Thursday, December 30, 2010

The post-Christmas rest period

I had big plans for this week, full of rearranging furniture, sorting piles of stuff, and making a new plan for my life. Simple stuff, you know. :) Instead I found myself knocked down by the flu for 3 days, and just having to rest. Luckily, the kids have been pretty happy about that, and have been very happy building the new lego sets, playing rediscovered Wii games, watching some Netflix, and making movies of their own.

The after-Christmas energy can sometimes seem melancholy and sad to me, but this year I find it peaceful.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You'll just do what you have to do


This is my mother, back around Thanksgiving when we went up to put up her Christmas tree with her.

Whenever I've doubted that I could get through something tough, whether it was a quarter in college where I took 20 credits while working full-time and playing the lead role in a community theater production, or the year that I had a little baby and was in graduate school while Noel was deployed to Iraq - my mom's advice was always that I could do it, that in fact everyone can do it, because "you just do what you have to do". Will I be able to take the pain of childbirth, mom? Yes - you won't have any choice anyway and you just keep going, doing what you have to do.

I used to think that this advice, this mindset, was incredibly unhelpful. I wanted to hear that there was some trick to it all. That there were shortcuts through the tough times, strategies that would make it all better, or at least that I was so special that somehow I would be different from everyone else.

Now, with some of those tough times under my belt, I understand what she means. It doesn't take any special strength to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, no special talents to look around and just do what needs to be done right now. You may not become rich and famous, or be a star in all you do, but you will do what you have to do. It is the same ethic that has served her family of mid-Western german-american farmers well for generations. One foot in front of another, and you'll get through it.

Now my mother faces a new challenge herself, as she got really sick right before Christmas and had to be hospitalized. She faces new health challenges, and more surgeries are ahead, and she's uninsured and lives below the poverty line. It's going to be tough times, the sort of times when you go without food and heat in order to pay hospital bills. But I know she'll get through it, because she'll just do what she has to do.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spreading some Christmas cheer


Yesterday was almost all about cookies. We had another play date, with a sweet little girl who bridges the age gap between Carbon and Hypatia and got them all playing together, and then I had to go and pull them away from that play with the offer to help make cookies. They also made cards, which Hypatia is holding here. I don't know why she wrote "Wagon Merry Christmas", but she very specifically asked me how to spell "wagon" while I was rolling out cookie dough, and then I wrote "Merry Christmas" on another sheet of paper for her to copy.

Making cookies with children is a process. It's more process than product, sometimes:


We sang carols as we worked, then we hopped in the car and took three plates of cookies to the homeless tent city, where the kids dropped off the cookies and the cards they had made. I don't know how much it mattered to the residents there, as they are a hard bunch to understand sometimes socially. The older lady who was spending part of her day volunteering there at the Host Desk was very happy to see the kids come in though, and she asked them all their names, how old they are, if they are ready for Christmas ,etc.

Later, after our friend had gone home, we also gave plates of cookies to our neighbors. The kids were excited to carry the cookies over themselves and ring the doorbells. It struck me how much I like to see them excited to Give this time of year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shop Main Street


Fight Sprawl; Shop Main Street. Buy Local. Support Local. All good slogans. :)

This holiday season, I was delighted to see that the local children's museum was offering a "Making Merry/Parents Drop and Shop" workshop, so we could drop off the kids to spend the afternoon making us gifts like handrolled candles and lavender pillows and we could go shopping together.

We took the kids to their day at the museum at 4pm, and then we headed the few blocks down to the main downtown shopping district. With one large canvas bag and a long list in our hands, we walked from store to store exploring and shopping and having fun.

We found something for everyone on our list, dropped the big bag (getting heavy by then) off in our car and then walked over to a restaurant for a lovely meal together.

I LOVED this, for these reasons:

1. We just scheduled time to do the shopping, so I didn't feel the need to tuck it in all over my schedule and I didn't worry about shopping any other time.

2. We did it together, without children in tow, making it much more fun. It was like a date.

3. Walking around downtown eliminated the driving and parking that gets so stressful this time of year. I hate how rude the drivers get before the holidays, so I was glad to avoid that.

4. The salespeople we encountered were nice, smiling, and seemingly not angry and stressed out. That is not true in the big stores right now!

5. The atmosphere was festive and fun, with decorative storefronts and lights up. The music that was played in the stores was fun and festive but not that horrible Mall Mix of holiday songs played like Muzac.

6. I was glad to know that I was supporting local businesses and a strong downtown core, instead of chain stores and urban sprawl.

In the end, we got almost everything for the holidays on this one shopping day. The only things that required mail-order or a run to the big-chain toy store on the other side of town were the Legos and Pokemon things, and the one little mini-American Girl Doll Hypatia is getting.

Three days to go to Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reusable Wrappings


The old rolls of wrapping paper and the plastic bows are on their way out. More and more folks are embracing the idea of reusable wrappings, whether they are recycled paper, paper gift bags, or fabric options.

There is an excellent post about this at One Small Change, and a good tutorial for fabric bags at Mama Chalk. If you are curious or interested in how to do reusable gift wrap, you should check them out.

As for me, however, I have this roll of paper. I've been on the reduce, reuse bandwagon for a long time, and so we've only used this paper for a few things each year. We bought this roll at Costco, as one of those economy rolls that has 500 feet on it or something crazy. And, get this, we bought this roll in 2001! This roll of paper has almost lasted a decade, and can I say how tired of snowflakes I am?

I'm kind of hoping this will be the year that we come to the end of the roll. We are giving several books as gifts, and homemade calendars, and a couple things in boxes, and I plan to wrap them all in this paper! I'm not going to use any recycled paper or children's art projects this year! I just want to get to the end of the roll ....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Celebrate the Winter Solstice

This year the winter solstice will coincide with a lunar eclipse of the Full Moon - truly something special for the longest night of the year. I know folks who are planning on sitting up and trying to see it over the water, and I've heard of others going on hikes in the dark or other special nature outings.

I don't know what we are going to do - my energy level is a bit low for coming up with anything beyond the candle-lighting ceremony my family does every year. But it's still nice just to note that the eclipse is happening, even if we don't get a chance to see it.

I wish one of these hikes was in Washington, but if you live elsewhere here are organized hikes listed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Today in church

I wish I had a picture to put at the top of this post, but I was far too busy to stop and photograph anything today. But what a day! It was the sort of day that made me so happy to be a religious educator.

It started off with a little nativity scene in the service, with children in costumes and poetry read from the book The Stable Rat, and other Christmas Poems by Julia Cunningham. One of the poems is about crows cawing a "hoarse Hosanna", and we had a family who all dressed up as crows for Halloween this year, come up and just be stand-out crows. They were wonderful. Then the sheep and shepherds came up, while our minister read a poem told from the point of view of a sheep - what is this all about? Why are the shepherds singing strange songs? Then Mary and Joseph came up. We had no little girls at the first service today, so I had to press my own daughter into service as Mary - a tiny four-year-old Mary in an adult bathrobe! Our Joseph was also tiny, also wearing an oversize robe, and when little Mary was gripping the Baby Jesus (her Bitty Baby doll from home swaddled in an old blanket) with a precarious grip, little Joseph turned and took the baby from her so tenderly, and cradled it. It was adorable.

Then we did that again for second service, and one girl came from home in a lion costume - she really wanted to be a lion in the nativity scene. So we welcomed her up with the sheep - "the lion with the lambs" - and our minister quipped that we were witnessing our own Christmas miracle.

It all went much better than I was afraid it might. Then I taught the preschool class, as we were short a teacher, and had one of those religious conversations that preschoolers are really the best at. My daughter started our practice of sharing Joys and Sorrows off with a sorrow - that she "didn't want to die someday". A little boy in the class tried to comfort her with the idea that "when you die, your mom dies too, and then you are together up in heaven". Another little boy interrupted with another idea, namely that "you just rot in the ground". We processed ideas, and talked about death, and that it was ok for us to each think something different - it's a big Mystery.

Then I told the Spirit Play story adaptation of the Posadas lesson from Holidays and Holy days, and we had another little conversation about the existence or not of angels, and whether Jesus was really born like the nativity story tells.

Many other things were happening: the 1st-3rd grade children were learning the reason for the winter solstice and building a model solar system, the middle school group was watching a documentary about the Vatican, and the 4th-5th graders were watching the classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". There were some high-energy levels in some children that made it a challenge for some of the teachers, but overall I still left with a little glow - this is a good place, a place where children are supported to explore questions, values, and ideas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2011 is on its way...


And we have been hard at work making calendars! The little elves have made personal calendars to gift to family members, and we also made a calendar as a fundraiser for the youth group at church. This page is Carbon's drawing, of Chalice people catching gifts from the sky. Each page features the artwork of a different child or youth from the church - I love them!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reading and Listening to ...


Hypatia has been enjoying many good picture books from the library. A few stand outs:

Swamp Angel is a fun tall tale, with a giant girl heroine and lovely lilting language that made us think of Kentucky relatives' accents.

Saint Francis and the Wolf tells the fairy-tale like story of the gentle Saint taming a dangerous (and huge!) wolf. The illustrations are vibrant and evocative.

The True Meaning of Crumbfest gives a new twist to the holidays. From a mouse's point of view, this is a time of year when the crumbs rain down like manna from heaven ... but why does it come once a year? One young mouse sets out to discover why, and his epiphany is very interesting ...

The Rabbit and the Bear, A Christmas Tale follows the traditional story line of the predator and the prey declaring peace for this one special day of the year, but the illustrations are fun and fresh and the story is enjoyable.

Carbon is listening to and enjoying:

The Name of this Book is Secret has some quirky kid heroes and a story so dangerous and scary that the author really shouldn't have written it down ... as he keeps telling the reader in little asides and warnings. Why are children with synesthesia being kidnapped by a mysterious woman?

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones is the beginning of an exciting series of books, which sends siblings Dan and Amy off on a life-threatening scavenger hunt to follow 39 clues to the final prize, following the life of Benjamin Franklin to France, and then finding the second of the clues, setting them off to research Mozart and head to Vienna ... this series is exciting for the kids and promises to be rich in geography and history details.

I've been reading:

Mockingjay, the final book of the Hunger Games trilogy. I know many were disappointed in how the book ended, but I liked the ending (and the resolution to the love triangle) and I found this one to be just as much of a page-turner as the first two ... good entertainment!

The Illustrated Wee Free Men - how could it go wrong? I am a Huge fan of Terry Pratchett, and have enjoyed his books for decades. I like this illustrated edition, although it's too large a book to carry around with me or read in the bathtub, and that is slowing me down as a reader ...

I'm setting myself a challenge, however, to read something a bit more important, so I've checked out The Great Gatsby from the library. I've never read it before, so this will be my on-going education book for this month.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The baking season


'Tis the season, with cookie exchanges, bake sales at church, my husband's birthday, and class parties at school before they let out for winter break. Being gluten-free means I need to volunteer for all the baking, so the kids can actually eat it at the party. I'm baking a lot more than I'm used to - I ran out of flour!

When I ran out of time for one bake sale, I just went easy on myself and made rice krispie treats. It wasn't impressive, but they all sold!

What are you all baking right now?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Best Friends, Worst Enemies

Especially as we hear so much about bullying , here is an important book for us all to read: Best Friends, Worst Enemies by Michael Thompson, Ph.D. (If you have read and liked Raising Cain, you will like this other insightful book for all who have or work with children.)

Adults often ask me why children in groups are so cruel. I am always astonished at the question. What about groups of adults? What about the Holocaust? What about the Serbs and Croats? How could neighbors who have lived together for hundreds of years suddenly turn on one another and begin to see each other as enemies? Why have Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland been willing to plant bombs in each other's neighborhoods and kill people only blocks away? What about the Hutus and the Tutsis? During the genocide in Rwanda, a Hutu man beheaded his Tutsi wife and his three sons in front of a crowd when the Hutu chief in his town told him he had to kill all Tutsis. What force could make a person do something like that? Peer pressure. Peer pressure in a horrible group cause.

All human beings who live in groups are subject to invisible, neutral forces: the laws of group life. And if we are going to understand why children do the things they do to each other - especially the cruel things - we have to know what these laws are. Without knowledge of these social forces we make the mistake of thinking that tragic events are driven solely by "bad kids" or "gangs". We won't understand that "good kids" are often responding to exactly the same set of underlying principles as "bad kids" or that there are gangs of "good kids" in our schools as well as gangs of "bad kids".

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to him


Today is my husband's birthday. Over time, I've learned that he doesn't want the same things from a birthday that I do. Presents should be simple and small, unless it's some big splurge he buys for himself. He doesn't really need a cake, but I bake one anyway because the kids love birthday cake. I've planned parties for him before, and it's not worth it - he doesn't like the fuss. A small dinner out at a nice restaurant, just family, and the chance to go out for drinks with one or two people - that's all he wants.

And I've learned not to make him breakfast in bed. He'd rather be left alone in the morning, and ideally sleep in.

I try to remember to love him and celebrate him the way he wants, not the way I would want. The golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) doesn't always apply - especially to marriage. Do unto others as they will like.

Monday, December 13, 2010

wrapping up Chalica


After trying out Chalica all week, I think I'm sold on the concept. The chance to review the principles was very nice, and the worship service I put together for Sunday morning's Childrens Chapel did just that and was well-received by the kids.

But it was the family-sized celebration that was the most valuable to me. So much of what we do as Unitarian Universalists is centered around the congregation - in fact, you can't technically be considered a UU unless you are a member of a congregation. But in congregations, we focus so much of our attention on BIG ideas, BIG issues, and collective action - which is all great and not to be knocked!

However, as my family gathered around a candle to talk about a principle, we ended up focusing on really personal and intimate interpretations of them all. "Acceptance of each other" ended up being a heated conversation about what irritating tics and habits we accept and what we complain about and encourage change in! "A free and responsible search for truth and meaning" became a long list of all the things we wonder about: what happens after you die, is the universe really expanding, what existed before the Big Bang, what the heck really is a quark, and what would it feel like to go in a black hole? "Peace and justice for all" naturally led to a conversation about avoiding family fights.

It was a lovely week, with some lovely conversations and a chance to remind ourselves of the principles and explain their meaning to the kids. Chalica could be celebrated anytime, so if the month of December already feels too full to you (it does to me), there is no reason why this family practice couldn't be done at a different time.

Others blogged the holiday as well:

While others just cringe:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two ways of doing art in school


I've been very struck by the quantity of art I end up bringing home from both of my kids' schools. But a post about how to store and process all of that will have to wait for another day (a day where I have figured out how to do it and then am qualified to share!).

But another fact is very clear to me. There are two kinds of art projects in these piles: art that my kids made on their own with no direction from an adult, and art that was prepped and supervised by a teacher.

Let's talk about the latter type first. When I had a daycare business, we called these "parent pleasers", and the audience is always in mind. What is going to be nice for the parents to have? What will impress them and let them know that we are doing cool things with their children? This type of project can actually be very nice. For instance, above my desk right now I have a turkey handprint made for Thanksgiving, done very nicely on nice paper and matted on a scrapbook page. That came home from preschool, and I could literally slap it into a scrapbook and keep Hypatia's handprint for future sentimental value.

But every child made an identical project, and there was no exercise in creativity for Hypatia. Frequently children do not enjoy doing these types of projects. And if I gave her the raw supplies and invited her to do it again, she wouldn't be able to. The tissue paper flower in the picture is a prime example. How did she make that? She took the paper the teacher had already cut for them, was handed a pipecleaner, and told how to attache the paper to the pipecleaner. And then if she couldn't do that, someone came over and did it for her.

Then there is the other kind of art. The kind that kids will do with anything you give them - the contents of the recycling bin would be a very welcome material! The main problem with this kind of art is that it can create an amazing mess - glue and bits of stuff thrown around like a tornado visited your classroom or art space. And it generates a lot of pieces that if handed to a parent will just get a "what?". I've got my fair share of those - the item that I have to be careful not to ask "is this art or are you just bringing home some junk?". Almost nothing is ready to be put in a scrapbook or sent to a grandparent as a gift.

But this is genuinely the work of the child's own hands and mind. They could reproduce this, and the next one may be even better. They are learning skills that they will be able to continue without help from an adult. And sometimes the results are really cool, and unexpected. This piece Carbon made is a good example.

Overall, you can tell which method I prefer. At church I much prefer to give "free art time" than to make kids all make one project. If art or craft supplies are brought out for a specific project, I don't like to "make" anyone do it if they don't want to. It just isn't worth it, in my opinion. You want to learn to carefully follow instructions? Let's bake a cake. That needs to be exacting and it's a great time to follow directions. But make art? Who follows directions to make real art?

(Note: I am not an artist and have had no instruction in such. I do know that some skills, such as drawing, require some practice and discipline and following instructions - this is not a piece about how to run an art school.)

So if the kids coming out of my church program are carrying pieces that inspire parental responses of "What?", please smile and take them home. Say "tell me about your creation." and not "what is this supposed to be?"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

tough times on the mothering front


We all go through it. The moodiness, the little developmental stages where they are growing either physically or cognitively, and it seems like we suddenly just don't even Know them anymore. Where did this child come from? What am I supposed to do with this little person now?

If you are wondering about the picture, this is what happens when you are wearing a camera around your neck and your child tries to jump on you. She got bumped on the mouth by the camera, and then - of course - I took a picture of her before I put away the camera to comfort her.

Here's to hoping it gets better soon! These are the times that try a parents patience.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Carbon's fundraising letter


Writing a letter this long was a very painful process for the boy, but he loves his school and he was motivated to write this letter to go out with a fundraising letter from the school. We copied it (I wasn't going to make him write three copies by hand!), and mailed the little packets to three of his sets of grandparents. It really is a sweet little school, and they offer extremely generous financial aid - so much so that it's pretty tough for them to meet their budget.

Carbon plans to donate his January allowance to the school (he has to spend his December allowance on Christmas gifts, or he would donate that). He really loves the school.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Chalica


What is Chalica, you ask? You wouldn't be alone in not having heard of this new holiday. In fact, I don't know that hardly anyone really celebrates it, and most people I talk to aren't interested in doing so. It smacks of a bit of misappropriation, or basically "a rip off", of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. And I already have plenty of candle lighting December holidays that I could celebrate - like Advent or Solstice (check and check, we already have a family tradition for both of those).

But I've been reading about Chalica, and I became a Facebook Fan of the Chalica page, and then this year Carbon said he wanted to celebrate it. OK, if he wants to celebrate it, I can't really see any good reason not to, and so we are.

Chalica is a UU holiday that starts on the first Monday of December and runs for 7 nights, corresponding to our 7 Principles. The idea is to celebrate it at home, with your family, and light a chalice each night as well as take an action that day that corresponds to the principle of the day.

Today is the first day of Chalica, and so the First Principle is "Respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people". We lit our chalice at the dinner table during dinner, and then I repeated the 1st Principle for everyone and shared a short reading (I'm taking all my readings this week from the book Come Into the Circle, but you could take readings from your hymnal if you own one, or find other sources, or just not do a reading). Then we all went around the table and talked about ways we could "live" this principle more. Carbon talked about following the rules at school more, trying to clean up after himself more and respect other people by "not annoying them". I talked about trying to see the dignity and worth of people, particularly the people that really annoy me - bad neighbors and drivers and folks like that. Hypatia and my husband didn't have much to add to the discussion, but they played along tolerantly.

Our reading for tonight:

This symbol of energy
of life, of light
to remind us
of the energy within us
of the light of our life
of the light that is in us
of the light that IS us

Janet Goode

So Happy Chalica to you all, and tomorrow we will celebrate the 2nd Principle!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Love Is ...


Love is coming home from work and untangling lights and changing broken bulbs and climbing ladders in the cold to put up Christmas lights, even when you really hate doing this annual chore. Love is (mostly) biting your tongue when you want to curse at the tangled mess of lights, because you know other people really enjoy this sort of thing.

Thank you, honey. You were a dear for helping me with the lights.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dear Santa,


To translate her handwriting for you, Hypatia has asked Santa to bring her a Pokeball, some Pokemon cards, a yo-yo, a Fairy, and a Bouncy Ball. Then yesterday she thought of something to add, after she had "sent off" the note (I can't find where I put it in the house! This is not good!), and she decided Santa can "hear" your wishes if you say "Santa, Santa, Santa" three times. So it was "Santa, Santa, Santa, please bring me more barrettes because I've lost too many of mine".

The whole issue of Santa Claus seems to be on people's minds right now. For more, see posts by my good friend and by UUMomma. As a Unitarian Universalist Religious Educator, I know we've always avoided the issue of Santa Claus at church, unless we brush against him when we talk about "St. Nicholas". There is too much difference in personal practice within the families at the church, and we don't want to have some kids who have been told that "Santa is a lie" getting into it with kids whose families do practice the Santa visit. I suppose we could work to frame the discussion and it would be OK - but it doesn't seem like the conversation is that important. The conversation about God, yes that one we need to have over and over in church. (And it's very similar to the conversation about Santa! Some kids will be like "my parents say there is no God." and then another will say "yes there is. If there's no God, where did trees come from?" or something like that and then the conversation is off and running!). The stories of the season (Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, St. Lucia even) need to be told over and over again. But Santa Claus exists somewhere else - somewhere more personal to each family. And, of course, I don't have to worry that they won't hear about him in the general culture. There is no gap in the story tradition that I need to fill in.

For myself, I see no harm in Santa Claus, but I also like to keep him low-key. No visits to get pictures taken with him, no big gifts delivered. This is the first year the kids have written to him, and they got the idea to do that from a friend. We leave out cookies and milk for him, and the stockings are full in the morning. Carbon "knows", or at least he knew two years ago when he asked us point blank, but he acts now as though he completely believes in it. He's either a pretty good actor or he has chosen to believe again. Hypatia is a bit doubtful this year, but she's so comfortable with the notion that something "maybe" exists (I'm such a proud agnostic mama!) that she is fine speculating without having to know for sure.

And I'm very happy that the expectations are pretty low-key, because it will be an easy joy to fill those stockings with Pokemon cards, a yo-yo, and a bouncy ball. And more barrettes, of course. For those of you wondering, Carbon also wrote and he asked for: Pokemon cards, Bakugans, Legos, and video games.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweet Honey in the Rock

I got to see Sweet Honey live tonight, and they did not disappoint. Wow, what amazing musicians, singers, and women.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy December!


My husband is fairly strict with us about not starting Christmas until the 1st of December, but this year we had a jump start because we drove up to my mom's house on Saturday and helped her cut and set up her Christmas tree, then had a cookie exchange. It was really nice to spend time with my mother and my siblings at the beginning of the season, as it felt really loose and carefree and was filled with sweet anticipation. We carried all the boxes of ornaments down from the attic and the kids were really excited to help her set them all up. She told me on the phone today that it's nice to see all the jumbled up decorations that the kids did - it's been awhile since children handled all those decorations (even though my 17 year old sister still lives at home with my mom, she's not exactly a kid anymore).

And now tonight we open the first door in our Lego Advent Calendar! Hopefully I'll find time soon to decorate around here ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This is gonna cost ya ...


Today, this little girl has displayed more pain and discomfort than I can remember her ever having. She has been clutching her stomach, saying things like "I can't take it!", and saying it hurt too much to sit up or stand.

So I had to take her to the doctor. But, we have just had a job change, and it turns out we didn't actually overlap our insurance coverages - our new insurance starts tomorrow. I didn't realize this, until I'm standing there with a moaning child in my arms, being told to go down and talk to the business office before I can be seen.

So, do you turn around and take the moaning, sick child back to your car and head home? Or do you go ahead and just agree to pay cash? And if you agree to pay cash, how does that affect each choice you make - get the x-ray or not? Run one more test or not?

We had to buy individual health insurance when my husband changed jobs and got this contracting gig. The cheapest full coverage we could find is still costing us $850 a month. I've just had to make that payment, and it hurt. We have to give up some of our frills to be able to afford this, and then I'm standing there wondering how I'll pay for my daughter to be seen today.

This is gonna hurt. This is gonna cost ya. I did it anyway, because I felt like I had to. The good news is that all the tests came back negative, and she didn't have appendicitis (my main fear) or an impacted bowel, or any weird blood work revealing something else wrong. She's still in pain, and they don't know why, but ruling those things out was important.

But imagine for the families that really can't find the money for those monthly premiums, or pay out of pocket for abdominal x-rays. Imagine having to carry that moaning child back out to the car. I really hope the health care reforms actually Do Something as they start to take effect. Because I don't like the way imagining those things makes me feel.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Toys I Love - Paper!


Give a kid a bunch of paper, something to draw with, and some tape, and most will be delighted and busy for hours. You could just give kids your recycling bin from work, but if you want something with a little more gift panache, here are two ideas:

Paper Doll Pads by Roylco. Every time I put these out in my SpiritPlay classroom at church, there is an explosion of creativity as kids glue and draw features and clothing onto them. The outline shape is just enough prompt, and they love it!

Picture Frame Pads by Melissa and Doug. A frame just makes artwork stand out, doesn't it? This pad of paper gives kids the frame to start with, and they can fill in the masterwork in the middle! Lots of fun.

Thank You, Thank You

On our long drive through traffic for Thanksgiving Day, I had the pleasure of listening to "Definitely Not the Opera" on NPR, and specifically an old episode from 2008 all about those two little words "Thank You".

This sparked a small discussion between my husband and I about how we like to be thanked - he would find someone reading him a "gratitude letter" out loud a horrible experience, while I thought it was sweet. There was also one fellow on the program who tried to write Thank You notes to Everyone, Every Day, who did Anything nice for him. My thought - how do you have time to be out and about where people can be nice to you!

When I first started my job at the church, the minister was engaged in an effort to write three Thank You cards a week and send them to folks in the church. He challenged me to try it also as a practice, and I have been. Sometimes it's not exactly three, but on Mondays I reflect over the week previous and write little notes to folks just telling them Thank You for what they did that week.

I love this as a practice. It makes me reflect and focus on what other people did, and honestly sometimes it's too easy to only see what you contribute, while in reality there are so many folks doing things both big and small that deserve notice. I also find that I'm happier in my job, and have an easier time asking for help and approaching people as possible volunteers.

Even if you don't have a job like mine that involves volunteer management, there are benefits to a gratitude practice of some kind. How can you say 'Thank You' more often (and mean it)?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Don't Let the Light Go Out

I've been trying to go in for the beginning of each church service, and be sitting in the front row when it's time for me to step up and tell the story for all ages. This is so much calmer and more worshipful than to be out running around seeing to last minute details and greeting latecomers until the very last minute ...

And today we got to sing this in church, a song that I love ...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for ...




This. Family. Plenty of food, all made with loving care for everyone's food sensitivities (this year I gained a new sister-in-law who cannot eat dairy, to add to our gluten-free needs and my Dad's chicken egg problem). Plenty of helpers when we couldn't get our car back up the hill in front of my Dad's house with the slushy ice on the road. The specialness of eating on the good china, and getting to drink from stemware. Hypatia was so happy having stemware, right up until she knocked it over onto her Aunt Domini and broke the glass. Thankful for everyone trying to comfort her after. Thankful for my silly brothers who both grew mustaches this month. Thankful for the delicious turkey that my family raised and killed and my father brined and smoked to perfection. Thankful for all the games of chess Carbon got to play, and the game Hypatia was playing where she pretended to be a call center and had people use catalogs to call her and order stuff. She charged someone $900 for a sweater! Thankful for my dog that behaved herself in the back of my car and didn't scratch it all up or chew on the seats (I was a bit worried about that).

I have a blessed life, and although I sometimes forget that, I am still intensely grateful for it all. I think the original meaning of these harvest festivals/Thanksgivings is that we are glad to have lived through another year, glad for the bounty we've gathered from the earth, glad to still have our loved ones around us. And I am, so glad, so thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Toys We Love


Can I claim to love a toy that we don't own? Both kids, but Carbon especially, are very interested in Pokemon. But, although he has purchased quite a few Bakugans, he doesn't have any Pokemon cards yet. Still, he just makes his own cards. He's created a whole game inspired by Yugioh as well. Although I don't personally feel much interest in these collector card games with the need to calculate points and all the rest, I do see the attraction for the kids and it seems like good clean fun.

Both kids have added Pokemon cards to their lists they wrote for Santa, so I guess we will soon own a few of these addictive cards. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Pause

Snow has come early to our neck-of-the-woods, and it doesn't take much to slow things down. This morning my alarm clock went off, my husband sat up and looked out the window, and then said "might as well turn off the alarm clock, honey".

Delicious. Sleeping in, letting the kids wake up on their own and then climb into bed with us for a snooze. Making hot chocolate and oatmeal for breakfast and then heading out for a romp in the snow. It was a short lived romp, as Hypatia took a very bad fall on the ice, but still a romp. Now we have blankets and movies and more hot chocolate. Board games for later. A sweet pause to our lives, a chance for just being cozy with the kids, and a good excuse for some extra rest, reflection, and renewal. I like it (provided this is short lived - it needs to melt tomorrow so I can still get some stuff done before Thanksgiving and make the drive to my Dad's house on Thursday!).





Friday, November 19, 2010

Changes in the Kitchen

Some of you may be familiar with the One Small Change blog community, which endeavors to make one change each month to make your lifestyle lower impact on the environment. Can one small change really make a difference?

It occurred to me today that all the small changes really add up, as our cooking and eating habits have really changed around here. Many small changes add up.

1. We are eating vegetarian more often than not, and that has led to lots of beans. We're all champs at digesting beans.

2. I was dismayed to learn about BPA's in the lining of canned goods, but really - cans and canning just adds more environmental impact anyway. So I switched over to cooking dry beans from scratch. We have a beanpot in the slow cooker about once a week, and then we have some left-over beans for other uses in the days after.

3. When we do eat meat, we are eating different sorts of meat. We buy our beef and pork almost exclusively from a local ethical meat shop. It's more expensive, but we can go out and visit the farm and know how the animals are treated. We also try to buy all the parts of the animals - beef knuckles in the beanpots and so forth. Waste not.

4. I heard a story on NPR about how chicken wings used to be a cheap dish that used a part of the chicken that no one else wanted. And then when they got popular, suddenly they had to increase chicken production just for this one little part. It seemed so wrong, so I decided that from then on I would only buy and cook whole birds. This was hard at first, and drastically changed how often we eat poultry. But if I roast a turkey or a chicken, I then get left-over poultry for other dishes and broth made from the bones and bits.

5. No more deli meat. It's full of preservatives, and it's expensive. I make sandwiches for lunches with the left-over meat that I have cooked myself. If I've roasted a turkey, we'll have turkey sandwiches for a week. If I make a pot roast, roast sandwiches. If there is no meat, we will have peanut butter and jelly - and no one complains about that.

6. We got a cool set-up from a local bakery share program, where we pay up front and then pick up a "share" once a week. The woman who runs it uses local, mostly organic ingredients, and we also get ours gluten-free. There are plastic bags around everything, but if she needs a stiff container she uses plates from the Goodwill that we return to her to reuse.

7. Without the need to bake very much, and by kicking a lot of my sweet tooth problem, we are using a lot less refined sugar. So, we can afford to only buy fair trade and organic sugar, for the rare times we need some (like brown sugar sprinkled on our oatmeal).

8. We have so much bread and baked goodies from the bakery share that we usually eat bread with nut spread for breakfast, and avoid other more processed breakfast foods and cereals.

9. Between the backyard garden and the CSA share, we have tons of vegetables. We have to think of ways to eat them all, tucking them into dishes and eating lots of salads and vegetable casseroles. What we can't eat, I try to freeze for the winter. What I don't manage to get to in time, we feed to our chickens or compost.

10. I pack everyone a lunch, and we take our dinner left-overs or sandwiches, in reusable containers. If I end up using a ziplock, I wash it and dry it and reuse it. I also made some cloth snack bags that we can wash and reuse.

Small changes have really added up, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Toys I Love

As we enter the holiday shopping season, I thought I'd give you all some ideas of the toys that have been product-tested around here. I'll do a series of these "Toys I Love" posts. The first ...



The cardboard rocket can be played In, or drawn and painted On. From the same company, last year I purchased a cardboard house for church that the children in the nursery (and some of the teenagers too) had a great time adding graffiti to and playing in.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A bit of adventure

Last night the wind picked up as we were putting the kids to bed, and my husband made a passing comment about hoping the power wouldn't go out. Carbon took that idea and ran with it, getting very excited about being prepared for a power outage. While I lit some candles in the living room, "just in case", he ran around gathering up flashlights and checking their batteries.

When the power actually did go out, Hypatia's night light went out and she started screaming that she was in the dark. He was thrilled to go "rescue" her with his flashlight, and lead her back into the circle of light we had in the living room.

With our electric camp lantern giving us light, everyone got to listen to my husband read out of Bunnicula, and we were just settling down when my sister-in-law arrived. She had been shopping when the power went out in the big box-store she was in, so she came by our house before going on to her own dark house. The whole town lost power, it seems. My husband went out on the porch with the lantern to light her way in, and it made me think of some scene in a Little House book.

I ended up sleeping in the living room with the kids, all camped out around the lantern so they wouldn't be afraid of the dark. We could still see and hear the wind whipping through the trees and into our house, and there were even three Booms! and flashes as transformers blew up.

All of this would have just been an inconvenience if it had just been us adults. But with the unbridled enthusiasm of the kids, it took on the flavor of a fun adventure. It was a lot of fun, and now he is super-proud of how prepared he was. A sweet family adventure.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All Together Now ...



Big chore days give us all a chance to work together, in a way that smaller normal chore days don't. The leaves in the fall is a great job for all ages to help out with, and this year I judged Carbon to be old enough and coordinated enough to climb the ladder and go up on the roof with me to sweep it off and clean out the gutters. As he's been flirting with a fear of heights, this was also a good chance for him to face some fears.

He ended up freaking me out, dancing on the peak of the house like the chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins. OK, not quite that bad, but he got really comfortable up there.

Besides getting the job at hand done, there are so many other benefits of this kind of family activity: demonstrating work ethic, teaching basic skills, open-ended family time that invites conversation, the sense of camaraderie that comes from a shared task, and time outdoors in the fresh air. I'm sure there are more that I'm not thinking of right now.

I would put family chore time right up there with family dinner as one of the most important glues that holds families together.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Less is More

I've always wanted to have one of those lovely baskets of seasonal books available for my kids. Reading bloggers posting their lists of seasonal books is incredibly inspirational, but it was the book Simplicity Parenting that tipped me over the edge.

We don't have a collection of particularly Seasonal books, but I decided that just cycling through all the books would still have value. A few plastic tubs and some sorting later, and I had a bunch of piles of books on the floor. Then I decided that some of the books were really Carbon's, and some of them were really Hypatia's, and they would enjoy their books more if they were housed in their bedrooms.

Instead of one big shelf of books, we now have just a few books in a bunch of different places around the house, with some of them in storage out in the garage. Isn't this counter-intuitive? Don't I want to surround my kids with books?

Well, we cannot focus on anything when we are overwhelmed, and once again that has been shown to be true here. By giving the kids fewer books to have to sort through before they can find one to look at, I'm seeing them spending more time with their books and enjoying them a lot more.

Less is so often more. And stirring things up usually leads to more enjoyment of our space.

And now I have a system that will be beautiful as we start to collect some seasonal books!




Friday, November 12, 2010

Life is Like a Lunch Box


Each day I pack it up with loving care, providing the best I can for everyone I care about. Then all my efforts have to go out into the larger world, where I cannot control how they are received or used. And after a long day, this is what I get back - a mess to clean up, and more often than not, complaints. Sometimes there are requests, or "suggestions", that must be taken into consideration for the future. Rarely, but just often enough, there is gratitude or recognition. But that isn't why I do it. I do it because it must be done, because in some ways I do enjoy it, and just because this is what I Do.

Life is like this lunchbox.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Watch Out For the Ring of Saturn!



Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day to you all. How do we feel about Veteran's Day? On the one hand, as my minister said this week to me, our society is overly-militarized, focusing on military solutions and glamorizing violence far more than we should.

On the other hand, we live in a society where the majority of people expect life to be easy for them, involving few sacrifices, and those sacrifices and "dirty jobs" are often done by a few, underprivileged folks. We leave a small number to shoulder a burden that would be so much better shared by us all.

And so, thank you to everyone who takes up a burden, who doesn't ask "who?" when they see a job that needs to be done. Our military are made up of volunteers, men and women who chose to raise their hand and swear an oath, go to training and be yelled at and "broken down", and build lives that could be interrupted by war at any time. And then war has interrupted those lives, and sent those men and women into harms way - physical, emotional, social, and spiritual harm.

Thank you to all who serve, whatever cause you serve. Thank you to all who volunteer. Thank you to all who sacrifice.


Saying goodbye to Daddy for over a year, 2004.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas Planning

With less than 7 weeks until Christmas, it is Not Too Early to make a plan. As this marvelously practical post at Simple Mom points out, planning ahead and making a realistic budget will avoid later post-holiday regrets and debts.

So I've started a list. It's tremendously helpful to just have a list. For instance, without a list I wouldn't know that I have 9 children's teachers to give gifts to for the holidays. Knowing that there are 9 of them helped us decide how much we can afford to give to each, and now one stop to a local coffee shop and 9 gift cards later (plus 9 Christmas cards made by the kids), and that item can be checked off my list.

I also got my husband to sit down with me and look over a list of folks to send cards to. It looks like we need to buy about 40 holiday cards, and we worked together to select a card that we like. We're going to buy our cards from Amnesty International this year, a cause dear to my husband's heart after some of his experiences in Iraq.

Otherwise, the kids and I have a few projects to do to make things for all the other family on our list. There are a few things for me to purchase (not too many, really). It helps a great deal that my mother is opting for an early celebration on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with all us kids just doing a cookie exchange and helping her trim her Christmas tree. Then we will do a Secret Santa drawing for gift-giving at my Dad's house, and that just leaves us with my in-law's who obligingly have a small family since he only has one sibling. We'll mail a box to his father and step-mother who live out of state.

I've already orderd the bulk of the kids's gifts, as we are not doing a handmade holiday at home this year. No, the kids are getting a used Nintendo ds and a Lego Harry Potter set. Then I'm (or Santa, you know) filling the girl's stocking with a ds game, a mini-Samantha doll, hair doodahs, and art supplies. The boy will get a card game, some disgusting putty stuff, a comic book, and art supplies. My husband and I will fill each other's stockings.

A plan feels good.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reading, and Listening


What would we do without the library? It's such a part of our lives! How else could I afford to keep the boy stocked with listening options like this?

I just finished reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a clever mystery novel with a precocious, chemistry-mad eleven year old protagonist. Flavia de Luce is one of the most interesting characters I've read in a long time, and between the chemistry and the philately (stamp collecting, don't you know) references this was a very quirky and engaging novel.

We all listened to Maniac Magee in the car, read by S. Epatha Merkerson (of Law and Order). It's such a sweet book, touching on adult topics like racism in a way that is still right for kids, and she does a great job reading it. Very enjoyable.

Carbon continues to listen to all the sequels to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I haven't listened, and I imagine it loses a lot without the illustrations, but he's still laughing out loud with those headphones on his head, so that's a thumbs up from him.

Our new Read Aloud at night is Bunnicula Strikes Again. Carbon loves the Bunnicula books, and I enjoy how they gently poke fun at a lot of "pulp" kids lit.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Many Paths We Walk

We had a conference at Carbon's school on Friday, and I've been mulling a bit since then. We are not 100% "pure" Sudbury , because we afterschool in a more "traditional" way at home. And that was obviously uncomfortable to one of the staff at our conference - that we might be sending messages to Carbon, and through him to the other kids, that we don't really trust him and the Sudbury pedagogical method.

It's a real concern, at least for this one staff member, so I really wanted to give it due consideration. On the one hand, I know in my gut we won't stop after-schooling, no matter what anyone were to say. Of all the possible educational methods, programs, and theories, the one-on-one learning coach or tutoring model is still the one I love the most. And yes, it doesn't agree with the Sudbury model, which would not make a child do anything they didn't want to do.

But I don't think there is only one right way to learn. I've always held that different children learn differently, but I also believe that the same person can learn in many different ways. In fact, we are all doing it all the time. Every single day, we all might learn through personal experimentation (trial and error, so to speak), through disciplined practice (like learning a musical instrument), by being told or shown by another person, through reading it somewhere, in quiet moments of reflection, or by pure accident as we meant to do something else.

I know that in my own life, I have learned in many diverse ways and environments, and the people who worked to create those learning environments probably did not agree with the methods of the others. My ballet teachers, with their emphasis on precision, neatness, memory, attention, and effort, probably would have been appalled at my mother's laid-back almost unschooled approach to many years of my education. My vocal teacher, or the directors I worked with in community theater wouldn't have liked the methods employed by the drill sergeants at Army Basic Training.

The learning that I did in all those settings may sometimes have competed with the learning from another environment. But it was up to me, as a person, to integrate those experiences. In fact, how each individual integrates experiences (yet another form of learning!) is a big part of how they become their own, unique, personality and person.

I've never been good at sticking with one pure theory or method. Perhaps an affect of my own eclectic childhood, perhaps a personality trait - definitely a big part of why I'm a Unitarian Universalist - I see too many possibilities and too much virtue to all the possible paths to commit myself to a statement such as "this is the one true path". I prefer to walk this path for a while, then try another, then maybe choose to backtrack, sidetrack, or bushwhack.

So, does it hurt Carbon to have one kind of learning environment for six hours a day, then another kind for about an hour, then another that happens about once a week, and others that come up from time to time? I really can't believe that it would. Does having to do something he doesn't always want to do imply that I am not trusting that he does worthy things with his time when I am not "making" him? Well, does making him eat his green leafy's imply that I don't want him to eat the chicken I also put on his plate?

I want a balance, and in my ideal balance there is a lot of freedom, a lot of choice, a lot of active social learning, and just enough structure and discipline. I trust Sudbury will work, all by itself, for most children (I can't say ALL, just because I don't believe in absolutes). But I don't see why it should work all by itself. Learning is too big, vast, amazing and fun to be put in any one box, even a cool box like Sudbury.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Weekend Away




A little family R&R. A lot of fun, although this crazy place is like the Vegas of western lodges. Indoor waterpark, MagiQuest, arcade fun - it was an exhaustingly entertaining two days. We had some good time playing as a family, especially with the MagiQuest. That game is fun, and on this visit Carbon finished the Quests and became a Master Magi!

On a side note, I found it disturbing that there were parents in the bar at 11am. As we were eating lunch as a family, we saw kids having to come in there and call out to their parents over the partition to the bar, and one lady was like "go find, Daddy, kids, Mommy's in the bar". Really?

Friday, November 5, 2010

An End to Faith

I'm reading The End of Faith by Sam Harris, and it pushes my buttons. On the one hand, the tone of his anti-religion thesis is very abrasive to me, and I find myself not wanting to read it because he just sounds so, well, Arrogant. It's hard hear anyone say that other people are basically stupid and irrational - that goes against all my ingrained rules of civil discourse.

On the other hand, I do agree with many of the point Harris makes here, and I like passages like this:

The basis of our human spirituality surely consists in this: the range of possible human experience far exceeds the ordinary limits of our subjectivity. Clearly, some experiences can utterly transform a person's vision of the world. ... It is important to note that these changes are not merely emotional but cognitive and conceptual as well. Just as it is possible for us to have insights in fields like mathematics or biology, it is possible for us to have insights about the very nature of our own subjectivity.

I'll keep reading. Sometimes it's good to have an argument, to stretch your perceptions, to be a bit uncomfortable with an idea. It can promote more personal growth than always agreeing with everything, or liking everything.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

so you think it's quiet during the week in a church?


Some days it is quiet here. But some mornings look like this in our nursery.

Or, take an afternoon like right now. As I sit here, blogging as a reward after bustling about laying out materials for the Sunday lessons, this is going on in the building:

  • The minister is meeting with a congregant in his office.
  • That congregants kids are hanging out in the nursery, "self-regulating".
  • There is a group here setting up the Audio/Visual presentation needs of a Saturday event.
  • The church administrator is hard at work on her computer, almost hidden by the huge pile of work on her desk.
  • The volunteer who takes care of our kitchen is here cleaning and grinding coffee for Sunday.
  • The volunteer who manages the artwork hanging in our sanctuary is here changing out the art work.
  • There is someone making photocopies in the work room.

It's not happening right now, but at any time there could be folks walking through our doors looking for help with money or food. There could be people coming to look over the space for a possible wedding location, or a funeral location. Sometimes, this place feels far from quiet.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mornings ...

My alarm goes off at 6:30, but I like to push Snooze. It irritates my husband - sorry!

I stumble up, go to the bathroom and brush my hair. I stick a DVD in and do 15 minutes or so of yoga.

Now, start the coffee pot. Start packing lunches. Sometimes, start dinner in the slow cooker.

Usually about now my husband gets up and heads into the shower.

Give Carbon his first wake up call. He likes to push Snooze too, but his Snooze button is named Mom.

Keep working on lunches, and go get dressed.

Give Carbon his second wake up call, and ask what he wants for breakfast. Make breakfast.

Pick Hypatia up out of bed and carry her to the breakfast table. Serve breakfast.

They frequently mess about and eat very slowly, so I have to heckle them to eat and remind them to take their plates into the kitchen and go get dressed.

I pour a cup of coffee, sometimes I get some breakfast for myself. Not often enough - I need to eat breakfast more often.

My husband emerges, dressed, and gets some coffee. He will head out soon, kissing us all goodbye and taking the lunch I've packed for him.

I do morning chores: cats, dog, and chickens must all be cared for. Some dishes washed. Some laundry done.

I grab the bags that I hopefully remembered to pack the night before, and I check over that the kids have dressed in weather appropriate clothing. Almost every morning I have to argue with Hypatia to get her to dress warmly enough.

We put the dog in her yard, and load into the car. We're out the door by 8:20 at the latest.

Mornings are a lot of work. I'm getting good at it, but it's still a lot of work.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Notes from my Urban Homestead


  • I got two pumpkins out of my garden this year - two very sweet little pumpkins. I also harvested one little tiny winter squash, a bunch of scarlet runner beans to dry, and potatoes and jerusalem artichokes. The garden is just about dead for the year.
  • I finally gave up on the concept of using groundcover plants as weed control in my flower beds. The moss is lovely, but most of the others I purchased are just scraggly looking as they spread. And they don't actually control grass and dandelions, both of which just grow up through them and then are very difficult to weed out without a lot of damage to the groundcover plant. With fall clean up, I've just pulled all those suckers out.
  • I spread mulch over my flower garden bed, in the place of the groundcovers.
  • I've planted my garlic for next year.
  • The jerusalem artichoke harvest was OK, but not as prolific as I had been led to expect it should be. But I planted them in the corner of my garden that ALWAYS fails - so the fact that I got anything at all is probably good.
  • In the indoor realm, I needed to salvage Hypatia's ballet leotard after it was stained. I had a mad impulse to just try dying the leotard in a kettle of beet soup I'd made that no one liked much and wouldn't eat as leftovers. Beets are a natural dye, right? I turned away from that mad impulse, however, and played it safe with a box of Ritz, which turned the leotard a very nice and consistent purple. Should I have tried it anyway?
  • We've been enjoying toasted pumpkin seeds from all our jack o'lanterns. My husband tried seasoning them with soy sauce, and got a result he and Carbon like a lot.
  • I planted lettuce and spinach seed in pots and put them out in my backporch greenhouse. They are sprouting - we'll see.
  • I've saved pumpkin seeds and beans for next spring's planting.

How is autumn treating you? Just about time to turn aside from the garden and focus on sewing!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Family Costumes


Happy Halloween Weekend


This year Halloween seems like it has become a week-long festival, with plenty of extra work for Mom. Luckily, I LOVE holidays and am happy to dig in. And it helps keep the mood happy when I'm listening to the awesome holiday mix of the Halloween Party Station on!

Hypatia had a costume parade and mini-party in her preschool classroom, which meant taking her costume to school and showing up a bit early to participate in the party.

Carbon had a party and fundraiser at his school, which involved taking his costume, making treats to sell (see Caramel Apples), and setting up a pumpkin bowling game. He changed his costume at the last minute and was a Magician and used that silly bloody arm that has been showing up on my car so much - the "magic trick" was that his arm could be cut off and then he pulled that out and screamed "oh, no! The trick went horribly wrong!". He won an award for Silliest Costume, which he is very proud of.

Now we are preparing for the party the Middle School Youth at church decided to throw. I'm making some more treats to sell, then heading over there this afternoon to decorate and set up. I've got my costume ready to go for tonight, too, but my husband is still trying to decide what to be.

Tomorrow, I'm one of the worship leaders for our Day of the Dead service. I hope I can get through a telling of "Mustard Seed Medicine" from the Buddhist tradition without crying in front of everyone ... The church High School Youth Group is going out in costume to collect supplies outside a grocery store for homeless youth. I hope there are plenty of shoppers on Sunday afternoon. :)

Then my in-law's are coming over here for Sunday dinner and we'll take shifts taking the kids out for trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. I think I'm making pumpkin soup for dinner, but if I'm too tired by then it might turn into take-out ... :)

I hope your holiday weekend is simply fabulous, and that all the costumes and parties and fun come together for you!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Organic Intimates for Big Girls

Ahem. I will now talk about my underwear, please pardon such an unladylike topic.

But, seriously - this area is a huge problem in the organic/reused clothing department. I'm NOT buying used undergarments of any kind at the thrift store, even if they carried such things. And these garments don't last as long as other, heavier, garments do. At some point, they end up in the trash.

I know I could sew my own undergarments and knit my own socks, but I'm not going to do it. I even once bought a pattern for making a bra, but I just never got myself to the point of really doing it. It's not a realistic solution, in other words.

I also am not a small girl. Too many of the organic clothing companies seem to only make stuff for small women, and then things made for big girls too often are made out of nasty artificial fibers. Besides my ethical desire for eco-friendly, natural fibers, I also have a skin-distaste for the way artificial fibers feel on my skin. Someone, please make a bra meant for women who actually need to wear good support, out of a nice natural material! Really - I would be your most loyal customer! I cannot wear the excuses for a bra that are sold in organic cotton. :(

On the plus side, I just bought some of Maggie's lightweight tights in an XL and they actually fit. Thank you, Maggie's, for making a quality product for this big girl to wear!

Caramel Apples



I just delivered Carbon to school with a huge kit of stuff for the school Halloween party/fundraiser for the Lego and Fieldtrip Corporations. The idea of doing a fundraiser was the kids', following the child-led and democratic model of the school. I wasn't there, so I don't know how much this was Carbon's idea, but it is so classically him. He has always taken something he was excited about and then said "maybe I can sell this! I could make a lot of money!". I've been mostly resistant to the idea of him setting up a card table to sell his drawings or wire sculptures or whatever, but that hasn't dampened his enthusiasm.

So he had the idea to make "carrot jack o'lanterns" to sell at the school party. He wanted to carve faces into carrots. It was a really cool idea, but one that we had no idea how to actually DO. So I brainstormed with him a list of things that I thought we could actually accomplish, and he selected caramel apples.

Then I found this AMAZING product, the Caramel Apple Wrap. It was so easy to make them with the wraps that he was able to do it all by himself. And he got a great looking product to sell, that got ooohs and aaahs just coming into the school this morning. The kids were all prepping their costumes and their party stuff - it looked like they were going to have a great time.