – including washing and drying dishes, completely outdoors with no electricity
  • Completely perfect weather
  • Cuddling in a tent and falling asleep in the same room with the people you love most
  • Hiking through the woods to visit the lake
  • Meeting the friendly people camping around us
  • Two boys, constantly covered in dirt and ash, having the time of their lives
  • Letting go and being OK with the boys being dirty constantly
  • No ticks on anybody – can I get an AMEN??!?
  • Laying down for an afternoon nap, staring at 360 degrees of trees blowing in the breeze out the tent windows
  • Realizing our $5 garage sale Coleman air mattress totally held air LIKE A CHAMPION
  • Putt putt golfing on the campground’s course
  • Friends who loan you campfire irons – which make the most amazing hamburgers, by the way
  • A weekend of “yes” – even if it’s Oreos at 3:00 in the afternoon
  • S’mores – seriously is there anything better?
  • I don’t think Hugo’s ever been happier
  • Totally unplugging and connecting to family. I took the phone out a couple of times to snap pictures, otherwise they were powered off to conserve battery in case of emergency
  • Graham, staring into the fire, smiling suddenly and saying, “I’m happy”

Not even 48 hours at a campground, and we have so many stories that we keep retelling over and over. Andy and I rehash lessons learned and what we’d do next time to be better prepared… or eat better food… or just do something a little differently. And the best I can describe this post-camping glow is: there’s a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at taking your family away from home, outside, and keeping everyone fed and healthy. We connected, we had fun, and we took the less-than-ideal head-on and came out the other side with a great story.

So now I guess the question is: who wants to go camping with us? :)

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Our host turtle

Graham asked to cook his own hot dog over the campfire for lunch. Our response? "ABSOLUTELY" :)

Graham asked to cook his own hot dog over the campfire for lunch. Our response? “ABSOLUTELY” :)

I'd do a lot to see that smile

I’d do a lot to see that smile

Reid fell down a lot at the campsite, but was a total trooper with the entire experience. He loved being outside with big brother!

Reid fell down a lot at the campsite, but was a total trooper with the entire experience. He loved being outside with big brother!

Inside the tent. Our 6-man Coleman fit a queen air bed, a sleeping bag for G, a pack-n-play for Reid and a small entry area for our duffel bag and Hugo to sleep. Graham is actually sleeping, here, in that far corner

Inside the tent. Our 6-man Coleman fit a queen air bed, a sleeping bag for G, a pack-n-play for Reid and a small entry area for our duffel bag and Hugo to sleep. Graham is actually sleeping, here, in that far corner

Our launch area. Drinking water, sanitizer, soap, bug spray, water, wipes, flashlights and lantern

Our launch area. Drinking water, sanitizer, soap, bug spray, water, wipes, flashlights and lantern

Hugo was in great company, lots of dogs there and plenty of admirers to come by. We were a lot more free-flowing with the scraps too. Less food on the ground = less bugs = happy Hugo!

Hugo was in great company, lots of dogs there and plenty of admirers to come by. We were a lot more free-flowing with the scraps too. Less food on the ground = less bugs = happy Hugo!

The aftermath of the broken dog stake. Don't believe me when I say Hugo's like a freight train when he bolts after something he wants? Take a look at that popped-open chain link!

The aftermath of the broken dog stake. Don’t believe me when I say Hugo’s like a freight train when he bolts after something he wants? Take a look at that popped-open chain link! And by the way, that stake used to be straight!

Goofy faces with Daddy - such sweet moments together

Goofy faces with Daddy – such sweet moments together

I can't tell you the satisfaction of building a fire. It's like none other. I used to think it was so funny when my brothers would dance around a fire they built. I totally get it now!!

I can’t tell you the satisfaction of building a fire from nothing but a click stick and the wood around you. It’s like none other. I used to think it was so funny when my brothers would dance around a fire they built. I totally get it now!!