Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas List Meme

Lifted from my friend Shannon's blog, Hoppy Hollow Farm.

The Christmas List

1. Real tree or artificial? Real. I tried once or twice to use an indoor, potted Norfolk pine tree like this. They were really small and pitiful looking -- worse when decorated than when not decorated. Kind of a reverse effect of the little tree in the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon. Now we go to a cut-your-own tree place, and that's a lot of fun. After Christmas we prop it in the backyard and put bird treats on it through the winter. (We don't have any other evergreen trees in our yard).

2. When do you put up the tree? Usually the first weekend in December.

3. When do you take down the tree? The weekend after Christmas.

4.Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper.

5. When do you start Christmas shopping? Usually in December but this year I shopped in November & finished all but some online shopping *before* Thanksgiving! My most peaceful, fun, stress-free Christmas shopping ever.

6. Who is the hardest person to buy for? Everyone's pretty easy, really.

7. Easiest person to buy for? Seth. He asked for "every boy toy in the universe" this year. My options were wide open!!

8. Angel on top of the tree, or star? I think we have Mary.

9. What is the worst Christmas gift you ever got? I can't remember a bad gift.

10. What is the best gift you received as a child? My first camera when I was 10.

11. What is your favorite food to eat at Christmas time? It used to be sausage balls before I was vegetarian. Oh, crap! Wonder what they taste like with fake-meat sausage?!?

12. What do you want for Christmas this year? To have *fun*, to bake a lot, to not get stressed out about the addition of pine needles to all the dog hair that's always all over the floor.

Play along if you want! If you decide to play, leave me a comment and let me know.

Tornadoes of Learning

The Mom of one of Riley's schooled friends was asking him about "homework" and "assignments" recently while he was at their house (because the friend had some homework to do). In telling me about it later, Ri said it's always hard to describe how he learns to people who don't unschool because he often goes along not thinking about exactly what or how he has been learning from day to day until something happens that one thing recognizably connects with something else and another something else "like a big tornado of learning." I like that.

Here are some things flying around lately in the learning tornado.
Some supplies I moved out of a desk and onto a big table. The kids wanted the construction paper in "rainbow order." (There's yellow in there with the beige, though it doesn't show up in the picture)

I would have never thought to strew a phone book, but we got our new one and Riley said he'd never tried to look up anything in one before (what with Google always readily available).

This bowl of beans we've had floating around for a while in various places. Seth plays in them a lot -- digging and sorting and things. The strip of paper is from an activity from the book Family Math, and is a good example of something like Ri was trying to explain to the friend's Mom -- something that we have available and use for ideas and when it seems interesting and that we stop using whenever we (any one of us) feel finished using it.

Lots of drawing and making things

A game Maya made, called "Looks Like a Nice Day to Race."

Some new additions to the Plank tribe -- Riley and more so now Maya have been making these for years inspired by old Ed, Edd, and Eddie cartoons.

Seth likes using U B Funkeys as story props (and for playing the related computer games, and for trading with friends)

Maya's been cutting out and playing with pictures from various toy catalogs, making up all kinds of stories and scenes.
Some of what Maya Riley have made in a pottery class.

Riley's always enjoyed origami and other paper folding crafts. He spent some time learning some new paper airplane folds (sorry, no pictures) and learning to make fortune tellers (a.k.a "cootie catchers")

Riley trying to make a little cloud and some condensation using an empty pan that he'd put in the freezer and steam from a pot of boiling water.

"Mom, how do you spell..."
This is a big part of how learning to type and read and write happens here. Basically, someone wants to know how to spell something and asks and I answer, either verbally or by writing it down. Maya and Seth also really like Starfall and Game Goo and play on those pretty regularly. Riley liked both of those a lot, too, when he was learning to read. Well, he still enjoys Game Goo from time to time.

These are random words Seth wanted to know how to spell on a couple different occasions. Not sure if the "gobs and gobs of gum" is something associated with the Glub Funkey or if he was just really liking the "g" sound that day. :0)

Maya asked for this to look something up online.

And these were because she was wanting help to write some lower case letters for something she was working on for Girl Scouts.

These are from a couple weekends ago. The kids had some friends spend the night, and the friends brought along their pet tarantula, Hairy. Jacob (one of the friends) and Riley are both into some of the same kinds of animals as well as cryptozoology & Monsterquest. They were on the phone recently talking about "camel spiders" and then Ri and I ended up reading all kinds of things about these and similar animals.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Here's some of what we've been doing here lately -- just what I gathered up today while straightening up our living room.

Hats that we are round loom knitting for Maya and Seth. This is definitely a group project with me, all 3 kids, and various neighborhood kids contributing rows here and there.

Maya's been coloring and playing with dozens of paper doll chains. Here are the ones she hasn't finished yet.

Post-it note picture stories

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!!

It's finally here!!!! We'll be spending the day baking and getting the house ready for our pre-trick-or-treat party.

I found this article about Halloween this morning. I love it but hesitated to post it for reasons I'll explain below.

It touches on so many things I care about. The message about talking to, and even (gasp!) taking candy from strangers reminds me of my own first dilemma about that issue while walking in a park with a then-toddling Riley (now 10). We were approached by a sweet, friendly homeless man who wanted to chat and whose heart seemed truly warmed by the antics of a carefree, joyous little kid. Fear and judgment (the automatic, prejudicial kind) and rote "don't talk to strangers" rules popped into my head and conflicted with compassion and unity and the *other* kind of judgment (as in gut feeling/intuition) that this guy was okay. It was an early instance of rethinking how I wanted to live with my child and started me on a path toward a more mindful, present, principled approach and away from pre-ordained rules and have-to's and because-I-said-so's.

The author also talks about trick-or-treating as an excellent example of free-market economy. I had been thinking the last few days about trick-or-treating as a perfect example of a voluntary "gift economy," something I just heard of recently and have been trying to learn a bit about. I would have thought those were opposite conclusions, but then I don't understand large economic systems very well! There's always more to learn!

The reason I hesitated to post it is that it is obviously anarchist, an ideal I share but, because of the popular & unfortunate image of chaos and violence associated with the word "anarchy," I tend to use the term "voluntaryist" as it is more clearly about nonviolent/peaceful & truly voluntary relationships. I love that the author of this article was able to talk about that kind of anarchist vision: genuine community and genuine, people-driven giving and the motivation of gratitude and joy in contrast to that of force & violence inherent in coercive institutions.

Off my soapbox and into my kitchen...

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I carved my first pumpkin!

Can you believe I'm 36 years old and, before today, I had never carved a pumpkin?! My Dad always carved ours when I was a kid, and then for some reason Matt has just always carved the ones we've had together.

Anyway, today I drew & carved the face for Seth's -- he wanted "monster-angry."

Maya drew hers and cut the top off but wanted me to carve the face.

Riley drew and carved his. He didn't like pulling out the "guts," so Maya and Seth and I did that, separating out the seeds for roasting.

We sat outside telling different versions of the Jack-O-Lantern story -- some that I had read and some that they knew from cartoons.

Maya made up a story with hers -- a mystery about a villain that had cancelled Halloween.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Here's Maya and her toy chimp, Fifi, outside the Omnimax Theater at the Cinci Museum Center. We went to see a film about one of her heroes, Jane Goodall.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Kids' Hopes & Dreams

I really will try to keep this rant to a minimum. I knew I shouldn't watch the debates a couple nights ago. Knew it wouldn't add anything to my peace or joy or sense of freedom. I *really* knew I should turn the TV off when they got to the last question about education, phrased in a way that made children sound like tools. But I watched and I listened. And I heard two men with their own goals and agendas talk as if those should be the goals and agendas of everyone -- that our children need to be molded and shaped to compete and dominate internationally.

My kids can figure out their own goals, their own agendas. They can live their own *dreams*. So far, their lives don't seem to have anything whatsoever to do with international competition or domination.

While I was turning this stuff over in my head yesterday morning, griping and grumbling, I found comfort in two things. First, was a collage of pictures I have hanging on my wall. Pictures of my kids playing & laughing & just being themselves. In one frame I have this poem by Kahlil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and the daughters of
Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet
They belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
But seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward
Nor tarries with yesterday.

Here is a version sung beautifully by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Second, I found a paper Maya is working on for girl scouts. She was writing & drawing her ideas for how to live out the "girl scout law." It's an image I have seen her draw numerous times. It's inspired by Amy Steinberg's song, Exactly. I have Maya singing part of it as my ringtone on my phone: Peace, Love, Free; Peace, Love, Free...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Evans Apple Orchard & Cider Mill

This was our second year visiting Evans Apple Orchard & Cider Mill with homeschooling friends from Georgetown, KY. Definitely one of our favorite trips -- a really fun, interesting, welcoming place.

Seth watching one of the goats while we waited to begin our tour through the cider mill

Heading through the corn maze in search of the pumpkin patch

Our friend, Anthony, and my headless child, Riley trying to be scary

Maya with friends Michael and Jacob on the way back from the pumpkin patch

Seth at the playground

Maya at the playground

Sunday, September 28, 2008


We tend to go a bit overboard when we go to the library -- so many things catch our eyes, and we bring home as much as we can carry. Recently I was going through a huge stack of books, seeing what each of us had brought home, and noticed that we had each happened to pick at least one dragon-themed book. I put them all out together on our kitchen table, and we spent the morning enjoying stories and making pictures.

Ri & Seth

Seth's Oruborus dragon

Maya's dragon

Perseid Meteor Shower Campout

In August we went to a Perseid Meteor Shower campout at Caesar Creek state park in Ohio. There was free camping on the open lawn area for wide open viewing away from city/town lights. We played quite a bit in the sand and water. There were lots of astronomy-themed crafts and activities set up, and several astronomers brought out their mega telescopes to share. As the sun set, however, the clouds thickened, and the kids fell asleep before it cleared enough to see any of the meteor shower. We still had a great time, though, and are looking forward to going again next August.