Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Days at Home



Untidy patio "Before"


 Simple reorganization and clean up, patio "After": DSCF9443

Monday, July 29, 2013

Our Little Play

This last week the kids were at the church camp I taught all week.  And I'm absolutely counting those days as "school" days. :)


The focus of the camp was "Peace Camp", and we used a non-violent communication curriculum (which I reviewed over on my other blog).

We also took the wonderful picture book The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig and turned it into a short play, which we performed during the Sunday worship service.  H. performed the role of the Little White Wolf, and C. was on set and prop design.

The performance yesterday went really well, the congregation loved it, and the kids were thrilled with the result of all their work.  It was great!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Reminder, A Wish, A Hope


I need some breathing space.  If only erasing the upcoming calendar actually worked to clear the decks and create that breathing space!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Belated Weekly Book Post

My week was so busy, with teaching Chalice Camp and committee meetings and taking my kids to an amusement park and library events we had registered for and then my husband had to go without warning to his father's bedside.  My father-in-law died last night.

In the midst of all this, few things are of reliable comfort: a bubble bath, a hot tub soak, Ruffles sour cream and cheese flavored potato chips, a glass of red wine, a long phone chat with my mother, a good bluegrass gospel song, and a book to read.


Over the weekend, as I rested up for another go round of Chalice Camp this week, I read:

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley.  This is the second of the Flavia de Luce mysteries, and although it was entertaining enough it does not match my memory of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which I remember as being brilliant.  Flavia is an eleven year old genius and self-taught chemist, with a knack for getting her nose into places it doesn't belong and solving mysteries.  With a cast of eccentric and larger-than-life characters and a most-overly-dramatic death scene which doesn't even occur until almost half-way through the book, it's all a bit silly.  But good enough fun to be worth the time to read it.


Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.  This book caused a lot of buzz a few months ago, but of course when one relies on the public library system one is a bit behind on the current must-reads.  There were a lot of reviews, interviews, praise, and rants out there not that long ago, so I came to the book with plenty of pre-conceived notions.  Overall, I found it in illuminating look at the life I didn't choose - the career-woman path.  Sandberg's call for more women in power - which she attributes to Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee - seems perfectly logical to me.  Yes, 50% of the top spots in business, government, and anything else should be held by women.  And yet, the book did not speak to me, as a woman.  Perhaps I'm just too far along my life-path, and too tired.  Instead of wanting to "lean in" at work I feel a distinct need to "lean back" at both work and home.  And after a introduction that gave lip-service to the idea that not everyone needs to have ambition, or want to work, then chapter one is titled "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?".  What would I do if I wasn't afraid?  How about "What Would You Do If You Weren't So Tired?" or "What Would You Do If You Weren't Still in Student Loan Debt?" or "What Would You Do If You Weren't Attached to Hometown and Extended Family So Much?"  What stopped me from a more ambitious career path?  Money (or lack there of) while I was in college.  Not wanting to go too far away from my family.  The pull of Idealism.  The pull of maternal urges, followed closely by the burden of maternal responsibilities.  It's always been about conflicting desires - even the desire to not incur more student loans was a conflict of desires - not about Fear for me.  Sure, I would be afraid to walk into a bosses office and ask for a raise.  But I would do it, if it was just about fear.  I do all sorts of things I'm afraid of.  So this talk of internal barriers didn't resonate with me, and I suspect it wouldn't with a lot of women.  (I'm also acutely aware that both Sandberg's talk of internal barriers and my talk of internal conflict of desires reflect great privilege.  To ever even have the option of Leaning In or not is a privilege.)

Final verdict on the book: it's a personal narrative.  Sure, she has statistics and tries to offer big sweeping advice and critique, but overall you will respond well to the book if you have something in common with the author.

I have more craziness ahead of myself, and more grief and sadness.  Good thing I have more books on my bedside table.

Friday, July 19, 2013

ack! how did it get so dirty in here? Kids - get the vacuum!


OK - I am overwhelmed.  I'm working major overtime, my husband has had to leave unexpectedly for a family emergency, and there are too many domestic responsibilities on my shoulders.

Good thing I have kids.


No, I'm being serious.  Sure, they are their own bundle of needs and responsibilities.  My life might be easier and more recreational if I hadn't had them.

But they are getting to the age of being helpful.  They can actually do chores.  They notice when I'm sad or upset and they try to do nice things for me.  They can be fun to hang out with.  They remind me to have fun.

We'll get through this.  Like my mother used to say to me: "many hands make light labor", and "you just do what you have to do".  Also, "family means helping".  Indeed it does.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Our week in camp

(Terrariums with plastic animals)

This week I'm teaching a half-day camp at my church, for 4-7 year olds.  It has left me scrambling to keep up with domestic tasks such as cooking, cleaning, dishes, and laundry, and we've completely tabled our homeschooling for the week.

Meanwhile, my son is getting to be "staff" for this camp for the first time, and learning lessons from that, and my daughter is enjoying the camp activities and her friends.  I'm enjoying teaching, testing out some crafts that have been on my pinterest boards for a while, singing songs and playing silly camp games, and watching all the kids deepen their relationships to each other and to the church.  It's a good (if a bit tiring) week.


This astronaut picture craft worked out well, but my daughter just couldn't follow directions. :)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Weekly Book Post: Pleasures of Reading and Christianity After Religion


This week I've learned a lesson - one I've heard for a very long time - Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover.

Two books in my TBR pile had rather, well, bland covers.  And as I pulled books off the pile to read, those lingered unread.  I left them until I noticed that their due dates at the library were getting close, and I should try them out.

Both turned out to be books I enjoyed very much.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs is a love letter to the act of reading.  It briefly flirts with brain science, the "threat" of new technologies, and doom and gloom prophecies of the death of reading, but then quickly dismisses those concerns.  Jacobs advises us to read at Whim, to read because we want to, to read to challenge ourselves, and to read to join in the conversation.  It was a balm to my soul, actually, after all the books such as The Shallows that I've read recently.

Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass is a love letter to religio (that which binds us together) and experiential spirituality.  She examines all the evidence that institutional religion is on the decline, and then proposes that yes this may be true but we may also be in the midst of a rebirth of transformative experiential religion, or a Fourth Great Awakening.  Another balm to my soul - things decline but change is part of transformation.  These are hard times, not the end times, as Bass says in the book (quoting John Stewart).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Schooling and the Novelty Factor


It's July, and we are still doing school around here.  This is where it starts to seem really unfair to my kids, even though they do realize that all the kids in school didn't take the other breaks we took during the year.  None of that is emotionally satisfying, however, when other kids are talking about summer break and mine are still "in school".

So, it's good to make summer school a bit more fun and whimsical.  We've made time to go to all the wonderful (free!) summer community events: "The Reptile Man" brought reptiles for a show and tell in the park, the Master Gardeners did a free gardening class for kids, and the library had a comedian/storyteller in for a show.  But then how can I make it fun when we are just home doing math and the like?


Yesterday I had school time be a sushi picnic in our backyard.  It was unexpected and fun for the kids (but it was fun because of novelty, so I won't be able to repeat this anytime soon.)

Is there a "pedagogy of picnics"?  I don't think so.  But I think there is a real value to adding fun and whimsy, to catching the attention again by doing something in a different way, and to varying the routine up every now and then.


Monday, July 8, 2013

A Walk Around My Home Today


In my kitchen right now, it's cherry pitting time.  My cherry tree has been pretty productive this year.  Keeping up with picking and pitting doesn't leave me any time to cook them, so I'm just freezing them for now.


The right tools really do help.


For frugal reasons, I resisted the urge to buy any hanging baskets this year, and instead took the old ones and replanted them with nasturtium seeds (left over from last year, no less).  It's finally actually looking nice.


There's just something I like about red geraniums in my window boxes.  This box may not last the season out, however - time for some TLC to that wood!


The south side of the house was planted with some nice roses, and that is where we put my hot tub when we moved in.  They are lovely to look at from the tub!



The turkeys are getting big.


The pea plants are past their prime for the year, so I wish I had taken a photo of this a couple weeks ago, but this was our funniest garden set up this year: an old tub we found out in the back field, an old bicycle wheel also from the back field, then my husband was given some old metal fencing and took it apart and rebuilt it into a trellis.  Reuse!


My experiments with straw bale gardening are seeing some small success, after a truly awful start (slugs, death, blech).


 I might actually get tomatoes this year, if the warm weather holds up.


And it shows signs of being another good year for our apple harvest.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Latest Additions to the Home Place


 We have three new cats! A mama cat and two of her kittens have joined our family, to live in the barn and help us keep the rodent population at bay. They are cute, but still shy.

(That brings our home population up to: 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats, 6 goats, 11 turkeys, and 16 chickens!)


Friday, July 5, 2013

Weekly Book Post: Reading the Bible Again, To Kill a Mockingbird, Justin Morgan Had a Horse


This last week I finished two books: one for my credentialing work and one just for fun.

 Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally by Marcus Borg is simply the most amazing book explaining the Bible that I've read yet.  Borg is scholarly but not afraid to express his own faith as well, and overall this is an explanation of how to read the Bible that strikes me as insulting neither my intelligence nor my spirit.  One of my favorite notions from the book is "post-critical naivete", or the state of mind one reaches after you have realized all is not as it first appeared, yes there are things to think critically about, and yet you are once again open to experiencing the work with an open mind and take wisdom from it.  Love this book!


My "just for fun" book was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, one of those great classics that somehow I haven't found time to read yet. And I'm so glad I finally rectified that situation - this is a fantastic book.  The characters were all painted so lovingly, and the narration by the young girl, Scout, allows the reader to see a scary and tragic situation, time, and place through the innocent eyes of a child - and thereby see something actually more nuanced and real than it might have been otherwise.

And then the kids and I listened to Justin Morgan Had a Horse in the car this week.  My daughter didn't want to, because she holds that "all horse books are too sad".  But I made her listen to it anyway, and she was glad she did.  It has a few parts that are a teeny bit sad, but they are sketched with a light hand, and in the end all is well.  The War of 1812 makes an appearance, but once again sketched with a very light hand.  A good historical fiction piece for children.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Our Summer Bucket List


On Monday we got a chance to do one of the things on our Summer Bucket List, when we went to the Seattle Museum of Flight.   This year I'm determined to actually follow through on the Fun stuff on the List, and not let it slide to the bottom of the priority list like I did last year.

What else do the kids want to do this summer?

1.  A local wildlife park
2.  A local amusement park
3.  A Dance Party
4.  Star Gazing
5.  Cloud Gazing
6.  Hiking
7.  Camping
8.  Explore new Parks
9.  Take the Train to Portland
10.  Visit the fun little town of Port Townsend
11.  The Science Museum

We will have fun this summer!  It slips past so fast, but it's worth making the time to really enjoy it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Stroll Through Home and Garden this Morning


Last night was too hot to sleep in upstairs bedrooms, so this is what the floor of my living room looked like this morning.


My church had an Art Sale yesterday, and I am loving the piece I bought from a young college student artist who is a member of my church.  This picture doesn't give you the sense of scale, but it looks really cool on the wall.  We will have to get it framed, though.

And then there is the garden: