Thursday, April 30, 2009

Forms and Assignments

Just finished combing through our forms and assignments CD from WACAP.  My printer is busy chugging away and dear hubby will find his email loaded up with to-dos.  I'm reminding myself to breath more than once every 10 minutes and reciting a mantra that "telling myself scary stories about how many forms there are to complete will not make this easier."

Sounds like a good time for a cup of tea and some guitar playing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Car's Name

Because I know you all are on the edge of your seats.

Our grey 2006 Honda Odyssey has been named Susan/Ginormica. You know, the really nice lady from Monsters vs Aliens....

To truly understand why this names delights us so much, watch this trailer. Sooooooosssaannn.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I just received an email from MomsRising that took my breath away. 

What's $1.00 minus .78 cents?  It's the difference between your salary and the salary of your male counterparts. If you're a woman of color, you can subtract at least an additional 10 cents, and for single mothers you can take away even more.1  That's right: Just sixty cents to a man's dollar.

Not that the numbers are a surprise to me, just that I haven't seen them in black and white in a while and it seems particularly jarring.  There is a huge jumble of thoughts in my brain about how poorly our society values people (women and children and anyone who isn't white), how salary levels is one of those "things" that is wrong with our culture that creates the disfunction that promotes removing babies from their mamas, and why it sucks to be a single mama here in the US.  Oh, intertwined with strings of male and white privilege. Messy thoughts that reflect a messy, messy culture.

On days like today it seems hard to dream a better world.


Here is the full email/article.

Dear MomsRising member,

What's $1.00 minus .78 cents?  It's the difference between your salary and the salary of your male counterparts. If you're a woman of color, you can subtract at least an additional 10 cents, and for single mothers you can take away even more.1  That's right: Just sixty cents to a man's dollar.

Seem fair?

We don't think so either. That's why MomsRising members pushed for passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act earlier this year, and is now pushing for the next step toward fair pay for women in the workplace: The Paycheck Fairness Act has passed the U.S. House and is now moving in the U.S. Senate.  Your voices played a huge role in the passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and now we have an opportunity to use our voices again to move us all another step closer to fair pay.

Tell your Senators that more than 50% of the labor force are now women, but we still need equal pay for equal work. Urge them now to support of the Paycheck Fairness Act:

It's no coincidence that we're sending you this message today: Tuesday, April 28, is Equal Pay Day, which marks the point in 2009 when the average woman's wages will finally catch up with the wages paid to the average man in 2008. The day is an important reminder of the persistent wage gap and the urgent need to take action to ensure we close this gap.

*Please forward this email around far and wide today in honor of Equal Pay Day.  Tell friends and family that today is the day to make your voice heard.

Why does the wage gap matter anyway (beside the obvious!)?   Whether you're in a one or two person household, equal pay is critical to supporting a family, especially in these tough economic times. One study estimated that over a lifetime, a woman's wages are anywhere from $700,000 to $2 million dollars less than a man's2. And the problem runs deeper than just wage discrimination: A recent study found that with equal resumes, mothers were 79% less likely to be hired than non-mothers3; and another recent study found that given equal resumes, mothers were offered $11,000 lower starting salaries than their equally qualified non-mother counterparts (Fathers were offered $6,000 more than their non-father counterparts).  Turns out the wage gap is pretty big deal after all. But we have a real opportunity to help even the odds.

The Paycheck Fairness Act deters wage discrimination by:

  • Closing loopholes in the law that allow for discrimination.
  • Protecting workers from retaliation against workers who disclose their wages.
  • Allowing women to receive the same remedies in court for pay discrimination as those subjected to discrimination based on race and national origin.

We took an important step toward paycheck fairness with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act at the start of this year, and now with that victory in hand we need to keep up the momentum and ensure that women everywhere get equal pay. Paycheck fairness helps women and families, and it just makes sense.

With everything happening right now around the country, Congress has a full plate. Let's make sure this is one thing that doesn't fall off. Take action today!

Thanks for all you do,

Dionna and the Team

Special thanks to the National Women's Law Center for their support drafting this message.

P.S. With all the news about the Swine Flu,the Center for Disease Control is saying folks should stay home if they feel sick. That's easier said than done -- 1/2 the U.S. workforce doesn't have any paid sick days.  This means they don't have a single paid sick day to take when illness strikes in order to keep our communities healthy and not spread illness.  Sign the petition today to to tell our country's leaders:  "The United States needs to allow all working people to earn paid sick days to ensure our economic security, and protect public health."

P.P.S. April 28, 2009 is Equal Pay Day, the date in 2009 when the average woman's wages finally catches up with those paid to the average man in 2008. This is a public awareness day to highlight the wage gap between men and women in America. Events will be held all around the country, and supporters will be wearing red to signify how women and people of color are 'in the red' in their pay. You can show your support by wearing red, joining an event and signing the letter to your Senator today!



[3] Shelley Correll, Stephen Benard & In Paik, Getting a Job: Is there a Motherhood Penalty, 112 The Am. J. of  Soc. 1297 (2007).

You have received this email because you are a supporter of, if you would like to be removed from future mailings, click here to unsubscribe.

Like what we're doing? Donate: We're a bootstrap, low overhead, mom run organization. Your donations make the work of possible--and we deeply appreciate your support. Every little bit counts. Donate today on our new, secure website. 

On Facebook? Join the MomsRising Facebook Cause. Follow us on Twitter

What should MomsRising tackle next? Tell us what's on your mind

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vehicular Relief

Last weekend's car fiasco precipitated lots of activity. 

This week I learned more than I ever thought I'd know about cars.  The library's copy of Consumer Reports filled my brain with information about makes and models, revision years, and reliability reports (and some good dish about SmartCars). With models and years narrowed (Honda Odyssey 2006+ or Toyota Sienna 2005+), Google helped me explore the "pre-owned" inventory for 6ish dealers within reasonable driving distance. Finally CarFax and Edmunds spelled out details and pricing for the vehicles I was interested in. I love the internet.

Today the family (plus Grandma) did some test driving, trying out the Odyssey vs the Sienna. The Honda won, reasons differing for each family member. After a rest at home, Bill and I moved past our used-car buying anxiety and actually identified a vehicle online.  A few phone calls later, we drove to the dealership. By 7pm, we'd signed the deal with a good price on a silver 2006 Odyssey and a great trade-in price on Bill's pain-in-the neck X5.  Not bad for a day's work.

I've been opposed to a minivan for years. However, I find myself happily anticipating the extra space, plenty of child-friendly features and doors that don't swing open into other people's cars. 

Last car-related decision to be made: finding a good name.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

15 minutes: Agony and Elation

As you may have noticed, FlyLady has a large influence on my life.  FlyLady (whose real name is Marla and who used to teach fly fishing), provides free online homemaking coaching, which sounds kind of fussy and trite. She and her service are neither of those things - focusing not on coordinating details and but on bringing peace and ease in our daily lives.

One of her soap boxes is baby steps.  Our houses (and lives) didn't become complete wrecks in one day and we aren't going to salvage them in a day, either.  Most of her assigned tasks are to be completed in 15 minutes.  After 8 years of her coaching, I often apply this idea to my life.

15 minutes is short, right? I figure I can do any task, no matter how distasteful, for 15 minutes. But here is the distressing truth about distasteful tasks.  Most of them take much less than 15 minutes.  I spin huge and gruesome stories about how it would be great if I could do X but it will take so long and be so hard I just don't have the hours it will take to do it.

This week I've paid attention to these gruesome tasks and how long they really take:

Wipe down the bathroom - 7 minutes
Clean up all the kids toys strewn about the living room - 12 minutes
Wash the huge mountain of dirty lunch and dinner pans - 9 minutes
Help the kids brush/floss teeth, wash faces, file nails, put on pjs - 7 minutes
Put away 5 very full bags of groceries - 10 minutes
Collected overdue library books - 14 minutes
Trim the dog's nails - 2 minutes
Tidy the bedroom and make the bed - 4 minutes

On the reverse side, I often deny myself a few minutes of peace and relaxation because it takes so long. Here are a few things I've indulged in for 15 minutes with great results this week.

Sat in a peaceful room and flipped through a new magazine
Looked out at the sunrise and enjoyed some kombucha
Petted the dog
Read a book to a tired kiddo
Practiced my guitar

I'm always interested in the stories we tell ourselves about life that differ from the reality of it. My timer turns out to be a surprising tool for reflection.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Waiting for Freaky Friday?

So far this week has been surreal.  And it is only Tuesday.

On Friday Bill's car quit working.  He got it towed to the shop for the weekend, just to learn that the system that controls the lights is fried.  Yesterday, the locks on my car stopped working.  I was locked in and Theo was locked out.  I couldn't use the key fob, the buttons or even open the door with the handles.  Finally I thought to roll the window down so Theo could crawl in.  We've spent the past 2 days entertaining ourselves by accessing our ride through the windows.

Today we took my car in to be serviced and rushed home for an appointment, which never showed.  While we waited for the non-appointment, we ordered pizza (because yesterday I was worried about taking my car to the grocery store and getting stuck there thus we have no meals).  An hour later, still no pizza.  Turns out the delivery driver got lost several deliveries before us and they forgot to tell us the pizza wasn't going to make it.

Hopefully we'll make it to Friday without any other major excitement.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Choosing Domestic Infant Adoption

Our plans to move forward with another adoption seem to be progressing quickly - well, as quickly as something I desperately want to be done yesterday can go. Our process with even getting to getting started this time differs so much from last time. We've done so much more thinking and evaluating programs and agencies, searched the city and our souls for the elusive balance of highest-integrity adoption and our desire to honor our family's needs and limitations. 

After evaluating foster-to-adopt and toddler adoption programs, we decided they are not a good fit for our family. Talking with a variety of friends and professionals, they affirmed that based on our values and life situations, fostering probably would not work out well for us. In the end, it looks like we'll be working with WACAP again, through the African American Infant program.  They have a long-standing program with competent staff, effective systems and education classes. 

As it turns out, I adore newborns.  I could live and breath them every day and never get enough. So I'm beyond excited at the idea of bringing a new wee being into our home.  My senses swell with anticipation of holding, nursing and kissing this new little person for hours and days and months. 

And, I find I'm a little afraid to talk about our choice, especially on-line.  Really, honestly, in my mind I believe that in a functional world, all babies belong with their first mamas.  Yet here we live in this way less than perfect world and I'm about to reap this amazing relationship because of someone else's huge loss.  What are people who really know and understand adoption going to think/say?  How much am I part of the broken system and not part of the solution? What about all those kids in the state system who need forever families?

I don't know.  I'm guessing I'll never know. I hope doing my best will be good enough for the children in my care.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich Problem

I have an on-going problem with PBJs (beside them being high in carbs and me working not to be).  

Every fiber of my being believes it is proper to spread the peanut butter side of the sandwich first. However, getting peanut butter off a knife is hard work.  Cleaning jelly off a knife is quick and easy, so obviously one *should* spread the jelly first.  Then safely proceed to the peanut butter, free of worry that cross-contamination might occur.

But that would be a jelly peanut butter sandwich, and that's just wrong.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tower of Library Power

Theo's job during our end-of-day clean up this evening was to tidy up the books. When I came in to check his work, here is what I found:

Completely delighted with himself, he marched up to bed.  I followed right behind him deeply aware of how much I love our public library system.  The stack is 45 books high.  Two came as birthday gifts to me.  18 of them we purchased last night at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale.  The remaining 25 rolled in this week, reserved to compliment the Ancient Roman history lessons from HistoryAtOurHouse.

A little brag about the book sale.  The books priced at $1 each.  I hit the "ethnic studies" section first to score several recently released and highly recommended titles.  In the kid's language section I discovered Muzzy in both French and Spanish, plus 2 Japanese learning programs. The whole language learning bundle, which new would cost me well over $300, totaled $24. Color me pleased.

Now I need an awesome bookshelf sale.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mama's Slow to Learn

Remember the "save a horse, ride a cowboy" incident last year?

Rosie and Theo are currently in love with Sparta the Cat, star of the Mean Kitty video over at youtube.  There are two phrases that are (by my simple measure) a little dicey in the song, but I figured the kids couldn't understand most of the words anyway so no worries.

Yesterday while Theo did user testing at Headsprout, Rosie and I read books in the waiting area. A few minutes into our time, she asked loudly, "Can I take off my pain in the crack shoes now?"

Rosie's a quick learner.  Her mama, not so much.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Purchase Suggestions" at SPL

Our library has a lovely button.  It says, "purchase suggestions."  I push the button, fill out a form identifying the material I desire.  Usually within 2 weeks, they have it waiting at my local branch for me.  Sigh, true happiness comes in getting what I want while spending someone else's money.

Today I spent a mind-numbing hour requesting all of the movies from John Raible's course entitled Identities in Transition: Family Diversity, Culture, Schooling and Adoption. That's a lotta forms.  I hope to see the stream of movies rolling in soon.  

Next step in the process, gather a group of people to watch and discuss the films with me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saving Dinner

Being responsible all day long for the kids, I am also responsible for all their food needs.  Every bite that goes into their hungry little mouths must be conceived by me at some level. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and at least 2 snacks - all hoping to be nutritious and delicious. Somedays this seems like a huge amount of pressure and I end up essentially with cooker's block.

Thankfully, Leann Ely delivers me from the crisis of imagining dinner.  Calling herself the Dinner Diva, she mails out a link to a weekly menu that includes a complete grocery list.  We subscribe to the low carb menu, in part because I think it is good for us and in part because low carb tends to avoid many of the food allergies in the house.

The recipes range from good to delicious (meaning, not a single nasty one among them).  They are easy to follow, such that either Bill or I can successfully create lovely meals in 30-45 minutes.  Many of the recipes include actual flavorful ingredients, but are simple to tweak such that the children can still enjoy their food as comfortably subtle.  My kids particularly enjoy the ones that include fancy sauces, which turn out to be easy to prepare.  

Leanne also offers freezer menus (assemble ingredients now, freeze them then defrost and prepare them at a later date) and holiday menus with very complete and thorough directions. I see she's even got recipes out for baby food.  

Because The Dinner Diva is endorsed by FlyLady, she gets a ton of traffic.  That means some on-going struggles with web services.  The past year has seen several painful transitions with a brand new site available.  It seems easy to use, but I can't find any sample menus to point you all to.  Their customer service responds quickly to my issues and made sure to compensate for any weekly menus I missed. 

Check it out, you might find yourself enjoying dinner again soon. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

It Lives! More on the Kombucha

Guess what?!  The komucha is doing well.

On Friday the kids and I bottled our first gallon of tea.  We flavored 2 bottles with a few frozen cherries, 2 with blueberries and 2 with some ginger juice.  Immediately we brewed up another batch of tea and put that SCOBY back to work. 

Yesterday we opened one of the bottles to find that not only was it fizzy, it tasted good! Happy kombucha dance all around. Later in the day, we bottled our second gallon.  It tasted slightly tangier, so we added a little sweeter flavoring - mostly left over raspberry and peach coulis (think pureed, strained fruit with a bit of sugar) from my birthday cake. I put up fresh tea for that SCOBY and it is now busy doing whatever it is they do undercover there in the pantry.

With 10 bottles of komucha fizzing up and 2 gallons of tea fermenting, I'm feeling positively giddy with probiotic wealth. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Movie Industry Blows It, Again

My kids love movies.  Rosie, who is visually very astute, really loves movies.  Finding films I'm excited about showing her is challenging, though. Aside from overall message, level of sexism, amount of violence, I am always searching for films in which she can see herself.  Images of strong, intelligent, beautiful black girls are few and far between.

Rosie's not the only one feeling the sting of a highly monochromatic movie industry.  Here's a great youtube video about 20th Century Fox's recently released Dragonball.

Growing Older

Today I am 40.  Definitely growing older.

I clearly remember turning 10.  Being a whole decade old certainly seemed like a milestone.  I remember turning 20 and being so relieved not to be a teenager anymore.  Turning 30 is a little fuzzy in my mind, but I can honestly say leaving my 20s and all the learning they brought was a relief.  My 30s were fairly easy and peaceful, essentially a decade of family. I'm not hot to shed them like I was my 20s, but if the pattern of the decades continues, the 40s hold plenty of promise.

So far, I like my 4th decade (though technically I won't be 40 until dinnertime). Yesterday friends came, bearing gifts of yarn or their favorite book. We ate angel food cake and chatted.  I felt celebrated.  Today is full of relaxing with my family, good coffee and rain.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Crafty Smooth

Yesterday I made lotion!

As with (it seems) many things, I have a difficult relationship with lotion.  Given the right lotion, I really like how soft and smooth my skin feels.  Given the wrong lotion, I really hate how sticky or styrofoam-esque I feel. Smell is complicated for me, can't be the wrong flavor, can't be too strong.  Toxicity makes me crazy.  I've spent hours at the SkinDeep cosmetic safety site checking out various skin and hair products for my family.  

Once all the stars align and I find something that feels good, smells good, and isn't going make my grow a second head, I usually end up freezing over the price. I just can't bring myself to pay $40 for 12 ounces of lotion, especially considering how often my daughter may smear most if it on the carpet in an attempt to cover herself, with the dog licking up any extra bits that survive.

Finally, someone suggested I make my own lotion.  Revelation.  I went out and bought oils I felt confident in putting on my skin/my carpet/in my dog. For about $15, I got enough to make about 40 ounces of lotion.  I chose from the essential oils I have on hand, grabbed a beeswax candle stub for emulsifier and went to work.

The kids were fascinated, and I enjoyed the creative process.  Our final product feels great on the skin, though is a little too thick to squeeze through the lotion pump I had in mind.  We may re-heat it tomorrow and add a little more oil to loosen it a bit. I can see there is one of those art/science projects that requires imagination, careful measuring and good notes.

The recipe I followed came from an ND we're working with, but closely resembled this post. Here are my notes from yesterday.

1/2 c grapeseed oil (because it is good for sensitive skin)
1/4 c jojoba oil (because it is supposed to most closely resemble our own oils)
1/4 c coconut oil (because I love how it feels)
1/4ish c beeswax (to emulsify)
2 drops rosemary oil (to act as a preservative, though I have no idea if this is enough)
4ish drops ylang ylang oil (because I love its flowery smell)
1 cup water

I whipped the slightly cooled oils in the kitchen aid for a while because I like my lotion really fluffy.

Because I want to be able to use it in a pump, next time I'll measure the beeswax more carefully and probably use less of it.  I may use less coconut oil as well because I know it hardens in the colder weather and may affect the squirt-ability of the lotion as well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Garden is Starting!

(pea portrait thanks to Google Images)

A quick trip out to the garden this morning showed 3 tiny pea sprouts peeking out.  I'm so excited for spring with sprouts that turns to summer with garden grazing.  Great plans are in store that may even include a rototiller!

Come on sun.  Slugs beware.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

To Facebook or Not To Facebook

That is the question.

It seems like everyone around me uses Facebook - friends from the homeschool group, neighbors, our housemate's mother, even FlyLady. My husband uses twitter compulsively.

I love connection. I love community. I love chatting with people I haven't seen for 20 years. Yet, I can't bring myself to sign up.

For over five years, the discussion board at OneHotMama filled my brain.  I'd sneak a few minutes at the keyboard to check in on the latest conversations or contribute some thought to the boards many times a day (and often in the night what with all the night nursing). The HotMamas formed a sisterhood, we supported each other through childbirth, early breastfeeding, potty training and weird mother-in-law situations.  We travelled twice a year to meet in real life and bond in person.  So much lovely fun, yet all that time and energy spent in the virtual world interfered with my ability to create such relationships with the people who lived in my own neighborhood.

I finally decided to break away from the Mamas because my lack of local community jarred me to change. I took on the leadership of API Seattle, hoping to find the level of warmth and support I'd found online.  Investing in face to face community challenges me.  It turns out there are things I don't really like about myself that are easy to hide from people who only "see" me when and how I want them to.  Engaging with the people around me forced me to become more authentic and start to admit when I'm having upset feelings or really struggling with my day (and the people in it). Because face to face friends could already see it on my face and hear it in my voice.  In the end, investing in the people around me became a huge investment in myself.

Looking at Facebook, I am reluctant to enter another virtual social world.

On a more practical level, popping in online often creates chaos in my world. Mostly because "just checking on one thread" inevitably turns into two or three theads, with side conversations.  2 seconds evilly morphs into 10 minutes.  It literally wastes time and sucks the focus out of my day. Also, the repeated disconnection from my kids and husband for that "2 seconds" really starts to irk them. Promise of bedlam and family distress, not so inviting.

So, for the moment, I choose Not To Facebook. But I still wonder how my friends from 2nd grade are doing, out there somewhere in the ethers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Micro-steps Towards Growing our Family

After another meeting with the foster to adopt agency and some serious soul searching, Bill and I currently think we've probably sure that we aren't ready to foster.  And that we're probably really looking to add a newborn to our family, unless a compelling special older baby comes available.

I looked at WACAP's site again today. Returning to the same agency seems so familiar and easy - looking at the site felt a little like coming home.  I'm still sussing out some other relinquished infant programs, but right now it seems like we're getting close to making first steps towards really having a baby in our arms.

Committing to an agency may just allow the joy of it all to begin seeping in...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood

As part of their comic strip, hubby Bill and friend Gene post a weekly book review.  Publishers love this, which translates into many boxes of "advance reading copy" books at our front door. Once in a while, one of them piques my curiosity.

I spent most of Sunday morning curled up on the couch ignoring my kids (who were playing happily near by) so I could explore one of these advance copies that Bill put in my space. Foremost, Lucky Girl was a pleasure to read. Mei-Ling Hopgood is a journalist by trade and her storytelling skills pleased me.  But the story interested me particularly because Mei-Ling, who is close to my age, was born in China and adopted by an American couple living in the US. She chronicles her reunion with her birth family. 

Reading about others on the adoption triangle keeps me open and thinking.  Hopgood's story and outlook differed quite a bit from many stories I have heard, and I always welcome a new perspective. The book is out in hardcover now (and there is a really cool video for it). Pick up the book, or ask your library to buy it - for the authentic and warmly practical style as much as the interesting and compelling glimpse into someone else's experience. 


Today, at a sunny 64 degrees, finally really feels like spring.

We ate lunch on the back patio.  The kids are now half-clothed and chasing each other around the backyard with grocery bags full of mud squealing for ooshie, squishy joy.

Something about kids, water, dirt and trees in the backyard seems like real childhood to me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Un-tight Tights

While NaBloPoMo's theme this month is about growing, for me this first week of posting seems to be about shrinking.  My to-post list in particular.  First a 4 month old report on gingerbread houses. Now a 6 month old report on tights. I'm feeling lighter already.

In September, I trolled all the major department stores and websites for the perfect pair of tights.  I ended up with a promising sounding pair in hopes that the beauty and freedom of skirts would once again be part of my personal style.  Then snow, wind and rain appeared and jeans became a necessary form of protection.

Now it is spring. Once again I dream of actually wearing some of my skirts.  The realization that spring in the Pacific Northwest can be windy and chilly, means I'm back to tights.

The pair I bought in September don't measure up to my hopes.  The material is lovely - soft and thick.  And amazingly enough, they are plenty long.  But, because of their one-size-fits-all status, they lack any sort of "control top." Which means they don't stay up. I find few things more distressing in life than having the crotch of my tights at my knees while pursing my children at the park.

My current fix is to wear bike shorts over them to keep them up, but this is a bulky and bumpy solution.  Not a good combination with a sleek and flowy skirt. 

What's a girl to do?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Better Late than Never? Gingerbread House Pictures

WAY back in December, our family hosted a Gingerbread House Camp.  This warm and sunny April day seems like a good time to remember and share pictures.  Hopefully this will ward off any more unwelcome spring snow!

Three families joined us for a truly busy total of 6 children.  Most of them created their own houses.  One house had a delayed start that just never quite got off the ground, somehow his cookies were too soft and while his mom put in a Herculean effort to make the walls stand, gravity won out in the end.  On the third day of our camp, the skies open up and dumped more snow than I ever remember seeing in Seattle.   Sadly, this inhibited friends from coming to finish up their houses, however our family found embellishing our houses to be the perfect post-sledding activity.

Pictures of the sugary fun follow. Because we are now about to mix formatting and Blogger, prepare yourself for a little craziness.

Some children worked together to mix their own personal batches of dough, while others chose the design for their houses and cut the necessary pattern pieces. My favorite part is always watching the bigs and littles work together.


Dough perfected, we rolled out and trimmed it to fit our patterns. 10 minutes in the oven and time to cool got us ready for assembly.

The grind of preparation completed, we started the intricate business of decorating the houses. The kids could not get over the bowls and bowls of candy at their finger tips and the temptation to continually cram their little mouths with the sugary goodness overwhelmed them.  Our final compromise ended up with each child "shopping" for a small bowl of eating candy with the promise that all (in reality, most) other candies would go on the houses.

For a new understanding of the word fast, try watching a 2 year old swipe goodies off his sister's house when she looks away! 

Here is the line up of the houses awaiting day two of decorating. Never in the history of time has a home looked more holiday festive than ours did with 6 gingerbread houses on display.

Friends' masterpieces were delivered before I managed to get final pictures of them.  Here are the Barnacle creations in all their glory.

Theo's Gingerbread Castle, complete with many chocolate weapons, cannons and marshmellow knights.

Rosie's House of Delicious Treats.

Bill, who worked through the first days of the camp, used our scraps to create his own very special Gingerbread Robot Monkey. Cute and yummy.

Sara's House, the not-so-secret reason I hosted the camp.

And of course, the highly desired end result.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Discovering Learning Styles

After our homeschool offsite in January, it occurred to me that perhaps part of Theo and my struggles as a student-teacher pair has to do with learning styles.

MamaPeep recommended Discover Your Child's Learning Style.  The book really surprised me. First of all the authors seem to share my attachment principles and their vision for what education can be and should do for children closely mirrors my own. I took careful notes for a fawning review, but I've since lost them. Anyway, the book is now one of my favorites in regards to children and learning.

The bigger and more important surprise centered around Theo and my learning styles. Turns out my best learning situations are his worst, meaning my plans and strategies make great sense to me and seem fun, but they are often torture for him.  Theo's numbers clearly put him in the inventing/discovery style, mine were equally strong in the producing/organizing style. Imagine my dismay when I realized Theo (and Bill) rated in the negative numbers for my predominant way for approaching the world.

Even in the areas we are similar, my son and I have different tendencies.  For instance, we are both kinesthetic learners.  My version of kinesthetic tied with my highly aural tendencies and knack for organizing means taking notes while listening to a lecture is a near perfect learning environment for me.  Theo's version of kinesthetic means drawing intricate battle pictures or building a lego fort while listening to the lecture is his prime way of absorbing the information. It was so hard for me to trust this idea to let him do what seems like unrelated work while he listened to his history lectures. His recent results from the classes recent tests were phenomenal. Now his art portfolio grows daily at history time.

Taking the information in the book to heart, I've started to apply the ideas to each of our subjects.  Probably our biggest source of strife each day centered around spelling.  I knew the work wasn't too hard for him, so clearly the *way* we were working was.  Falling back on the idea of letting him use his body as broadly as possible, I assembled a list of 13 really different ways we could work.  I'm feeling quite proud of the list, so I thought I'd share.

Spelling Tactics for Theo
1. pen and paper
2. spell with Scrabble tiles
3. word scramble with Scrabble tiles
4. word search and write found words
5. write on white board
6. make the letter shapes with body
7. type words on the computer
8. trace letters in carpet
9. make cards of the words and sort by rule
10. spell the words as a cheer (give me an r, give me an i, give me a t, give me an e, what does that spell? RITE)
11. do a jumping jack as he says each letter (or a hop or execute a cool ninja pose)
12. write in flour on a cookie sheet
13. write in the bathtub with tub crayons

I still have a ton to learn about working within Theo's learning style. There is but a wee part of me that can imagine how "discovery" might look in the most general sense - never mind finding ways to apply "discovery" to specific subjects that I expect Theo to learn in order to rate this home education excellent. And the changes in enthusiasm and progress that we have seen here in the past 2 months invigorate me to learn more. I can't wait to see what we're doing a year from now.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fermenting Fun

My current obsession is kombucha.  This fermented sweet tea is easy to make, highly nutritious and provides great support for the digestive system.  Easy to make, yet I've been paying almost $4 a bottle for it each week at the grocery store.  That's just more than my practical parts can take.

In true form, I've read about 10 in-depth websites, taken a (pretty lame) 7 day mini-course from one of them and trolled through several of my nutrition books looking for hints and ideas. Information in hand, a heavens-blessed trip to Goodwill yielded a perfect collection of needed containers and jars. Finally, I took the big step last week and emailed the homeschool group for a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).

Minutes after getting the first SCOBY home, I started a frenzy of tea preparation. Immediately following the frenzy is a mind-numbing period of waiting.  5 days.  How can I obsess about something I can't fiddle with for 5 days?  After peeking at the jar 10 times in as many minutes, I finally hung a sign up for myself that said, CHECK ON TUESDAY.  Thus directed, I channelled my energies back to regular life.

Another homeschool mom offered me a second SCOBY a few hours later.  More is better, right? A few days later I engaged in another tea making frenzy, put the new SCOBY next to the first, and gazed proudly at them.  Eventually, someone suggested I needed to put up a CHECK ON FRIDAY sign and move on with my life. Fine.

At last Tuesday came.  I put off testing the tea for a few hours, reveling in the anticipation. Finally, the kids and I couldn't stand it any longer.  We poured a little out, admired the color of it, sniffed the brew and then took a taste. Ugh, the tea was way too sweet.  It needed several more days of fermenting before it could be close to ready for the next stage of the process. Sigh. 

Silver lining, I can check my first tea again Thursday, then visit my 2nd tea on Friday. That's two days of komucha fun in a row!


Oddly, what this hurry up and wait and wonder process most reminds me of is adoption.  Hurry up to get all the documents properly filled out and filed.  Be super careful not to make any mistakes as it is important not to jeopardize the process.  Now wait.  Wait for an unknown period of time for a hopeful outcome.  And make sure to relax and maintain balance in life all the while.

Maybe the practice of brewing kombucha will help prepare my family for the upcoming adoption process.  If nothing else, it can provide us with a tasty distraction along the way.

I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Flirting with Blogging up April

A new month, a new opportunity for a full month of posting via NaBloPoMo.  What to do, what to do?

The theme this month is "grow (up)."  Seems like my entire life centers around growing people and things. So maybe I'll try it.  Guess we'll see how committed I am in the next few days...

Off the top of my head, here are things I am currently growing:
kids- bodies, intellects, emotions and social skills
peas (well, depending on how the seeds felt about today's snow)
connection to community
my marriage

Seems like I could get 31 days of posts out of that list!