Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Ready to Ride

This is a knight-faery, complete with velvet dancing dress, lucky tights, rainbow lei, cowboy boots, and Lightning McQueen helmet. This is my son.

Recipe: Not-Ceviche Shrimp and Pasta

Some of my better recipes come from having one dinner plan, but failing to fully read the recipe or buy all the ingredients... and then having to completely alter my plan with what I have, usually at the last minute. That's where I got the Orange-Miso Salmon recipe.

And what happened on Saturday as well. I had been planning on making Ceviche, but at actual preparation time I realized that I...well...hadn't started it early enough. Whoops. So with shrimp, some anaheim chilies, and other stuff on hand, I whipped up this very tasty

Not-Ceviche Shrimp Pasta.

1 pound cooked shrimp (I like to use the already peeled dudes, because it is easier to serve to kids).
1/2 cup lime juice
6 tbl. butter

2-5 cloves of garlic
2 (or more) anaheim chili peppers
6 large tomatoes
2 handfuls of fresh basil
Salt & pepper to taste

1 pound rotelle or similar pasta

Cook the pasta.

Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and melt the butter. Add the shrimp and lime juice, turn to low and simmer until the dudes are cooked through - nicely pink. Remove from the heat.

Mince up the garlic and chilies and coarsely chop the tomatoes and basil (this is so easy if you have a food processor). Mix throughly and add to the shrimp/butter/lime mixture. Add the pasta and let stand for 20 or so minutes to let the flavors mix.

You can leave it to flavor up and serve as a cold pasta dish if you want. It was really good the next day, after it had set over night.

That is all. With the food processor it is a very simple and satisfying dish, especially with a nice salad on the side, or some fruit. If I was making this for my spice-loving brother, I would have passed minced jalapenos or another hot chili to sprinkle on at the table.

Daily Haiku: September 28th

Love moves me all day,
Through chores and play and learning.
Wages paid in Love.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Organizing My Chores

Running a house is incredibly complicated, with myriad details to constantly track. Add the kids, the homeschooling, and personal/family/commnity pursuits to that and it's a wonder my head doesn't blow off.

One thing I found very effective in our last home was to organize my chores by day. I got the idea from Laura Ingalls Wilder, who washed on Monday, ironed on Tuesday, and so on. The first time I tested it out, it really worked. The system was derailed occasionally, but whenever I could pull it together, knowing what I had to get done each day really helped me get it done so that I could do other stuff.

Here's how I make a Housekeeping Schedule:

Step One - Walk around the house, thinking about each room, each chore, what you like about cleaning and what you dislike. How clean do you need each room to be to feel comfortable versus how clean would you love to have it be, if you had all the time in the world? Make lists.

Step Two - Pull out your weekly schedule. Note which days are busier than others and which days you will not be at home as much. Note when you usually go grocery shopping, when dinner runs late, or any other weekly details that rock your world.

Step Three - Start assigning chores to days. I break mine down room by room, tackling one room each day. This works for me because my house is small, and in a couple of places I combine rooms (bedroom & hall, etc.).Move the chores around the week, envisioning when in the day you will do the chore, who will help you - if anyone, what it looks like if the chore gets missed that day, what might get in the way of completing that chore, and so on.

Step Four - Find a way to display your new schedule for yourself. Write it on a white board, put it in your calendar or phone, put it somewhere that you can refer to easily.

I added some new steps this time around, to make it more sustainable. I divided my chore list per room into two different headings - the bare minimum of what I need to get done to keep the room livable and what I would ultimately like to get accomplished. For example, I need to at least clean the old food out of the refrigerator each week, but I would really like to wipe it clean if I have time. I can choose to do the minimum, do one thing from the ultimate list, or go for the gold and really do it all, depending on the day.

The other thing I did differently was how I formatted it. Usually I just note it up on the white board - which room, which day - and try to keep track of it. This time, since I had put the time in to figure out what was "good enough" and how much more I would ultimately like to do, I decided to make it a little more formal. I typed up the list for each room and printed them out. Then I covered them in clear tape and put magnets on the back. Each day is its own magnet, so I can rearrange them when necessary. They stick to my white board, so I can make notes around them if I need to.

I can add specifics for the day ("Order flea stuff") and check in with the dinner menu which I write above .

What I find when I do this is that I can let a lot more go each day because I know when I'm going to do the chore. Laundry all over the kids room? It will get picked up on Tuesday, so I don't have to sweat it on Friday. If I miss a week, I know I have missed only one week - I don't have to search my mind for the last time I think I cleaned the bathroom or washed the kitchen floor. If I don't dust this week, I can prioritize it the following week.

I add extra chores (like frequent living room pick ups or watering the plants) in bold at the bottom of the list. I try to keep the Kitchen Day on the day before we grocery shop, so I can have a cleaned out fridge to put the groceries into when I get home, as well as knowing what is in the fridge when I am at the grocery store. I don't have the daily chores (laundry, cleaning the kitchen, parenting tasks, etc.) on the schedule. I try to keep this specifically for general house upkeep. The other tasks find their time on other "To Do" lists.

That's what it looks like - my schedule of the week. And speaking of the schedule, I think it is time to go clean the living room and mop the floor!

Mindful Monday: Double Duty

I have two Mindful Monday Intentions this week. This was not the original plan, but I also hadn't planned to go get Daisy from The Greenhill Humane Society yesterday, either.

The short version of Daisy's arrival in our home goes like this: Through work, Papa-Bug had a Pekingese dog that needed a new home. He liked it and thought we might give it a shot. Biscuit arrived at our house a couple of weeks ago, suspicious and growling. It took him a couple of days to warm up to anyone. Everything seemed fine. Then on Saturday night, Biscuit bit Sister-Bug on the face (she's fine - just a small bruise). We won't keep a dog that bites - it's a one way ticket to the gulag. Currently Biscuit is residing in the shop outside. ((If you are in Eugene, don't have kids, and want a very sweet Pekingese, let me know!)) Papa-Bug and I talked about dogs and our family. Brother-Bug has been afraid of dogs for ages. With Biscuit, I had notieced him getting over his fear, and being way more socially interacting and physcally active than I have seen in a while. Seemed like a good thing. Additionally (to my surprise) I liked having a dog around. Papa-Bug liked having a dog around. We were bummed about Biscuit. So we changed our Sunday agenda and headed to the humane society where we got Daisy.

She's a nice doggy kind of a dog.

That brings us up to Mindful Monday Number One:

Integrating Daisy into Our Home & Rhythm 

Who: The Whole Family
What: Assessing how we fit Daisy into our home and family routines, giving jobs and responsibilities some thought. Re-framing our home as a "dog home".
Why: Well, we just got Daisy. It needs to be done.
How: Have a family meeting about Daisy and what her daily tasks are. Decide who does what, when they do it, etc. Talk about different ways we can help Daisy feel at home. Consider who cares for Daisy when we go out of town, where Daisy hangs out when we aren't home, etc. Put the immediate parts of our plan into action.

Onto Mindful Monday Number Two!!

Last week my intention was to create a Housekeeping Schedule. I did that, and started following the schedule somewhat. I really enjoyed the sense of organization that appeared in my days!

Following The New Schedule

Who: Me (and the kids where applicable)
What: Making the New Schedule into the regular routine.
Why: Because I want to have a better sense of what needs to be done, when I last did it, and how much there is to do.
How: Make an effort to follow the new schedule exactly, to find out how it works and where it needs to be tweaked to better fit with the groove of our average week. There are a few odd things on the schedule this week, but mostly it is a very average week - perfect for testing out the new organization.

That's it. It feels like a lot, but there it is!

Daily Haiku: September 26th

The last grown-up thing:
Getting a family dog.
We did that. Now what?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Daily Haiku: September 25th

My canning pots sit,
Waiting for this year's action.
Soon my jars will fill.

Simple Saturday: Contemplating Technology

I have no easy thoughts today. Technology is a bear in our house. At once we feel there is too much (computers, iPhones, television...) and not enough (it would be nice to have an internet movie streaming box, or a DVD player, or better speakers...should the kids have their own iPod in their play room???). And this, as much if not more than any other place, is where Papa-Bug and I disagree. I want to err on the side of too little technology in our kids lives. He wants to give them more access than I feel is good for them.

Kim John Payne argues that about seven-years old is when a kid is old enough to use screen media. Based on the little I know about emotional and mental development and perparadness, I think he is probably right.


But I have an iPhone, and the kids see me use it. But the pictures of their cousins are all online, along with videos, and I want them to feel connected to the far-away members of their families. But the internet is full of amazing resources for the homeschooling child.

Here is what technology use looks like in our house right now:

Family Movie Night on Friday night - this is a recent institution, to try and pull back from a more erratic schedule and make our TV viewing more intentional and less about parents being too tired to handle bedtime.

Television or Movie on Tuesday night - I get home from work with just enough time (sometimes) to scarf some dinner before bedtime. It's the only night I work outside this home, and it really confuses our evening schedule. Additionally, I am blitzed when I get home so unwinding with the TV Box helps me a lot.

Brother-Bug gets 30 minutes of computer time a day, his discretion - he has a log in and desktop with internet links to his favorite (and parent approved) sites. He uses it up first thing in the morning and knows that is all there is. Since setting this up, we have had much less begging and whining. He whines just a little when he gets logged off at the 30-minute mark.

iPhone use for Brother -Bug at parental discretion - I keep only educational apps on my phone. Papa-Bug has a slightly wider selection. We try to save iPhone play for Brother-Bug for times we need quiet or patience, or when it's a special treat. If he asks and we say NO, that's it. Whining and begging for iPhone uses loses future opportunities to play with the magical technical device.

Sometimes there is more screen time than "scheduled" - looking at pictures or finding relevant YouTube movies with a parent. Next week, for example, we are going to watch some of "Cars" while we try to make a map of Radiator Springs for a school project. However, I try to keep education mostly off the computer so far.

I try to keep my phone checking and internet browsing to a minimum, but it is a struggle for me. I want to read blogs, keep up with email and Twitter, and all the rest... One thing I have found is keeping the ringer off on my phone. I can check it occasionally throughout the day and if there is an emergency I will be called at home anyway. I turn on the ringer when we leave the house or if I know I am expecting a call.  I love my phone for the number of managerial tasks it can handle for me. In many ways it frees me up for other, more important, tasks. And it frequently sucks my attention when I least have attention to spare. It's a quest for balance.

Sister-Bug doesn't really figure into it much yet. I know in my guts that she is too young to watch movies and TV, but she does anyway because Brother-Bug does and we like to do movies together as a family. She doesn't play computer or iPhone games yet, but she does like to turn my phone to the lock screen to see the picture of her lovely self.

When it comes down to it, media and technology are an important part of the world my kids are growing up in. Part of my job is to help my kids grow slow, giving them plenty of time to Simply Play. Another part of my job is teaching them how to use (not abuse) and negotiate (not sink into) the media morass into which they were born.  I don't know if I am doing it "right". More and more of the time I want to take the kids far into the woods where Dora the Explorer won't invade their priceless childhood with her marketing schemes.

((There is a future post coming about Licensed Characters and their place in our home))

But that is not practical... because there just isn't service for my iPhone out in the middle of the woods.

What about you invisible readers out there? I feel like I am constantly in a battle for technological balance, and I must renegotiate my position from day to day. How do you feel about technology and kids or families? How do you use technology in your homes?


Some of this post was inspired by The Happiest Mom's post on being a "tech mom". I don't know if I am a "tech mom" or not. It might depend on the day.

Over at the Simplicity Parenting Blog there are lots of articles about media, technology and Simplicity Parenting. I want to peruse them more, but right now I have been on the computer for about as long as I can be. Time to start dinner!

Friday, September 23, 2011

One Of Those Moments

Because nothing is ever perfect, my re-vamping of errands failed to help Sister-Bug with a particularly challenging day. She didn't want to sit in the cart. She didn't want to sit in the basket of the cart with Brother-Bug. She didn't want to ride on my back. She wanted only to run around the stores unattended, probably pulling everything off the shelves. She wasn't allowed to do this at any of our stops. She adamantly and vocally let me know that she was being treated abysmally.

Consequently, I got snappish and impatient with both kids. Sister-Bug flailed in the Ergo on my back, wailing and begging to be released. Brother-Bug rode in the cart or trudged by my side, both of us frustrated with the toddler and just pushing through this hell of grocery shopping.

A laugh break came when Sister-Bug tried a new tactic. In the grocery store she started scolding me.

"No Mama! No! Want out! Bad Dog, MAMA! BAD DOG." 

I was at the end of my rope. and pretty much being a bitch, so she wasn't wrong. Brother and I found it very funny. Laughing at Sister's shrill chastisement of me got us through our errands.

It was one of those parenting moments.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Daily Haiku: September 22nd

There is something here;
A calm, a center, a wholeness.
I find it in this book.

Truth In Comic

I thought this was such a nice homeschooling kind of a comic. And it reinforces everything I know about the importance of deep play and days of "nothing to do".

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: How To Do Dishes With A Cranky Toddler

Put her in the sink!

Into The Fray

Today, Brother-Bug managed to squeeze in 5 or 6 different screaming fits in the first hour he was awake.

Woah. I hadn't had any caffeine yet. Neither had Papa-Bug. Sister-Bug just wanted a spoon to eat her eggs with. There was screaming and shrieking and hysterics on the couch. A lot of noise first thing in the morning.

Exhausting and frustrating as that was, I had to laugh after the screaming had died down a bit. Papa-Bug posted a wonderful piece about Brother's Freak Outs over at his blog. My writing plan for the day was to follow up on some of what he said. I guess Brother-Bug just knew that I needed some fodder...

We really try to give Brother-Bug the support he needs when his feelings run high - and he is prone to very volatile feelings. 

"This is harder than it seems. How do you offer love, support, and encouragement to a small person who is screeching at the top of his lungs, flailing with arms and legs, and demanding something that he can not have? But here’s the second revelation - he isn’t in control either. "
 It's such a dance of balance. When he is freaking out he just needs calm, quiet attention. Often he needs physical affection - reassurance that we are right there while he rides it out. But at the same time, I feel that he also needs to learn that I can't always drop everything to provide that attention. Sometimes he needs to ride it out without me; I might be nursing Sister-Bug or finishing up dinner or (like this morning) taking a few minutes to finish my daily journal entry and have just a smidgen of Me Time.

Of course, in the moments he is too out of control to figure out the details of coping without attention.

And then there is the question of giving attention that might reinforce this kind of tantrum. One of the morning events was a fit because I wasn't cuddling him enough. He clearly needed loving attention and cuddles, but the way he was screeching and demanding it made me really want to flee to another room, possibly another state. As Papa-Bug so aptly put it, "I don't negotiate with terrorists."

So what to do when I can't give him the attention to ride it out? Where is the pressure valve or rhythm point that helps Brother-Bug when he most needs help? What do we do to build a set of good habits for self-grounding when Mama and Papa can't help?

Daily Haiku: September 21st

International Peace Day

Today fly prayer flags,
This day when we celebrate
Peace and Peace and Peace.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mindful Monday: The Housekeeping Schedule

Before I delve into my Monday post, look at my new Mindful Monday Graphic! I drew it myself, drawing inspiration from The Happiest Mom's similar graphic. I like the idea of the continuity that these regular posts have, and giving some of them their own graphic adds to that feeling. And I love to draw. I drew one for Simple Saturdays also...

This Monday I want to get the house a bit more on track, as far as the when and what of cleaning. I had this going on at our old house, and when I kept up with it, the system worked really well. Now it is time to establish it in this new house. I think the system will work even better here, because this house is much more welcoming to us, and easier to keep clean. I am hopeful.

This week --  The Housekeeping Calendar

Who: Me and my weekly plan.
What: Assign chores to each day; Monday = bathroom, Tuesday = kids room & hall, etc.
Why: I have few rooms in my house, and a weekly pick-up and wipe is usually all they need to stay relatively livable. If each room has its day, it is easy to know which task to tackle. If I miss a day I know what I missed and I can plan for a little extra time the following week.
How: Make a comprehensive list of chores that need to happen around the house; make an "ultimate" list of everything I would like to get done, as well as a "good enough" list of what I must get done to feel comfortable and at home. Plan chores around 6 days, giving myself a day of rest, and getting the list settled. Start it off next Monday!


My intention of last week, to clear off my desk, is most of the way done. I need some quality time with Papa-Bug to finish off some niggling computer/storage type tasks. I'm hopeful that we can get on those tasks this week or weekend...

Daily Haiku: September 19th

Sleeping, questing mouth
Opens with absolute faith
That nursing will come.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Simple Saturday: A New Piece of Rhythm

At Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne talks a lot about adding rhythm and "pressure valves" to the day. A pressure valve is a time and space that a child (or family member of any age) can rely on, a time and space in which they can let go if need be. Some examples are grace or a moment of silence at meal times, bedtime check-ins and prayers, of after school snacks... Of course, these options are limited only by what your family needs and can create in your home.

One place that always needs work in our house is the kitchen. Some people seem to be born with a knack for keeping a kitchen clean. Not me. Not Papa-Bug. Both of us enjoy a clean kitchen, and both of us love food and cooking. Neither of us has good follow through when we are cooking. One thing I really want to pass on to the kids is a sense of cleanliness and follow-through, and the joy found in keeping our space clean.

So, about 2 weeks ago we started a new after-dinner rhythm that has been working very well. Everyone helps clean up the kitchen while one grown-up reads aloud to the workers. Even Sister-Bug has a job - she takes the napkins to the laundry - before she does some water play in the sink next to the tidying parent. Brother-Bug clears the table and counters to the space for dirty dishes, scrapes the dishes into the compost, and sweeps up under the table. We frequently find ourselves pausing to listen to a particularly exciting part of our book, or pausing reading to help keep the kids on task. Brother-Bug's chores are still obviously done by five-year old hands (we need to re-sweep usually), but he gains competence with each evening we work together.

Sister-Bug loves doing dishes.
The most amazing thing to me is that there has been no resistance from Brother-Bug (or anyone else, but I didn't expect Sister-Bug to say she didn't want to play in water...). He calmly and even joyfully tackles each task, and is easily drawn back to our project when his attention strays.

I need to do a little preparation for it to work out easily for everyone - like making sure the dishwasher is empty and the knives aren't in Sister-Bug's sink, but that is easily accomplished in a day (most days, anyway). I am delighted at how this is working so far - a cleaner kitchen all around, helpers and learners with me, everyone going to bed earlier since no parent (usually Papa-Bug) is left up late with a filthy kitchen, and such a simple way to connect.

Our after-dinner clean up is rapidly becoming my favorite time of day.


In related news, Papa-Bug has started a new Blog! When we started dating, almost ten years ago, we were both avid writers. Hopefully some of that passion is coming back and both of us can do more writing. I especially like the way he reviews beer - it always gives me a chuckle.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Errands Re-Done

Ages ago I posted that our errand days was hellish and needed a makeover. I watched errands for a couple of weeks and contemplated how they happened and what restrictions already existed that I would have to work with.

The only major restrictions I found had to do with the day of the week, and the amount of time needed. Our food co-op is open on Thursday and Friday only, and that is where I do the bulk (that's a pun there...) of my shopping. I also needed enough time to do the three essentials - library, co-op, conventional grocery store - and maybe a little extra time for extra small errands - drop this off, get new shoes kind of thing - or a park stop, or ???

Okay, that part was easy. Harder was identifying where the specific issues were around the morass of errand day. It took a while to break it down, but I finally got it.

The first place of difficulty was trying to run errands over lunch time. Duh, right? But I always glibly thought I would pack a lunch, but even if I did (not often) there really wasn't a good place to eat and enjoy.

The other time issue is Sister-Bug's nap, which happens right after...lunch time of course! When I initially started errands with her on Friday morning, it got us home in time for Brother-Bug's resting time and she just slept in the car wherever whenever. But lately she has refused most car naps, and always woke up when I tried to snug her into the Ergo or sling for gocery shopping. So she would get home hungry and exhausted. Not pleasant.

On either side of errands I discovered more issues. Getting the books together, the menu prepared, the containers and bags ready for the co-op, and other extraneous details together (like a diaper bag maybe) actually takes almost as much time as running the actual errands. By trying to leave in the morning I wasn't leaving myself enough time to do the preparation necessary to make the errands work. By the time I got home from errands, I was too tired to think of cooking whatever I had put on the menu. Even if I left at 9 AM, the day was already shot when I got home with hungry, exhausted kids at 1 or 2. So I spent the rest of the day caring for them when I was just tired...and then having to cook dinner as well.

And my long day conicided with Papa-Bug getting home from his long week of work, both of us staring at each other across the table too blitzed to even converse coherently.

So, having put all of those pieces on the table in front of my face... Well, first I was baffled at how far out-of-what errands had actually gotten! The adjustments away from balanced had happened slowly, over a year, and I just hadn't quite caught up.

But I figured it out.

First I changed the time. Now we leave after Sister-Bug wakes up from her nap. We have all had lunch and I just keep some crackers or fruit in the car for a late afternoon pick me up. We are all fed and rested when we hit the road. I use the morning time to do some school work with Borther-Bug, pack for the errands, make the menu, and prep dinner. I get everything in the car while Sister-Bug is napping, so when she has woken and nursed we can hit the road. The un-sought benefit of this is that it restricts my time a little bit, so I try to do less. I assess my errand list and figure out what I can do another time, when I am out without the kids, or after Papa-Bug gets home from work, or if I even need to run that errand.

Next I realized that trying to cook something unique on errand day was just asking for headaches. So I planned out six menus and put them on a master list next to the menu plan. Now for errand day I just look ahead and see what's coming up. To make it onto the list it had to be something we liked enough to eat a lot, no matter what, and it had to take less than a half hour of active kitchen time to prepare. There are 6 weeks planned out and then I go back to the beginning of the list and run through it again.

I also changed the day. Now we go on Thursday instead of Friday, so I am not (as) blitzed when Papa-Bug gets home after the week's work, nor am I too blitzed if we have the opportunity to go out for dinner with friends or do something else fun. The un-sought benefit here is that I am not as close with the people who shop on Thursday at our co-op, so I spend less time socializing and shop a lot faster.

I called in my mom for support. She is out of town every other Thursday, but when she is in town I leave the kids with her after we go to the library. They all love the special play time together. I love grocery shopping by myself, and having them elsewhere gives me a little extra time to do some of those extraneous errands that take so much longer with two kids to load and un-load and cajole through the event.

Frequently Papa-Bug can meet us near the end of errands and get a ride home with us, maybe stopping at the last grocery store and shopping together.

And when we get home, dinner is already to go. Papa-Bug and I can connect and put the groceries away while the kids put away their new library books. The stress dissipates.

It took me a while to find all the puzzle pieces, let alone get them into place. But now that I have made such sweeping change, I'm surprised it took me so long. It's my reminder to closely examine my days now and then, to see how we can make them flow with better rhythm.

What can you fix in your schedule that feels out of whack?

Daily Haiku: September 16th

This silly puppy
Has a wide demonic grin.
He can't hide his thoughts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Don't Get It

In this game, Brother-Bug hands his sister a plastic fruit or vegetable with the command:

"Cucumber! (noun appropriate to the piece he is holding) Accept it!"

Sister-Bug takes it, has one pretend bite, places the food in a basket, and then they repeat with the next piece of fruit or veggie.

This has been going on, with erratic interruptions, for about a half hour now.

I don't know what's going on, really. But this is deep play at it's finest... The kind that grown-ups just can't do anymore, because we can't just "accept it".

Wordless Wednesday: Learning to Make Tortillas

What Might Be Around The Bend

Over at The Homeschool Club they asked what homeschooling might look like in our family in the next few years. It's a thing to think about, for sure.

Right now, Brother-Bug is five and we are doing some kindergarten work. I say some because the kid already reads like a... like a seven or eight year old. So we can skip that alphabet prep.

The fabulous artwork of Carl Larsson.
In a few years, Sister-Bug will be doing her "Pre-School" work, Brother-Bug will probably be applying to Harvard. I say that tongue in cheek. I have no interest in pushing him (or his Sister) on any kind of a smart-kid-fast-track. That is one of the reason we are homeschooling - because we want their brains to be allowed to grow without lots of labels, restrictions, controls, and other aspects that are inherent in a system as massive as a public school system.

(I want to step back and be very clear. I have nothing against teachers. I love teachers and think that the work they do is amazing. Hats off to teachers. I also have nothing against people who believe that school is the best option for their family. We all have our own family structures that make sense to us. What I do take issue with is the mega-industrial-complex nature of the American public school system, which, I believe, ultimately dehumanizes both the heroic teachers and the amazing children.)

But back to the point. In a few years we will have another toddler probably, so I will be balancing teaching some middle-elementary grade work with preschool with babyhood. But the beauty of that is how it can all fit together. How Brother-Bug can be studying the complexities of the digestive system while Sister-Bug colors a picture of the stomach and intestines, and the imaginary baby nurses (using its digestive system!). Most of the time it will not look that idyllic and seamless. But there will be moments.

There will be math, geography, history, science, reading, respect, cooking, and play. Sometimes they will happen as well-thought-out lessons. Sometimes we will fight over the multiplication tables. Sometimes they will all happen at once, by accident. There will be music, family dinners, travels and adventures, cozy days with tea and reading and nothing else.

Every day, lesson planned or not, there will be opportunity to learn and adventure. Every day we will have rhythm and love and time to explore who we are. That is the essence of what we plan on doing here. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mindful Monday: Clearing My Writing Space

So.... I got this new computer. It's on a desk in our spacious hall. The upside of that is that I am fairly central when I am working on it. The downside is that it's so darn central it's hard for me to get any focused work or writing time. And it hasn't gotten fully put together yet, things like the printer paper haven't found a permanent home, so it ends up being a bit of a paper catch-all on our way to the bedroom.

This Mindful Monday...

Who: Me (probably with some help from Papa-Bug, and teaching some space skills to Brother-Bug)
What: Organizing, clearing, and simplifying my writing space.
Why: So that I don't always have to walk by the Stack. So that I have a clear place to write. So that Brother-Bug has a place he can do his computer work, and I don't have to worry so much about Sister-Bug getting into shenanigans with the items on the desk.
How: Clear off what is here. Analyze the function/aesthetic of each item, if we need it, if it has a better home... get rid of as much as possible. Make some order and visually pleasing space with intention. Make a plan for keeping the space clear and clean. Share this plan with Papa-Bug and Brother-Bug. Get a folding chair so that Sister-Bug can't climb around on the desk so easily (and it opens so floor space in the hall.)

Daily Haiku: September 12th

Committed to kind
I find myself impatient
Now much too often.

I re-commit now.
This time I can be loving.
I embody patience.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Simple Saturday: Book Review

This all started because I got this book, Simplicity Parenting, out of the library.

No, it started before that. For about a year I have been wondering how I slid from my visions of a low-toy environment, where media was almost non-existent and my child could grow and develop into this Giant Toy Pile. What happened? This was not what I envisioned as I rubbed my giant belly five years ago.

I've been ruminating and questing for answers, wondering if my original vision is just too at-odds with this culture to be realized. My parental instincts have been shooting off warning flares as I have ignored what I know is True about kids - namely that that children need time, attention, and space more than they need anything else.

Finally, after weeks of waiting, Simplicity Parenting arrived at the library. I read through it as voraciously as my two attention-craving children would let me. It answered so many of those questions I had been asking. It reinforced what I know as a parent, reminded me that my instincts are right and good, and that this culture works tirelessly to undermine that knowledge and to keep us on the "more, more, More!!!" track.

The messages of Kim John Payne are clear and concise (one might even say Simple). Childhood is a precious time that speeds by so quickly... and here we (parents, family, friends, culture at large) hustle these little beings through that time. We want them to learn more, have goals, do that, own this, find that teachable moment, squire that skill... All for their benefit. After all, these are our children and they deserve all we can give them, right?

What Payne contends (and I adamantly agree with) is that kids DON'T need things that are newer, better, faster, more. They don't need to take a jillion extra-curricular activities to succeed. They don't need the latest "Thneed" that everyone else needs.

They need time and space, simple thoughts and clear schedules so that they might fully delve into their experiences.

For me, the most thought-provoking aspect of Payne's writing was his thoughts on simplifying the teachable moments, and how we (liberal open affirming educated patents) push so much information at our kids, in an effort to help the have a rich emotional vocabulary or be good and informed citizens of the world. Payne argues that the can be just as hard on kids as too much stuff or too much TV. kids need to learn to identify sad and happy before they deeply analyze those feelings. Kids need to feel the world is small and safe before they can venture out as the good global citizens we envision.

This particular aspect has given me lots of moments of reflection ad I watch myself and Papa-Bug in out parenting quests.

Finally, in the similar vein, as I constantly overload my children verbally (guilty of guilty...), I keep returning to the simple thought that really stuck with me after the book was done and back at the library:

"if you are talking, you aren't listening."

To sum the book review, I would give it four stars - maybe five when I have had more time to put some of the suggestions into practice. Furthermore, I suggest it as an excellent read for anyone who feels like parenting, kids, their mountain of stuff, or the whole whizz-bang culture is just a little too much too fast.


There is a related website and blog that I am enjoying exploring. You can check it out - lots of nice fooder for thought. I plan on posting a review here soon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Daily Haiku: September 8th & 9th

September 8th:

Restless slumber stirs,
Chubby cheeks grimace, relax,
As the toddler dreams.
September 9th:

Five years ago now,
My belly swelled full and round
With a mystery.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mindful Monday: Relishing My 4-Year Old

Brother-Bug is turning FIVE this coming Sunday. What the hell? It truly seems like minutes since I was huge and pregnant and wondering who was kicking the side till it ached.

Now he is big, competent, opinionated, amazing, exasperating, charming... and so darn grown-up.

My mindful focus this week is to really notice my 4-year old. Because I know in a few minutes I will be mindfully noticing my six sixteen-year old.

Who: Me
What: Loving the last few 4-year old moments
Why: Because he is getting so bi so fast.
How: Being in the moment with him. Preparing and noticing to write his birthday letter - I write each kid a letter on their birthday every year, detailing what I think of them, how much I love them, how they have grown, etc. - and focusing on this a little in advance is always good. Also, the kids and I will be taking the train to see Brother-Bug's God-Mommies in Seattle. It's a surprise trip, complete with treasure hunt and a first train trip !!!! Just the reality of getting out of the daily grind to do something so lavishly special with Brother-Bug (and Sister too, of course) will help me focus on him.

Brother-Bug on his Birthday Beach Trip, just about a year ago.

Daily Haiku: September 5th

Old diaries sit
Holding secrets, pains, and dreams.
Do I hear a sigh?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Simple Saturday: The Intro

Way back on Monday I posted about some new simplification efforts in our home, based on reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, as well as hearing what my instincts have been trying to tell me.

I want to do more than flirt with this idea. I want to change the way we do stuff, the way we live in chaos, and the things we define as important. It's a tall order, and I don't think that last sentence was quite was quite as articulate as I would like.

Because I want a place to be accountable in this new parenting and housekeeping adventure (and because I really, really love alliterations), my plan is to detail these attempts at simplification here on Simple Saturday.

Here's an overview of some of the upcoming adventures here at Chez Simple:

*How we go about paring down the toys and books, and what the results of that are. As I write this, I hear Papa-Bug having the daily battle with Brother-Bug to pick up the morass of toys that creeps ever-spreading across the floor. There is just too much stuff to feel anything but overwhelmed when we think about picking up. And I'm a grown-up - how overwhelming it must be for a kid!

*Talking to grandparents, god-parents, and other family members about this change and how they can support us (mostly by not buying us stuff). Can we do it tactfully? I wonder if the gift-givers will join us joyfully in our mission, or if I will be seen as an over-sensitive, controlling parent. Either way is okay with me, though I would prefer the former...

*Reports of how we have reduced or changed our relationships to media and technology and how that is working out for us.

*How simplification is affecting the relationships in our happy home.

*Reviews of books and blogs and other tools we use or explore.

And probably so much more!

I'm really looking forward to the future and the changes. Does any one out there want to join me in clearing and simplifying? What are your adventures? What is your advice?


The sailboat at the top is courtesy of Sister-Bug who climbed on my lap while I was writing, insisting that this post needed a "big boat". What a clown she is.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Introducing the Daily Haiku

I try to start each day by writing a haiku - it's a bare minimum of writing for me. Seventeen little syllables to start me on my day.

My intention is to post them here.

September 1st

This small ritual
Starts and grounds me for my day.
Good morning to Self.