Thursday, June 26, 2008

First Lazy Days of Summer

This week marks the first week after almost all of our scheduled activities have come to a close. No more dance classes, recitals, violin lessons, or any of that stuff for the summer. So we've picked buckets of strawberries and headed to the outdoor pool for the first lazy afternoon. We're packing up the camping gear, and walking to the park for a popsicle. Even though as unschoolers we don't "do school" or "take vacation from school", because of the activities the kids are involved in we still somewhat are tied to the school calendar. It's nice to be free of that for many unstructured months (even though the kids dearly love and now miss their activities). Here's to summer!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Threat Only A 21st Century Mom Could Make

I told my son the other day "You're so completely and utterly covered in dirt, I'm going to edit Wickipedia and put a photo of you under the entry for 'Filthy'".

And the best part is, he believed me. My kids think I can do absolutely anything on the computer, it's like I'm omnipotent or something.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dispatches From the Mom of A Dangerous Boy

"Mom, I'm going to go burn things in the middle of the street."

"Oh, okay son. See you in a little while."

I'm the mom of a dangerous boy. The kind of mom who thinks kids should definitely get in a little danger every now and then (the kind that doesn't hurt them, someone else, or property in any serious manner of course). So when hubby showed the kids how to light the deck on fire in less than two seconds with a magnifying glass, I of course insisted that any burning to be done take place in the middle of our cul-de-sac. Since then, Mackenzie and an ebb-and-flow group of the neighborhood boys have been experimenting with the burn rates of all kinds of substances, from moss and leaves to twigs and plastic. He burned his initials in a piece of wood (something I remember doing from my own childhood). Thankfully, he's not the kind of kid to try torturing ants or anything, and he's dependable enough that I know he won't take it down in the woods either.
My mom gave him this lovely old magnifying glass as part of a Sherlock Holmes costume for his birthday. He loves the Holmes books so much, and the glass has already gotten a good workout magnifying things around the house. This is just another fun and exciting experiment to do with it.

Monday, June 16, 2008


It was a crazy weekend, and my poor hubby was gone on a flight, so he wasn't even around on Father's Day. Meanwhile, I had to hold down the fort with my triathlon team training, birthday parties, and all those dress rehearsals and dance recitals! So I barely got time to think, let alone reflect. Now that life has settled back into a reasonable fascimile of normal though, and after having been able to talk with my own dad this morning, one thing pops out at me. I was lucky enough to marry a guy who's a great father, and I think that's in part due to the fact that I have a great father myself so I know how important it is to me. Still, when we got married kids were the farthest thing on our horizon, so probably there's a huge measure of good luck in there that our priorities turned out to be the same when it came to our family.

My own dad was the kind of father who made it a priority to come home from work and be with us. I love this photo of him with me as a baby, because you can just see the love that is present whenever he was with us kids (also, I can totally see our family resemblance as I look very much like him now that I'm an adult). My childhood memories are of wrestling around the living room, "airplane rides" on his feet when I was small, trips to the park with a huge "Jolly Green Giant" kite, bicycle rides, camping trips, cutting Christmas trees in the forest with a thermos of hot chocolate, card games of "Spite and Malice" (dad's and my favorite) and snowball fights. My husband is also the kind of dad who makes it a priority to be with his kids. When he knew he had to fly this weekend, he made sure to come to Asa's dress rehearsal so he could see her in all of her dances before he had to leave. I'm sure when our kids are grown, they will have memories of wrestling on the bed where they pigpile their dad, bicycle rides, camping trips, walks to the park on summer evenings, merry-go-rounds, family dinners and game nights.

We took this family bike ride a couple of days before he had to leave on his flight. I had gotten the kids to help me get a good photo of them together, and then at the right moment casually suggested that he turn around for a snapshot. Well, he kept leaning on the bike with his posterior pointed at the camera, hardly the Father's Day photo I had in mind! I finally got him to turn his butt in the right direction and got a good photo to put in a frame for his desk.

So to all the dads out there who are out there on bike paths and parks, in living rooms and dance recitals supporting their kids: Happy Father's Day. It's more than a Hallmark holiday, it's a time to reflect on the important people in our lives and how much they mean to us. It's not about a BBQ or other presents, it's about your presence in our lives. Thank you Dad! And thank you to my hubby for being the great dad that he is.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Rainy Day Button Box

I can still see my mother's button box. It was tin, with embossed figures of old-fashioned ladies and gentleman outlined in red all around it. One of my favorite things to do was to empty it out on the table finding all the fun and unusual ones, and sorting the rest into empty egg cartons or muffin tins. Sometimes I sorted by color, sometimes by size or the number of holes. I had favorite buttons too - the little green pearled buttons from a long-ago sweater set, the big flat glossy purple one, the ones that looked like leather or wood, and the ones from my grandpa's navy uniforms with little anchors on them.

A button box is the perfect rainy day activity for kids, especially if you forget about it for awhile and then bring it out on a day when nothing much is going on. In my button box, I have some large needles, thread, and a couple of old dish towels, and the kids have had fun sewing buttons onto the towels. They can also use the thread to string buttons into a necklace, or to make a button spinner toy. There's just no end to the fun a simple button box can provide, except the kids sometimes have to move me away from the buttons and stop me from sorting them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Two Dress Rehearsals, Three Recitals, Six Costume Changes Each

That's what you get when your daughter goes crazy into dance and you hit the end of the season. This week is insane! But, dancing is her absolute joy. So without further ado, here's the fabulous Miss Asa in her first dress rehearsal. Excuse the grainy quality of the photos, I was shooting without flash:

Hip Hop with "Men in Black" (she's the peewee in the center):

Ballet: "Ode to Degas":

Dance Team: "Pop" (she looks so tiny compared to the rest of her team, I just can't get over it! Most of them are tweens and they all sprouted this year, she's still 8))

Her favorite, Lyrical. To the song "Arms Wide Open":

And again with her dance team, "Saved By the Bell":

That's her, front and center in the splits.

So we're one rehearsal down, one more and three performances to go! Wish this stage mom luck (I'm not so good with make-up, buns, and all that stuff).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kids, Cold, and Camping

We went camping this last weekend with the triathlon team I'm coaching for Team in Training. The idea was to camp out at the lake site and let the team members swim in the lake and bike and run on the actual race course. At the last moment, my hubby couldn't make it, so the kids knew they were pretty much along for the ride with me and that my attention would be divided. And yes, it was also unseasonably cold for June. As we drove through snow (snow!!!) to get to the camp site, I think we were all wondering what we were in for.

Still, the camp site was right on the lake, and my kids are old enough now for that not to be the hazard it would've been when they were younger (and Asa would plunge pell-mell into any body of water, regardless of whether she could stand up or swim or not). And best of all, it had a loop! Luckily, my hubby had found a great hitch rack and installed it on the van, so we could bring the triathlon bikes plus both of the kids' bikes along. I have so many fond memories of camping as a kid, riding our bikes around and around the campground loop, it just gives me such a warm and fuzzy feeling to watch our kids doing the same. Yes, it was cold, but they donned hats under their helmets and warm gloves and I joked that they logged more miles than the 28 that the triathlon team members put in on Saturday.

And, being kids, the cold just doesn't seem to faze them the same way it does us thinner-skinned adults. Remember swimming in the ocean as a kid? And urging your mom to come on in, it really wasn't that cold? Ha! Now I'm the cold weanie and my kids are out there in bathing suits while I'm donning my neoprene. I love this photo of the team ensconced in their thick insulated suits while in the background, check out the kids! By the way, the water temperature measured in at 52 degrees near the shore. Brrrrrr! As for me, having a full wetsuit actually allows me to play in the water with my kids and not get too cold, a nice side-effect of having that triathlon gear.

Sunday was actually sunny and feeling pretty warm at 65 degrees, the kids and I hung out in the campground while the team ran. Asa built fairy houses out of sticks, and Mackenzie spent an hour observing an ant's nest and putting various food articles next to it to see what they would do with them. All in all, a childhood's weekend idyll. Well, except for the cold.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Looking For Stella, That Not Ordinary Teen?

Stella, the very un-ordinary teen, accidentally deleted her blog. But her new blog Not An Ordinary Teen can be found here. I love reading Stella's blog, because she has such a fresh perspective and is right at that magical time in life where you're staring at your whole adult life stretching out in front of you and thinking of where you want to go. Like the world is a gigantic roadmap and all roads are open. As we get older, I think we can start believing that we can only take certain roads, that many of them are blocked off to us. It's good to be reminded that we can always reinvision ourselves. Plus, she's just plain funny and fun to read. So check her out!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Moments You Remember

I don't usually post about politics on this blog, leaving the ranting and raving to my blog on sustainability issues. But regardless of your political party affiliation, or even the country that you live in, last night was a momentous occasion. It's not often that you stand in the course of time knowing that this moment will be written into the history books. I can remember twice in my childhood when my parents told me to remember a moment, that history was being made. One was the moon landing, and though I was only three I remember it clearly, perhaps because of my parents' solemn pronouncement and the fact that everyone was unaccustomedly glued to the television set. I can still see the room clearly in my head, where people were seated, the fuzzy black and white imagines on the old console TV. The second was when Nixon resigned, and my mom pulled the car over and turned the radio up, and again I can tell you exactly what road we were driving on.

So as Obama began his speech on the eve of his garnering the delegates to clinch the presidential nomination, I uttered the same words to my kids: Pay attention now, history is in the making this moment. Of all the white and "Western" nations in this world, America is nominating a black man to aspire to our highest office. Enough of us (though admittedly not all of us) have moved beyond the issue of a person's skin color, and choose to judge their candidate on his abilities alone. Of course, if Hillary had been the nominee, another kind of history would've also been made. A woman candidate as a major party nominee would've been a first for America, though not for the rest of the Western world. This moment is a living proof that whatever else may be wrong with our country in the moment, we are still striving towards a better world for all of our many diverse citizens.

And all of us, kids and adults alike, will remember where we were this moment, forever.

Monday, June 02, 2008

We Interrupt Your Yogurt To Bring You A Little Brown Bat

One thing about motherhood is that it's very rarely predictable. Yesterday I was all set to make yogurt for the first time from some of our raw goat's milk. Those of you who don't have to feed your kids non-cow's-milk products would probably gasp at paying $6.50 for a quart of yogurt. I gasp too, but goat's yogurt is the only kind my kids can eat, due to a cow's milk allergy. Fortunately, we buy our goat's milk from a local farmer for $7.00 a gallon (you're probably still gasping, but it was costing us $12 a gallon at the store), so I can make yogurt a lot cheaper than I can buy it.

So there I was, embarking on our yogurt-making adventure, when one of the kids hollered out that there was a bat in our garage. A Little Brown Bat, to be exact (yes, that's the official name), and a very cute one to boot. The night before, I had accidentally left the garage door open, so I was thinking he might've gotten closed in there and confused, but then he looked like he might be injured so we weren't sure. Because one of my great mom strengths is that I'm not in the least bit squeamish (and also to protect my kids from possible rabies), I volunteered to corral the bat into a shoebox. We gave him a shallow dish of water in there, but he continued to look lethargic into the evening hours. Once night fell, we put him in his box out on our deck, hoping he would fly away, but no such luck. He was still there this morning. He was looking not very good at all, so I decided to try to feed him some raw milk (figuring he's a mammal, so what the heck). He immediately took to that, licking out hungrily with his teeny tiny pink tongue at my eyedropper, and then he perked up substantially after that.

I told the kids I would call a wildlife rescue facility if he wasn't gone by morning, so I put him back into the box and into the garage on a shelf and called around until I found the local Bat Lady. She's really gung-ho about bats and said she would come over and transport the bat. Unfortunately, when I went out to check on the little guy he was nowhere to be seen! He had escaped out a hole in the box - apparently anything they can get their heads through, they can squeeze the rest of themself through also, so his tiny little dime-sized head went through the breathing hole and so did he. So the Bat Lady helped me search the garage for the bat, but with all of our camping gear and stuff it was pretty much a lost cause. She suggested going out tonight and trying to hear him scrabbling around, and that might give us an idea of at least which quadrant to concentrate on. For size reference, that's a mason jar lid he's sitting on in the photo. He's tiny! Hopefully we'll be able to find him tonight. In the meantime, check out the Bat World Sanctuary link for more info on these amazing creatures!!! We're building some bat boxes this summer for sure.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

And Off to Church We Go

Organized religion and I have had a long and diverse relationship. If you drew it on a map, it would look like two paths that run roughly parallel, but sometimes come right together and sometimes diverge wildly in different directions. I've always felt like a deeply spiritual person, but churches have not always spoken to that spirituality. Part of that is that churches inevitably have to decide what side of issues they will come down on - whether to allow gay pastors or even women in the pulpit, whether to become involved in hunger relief agencies or more political causes (many churches when I was growing up were part of the original Nestle Boycott. So finding a church that

A) Aligns with my spiritual beliefs
B) Has an engaging pastor that gives me reason to think deeply on spiritual matters
C) Has a congregation that is welcoming and warm, and
D) Aligns with my personal beliefs

has sometimes been challenging. I was raised a Methodist, and then when (in the tradition of the Methodist church) our pastor was moved on after a few short years, for someone much less appealing to my family, we jumped ship to the Presbyterian church across the street. As a young adult, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I happened upon a lovely little brick Methodist church in the small town of Monroe, Washington. In true Methodist fashion, the minister that drew us in was also moved on, and by the time we got married in that church, we had another minister. She also moved on so by the time we moved away and left the church we were on our third minister there (I must say, as much as I love the Methodist church, and I'm sure this practice has it's reasons, it causes a lot of turmoil in a congregation to always have to adjust to someone new). Nevertheless, we loved the church and found it to be a wonderful spiritual community.

Since moving here, I haven't really found anything to replace it. I've gone to various churches and even sung in one choir but none of them have stuck. The kids have grown up with spirituality, but no church.

Fast--forward to this last week, when Asa suddenly decided she wanted to try going to church. Part of this is undoubtably motivated by the fact that many of our homeschooling friends are devoutly religious and are involved in very active churches with lots of youth activities. So she hears about that all the time. So this morning we're trying out a friend's church and we'll see how this goes. I have to admit that after so many years of lapsed church-going, I'm loathe to give up my Sunday mornings again. I guess I've come to the conclusion that God speaks to me more on the mountaintop than the sanctuary. More on the beach than in a building. My long runs, bike rides, hikes, and swims are times when I feel closest to the spirit of God. So we'll just have to see how this goes. When your child is asking for something like this, you definitely need to follow through. So off to church we go.