Friday, September 30, 2011

The View from Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

photo by Rob

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Morsels: Fair and EcoChallenge

This weekend was the Common Ground Fair.  The kids and I love the fair, but Rob grew up in Deerfield, NH (home of the largest fair in New England) and has some fair loyalty issues.  He's never truly appreciated Common Ground and all its goodness.  He usually opts out.  However, this year he was away at a conference the six days prior to the fair so Friday was a guaranteed family day.  
Which meant a trip to the fair all together!   

Some highlights:  

tractoring into and out of the fair

sweet smiles


all tuckered out
With a second adult around I was finally able to attend one of the many workshops offered at the fair.  I sat in on a bee keeping lecture, and am so glad I did.  I've been saying for years that I want to keep bees, and now I feel ready.  Since Rob seems to be allergic I'll have to keep the bees elsewhere, but a friend has offered space on their homestead for a hive, and I think my neighbor may allow a hive in their field.  I also just read that allergies can be "bee" specific, so he may be allergic to yellow jackets, or hornets, and not honey bees.

I used a birthday gift certificate (thanks Mom!) to get "The Backyard BeeKeeper:  a guide for absolute beginners".  This will be the third book I've read on bee keeping.  I'm also hoping to take a class soon, and plan on being ready for bees in the spring.
And maybe milk goats in another few years (did you see that face?)


* These days its not uncommon for the toilet paper to look like this:

* Kale and I picked and washed an entire sink full of kale (we have a deep sink).  It took about an hour to triple wash the kale, de-stem, blanch, cool, and bag it.  At toddler speed mind you.  In the end we had only 3 quart size freezer bags to show for our work.  Hmm.   As Americans we spend so much less on food than the rest of the world, doing it myself really reminds me what food is truly worth.

* Marley is sporting her short fall hair cut.

*  I finally got around to building this chicken hut to move from box to box in the garden.  Right now its in the bed that once held the onions.  The lucky ladies who get to stay at "chicken resort" will stay for two or three days until the bed is weed, bug, and hopefully larvae free.  Then we'll move it to another bed and send two different ladies on vacation.
I used some plastic netting for the sides, but it ended up being a bit short.  I improvised by stapling our old couch cover over the top of the whole thing, which also negated the need for hinges, and added some shade as well (yeah for resourcefulness).

* Rob's niece had her first birthday a few weeks ago.  We weren't able to make it down to NH for the party, but I made this sweet dress and mailed it to her.  Kale was a willing model along the way.  The finished dress has a pink ribbon hem along the bottom.  I can't wait to see pictures (hint hint).

* While Rob was away a few friends came by to knit and chat, and make the evening a little less lonely.  The new coffee table was perfect for our decadent spread.

* September is a different sort of harvest.  Leggy beans, huge cabbage, dark rainbow chard, and of course all that wood.  

* As well as bringing stuff in (from the garden) we're also sending it out.  Rob inspired a little fall de-cluttering by playing "12 things".  We each chose 12 things that we no longer wanted/needed and sent them off to Good Will--or the end of the driveway for a "Free" yard sale.  In the pile were:  an old sink from the backyard, the office chair, many articles of clothing, several books, 3 vases, a small table, some toys, a toaster and more.  It feels really good to get rid of things we aren't using.  And its really nice to have a little less clutter around the house.  

And it was a great intro to the eco-challenge I'm participating in beginning Saturday.  For two weeks members of our UU Church congregation are challenging themselves to be "greener" in one or more areas--you choose your own goal.  Some people have set their challenge to take showers shorter than 5 minutes.  Others have lowered their thermostats, planned to ride their bike when traveling less then 5 miles, and more.  My goal is to  produce no waste for the two week period.  I can already tell I won't make it to zero waste--I don't really have all systems in place yet (ie. I'm still receiving a lot of junk mail that is not recyclable) but I will do my best.  If you want to play along you can go to the EcoChallenge website

Or you can just play along on your own and share your successes here!  What will you do for the next two weeks (beginning Oct. 1) to help our planet?  
Please share! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good-Bye Summer

We have a favorite tradition of celebrating the equinox by noticing the balance of night and day.  For the past 4 years we have gotten  up early to watch the sunrise over Belfast Bay, then picniced with friends and watch the last summer sunset from the top of Mt. Battie.  This year we skipped the sunrise as we had friends visiting from NH (who arrived late the night before) but our sunset picnic was amazing as usual.

 Pizza, wine, warm tea, sandwich cookies (half white/half dark--get it?) beautiful weather, good friends, laughing children and amazing views; could there be a better way to welcome my favorite season?

Hello Autumn!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Homeschool Thursday

We've started into a rhythm here and its going well.  Reading, math, history, handwriting, and science three days a week, journal work a few times a week, and a new homeschooling workshop day we're excited to start next Tuesday.

This is the first year we're formally studying science.  We've always kept nature journals and unschooled science as things came up, but my sister turned me onto this science book, "Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding" by Bernard J. Nebel.  We've only had it for two weeks, but so far I'm loving it.

It is written for group teaching, but it might as well be written for homeschoolers because it is just so perfect.  Nebel has organized the study in four different "threads" and uses a diagram to map the order of study of each thread--which can be taught in any order or/and in tandem.  There is quite a bit of cross referencing between threads so that its easy to see where different areas of science overlap.  If you're looking for a science book this is a good one.

Last week we began the Life Science thread, by categorizing things into groups of biological/living, natural non-living, and human made.  The next lesson goes on to sort out plant and animal kingdoms, but before we get there it was recommended we do a study on energy.  Can I say again how much I love this?  I never would have thought to move onto energy--but seeing as all living things require energy it makes sense to cover this first.  The kids and I charted four basic energy sources and discussed what roles they have in our immediate environment.  I can tell there's going to be further discussion around energy (given Wylie's obsession with it).  The book even has a section for each lesson entitled "teachable moments".  Even if I wasn't teaching the lessons described in the book I can see how this would be a valuable resource to read just for the clear scientific explanations.

Kale has been finding his own work this week--eagerly taking on new big kid activities on his own accord.

We've also (informally) filled our days with some art work, candle making, deconstructing a monitor and subsequently learning quite a bit about cathode ray tubes, vacuums, and lead poisoning (not first hand mind you) and visiting with friends from NH.

Its been a good week.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Morsels: First (and last) Day of School

All summer Juniper asked about going to first grade.  We talked a lot and decided that it would work well for her to go to public school one day a week and attend music, art, and phys. ed. classes.  She was really excited.  When I mentioned that she may not know any of the kids she said,  "But mom, I'll make friends.  That's what school is for right?" Um, pretty much.  Then, we found out she'd be in class with several kids she knows from art camp, and one really good friend.  She was thrilled.  We toured the school, picked out clothes the night before, and packed her new lunch bags.  On her fist Friday she was ready to go.  She hung on my hand for just a minute, then gave me a hug and said good bye.  I had no concerns that she wouldn't be fine.  Junebug is one social kid and I knew she'd have a blast.  But, I was wrong.  At pick up I learned that she had cried on and off all morning.  For the next week she talked about how nervous she was to go back to school, and as the next Friday approached she said she wasn't going.

And, despite spending an hour at school yesterday morning at drop off time (a long, trying hour with tears, and pleading all around) an exhausted Mama, and three kiddos climbed into the car and headed home.

I know I could have left her crying with her teacher and hit the road.  I know that, as the teacher assured me, "it will be easier if you just go".  I know that really she would have been fine at the end of the day.  But even though I knew that it was still hard.  It was hard to see my Junebug so unreasonably (at least to my eyes) sad at the prospect of joining her friends for a day of music, art, and phys. ed.  It was hard to allow her to give up after trying school just once, hard for me to stifle the feeling that she should "finish what she started".   It was hardest to ignore the well meaning adults who kept assuring me, "she'll be alright after you leave".  As an ex-teacher, I knew they were right, in some respects-- but as a parent it just felt wrong.  I guess I feel that walking away from someone you love, and leaving them crying and reaching for you as you drive down the road, is just not a kind thing to do.  I couldn't do it when my babies were infants, and it still feels wrong to do it now.  I like to teach kindness.  I like to model kindness.  I feel really fortunate to be in a situation where I could choose to bring my child home, and honor her wish to not go to school.  I know that if my situation was different that I may not have had the freedom to walk away from school and bring my daughter home.  But I do, so I did.

We're all still sitting with this situation, not quite sure where we'll go from here. I don't like the idea of giving up without really trying, and teaching the lesson that its OK to start something and not finish.  But, I'm also not OK with going against your instincts and doing something that feels terribly wrong.  Clearly this feels wrong to our girl, and making her stay somewhere she doesn't want to be feels wrong to me.  As a family we'll try our best to figure out what feels right to all of us.

* Kale has always been ball crazy.  Now he's got a new ball and he's loving it up.  There's not a day that goes by without a snuggle for the ball, or a trip in the car with the ball, and he's all about showing off his tricks.  His newest?  Juggling soccer style with his knees.  Pretty darn funny and cute as all get out!

*  Still loving the couch, and how it makes a great play table too.

* We picked some elderberries from the side of the road, plucked them, and froze them.  We'll make elderberry syrup with honey for immune support in small batches throughout the winter.

*  I've switched from muffins to "muffins pretending to be cake".  It bakes a little longer, but the pan is way easier to clean, and really who doesn't like cake for breakfast?  I went for the camera to snap a photo of the cake, and came back to find the excavator here.  These days there are trucks around most everywhere.

* I can't believe how big he's getting.

*  Wylie's playing soccer three times a week--which is really too much for most 8 yr. olds, and definitely too much for most moms.  But, its all there is, so we're making the most of it.  Aside from the over scheduling, I love soccer.  I played for years in school so its really fun to see the game again. Its got me feeling like I want to play.  He's in a 1st-3rd grade league which means the kids are all different sizes and abilities.  Its a pretty funny thing to watch.

*  I love cereal, especially warm cereal or oatmeal, so breakfast without wheat or oats can sometimes be a difficult thing for me.  But, I've discovered that quinoa or brown rice (or a mixture of the two) makes a really great warm breakfast.  Hopefully I've remembered to save some from dinner the night before, then I reheat it and do it up with chopped almonds, frozen blueberries, a bit of milk or cream, and some maple syrup.  Yum.

*  Wylie used his birthday money to buy a rocket kit.  Its taken us a while to assemble the thing (sanding, gluing, painting) but we finally finished.  The first launch was a dud, but it worked great the next three tries.  The parachute failed to open once, but the rocket was good as new after just minor repairs.

Wylie was super excited to launch it the first few times, but has since become more hesitant, and tentative about pushing the launch button.  The other day while walking up to the field for a launch he said, "I'm not like most people.  Most people are scared to try something when its new.  I'm more scared after I know what's going to happen."  I thought that was pretty insightful of him.  He is exactly like that--always anxious (sometime too much so) to find out what will happen, then when he knows,  he has a tendency to over-think the situation until he's built it up to be something to be feared.  I love that he's able to recognize his learning style at such an early age. Sometimes I'm really worried about this kid, and then he says things like that and I realize he's going to be just fine.

*  Lots of green beans going in the freezer, and maybe some dilly beans next week.

* September is like this:  swimming and fishing one day, wool sweaters the next.  I love it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back to School (or not)

I always welcome fall and the balance it brings:  cooling things down a bit, slowing the pace, and drawing us closer to home.  I love that the natural, seasonal changes coincide with (or perhaps create?) the desire I see in myself, and my kids, to settle in and begin some quiet work.  
I particularly appreciate homeschooling at this time of year, feeling grateful that we can still be outside enjoying the last warm days,  rather than getting caught up in the hectic back to school pace that signals September for so many families.  

September is my favorite month, but I remember when it wasn't.  Actually, I remember the year that I realized it was my favorite month, that it no longer created a twisted knot of anticipation and dread I had associated with having to return to school.  Wylie was three years old and Juniper 1.  Neither child was in school, I wasn't working at all, and we had the whole season ahead of us to ramble in the woods and play on the beach, and read stories in the grass.  September is the best month for all of those things--and so many kids (and adults as well) don't get to enjoy it. 

In the Sunflowers, September 2006 

This is not to say that homeschooling is lovely all the time.  There are many days when I think fondly of the big yellow bus that could come and take my children away!  All day!  For Free!  And, there is also a bit of nostalgia I have from early childhood of having my own cubby and my own teacher, not to mention a new back pack and lunch box and pencils (I really do love school supplies).  Sometimes people ask me, "why  do you choose to homeschool?--and I don't have an easy answer.  (More on that here).

Hunting for Monarch Caterpillars, 2008

But, this is what I do know.  When my children were infants I always felt capable.  From the moment they were born I was a confident mother.  It just felt like second nature to nurse them on demand, and sleep with them in bed, and to wear them close throughout the day.  I didn't always know how to make them stop crying, or how to help them latch just right, but I always knew that I was doing it well.  That they would be all right because of the way we were parenting them.

When Wylie was around four years old there was a shift.  I don't remember any exact moment, just this creeping realization that I was no longer as sure of my parenting practices.  I began second guessing myself, and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, or what I could change in order to be better.  I read a lot of parenting books.  I processed a lot with friends.  I cried.  For me, parenting babies was simple, but children were a different matter.  I didn't feel so sure of what I was supposed to be doing.  
Except for school.  Whenever the topic of preschool came up, I knew it wasn't right.  When they were babies I hadn't planned that we would homeschool, but now that they have become children I know that they should learn at home. 

Now, after 8 years of this parenting gig, I still have a lot of uncertainty.  But, inside I know that homeschooling is what is best.  I can't say exactly why.  I know it won't always be perfect, and that I won't always know just how to teach them what they need, or be the best mom to them all the time.  But I'm grasping at intuition.  I'm taking this feeling in my gut that carried me through three beautiful babyhoods, and doing my best to follow it through the maze of their childhoods as well.  

Hunting monarch caterpillars, 2011

On Monday we'll be starting up a regular schedule of school work again, after taking a break for the summer.  I'm feeling pretty organized and excited to have some kind of routine around here after all of the crazy travel and running about we do in the summer.  I'm ready to have a few "at home" days where we don't have to leave home for any reason.  I'm ready to spend some focused time with my kids, following their lead,  learning along with them, and enjoying that we're not in school.

Oh, and I'm ready for a few new school supplies.  Here's what we've got so far: 

* School supply bag for Wylie, from scraps.
* New, re-fillable pens (less waste), tape, erasers, modeskin journals, and pencil grips from our local office supply store.  You can buy pens and pencils individually so you only get what you need, and no packaging!

* Snack bags and sandwich wrap for Juniper.  These are made from laminated cotton from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply in Belfast.  There were a few examples in the store that I copied--though not exactly.  This stuff is a pain to work with, but I'm pretty happy with how they came out.  Wylie's are in process.

I've also been doing a crazy (for me) amount of crafting for various birthdays this month:  bags, tops, headbands, and more!  Also, a birthday for me!

 Morsels will be a little late this week.  Happy Monday!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Morsels: The virtue of pants

Pretty much since Kale was born we've been practicing part-time elimination communication
(more on that here ) which is way simpler if he is bare-bum.  Our house is usually pretty warm and we have concrete floors (read: easy to clean) so it hasn't been much of an issue.  Until recently.  There are somethings you just shouldn't blog about, so I'll simply say a few good things regarding pants, particularly as they relate to toddlers:  
1. Pants prevent your toddler from touching his bum.  Particularly if said toddler has recently developed an itchy bum, seemingly out of nowhere.  
2. Pants prevent said itchy bum from coming into contact with surfaces shared with others (ie. everything in your home--including, the kitchen table, your newly built couch, your lap, and your bed!).
3. If you forget to put pants on your toddler and you suddenly come to realize (through some unmentionable event) that he does in-fact have a very common (though none-the-less completely nasty) childhood malady,   then get some pants on him pronto!  But first wash his hands.  And yours.  And everything in the house.  With disinfectant.  Then call your doctor.  In cases like these its best to treat everyone in the house. And remember to wear pants, at least for the next 2 weeks.
Just saying.  


* We've been super busy, cleaning and medicating (all clear now!)--but also living up the end of summer.  My sister and niece from WA State were visiting in NH so we stayed down there for the week, and had a chaotic blast.  It was good fun almost all the time, visiting with all the cousins, running in the mornings with my sisters, and having late girls' nights watching cheesy ABC dramas.  I already miss it.

fun with cousins

* A few weeks ago Rob and his pal participated in the Belfast Bay Festival's Boat Building Competition, and they Won!  

Unfortunately my camera battery died early in the day, so I don't have any film of the race, but here's the boat, at home weathering the hurricane (that's some sassy sailor!)

* Irene didn't do much damage here.  A few sunflowers down, and no power for 24 hours.  Mostly a ton of wind.

* Even though the boat won first place, Rob didn't deem it sea worthy.  So, we've adopted it as a sandbox.
I think it will see a lot more use this way.

* We've been canning and freezing:  peaches, tomatoes, zucchini, and green beans.  We had a whole assembly line going on for the peach canning, and the kids are old enough to truly be helpful.  I love that! This week we'll break out the Squeezo and do some sauce.

*  Last week we headed up one of our favorite hikes, Bald Rock in Lincolnville.  The way up was toddler slow, but worth the view.  On the way down I made Kale ride on my back. 

* September is my favorite month.  Its still warm enough for swimming, but cool enough in the mornings to make me start searching for a knitting project.  On my needles now is the  "Wonderful Wallaby" hoodie pattern (it is the cutest direction book I've ever seen, way worth the $7 dollars I paid for it).  
I've made a couple of these in the past few years.  This one is for me, in Peace Fleece.  

Happy Monday to you!