Saturday, April 30, 2011

My doll and me

Hypatia had been browsing the American Girl Doll catalog, and what she really wanted was one of those matching nightgown sets. But, Wow! - those things are pricey. So I suggested mildly that it would be a lot less expensive for me to sew that for her ... and she loved that idea. She took her allowance to the fabric store and used it to pick out the flannel, and unfortunately it took me a long time to find the time to do it, but now she is thrilled with the result. And she got to help with some of the sewing! More of this in store for us, I'm sure. I don't particularly like sewing doll clothes - they are so small and the work is so tight - but I like that she likes it so much.




The pattern is from All Dolled Up , a Sewing With Nancy book.

Reflections on the month


April flew by. I came into the month feeling like I was running as fast as I could just to keep up with the hamster wheel I was trapped in, but things calmed down a lot after the auction was over at Carbon's school. I'm also coming to the end of the long effort to fundraise for a youth trip to Romania ... all that fundraising that I've been doing for almost a year now was really draining and exhausting, and I'm so glad it's over. Fundraising doesn't feel good for my soul, even though I know it's important work also.

And then the sun came out.

Literally, but also emotionally.

The decision to homeschool again is a sad goodbye to the wonderful community at the Sudbury school, but it's also a full embrace of something that I love to do with the kids, and that we were trying to hold onto with our tiny amount of time available for "afterschooling".

I also heard back from the Religious Education Credentialing program at the UUA, and I am starting that program now, working toward a Master's Level Credential as a Religious Educator. It gives me my own "homework" I need to be doing, and I love that kind of thing.

It's planning time for next year's program, and I enjoy that phase a great deal. I need to write two curricula for next winter, for a session of religious literacy in earth-based traditions for our 1-2nd grade class and our 3-4th grade class. I like writing curricula, so that's a fun challenge to start cogitating.

I opened up the registration for the two summer camps I'm teaching this year, and I think they are both going to be a lot of fun. Now I'm starting to plan the curricula for those camps also - a fun task especially for the "Hero Camp" for 8-11 year olds.

I'm much happier being back in my preferred element, planning and implementing classes and education and pursuing my own life-long education, rather than fundraising and event planning. The later two are necessary work, and I know I'll have to roll up my sleeves and do them again in the coming years, but it's good to realize just how drained I became and if that is a task that needs to go on my plate again, I'll need to work hard to keep myself energized and happy at the same time.

So, April was a time of transition. Now I'm looking forward to May.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Arbor Day

It's almost the end of National Poetry Month AND it's Arbor Day, so I feel like I must post this:

Think Like a Tree

Soak up the sun
Affirm life's magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed as the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.

Karen I. Shragg

From the truly marvelous book The Tree That Time Built: a celebration of nature, science, and imagination selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, and including an audio cd to hear the poets perform their own work.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A choice between two goods

wizard chess

There are big changes coming around here. After some lingering sadness and doubt, the family has decided to homeschool again next year. It's not that we don't like the Sudbury school Carbon has been attending - I mean how awesome is this scene above? The school is very cool, the community is great, and he loves it there.

But I miss homeschooling. I miss being with my kids, being involved in their learning, getting to do it along their side. I feel left out by how little involvement parents get to have in the Sudbury model. I miss homeschooling. I miss the way it was a family adventure for my family of origin, and I miss planning and doing unit studies and fun learning with my kids.

And, although I understand absolutely the need to pay full tuition for the school, it's hard to budget for those "extras" like music lessons that I want to also give the kids.

I've also never been 100% comfortable with the completely unschooled and child-led model that is also part of the Sudbury model. I'm right there with them for about 75% of the way to complete child autonomy, but there is that 25% adult directed that I still feel is important. And it's not that I need to "deschool" myself - I'm a pretty de-schooled person having never been to a school until college, and having gone to an alternative non-graded college. I was homeschooled, and unschooled for a few years, and I love homeschooling.

So, even though we were pretty happy with the Sudbury school, we're going to return to my roots and homeschool the kids again. It will be a challenge, as I am still keeping my full-time job (which I also love). But we have a plan, and I'm excited.

It's not the worst problem in the world, to have an abundance of good options in front of you, but it was still pretty sad making this decision. We involved the kids too - if this was really just all about me missing them, that wouldn't be fair. But they are excited for the possibilities of homeschooling also. It will be hard to say goodbye, but it will be nice to go back to the learning adventure I love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Children's Book Post


A bit of what we've been reading:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. I never had read this before, and it was a revelation to the whole family. What a delightful and funny girl Pippi is, and what a sweet book! The whole family was enchanted by the willful strangeness and silly adventures of Pippi.

Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson. Jackson is the author of many other pagan-themed picture books for children, including a quartet of books for the wheel of the year (Spring and Fall equinox, Winter and Summer solstice). In Earth Mother, a somewhat mysterious female mother figure walks through the world and encounters a triangle of creatures (man, frog, mosquito) all wishing there was more of their food and less of their predator, but the book makes clear that in the web of life all are needed. I used this book to read aloud in a Children's Chapel at church, and the children all "got it" and it sparked some good comments from many of them.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Christian Stead. We had this book out from the library and it just happened to be that Hypatia had a sick day and had to stay home ... it was perfect timing to pull out this sweet little story about the Best Sick Day Ever. Who wouldn't want their animal friends to come over and take care of them when they are sick?

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A book of changing seasons by Il Sung Na. The illustrations here are simply beautiful. A journey through all the ways animals get through the winter, with a snowy rabbit appearing cleverly on each page. And then when spring comes, the rabbit has changed too - to a brown fur rabbit.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson. Although I am personally tired of this story, and feel that it gets a bit overdone in some circles, when I brought it out again for Hypatia she was very engaged by this story of two boy penguins who love each other and seem to long for a baby of their own, and their joy when the zoo keeper helped them get one.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"a woman's work is never done".............

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The old saying, that a "man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done" is only too true when you are talking about domestic labors. They are Never Done. There is always something that I could be cleaning, dusting, repairing, decorating, baking, sewing, sorting, organizing, training, weeding, watering, washing, mending, cooking, etc.

When I got the puppy - a lap dog - one of the things we all noticed is how rarely my lap is actually available. I rarely sit down, and when I do I have some kind of handwork to do while I sit - multitasking all the time.

There is no way I can clean everything that could be cleaned everyday, so one way to try and fix this is to make a schedule. We used to have a schedule, and we just fell out of the habit, even though it was very helpful.

So I sat down and started with a list of everything I could think of that has to be done Everyday, Twice a Week, Once a Week, Once a Month, and Seasonally/As Needed. Then I made this monthly schedule and starting plugging things in to it. I am home on Mondays and Fridays, so I loaded most of the chores onto those days. I put family-style and outdoor chores on Saturdays, but left one Saturday a month with no chores on it so that we are flexible enough to accommodate the possibility of a day trip or really busy Saturday.

I gave the kids each a daily chore:

Hypatia: Monday vacuum, Tuesday straighten the Entry Way baskets, Wednesday Dust, Thursday clean her room, Friday dishes.

Carbon: Monday dishes, Tuesday bathrooms, Wednesday take out the compost, Thursday clean his room, Friday vacuum.

I really hope this keeps us on track AND lets me say my work is done for the day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter


However you understand Easter (and as a UU, this holiday can be hard to wrap your mind and heart around), I hope that yours is a happy one tomorrow. Peace, life, and love to all as we experience a rebirth and renewal.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Love Wins

So I've just finished reading Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell. The book has caused a fair bit of controversy and conversation: first by the Christians who attack his theology and second by the Unitarian Universalists who debate how close he has come to Universalism.

Universalism started as the message that in the end, everyone - Universally - everyone - would be "saved" and go to heaven. There wasn't necessarily no hell. I have read old Universalist catechisms from the 1800's that skirt around the idea that those who are really bad - the real sinners - would go to hell for some time of punishment and while there they would undergo some kind of lesson and then they would get to go to heaven after that. So, maybe a short-term hell. Just no eternal hell.

Universalism today has joined with Unitarianism, and now a modern Universalist may or may not believe in any kind of "heaven", any kind of "God", or any sort of "hell". But they probably believe that everyone is inherently worthy and loved, and that whatever happens to us after we die, there will not be one group singled out for special treatment - it's going to happen to us all.

Does Rob Bell's book bring his Christian theology to Universalism? It seems to bring it to the historical Universalism, yes. I think he and John Murray would have been fine calling themselves colleagues. And many modern Universalists may also agree with him - he is preaching universalism (small u).

In Love Wins, Bell explains the scriptures as being about a heaven that will come to this earth, and that for most of us heaven or hell is right here, right now, and the choice is whether or not we live in a state of trust in God and experience of God's love. He also points out that those who are focused on some heaven or hell as "out there" or separate from life here and now are frequently those who fail to work to make this earth better and bring us closer to heaven on earth.

As to whether those who are "really bad" will still suffer some sort of hell, he is vague. Perhaps he believes, like those historical Universalists, that there is a place of punishment for those who have chosen to act in evil ways, and that after that punishment they can still be redeemed and reunited with God's love. He doesn't really spell it out exactly, but he does say he believes in evil and in sin.

And what about all the non-Christians? He says "Christ is the only way" but then he says that Christ could be acting mysteriously - even anonymously - and so people of other beliefs could still be saved. That part seems dubious to me - he uses Gandhi as an example, so is he saying Christ was somehow acting on Gandhi's heart and so Gandhi is with Love/God somehow through Christ even though he was not a Christian?

Despite my quibbles, it was a fascinating read, and I appreciate his theology as being much more loving and inclusive than most Christian thought. I'm thrilled to see this conversation happening within evangelicalism, as well.

Very interesting stuff.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011



Hypatia in her "ready" pose, with her Tball coach.

I'm sensitive to my own failings, and I would like my children to have greater comfort in those areas than I do. But that means that I myself have to wade into areas that I'm uncomfortable in.

I find myself sitting there through swim lessons, when I am personally afraid to get in the deep water.

I'm also right there, trying to help my kids with baseball. This is a joke for me - I cannot throw or catch to save my life. I've been laughed at for this. I'm not going to volunteer to coach or assist - no way.

But I bought a mitt. I bought a mitt because the kids needed practice, and they wanted me to try with them. My pitches are impossible to hit, my throws are hard to catch, and I can't catch what they throw back at me. But I'm trying, and I'm spending the time.

It would be easy for me to stick with what I know - and that would mean dance and theater for the kids, primarily. Some choir or chorus singing. So far, Hypatia is taking ballet but doesn't LOVE it, and Carbon has only spotty occasional interest in any of that stuff.

And I have these 37 Goals for the Kids, and baseball applies to these:

#1 Have Lifelong Fitness Habits

#3 Be able to play a pick-up sports game with comfort

So it's that time of year again. Both kids are on YMCA teams - everybody plays, everybody wins. I don't think we'll ever go beyond Y Sports - that's not why we are doing it. But now is the time to get out and play catch, and learn the basics.

Monday, April 18, 2011

a "taxing" experience

Happy Tax Day everyone! I am writing a wince-inducing check right now and dropping it off in the mail, but I am trying to stay positive about it all. We all have to pay taxes, and you know, I like roads, and for my grandma to get her social security check in the mail. So, goodbye hard-earned money. Go off and be good now, paying for the society I live in. (P.S. - I'd feel better if more of you were going to social programs and less of you was going to pay for military spending and wars we should not have started in the first place!).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Tulip Festival

Skagit Valley, about three hours away from me, is the second largest producer of tulips in the world, after Holland. As tulip time is right around my mother's birthday, it's one of her favorite things to do to go drive the tulip route.

This was the first time I've ever done the tulip festival with the kids, and they liked the tulips ... but they LOVED the mud. We ended up having to drive home with Hypatia stripped down, her muddy dripping things in the trunk, and her wrapped in a dog blanket ... but it was worth it. Childhood is messy. Childhood is about jumping in puddles.

Heck ... LIFE is messy. Life is about the puddles as much as it is about the flowers. There - that was a really deep thought I pulled out to wrap up this post, eh?





Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom


Happy Birthday, and thank you for you. Thank you for your work ethic, and for teaching it to me. Thank you for your willingness to always turn the other cheek, walk the mile in someone else's shoes, and forgive. Thank you for homeschooling me, and doing my laundry while I was in college. Thank you for proof-reading all my college papers and my Master's thesis. Thank you for your crazy strong belief in the importance of family. Thank you for just being you, living on this earth.

I love you, Mom. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

some spring cleaning for the bathroom

This morning my husband asked me if I knew where the nail clippers were (yes - they were right where they were supposed to be, but the nail scissors had been left out after I last trimmed a child's nails), and then told me that as he could not find the clippers, he had had to use the hair scissors to trim his nails.

OK - you have to know something about my husband to understand how I feel about this. He doesn't have normal finger and toe nails - he has these thick claws that need to be trimmed with hedge clippers. And he used the scissors that I use to trim my eyebrows and hair, and the kids' hair, to cut those nasty nails!

I felt really upset about this. I'm not a total girly girl, but I'm still a girl, and I have grooming needs - I tweeze and pluck and wax and moisturize and all that. But my family is always getting into my stuff, and messing it up.

And that wasn't the only bathroom frustration. I also am always finding the soap by the bathroom sink gone, because my husband takes it into the shower and then leaves it in there. And soap left in the shower stall has a tendency to dissolve ... so it wastes the soap. He doesn't understand that I want the soap left by the sink, so I can wash my hands ...

And my daughter has a whole collection of Barbie dolls in the bathroom, that she likes to take into the bath tub with her for her bath ...

And we only have this little pedestal sink, but the whole family insists on leaving their toothbrushes precariously balanced on it, instead of putting them away in the cabinet ...

So, the hair scissors thing really tipped me over the edge today. That was IT. No more bathroom crazy mess. I went through the whole two rooms, and threw away old and expired products. I found a plastic basket to hold the Barbie Dolls on the back of the toilet. I found another plastic basket to hold all my husband's stuff, including his own bar of soap, separate from the hand-washing soap. I separated my daughter's hair gizmos from my hair gizmos and gave the kids their own cabinet to hold all her hair stuff and both their tooth brushing stuff and flouride pills. And then, in the broken sink in our 1/2 bath (we have an over the toilet sink for hand-washing in there) I set up my own area. I've told them all, touch it only after asking my permission. This is MY stuff - and no using my scissors to trim your nails! How do you like the fresh flowers in the broken sink? I like it, even if it means I'll have to buy myself a steady supply of flowers. :)



Does that seem like too much grooming stuff? My husband seems to think so, but he expects me to be a hairy hippy that never wears make-up. I want to walk the middle path. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Love Kate Braestrup


This is the second book I've read by Kate Braestrup, and she is now one of my favorite authors. The straightforward, loving, down-to-earth, deeply spiritual way she writes about life - the everyday, the transcendent, and the most tragic and trying of times - is a real treasure.

I've never been drawn to prayer as a practice before, but she has laid it out in a way that makes me understand how this practice could have great value. Prayer need not be "to" anyone or any deity, but is an expression of all that we feel inside. It's a beautiful book, and although I have not started a daily prayer practice yet, I just might.

The true realist should expect what is most likely. That which is most likely is nothing. "Nothing is impossible!" people say, but actually everything Except nothing is impossible. Nothingness is the most possible - indeed, the most Probable - thing in the cosmos. Not only is there no inevitability involved when the fry cook gives you your french fries, the odds are a bazillion to one against either of you (or the potatoes) existing at all.
Yet here you are!
And here I am! How cool is this!
I can't thank myself for the impossible fact of my existence. With all due respect, I can't thank you for it, either. Maybe I don't have to thank anyone for it - but I am thankful dammit! And I'm sure it's bad for my blood pressure to keep all that thankfulness bottled up inside.
If, as my husband defines it, disappointment is the feeling you get when reality doesn't meet your expectations, gratitude is the feeling you get when reality Exceeds your expectations. The truly rational, realistic person should feel overwhelmingly grateful all the time.

Kate Braestrup, Beginner's Grace

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Auction success



Wow. We did it - and it worked out to be a lovely event.

Wow. I'm so tired - this was an exhausting project and it managed to really eat the last few weeks of my life up.

Wow. My husband's excel set up for this really didn't work, and I had a crazy customer service experience trying to check folks out at the end of the auction.

Wow. We had so many cool items donated, and my mother-in-law won a really awesome handmade Harry Potter basket for the kids. They are thrilled.

Wow. For our first try at an auction, it was good - we brought in $8000 for the school.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I feel like this


Here are these little clay statues I had the kids in the 4-5th grade class at church make. I got them a lovely mold to make the faces, and then I put them in the toaster oven, and then I got distracted by all the people and things I need to deal with on a Sunday morning ...

And then I smelled it. And I ran back into the classroom and pulled them out. Buddha's head caught on fire!

I feel like this right now. I'm trying to find contentment, peace, balance, and enlightenment. But, maybe, my head is on fire.

Songs for Earth Day

Another song I thought of singing this Sunday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ah, the wonder of the internet

How easy is it to plan a Children's Chapel when I can google all the songs I'm thinking of using and find videos like this one above? Thank you to all who post their resources, and make it so nice and easy to plan!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Reflections on the month


March was a tough month. I've been headed toward some large events that I volunteered to help with, and March was an overloaded month. Work and volunteering are all a bit too much.

But it's also the time of year when I hear the siren call of Cleaning and Gardening. I managed to squeeze in the Project Simplify assignments, and get outdoors for a couple days of garden work. We started seedlings indoors and a flat of lettuce in my little greenhouse. I took note of the first day of spring, and if we start to get more sun my mood will probably perk up.

I'm happy to flip the calendar page on this one. One more week till Carbon's school's auction, then I hope to catch my breath a bit more. Come on April - let's find our pace again.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recommended Family Viewing

If you haven't already seen "Babies", a film following four babies in four very different parts of the world, but highlighting the similarities - well then you should! It's charming and lovely.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Project Simplify: The Pantry

This week's assignment from Simple Mom was the pantry. A perfect assignment, as I really needed to do that anyway.

The brutally honest Before pictures, with no tidying up after a long and busy weekend.





One of the projects was to make sure everything was labeled.


One thing I like to do is to put out a basket of snacks and fruit down low where the kids can easily reach them. Those are the things they are allowed to eat whenever they like.


And I cleared off a section of shelf in the kitchen that will just hold the breakfast bits, and another that will hold the bits for going in lunch boxes.


And then I sorted and tidied my storage out in the garage. I did the deep freeze earlier, so I didn't take time to do that again.