Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: "I need HELP" (pronounced 'hep')

August Kindergarten Review: Food

In lieu of formal curriculum, each month we choose a subject (or I choose a subject) and make that the focus of our learning projects for the month. Brother-Bug is kindergarten-aged (more or less), so our topics are broad and simple. I try to keep them easy to work into our day and fun to play around with.

For the month of August we learned about Food. This was a particularly easy one for a family deeply immersed in whole food eating, local food, canning, and who all love cooking. As the month progressed it was fun to see Brother-Bug take on more and more of the food challenges, and his awareness of what I was serving him at meals (and why) deepened as well.

We started off with a Preschool Lesson Bin from our local library all about food - a collection of a CD, some puppets, a DVD, and about 10 books all centered around Food. It was a good start.

We read some great books and did some excellent projects.

Muzzy kicked us off with her great Ice Cream Project! Brother-Bug said this was his favorite because he got to eat ice cream at the end.

Brother-Bug samples the produce
We also enjoyed blueberry picking at Adkins Farm, and the resulting work making jam, freezing berries, drying more berries, and making pie. Mmmm...pie....

We made our own mozzarella one day, using Ricki Carroll's book and instructions. It's fun and easy to make, and very satisfactory. Brother-Bug said he really liked the kneading and pulling necessary to make mozzarella. And when we hung the whey up to make ricotta (which didn't really turn out) he liked how the dripping was "cheese pee".

With the leftover whey, we made bread! We measured, mixed, kneaded, let sit, punched, and waited, and finally baked. It was perfect with honey. We talked about how the yeasts work (they make the bread fluffy by eating sugar and then 'farting'...lots of giggles there!), how to be safe with the oven, and other general learning tasks presented themselves - measuring math and so on.

So far, all these projects are just things that happened in the course of our days. Part of our rhytem of August. The cheese was made because we had extra milk. The bread was made because we had the whey from the cheese.
Kneading, kneading, kneading...

We talked about the 3 Gs - something I have written about on this blog. We cut out food pictures from magazines and made a 3 Gs collage. Along with the collage we discussed healthy eating choices, the importance of balancing healthy food with treat food, eating a rainbow of colors...and had fun with scissors and glue!

We had a field trip to a local fresh pasta maker - Pasta Plus - and learned about how food is produced in a factory. Brother-Bug got to cut his own sheets of pasta which we later had for dinner. Super tasty.

In our library bin there was a Sesame Street DVD about funny food songs, which was a favorite. Brother-Bug got to write a first 'Media Report' about it - dictating to me while I asked him questions. It was a real challenge for him to put his thoughts together about the movie, and I was thrilled that he was very excited about that particular challenge. When we thought back about the month's activities, he specifically mentioned enjoying the challenge of the report.

Our major math activity was making a Bar Graph of likes, dislikes, and favorites. Brother-Bug worked with his friend T, asking people in their world yes/no questions and filling in the graph I made with stickers. After the information gathering was done, we looked closely at the graph, asking several questions - is there anything that everyone likes, but is not anyone's favorite? How many people like ice cream and how many like celery? Which has the most likes? And so on.

Our graph - green indicates 'like', yellow indicates 'dislike', and red indicates 'favorite'.

To finish up the month we read Everybody Cooks Rice and located the countries represented on our globe with post-its. We also read The Life of Rice, about how rice is grown in Thailand and the culture that surrounds that staple crop.

To augment, I found some websites with food-related games for when he really wanted to play computer games. There was no game or site that stood out as excellent, so I'm not going to bother sharing them here. I threw them in mostly to keep consistent with our Food theme. 

We had a great time with all of this, and since we are only in kindergarten, I don't worry too much about retention and the ability to regurgitate information. It's enough for me that we are learning and doing and enjoying - forging pathways of life long learning and experiencing all that we can. That's what it is all about for me.


Nest month we leap into maps and how they work - playing with geography! I can't wait to see where the month's adventures lead us!

Wordless Wednesday: My Nursing Career

First nursing day ever.
 I know it's supposed to be "Wordless", but I want to preface today by saying that it has been National Breastfeeding Month all August. To celebrate, on this last Wednesday of August, here are pictures of me nursing my little ones.

I have been nursing for just under 5 years. Ten and a half months I nursed both kids at once. It's magical and special and amazing. I feel so blessed that my babies have grown healthy and strong with what my body can make.

Mama Faery nurses Baby-Faery (Brother-Bug)
Brother-Bug and I review a picture book with my mom.

Brother and Sister-Bugs latch together on Sister's first morning with us.

Little Sister enjoys a solo nosh.

Sister on Brother on Mama! Everyone eats.

This is a favorite moment. Sister-Bug is a day old. She is laying on Brother-Bug who has his arm wrapped around her in a cuddle. Talk about sweet memories.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mindful Monday: Simplify, Simplify

Right now I am in the middle of reading Simplicity Parenting. Likely I will be posting a review and my personal thoughts on it soon. Until then, let me just say that the messages of Kim John Payne are really resonating with me, and backing up some ideas I already have had, leading where my instincts tell me to go.

When we moved I initiated a toy library/bank. I put about 1/4 or so of the kids toys in a big bin, intending to switch out toys as they looked for the missing toys or wanted something new.

To my surprise everyone, including me, forgot about the bin until recently. So far I am the only one who has remembered. I haven't mentioned it to the kids. Their room is so full of stuff that they haven't even noticed the missing toys.

This Monday I am committing to doing some of the reduction and clean out recommended by Payne in his book.

Who: Family-wide, everyone gets to play! (I'll be the one doing the majrity of the grunt work, however...)

What: Clean out and simplify the books, make a toy-simplification plan.

Why: Brother-Bug has so many books and toys that he is often too overwhelmed to play with them. There is too much choice. There is too much junk - the broken, the excessive, the repetitious. In the books...I pride myself on  an excellent selection of picture books that spans shelves and shelves and shelves. And mostly they live on the floor. There are just too many that we are threatening to permenently submerge under tidal waves of books (I will admit that I can think of worse ways to go...).

How: I have already started by sifting through the picture books in the living room. I have packed into boxes more than 2/3 of the books, leaving out classics and much adored books and ones that I think would be much adored if they ever got time. We went from 3 full shelves to a little less than one shelf. Most books I packed away, to come out again in the future. I will repeat this in the play-room, as well as on the grown-up shelves. There is at least one bookshelf in every room, except the bathroom.

As far as modifying the toy situation, I plan on sharing the ideas from Simplicity Parenting with Papa-Bug and making a plan of when and how we can reduce the toy mountain. I don't want to make a specific plan, because it needs to happen when the kids are not around. But happen it will!


I'm feeling very inspired about simplifying the kids lives - and my life by extension. If things go the way I plan, I will have a whole series of posts about these endeavors and their results. I feel, deep in my bones, that there is too much stuff, too much drive, to much information, to much going, going, going to be a healthy adult. If I feel that way as an adult, how would it be to be a developing child? My heart shudders. So, simplification... Here we COME!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Potty-Training "AH HA!" Moment

I wouldn't say that Sister-Bug is potty training. She has had experience as an EC baby, using the potty consistently at about 3 months old. She went on an extended strike at 9 months that was still going on as we moved, so into diapers she went and has mostly stayed. But lately she has been showing renewed interest in her blue potty.

Coincidentally, there was this post over on Life As Mom about 10-day potty training. I gave it a read, not expecting much since Sister-Bug is only 17-months old. And there in the text was such an AH HA! A moment of clarity.

The goal isn't pee and poop in the potty as much as the goal is dryness! To quote Life as Mom to reiterate:
This was the epiphany for me: dryness is the goal. Going in the toilet is a complimentary facet, but dryness is the goal. Reward, praise, and cheer for dryness. Check for dryness often. And then offer more treats.
Help your child make the connection between going in the potty and staying dry.
 So yesterday I pulled a pair of kid underwear out - the tiniest one I could find, and popped them on Sister-Bug.

She LOVED them. And while she was wearing them - about half the day - she got almost all of her pee in the potty. Poop is a different story and involves several paper towels. But she loved the underwear. AND she told me - while wearing a diaper at the library - that she needed to pee and then made it to the restroom on time.

She lacks most of the usual signs of toilet-training readiness, but she has the most important one: an interest in the process. And that is a great place to start.


In related contemplations, I hate the phrase potty-training. It makes it seem like the child is a trick pony or seal or something. We don't train them. We help them learn. I would love an different phrase that is also as easy to say. Ideas?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mindful Monday: A Little Bit for Me

I've noticed that when I take 5 minutes in the morning to groom and care for myself - prefferably with the bathroom door closed! - I have a much better day. So that's my intention for this week, just a little bit of self care.

Who: Me! Just ME!
What: Prioritizing my daily ablutions.
Why: If I put myself together in the morning, I feel so much more on top of my day. Everything else might fall apart, but at least I have deodorant on, right?
How: Take the time to brush my teeth, wash my face with rosewater, put on deodorant, brush and fix my hair (which hangs past my hips and I usually keep up), and choose some earrings for the day. Reward myself with a new pair (or two!) of earrings. Attempt to accomplish this before 9:00, but don't beat myself up if it happens later.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Flavlorful, Yet Still Tasteless

I'll just open by stating categorically that my family has an off-the-hook sense of funny. And we'll leave it there.

Last weekend it fell to me to make the birthday cakes for a birthday party for both brothers. They were both in town on the youngster's actual birthday, and the elder had his about 2 weeks prior. So the whole family gathered in a local park and celebrated with fish tacos and cheesecake.

At the library, Brother-Bug and I were perusing the children's cookbooks. We found this excellent book, Gross-Out Cakes, and just had to bring it home. Parts of it are truly disgusting.

I lean more toward wanting to make the Oozing Brain or Severed Arm. I'm not sure I could even begin to stomach eating the Kitty-Litter Cake.

We read through it several times, and finally settled on the Road Kill Cheesecake. We thought it was the least likely to offend anyone who wouldn't find stuff like this hilarious.

One chocolate cheesecake, some icing and sprinkles, a little Lingonberry jam, and a toy deer later...

It was a complete success. Everyone loved it and it was so yummy!

And I highly recommend the book to anyone with kids who love the silly, macabre, or downright disgusting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Results of a Lesson in Yeast

Light a Candle, Say a Prayer

Today my guts are in a knot.

I got word that a dear child of my community was hit by a van and is in the ICU. Predictions are that her injuries are not life-threatening, thank all the Gods that might be listening.

This makes me doubly sure that I hug and squeeze my own sweet babies lots.

It makes me reflect on The Big Subjects.

I never imagined, when I delightedly anticipated the arrival of my son, how fraught with terror parenting actually is. Loss, sickness, accident, and catastrophe loom behind every shadow. Mostly I wend my way through our days without too much worry, but it's always there in the far back corners of my mind.

What if...

Sometimes they are just the silliest what ifs. Sometimes they are more realistic. Sometimes I see the narrow miss and my heart nearly stops. Sometimes I have to check and double check the rise and fall of that small, precious chest. Sometimes I can't sleep for dreadful dreams and imaginings.

If you are a parent you know what I am talking about.

My heart is with the parents, dear friends, in the ICU. I am praying that I am never there with any of my babies.

When I can't sleep I say grace and give thanks. Because whatever happens tomorrow, my kids and I have had today. Whatever happens in the morning, we are cuddling NOW. I hope that I can remember these moments of thankfulness when Grace might seem far away. I hope that I can remember that nothing and no one can take away my moments and memories and all the wonderful times I have already experienced as a parent.

So we pray...


Take a moment now, before you navigate away, and say a prayer - send a wish - think a good thought - send some Grace to the parents who need it. Then go hug or kiss or text someone you are grateful for. You are so lucky.

Monday, August 15, 2011

12 Reasons to Frequent Your Local Farmers Market

Eugene, Oregon and the surrounding Willamette Valley is full of amazing farms that grow hugely diverse crops. We boast an amazing Farmers Market. What does your Local Market have?

Pink oyster mushrooms. We will be tasting these tonight...

Assorted fresh breads... not pictured are the amazing pastries these folks make.

Onions and tomatoes...

I never can decide what kind of berries I want to buy when they are all ripe at once...

Picked early this morning....

Just get near the basil and breathe deep...

These pepper plants have me eyeballing good sun spots for next year's garden...

Roasted hazlenuts... use in chocolate confections, pesto, or anywhere else.

It's all so bountiful - as through a huge cornucopia spilled out, covering these two blocks.

Melons are finally ripe and so sweet.

Fresh, raw honey...and the beeswax that comes with it.

And flowers. I love seeing people walking around market with an armful of flowers.

There was extra milk in my fridge, a whole gallon. Luckily the time was right, the weather was good, and the basil and tomatoes... well, you saw the pictures. With half an hour in the kitchen to make some mozzarella, as well as a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar...

Fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and we are ready for dinner.

...we enjoyed a perfect Caprese Salad for dinner.

Do you shop at your Farmers Market? What is your favorite thing to get there?

Mindful Monday: Back To Just Us

Sister-Bug with Muzzy on a beach walk.
One of our major summer events is the six-week visit of my dad and his wife. Once they parked their giant RV at a trailer park for the summer, but when we moved we made sure we got enough yard space to share. Today is the last day of their visit.

It has been a wonderful summer. The kids have been in ecstasies over the backyard grandparents. It's nice to have a second set of adults around. Sister-Bug has really gotten close with them, which is so good since they live on the East Coast the rest of the year.

There is going to be some serious sadness in the land if my little people when the RV disappears around the corner later today. This Monday I'm focusing on getting us back into the swing of being a family of four, and helping the kids with the big feelings this is going to generate.

Without further ado, Mindful Monday today...

Who: The whole family
What: Re-group as a small nuclear family
Why: To ease and support some of the shock of losing two such loving playmates.
Puz and Brother-Bug starting a major excavation project.
How: Exert a lot of patience with the kids while they process this sad event. Do some work around getting ready for Winter Solstice (we may be a little early on that, but since it is the next time we see Muzzy and Puz, it might help to focus on the future). Get ready for a family camping trip this weekend - get everything together and focus the kids on camping fun. Enjoy and appreciate the things we did with Muzzy and Puz, make lists of favorite moments, make a scrapbook...


I missed Mindful Monday and Wordless Wednesday last week. With the last week of grandparents, siblings coming into town, canning blueberries, and everything else, the blog slipped through my fingers. Life is like that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Question of Puppets

It's all over assorted news outlets right now - people urging Bert and Ernie to claim the rainbow flag and get married (since Sesame St. is ostensibly in New York, they have the legal right to do so...if they want to). Statements have been issued about how they are puppets, not people, and as such they do not have romantic/sexual orientation. That's all well and good, but it begs the question of Miss Piggy and Kermit's romantic entanglements in various Muppet movies...

I'll come out right now, just to save everyone the trouble. I'm in a hetero-normative marriage, with two kids, and some decidedly accepting views when it comes to other peoples lives and choices. Namely, if it's not hurting anyone, what is the issue? In my ramblings here I in no way intend to offend, exclude, or otherwise hurt anyone's feelings. These are my thoughts. Take them as such or click away.

Upon personal contemplation and lively discussion, I have decided that while I love the visual idea of Bert and Ernie getting married... Well, I like them better the way they are. Mostly undefined.

Bert and Ernie are two individual who love each other, who struggle with their differences, and share an apartment on Sesame St. Maybe they are friends. Maybe they are sweethearts. When I was little I assumed they were brothers.

Maybe the decisions that two individuals make in their home aren't really my business (as long as they aren't hurting anyone, right?).

Here's the thing. As long as they are undefined, parents can add their level of comfort in their definitions. Bert and Ernie can fit into so many places, becoming possible lessons.

Having trouble sharing a room with your sibling? Look at Bert and Ernie! They squabble sometimes, but they share a room and learn to work together.

Two siblings that look wildly different (maybe a family of adoption)? Look at Bert and Ernie! They may look different, but they sure act like siblings much of the time...

In a single-parent family, in a living situation that involves a roommate? Look at Bert and Ernie! Roommates can be a lot of fun, and sometimes a challenge.

In a family with two parents of the same gender? Look at Bert and Ernie! Two individuals of the same gender living together. Some people get married and some don't regardless of their orientation, but there are two guys living together in a supportive way - just because they are undefined doesn't mean a parent can't give them a little more definition if necessary. Any family could buy a couple of Bert and Ernie dolls and have a wedding. What you do in your home is your business.

And let's remember this. As long as Bert and Ernie can live together in platonic puppet-hood, everyone can watch Sesame St. All the pre-schoolers out there can be positively exposed to the picture of two males living together in (mostly) peaceful ways, supporting one another. I don't care who is oriented how, this is a message that needs to get out there. The minute that Bert and Ernie are outed by their creators, there will be a huge group of young people from conservative homes who will no longer be allowed to watch Sesame St. Who will not be exposed to the positive message that two males can live together and show one another they care, regardless of who they fall in love with.

I don't know what Brother-Bug thinks about Bert and Ernie. If I know much about kids, or remember anything from my childhood, it's not as interesting a question as we grown-ups seem to think it is.


I realize that this is a potentially inflammatory post. I welcome any comments that are made in the spirit of respectful discussion, be they agreement or disagreement. But please keep it respectful. You would want people to treat you with respect, so honor that Golden Rule, please.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Our Little Boys Are Made Of

A while ago I posted about my son's love of dresses. We are big supporters of helping our children discover who they are, regardless of the usual gender norms.

Today I read the most moving post on little boys and nurturing their creativity. I recommend you check it out, especially if you are the parent of a son. Pictures and words eloquently beg the question of what happens If you give a boy a....

As a parent of a son and a daughter, I thought a lot about how true this is for little boys, and I wonder how I change it to make a similar series of thoughts for my girl...

Peter Pan after a long day.


Thanks go out to Jodie over at Strings & Yarn for pointing out the Rhythm of the Home, where I found that post. It's a lovely place with lots of great ideas and inspiration.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blueberry Day

Today, on a cool, slightly damp day, we adventures out to Adkin's Farm for blueberry picking. The picking was a little damp, but we didn't get hot, dehydrated, or sunburned. And this is the Willamette Valley, so we are used to the damp. The bushes were laden and it was a fun and successful adventure. Rest assured that regardless of what else happens, there will be more pie at this house.

Many of the berries will be dehydrated and frozen. Leftover freezer berries from past years and some berries from today found their way into the jam pot.

After canning nine jars if plain ol' blueberry jam, I decided that diversity is the spice of life. So I added some ground cloves, ground ginger, and chipotle peppers to the pot. This came out fabulous. I think I have a brother and fellow canner out there who wants s PB&J sandwich with this concoction.

All in all, 15 more jars of jam and all the freezing and drying, and we can call this a good canning day.

And if anyone is interested, here is the approximate recipe I created for the

Blueberry-Chipotle Jam

To one standard blueberry jam recipe


2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2teaspoon ground cloves
1-3 tablespoons chipotles peppers in adobo sauce, ground smooth.

Start with a small amount of the Chipotle and adjust the spice to taste and heat desires. Remember that it is easier to put spice in than take it out!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Just The Summer Thing

We are blessed in having my dad and his wife as a part of our merry band, backyard neighbors, for six weeks in the summer. They live in North Carolina the rest of the year, but darling grandchildren have lured them out here for more and more time each summer, and my family is thrilled to host them and their RV.

We are doubly blessed that my dad's sweetie, whom the kids call Muzzy, was once upon a time a teacher at the excellent Duke School for Children, and brings all those skills and enthusiasms to our home for fun and learning. It pretty much rocks for my kids.

Today it was hot (for here, which is not hot for many places). In the mid-eighties. Brother-Bug had a friend over for the day and Muzzy busted out a cooking & science project;

Making Personal Ice-Creams

Can you think of a better thing to learn with on a hot summer day? Here's the deal:

You will need materials:

A small recycled can (clean!) - tomato paste or small juice sized - one per child
Cup measures (1/4 cup and up)
Measuring spoons
A bowl or container almost as tall as the can, and much wider - one per child
Aluminum foil
Wooden tongue depressors or popsicle sticks - longer than the can's height - to stir with.
Reading directions...

You will need ingredients:

Whipping cream or half -and-half
Rock Salt
Crushed ice

(For a non-dairy option your could simply use a favorite juice to make sorbet. Lemonade would make a lemon ice, for example. You could use yogurt instead of cream for frozen yogurt...)


Into each can put:
1/4 cup cream
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
A very small pinch of salt
Learning measuring and fractions...

Muzzy had lovely print-outs with the directions and she encouraged the kids to read the directions to her as they worked. 

Stir the milk mixture until the sugar is dissolved.

Cover the top of each can with a piece of foil so that no salt or ice can get in.
Lots and lots of salt is required... but why?

Put each can into a larger bowl/container.

Put crushed ice around the can, filling the bowl as full as possible.

Stirring, stirring, stirring...
Add lots of rock salt, but don't go all the way up to the top of the can. You want some of the can to stick out to prevent salt in the ice cream.

Rinse any salt off hands!

Carefully uncover the can - don't let any ice or salt get in!!

Just beginning to freeze...
Let the cans sit and get cold for a few minutes.

When the edges of the cream begin to freeze, start stirring with the tongue depressors. Scrape the sides and the bottom as throughly as possible.

We used plastic spoons to stir, because we didn't have tongue depressors. This was a little hard for the necessary scraping. We strongly recommend an actual wooden stick. 

Keep stirring until ice cream is formed. It might be necessary for kids to taste their ice cream as they go. It can take 10-15 minutes to get it "all the way ice creamy" (to quote Brother-Bug).

Add ice and rock salt as you go, to keep the bowl full of cold.

As we stirred we made up a song about ice cream, talked about the condensation on the outside of the large bowls, and why we need salt on the ice to make ice cream (do you know why?). You could also read a book about ice cream, play a game, or ???

Almost frozen!!
Finally, after you stir and scrape and stir and scrape, it is ready to taste. If you want it to be harder, more frozen, you can put it in the freezer. After all the long stirring, my little folks opted for soft-serve.

Ready to eat! Finally! That fifteen minutes felt like fifteen years...
As I mentioned earlier, we made up an ice cream song, which I am including here. We sang it to the tune of "Hungry, Hungry, We are Hungry"... and it ended up that the kids mostly made up their own tune anyway. 

Notice that some of the lyrics (the flavors) are bold. Muzzy made the structure of the lyric and the kids filled in the flavors - real and funny flavors. Take that and make it your own if you want!

We Like Ice Cream

Sister-Bug didn't help but she still enjoyed...
Ice cream, Ice cream,
We like ice cream.
Ice cream, ice cream,
Here we come.
We like chocolate,
vanilla, and marshmallow,
peanut butter pickle,
chunky ice.

We like lemon,
orange, football.
We like cherry,
turtle, too!
Ice cream, ice cream,
We like ice cream
'til our lips are turning blue.

So that's it. Simple. And it makes only about a quarter-cup of ice cream for each person, so it isn't a huge sugar treat - just enough sweet for a kid to really enjoy. All in all, it was a perfect project.

A perfect ice cream for a hot day!

Mindful Monday: Re-Evaluating Screen Time

With the iPhone and the new desktop have come a loosening of the conscientious screen limits we have set for Brother-Bug. I'm not opposed to changing and shifting the limits, but I want to do so with intention and consideration.

There is so much available media for these little brains to navigate. There is so much wonderful and fun and useful media out there, and all of it is balanced by harmful, deleterious, and useless media that it causes me to quail as I contemplate letting more into our home.

But this is the world we live in, these are the tools and technologies we use and enjoy. It just calls for careful consideration of what and where and when and how.

Who: The Whole Family
What: Re-Evaluating Our Use of Screens
Why: To decide how we use these tools to connect, enjoy, learn, and grow.
How: Private parental discussion, followed byfamily discussion and brainstorming, and hopefully the creation of a plan.


I still haven't re-initiated my evening walks. It might be something I do in a couple of weeks - after the grandparents leave for home and life slows down just a fraction.