Confessions of a Reluctant Gamer: Playing Minecraft with my Kids

I should have known when I married my husband Jody — an avid gamer — that someday down the road our future children would be gamers as well, but I didn’t think much about it. I kind of thought my husband would eventually grow out of his gaming “phase.” I mean, grown men don’t play video games and Dungeons and Dragons forever, right? Right???

After 12 years of marriage I think it’s safe to say that the gaming “phase” is not a phase at all. It’s just a part of who he is, just as much as not gaming is a part of who I am. And I am OK with that. I may have fought it for a while (ok, for years and years), but I eventually learned that it wasn’t productive and I wasn’t going to change who he is, so I’ve mostly accepted it.

So now we have a 6 year old (who just lost his first tooth!) and a 9 year old (how did that happen?!) and they both LOVE computer games. Minecraft is a favorite in this house, as well as Roblox, Sims and a handful of others. Unlike my husband, who has accepted that I’m just not a gamer, the kids have not been so easily convinced.

minecraft

When they first started playing Minecraft I joined them a couple of times. I had a hard time moving my character around and — big surprise — just didn’t get into the game. So I stopped playing with them. I figured Jody could play with them as he enjoys it and they were placated…for a while.

Fast forward several months. Ava would periodically ask me to play Minecraft with them. I would find an excuse or tell her it’s not my thing or whatever. I just really didn’t want to play. However, when she asked me the other day, I considered my answer carefully. I know the game is important to her and I want to support that and be a part of it, even if it is hard for me. So I said yes. Ava was ecstatic.

I’ve since played with them a few times and I’ve gotten a lot better about moving around and was surprised to find that I was actually having fun collecting wood and other supplies for the kids to build us a house. And I was surprised by how well they shared resources and helpful they were to me when I didn’t know how to craft a stone pickaxe or torches or whatever. And how much they appreciated me playing with them. I’ve heard several times from both of them, “it was so fun when you played with us, Mom!” And ya know what? It really was.

And so I’m trying to do a better job about playing with them when they want me to even if it isn’t my favorite thing to do. Even if I need to vacuum or water the garden or load the dishwasher. Today I even initiated it myself and it was fun. The time spent connecting with them is priceless. Who knows how long they will want their mom to play with them. But for now they do. And for now I will.

I’d love to hear from you!
Do YOU play any computer/video games with your kids even though you are not into games? What has your experience been? 

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Harvest time and the great outdoors

I think it should be an unwritten rule that at harvest time crunchy and/or green bloggers get a free pass from blogging because they are spending all of their time in the kitchen baking, canning, freezing, and otherwise preserving all of the yummy foods they’ve grown or purchased (hopefully locally) for the winter.

I’m sorry my blog is suffering lately, but the family and I have been a bit preoccupied doing things like this:


Climbing apple trees at Roger’s Grove


Picking and eating apples


Getting organic food from the co-op


Canning applesauce and dilly beans!


Taking a tractor ride to pick oodles of strawberries at Berry Patch Farms


Exploring the great outdoors at Boulder Creek


Trying to decide what I’m going to do with 60 pounds of Colorado peaches, pears and nectarines! (I still haven’t figured it all out!)


Visiting a honey harvest at Sandstone Ranch

OK, so I haven’t been completely locked in the kitchen. ;) We’ve also been spending quite a bit of time out in nature. The weather’s been gorgeous and its hard to stay indoors. Plus, the kids have so much fun exploring and honestly, I do too. :)

How’s your harvest season going this year? What are you putting up for the winter?

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Mile High Mamas Night Out (with fully-clothed swimming)*

*Alternately titled: When Mamas Go Wild

On Thursday night of last week, I joined Julie, Heather and Melissa for a drive down to the Warwick Hotel in Denver where we met up with more Boulder county bloggers Nicole and Alison and a whole lot of other Mile High Mamas (and an auntie) for a night of fun.

There was lots of mingling, eating, laughing and drinking wine tasting, all while supporting a good cause. Mile High Mamas teamed up with #GNO (Girls Night Out) Mom It Forward to support Office Max’s national initiative A Day Made Better to provide one million dollars in school supplies to teachers in need. Many of us brought school supplies to donate to the cause.

I saw many familiar faces, but met some new fabulous women too (like Chris, Megan, Melitsa, and Kellie).

After the party on the patio of the Randolf Restaurant officially ended, we were invited by the hotel staff to go see the pool up on the rooftop – the only rooftop pool in Denver. I don’t know if they realized they were asking for trouble when they extended that invitation or not. ;)

Once the mamas broke into their Charlie’s Angels poses, it all went downhill from there (or rather, that’s when the fun really began). Is this not the best pic evah?!

We decided to dip our toes into the warm water which soon turned to kicking and splashing.

Photo credit: Heather

And that’s when it happened. Aimee and Jyl were the first to JUMP INTO THE POOL (fully clothed, is there any other way? Oh yes, there is. Ask Julie and Alison about that. *wink*), followed by Heather (who was celebrating being cancer-free now!! Woohoo!) and Julie. Alison went in next, then after consulting Twitter who urged me to jump, I decided to step daintily down the ladder and went into the pool myself. I was greeted with lots of splashing. :P


Photo credit: Greeblemonkey

More Charlie’s Angels and synchronized swimming ensued.

Finally, we got out and dried off (and turned back into proper ladies) and made our way down to the bar for some more chit-chat before heading home.

There’s no telling what a bunch of mamas will do when they get together. Next time, however, I’m bringing my bathing suit – just in case. Even with the heated seats (what a nice touch, Julie), that car ride home was still awfully wet! ;P

Thanks to Mile High Mamas, Amber, Barb, Jyl and the Warwick Hotel for a great night out I won’t soon forget. :)

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My new two-wheeled baby

After more than 11 years of my feet or my car being my primary modes of transportation, I am pleased to announce I finally have another option – a lovely new Schwin bicycle! And oh, do I ever LOVE it. :)

I’ve been riding my new bike probably 4 or 5 days out of every week since I got it a few weeks ago. With the help of our Burley bike trailer (that we got used off of Craigslist last summer), I’m taking the kids to and from summer “camp” (which is at the same place where Ava went to Waldorf preschool) a few blocks from our house. I ride it for fun and exercise to a nearby lake (pictured below) and started early enough Saturday night to go around the whole lake before dark. I’ve taken Ava up to the hair salon to get her hair cut. And Jody and I took the kids to the fireworks on the fourth of July using our bikes. I have plans to bike to the grocery store, the bank and more.

I love the freedom I feel when riding my bike. I love that I’m not polluting the air. I love that I’m getting some exercise. I love that it’s good for my mental health as well as my physical health. I love that I can run errands without piling everyone into the car. I love that time slows down and I notice things (rabbits, a fox, prairie dogs, flowers, birds) that I wouldn’t see if I were speeding by in a car.

Jody bought me my first bike “stuff” yesterday at REI – a headlight and taillight so I don’t have to worry about getting home before dark. I have a list of other “stuff” I’d like to get for it too, but I’m trying not to get too bike-crazed too fast. For now I am just enjoying the ride. :)

The event that changed my life forever

Five years ago today my life experienced a dramatic change – for the better. It was five years ago today, with the birth of my daughter Ava, that I became a mother.

It’s amazing to me how something like becoming a mother can be such a profound experience, but I really feel that I wasn’t able to fully discover who I was until that life-changing event. That’s not to say that the moment my daughter was born a lightbulb went off over my head and I knew my purpose in life, but being a mother has caused me to experience life and think about things in ways I don’t think I would have been able to otherwise.

The past five years have been enlightening, maddening, exciting, challenging, amazing, frightening, hilarious, beautiful, heart-wrenching, and joyful – sometimes all at once! Motherhood is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had and I am so thankful I am able to be a part of it.

A couple days ago I was rereading a journal I kept before Ava was conceived. There are only a few entries in it, but this one in particular, from Aug. 31, 2003, stood out. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this on my blog before or not, but Jody and I did not have an easy time conceiving her and actually had to have a little help via the IUI (intrauterine insemination) route. I wrote about my sadness and wanting so badly to be pregnant, to have that experience of being a mother.

“I am so looking forward to nurturing, teaching and sharing our lives and the world with our child(ren). I am looking forward to that first smile, the first laugh, the first step, the first words, hearing “I love you, Mom” and absolutely everything else that goes along with it.

I know I will never take my child for granted.”

Rereading that journal entry was a good reminder for me of how hard we fought to get Ava in our lives in the first place. And even though being a mother can be very challenging at times, it is also so rewarding and something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I feel so fortunate that I have been able to experience all of those “firsts” not once, but twice with both Ava and Julian. Motherhood is an incredible gift and I feel so blessed to get to experience it.

Thank you, Ava, for making me a mom and getting me started on a path of self-discovery I may have missed out on otherwise. I am a better person because of you. I hope your birthday and year are filled with as much magic and wonder as you bring to my life every day. I love you.

How to dye Easter eggs naturally – a tutorial

So you want to dye your Easter eggs naturally – without chemicals and artificial colors? While it takes longer than the commercial egg dye kits you buy at the store, dyeing your eggs with natural foods is better for you and your child(ren)’s health, produces much more interesting colors and is, quite arguably, more fun!

Why dye with natural colors instead of artificial?
According to Organic.org, “Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).” I wrote about the drawbacks of artificial colors a while back if you’d like to read more on the topic.

It is more time-consuming than using a store-bought conventional egg dye kit (and I highly recommend preparing the egg dye baths a few hours before you plan to dye the eggs with the kiddos), but it is healthier for your kids and the environment. “Dyeing eggs the natural way gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, teaching kids to use alternative project methods that are healthier for them and the environment.” I think it will be a lot of fun and a great family project.

To get started you will need:

  • Hard boiled eggs (preferably white eggs since they take on the dyes better than brown eggs)
  • Ingredients to make your dyes, which I will discuss in more detail below – As a guideline, use up to 4 cups for vegetable solids and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart. Mash up fruits.
  • White vinegar (2 Tablespoons for every quart of water)
  • Several pots and bowls
  • Optional: stickers, rubber bands, and crayons for decorating the eggs and making interesting patterns
  • Egg cartons for drying the dyed eggs

Natural egg dyes can be made from a variety of ingredients. Here’s a list of what I used last year along with comments on the colors that resulted.

RED

  • 3 cans of beets in cranberry juice (instead of water) – produced a dark reddish hue

PINK

  • Frozen cherries – made a very light pink

RED-ORANGE

  • 3 tablespoons of chili powder produced a nice reddish-orange color

YELLOW

  • 3 Tablespoons of tumeric produced a great yellow

GREEN

  • A mix of spinach leaves, canned blueberries and their juice and a few tablespoons of tumeric produced a gorgeous earthy green color – I think it would work without the spinach leaves, but I happened to have some that were wilting so I threw them in.

BLUE

  • 3/4 of a head of red cabbage (chopped) made a beautiful blue

GREY BLUE

  • 2 cans of blueberries and their juice made a grey-blueish color

GREY

  • Frozen cherries mixed with blueberries yielded a grey color (not the purple I was going for).

Instructions:
Last year I found a couple great web site with tips on “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” and Natural Dye from Organic.org. The natural dyes come from spices like paprika, tumeric and cumin; vegetables like spinach and red cabbage; fruit juices and even coffee. All of your dye ingredients can (and should) be composted after you are done.

On Organic.org, there is a boil method (which produces darker results) and a cold-dip method, which is suggested for children or if you plan to eat the eggs, which is the method we used last year.

The two methods are:

Method 1—Hot
Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice—it’s best not to mix until you are comfortable with experimenting. Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.

Method 2—Cold
The cold method is the same as the hot method with the following exception. Once ingredients have simmered 20–30 minutes (depending on desired shade), lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature though you may wish to try keeping the ingredients in the colored water to give the egg more texture as the dye will become concentrated in areas where the vegetable touches the egg. Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.

The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be. Using vinegar will also help the color deepen.

Definitely feel free to experiment and try out other foods and spices. For me, that was a big part of what made it so much fun, trying out different things to see what colors would come from them. For example, the dye from the spinach, tumeric, blueberry mix looked orange or brown, but the eggs came out green! And the red cabbage dye was purpley-pink, but the eggs came out blue. It was like a fun science experiment that the whole family could get involved in. Happy egg coloring! :)

Pictures:
The process of making the dyes:

The egg dyes on the stovetop Beets in cranberry juice
Red cabbage Tumeric

And the results:

Red and pink eggsYellow and orange eggs
Green eggsBlue eggs

Links to other people’s natural egg dyeing results:

If you dye your eggs naturally and blog about it, please leave me your link and I’ll add it to the list. :)

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