Thursday, December 29, 2011

Karen Mangiacotti is my kind of feminist

This article/post/editorial by Karen Mangiacotti made me scream with laughter and agreement.  It is too good not to share.

The Penis Mom
When I was little I wanted to be a lot of things: Johnny Carson's replacement; A Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader so good I was the only one on the team; an artist with my own wing at the Boston Museum of Fine Art -- you know, normal stuff. I wanted to be a lot of things, but I never -- I PROMISE you -- ever wanted to grow up to be someone known as "The Penis Mom".
But here I am.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I am The Rooster

Cleaning off my desk today, I found a copy made out of a co-worker's Chinese Horoscope book about 15 years ago.  At the time I thought it a delightful description of myself and my goals.  Now I hope for more rest, peace and gentleness than it allows, though I suspect my family still easily recognizes me in its lines.

The Rooster
I am on hand
To herald in the day,
And to announce its exit.
I thrive by clockwork and precision.
In my unending quest for perfection
All things will be restored to their rightful place.
I am the exacting taskmaster.
The ever-watchful administrator.
I seek perfect order in my world.
I represent unfailing dedication.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Sara's Should Read List

Okay, so I said I was going to put my blog on pause for a while.  And I'm cleaning out my bookshelves so that I have room to store and easily access the materials I'm using for my courses.  This means something has to go - I have books stacked all over.

One entire bookshelf is dedicated to books I think I should read - but haven't gotten to. The shelf started a few years ago and continues to grow.  The problem is when I'm looking for something to read, I never stroll over and pick something out because there are 4 other books someone just handed me or recommended.

With a deep breath, I'm clearing off the shelf.  I figure if I list everything here, I can easily come back to the list and then request the book from the library.  In the meantime, such desirable titles should fetch me a pretty penny at HalfPrice, right?

I was going to make a paper list, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find it again. Ditto for a list in some random place on my computer.  But my blog, I'll remember and be able to find the list again on my blog.

Without further ado:

- Echo by Terry Moore (no wait, this is a graphic novel by one of my favorites, I'm putting this book upstairs on my bedside table)
- Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki
- The Magic of Matsumoto: The Suzuki Method of Education by Cr. Carolyn Barrett (okay, this has actually been on my to read pile since Theo was 18 months old.  Boy am I glad to see it go, though I hear it is a lovely book.)
- A Young's People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn (uhhhh, I can't let this go.  I just need to preview it a bit for Theo. Guess it goes in the homeschool shelves.)
- The Explosive Child by Ross Greene (I don't know why this book is on the shelf.  I read it.  It had some good points, though I didn't love the solutions. I'm putting it on the parenting shelf for helping me identify my kids' triggers.)
- The Seven Days of Kwanzaa by Angela Medearis (I read this one, too. Goes in the Christmas box).
- Sula by Toni Morrison (I love Toni, I just can't do dark books right now)
- Playing Smart by Susan Perry (This is a great book about all sort of fun things you can do with kids to improve their physical, social, emotional and academic intelligence.  Just leafing through it makes me feel inadequate.)
- Can We Talk About Race by Beverly Tatum (I've read parts of this, too.  She's a great writer, and this is a subject I think is vitally important to our family and I'm 10 steps behind on. I feel really guilty for not taking the time to finish it right now.)
- Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier by Chriss Enss. (I think my mom lent me this book.  Time to start a new pile.)
- Growing up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World by Homa Sabet Tavangar.
- Freemasonry by Giles Morgan (left by one of the British soccer coaches we hosted.  Apparently very interesting peek into the old boys network of George Washington et al.)
- Dance of Attachment by Holly van Gulden (OH!  I've been looking for that)
- In Their Sibling's Voices by Rita Simon and Rhonda Roorda (Oh, I was looking for that, too)
- Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies by Kenneth Bock
- The Oxytocin Factor by Kerstin Moberg (losing my resolve on this on, it was a hard to find book about a subject that may still come in handy to understand more deeply, putting it back on a shelf somewhere)
- Ultra: Seven Days by Luna Brothers (recommended by my hubby, putting it back on his shelf)
- Our Red Hot Romance is Leaving me Blue by Dixie Cash
- Money for Nothing by PG Wodehouse (okay, Wodehouse books makes me laugh so hard I cry.  It goes back on the shelf.)
- Little Birds by Anais Nin (ooohhh, I was looking for this, too.  Goes back on regular book shelf. Maybe up high out of 10 year old reach.)
- A Short History of Ancient Times by Philip Van Ness Myers, part of the History At Our House series (another hard to get one.  Goes in the Ancient History bin for Theo to read next time we hit this cycle, he'll be 13 or 14)
- White Men on Race by Joe Feagin & Eileen O'Brien. (gosh, another one I know I will benefit from reading in the long run and be so glad I read)
- One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Math by Eric Yoder (WHY is this on MY to read shelf??)
- 101 Things Everyone Should Know About Math by Ze, Segal and Levy (obviously I know everything I need to know about math because I survive or go ask my hubby or buddy Jenn.  This must go on the homeschool shelf.)
- Raising Black Children Who Love Reading and Writing by Dierdre Paul (This book is from 1964.  I know I've got the children who love reading part down pat.  When I got this book I was looking for good books lists starring black children for my kids to enjoy.  Now, there is so much more out there, I need an updated book.)
- Dear America: the Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson by Andread Davis Pinkney (book from the perspective of a 12 year old just after Brown vs Board of Education. A quick glance tells me it is a pretty great book.  Going into the American History bin for next cycle.)
- Pie by Sarah Weeks (a book about a cat name pie, just the picture on the front sort of makes me want to gag.)
- book with homemade cover out of green construction paper.  (It's a great book with a HORRIBLE title.  I call it the book of shame, but I'm for sure keeping it. And no, I probably won't tell you what it is.)
- The Man with the Iron Mask, the Marvel Comics version. (Apparently I don't do Dumas in picture form.  Giving back to Bill.)
- Lapham's Quarterly: Ways of Learning, Gall 2008.  (From a friend, guess I need to figure out if she wants it back first)
- The 100 Best African American Poems by Nikki Giovanni, with CD (definitely goes in the poetry book shelf)
- The Power of Rest: Why Sleep is Not Enough by Matthew Edlund (this book ROCKS.  I have the revie copy and have loved it.  Another one of those books I've been looking for.  I wonder if the released book is different.....)
- Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring home the Lost Children of nepal by Conor Grennan (I have literally NO idea where this came from or when)
- Hey, Cowgirl, Need a Ride? By Baxter Black (whaaaa?)
- Baby Bargins, 8th edition (sadly, no need for this anymore)
- The Nature of Animal Healing: Definitive Holistic Medicine Guide to Caring for your Dog and Cat by Martin Goldstein (filed back on health book shelf, this is one of my faves.)
- Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog by Volhard and Brown (refiled, too)
- To Teach, the journey, in comics by William Ayers (back to Bill)
- Teach Like a Champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college by Doug Lemov (the picture on the front looks like one of those inspirational golf posters, sigh)
- A Children's Garden: 60 ideas to make any garden come alive for children by Molly Dannenmaier
- The Family Kitchen Garden by Karen Liebreich
- The Crochet Answer Book by Edie Eckman
- PhotoReading by Paul Scheele (another mis-shelved book)
- Cartwheels in a Sari by Layanti Tamm
- The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke
- The Cheese Chronicles: a journey throughout the making and selling of cheese in America, from field to table by Liz Thorpe (sounds delicious...)
- How to Open and Adoptiong by Patricia Martinez-Dorener (haven't read yet, but goes on the adoption shelf)
- Branded, the Making of a Wyoming Cowgirl by Deirdre Graves (must be from mom)
- Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks
- What Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum (I read this forever ago and was actually looking for it the other day.  Goes in the shelves.)
- African American Firsts by Joan Potter
- Eternal Life: A New Vision by John Shelby Spong
- killing rage: ending racism by bell hooks
- Nature Walks in and around Seattle by Stephen Whitney (I think I'll hold onto this, and put it in the homeschool shelves, we could use some new adventures)
- Race by Marc Aronson (this is an awesome book I'll really enjoy some day)
- Fearless Girls, Wise Women& Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World (definitely goes in the homeschool pile)
- Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (lent from my mom)

Three books I'm putting back on the to read shelf because they were gifted to me by girlfriends when I asked for copies of their favorite books:
- The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke
- Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
- The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Ahhhhh.  That narrows it down from 2 full shelves to 5 books.  That guilty knot in my stomach feels much better.  Now I know what to pick up when I finish my current read, "Before she gets her period" by Jessica Gillooly.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Very Full Life

I'm sure you've noticed I have not posted in a while.  Everyday I mean to - I've been learning so much I'd like to write about, both for my own internal processing and integration and to share with you all.

This year, Bill and I have decided to add back in neurodevelopmental programs to help shore up several places where each child seem to be struggling.  What does this really mean? Thanks to an evaluation with my friend Donna Bateman (one of the most dedicated mamas I know and a true delight), who trained with the Family Hope Center,  I'm helping the kids do lots of reflex stimulations (as explained by Donna here and by another site I found here) and creeping and crawling. Yes, creeping and crawling like puppies and crocodiles.  Remember, the brain is a muscle that grows through use and when we spend time on our bellies and hands and knees, we organize the pons and mid-brain, areas responsible for hearing, reading, writing, emotional control, following many step commands, plus tons more. And by we, I mean my kids!

To quicken the neurodevelopmental work, we're focusing on some important complimentary areas - especially nutrition, still sticking with the paleo theme (plus we're about to start chasing the Candida plague around here) and integrative manual therapy.

Of course there is always the academic work, though scaled back some, we need to get through in a day.  Plus all the fabulous classes our Seattle homeschool community provides.  Right now either one or both of the kids is doing: Japanese class, piano lessons, hip-hop dance, math class (with our math hero, Jenn), girl choir, guitar, soccer and scouts.  Whew.  And all the associated driving.

In what seems like a true act of self-indugence, I've signed up for the Advanced Studies Program with the Neufeld Institute.  I can't even put to words how much fun I'm having learning more deeply about the developmental attachment paradigm Dr. Neufeld has created.  I've just finished a training for his Vital Connections course and will do my first practicum facilitating it in January.  Somehow at the same time as my training class, I volunteered to host another Intensive 1 group.  Intense has been the correct word for doing two Neufeld courses at the same time!  So much fun, I managed to double schedule again for January when I'll facilitate the Vital Connection course while completing a training in his Making Sense of Play course. At the end of the 2 year program I expect to be facilitating both the Vital Connection and Art and Science of Transplanting Children for the adoption community in the Puget Sound area, helping moderate a dynamic Neufeld focused community in the Seattle area and using the knowledge I have as a parent coach to support other parents.

While I truly love the work Dr. Neufeld is doing, I also adore and deeply value Holly vanGulden's work with developmental attachment and adoption.  I did a 3 day training with her in Minnesota this September and have been integrating what I learned in my daily interactions with my kids.  I've also been sharing more about it with other adoptive parents as I see how much Holly's knowledge and experience speaks specifically to what we see in our adopted kids.  In the pause between my Neufeld courses, I plan to sit down and brush up on her training manual.

Not something I'm likely to post much about on the world wide web, I still put quite a bit of time and energy each week into my personal growth hobby.

My brag for the month is that 6 days a week for the past 3 weeks, I've been in bed asleep by 8:30, and mostly slept until 7 or 8:00.  I'll keep on sleeping 10+ hours a night until I'm naturally waking up rested around 6am.  Chipping away at my apparently enormous sleep debt may be the only thing that really helps me keep all these balls I'm juggling in the air fairly gracefully.

Add these to my daily attempts to run the household, connect with my husband, keep the dog well exercised, practice guitar, present delicious nutritious food 5x a day and somehow fit back in my beloved CrossFit, and sadly, I just can't post right now.

My hope is that once I have a few training courses under my belt I'll have more brain space to write about the things I'm learning.  For now, though, consider my blog on pause.

Feel free to email me or call if you have questions or want to say hi.  I'll miss you all!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Squash Happiness

Apparently I've been preoccupied over here seeing as how over a month has past since I last posted.  I think about posting almost everyday and have lots of pictures to share.  Just not much free time in which to post.

For the moment my recommendation of the day: both buttercup squash and blue ballet squash are really yummy!  Baked and served with butter or pureed into a warming breakfast soup.

Happy fall to you all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bridging the Winter

Today the weather is hot and sunny.  And I know someday soon the rain will start. Then stay. Part of what helps me get through the dreary days of February is anticipating when our bulbs will start poking up through the dark, wet soil. Daffodils, narcissus, hyacinth and tulips brighten my day like mini suns.

With the yard remodel (I'm still brewing up before and after pictures) and the bulldozer that raked out huge swaths of grass and yard, I assume most of our bulbs disappeared.  So when the kids and I were trolling Costco this week and came across the racks of bulbs, we loaded up the cart. Vowing to have the bulbs all in the ground before Bill returned from his business trip, I took advantage of the glorious September day.

My bulb planting technics fall into the category of "good enough," developed through a combination of web surfing and watch squirrels. I open all the bags and place handfuls of bulbs strategically around.  Then I grab my shovel, lever open a wedge of dirt, stuff the bulbs in the hole under the shovel and then drop the dirt back down over the bulbs. Stomp on the little mound, chase away the dog and move onto the next pile of bulbs.

Satisfyingly, I planted all 8 bags of bulbs today.  Here's what I will be dreaming of in February.
- 25 narcissus
- 150 tulips (pink/yellow, red/white, red/yellow)
- 28 hyacinths
- 3 giant allium
- 80 crocus
- 50 daffodils

That's 336 spring flowers during the April showers!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thinking about Boredom

"Mommy, I'm booooored" is a fairly common refrain around here.  I used to celebrate it as a sign that my kids were about to pass through a zone of discomfort and come out on the other side with some new fantastic project.  Which happened sometimes, but not always.  Maybe not even often.

Eventually, I figured out that "bored" usually stands for an unmet need, and I refined it to tired, hungry or lonely.  My new definition works better for both kids, they can usually identify one of the 3 issues, but it still doesn't always get us to resolution.

From Gordon Neufeld's blog aka "editorial page" one of his faculty, Jonas, writes a lovely perspective on seeing and handling a child's complaint of boredom.  I'm going to try out his tactic of collecting and connecting.  I'll bet it is the best "solution" yet.

Being Bored (read the full text here)

“Daddy, I am bored,” my six year-old son comes into my home office complaining. I have a feeling of déjà vu. I have heard this before. In fact all my children around this age have shown up with the very same expression: “Daddy, I am bored”. I used to think that they lacked for ideas of what to do. And so, I used to come up with at least a dozen suggestions. It never seemed to work though. My children left seemingly unsatisfied with my suggestions. I used to brush off my discomfort by remembering what I had read in popular psychology columns, that it was a good thing to be bored. As the years passed my two older home-schooled children are no longer in this stage. I never hear them complain about being bored. They seem to have found that never ceasing inner-well of creativity, filling them with endless curiosity. Yes, they show up at my home office, but more likely with precise questions like, ”What is a black hole?” or ”What is the difference between government and parliament?” or ”Why does a car have a gearbox?”
After studying the Neufeld paradigm I obtained words to many things I knew intuitively, and I also received confirmation of others things of which I was not fully certain. But I never understood the meaning of “Daddy, I am bored” until taking one of the Neufeld Distance Education courses.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shampoo Bar?

Apparently I was in a total stupor when I wrote this post and my brain mixed Lush, the maker of the lovely shampoo bars and amazing bath bombs, and Kiehl's, another of my cosmetic-maker crushes into one happy store.

Sooo, edited for accuracy (million thanks to Erin):

Rosie and I wandered into Lush a while back, trying to escape the rain downtown.  We sniffed bath bombs, admired sparkly lotion and one of the employees indulged us to a hand treatment.

Somehow the bright 20 something also talked me into buying soap and conditioner bars. The amazing jasmine smell of the shampoo bar lured me into saying yes. Still,  I came home thinking, weird.

Now I'm in love with my shampoo and conditioner bars.  They're easy to use - 5 strokes in my hair with the shampoo bar and I'm all suds.  Conditioner bar takes about 8 strokes, still efficient and very effective.  The employee had said the bar would last longer than a medium bottle of shampoo.  Beyond skeptical I just nodded, but it turns out she's right, the bar lasts a long time. And super bonus, they are so easy to travel with.  Pop them in the little tin, drop them in my bag and off I go.  No issues with how many ounces of liquid they are or concerns that the pressure of travel will cause leaking.

The shampoo bar is gentle and it doesn't seem to strip my hair.  It feels as good as Dr. Bronner's soap on my hair without all the mess and crazy messaging. Check out the bar, you might become a convert, too.  Also, grab a few of the amazing bath bombs while you're at it.

From the other part of my cosmetic-crush brain:
I've been a fan of Kiehl's products for a long time.  I'm not sure they're super natural, but they smell and feel better on my skin than most beauty products. Their lip gloss tops my list, you'll probably love it, too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today's Workout

I'm feeling pretty proud of myself.  As a warm up, we started with some shoulder lifts (pushing a bar with weights over my head) at about 38 lbs until I just couldn't lift my arms over my head any more - I did about 25 in sets of 5.

Then I did today's workout which was:
squats and sit-ups

That means I did 150 squats and sit-ups in about 20 minutes.  Go ME!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Great Lego Documentary

Totally sleep deprived, Bill and I downloaded this super Lego Documentary for family entertainment last week.  I'm still thinking about it, and the kids refer it it regularly through the day.

My mind reels at the huge production and sales numbers cited.  There is also a fascinating bit on the history of the Lego company.

Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Sorry about the weird formatting.  Things don't always seem to fit well in this new blogger template I'm using.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Busy Summer Fun

Being gone for 10 days in August allowed our garden to go crazy. With Bill and Rosie off together on a business trip (her first!!), Theo and I took advantage of the lovely day to harvest some bounty.

We got giant squash and 16 (count them 16) cups of basil leaves.

Of course, that much basil calls for some serious pesto preparation. Theo and I took turns adding ingredients.  Our recipe turned out to be a little creative because I didn't have enough of most anything in the house to make 5x my normal pesto recipe.  For nuts we used almonds, pecans, cashews and pepitas.  For garlic we used some fresh, some roasted giant garlic I happened to have on hand and some whipped garlic from Lebanese Breeze.
 Theo adds in the first layer of basil for a lovely stratification of ingredients (if that looks to you like a lot of salt on top, it is.  I got a little confused in my converting).
After a thrilling time mixing the ingredients, we scooped out the pesto into 1/4 balls for freezing.

Now, we have a large bag of summer sunshine ready for those cold gray days ahead. As a bonus, we really enjoyed our time together as just two, and I got some good sidewards homeschool math and problem solving into the mix.

Next project: doing something paleo with those giant squashes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Camping Taste Test: Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips

Part of the fun of camping with the homeschool group is the various activities that go on over the 4 days.  Our family loves taste tests, and this year Theo and I decided his favorite potato chips should be verified.

We bought 4 brands of salt and vinegar chips: Lays, Kettle, Tim's and Trader Joe's with a bag of corn chips as palate cleaners.  After a shark frenzy of little kids tasting, their associated adults and a stealth batch of teens, we recorded 25 tasters, though I'm sure we had more.

Here's how the numbers broke out:
Lays - 5
Kettle - 16
Tim's - 2
Trader Joes - 0
Corn chips - 2

Obviously Kettle stomped out the competition.

Interestingly, all of the Lays votes came from people under the age of 8.  The Tim's were for the most part rejected as too sweet (and were the only brand including sugar as an ingredient).   Somehow, TJ's just plain missed the boat - too crunchy, too bitter, too vinegary.  Both corn chip votes came from kids under 5.

Monday, August 1, 2011

On The Road

Wednesday our family hits the road.

First, we're off to camp near Mt. Rainier with about 30 other homeschool families - tribal living as humans were intended to exists, plus marshmallows!

From Rainier, we're trekking up to Vancouver Island, Canada where I have the great pleasure of attending an Intensive 3 course with the Neufeld Institute - focusing intensely on the 6 levels of attachment.  Bill's bringing his work, the kids will find themselves rubbing shoulders with Canadian kids at a not-completely-randomly-picked summer camp.  Wish us all luck!

We're back around the 15th, it'll probably take a few days for me to get back on my writing feet.  Until then, enjoy the sunshine!

Friday, July 29, 2011

John Raible Rocks, Again

Posted on his blog today is a short video addressing oppression and adoption.  What I love about John is his amazing skill of combining the straight up truth with clear thinking and beautiful ways of expressing himself.

The video has me thinking about two things right off:
- what am *I* doing right now to be an ally to my kids, my friends and the people in my communities?
- what is adultism and how do I balance an understanding of it with my understanding of a child's need for hierarchical relationships (to be free to depend and be taken care of)?

Here again is the link to his 10 minute video.  At the end of the post, you'll see a link to his hour long webinar that most certainly is worth a listen or seven.

If you're an adoptive parent or considering adoption, really, go hear what John has to say.

Outside is Good

Summer seems to have finally arrived in Seattle.  While the rain has been trying for my soul, the newly installed garden has greatly appreciated the many deep soakings. Probably our water bill has, too.

The updated yard includes four generous planting boxes for my baby-step square foot approach to growing veggies. With 44 designated square feet, I'm awash in 44 yummy options. And that's in addition to all the edible bushes filling our plantable spaces.

When we bought this house our 7200 square foot property came split into various smaller "regions." The backyard came as a lush green lawn surrounded by tall cedar fencing -great for privacy.  Then there was a tiny front yard split by tall fencing from a good sized but non-visible and much-neglected hilly side yard.  Along the street, on the other side of both the driveway and the tall backyard fence someone built a fairly large terraced area that is invisible from all other parts of our house and yard. We call it the Back 40.

The front and side yards recently merged and terraced to create a space that our family spends a huge amount of time enjoying.  I drink my morning tea out there before the rest of the family wakes.  The kids play and jump in the trampoline by the hour.  We all spend time picking berries and fussing over the veggie boxes. Bill hangs out in the sitting area practicing guitar.  The dog lolls around near everyone, keeping careful watch over birds and passers-by.

For some reason, during the planning process, Bill and I (well mostly me) figured we wouldn't need help with the Back 40.  I had plans to recruit a neighbor to garden the space.  Well, for the 2nd year in a row the garden-share plans fell through.  So while our front/side yard is delicious, gorgeous and well used, the Back 40 sports a gigantic weed pit.  Mostly I'm distressed by the horror of it, but Rosie as an 8 year old doesn't see weeds, she sees flowers.  This week it became our bouquet picking area.

I'm grateful summer is really here.  I'm grateful to have an outside space that works so well for our family.  I'm grateful to have such lovely kids who remind me to relax and find the joy in life.

Gosh, I hope the weather holds!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chatting about Collecting

As part of my collecting research, I brought the subject up with a group of friends who have also done the Neufeld Intensive 1 and 2 courses.

I loved everything they said and so enjoyed hearing their perspective. Too busy listening to take notes, here is what I currently remember from the conversation.

- Collecting has various iterations.  My previous post focused on the collecting we do after a separation - be it a physical separation like being in different locations for a couple of hours or a mental separation of a kid involved in media or a book for a length of time or an emotion separation as in a disagreement that creates discord and distance between us.

Collecting is also part of a more constant state.  It is the moments of connection between us and our kids that grow the strength of love between us.  Someone referred to it as growing and strengtheing the cord of love that connects us, and used a hand gesture that reminded me of a tree branch getting thicker and more complex with time and the stresses and strains of life.

- One friend referred to collecting as the sauce that makes everything else go.  He talked a lot about how collecting, more than being things that we do, is a posture and the way that we ARE with our kids.  Warmth came up over and over in this part of the conversation - lighting up when our kids come in the room, letting know that we're crazy about them, so in love with them and really enjoy being with them.

Warmth, as I wrote before, can seem like a pretty alien concept to me.  But in listening to my friend, I remembered how often Neufeld talks about offering a complete invitation to our children to be fully themselves in all their glorious and less perfect ways.  Warmth, and invitation, then might just be other words for unconditional love.  Both sides of the unconditional love - the unconditional "I love you no matter what" part and the love "my heart delights in seeing and knowing you" part.

I'm thinking then, and let me know what you think, that a large part of collecting is letting our children know that they are wholly and completely embedded in our hearts forever more.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

15 Years Coming Up

In a month, Bill and I will have been married for 15 years.  Woof. That's a lotta years.

For anniversary sport, we usually at least try to make a nod to the Traditional/Modern Anniversary Gift Guide.  Sometimes it is a stretch.  In the past I've gotten Bill a subscription to the New York Times (paper), a Leatherman MultiTool (leather) and The American History Dictionary (ivory and gold - okay this was a big stretch, but the book cover IS ivory and gold colored and I knew he'd love it).

Sometimes it takes me months to figure out what to get my dearly beloved.  Apparently the 15th is crystal or glass/watches. For a man that likes pint glasses and has never worn a watch in the 16 years I've known him. Hmmmmm, I feel another stretch coming on.

Feel free to pip in with suggestions!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back from Pact Camp 2011

We're back from another amazing year at Pact Camp. This makes year number 5!

Major props to the Pact staff for their continued drive to create this experience that changes our lives year after year.  Beth Hall, Susan Ito and Deanna Matthews deserve gold medals for all they give and do to support our families. Here are my highlights for what their dedication brought to us this year.

The counselors were amazing. Every year Pact brings in young folks as counselors from all over the country, though mostly the Oakland area.  Pact spends 2 days training them on race, adoption, behavior as an expression of struggling emotions, and how to handle most of whatever our kids might come out with while in their care. These young people come back year after year, their love and dedication for the campers shining through.  Both of my children adore their counselors (some of whom they've worked with for 5 years now!!) and thrive under their care.

The adult programs were, as usual, superb.  JaeRan Kim (blogger of Harlow's Monkey fame) and Mary Sheedy-Kurchinka (author of "Spirited Child," "Kids, Parents and Power Struggles, " and "Sleepless In America") both spoke as keynotes.  JaeRan inspired me to think in the long term about our kids' journey and identity development in life. They are children for such a short time. We as parents we need to aim towards adulthood, equipping our kids with the skills and relationships they need once they leave our homes. JaeRan showed a beautiful combination of professional, expert presentation and authentic personal vulnerability.  It is truly an honor to sit in the presence of someone so willing to share so deeply of herself for the good of my child. It stills makes me weepy to think of the depth of the gift she offered us.

Mary Sheedy-Kurchinka's talk focused on how to connect with our kids - calm, collect, collaborate.  Almost everything she said came back to sleep - no-one in America seems to be getting enough sleep and being tired makes everything harder. I loved her overall messages, and I was blown away by her dynamic presentation style that was fun, entertaining and seemed to take into account reseach-driven principles about how people learn best.

Behind the scenes with our kids I know there were professionals prompting thoughts and conversations with our kids.  While I didn't hear much back from kids about the conversations or their own thinking, I know the people working with my kids did a great job because of the enthusiasm both Theo and Rosie showed in sharing their art with me. Sessions were set up to communicate back to parents the work that was being done with the kids, however I missed or opted out of them. Because....

One of the draw backs, always, about camp is that there is too much wonderfulness going on for me to absorb it all.  This year camp organizers created a multitude of small group sessions.  Each afternoon I benefited from presentations and conversations while longing to duplicate myself so I could attend other sessions at the same time. I sat in on conversations about blended families (adopted and born to siblings), the racial achievement gap, "can kids of color thrive in a white environment?", and very sadly napped through two spoken pieces by adult adoptees that I deeply admire.

What really makes camp amazing is the people.  Not just in their roles as presenter, therapist, adult adoptee, counselor or adoptive parent, but the people as their whole selves.  The insight, sharing, pain, regret, struggles, victories and resources that so many people shared with me teach and inspire me how to be the person and parent my children need.

Set near Lake Tahoe, the logistics of camp were much easier for us this year than in the past.  Real beds and fully insulated walls helped with sleeping.  The food worked great for our family, hallelujah!  The site was beautiful, easy to navigate and had a truly lovely swimming pool with an actually hot hot tub.

Finally, a giant bonus for my family, there was sunshine!  With this very wet Seattle summer, we were all grateful to be warm and dry for a few days.

These 4 days at camp will bring lasting change to our lives again this year.  While the changes we make for our family are no longer so abrupt and visible, the depth and honesty of the conversation allows space for each of us to grow and learn.  It is an amazing experience.

I hope you will join us next year!

Friday, July 15, 2011

On Talking Terms with Dogs

On his show, Cesar Milan often talks about reading dog's body language and off-handedly mentions various behaviors that he sees.  The behaviors are so quick and subtle, I often have to stop the video and go back several times to really see it on the screen.  Cesar is so confident about what he notices and what it means that I've been longing for a clear list of behaviors and their meanings.

Imagine, then, how thrilled I was to discover On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas.   While the book doesn't cover every doggie movement, the focus on calming signals is quite fascinating.  With a list of about 15 calming signals, I've found the information useful for both communication with Mason and other dogs and for better understanding the state they are in.  Each page includes lots of great pictures to illustrate each signal.  The book is short, concise and easy to read. All the pictures makes for a super kid-friendly dog guide, too, as my kids are compelled to leaf through, enjoy and try to interpret every dog in each photo.

In the past few weeks, I've focused on a few signals, getting comfortable at recognizing them as dogs use them.  I've also started adding them into my communication repertoire.  Somehow even though I understand this is how dogs communicate with each other, I'm amazed at the success.  Mason, a little low on exercise this week, was having a full-out puppy crazy session upstairs.  He usually gets on all fours really low and then tears around at a berserk pace knocking people and things down as he goes.  Normally getting him to stop and calm down takes a while (or a really big treat) and involves some personal risk.  Instead, I turned sideways to him, yawned a few times and then as he watched me, I knelt down and scratched the carpet for a bit. He relaxed and sat down, calm for the moment.  Pretty cool!  Pretty easy!  (I did take him down to the lake for a serious swim shortly afterwards.)

For fun, I'm going to do a quick run down of the signals - if you're interested in using them I highly recommended checking the book out as Rugaas' clear descriptions of the signals and what they mean are invaluable.  Here are the major signals: head turning, softening the eyes, turning away, licking the nose, freezing, slow movements, play bow(!), sitting down, lying down, yawing, sniffing, curving approach, splitting up two animals and tail wagging.

Enjoy experimenting on a canine nearby and let me know what you learn!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cesar Dreams

Cesar Milan is coming to Seattle! You know, the Dog Whisperer. Whoooo hoooo!! He'll be here September 9th at the Paramount Theatre.

Knowing Cesar is coming sent me into a little frenzy of day dreams about what I'd do if I could be one of the lucky people who works with him in person. In the incredible event that Cesar and I were in the same space, I'd ask him to help me with my anxiety about having my perfectly friendly and well-behaved dog around other dogs.

Were I just to be able to ask him questions about how to handle issues, I have 3 that drive me crazy:
- how do I handle my dog's not appropriate to humans crotch-sniffing greeting?
- how do I get my tall 75 pound lab to stop stealing food off the counters?
- what do I do about territorial barking at the house windows and around the yard perimeter?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I was going to post....

But my bedtime alarm went off.  Yes, I really have an alarm set on my phone to remind me to go to bed.

As you can see from my post times, I usually blow it off.  Sigh.  However, I have a bonafide prescription from my doctor to and get at least 8 hours of sleep.  We all know I know this from the 23 previous posts I've done about sleep.  Double sigh.

I have a follow up appointment with her in 2 weeks, so the shame factor is kicking in and I'll be going to bed at a reasonable hour for the next few weeks.

Other posts in the works, look forward to talking to you all tomorrow.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Random and Captured by Pirates

Last night I woke myself up.  I was dreaming that I'd been captured by pirates, and they were tickling me.

One of my new favorite bumper stickers: When Jesus said love your enemies I think he probably meant don't kill them. Of course I have mixed feelings about this and think these sorts of issues are not so black and white as that, but I still really like the sticker.

The new Girl Genius is out!  Theo doesn't know, and I waiting for him to LEAVE so I can read my copy in peace. Then I'll tell him.

JJ, our UPS driver, is getting seriously stalked by our family right now.  Theo ordered a custom Lego Hero Factory creation - it is on its way from Poland.  I ordered a box of books from Sonlight that cover Ancient History and the "Far East." Both of us are beside ourselves with excitement.

We redid our yard - I'll post before and after pics someday.  When the guy came for the final review and payment, he left me a flat of basil that didn't have a home!  That's 18 plants, people!!  Pesto party at my house in August!

Bald eagles have been soaring over our house everyday this week.  Living in Seattle can be so darn cool.

Rosie has been creeping and crawling for 2 weeks now.  I think I already see a difference in her emotional level - she still feels everything really strongly, but she seems able to moderate and handle it better.

It's a beautiful sunshiny day today.  Let's hope it holds!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Personal Weirdness

I've been feeling really off for a while now.  Super tired, for one. I'm going in to get my thyroid and adrenals checked as I suspect there is a huge physical component to this.

But not just tired.   Sort of dazed, confused, unable to focus on getting things done, just seeming to react to whatever most demands my attention next.  Completely out of context with time - I can't seem to plan ahead, be aware of how long has past, what is coming next.

None of this is "normal" for me.  I'm doing an okay job coping and working around whatever is going on, but I'm also searching for what is causing it and looking for the relief of resolution.  It is really hard to live sort of on the outside of what is going on around me.

Anyone else every feel this way?  Any ideas what could be prompting it or help resolve it?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chemistry of Collecting

Somewhere along the way I read something that lead me to google something that linked me to youtube videos by Bryan Post.  Post* bills himself as one of "America's Foremost Child Behavior Experts."  While I seriously doubt this is the title I would give him, his work seems to focus on attachment and connections rather than on behavior modification, so I started listening to him.  His videos intrigued me because they combine discussions on neurology and attachment - two of my favorite things.

The work horse of his method for being and expert with kids and their behavior is oxytocin, the hormone responsible for bonding sometimes dubbed the "love hormone." Through his videos I learned that the release of oxytocin that creates feelings of warmth and trust is a learned response.  Not an automatic physical reaction, but a learned response. If you really think about this, it is a pretty mind-blowing fact.  In actuality, we aren't born knowing how to love or being pre-programmed to do so.  We have to learn how, from our mommies (or our primary care giver that fills the mothering role).  Wow.

I know Holly van Gulden has illustrated this before in reenacting the interactions between baby and mama, showing how the baby feels and expresses mild stress, mama comes in to provide comfort and baby relaxes into her care.  But somehow I never got that as parents we are building a neurology of love and connection right into our kids' brains. Good thing the brain is plastic and we can form new neurological pathways at any age - I'm sure many of us humans don't get the positively patterned oxytocin response we need in our first 6 months.

My guess is that part of what makes Neufeld's collecting so successful in the moment and in the long term comes from stimulating the oxytocin response.  I've been reading one of Post's sources on the oxytocin response, The Chemistry of Connection by Kuchinskas and the smile and nod of Neufeld's collecting technique come to mind in so many of the oxytocin positive scenarios Kuchinskas sites.

This means, each time I take the needed 3 minutes to get my child's smile and nod, I'm stimulating a dump of warmth, trust, and reward hormones that help my child feel good about themselves and me (oh, and I get a shot of happy hormones, too).  Thus they physically are more inclined to do my bidding, and I'm physically more inclined to be nurturing in supporting them.  At the same time, I'm creating for them a habit of feeling good, happy and cooperative.  The more I do it, the better it gets as the pathways become more refined until the child's oxytocin response becomes automatic, like riding a bike.

Seems like a good idea. Next, I need figure out how to remember in the heat of the moment to aim for those smile and nods and actually figure out how to get them.


* Post has obviously read a lot of books on attachment and child development, think pretty clearly about the subject and have quite a bit of experience in the area, so I found much of his information familiar with some exciting new bits.  I feel compelled to disclose that in doing a google search for him, I found at least one issue that causes me a little concern about his personal integrity or at least  discretion (having to do with challenges to his title of "dr").  It didn't discredit his thinking for me, but if you plan to put much energy into looking at his videos or programs, you might consider looking into this for yourself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Collecting about Collecting

One of the key concepts from Neufeld's work is the idea of collecting children.  Not as in acquiring a large houseful of them, which I am also enthusiastic about, but gathering their attention and goodwill.

Collecting my children is something I'm confident I don't do often enough or well enough, and I see the negative results of this everyday. I've made it my goal to learn everything I can about collecting over the summer.  Maybe I'll become the world expert on it someday. I'm going to try to gather some of what I know and my thoughts about collecting here on my blog as I go along.

Here is my take on why we collect our children based on the Neufeld material.  I'm pretty sure I'm missing some key components, but here is my initial understanding:

Humans are creatures of attachment, and nobody wants to do anything for someone they're not attached to (sort of a built in safety valve to prevent coercion).  When we are given direction or instruction by someone we don't perceive as connected to us, we're likely to feel manipuated, resist and exhibit what Neufeld calls counterwill - either not doing or even doing the opposite of what is requested.

Secondly, if children aren't focused on us, they aren't focused on us. Especially when children are young and do not have mixed feelings (the brain develops the capacity for mixed feelings somewhere between 5-9 years old), they are unable to focus on more than one thing at time.  From van Gulden, the more important something is the harder it will be for any of us to focus on two things at once - try talking to my husband when he's concentrating on an interesting book. Its not that he's ignoring me but that his brain is so focused on the story coming from his eyes that it isn't relaying the information coming from his ears. And he's in his 40s, so consider the implications of trying to talk to a 10 year old reading an exciting comic book.  All this to say if we haven't collected our children's attention, they aren't focused on us and we'll get no further. Period.

Collecting a la Neufeld includes, at its core, the idea of warmth.  I can get my children's attention by coming into the room like thunder and demanding their attention, but I'm not likely to garner any goodwill (or cooperation) in the process.  When I come in and gather their attention in a friendly way, I increase our connection, demonstrate caring and increase the likelihood of cooperation.

How to collect-
(Neufeld actually does a lovely version of this on some of the videos which is the best way to get a sense of it, but here it is from my notes.)
- Get into their face in a friendly way, try to get their eyes (but don't ask or tell them to look at you). With older kids we need to intercept their attention by sharing in what they are attending to.
- Get a smile - say something pleasant or funny.  If no smile, then no connection, yet.
- Get a nod, agreement to something you say.
Don't proceed further until you have both the smile and the nod.

Neufeld's advice is to always collect before we direct - have our children's attention and hearts before we ask them to do something for us.  The times I do remember to get friendly with kids, find the smiles and the nods, things go much more smoothly.  Yes, it takes longer on the front end but I'm sure at the end of the day it is a big time and goodwill saver.

Interestingly, it isn't just children we collect - we all collect people every day.  In speaking more generally, Neufeld calls it the human courting instinct.  I've also seen it referred to as the dance of attachment several places. I notice people do this all the time at the bank, the grocery store, the quick hellos on the phone before a logistical conversation. Sometimes I think of it as social flirting, not really sexual or just heterosexually aimed, but a way to endear ourselves to the people we need before we make our requests of them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

May Paleo Update

Remember how I declared May Paleo month?

Half way through June, we're kind of there. I'm 98% off grains and sugar. I'm great for getting my proteins in.  I've started using coconut milk to substituted for lots of dairy, but I couldn't quite bring myself to let go of dairy.  I'm still occasionally using potatoes as an emergency alternative when faced with a restaurant full of grains, but at home I've substituted in parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes.

Veggie consumption increased significantly for most of us (certain 10 year old boys are the exception but I expected that).  Everyone has been trying new foods and Theo in particular is really opening to the idea of trying new things, being actually willing to consider let his taste buds decide about a food.

Results so far? My inflammation is way down, hay fever is totally manageable though not completely gone (thank the dairy, I figure) .  I feel less bloated after I eat, my hungry shaking and mood swings are gone. I've lost 12 pounds.

The kids aren't quite as clean - in order to keep the alarm and resistance down, I've not forbidden anything. So no grains or sugar at home, but when we're out they do eat some.  The trick then is to be prepared such that we don't need to eat out.  That has gone better some weeks than others.

Potatoes and dairy still have to go.  I plan to wait until after our trip to family camp at the end of July to remove them as I'm guessing there will be at least a few cafeteria meals where they will be my only options. At some point late in the summer, I am going to put the nix on grains and sugar for the kids.

All in all, I declare Paleo Month a success in the first step towards returning to our healthy lifestyle.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Mystery Revealed

The other day I posted a picture of our improved garage to see if you clever people could guess what my plans were for our summer.

The kids (and I) will spend time most days creeping and crawling, like puppies or alligators.  We do this in the name of neurological growth.  Rosie's really needing help with her neurological development to support her vision, hearing, emotional development and movement coordination.  Theo, as any of us, can always use a little brush up on his organization.

Years ago this was how we spent our days, working with Theo to resolve some rather large neurological issues.  Working shortly with the Institutes for the Advancement of Human Potential (yes, how posy is the name, but really pretty true to their mission) and then with the delightful team at the Family Hope Center, my goal was to set Theo up to thrive in his life rather than just teach him to cope with the challenges he might face.  Every 6-9 months we flew to Philadelphia, had Theo re-evaluated and came home to execute our newly tweaked programs.

By the time Theo was 7, I felt really good about where he was at.  With a huge sense of relief and freedom, we stopped doing programs and moved into really focusing on homeschooling and connecting with our new homeschool community.

Rosie trailed along with all we had done over the years. She spent her first week visiting FHC at 9 months and at 18 months announced in the bathrooms there, "No more diaper, Mommy, no more diaper" that marked the decisive moment of her potty training. Over the years, she tottled around the offices getting out toys and chatting up people as if she owned the place.  Starting from the first moments we held her, Bill and I sincerely and carefully applied all we had learned at IAHP's Better Baby classes to help create an environment of optimum neurological growth for her.  She spent time on the floor with Theo and I each day as we ticked off miles of creeping and crawling.  So I have always assumed she'd be neurologically clean.  But she is her own person with her own needs and challenges. While I did have Rosie evaluated when she was 4 by my friend Donna Bateman (now Parents With Purpose), who trained with FHC, I only put a half hearted effort into working on the few niggly things that showed up on the evaluation.

Now, at 7, I'm seeing that her neurologial organization is holding her back.  I had Donna look at her again in February, and it was clear to both of us that Rosie needed extra help. Honestly, though, I've been super reluctant.  Working with Theo was 5 years of serious focus, maybe harder than anything else I've ever done.  I want to have washed my hands of that phase of our lives.  But, my girl needs me and what I know and can do for her. A few weeks ago I finally faced the truth that full-on programs is what she needs, and it is time to get serious.

And you know it is serious when we clear out the garage and lay down the mats.

There is a silver lining in the clouds of miles of floor time (besides a healthy, thriving child as if that's not enough). Working with Theo over the years developed a deep bond of commitment, caring, fun and companionship that will forever inform who he is, how he is the world and who we are to each other.  I look forward to sharing that with them both, especially getting to put that level of focus on Rosie over the next few years.

The mats are down.  Feel free to come join us for some creeping and crawling, we'll be there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Current Mega Millions Jackpot

$76 million.  That's a lot quarters.

The crazy thing is, someone will win it.  Or more next week if there isn't a matching number this week. I just love that we live in a world with such wild possibility!

I even bought a ticket on the way home tonight.  Crazy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Restarting CrossFit

The healthiest I've ever been - in the best shape, had the most energy, felt the most strong and positive about my body, had zero hay fever, zero menstrual cramps, zero headaches or jaw aches - came after I'd started doing CrossFit workouts.

The crazy hormones stopped all intense workouts immediately.  It has been 3 years since I felt really good in my body.

Today, the kids and I started working with a trainer at CrossFit 206 who is certified in adult CrossFit training and CrossFit Kids.  I almost fell out of my chair with excitement when I discovered her. Having the 3 of us playing workout together covers all sorts of bases: I get my workout, the kids get some serious PE, Theo is working towards his goal of improved soccer skills, there is no need for childcare and we get to have a great time together.

We did bear crawls, hopping, duck walks, push ups, squats, rolls, and other fun and intense things.  It is the first time I've sweated from using my body in 3 years, and I didn't have to go straight home to a puking migraine.

Exciting stuff. I'm thrilled to see what sort of results we've gotten at the end of the summer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Comments Not Working?

I've gotten several emails from y'all saying the comments aren't working on my blog.  Blogger says it is a known issues and they're "working on it."

I wonder what that means.  Hopefully comments will be back up soon.  In the meantime, I love your emails.  Keep sending them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Mystery

Here's the foundation for our summer plans.

Bet you can't guess what I have planned.....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One Small Step

After writing yesterday about how nothing seemed to be working in our homeschooling and writing out everything that was not working, I did manage to make one small step forward.

Something I remembered doing during the late great homeschool phase that kept the kids moving along at their work and ease them past the resistance of whatever scary story they had about the task before them, something really simple.  So I put it into action with Theo, moments after pushing the "publish" button on my post.  I sat next to him and his 50 words of copy work, put my arm around his shoulder and said, "I know this seems hard.  I know you don't want to do it.  And I know you can do it, I trust in you." 10 minutes later it was done.

Not 10 minutes of me nagging and bitching and lecturing, but 10 minutes of sitting with my arm around his shoulder, drinking my tea and breathing deeply. At least the first 7 minutes were me faking that I was full of loving, supportive thoughts and was just so glad to be there with and for him.  Honestly, it would have been much easier for me, in the grumpy, piss-y, victim-y place where I was living in my mind, to piss and moan and blame him for everything. Amazingly I remembered to put on my big girl panties and be the Big Mama.  The last 3 minutes were pretty nice for me.

A few repeats of the warm, supportive connection and lo and behold, he had all his work done by noon. I celebrated by logging him onto his favorite computer game and going to take a nap.

Note to self (for the millionth time in the past 10 years of parenting): when things aren't working with my children we don't have a behavior problem, we have a relationship problem (thanks to Neufeld for the summarization of the situation).  The more I lean into the connection and get closer to my kids, the better any situation will go.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Off the Wagon

Homeschool these past few weeks sucks.

The kids whine and fuss and cry and refuse to do their work.  When I finally get them pointed in the right direction they stall or get so completely distracted they don't even remember their own names.


Two months ago, everything flowed easily.  They both got all their work down quickly and easily everyday.  We laughed and hugged and enjoyed easy afternoons together.

I know this is normal, the ups and downs of most everyone's homeschool experiences, but it still drives me crazy.  In the moments things are working, I think I should write this down and share what I think is making things groove so well.  Then I convince myself I would sound like a pompous braggart, so I don't. I hate those blog where homeschoolers present a family experience that works for everyone all the time mostly because I think they are hiding the whole truth. And I know how many struggling homeschool mamas take them as evidence that they suck at this, not that homeschooling with its highs of   connection, amazing education, freedom and necessary social coaching also suffers related lows.

Maybe I'll start with a post about what isn't working, and then someday when things are working again (deep breath), I'll allow myself to post about what helps our homeschool day go smoothly.

Here's what isn't working:
- everyone is perpetually hungry
- everyone claims to be perpetually tired
- I'm trying to alternate working with both kids in very close proximity and neither of them is listening to me
- the dog had oral surgery last week and Rosie has been pretty darn freaky since then
- Theo has decided he's just rather stall on doing his work until Sunday when we only require morning routine and one chore before he can play on the computer and read comic books
- the days of nice weather lure us outside and then the return to inside work is super painful
- I'm enticed by a million other things I'd like be doing and feel super resentful that my kids are drawing 2.5 hours worth of work into a full 8 hour ordeal
- I keep pointing out that my kids wouldn't be acting so poorly if they were at school right now
- Internally, I'm wondering if we won't really be better off if they WERE in school right now, even though I know to my toes that this isn't true for either of them
- I've been clearing out all our baby stuff I saved for the theoretical additional children we've decided not to adopt, and I've been pretty sad
- Rosie is what I would call super emergent right now - she is full of ideas and doesn't want to do anything anyone else tells her to do (read she screams at the hint of any assigned work, sigh)
- Theo resents doing all his work when Rosie isn't doing anything

Summer will be upon us soon - we just have this week's school work to finish and they I will more us to our short schedule (morning routine, chores, clean up, guitar, Theo does writing and Rosie does reading).  That all takes about an hour a day, so hopefully we'll get a break from all this frustration before  I try to figure out how I want to make our fall work.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finding Time

I'm suffering serious spring fever today.  Kids' classes are wrapping up, the weather is SUPER nice for  June in Seattle, I have little veggie sprouts growing in actual planter beds and the kids have been hunting bugs like there is no tomorrow.

As a homeschool family, we accomplished bunches this year.  Kids learned, I learned and we mostly had fun doing it. And.  I find I'm wanting more room for me.

Everyday I think about all the things I'd like to post on this blog - I love to write, I get so much out of needing to clarify my thoughts on a given subject and I so much enjoy sharing what I'm learning with others.

Deeper explorations into Neufeld material are calling me, and I'd like the time to study it more next year without having to sneak in 30 minutes here and there.

My life brims over with lovely people with whom I long to have long talks over several cups of tea. Plus, every afternoon presents a new opportunity to take a nap. I hate to miss out on a good nap.

All this to say I'm playing with the idea of doing homeschool very differently next year - not unschooling, that's too far outside my comfort zone and desires for our kids.  But something that creates more flow, that allows/requires the kids and I to sit next to each other and do our own "work" whatever that is.

Just an experiment - maybe from September to December - just to see what unfolds.  Serious mixed feelings means I'm super excited about the idea and completely terrified at the same time.  Part of my concerns stem from never having seen "this" done before (not really quite knowing what "this" is makes it all more worrisome) - I know what total unschooling looks like, I know what very structured lesson time looks like.  It's the in between that escapes me.

I can imagine in a few years this could work easily.  When Rosie is reading easily and is fired up about all those workbooks she's always fingering, also sporting a little more prefrontal cortex. Already, Theo already can probably pull off working fairly independently next to me most days.  Somehow managing and supporting the two of them, and standing between the bickering, seems to take up most of my time. I know they will mature with time and at some point my fantasy day will be probably be an easy reality. The problem is that I don't want to wait a couple of years - I want it now.

Let me know if you have any bright ideas. In the meantime, I'll be noodling over various ideas as I fuss over the new cucumber starts outside.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Deviled Yuck

For snack today, I made some truly horrible deviled eggs.

Part of the problem came from under cooking the duck eggs.  Theo and I are allergic to chicken eggs, so we use duck.  However, the duck eggs are much  bigger and take longer to cook.  Out of fear of over cooking them, I continually fail to cook them enough. So the yolks ran out of the centers where I sliced them.  This made for gooey texture in our filling.

The other problem, though, comes from the recipe.  I'm using one from an old Joy of Cooking, but I don't think I've ever liked it.

Anyone have a beloved deviled egg recipe they'd like to share and save us from continued nasty snacks?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Again With The Pans

We still haven't changed our cookware.  I'm back on-line trying to determine the safety of hard-anondized aluminum.  And of course, on the internet one can find a million sites to support both sides of a question.  One study says there is no leaching, another says HAA leaches about 7mg per ltr of liquid cooked.

And then there are whole conversations about whether or not it matters, that the correlation between Alzheimer's and aluminum has not been proven or supported by further research.

Out of sheer frustration, I may just end up with a kitchen full of cast-iron!

Friday, May 6, 2011

May is Paleo Month

After years of weird food choices driven by weird hormones, I'm desperate to return to habits of old.  Habits that really worked for my body - giving me lots of energy, eliminating seasonal allergies, inflammation all over my skeletal system and menstrual cramps, and slimming me down to a trim and easily buffed state. Habits that worked for our ancient forerunners

Thus I've declared the month of May to be Paleo Month in the Barnacle household. And by declared I mean I closed the door to the office and elicited Bill's cooperation, and the proceeded to eliminate food from the pantry, pull out beloved yet dusty recipes, borrow several cookbooks from the library and almost completely change the food I present at the table at meals, all without saying a word about it to the kids.

You may be asking yourself what Paleo is.  The long name is the Paleolithic Diet, a lifestyle modeled after our Paleolithic ancestors.  They were the folks who lived 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture.  Basically, we're going back to eating meat, veggies and fruit.  Fortunately we get to add in cooking and spices, healthy oils and some coconut milk and a few nuts for fun. As a lifestyle, this also includes getting plenty of sleep and a varied and a short but intense exercise regime.

I started us out May 1st, and promptly got a migraine that left me eating saltines and feeding the family pizza from the place around the corner.  Dang.

Still, we're now on day 6 and I'm noticing a huge difference in how my body feels and the children's behavior.  I feel lighter, less sluggish and my jeans were a bit easier to put on today.  The kids seems to be evening out emotionally some, and they aren't begging for snacks every 20 minutes.

Why didn't I update the kids? In my experience there is *nothing* like an announcement that food will be changing to elicit tons of anxiety and defiance about mealtime in my short people. Where as, if I don't mention it and tell and interesting story or joke as I bring food to the table, they fail to notice (or at least complain) about the lack of bread, pasta, cow dairy or dessert at the table.

In returning to healthy habits, I really, really didn't want to read through the 640 pages of Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories to re-inspire myself.  Fortunately, my hold for Robb Wolf's Paleo Solution came through in late-April (after about 9 months of waiting!).  His book is full of good information, encouragement, meal plans, recipes and CrossFit workouts. He offers a challenge to try Paleo for 30 days and then decide where to go from there.  I always love a good challenge, and it fits my longer-term plan with the family, so I'm in. Thus the May thing.

At the same time, I borrowed one of Mark Bittman's books, Kitchen Express.  While in no way meant to be Paleo or low carb, lots of the recipes are or can easily to adjusted to work.  And his recipes taste like they were created by a foodie who loves good flavor, along with being fast.

Finally, one of Wolf's associates, Sarah Fragoso, just came out with her own cookbook, Everyday Paleo. As the mother of 3 kids, she gets the challenges of feeding a family against the grain of the standard American diet (hahahaha did you get the pun?). Again another book with lots of warm, practical advice, meal plans and recipes.

Wolf and Fragoso both keep helpful and inspiring blogs - I've put them on my Google reader and find it helpful to check in every few days to keep me focused.

I'm fascinated to see how May goes and what my body (and the rest of my family's) is like at the end of 30 days.  I'll keep you posted.

How about the rest of you?  What "lifestyle" do you choose?  Any you don't follow but *know* work great for your body?  Any other crossfitters out there? How do you get back on the health wagon when you've fallen off for a long stretch?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Putting It All Together: Adoption, Race and Family

Pact Camp 2011 is coming!!!  I'm really excited (witness the number of exclamation points).  The line up of speakers is phenomenal: Mary Sheedy Kurcinka! Jae Ran Kim!  Holly van Gulden!  These are the rock stars of my world.

I hope you'll join us - as I always say, Pact Camp changes our family's life every year.  I'm so looking forward to what we learn and become this year.

Register here! Now! You won't regret it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Request: Warmth of Other Suns

Warmth of Other Suns comes highly recommended to me recently by someone I respect. So I've put it on hold at our public library.  Here is the message I got:

Hold requested on The Warmth of Other Suns. You are number 306 in line.

I hope the library considers getting second copy soon. I could die of old age by the time my turn comes around!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Husband Went to Texas

....and all he brought me was this stupid cold.

Yuck.  Bill got back from a business trip last Friday and I promptly fell to whatever nasty virus he carried home. I tried to stick it out Saturday and Sunday, but Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were couch days. Rosie joined me in my misery and together we watched PBS Nova videos and Cesar Milan episodes on Hulu between nose blowing, cough drops and cups of soothing teas.

Theo attended soccer camp for the first three days of the week, but he came home yesterday sneezing and blowing, a sure sign that his system is overcome.

Currently I'm at that awkward stage where nothing sounds good but I'm starving, my body aches for serious exercise from the stiffness of lying on the couch for 3 days (and 2 nights) but the 15 foot walk to the kitchen requires a 10 minute nap.

I spend 20 minutes trolling the web for more ideas of how to beat this virus.  Nothing I haven't thought of.  Here's my personal list:
- lots of ginger/lemon/honey tea
- lots of throat coat tea
- chicken broth soup (oddly the homemade bone broth made me retch, so I'm onto Pacific Natural Food broth)
- naps
- zinc
- herbal remedies for cold/flu and echinacea plus from Dr. Schultz
- tom kha gai soup from the local Thai restaurant
- baths with both epsom salts and sea salts

I suspect it will be a few days before I'm back to par.  Fortunately until then, PBS just posted a new series with Professor Henry Gates, Black In Latin America.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Can't Be Racist

Here's a fascinating post by JaeRan Kim about how people (I'm figuring really it is mostly white people) justify that they can't be prejudiced because they have a _______ friend.

It reminds me of my post a while back struggling with the word "friend."  And it brings to mind the challenge at Pact Camp every year - as white parents of children of color, who are we *really* friends with - who do we share dinner with, who do we worship with, who do we spend our leisure time with.

I really like JaeRan's point that we all grew up with and still carry prejudice.  What is important is what we choose to do about it.
We have our biases and our prejudices – the point is, when do we decide we are going to be responsible for what we say, and take ownership when what we say is based on stereotype and assumption? What do we do? Say, “I’m sorry you were offended” (which always blames the victim). Or do we say, “wow, I didn’t realize that what I said was offensive” and then take active steps to learn from that experience?
Taking stock of the reality of our relationships can be very challenging.  But really, isn't it worth it to look around and see who we're really telling ourselves and our children is worthy of our time, attention and love?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Old Prejudice

image from
can't find an attributable source for this

Earlier in the month, I posted about my frustrations with my jeans wearing too thin too quickly.  I blamed it on my extra weight, but in the comments section someone suggested it was the Gap brand quality and that I should try Levis.

Normally, I consider suggestions like that pretty seriously.  But without a second thought, I marched off to the Gap and bought 2 pairs of jeans.  I didn't consider looking at Levis, I didn't even try to figure out where there might be some I could try on.

This morning the reason why dawned on me.  Cowboys wear Levis, people from town don't.

Wow, is that an old and very random prejudice rattling around inside my brain that I had NO idea was there.  One along the lines of town people are much more sophisticated than kids from ranches, and sophisticated is of course, better. Shocking to me because both sides of my family are/were cowboys.  My mom still wears Levis (she also did barrel racing).  Assumably, being a town girl, I picked the idea up in high school where kids divided themselves into cliques and established odd rules to protect the order: cowboys, jocks, stoners, band/orchestra people, choir kids, activists.

Somehow to me, Levis became a marker of second class membership. Not like I was a model of sophstication or high social standing. I was in the band, for pete's sake. Reminds me of the star bellied sneeches. Maybe I'll go buy some Levis this week and clean some of the cobwebs out of the hinter regions of my brain.


The barrel racing clip is actually really great.  If you didn't click on it, you really ought to go back and look at it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Guess This Is For Real

Pulled out all the baby clothes for giving away on Friday.  Inventoried and offered to sell all my supplemental nursing gear and domperidone. I cried buckets of tears.

It looks like we're really moving onto the next stage of our lives.  The one without babies. I'm sure I'll be okay with it, but right now I'm sure feeling sad.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weight is Expensive

I'm about to order some jeans and several pairs of pants from Again.

When committing to take domperidone to induce lactation, I knew one of the associated side effects would be weight gain because I've seen it in myself and every other woman I know who used domperidone for a long time period. I anticipated the socially trained self-dislike that would come along with the extra padding and have spent plenty of time over the past 2.5 years channelling that energy into plenty of positive affirmations about being lovable at any weight and appreciation for my body's amazing ability to make milk to grow a baby.

What I had not anticipated, and find myself constantly frustrated by, is how expensive carrying extra weight around is.  Right now I'm totally fixated on how my weight dictates that I need to buy new pants every 3 months.  At my usual weight, I can wear a pair of jeans for 2 or 3 years because they're so durable. But add 50 pounds, maybe all to my thighs and derriere, and the amount of rubbing on the inner seams that comes from a day's activities means a trip to the Gap every 3 months because I've sprung another leak.

Maybe the only thing worse than yet again shelling out my husband's hard earned cash for more pants is walking through the day with the cubby bunnies that currently live on my thighs squeezing their way through the growing holes in my pants.

So I'm off to order more pants from, looking forward to the day the hormones have washed out of my body and I find my way back to my own, regular weight.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cute Math Interpretations

Homeschooling works in part for me because I so completely cherish being the one who receives my children's literal thinking.

Theo's doing math this morning.  Here's the question:
A pumpkin weights 8 lbs.
An apple weighs 4 oz.
What is the difference in their weight?

His answer: one is measured in pounds, the other in ounces.

Tee hee.  Smart, right, and not what the writers of the book were looking for at all.