Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And another thing... diverse zip code

About living here.  I've heard more than a few neighborhood white folks cite the fact that we live in America's most diverse zip code as if that shows that they are not racist or racialized in any way.

To that I say "hooey." If you only invite the white neighbors to the block party it doesn't matter how diverse your zip code is, you're still racist.

America's Most Diverse Zip Code

Turns out, my family lives in America's most diverse zip code.

Which explains our move here from a very homogenous neighborhood to this delightfully complex one. The first day we moved here my entire family seemed to sigh with relief, now housed in an area where people look like all of us and families look all sorts of different ways.

But still.  It seems like a pretty segregated neighborhood to me. Maybe I'm missing out on the multiracial party, but my experience thus far is that we're living next to each other more than with each other.  The togetherness I'm seeking John Raible calls transracialization, "living in long-term relationships of caring with racial 'Others.'"

While out and about in the neighborhood I see the diversity, but joining into clubs and activities I see the separation.  Each of the local community centers seems to attract it's own racial group. Restaurant cliental abides pretty closely to cultural/racial lines.  Neighborhood playgroups tend to be white because white moms tend to be the stay at home moms.  Basketball teams and the local Boys and Girls club are almost exclusively black.  The 4:00 school swim classes are mostly Asian kids, the after 5:00 swim classes are mostly black kids. I struggle to understand the logistics and culture divides that drive us to such clean separation.

I hope our neighborhood is leading the way, and maybe living next to each other is the way to start living in relationship with each other.  But looking out from my porch, we still have a longs ways to go.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Applesauce Happiness

One of our local neighborhood heroes is the children's librarian at the nearby branch of the Seattle Public Library.  Her name is Anna.  

My children adore "Miss Anna."  Her delightful way with the children and her super book recommendations have earned her high honor in their world. 

A few months ago, one of the books that found its way into our giant pile (limited now to a mere 50 books per the new policy) was Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson.  The story tells of a family ritual of making apple sauce, in creative detail with a recipe at the last page of the book.   

Predictably, the kids had a great idea when we hit the produce isle during our  next shopping trip.  Let's make apple sauce!  Now, what mama can say no to such a request? Both kids were desperate to fill their own bag of apples, so we left the store with 12 pounds of apples.

Much to my surprise the recipe ran so smoothly that the children did almost all of the work: scrubbing, chopping and measuring.  The apples cooked while we ate our breakfast.  Both children  squealed with delight as they milled the apples and the mush started to look like "real" apple sauce.

Now, several batches later, the kids devised a new great plan: let's take applesauce to Miss Anna. So on Wednesday they again scrubbed, chopped, measured and milled.  That afternoon we presented a jar of still-warm applesauce for Miss Anna. She exclaimed that she loves applesauce and thanked the kids so profusely they both grinned from ear to ear.

I'm still glowing. I love the little moments in our homeschool day when we can give back to someone who has brought such richness to our lives. Sharing the love, still warm from our kitchen, is even better.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


After our weekend of full consideration, we've been chosen by a mama.  Her baby is due in early June (or late May).  

I am totally blown away by the hugely mixed emotions I've experienced over the past few days since we found out.  Monday I was excited and thrilled and full of baby longing.  Tuesday I wanted to be really quiet and private about the whole thing.  And most of today I spent feeling deeply sad because there is a mama in our world that has to say goodbye to her baby because she can't afford to parent.  It weighs deeply for me that my joy comes through someone else's deep pain. I'm sure there are many waves of emotion about adoption to come through the years.  

So congratulate me and mourn with me.  The Barnacle Family is growing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


As part of our stellar history course, Scott Powell includes a geography program.  His idea, which is hard to argue with, is that we need to have a strong grasp of geography to properly understand history.

I love Scott's geography approach.  He doles out small sections of the world in printable worksheets which the kids are to color and label, repeating until they have mastered the material in a Suzuki-like method. I love the whole thing.

Theo, who has pencil-phobia, fears it.

So despite the wonderful program literally at my fingertips, I have spent the past 6 months exploring other ways to learn geography.  And it turns out people LOVE to teach and learn about geography, so there are many, many options. Here's what I've learned so far.

Online puzzles and games
To start off with, we needed something that would overcome the resistance to geography due to its initial association with pencils.  My strong limits of screen time mean that my kids will do almost *anything* if they can do it on the computer.  After surfing through plenty of websites I came up with two for the kids to try.
- Owl and Mouse offers free on-line map puzzles that my kids enjoy. The puzzles include the standard continents and all the countries there-in but also fun bonuses like world features and monuments. The site is simple and easy to use.  My one reservation in letting the kids use Owl and Mouse is that there is no sound.  Rosie, as a beginning reader, needs sound to learn the names on the puzzle independently.  Equally as important, all of us benefit from the proper pronunciation of new-to-us words.
- Sheppard Software fills pages and pages of the web with educational games. The geography on-line section organizes mostly by continent and within each of those sections are separate games for countries, capitals and landscape.  These are further broken down into levels, starting with learning tutorials progressing all the way to very complex expert level puzzles. My children's knowledge sky rocketed when we discovered Sheppard's site, however the complexity of the choices sometimes overwhelms them and they will gravitate back to the more simply appealing Owl and Mouse.  Sitting next to them or playing "against" them seems to hold their attention on this site.

Physical Map Puzzles
Once their knowledge and confidence about their geographical knowledge grew, I introduced Montessori puzzle maps.  Initially my kids and I were thrilled, but over time we've grown frustrated with the maps.  The wooden Montessori maps are unlabeled, with a full size paper "control map" that one buys to go along with it.  While our control was marketed to go with our map, it turns out the puzzle pieces don't correspond to the lines on the map.  Which means we can't do the puzzle properly on the control. And again, I end up with a 6 year old who knows how all the pieces fit together but can't name any of them - since my geography skills are weak I can't tell her at a glance what they are. Additionally, one of the main methods for using the maps is to trace each of the map pieces and label them (or even cut them out and glue together your own map).  Rosie loves the tracing and labeling, but predictably (in retrospect) Theo balked heavily at the suggested use of a writing utensil.

This weekend we discovered some fantastic cardboard puzzle maps.  They're called GeoPuzzles and made by the people at the GeoToyStore (see, I told you people were into geography). Most of the pieces are the shape of the country and each country, capital and major water body is clearly labeled. My kids eagerly opened the boxes and worked on two of the puzzles very successfully.  Of course, the pieces don't read themselves aloud to Rosie, so I've been controlling the distribution of pieces then saying the names of the pieces as I hand them to her. With 6 different puzzle maps available, I think these are going to be a big hit in our family over the next few years.

For learning the names of all the states, my kids enjoy a picture book called The Scrambled States of America.  I'm not sure what knowledge they actually gleaned from the book, but they find it entertaining and demand unsuspecting adults to read it over and over to them. I do think there is something to be said for the exposure that comes from hearing the names of the states repeated over and over again, though I prefer my kids learn in a more contextually appropriate manner. For that reason I hesitate to recommend the book, yet I've not found anything better.

On a less sexy vein, I bought the Rand MaNally children's atlas way back in September.  Theo and Rosie love to pour over it, studying each page with its various features.  I find it a little odd, but if they're happy I'm not going to interfere.

Other goodies
At the game store where we discovered the GeoPuzzles, I learned that there are many geography games in the world.  We'll likely go back once the map puzzles are mastered and pick up a game or two, though it seemed to me that most of them were aimed at the 8+ age group.

On the wall near our dining room table, I've taped up a National Geography world map.  We all look at it a lot and reference often during homeschool and mealtime conversations.  It's right at kid level and I often find little visitors looking it over and running their little fingers along the different lines of the continents and countries.

In a great thrill months ago I bought a Peter's Map.  It is beautiful and interesting and exciting and SO big we don't have a wall big enough to mount it on.  Still working that problem out, though both kids will independently remind me we should hang it every few weeks. Someday....

How about you?  What geography works for you? Any geography books that you and your kids love?  What about those talking globes - is the gain in knowledge worth having another plastic, electronic thing making noise in the house? What's your favorite geography game?

Saturday, March 20, 2010


We're being presented for 3 babies this weekend.  This means that 3 families who plan to place their babies for adoption are looking at our family profile, along with those of 2 or 3 other families, to decide who to choose.

It seems that we have pretty good chances of coming out of this weekend with a baby match.

48 hours never seemed so long....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

55 Ways

Recently, I've spent quite a bit of emotional energy focusing on all the things in my life that aren't they way I want them to be.  Thus making myself pretty miserable creating mountains out of molehills - or at least focusing on the molehills rather than the daffodils next to them.

This evening, playing with the idea that I'm really the only person I can change in this world, I figured I might as well make a list of ways I want to be in the world. As I'm getting tired of the ways I don't like being, perhaps I'll allow myself to substitute in some fresher ideas if they're readily available.

In a short 15 minutes my list grew to 55 attributes.  It seems to me that if I simply focused on seeing/being more of the things on my list, there wouldn't really be much time left to be grumpy and miserable. That's a novel thought.

Here's my list.  Do you have a list?  What's on yours?
big  strong  soft  warm  beautiful  loving  accepting  playful  good.boundaries  flirtations  expressive  fun  open  intense  relaxed  flow.state  proactive  honest  healthy  responsive  feeling  loud  cuddly  attached  friendly  smart  confident  humble  thinking  safe  connected  heard  seen  loved  trusted  asked  powerful  celebrated  supported  generous  grateful  calm  wise  trusting  intuitive  available  present  compassionate  joyful  peaceful  respected  appreciated  gentle  gentled  clear