Monday, February 28, 2011

My Princess Boy


Last week I got out by myself on an evening that was not strictly for work, and went to an author talk at my local library with Cheryl Kilodavis. She has made news recently, as this book came out in January and she's been making the interview rounds with her children.

Kilodavis is the mother of a "Princess Boy", as her son has wanted to dress as a princess or in girls'-type clothing from a young age. She says she first wrote this book in order to have a tool to hand to teachers, babysitters, clerks - anyone whose understanding and acceptance she was seeking. After self-publishing for awhile, the book was picked up and can now be found in a store near you.

Most of the conversation was about acceptance and bullying, and this book would be a great tool for starting a conversation about that. Can we accept others for who they truly are? Can we still be friends, even with those who are different from us? It's a lovely, short, easy read and an important conversation to have.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Real Food Challenge

I'm thinking about food a lot lately. I spend a lot of my time, energy, and money feeding my family: breakfast, packed lunch, packed snack, dinner. I want that food to be healthy, healthy for my family, my community, and the planet. I want that food to be ethical, in that it involved as little exploitation and pain as possible for animals, the planet, and the workers who grew and processed it. I also want that food to be yummy and within budget. That's a tall order to fulfill.

Over at Not Dabbling in Normal they are hosting a Real Food Challenge in March. I still haven't decided if I want to join the challenge or not, but I have decided a few things I want to do:

2. Make my own protein bars instead of buying Z Bars anymore.
3. Make my own yogurt more often (Hypatia doesn't like it, but Carbon and I do).
4. Bake my own gluten-free bread and save the Udi's brand bread in the freezer for emergencies.
5. Make more homemade treats for when I have a sweet craving - chocolate dipped dried fruit for instance.

And, of course, I want to continue cooking our meals at home, and involving the kids in the process. Menu planning and finding cool new recipes is also important to me. In a very real sense, we ARE what we eat, so what is more important than this?

small fingers cutting up vegetables
yogurt in the making

Friday, February 25, 2011

Defrost in the frost


I have a strange sense of timing. An arctic cold snap sweeps through town and we're shivering in the snow, so I'm reminded that I really need to defrost my upright freezer. My garage felt like it was barely above freezing, and sticking my hands into the cold freezer full of old veggies was excruciating. But the plus side is that I was able to put the stuff I wanted to keep into a cooler and put it outside on the back porch and it stays frozen.

Confession: there were bags of garden veggies in the back of the freezer labeled "Summer 2008". I have a laundry basket full of these old freezer burned vegetables to throw into the compost. I'm going to save, wash, and reuse all the ziplock bags.

What better way to spend a snow day? Well, the kids had other ideas ...



What Moves Us

I've just wrapped up facilitating a course for adults at my church called What Moves Us. The UUA has launched a new curriculum series, The Tapestry of Faith, which are all available for free on their website. This wealth of new riches inspired me to just give it a try, and I'm really really glad I did.

What Moves Us is a series of 10 workshops each focusing on a different Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist theologian. But rather than spending too much time on history or biography, What Moves Us focuses on their theology, their ideas, and how we can relate those ideas to our own personal experience and personal theology.

I didn't always agree with all the ideas of all the theologians, and the participants in my class didn't always either. It pushed us all to think in new ways, which was listed as the main benefit of the class by the group at the end.

I'm not crazy about the title of the course though ... it didn't really grab people's attention in our class catalog. What would be a better title?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Snow Day




It's all relative. Sure, other places in the country would never cancel school or skip work for this amount of snow. On the other hand, I am so glad that the whole family stayed home for a snow day today, as it is so rare that we have snow to enjoy. It was especially nice that my husband is working from home so he could come out and make a snowman during his lunch hour. A special day for us all.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spring, Shmring ... how about some more snow?



Mother Nature reminds me that you just have to go with it. We don't have any real control or understanding. So we might as well enjoy whatever we're given. The kids and I skipped our morning swim class, so that they instead could play in the snow in their pajamas. I was sure it would melt quickly - and it did in the morning bright sun. But now the sky has turned grey and it is snowing again! We'll just have to roll with it today ...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Family time


It's Midwinter Break, which means we've had Friday and Monday off school. Since mom works for a church, the family didn't really get a long weekend - we couldn't actually go anywhere (although the low-attendance at church yesterday showed me plenty of people Did get to go out of town). So what to do?

Mostly the usual. I took Friday off work and we had Pajama Day (I was hoping to sanctify laziness and idling about as a special day). Lots of netflix instant watch, lots of computer games, some board games, some reading aloud. More sibling squabbling than I would have liked. When my husband got home from work, he brought carry-out for dinner and we all watched Despicable Me together.

Saturday was gorgeous weather, but the family scattered. I had a scheduled Crafty Mamas and Papas meeting at church, where I took Hypatia and my sewing machine. While a sweet youth from the church watched the little kids, five mamas all got their craft on. Meanwhile, Carbon and his dad went down to the YMCA for the chess club practice tournament. Saturday afternoon, Hypatia got her first motorcycle ride with Daddy (around the block and through the school parking lot), Carbon went off on a playdate with a friend, and we got some gardening done.

Sunday we packed in a friend's birthday party after church, then we went over to my sister-in-law's and feasted on the clams that she had gone digging for on Saturday. Clam fry and champagne - yum.

Today we've taken the kids across town to explore a new (to us) playground that was recently remodeled at one of our city parks. Then we went and did mini-golf (I won). The kids have been playing in the rain in our hot tub, and soon the rest of the family will be leaving to go to a big crab-feast fundraiser for the local democratic party. I have to teach a class at church tonight, so I'll have to skip the crab.

Despite squabbling and working (and this weird shoulder pain that won't go away), it still felt like a nice break. It seems like the kids need a few days together before they really find a rhythm with each other for playing well together, so the break was good for them. Tomorrow it's back to school and work for us all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Here comes the Spring



We had a truly beautiful day today, a perfect day to work in the garden. Unfortunately, I have hurt my shoulder and I can't do much. Fortunately, my dear husband stepped up and helped out today. He mucked out the chicken yard, stirred all that old nasty straw into my compost bins, and spread fresh straw. He also constructed a small fence to stop the dog from eating all the raspberries. I've been trying to start a berry patch section of the yard, and the dog keeps destroying it. Now there is a little fence, not totally dog proof if she is determined to be bad but enough to give her pause. And then he planted the new raspberries and blueberries I bought at the nursery this week.

Thanks honey!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Putting home back in the center of things

As part of her argument in Radical Homemakers, Shannon Hayes looks back over the history of domestic life and sees a major shift that occurred as the world became industrialized and production shifted out of homes and into factories.

"By the time men were fully ensconced in the workforce and the children were gone to school, the women were left, isolated, at home. They were still charged with procuring food and necessities to ensure the comfort and survival of their families, but now they did it as chauffeurs and shoppers."

That quote resonates with me. I hate how my To Do list can sometimes be just one long list of errands, as I drive my car from one huge parking lot to another huge parking lot and shuffle through stores purchasing things that I then drive back to my home and unload into the house. My other role, of driving the kids around to all their activities and to school, is also an unsatisfying chore.

The division of labor in my household could be described as "He earns most of the money - she spends most of it". I don't like that either.

I first realized years ago, when I was a stay-at-home-mom reading about how to be happy at home, that the main discontent I felt was with the feeling that I was primarily a consumer and not a producer in life. When being a housewife, homemaker, or mother is primarily about shopping, it feels like there is something out of whack.

Now that I have a full-time (and fully rewarding) job outside the home, I find that I still have the responsibility to shop and drive for my family, and it's still just as out of whack. I don't want to leave my house an empty shell; I don't want to spend more time with my family in the car than we do in our home.

So how do we stop being shoppers and chauffeurs? What other ways of living are there?

Thursday, February 17, 2011



I have been inspired a great deal by this book, and the clarion call the author makes for a lifestyle that supports the Earth Charter, personal authenticity, and a life-enriching economy (versus the extractive and exploitative economy). It struck a discordant note with my goal of doing "Less" in 2011, but on the other hand it brought up a new question for me: what if I declared my independence from corporations? Could I even live without supporting corporate power in some way? How can I meet my family's needs in life-sustaining ways? I have more to say about this book, but for now here is one quote:

A true home is inhabited by souls who live, breathe, eat, think, create, play, get sick, heal, and get dirty. It will wither in an antiseptic condition. A true home pulses with non-human life - vegetable patches, yeast, backyard hens, blueberry bushes, culturing yogurt, fermenting wine, brewing beer, milk goats, cats, dogs, houseplants, kids' science projects, pet snakes and strawberry patches. A living system cannot respect the hours on the clock and requires the involvement of all inhabitants in order to thrive.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You never know ...


... where your kids' interests might end up heading. Last night as I sat and studied the theology of Thandeka on the sidelines while Carbon was in Chess Club, I kept hearing his exuberant comments during his game. He LOVES chess. He gets really fired up about playing. I don't know where it came from, but it's pretty cool that he's so happy doing it right now.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Re-Imagined Valentine's Day


Valentine's Day may just be the most un-loved holiday of the year. Folks call it a "Hallmark Holiday", others hold "anti-Valentine's Day", the singles feel like it's some sort of slap in their face, and anyone who is cool is way too cool for this holiday. Of course, there's a reason for all that. It IS smaltzy, corney, terribly over-commercialized, and an amalgam of traditions taken from all over the place without any real heart to the whole thing.

But I hold on to Valentine's Day, mainly because I've found that it is helpful to me in combating the post-Christmas winter blues. February can be a very cruel month, very cold and grey and nasty and for the shortest month of the year it can feel long. This year spring is poking her head out a bit early in my neck of the woods, but frequently this is the part of winter that just feels like it won't let go.

Overall, I think the purpose of celebrating holidays is to bring us into a rhythm with the seasons and the turning of the year. The holidays also honor and remind us of various passages and points in the human journey: Christmas and New Years is birth and new life, Halloween is death, Valentine's Day is young exuberant love.

As a day for Love, to me it's a time to send handmade love notes to my family, especially aging grandparents. It's a time indulge in some more candy and cookies and sweetness with my children. It's also a day to express my love to my husband and a day for him to express his love to me. But some folks are trying to re-imagine this holiday so that the love spreads even farther than all that, and I like this line of thinking. Love can transform the world, if we only let it and Love enough.

The Standing on the Side of Love campaign, which began as a UUA campaign for marriage equality and has since also taken a strong stand on immigration issues, called for us all to reimagine Valentine's Day as a day to recognize courageous love and the power of love to shape a better world.

And then I've been hearing about "Love Your Farmer" campaigns for Valentine's Day.

There are probably and endless number of ways that you could take the day and express your Love in a broader way, to make a statement about the world you wish to create - the Beloved Community.

So I am unashamed to be a fan of Valentine's Day. The saint may never have lived, and his story is pretty improbable, but a man who died for the right of others to marry, who died for Standing on the Side of Love, is still a story worth telling. And in this world that can be pretty cold and bleak spreading a bit more Love around - even in the form of way-too-cute-teddybears - really can't be a bad thing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

They're back!



It seems that they had a grand time with the grand-parents. They arrived home full of energy and happy from the adventure. I hope it was a bonding experience to go away on a trip with them - I know it was a change for us here at home to spend a long weekend without them.

Happy Valentine's Day


Yesterday we made these heart collages as part of the Sunday service at church.


Hypatia got this adorable outfit for her birthday - perfect for Valentine's.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you! Here's to Love, however we experience it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Apples for Jam


I had heard so much good stuff about this cookbook, I was very excited to get my hands on a copy and try some recipes. The concept is different - the book is organized by color. So there is a section of recipes for "white" foods and a section for "brown" foods, etc. The photographs are lovely and inspiring, although sometimes unrelated to the actual recipe. It was fun to thumb through the book.

However, I wasn't all that impressed after I tried a few recipes. Overall, the food is very simple and just so-so. The way the recipes are written out wasn't very easy for me to follow, and the way the book is organized, although original, isn't very useful for real menu planning. I made broccoli soup, winter squash fritters, and a modified version of her sausage goulash. It was all OK, but I wasn't sad to have to return the book to the library after a couple weeks.

Of course, there are many many folks out there singing the praises of this book, so you don't have to take my word on this book.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ID necklaces


In preparation for the kids going to Disneyland tomorrow with their grandparents, my husband went out tonight and made the kids ID necklaces. It has their first name on it, and both his and my cellphone numbers. Isn't it purty?

You know where you can go at 7:30 pm and get instant engraved necklaces? Petsmart. Yep - it's a dog tag. :)

Freak Out!


I have the old disco song stuck in my head ... Freak Out! I have a low-level anxiety resting on my chest, and it feels hard to breathe ...

The kids are about to go to Disneyland over the weekend with my in-law's ... it makes me nervous to let them go without me. And then there is work. And then there is fundraising for the high school youth trip to Transylvania. And there is planning for the fundraising auction for Carbon's school. And there is managing the household. And there is carting the children around to school and other activities. It's a juggling act to keep the schedule straight, and I'm always in a mentality of how to raise money for things and worrying about money.

Freak Out!

I'd like to just relax, stop the wheels turning in my head, and take the batteries out of the clocks. Wouldn't that be nice? Is summer coming soon? No wait - I don't want it to come soon because I don't have the funds raised for that trip yet ...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A very good sort of "less"


"Less" is my guiding word for this year, and I love this "less" that was in my power bill! We used Less electricity than we had used this time of year in 2010. A big part of that, I'm sure, was that my Dad came down last February and replaced our old (1950's!) forced air heater that we were using as our only source of heat, with two newer wall heaters so that we could turn on heat in the bedroom at night, and then turn on heat in the living room during the day. Just being newer and more efficient also helped.

I've got a bit lazy recently, though, and I'm using my dryer too much. I have a lovely drying rack that I can set up in my living room for laundry, and I just need to do that more often. There's still plenty of room to bring our power usage down farther.

Monday, February 7, 2011

low-impact birthday parties


This weekend I stood in my kitchen holding up two packages of (already used) candles.

"Which one, honey?" I asked my husband. "The all-white beeswax candles or the pink petroleum based candles for Hypatia's cake?"

My husband made some comment about it getting to the point of asking if we should have soy-cheese or veal at the picnic we were having on the hood of our hummer.

Well - it wasn't THAT bad! Not hummer-bad, anyway. Maybe the party ended up being about Ford Explorer-bad.

It started well. We made our own invites from recycled paper. I ordered her gifts from Etsy to support handmade. But then the last minute stuff hit:

  • I thought it would be fun to have beads for necklace making, so the kids could just take necklaces as their party-favors. I went a little overboard on beads at Joanne's.
  • I was short on time, and there is a Target across the parking lot from Joanne's. I haven't stepped foot in a big-box store (other than Toys R Us) in six-months, but I really needed paper plates and napkins. Why did I need paper plates? For the party. Yep, I just don't have enough reusable table ware that would be easy to carry to the rock-gym.
  • In Target (ick) all they had for party cups were plastic. I got the pink paper plates and napkins, but couldn't do the plastic cups. So I just got plain Dixie cups.
  • Next I had Hypatia with me and we headed to the gluten-free store for flour. I bought three packages of cake mix, even though I knew I should just buy bulk flour and make the cakes from scratch. But the mix was there, so tempting, so easy ...
  • Then we really hit the high-impact lane. We headed over to Costco, having not had any lunch and being REALLY hungry. That's never a good idea. They were pushing all sorts of samples for Super Bowl Parties, and we were so hungry we just grabbed samples left and right.
  • After sampling some chicken wings, Hypatia wanted some for her party. A giant plastic bag of pre-cooked chicken wings from Foster Farms? SOoooooo not the way we have been buying our meat. I've only been cooking whole birds, mostly all organic and locally raised. But, OK ... for her birthday dinner.
  • She also wanted a lot of fresh fruit, which isn't in season, but we bought it anyway and I tried not to think about the carbon-footprint to fly a mango from South America for my daughter's birthday.
  • All of the produce and fruit came in giant plastic tubs that we can't recycle here, so all that just went in the trash.

In the end, we were able to compost all the cups, napkins, and plates. But I still felt so guilty about the footprint of the day ...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Preschool Days



Yesterday Hypatia's preschool class put on a circus performance. They sang a couple songs, and there were several circus acts: some balancing acts, acrobats, a lion tamer, and the elephant pyramid. That's Hypatia at the top of the pyramid. :) It was about 15 minutes long, and parents left work to come see it, and it was simply fabulous. The kids were so happy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Game Night


For a very long time, I have wanted to have or be part of a regular game night or potluck, some sort of community building and family-friendly event that could be relied on and wasn't too much work to organize.

So this year I've decided to go ahead and do it. Last Friday night we had our first potluck game night here in our home. We invited tons of people, knowing that in our busy lives many would be unable to attend. Hopefully, if we do this once a month many of our friends will be able to come at some point. This first game night we had four families join ours, for all-ages fun and some great games.

Its a small thing, a game night, but it feels like part of a lifestyle that is less consumer-oriented, more community-oriented. It is a low-impact way to have a lot of fun and build connections.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy New Year, Candlemas, Groundhog's Day, and Imbolc!

I know it is decidedly still winter back East, but out here we are getting Spring already. However, we still have some midwinter holidays to celebrate ...

So Happy Groundhog's Day to you. Here's to hoping it doesn't see its shadow (although I bet it will).

Happy Candlemas.

Happy Imbolc. May the goddess awake and spring return.

Happy Chinese New Year, Happy Oshogatsu.

We attended a local Oshogatsu celebration at our community center, and were amazed at the variety of Japanese food, arts and crafts, music, and other cultural displays. However you celebrate this time of year, may it be a happy time. Even if you are snowed in up to your rooftops.