Monday, July 30, 2012

working on the day off ....


Today should be my day off, but alas ... there were meetings that really needed to happen, there were backlogs of work that didn't get done while I was teaching camp, and there is a meeting tomorrow that I needed to prepare a history lesson for.

But the view here where I finished up the evening, working and also trying to visit with family at the same time, wasn't so bad.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Picture Books for the 2nd Principle


The 2nd of our UU 7 Principles is "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations", or as we teach it to our children: Offer Fair and Kind Treatment to All

Our summer Religious Education program is Reading the Principles, and here are the books I've found for the 2nd Principle:

The Quarreling Book by Charlotte Zolotow

Horton Hatches The Egg by Dr. Seuss

There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer

And there is a good list of books about compassion here.

And another good list of books about kindness here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

All Camped Out


Yesterday the kids and I stumbled home after camp had finished, completely exhausted and tapped out.  It was a wonderful camp group, and we've had fun everyday for the two weeks it ran, but those were FULL days!

Days full of nature scavenger hunts, craft projects, skit practice, water balloon play, guided meditation, shared joys and sorrows, story times, making new friends, and much more.

Time for some summer rest now!




Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Great Story in Beads


Continuing with the camp activities that have been big hits with the kids, I present: The Great Story in Beads.

Over at, they have a page with curriculum for doing this with children with beads.  The beads symbolize different events in evolution: The Big Bang, the first flowers, etc.  Depending on how fancy you want to get about it, you can get special beads to represent those events or use a big mixed bead bag and leave it to the imagination.  I opted for simple and less expensive, but with fewer kids you could afford to spend more time and effort and money on a string.

Beading, and the tactile experience of sorting through a big bag of beads, appeals strongly to most of the children.

Another fun resource we used is the giant evolution playmat available from Charlie's Playhouse.  I own it and have used it in the past at home to have the kids put actual fossils out on the timeline, but it's sturdy enough for children to actually walk on, so it's very versatile.

Evolution is a great story - and most children just naturally find it fascinating. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We are Star Dust


Big Hits from Camp: making glow in the dark Star Maps, and watching the Symphony of Science videos in our camp worship services:

Monday, July 23, 2012

How Big is the Solar System?

Another week of camp, this time based on the Born With A Bang trilogy and full of the wonder and awe of the universe:


So big, that if the planets were just a dot of fingernail polish on one of your nails ....


And you were Pluto you would have to jump 600 jumps away from the Sun (which would be a softball at that scale).  Our church parking lot wasn't actually big enough to put Pluto and the Sun in it at the same time.


So let's decorate the parking lot and make it a starry field!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Picture Books for the First Principle

All this summer we are doing a reading program at church, and trying to tie the picture books we read into our 7 Principles.

The first of the UU 7 Principles is the inherent worth and dignity of all, which the children initially learn as respect everyone.  

Here are the picture books I have found to go with this principle:

1.  The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

2.  Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

3.  Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco

4.  The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills

5.  Momma, Where are You From? by Marie Bradbury

6.  My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis

7.  Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley

There are more books organized the Principles here.

And, as our 1st Principle is very much tied into anti-bias work, there is a list of recommended picture books for anti-bias education here.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Worker Justice

When I was in college, one of my classmates was dating an undocumented immigrant, and said that he worked at local cheap eats place as a dishwasher - getting paid $1 an hour.

A whole buck for an hour of scrubbing dishes.  My mother paid me a dollar an hour to do chores when I was a little kid.

I haven't been able to eat at that restaurant again, but of course there's no reason for me to think that this is the only local place paying its workers such substandard wages.

When I was down in Phoenix for the Justice GA, I was struck by how many of the local activists made reference to our love of guacamole - and then I saw the local practice of having the waitstaff come out and make the guacamole fresh at the table so a restaurant patron could see how fresh it was.

I don't know how much waitstaff are paid in Phoenix, but the national minimum wage for tip workers is  $2.13 an hour.

From field to fork, it's not just the environment and the animals that suffer so we can have a good dinner.  But overall, worker justice and fair trade hasn't got the cultural traction that organic and sustainable food are now enjoying.  The lack of concern over worker justice from foodies is the subject of this recent article in

Yet another thing for us to worry about?  Yes, as I stand in front of the dairy section of my local store, I have to ask:

How were these cows treated?

Should I spring for organic?  Hormones and antibiotics in milk products give me the willies, and I worry about my kids growing up on all these hormones ...

Maybe I should go for soy or coconut instead?

Organic, non-gmo soy?

I've heard soy isn't actually all that sustainable .... and then it has it's own hormone mimicking issues ....

Coconut milk is high in fats .... and it's a new fad so I have no idea if coconut production is sustainable or not ....

Were the dairy workers paid fairly and treated well?

How many miles did this product travel to this store?  What is it's carbon footprint?

Are the workers in this store paid fairly?  

Does this chain of stores/ local store support some political cause I'm opposed to?  (Should I even be in this store in the first place?)

It is enough to make a lot of people throw their hands up in the air and give up.  And then you have to go through that with every single purchase decision you make.  

All that said, can we find a bit of room in our overcrowded ethical brains to worry about the workers?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mama's To Do List


1.  Build Chicken Tractor

2.  Move Chicks out to the garden

3. Make Jammies for the girl

4.  Make Jammies for the boy

5.  Mend the quilt the dog ate

6.  Clean and organize the garage

7.  Finish the new raised veggie bed

8.  Plant fall harvest veggies

9.  Clean out the freezer

10.  Put up the new basketball hoop

11.  Take vacuum cleaner to repair shop

There's always more to do, isn't there.  What's on your list?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

classroom teachers, I salute you


After teaching four days of half-day church camp, I'm already exhausted.  I give huge props to the teachers who do this all the time!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another camp activity


Today we made necklaces in Chalice Camp, and had each of the kids pick a word that helps them remember to act by our principles.  It is somewhat similar to the 7 Principles Bracelet Kit, which I picked up at GA this year.

First, we made clay beads with oven-bake clay, then we had alphabet beads and asked each of the kids to pick their word.  Then, they made their necklaces with their alphabet beads, clay beads, and an assortment of other plastic beads.  The words in the bracelet kit are:


The words the kids picked today:

Rainbow (3 kids picked that)
Love (2 kids)
Hope (2 kids)
Their own name
and my favorite, "word"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Color Fun


We are doing camp at church this week, for the 4-7 year old crowd, with a theme of "Rainbow Camp".  The Rainbow is a way to remember the UU 7 Principles, but doing a rainbow theme is also a great excuse for a bunch of fun activities with color!


And this idea, which I got from the blog Salt and Chocolate, was a huge hit.  Baking soda in trays, with  small containers of vinegar colored with food coloring.  I mixed it up a bit and did some water and some vinegar and didn't tell the kids which was which, so they got the surprise of not knowing if it was going to fizz or not.  Some pipettes so they can drop it on the baking soda, and they would have happily just kept going with this activity.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Life happens in the in-between


I've been loving the feel and pace of summer, and pondering what makes it so different from the rest of the year.

The pace is slower (and yet we still have so much to do), the days are longer, and there is more time spent outdoors in the nicer weather.

And it feels like there is space for activities that don't fit in scheduled boxes - spontaneous, solo, unstructured, unscheduled Life can happen.  The family can just head out for a bike ride down the trail. We can say "let's drive to the volcano tomorrow", or just pick up a picnic at the deli and go to the park for dinner.


I love this about summer.  It feels expansive, even when I'm actually still quite busy working hard.  And it makes me wonder about why I fill the rest of the year so full of scheduled activities.  Why is a martial arts class more important than time to ride bikes?  Why do I let myself get so over-scheduled there is no time to read, or sew, or take a nap?

Of course, there are practical reasons why we don't ride bikes in the winter, and those classes at the gym are the only way we'll get active and moving when the weather is nasty.  Of course, there are times when a schedule is necessary, there are things that are worth doing, and life can't be summertime all year round (at least not until I retire and my kids are moved out and I'm a nice active volunteering grandma/church lady type).  But still .....

What would happen if I didn't take it on myself to get Carbon driven to those two evenings a week of martial arts class?  What if all he did for classes was his morning swim lessons?  What if I don't sign him up for any more organized team sports anymore?  For a kid who has no passion for sports, would just replacing the broken basket ball hoop in our backyard be just as good as signing him up for the winter session of Y basketball?

How can I protect the in-between space that is necessary for Nature Study, for Getting Lost in a Book, for Inventing Something, or for Dreaming?  How can I put more margin into our lives, more Summer into the rest of the year?

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Reading Life


My summer reading is heavily influenced by the Religious Education Credentialing program.  My goal is to complete the Anti-Racict/Anti-Oppression/Multicultural and the Worship sections of my portfolio, so I need to read all the required books for those sections.

Soul Work seemed like a pretty lame idea for a book, because they took the papers presented at a conference and then added a summary transcript of the dialogue that followed each paper.  I was honestly dreading reading it because this concept sounded like a great way to get a deadly dull book, but I've been more than pleasantly surprised by how engrossing it actually is.  The readers of this book would be a small bunch, as it is about UU Anti-Racism and anti-racist theology (so, the reading public for this book would be UU's, mostly ministers), but I would happily recommend it to anyone interested in the subject matter.

I'm also reading Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Social Justice.  So far, I also like this one and the author has a lively and interesting style.

And then, on the bottom of the stack is the novel that I get to read in small snatches when I decide I've done enough studying for one day.  I'm reading What Alice Forgot, which has the premise that a woman wakes up after a fall in the gym, and she thinks it's 10 years ago.  She has no memory of what has happened to her in the last 10 years - including her 3 children's very existence.  It seems to be a clever way of examining how a person can change over time, and how our lives unfold in different ways than we had planned.  I'm enjoying it, so it's a distraction.


I also read The Book Whisperer, which is written by a successful 6th grade teacher who has developed a program that gets every one of her kids reading.  And the program seems to boil down to: give them the expectation that all will read, give them choice in what they read, give them lots of time to read, and model a love of reading.  So nice and simple, it seems obvious, but apparently this is not obvious in many schools.


And then I've been reading Playful Learning, which is written by a teacher who began educating her own children at home.  I thought it would be more theoretical, but it is actually full of simple activities you can do in different subject areas, complete even with pages you can photocopy to use as templates. I'm going to do a few of these activities in the church camp I'm leading next week.  There is also a chapter on "playful learning spaces" that just gave me school-room envy and made my efforts in our school room look very uninspiring. :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gleaning from the Garden


Today the Interfaith Camp kids walked to a community garden operated by the Kiwanis Club on the roof of a government building.  Hypatia and I got to go along, as extra volunteers.  We harvested fresh carrots and beets that went straight to the local Food Bank.  It is a wonderful garden, a wonderful use of space, and it was a wonderful morning with the kids.


 Hypatia took over my phone when she got tired of pulling carrots, so we even caught me in the act.



Tuesday, July 10, 2012



I spent today volunteering at the Interfaith camp hosted at the local Jewish Temple.  It's the first year the Interfaith Works is doing a camp, and it is sadly tiny - just three kids!  But they're going ahead with it anyway, and Carbon is getting a good week so far.


The idea here was to each decorate a puzzle piece with things that represent your religion to you.  This was Carbon's piece.  It was interestingly difficult for all the kids to think of things to put on their puzzle pieces (the children are Baha'i, Jewish, and UU), but I was charmed by what Carbon eventually settled on.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sunbathing Chicks

hmmm, I wonder how many people will come to this blog post by googling "sunbathing chicks" and then be disappointed?


Our chicks have graduated from a big plastic tub with a heat lamp over it in our garage to Grass!  Bugs!  Wind!  Sun!  Watching them explore and love this new environment was our big entertainment yesterday.  They knew they wanted the worms and the bugs, but they couldn't quite figure out how to deal with them, with comical and interesting results.


And they seem to love the sun.  They had shade too - we were sure to maintain shade over them all day - but they sought out the sliver of bright sun and would lie down on their side and stretch their wings open to catch maximum rays.


In fact, until we realized they were choosing to do this and were fine, we were really worried.  Doesn't this look like they just keeled over and died?  And, btw, these are the naked neck chicks, so they are supposed to look like that. :)

I have never seen this particular behavior before in any of my chickens.  But this whole group does it!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Linky Love


If you are like me, you and your friends are always saying "I'm so busy" - do we need to be?  The Busy Trap

And then, if you do take the time to just hang out outside, will you see very many other kids?  Where have all the outdoor kids gone?

Wondering what to do with free time, kids, and the outdoors?  The bucket list for kids

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chicken Coops

Today, I built a chicken tractor.  The idea of a tractor is to be able to move the chickens around, to get them to work on different parts of the garden and to give them fresh ground to scratch.  Although we have chickens in a big yard with a large coop, we have new chicks and one chicken that has been violently rejected from the rest of the flock (chickens are so mean), so this seemed like a good second home for some of them.

Carbon helped me on all steps of this project (very educational for him - I think this counted as a Wood Shop project, for sure).  I didn't really have a plan, just sort of improved as I went, but I did base it off the MiniCoop from Mother Earth News.





Friday, July 6, 2012

field trip day


We did a mini-unit study on volcanoes this year, but the field trip had to wait until the mountain was open for the season.

We did a tiny little hike (but even that was more than Hypatia wanted to do).

They got to see their own "earthquake" show up on a seismograph.


Some of us were up for the Ranger Talk.


While some of us sought out shade and looked at the new field guides we had purchased in the gift shop.

Field trips and outdoor learning are perfect for summer (home)school!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Preserves


I've made my first preserves of the year.  Normally, we get strawberries and rhubarb coming into the local farmer's market at the same time, and so I have made many batches of strawberry rhubarb jam and/or syrup in the past few years.  This year has been different, with weird weather, and the rhubarb came out much earlier than the strawberries, but instead the apriums were available with the berries.

And what a great combination they are!  I am in love with this flavor combo.  I used the recipe found here, but had to add pectin to make it set up to jam.

I tasked Carbon with cutting the garlic scapes from the garden, and he wanted to cook them - so I let him sautee them in olive oil and a bit of soy sauce.  Everyone liked how they turned out and we had a nice little morning snack from them.

Other summer kitchen adventures have included the inspiration of this recipe for yogurt popsicles.  I haven't tried that recipe yet, but instead tried the experiment of just freezing some blueberry kefir in our molds.  That turned out a bit too intense for my kids to enjoy (they don't like kefir, so it's not a big surprise).  I want to try the yogurt kind next.

Next up: I need to pick the pie cherries that are ripe on my cherry tree.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day, America


We celebrated today with friends, outdoor BBQ, badminton, and some mild fireworks.  I hope others enjoyed their holiday as much!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"this is just the way I am"


  [in-duh-vij-oo-al-i-tee]  Show IPA
noun, plural in·di·vid·u·al·i·ties.
the particular character, or aggregate of qualities, thatdistinguishes one person or thing from others; sole andpersonal naturea person of marked individuality.
individualities, individual  characteristics.
a person or thing of individual  or distinctive character.
state or quality of being individual existence as a distinctindividual.
the interests of the individual  as distinguished from theinterests of the community.


  [in-duh-vij-oo-uh-liz-uhm]  Show IPA
a social theory advocating the libertyrights, or independent action of the individual.
the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought oraction.
the pursuit of individual rather than common or collectiveinterests; egoism.
individual character; individuality.
an individual peculiarity.

I have been mulling over the difference between individuality (the fact that each and every one of us is in fact a unique and unrepeatable individual being) and individualism (as a sort of ideology, a belief that the individual must be independent and free and is of paramount importance).  

This came up for me as I sat and listened to the Berry Street Lecture this year at General Assembly, in which the Reverend Fred Muir challenged UUism to move from "iChurch to Beloved Community", and held up what he called "the trinity of errors" within UUism today:

1.  An unhealthy ideology of individualism
2.  A belief in UU exceptionalism
3.  An allergy to authority

All of these insights strike me as true and valid, but as usual for me I see a need to balance things.  While I agree that "iChurch" (like an iPod - customizable just for you!  Do what you want with it!) does not accomplish the transformative work that we are called to do - the work of building authentic Beloved Community, transforming and growing our own selves into people of greater depth and integrity, and of making the world a more just and loving version of itself - at the same time I see a need to preserve our individuality in the process.

What is the difference between individuality and individualism?  Here is my imperfect metaphor:

A young member of a congregation comes to church on Sunday morning with purple hair, multiple facial piercings, and wearing a very short skirt.  She sits next to an older lady wearing much more conservative clothing - and this is all appropriate because we can each express our individuality.


That same young member of the congregation refuses to wear the coffee service apron during her volunteer shift, despite the fact that these aprons are supposed to help newcomers identify who is providing the hospitality, because she is "not an apron person".  That would be individualism.

There are just some things that you do for the good of the community, that really only tread on your ego and your individuality if you've got your ego and your individuality hanging out like a giant sore spot just waiting to be tread on.  My observation of UUism is that there are many many of us who have turned out individuality into an idolatry.  When not being told what to do becomes more important than the community good, than the mission of the organization, or the practical considerations of working with others, than the organization will fail and the individual will be free to be themselves - and stagnate as there is no challenge to be better when individualism lets you off the hook.

This reminds me of something my six year old daughter has been arguing lately whenever I try to direct her toward more cooperative or polite behavior - she says "I can't help it, this is Just the Way I Am!  Don't you Like Me As I Am?"

Of course i like you, I reply.  But this particular behavior still needs to change.  We can all keep our core selves as unique and unrepeatable, and still adapt our behavior to the community good when called to do so.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Not throwing it out


There is a joke about an old woman, of a thrifty disposition, whose children find an envelope after her death that is labeled "bits of thread, too small to use".

I think about that when I am debating whether to keep something or to throw it out.  Yes, perhaps I can find a use for twist ties, bread clips, plastic bags, toilet paper tubes, and tiny scraps of fabric.  But I could also end up buried in piles of crap I'm saving in an effort to not waste.

In my living room there is an old dresser (very old - and very broken - but it's been in the family forever) in the corner that I use to store my fabric stash.  I tell myself, at the point I can't fit anything else in there, that's when I need to make some tough choices.  And when it got to that point again last month, I found a pile of old Tshirt strips.  I had taken these old stained, ripped, unusable shirts and cut them into strips, and then stored them.

Could I be that old lady someday, and when they are cleaning out my stuff they say "why did she keep these rags all these years?"

With the specter of Hoarders hanging over my head I have been busy actually using those scraps - sew them together into long rolls, then braid them together.  It will be a rag rug.

What do you keep, and hope to actually use some day?  Bottle caps?  The fortune strips out of fortune cookies?  Aluminum foil?