Aug 21, 2016: Camp Small


We had a long vacation week at home this week, as Chris took an extra week off work, so we decided to camp! Just kidding—I can’t say it was a conscious decision, and we’re actually not really camping. We are simply cooking out…all week.

After having been gone nearly two weeks, we invited Grandma Diane over for dinner last Sunday, so Theo could fill her in on our trip and such. We planned to have cheeseburgers, fries, caprese salad, and apple blossoms. Only one small problem: When Chris turned on our stove to fry the burgers (because our BBQ is currently broken), he realized that none of the four burners was working. And then he took the fries out of the oven, which promptly died—meaning we couldn’t bake the apple blossoms. So dinner ended up being microwaved hamburgers on stale bread (because we also discovered that our buns were hard as a rock), fries, caprese salad, and some leftover ice cream. Ah well, better than nothing, though certainly not the meal we had intended to serve!

I called the store where we bought the stove the next morning. We purchased the extended warranty, so all is well, right? Well…not entirely. It took them four days to send someone out to look at it. That guy didn’t know how to fix it because it’s an induction stove. First he told Chris he was using the wrong pans. “You have to use specific pans on an induction stove,” he informed Chris. And he’s right…but as Chris pointed out, our pans are marked as induction-rated, and we’ve been using them successfully for over a year! At that, the guy was at a loss and said he’d need to go study his manuals. GE (the manufacturer) called us the next day and said someone will be out this coming Monday to look at it. Whether they can fix it is another question—hopefully they can, since they manufactured it! And hopefully whatever it is will be covered under our warranty.

Until then, I’ll continue cooking on a camping stove. We’ve been trying out meal-delivery services, as I’ve mentioned, and we had boxes scheduled to arrive last Monday and Thursday. I wasn’t about to waste the food (and it was too late to cancel for the week), so we ran to Kmart and bought a $40 camping stove, and I’ve been cooking our meals out on the back deck all week, which is actually kind of a fun challenge. The only difficult part has been when something requires baking, which we can’t do on a camping stove (and we don’t own a toaster oven). I’ve had to get rather creative there. Here are some fun pix from my culinary camping extravaganza. Like frying up quinoa patties:

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Which turned out to be delicious:

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And sautéing up veggies. These were supposed to be baked in parchment, but yeah…no oven. So I sautéed them:

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But I managed to soft-boil the egg on the camping stove—wahoo!

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I also made this yummy chickpea, corn, hazelnut, greens, and farro sauté. Couldn’t toast the hazelnuts in the oven as directed, but they were good raw anyway:

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Ooh, these were a favorite! Bagnat-style sandwiches, which have sautéed squash and zucchini on them, as well as hard-boiled eggs, pickled cucumbers, and a caper mayonnaise. Yum!

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And tasty gnocchi with greens, corn, and peppers. Chris loved this one! (I did too, but Chris REALLY loved it.)

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And this sautéed tofu and veggies dish. The rice was a bust, though. The camping stove only has two burners, both of which I needed, so I had to try to cook long-grain rice in the microwave. It was a bust, but we had a bag of instant rice stuffed in the back of the pantry, so we threw that in at the last minute!

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The nice thing is, Chris and the boys can use the camping stove in the future, on Cub Scout campouts and such. Chris and Theo may be going camping with the Scouts in October, in fact (depending on the weekend—we have one weekend already committed to Sam’s DS walk), and I’m sure there are many more campouts in their future. Maybe someday they’ll even drag me along on one. And we plan to have Sam start Scouts when he’s old enough, too, so there’ll be more camping then. The $40 camping stove shall certainly serve a purpose other than being an emergency measure when our stove/oven/BBQ are on the fritz!

But it has been kind of a roughing-it/outdoorsy week anyway. We decided that with Chris’s extra week off, we’d accomplish a lot of household tasks that have been on the to-do list for some time. Chris and Theo fixed the deck so that the animals can no longer go hide underneath it, for example. (Zoe had been fighting with some animal residing under there, so this was a needed fix—we don’t need a pricey vet bill for her getting in a spat with some wild animal!) Both cars got detailed in our driveway, courtesy of Chris and Theo and a lot of elbow grease. I did a major toy purge inside the house and got Theo’s desk ship-shape just in time for homework to start this week. We took apart the dryer vents and cleaned out all the lint that has built up (which was surprisingly little, but at least I feel better that we checked it!). I also unpacked a ton of china from my dad’s family, now that we have a china cabinet to store it in, which freed up some more space in the garage, where it had been living in boxes. We cleaned up a ton of stuff in the backyard. And then we undertook our most ambitious project of the week—taking down three 25-foot trees in the backyard!

I actually hate taking down trees. It makes me feel guilty to kill a living thing, and I really like trees. Our yard had too many of them, though (many of which were never intentional—they were “volunteer trees”), so we had several taken out last year. We had, however, left three in along the side of our deck that probably didn’t need to be there. We’re pretty sure they were once small hedges that just grew into 25-foot trees when the previous owner let the yard turn into a jungle. And they were physically tearing apart one side of the deck, as well as destroying the fence between our yard and our neighbors’ yard. But we left them because they provided a little nice shade (even if they were messy), and the damage to the fence and deck has already been done.

You can’t see them too well, but one is on the right side of this image, which I took the day I saw this house with our realtor—you can at least see the bottom of it:

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Before we left for vacation, our neighbor asked if we would mind if he trimmed the branches that were hanging over into his yard. “Not at all!” we said, thinking he meant a modest trim.

Um, no. It was a hack job that pictures cannot fully depict. Here’s one picture we have, but you really can’t tell how bad it was. He took a chainsaw and basically hacked off half of the trees.

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Not only did it look silly, but it looked as if they would fall into our yard at the first windstorm, as they were now heavily weighted on our side. Chris, my mom, and I all looked at them and had the same thought: If we got a good windstorm, they could topple into our yard.

And so, we decided to remove them. We reached out to two local tree services, but neither got back to us promptly. So instead, we decided to buy a $50 chainsaw and do it ourselves. Chris was a little iffy about it, but when I get an idea into my head, I usually like to jump in with both feet. And against his sometimes better judgment, he usually ends up going along with me.

I’m pleased to say that this was a success. No people lost any limbs (of course the trees did, though!), and over the course of two days we managed to tear down three 25-foot trees without destroying anything (other than the trees). We now have a huge pile of brush on our deck that needs to be hauled to the dump (working on getting our handyman to bring over his trailer so we can load it up for a dump run), and we have a lovely view out to that part of the golf course that was previously blocked by trees. I did like the trees, but the golf course view is lovely too!

The plan is to have someone remove the stumps and then we’ll plant another small tree in the corner, as it looks rather naked now. Perhaps a small crape myrtle (they grow beautifully here) or another small citrus tree. We shall see. Here’s a series of photos showing the progress as we removed them:

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The biggest trunk landed on our iron fence. Thank goodness that fence is only a year old and could withstand the weight! (By the way, I saved Chris’s life when this one fell, as I yelled for him to jump out of the way. He claims he was never in danger of anything other than a bumped head, but I think I shall remind him for the rest of his life that I saved him from nearly certain demise, and thus he owes me!)

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He looks cheery, doesn’t he? Like someone WHOSE LIFE WAS JUST SAVED BY HIS WIFE?!

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We do have a more open view now, which is rather nice!

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Theo very much enjoys yard work when he’s trusted with sharp implements. So we let him use a pair of small loppers to cut up the smaller branches of the trees so we could shove some into the yard-waste bin for pickup this week.

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Sam even got in on the action by helping with the “boom,” as he calls it!

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BIG crape myrtle in our yard! We might plant a small one near the fence. They certainly are lovely!

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The boys took time out from yard work to play some basketball:

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Looks closely at Sam’s right hand here. It’s bent completely backwards in his “excited” pose. We don’t even know how he gets it that way!

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And could Sam possibly get any closer to Theo here?!

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Total pug photobomb here!

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And we had some baseball nights, too. I like to call this shot “autistic baseball,” since Theo is looking dreamy and spinning, as he tends to do when he loses focus! No problem with a bit of daydreaming—I am guilty of it myself frequently!

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Sam very much likes to field the ball:

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In other news, Theo and Sam both start school Monday. Theo got his teacher assignment, and several of the moms I know from his school speak very highly of the teacher he was assigned. Apparently she’s a very out-of-the-box thinker who is fun, loves to dance, and does not like it when kids don’t listen to her. So I suspect she and Theo will get along just fine as long as he keeps in mind that he needs to button his lip when she tells him to. He got a haircut for the occasion, and of course he had to tell the stylist to make a faux-hawk for him:

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We’re trying out a new strategy with Theo that hopefully will alleviate some homework and transition struggles. He really seems to do well with written, visual schedules, so I’ve put together a daily schedule that allows him to see what he needs to complete before he gets his free time for the day (during which he can do pretty much whatever he wants…lately, he enjoys shooting baskets in the backyard, playing baseball out front with us, and of course puttering around on his iPad, watching YouTube videos). Here’s the first incarnation of the schedule:

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We’ll see how this works. It will either work very well for him or will be a dismal failure—time will tell. To me, such a schedule would be ridiculously limiting. But I’m not Theo, and I’m kind of a go-with-the-flow type; Theo is much more a schedule-driven person than I am, so maybe this will work for him.

Note that we’re now trying chores as penalties for misbehavior—and the chores are done in lieu of free time. I suspect some days I will have a very clean house. 😉 For a long time, money was the thing that most motivated Theo, so fining him a nickel or a dime for misbehavior worked very well. But as always happens, the effectiveness of this strategy eventually waned, so we had to come up with something new. I heard about this one from a friend and decided to give it a try. If nothing else, I’ll get a cleaner house out of it!

There is a school of parenting thought that says chores should not be used as penalties because it teaches kids that chores are a punishment rather than as simply part of everyday life. But after contemplating this, Chris and I decided that there is absolutely no way we can effectively address everything at once, and we’d drive ourselves batty trying. So for right now, we’re going to set aside the fact that Theo may learn to equate chores with punishment, and we’ll work on this. Later on down the road, we can transfer chores from being a punishment to being just an everyday thing. (I should add, by the way, that these are extra chores. He is already expected to clear his plates after he’s done eating, clean up after himself when he eats, throw his dirty clothes in the hamper, etc. So these are extra things like cleaning toilets, cleaning bathroom sinks and counters, dusting, vacuuming, pulling weeds, etc.)

By the end of a week of mostly staying home doing household tasks, the boys were rather itching to get out. So on Saturday we took them to the park for a couple of hours of play, and then we stopped to get pizza slices for lunch. Tasty as always! Sunday was much the same—a quick trip to Farmers Market for lunch and then a bit of time at the park playing ball and going on the swings.

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Also, I’m sure you noticed the new picture format on the blog post. For some reason WordPress decided to “fix” something that wasn’t broken, and now I can’t post photo galleries in my old way. So I had to find a workaround. It’ll probably be easier for you because the photos will be embedded in the text. It’s kind of a pain in the rear for me, but such is life! I’ll try to embed photos where they logically fit in the text, but for those photos that don’t logically fit anywhere, I’ll just include them at the end. Haven’t yet figure out how to do captions, though. I’ll have to just introduce them in the text.

I have to say, I’m sorry to see summer come to an end. It seemed to go by so quickly this year! Theo is excited to go back to school, and Sam will likely settle in just fine, but I was rather enjoying the rhythm of summer—it was busy, but it was nice not to have homework arguments or the crazy rush of getting out the door by 7:20am every morning! Ah well, all good things must come to an end….

Before I go, don’t miss these posts if you didn’t catch them already this week:

Think good thoughts for a successful first week of school and a working stove/oven, please! And happy first week back to any others of you who are starting back this week!

And now, the pictures/videos that didn’t really fit anywhere else in the blog! Sam now goes up to Theo and puts his arms up for Theo to pick him up. It doesn’t look very comfortable, but they both love it!

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Our pug has the strangest bark. She’s very fierce!

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The cat was glaring at me while she decided to eat Theo’s soup:

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The Porpoise got a much-needed bath!

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Sam applauds wildly for himself when he accomplishes anything during therapy!

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Like this:

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