Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Recycling (sort of) Crayons

This was one of those projects that I have been meaning to do but just haven't gotten to it.  Wallah!  Melting crayons...recycling crayons...making an unnecessary it what you will.  My children started out interested.  That is, until I sat down with a bucket of crayons and started peeling wrappers off the crayon nubs.  They went back to watching Toy Story 2.  They came back.  They always do.  ...As soon as I opened the oven and put the crayons in.  I turned on the interior light and they stood there and watched for a good 2 minutes...until they saw that nothing was happening.  I put the crayons in at 200 degrees.  I checked on them every ten minutes or so...
I was hypothesizing that they'd be done within fifteen minutes.  Boy, was I wrong.  Here they are at fifteen minutes...

And here they are after 45 minutes!  They finally melted...phew.  They were really very pretty with all the different shades swirling around one another.  All in their monochromatic loveliness.  *sigh*
And here is the finished product.  The only silicone mold I had was hearts.  My oldest is weirded out that they're hearts. He wants skulls, of course.   I think they're pretty.  They've already been bitten, tossed across the room and slammed into the table.  They're still beautiful. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Other Life

Not only am I a homeschooling stay-at-home mom, I am now a doula.  I don't know if I qualify as a SAHM now.  Oh, I also got a seasonal job at a local apple orchard.  How fun!  I will be pointing you in the direction of the best pie-apples there are, and yelling at you for climbing trees and sneaking apples in your backpack...Yeah, I see YOU!

I had a hard time deciding whether or not to create a website for my doula business.  Instead, I decided to blog.  It's more informative than it is a leisure sort of blog.  At least it is right now.  It's still in the works and I'm posting 3-8 posts a day.  Whew!  It's hard work.  There's so much information out there and I want to make sure I get it all, or at least a good representation of what is out there. 

Since I'll be a doula to those in my geographical area, I decided to entitle my business/blog so.  The content relates to my locale as well. 

Having birth become a business is a little strange for me.  My children have been great during this transition from SAHM to business woman...?  I wouldn't call myself that just yet.  Although, I do have a vision...

I watched a homebirth video a few weeks back.  The kids came and wanted to see what I was watching.  I let them.  Eli asked if that's how he came out of my belly.  Then he said, "Didn't that hurt?"  You betcha, kid. 
My children are not scarred for life.  They are fine.  And they really know how babies come out.  They had visions of a doctor taking babies out of their mommy's belly button.  I'm thinking it was along the same lines as Casper the Friendly Ghost going through a keyhole. 

If you get a chance, check out the new blog, leave a comment and follow me.  I didn't say stalk me...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where Our Food Comes From

We buy our meat from a meat CSA - Community Supported Agriculture. 
Chestnut Farm in Hardwick, MA is such a beautiful farm.  They are not organic, but they are as organic as they can be without being officially certified as such.  They state on their website, which I thought was very interesting, is that being certified organic simply means that the feed for the animals is organic.  It has nothing to do with their living conditions.  It really makes me rethink buying certain things that say organic on them.  I'm glad I buy from the CSA. 

Once a month we make the trip out to the farm.  The kids don't like the long ride, but once we get there they don't want to leave.  We have seen 3-day-old piglets squealing for a spot next to their mama.  We have watched a grown mama pig in distress being assisted by the farmers.  My boys have sprayed down the pigs to keep them cool.  They have held turkeys and chickens.  We see the cows that will be turned into our Summertime burgers.  The cows have acres and acres of pasture to graze and roam on. 
The farm also raises goats, sheep and chickens.  They have Thanksgiving turkeys on deck for, um, Thanksgiving.  I have to say that Chestnut Farm's hot dogs are the best things I've ever had.  No lie.  I just received a package of bacon and I'm really, really excited to try it.  I have not had their bacon yet. 

The boys love visiting the farm and seeing all the animals.  I love that they know where their food comes from.  "See that cow, that'll be dinner next month."  When we go to the grocery store they'll say, "So, that's pork...that comes from a pig.  They kill the pig and cut the pork chop out."  You betcha. 

I am so conditioned to nicely cut, boneless pieces of meat on a Styrofoam tray covered in plastic wrap.  It's still hard for me to eat chicken that looks like it came from an animal.  I'm trying.  My boys, however, have no problem gnawing the meat off a rib. 

Our chickens have not started laying eggs yet, but they should be doing so soon.  We lost another chicken...down to six from nine.  One was played with a little too much, one was taken by something and the last was hit by a car...yes, I've already made several "why did the chicken cross the road" jokes. 

Right now we get our milk and eggs from a local farmer.  We started drinking raw milk.  There are risks with raw milk, just like there is with pasteurized milk.  We are able to reap the benefits of bluish-green Auraucana eggs.  They are large and beautifully delicious.  The local farm is delightful with their little orange kitten who sits in the middle of the road waiting to greet all that come to visit.  The cows, chickens and conditions are completely visible to those who come by.  The "store" is one of trust.  It's always open.  One walks in, helps herself to milk, eggs, butter and/or honey and puts the money into a slot in a lock-box on the wall.  On your honor.  I love it.  My boys get to see that people are trusting.  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I went ahead and bought a notebook specific for a child to journal in.  I grapple with buying "schooly" things, but I've decided to stop being so critical of myself.  So, I introduced the journal to Eli and said, "This is a journal.  At the end of each day we'll sit down and you can draw and write about what happened."  He was pretty excited about it.  Some kids really don't respond well to things like this, especially being so young.  He was thrilled.  This validated the decision.  I wanted Eli to journal for a few reasons.  The first being to expand his drawing/imaginative skills.  He does a lot of drawing with the husband.  He draws swords, guns, blood, monsters, vampires, etc.  I wanted him to know that there are other things to draw and that he can draw them.  I, in a bit of selfishness, also wanted to see my little boy draw things that are not a mirror image of what his father draws. 
The second reason being that I wanted him to practice his letters and spelling.  He keeps asking me when we're going to do "school work".  Here you go, kid. 
Lastly, journaling can help to reduce stress.  I started journaling in the 7th or 8th grade.  I kept a journal for many years.  I have since stopped...but I suppose blogging is my new journal.  Journaling is therapeutic.  You can revisit your day or your emotions with a calmer mind, both while writing and then later on...days, months or years, even.  Journaling can help kids with focusing issues.  Writing down one's thoughts is typically thought of as a girl's activity - the diary.  I would like my boys to know that it's okay to have feelings and to deal with them in a positive, proactive way. 

Amazon has this really cute journal for kids, although, a homemade journal created with construction paper would work just as nicely, if not better. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bows and Arrows

I let my kids play with knives. Actually, I have to walk away from them playing with knives. The husband lets the kids play with knives. Jack knives to be exact. He has sat with both of them and taught them how to carve sticks into pointed weapons. It started this Spring. They have each cut their fingers once. In addition to the battery of pointed sticks strewn across our yard, we now have bows and arrows. One day I went out alone. I came back to several bows constructed out of sticks. And arrows. Small pointed sticks. So, now we have large pointed sticks and small pointed sticks. All over the place. Not only can they be accompanied by a bow, but they can be turned into Wolverine claws with the help of painter's tape. By the way, painter's tape is fabulous. It sticks to everything and yet, nothing. I can wrap the kids up in it, and yes, I have, and it comes right off.  They use the tape to tape their drawings or paintings to the walls, furniture, what have you.  It comes right off.  And it's blue.  What more could you ask for?
I started out my parenting years as vehemently opposed to weapons for my precious little one.  When he was a year old he picked up a stick, pointed it at the husband and made a little-kid-shooting-something sound.  He had never seen a gun.  He was never exposed to violent media.  Of course, he wasn't imitating a gun, but something innate in my little boy made him point something at someone else and make a sound.  That was the end of my "no weapons" philosophy.  Then I read a PBS article where the psychology of violent acting was spoken about.  It pretty much said that if you make boys, especially boys, feel bad about their innate desire to be violent then it will later manifest it's way into something else.  Boys are naturally physical and aggressive.  They need that outlet.  To tell them that what they are feeling or experiencing is bad or wrong sends a very confusing message.  You are basically telling them that they are bad for having those natural feelings. 

I have found that when you take the time to teach a child something like stick carving, they take the time to really focus.  You're giving that child a huge responsibility and trusting them to be careful.  My children have thrived on that.  They are like any other kid...jumping off couches and tables, screaming at the top of their lungs and hitting, kicking and smothering one another whenever possible.  Something happens, though, when being trusted with their father's "stick-carving knives", as they call them.  They turn into little serious men. 
Give your children a chance to really show themselves what they are capable of.  Trust that your children will rise to the occasion.  Of course, I am not advocating to all parents to give their children knives.  Just, when you're doubting your child's ability to go above and beyond, remember that you'll never know if they can do something unless given the opportunity.  More than likely, they'll surprise the heck out of you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Make a Rainbow...

I find it interesting what my children retain from watching television. My kids watch PBS and borrowed videos from the library. On occasion, we'll get them a movie from Redbox or Netflix. Today, after watching something (am I terrible to not have any idea what show it was?), I think it was a segment in between shows, Eli approached me with a list of items he needed. "Mom, I need some white paper, a glass with some water in it and a flashlight." Okay, MacGyver. What in the world are you doing? "I saw it on TV, mom. I want to make a rainbow." Okay, let's do it.

I have an inkling of what he's talking about, but I was still reeling from his interest in trying out this experiment.
I got a few sheets of white printer paper. I grabbed one of the newly excavated glass jars we found in the back yard today and filled it with water. Then, I found the flashlight. All set. It took a minute to figure out how to find the rainbow. At first, I had the sheets all laid out. There was nothing. Then I put a sheet of paper as a backdrop and it seemed to have an effect. We had to shine the flashlight from the top of the water level and aim down in order to achieve a rainbow. How very cool.
Now, why does it do this? I found my answer in an issue of Turtle Magazine. I tried to find it on PBS, but there were entirely too many listings for me to flip through. The folks at Turtle say, "When you shine a flashlight beam through the glass of water, the light is refracted, or bent. when white light is refracted it creates a color spectrum - the colors you see in the rainbow. So white light is really a mixture of many colors! In 1666, a scientist names Issac Newton made this discovery by using a piece of glass called a prism to split a beam of sunlight, creating a color spectrum. The same thing happens when you see a rainbow in the sky. Raindrops act like tiny prisms to split the sunlight into different colors."

Peaches For Me

I love picking fruit. I am super excited to go blueberry picking tomorrow with my mom at Tougas Farm. I went peach picking last Friday with my two youngest children. Of course, picking a peck of peaches takes all of five minutes. At eighteen dollars a peck, it might be considered a bit pricey. It's completely worth it, though. The husband came home from work and said, "I had a couple of those peaches...Oh, my! I cut them in half, bit into one and juice went flying everywhere." There. That's all I need. And Silas will sit and eat a whole peach. The peaches are sweet, soft and juicy. They cannot compare to the hard and tart peaches at the grocery store. My father said, "Blueberries at the grocery market are fifty cents cheaper per pint!" Right. But there is nothing like getting into a blueberry bush trying to find the plumpest berries before someone else does. There is nothing like the feeling of foraging for your own food. Well, it's not really foraging...but there are definitely moments when it can feel like it.

My mother has blackberries in her backyard. We picked about two quarts yesterday. I got stuck by prickers and thorns. I had weird bugs land in my hair. Still worth it.
A friend of mine gave me a recipe for a Swedish Apple Pie where she replaces the apples with peaches, pears or even berries. I used this recipe and made a delightful Blackberry Peach Pie.

I used a deep-dish glass pie plate. I peeled and sliced a zillion peaches. They were super juicy and slipping out of my hands. The skins came right off. I tossed in a total of about a cup of blackberries. In a bowl, I mixed together 1 1/2 sticks of homemade butter, 1 cup white whole wheat flour, 1 cup demerara sugar, and one blueish-green Araucana pastured egg. I dumped the mixture over the fruit and baked at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. It probably could have used another five minutes. Also, since the fruit was so super juicy, I should have added some flour or cornstarch to the fruit to help congeal all the juices. I actually dumped out some of the juice from the pie. It still tastes so yummy.

I was going to can the peaches, but I don't know if I'm ready for all that. And now I've only enough peaches for another pie...or snacks. Although, I could get another peck tomorrow...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

At Home For The Summer

It's certainly has been one lazy Summer! We were hit, with what I thought was, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Turns out, it wasn't. However, while waiting we quarantined ourselves for a little over a week. I got used to not going anywhere, so we did not venture out for what seemed like a really long time. It was nice. I got into the routine of having to take the kids out; feeling as though they would be missing out if they were home too much. Forget that! We have worked in the yard and garden. They have had time to really enjoy their Summer exploring the yard and really playing with one another. The imaginative games they have created are nothing short of amazing. The bond they have strengthened really makes me all warm and squishy.

There has still been plenty of learning, for those who are worried. The never ending questions barraging me all day long has not ceased at all. If anything, they have increased. Eli is famous for his "What if..." questions. "What if purple was murple?" "What if you pooped through your belly button?" What if my name was Odin and Odin's name was Eli?" "What if all the letters in the alphabet were upside-down?"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Learning to Read

As someone who is new to unschooling and a veteran of the public school system, and I use 'veteran' rather than 'alumni' because it could be paralleled to warfare on some level, I am finding it difficult to just sit back and let the process of reading "just happen". I read to my children daily. My children are exposed to the written and spoken word a lot. We are well-known at the library. There are books strewn across every floor in our home.
I watch my oldest carefully. He has great letter and sound recognition. He can spell a few words and can guess how to spell others by sounding them out. I know he's "right there" and it's really difficult to just sit back. The teacher in me, the veteran in me and the "enough already" mother in me wants to sit him down at the table and teach that boy to read! Plus, he has really good penmanship for a four-year-old. It's actually a little unnerving that he takes that much care in his penmanship...

Then I look at my middle child. He's almost three. He can also sound out the letters in words, although not always in the correct order. He can write some letters, too. He writes the letter M like a sideways E. It really is terribly cute. I have not done any formal instruction with him. I did with Eli a bit before I knew what unschooling was. But, Odin...he's completely unschooled...and thriving in it. It's really amazing to see.

I feel like I'm holding my breath when it comes to my children reading. I know they are learning...and yes, they are still very young. On this unschooling path I am still unsure and waiting I am waiting for a concrete sign that Yes! this is what I am supposed to be doing. I have done my research and talked to those who unschool and have unschooled for the life of their children. I know it is the path for me and my family. And still, I waiver...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Things I Have Learned Recently...

Our camera is broken. Until I get a new one, my posts will be few and far between... I feel like I need photographic evidence in order to productively post.

I have obtained some very cool bits of knowledge as of late. Cool to me, that is.

1. Caffeine leaves the tea bag after about 20 seconds of steeping. If you dump out the steeped tea and then re-steep in new water, you'll have virtually caffeine free tea.
2. Gluten is my enemy.

3. Goats sleep on their own feces for warmth.

4. My boys really are best friends.

5. Veggies from the Brassica family are iron-depleting raw. They should also not be given to goats.

6. Sauteed Arugula with olive oil and garlic, plus a dash of salt, pepper and tsp of brown sugar plus sauteed avocado is delicious.

7. I am a terrible belly dancer. Or maybe it's just that my confidence in myself has waned.

8. The jingly wrap with the coins I wear during belly dancing is fun. *shimmy, shimmy*

9. It should be that all homeschoolers are united, but they are not. Even school-at-homer's don't understand unschooling.

10. Tax issues in the town are very confusing to me. (I've never cared about such things until's mind-boggling)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"I won't be your best friend anymore!"

...screams my oldest to the middle child. Then he proceeds to yell, "And if you try to make me play with you, I won't!" Seven minutes later they were best friends again.
My sons love one another. They truly are each other's best friend. I can honestly say that and believe it. Having three boys, I'm curious to find out what will happen once the youngest becomes in the mix. Right now he's simply "the baby". I wonder if the bond between Eli and Odin will be replaced by a bond between Silas and Eli, or Odin and Silas, or if Silas is doomed to be the loner child...

I remember how Eli changed when we brought Odin home. We saw sides of the beautifully gentle child we once knew change into someone we had to remind to have "gentle hands" with his brother. We had to remind him that the infant reclining seat was NOT a catapult. I remember when Eli began slapping me in the face and growling. His little world changed. Now he is best friends with the baby that interrupted his peace. Silas's arrival didn't interrupt their peace so much...they have one another. They, as a team, have had to share attention.

I hope they somehow find a way to meld together and form an unique bond between the three of them.

Maybe we'll just have to have another baby...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Herbal Infusions and Vinegars

How fun! I went back to Deb Fate-Mental today. I had the chance to consume a variety of herbal infusions: Red Clover, Stinging Nettle, Rosehip and Oatstraw. The Rosehip infusion was sweeter than the rest, and a bit thicker. The Oatstraw was nice and light. The Red Clover was a nice unsweetened tea. The Stinging Nettle sat with me weird, that is until Deb said it would go well in a Miso. Yup, that's it. I immediately thought, "Salt and the beach."

We went out into the garden and cut some Comfrey. We brought it back inside and made a nice vinegar with it. The vinegar needs to sit for 6 weeks before use. Fresh herbs can be used in the vinegars while dried ones are used for the infusions. I'll be heading outside to pick some sage to start on my sage vinegar. I see gifting herbal vinegars in my future...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why Are We Still Cutting Our Sons?

All three of my boys are circumcised. I'm sure they'll thank me years from now for letting the world in on this. Don't circumcise your son. Please, don't.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, in 1999, published an article in AAP News that simply states that there is not enough evidence to warrant routine circumcision. I had my first son in 2005... I'm not shirking responsibility for mutilating my sons, however, if the AAP published this, why is it taking so incredibly long for it to become illegal? Why was I even given the choice? Like many people, we were on the side of "he should look like daddy." The argument when something like this: "Why???" "Because I want him to look like me." "Why???" Icy glares...for months this went on. I finally stopped talking about it. The day after my son's birth the nurse came in and asked us if we wanted him circumcised. I turned to my husband and said, "it's your call." He made it. I figured after the sight of the freshly mutilated penis would prevent him from requesting to have it done to the rest of our boys. Nope. I could have fought more. I pretty much win every argument we get into...or just fight until he gives up. I am not really sure why I didn't this time. I think maybe I wanted to give my husband a voice. I just about chose the names of our children. I got to carry the children, choose their clothes, paint the rooms, etc. I had my hand in everything. And while that's a given, the husband may or may not really care about those things. What the father-to-be does care about is the potential manhood of his sons. So, why would one want to suggest to mutilate it? Cosmetic reasons? Seriously...are we even going to go there? Cleanliness? Assuming we are competent parents, our children will learn how to wash themselves. Infections? Same thing.
Lastly, "On November 19, 1987 Anand and Hickey published a comprehensive study of infant pain in the New England Journal of Medicine. Not surprisingly much of the data came from infants undergoing circumcision. The study states that babies do feel severe pain from this procedure, in fact more than older children and adults would. The study recommends anesthesia and pain management for circumcisions, but these recommendations have not been widely implemented due to the added risks. The report also mentions (p. 1324) that even when anesthesia is attempted, it is not always successful."
We are the only country in the entire world that offers routine circumcision. We, as a nation, claim to be leading the way...
Female circumcision is a horrible crime that is almost unheard of in the United States, unless it's on Oprah or The Tyra Banks Show. I found this article about female circumcision in Indonesia. As horrific as bringing your small child into a school room on a special circumcision day complete with gifts and milk, what I found more disturbing was one of the discussion comments afterward. One woman is horrified at the circumcision of these girls, but plans on circumcising her sons. She asks if that's hypocritical and then adamantly states that she does not want to be present during the circumcision.
I have no more words...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Letting things bloom...

As a relatively new homeowner, I have decided to let more of the unknown grow and bloom. I learned my lesson after ripping up peonies without knowing what amazingly beautiful flowers would bloom. I simply cleared a plot and started a garden. This year I am enjoying the peonies. And some strange little purple flowers. I have no idea what these little lovelies are.

One single stalk of a pink flower rose up, bloomed and remained. I keep looking for some more, but there aren't any. Strange.

I took an herb class the other day. It was amazing. I've known that dandelions are edible, but I was not aware of how nutritious they are! After the class I ran home and started walking around the yard in search of yummy weeds/herbs. I found Wood Sorrel, Dandelion and Stinging Nettle. Wood Sorrel looks a little like clover. It has groups of three leaves in a shamrockish shape. The leaves are a much lighter green. And they are accompanied by dainty yellow flowers. And they taste like lemon. My sons keep calling them "the lemon". The dandelion in my yard has been left open to be defecated upon by our goats. I will not be harvesting those. However, I will be on the lookout for friends with untreated lawns with dandelions that I can dig up and plant in the fabulous weed garden bed I have plans for. Dandelion, as stated by Deborah Fate-Mental, is the one weed that you should eat, if you were to only eat one. "They have a ton of vitamins and minerals. They are safe to use as a diuretic because of the amount of potassium in them. Dandelions are good for eczema, adult acne and very dry skin. It is also an excellent liver tonic. A toned liver can clear toxins out of your body much more efficiently, making you feel better and have more energy." (Spring Tonics, Weeds to Nourish Your Body by Deborah Fate-Mental, 2009) It is also reported that Dandelion may encourage good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol levels. It also may aid in normalizing blood sugar levels. Studies need to be further continued and studied.

Stinging Nettle is an interesting plant. There are these little burrs on the leaves and stem. It is also a diuretic, but does not contain as much potassium as Dandelion. The Stinging Nettle can cause an allergic reaction, or rash, if stung by the burrs. Once cooked, the burrs do not pose a problem. Leaves should be harvested while the plant is young. Stinging Nettle has been used to reduce joint pain. Pregnant women, it is advised, should not take Stinging Nettle prior to 37 weeks.

I love that I can just walk out into my garden and show my children the wonders of food. I love even more that they'll learn the amazing qualities and flavors of naturally occurring plants. Hopefully, they'll come to understand that even the most seemingly unsightly blemish in a manicured lawn could be a delightful accompaniment in a salad or the medicinal remedy to a boo boo.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I happened to stop by Ocean State Job Lot last night. I wanted AA batteries and I didn't want to pay a lot for them, seeing as we go through them like pairs of little boy socks. I meandered down the book aisle, not really expecting to see anything I liked. I was wrong. I found a very cool, very cheap book. Dragonology Tracking and Taming Dragons Volume 1: A Deluxe Book and Model Set. I honestly did not even realize that the book came with, well, a book. I saw that there was a model and I was sold. Even better, the price...$2.99.

The boys loved the models. It occupied a good forty-five minutes of time tonight...which is a HUGE after-dinner chunk of time. The book mentions dragon skat...a.k.a. poop. And there are pictures of the poop, in black and white, but it was enough to get my boys interested.

Odin pretended the dragon wings were his own. He pretended that the dragon only had one wing and kept crashing the dragon because it now could not fly. Then, he pretended the dragon was pooping. I'll never think of this song the same..."Skit, skat, skoodle doot, flip, flop, flee!"
Next week we're going to see How to Train Your Dragon, hopefully. We've perused a few easy readers from the movie. We've eaten at a fast-food chain (yes, I know...) that advertised the toys. I'm hoping that one day they'll be into dragons, like the ones in this book. For my sake. I love dragons. I'd love to learn more about dragons. I'd love to play Dungeons and Dragons with them. Yes...I like D & D...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Skippyjon Jones

We love Skippyjon Jones. I can't say it enough. We. Love. Skippito Friskito the Great Swordfighter. My kids love the adventures Skippyjon goes on. He runs into mummys, dinosaurs and aliens...all in the safety of his closet with the use
of his imagination. Skippyjon is a cat who pretends he's a dog...a chihuahua. When he is a dog, his name is Skippito Friskito...and you have to say it in a Spanish accent. He speaks partly in English and partly in
Spanish. It's enough to get my four-year-old asking what the Spanish words mean. The other day he asked me "Por que, mama?" Of course, I have to read the stories with a variety of voices. The books come with an audio CD, so it's easy to semi-mimic the voices Judy Schachner uses. Mama Junebug Jones is Southern. Well, she has a Southern accent anyway. Skippyjon writes on his bedroom kids would like to know when they can write on theirs...
I was able to acquire a Skippyjon Jones teaching packet via a site I belonged to, The Mailbox. However, you can download the same packet and print it out on your handy dandy computer at home, office or wherever you print stuff out. I actually scared my four-year-old with the mask into tears. I walked around the corner with the mask on and he looked up and screamed bloody murder. I started to laugh until the tears came. Warning: mask can cause screams and tears. We read Skippyjon almost every night. We quote the books all the time. We play with the stuffed animal character. My children speak a little Spanish. We're all having a good time. Thank you, Judy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Telling Time

Eli, who is four and the ever-so-important-half, has expressed an interest in time. He showed interest a year or so ago, but I thought it was important that he could count to sixty and understand what he was looking at. Today I brought out a broken clock I had been saving for quite some time. The clock itself was about $7 at Walmart. I'm sure you could find something super duper cheapo at a Salvation Army, flea market or yard, garage or tag sale.

My boys are very tactile learners. They love anything hands-on. Knowing this, we started out by taking apart the clock. I had lost the screw that kept the hands together and the battery pack. We took the plastic cover off. I also found an old drawer pull that could serve as the piece that kept the hands together. I had to make a couple adjustments and make the hole in one of the hands bigger and it was done. We talked about the minute, second and hour hands. I had the boys touch the numbers and count the hours and seconds. They held the different parts in their hands and pretended to tell time themselves.

I then made a copy of the face of the clock by simply tracing it onto construction, Eli's favorite. I omitted numbers. This is so we could go back and talk about what numbers belong. I made one with the numbers in the incorrect places. I made one with just marks instead of numbers. We have a working clock on our kitchen wall with Roman Numerals, so I thought interpreting the spaces would be useful. We'll cover Roman Numerals on a different day.
Today's talk about time and the clock ended after they played with the different parts. Then we were off to play Chutes and Ladders.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summarizing May

I haven't posted in awhile for two reasons. One, I have been busy enjoying the lovely weather. Two, I have been torn between several different topics. I want to post something with researched quotes and articles. I want to post things we've done in our daily lives. I want to post really personal information. Today it's raining. I haven't had time to research. My kitchen light is out and I haven't the time to go to the store and search for the bulb which we haven't had to replace since we bought the house. I can't decide what in our daily lives is more post worthy. Well, personal information is personal, no matter how much I want to yell or scream or cry or be joyful about something.
So, here I am. I come bearing a synopsis of the past month, despite it being a week and a half from over.

I did a belly cast for my first doula client. She is an amazing woman with so many great strengths. This is her second child. She is so optimistic and open to anything to create a beautiful and safe atmosphere for the arrival of her baby. This was also my first hand at casting. It came out beautiful. She has yet to sand it. When all is said and done I will be capturing it on film to post here, there and everywhere.

I am hosting a pick-up site for a somewhat local CSA. I am not buying a share, just hosting. The farmer keeps thanking me and saying he's sorry that he cannot offer me a share. I don't want a share. We have a garden. Plus, my boys would not eat that much produce a week...especially with the variety that is offered. I honestly do not know why me just offering my place as a pick-up site is such a big deal. They needed a site, I offered.

I organized a book publishing project for the homeschool group I associate with. This project was amazing. Children can create their own 12-page book online and have it printed in hard cover, soft cover or paperback. It's not actually published with an ISBN number or anything. But it's a great keepsake. And it was free. How amazing is that? Of course, I and some other parents ordered extra copies for posterity or gifts. It was really beautiful to see the children share their books with the other children and parents.

The boys and I hiked around Purgatory Chasm a couple weeks ago. I took not a single photo. Amazing. I did take plenty of pictures when we went hiking at Cochituate State Park. We decided to go there after attending a special book fair at Barnes and Noble sponsored by AHEM. A percentage of every sale went to support homeschooling. The boys chose Skippyjon Jones - the book with the character (a.k.a. stuffed animal)...each. The boys pronounce it "Skippyjonjon jones by judy shagner". The author is Judy Schachner and we love her. Well, we love Skippyjon Jones. What a great little Siamese cat who pretends he's a chihuahua with a Spanish accent. The best part is that the books come with an audio cd.

We made dye from daffodils. We built a chicken coop/run. We put the chickens outside. We got another goat. We lost the bunny. A chicken died. It's been a pretty crazy past few weeks.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Faux Fashion and Gender Roles

My son asked me to read a book with him while visiting my parent's home today. Sure thing, buddy. I can't recall the title...something along the lines of "Who Am I", but there hundreds of books with that title, so that does not do any good. The book had pictures of children dressed in the garb of certain professions. There was a statement each child said that led the reader closer to guessing what profession the character worked in. There was a firefighter, a doctor, an astronaut (which, as my 3-year-old pointed out, looked like a robot), and a set of parents. Now, there are, of course, stereotypical gender roles. This book, however, really stumped my son. The set of parents depicted the "mom" in high heeled shoes, baubly-looking jewelry and a large shiny purse. The "dad" was wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a flannel (I think). They were doting over a "baby" in a carriage. When I asked my son, "who are they?", he had no clue. I said they are parents...a mommy and a daddy. He looked at my face, then scanned me from head to toe. He got up and walked away. I took another glance at the picture. It was slightly ridiculous. I certainly have never worn red pumps and baubles. The husband certainly does not wear wide-brimmed hats.

Perhaps the picture would have been more effective if I had daughters. Maybe not.
My oldest already thinks that daddies work and mommas say home. Additionally, when I casually mentioned something about building the chicken coop he said, "I don't know any mommy's that build stuff, momma. Mommas don't do that kind of stuff." What?! Not my son saying these things. So, the husband built the coop's frame and I'm doing some of the other stuff like stapling the hardware cloth and nailing up the cedar planks. I'm simply not adept enough to cut angles with the table saw. However, I am capable of learning it and doing it. The husband is also a bit more on the "perfect" side...if everything isn't level and even, he won't be able to look at it. I would simply just slap the wood up there and call it a day...who needs a tape measure???

As a tomboy and a woman who has been called a feminist, I find it really interesting that I have fallen into the stereotypical woman's role. I am a mom and wife who cooks, cleans, does laundry and cares for the boys. I do, however, get to boast that I mow the lawn and the boys do refer to the lawnmower as, "your red lawnmower, momma." They are also fortunate to witness their father wash the dishes every night. Baby steps...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ants on My Peonies

When we moved in and decided we wanted a garden, I tilled the area. I did this without knowing what was underfoot. I did it before anything was discernible. Turns out I had mowed over a bunch of beautiful peonies. This year, I let them come up...seeing as they are perennial. However, they are now covered in ants. I was speaking to a friend about this and she recommended putting coffee grinds at the base to deter ants. Hmmm. So, not knowing much about peonies or ants, I did. Success! After doing some research, however, I have found conflicting conversation regarding the ants' presence on a peony. makes note that the ants could be beneficial in helping the buds to open. says that the buds will open whether in the presence of ants or not. No one seems to really know.
What have I learned? Coffee grounds deter ants. I should use them around the base of the house, perhaps. I should leave the peonies alone and let nature do it's thing. At least the ants might leave my kitchen alone while eating the sweet resin from the peonies.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gargoyle or Grotesque?

We have a little statue out in our yard. I think it was a contribution from the husband's premarital life. I have always called it a gargoyle. Eli asked what a gargoyle was. I stammered for a minute...I think I started making stuff up. I told him I actually didn't know and that I was indeed, making things up. We sauntered inside to check it out. We looked online and found out that a gargoyle is a waterspout used to divert water off of roof tops, a la gutter. A grotesque is that actual statue, not used as a spout. You learn something new everyday!

We decided to create gargoyles and grotesques out of clay. I thought maybe it was air-dry clay, but alas, it was not. *Mental note: buy some air-dry clay*
To accompany our gargoyle making, I found some clips from the old television show Gargoyles. The boys were mesmerized...
The kids promptly squished their creations upon completing them, so I was not able to capture them on film. The husband and I were very proud of ours and saved them for their photo shoot.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Putting new chicks in with the old...

First, I have to say that when I go to pick up my chicks, I love that they come in a little carrying box. It's the only time I've ever gotten chicken in a box and not eaten it shortly thereafter.

I read on that when mixing new chicks with older chicks that you may have to be careful. A friend of mine introduced me to "the pecking order". Chickens start pecking at one another to assert dominance. "They'll peck to determine who gets to eat first and where they can roost on the perch." If you place chicks or younger chickens with more established chickens, they may get pecked to death. Chickens are a beastly animal. They are drawn to blood. They will also pick on a sickly hen. Crazy birds!
I bought an extra feeder and waterer. I bought a container to keep the chicks in. I had planned on keeping the groups separate for a bit. When I got home I took a look at my birds and thought, "they'll be fine."
I took the advice I found on One contributor swore by putting the new chicks in with the existing crew while the crew was sleeping. Then, make a lot of noise. Chicks flock together when something is upsetting the roost. Well, my chicks sleep, but they are light sleepers. I could never get the door to the brooder open without them noticing...especially since the heat lamp is next to the door. I had to improvise. The brooder/old dog crate needed to be cleaned. I put the existing chicks in a box. I didn't open the box of new chicks. The brooder was cleaned. I then put the new chicks in first. I told the boys that once I put in the bigger chicks that we needed to make a lot of noise. They got ready. I put the other chicks in and then turned on the Dustbuster.
They boys started stomping around while playing their kazoos. They were hilarious. The chicks all scurried to the back of the brooder and stared at me. I swear they were thinking that I was crazy. Crazy me and my Dustbuster. Well, the didn't even really notice one another.

I poured two cups of food into the feeder. It's almost gone. The waterer is already filled with poop, a worm and pine chips. And I've noticed that the pecking has started. Some of the little Rhode Island Reds are feisty girls! They're two days old and they're fighting for their place under the lamp...pushing out the old girls. Odin is like Snow White with those chicks. He gently picks them up and places them on his shoulder. In the picture below he just got done saying, "Go on chickie. Jump down and go home."

For fun, we tossed in two worms. One got lifted and swung right into the waterer. The birds lost interest. The other, however, was snatched up by one little chick. An Ameraucana. She fought for that worm with an older chick and then jumped right out of the brooder with her fair share! It was a great fight and my boys were loving it.
The Champ

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Right Teacher...

Sometimes it's hard to get into conversations with my friends who have children in school. I don't run around and try to push homeschooling on people. There are times, though, when someone says something about a situation that leads me to say aloud, "And that is one of the reasons why I homeschool!" Oops. Mixed company. I'm not going to get any validation here.

One of those instances happened tonight. A woman was talking about how her son was labeled "unable to learn" and put in a corner, essentially, in his first grade class. The teacher was older and simply decided not to include him. The parents were made to go through IEP's and meetings upon meetings regarding their son. They were told that he is unable to learn and a disruption to the class. Ha! Turns out he's gifted... no kidding.

I piped up and said, "And that's one reason why I choose to homeschool!" I have boys. Energetic boys. Boys I believe are truly gifted. (Others have said it to, so it's not just me being a mom... ) My boys are off-the-wall energetic...even after hiking all day at Purgatory Chasm. Off. The. Wall. I can see them being pigeon-holed into that "unable to learn" category. Or labeled as ADHD because they can't sit down for an hour and focus.

One mom, whom I love very dearly, said, "It's not always like that, if you get the right teacher."

Hmm. The RIGHT teacher? What if you get the wrong teacher? All the way through school? Should sending your child to school be a gamble? Just hope for the best, kid!

I didn't want to get into an argument. I know she didn't mean it like that. She was thinking in a more positive light. But the fact of the matter is, there are those who label and pigeon-hole before really investigating and delving deeper. And yes, it does make me sad that it is a gamble. I remember the "good" teachers, those who were unable to reach everyone, and those who were unable to reach anyone. There were teachers I loved. Those same teachers were hated by others. And that's the gamble. Not every teaching style is a match for every student. A truly dynamic teacher would be able to figure out how to teach each and every student in class, and actually do it. With 20 plus students that is nearly impossible. I learned from the teachers who matched my learning style. As a teacher, I was able to teach those who matched my teaching style. There were simply those who I did not get along with. And, by "get along with", I mean our personalities clashed. There was much resistance. And in the end, a co-teacher was put in, and I was okay with that. I think that is a big part of it, too. Teachers are expected to be able to handle their class. If you can't handle them, then you're failing at your job. I think it's more important to be able to ask for help. "I need help with this child!" Not just separate him from the rest and stick him in the corner.

He was not allowed to participate in circle time. How sad. What message does that send to everyone in that room?

Monday, April 5, 2010


Adding to our brood...we now are three chicks larger. Three cute and fuzzy little yellow chicks. They have actually started to develop feathers. My boys (the husband included) have named the chicks Grampa, Grampa and Elvira.

Some interesting things I have learned while being a chick owner for less than a week:

  • Chicks can slip on shiny newspaper (like the coupon inserts).

  • Chicks can get inky from newspaper

  • Chicks poop. A. Lot.

  • Chicks can get a pasted bum...their poop builds up and you have to wipe their bums to clear it off. (We have a crusty-bum chick right's getting to be a concern...)

  • Chicks poop in their food.

  • Chicks poop in their water.

  • Sometimes they peep really loudly.

  • Sometimes they are silent.

  • Chicks like to huddle together under the warmth of a light bulb.

  • They develop a pecking order.

  • They imprint the first person they see to be their mother. We got ours two days old...I wonder who they think their mommy is...

  • When newly hatched, you have to dip their beaks into the water so they know to drink.

  • They will poop on your shoulder.

  • They don't like being held upside down by their leg. Or wing.

  • In order to socialize them, or rather get them used to people, you need to hold them a couple times a day. You can't just talk to them. They are not great conversationalists, nor do they care about your day.

  • Chicks are not afraid of bunnies. And bunnies do not hunt chicks.

  • They actually care if another chick is outside their comfort zone...they chirp louder if alone and can see the other chick. It's hilarious.

  • The boys don't think it's funny to present the chicks in a bowl (while cleaning their cage) and telling them "it's what's for dinner". That's pork, right?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An Artist's Progression

I am a mommy. I am inclined, and certainly entitled, to brag about my kids. Here is one of my latest loves - Eli's art. The kid amazes me every day. Seriously. Every. Day.

Here is the family in 2008: We all have eyes and mouths and legs! These ones are so heart-warming. He was about to turn three when he drew this.

Here is the family in August 2009: (almost 4) This is actually a picture of Grandma and Grandpa. I'm not sure why one has a torso and the other doesn't. Not really sure why Grandma has a mohawk either...

Here is the family at the tail end of 2009: (age 4) Yay! We have torsos, arms and if we only had hands and feet...
Here is his skeleton on March 28, 2010: The boxy looking thing to the left of the skeleton is it's case he needs to bring something somewhere, I suppose. There wasn't really any elaboration on why the skeleton had a bag.Here is his skeleton today: (almost 4.5) The grey thing on top of the skeleton's head is a mouse. The mouse caused the crack in the skeleton's forehead. The gun is shooting fire.

The husband and I have talked about it. The kid is talented. No doubt. The question about art classes came up. How do we encourage this? How do we nurture this talent? We are. We're doing it. No classes. We want him to love what he's doing, not because we want him to love it, but because he really loves it. We would hate for him to look back and say, "I really loved drawing, and then I had all these classes and it just wasn't fun anymore." It's his own and he'll take it in which ever direction he chooses. Right now, like many young boys, he's into guns and skeletons. It's actually quite endearing...he thinks guns shoot fire. He does not understand what a gun really does. I'd like to keep this innocence for awhile, then we'll discuss in further detail.