Thursday, September 20, 2012

Raw Foods Recipes Part 3: Super Simple

These recipes only take minutes to prepare and my kids have really liked them.

Cut cucumber with a mandoline or slice into wide, thin strips with a knife

Options for filling:
Apple slices
Kiwi slices
Other fruit

Cut fruit into small strips and put inside the cucumber.  Roll up!

I don't have a mandoline, so I tried cutting the cucumber into the right size strip with a knife.  It was too thick to roll up, so I cut them into rectangle size little "plates" for the other ingredients to sit on.

I found this recipe in the book The Raw Gourmet:

Fruits, Veges and Dip

Apples, bananas, celery, carrots or anything else you want to dip.

Fruit Dip

1 banana
½ avocado
½ cup raspberries
4 strawberries

Combine in blender.

Can also use extra strawberries in place of raspberries.

    1 cup zucchini noodles, from about 1/2 zucchini, spiralized
    1/2 cup diced tomato
    1/2 cup diced avocado, peeled and seeded
    1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
    1/8 teaspoon rosemary, dry
    1/4 teaspoon oregano, dry
    1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

The kids didn't like the herbs, so I left those out for them.  They then declared this "the best salad ever that we should have for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day!" 


Raw Foods Recipes Part 2: Lunch and Dinner

These are some of the recipes I've really been enjoying for lunches and dinners:

California Rolls

2 sheets nori
2 c alfalfa or clover sprouts
1/4 cucumber, peeled, seeded & cut lengthwise into thin strips
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
1/4 c peeled & shredded carrot or carrot ribbons
1/4 red pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
tamari for dipping (optional)

I've also liked my mom's nori rolls which had:

Purple onion
Asparagus (slightly cooked) 

 The rice is optional.  It helps them stick together and is filling and makes it cheaper, but of course is cooked so not suitable if you're trying for 100% raw.

A really simple nori roll recipe is just avocado and sprouts.  I think I used buckwheat, lentil, and quinoa sprouts, but you could do any kind.

Today I had this delicious Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing, except I left a few things out of the dressing, like the curry, so it ended up like this:

Kale Slaw with Almond Dressing

1 apple cored and julienned, tossed in 1 tsp lemon juice
2 ½- 3 cups julienned kale, stems discarded
1 ½ cups grated carrot
1 cup very thinly sliced or julienned fennel (optional)
¼ cup cranberries or raisins

Creamy Almond Dressing

½ cup raw almonds
2 ½ tbsps apple cider vinegar
2 tbsps maple syrup, agave or honey
2/3 cup water
¼ tsp minced garlic
¼ tsp ginger
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp sea salt

Blend until smooth.  Pour over salad.

Garnish with 2-4 tbsps chopped or sliced almonds

This Lasagna is great as well:


2 c spinach
1/2 c marinara
1/2 zucchini
1/2 avocado, mashed

Finely chop spinach. Thinly slice zucchini lengthwise (best if you use a mandoline.)

Layer sauce, zucchini, sauce, avocado, spinach. Repeat. Eat.

In a food processor, blend:
1/2 c tomato
1/2 c sun dried tomatoes, soaked
1/2 red bell pepper
1 T fresh basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 t garlic
1/4+ t salt
dash cayenne

This "taco salad" recipe is a combination of two recipes.  Part of it is from Ani Phyo's Baja Fresh Taco Boats and the other part is from Happy Foody's Walnut Meat Taco Salad. 

Walnut or Almond “Meat” Taco Salad

Walnut or Almond “Meat”
1/2 cup almonds (you can also substitute pecans or any other nut)
1/2 cup walnuts  (can use all almonds)
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground coriander
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 t sea salt
1 t nama shoyu or soy sauce
Process almond and walnuts and put aside in a bowl. Add other ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Keeps for 4-5 days in the fridge.


4 tomatoes, chopped
2 scallions
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup cilantro
1 T cider vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 T lime juice
1 t cumin
1 t sea salt
Jalapeno to taste
Pulse blend in food processor to blend (I like to leave large chunks of tomato in and add separately). Let sit for an hour in fridge so the flavors can blend.

2 avocados
1 tomato
1/4 cup onion or green onions
1/4 cup cilantro
Sea salt to taste
Pinch of Cayenne
Food process until desired consistency.

Cashew Sour Cream

1 1/2 cups soaked cashews (soak 8 hours and rinse)
1/2 t salt
2 T lemon juice
Approx. 3/4 cup fresh water
Blend in blender until smooth. Add more lemon juice or salt to taste. I like to put this in a squirt bottle and squirt it on top of the taco or other wraps. It looks pretty :)

    OR Cilantro Cashew Cheeze

    1 1/2 teaspoon garlic
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1 cup cashews
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice, fresh, from about 1 lemon
    1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
    1/4 cup water, as needed

     To make cheeze, process garlic and salt into small pieces. Add cashews, juice, cilantro, and only enough water to process into a thick cream texture.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Raw Foods Recipes Part 1: Smoothies

Beginning in August, I started eating a primarily raw foods diet again.  I've done this before and always feel great when I do, but then I slowly get back into old habits and before I know it, I'm only eating fruit for snacks and veges on the side with dinner.  I didn't make any commitments, I just did it and was thrilled to continue after August was over.  It was MUCH easier this time to start.  I was familiar with the whole idea and the basic recipes already.  My husband is away fighting fires, so I didn't have to worry about eating different meals than him or what he might like.  I've gotten in the habit of making meal plans and shopping sales, so it was just a matter of switching it to raw meals.  I've been feeling really good and wondering why on earth I ever stopped eating this way!

Here are some of the recipes I've been enjoying.

For breakfast, I've mostly been drinking smoothies.

If you scroll down on this post from We Like It Raw, you'll find recipes for a Berry BlissTastic Smoothie and a Giddy and Green Smoothie.  Both are delicious!  I modified them a little- I use dates instead of figs in both and no sesame seeds on the Berry BlissTastic Smoothie.   

This recipe from The Rawtarian for an Orange Smoothie inspired me to make something similar: 

2 bananas
2 oranges
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Blend.  Enjoy!  It tastes just like those orange creamsicle icecreams.

Another good one is the Spinach Mango Smoothie:

2 bananas
1 mango
handful of spinach
enough water to give it the consistency you desire


This Sweet Kiwi Green Smoothie and this Zesty Raw Vegan Grape Parsley Lemonade Smoothie from Healthy Blender Recipes are delicious as well!

Last but not least are these chocolate milkshake type smoothies that will make all thoughts of chalky vending machine chocolate run from your mind screaming.  This Chocolate Mint Smoothie from Girl Gone Green is heaven in a glass and inspired me to start growing my own mint!  

This evening I invented my own chocolate smoothie that I had for dinner:

Chocolate Blueberry Smoothie

2 bananas
½ cup blueberries
2 tablespoons cocoa
½ cups cashews
1 ½ cups water

I'll post lunch and dinner recipes soon!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Brushing Teeth

In the post Hair Brushing Is a Safety Issue, blogger Dulce de Leche talks about how a child knowing that their body boundaries are respected is more important than brushed hair.  I feel the same way about brushing teeth, though the consequences of unbrushed teeth are bit worse than unbrushed hair.  So I've found various ways over the years to keep tooth brushing interesting, fun and to get it done.

1.  The bacteria in their mouth screams "NO!  NO!  Don't brush me!" and you say "I'm going to get you!  Leave my child's mouth you yucky germs!  Out!  Out!"

Making brushing teeth fun usually gets the job done.  While the child is more focused on your silly voices and the idea that the germs in their mouth are talking while Super Hero Mom vanquishes them, you can do a quick job of actually destroying the buggers.

2.  Let them do it as much as they are able. 

As soon as they start grabbing for the tooth brush, I start letting them brush their own teeth when they want to.  I direct sometimes or do a quick job after they are done, but at least they get the satisfaction of trying to do it themselves.

3.  This one or that one, this kind or that kind.  Choices!

Have multiple tooth brushes and different kinds of toothpaste, xylitol and other options around.  You don't even have to use a toothbrush!  Try a soft cloth, your finger or even just mouthwash.  Make the choices more about how to get it done, then whether or not to get it done.

4.  Rock the baby to sleep while brushing.  Seriously!

My 6 year old and 4 year old have had the most fun lately pretending to be a baby while I brush their teeth and hair.  I sing them a lullaby while they lay on my lap and close their eyes, and I gently, slowly brush away.

5.  Make it about taking good care of our bodies.

It's not a power struggle.  It's not about obedience or compliance.  It's about giving them the skills to care for their own bodies and those skills take time to learn.  Maybe that's one reason their baby teeth fall out and they don't start getting permanent teeth until 6 or so.  By that age, they are a bit more capable of understanding the reasons to take care of them. 

6. Provide information.

I've told my kids that other people don't want to smell their stinky breath.  Don't do this in a shaming way, it's just information, but it can be useful information to know!

7. Be patient.  The teeth don't need to get brushed RIGHT NOW.  

It's really not going to make a difference if their teeth get brushed at 8 am or at noon right as you're leaving the house to go somewhere.  It doesn't matter if they get brushed right after dinner or as they are climbing into bed.

8.  Location, location, location.

Teeth don't have to be brushed in the bathroom!  Use the kitchen sink or do it in the shower. Or take a cup of water and a bowl to spit in and do it in front of the tv, in bed, outside or wherever they happen to be.

9. Don't stress!  They are probably going to get cavities anyway. 

Or not.  But I'm starting to think it has more to do with genetics, diet and dumb luck than brushing.  Some of the people I know with the healthiest teeth have the worst personal hygiene habits and some of the people I know who've had cavities have brushed regularly their whole lives.  Using all these tips and tools I just shared, my kids have all brushed their teeth consistently once a day and usually twice a day their whole lives.  All three have had/ will have dental surgery.  My 20 month old LOVES to have her teeth brushed.  She went through a period where she would stand outside the bathroom door and scream "TEETH!" multiple times a day and she would cry when I stopped brushing her teeth.  She has dental surgery coming up because her teeth are FAR worse than the other kids' were at this age.  

So if it's a question of getting teeth brushed vs. maintaining the trust and boundaries in the relationship, refer to Dulce's hair brushing post above.  

Canning Pears

A few days ago, the girls and I canned pears at my mom's house.  My mom did some canning when I was a kid, but I wasn't interested in learning at the time.  Now that I'm older and have the need to feed my family, I was excited to learn!  The girls enjoyed helping as well.  They peeled pears and spooned them into the jars.  They ate a ton of them too, of course!

E, L, Z and myself canning pears.
The finished product!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Leadership vs. Partnership

There are so many yeses built into our lives now, that I've started using them to justify a lack of partnership with my kids in daily interactions.  Food and sleep and tv and all of those things that seem to be the major hang ups for some people in the journey to radical unschooling, are just foregone conclusions now in the big picture, with only minor details to work out based on day to day factors.  Situations that arise on a regular basis are also yeses built into our lives- yes you can play in the sprinklers, yes you can take a bath, yes you can play with board games.....

It's when new situations arise, and a few do every day, where I just haven't seemed to have the mental and emotional energy to think through working together.  Or when I have THE PLAN, and want to stick to THE PLAN.  I'm busy and I'm tired and I just want to not be inconvenienced and be able to do things my way, dang it!

And therein lies the trouble. 
I'm really lacking unschooling support where I live now.  I only have one friend who would maybe lean unschoolish for academics if there weren't extenuating circumstances making a more structured approach her best option.  Everyone else in the homeschool community who I've met so far, are not unschoolers and certainly not radical unschoolers.  I haven't even breathed the phrase for the last year and a half lest I chase them all away.

On top of that, D is doing wildland firefighting again this summer, and has been gone for over a month.  So I'm solo parenting for now. 

Because of all of this, I've been falling more into my natural tendency to state things directly.

"Today we're going to the store and then the park."
"Get your shoes on, let's go."
"Let's do a little clean up and then we'll watch a movie or read some books and
go to bed."  

I posted that on Always Learning and tried to explain how this was leading to some fuzzy thoughts about leadership and asked for their thoughts.  The idea was bouncing in my head, though never holding still long enough for me to examine, that part of being a parent is just leading and expecting them to follow.  I told myself that I'm always open to discussion or objections if they present them, but that it just made more sense to do it my way as long as they were coming along without too much fuss.  

They said I sounded bossy.  I didn't want to admit it, but it's probably true.  

There was a time when I was using much better phrasing, much more often.  Where I was much more concerned with taking everyone's needs into account.  Not just assuming that I knew their needs and taking them into account when I made my decision, but actually asking them and working with them.  I've been failing at that more often than not recently.

I've justified it with my observation that my kids are generally happy.  In a way, what I've been doing IS working for us.  I think the lack of arbitrary rules and restrictions overall makes for a happier home even when I'm being bossy or self centered about certain things.

However, there is something lacking in a focus on leadership that is present when the focus is on partnership.  It's the connection.  It's seeing them as whole people.  It's them knowing that I understand their perspective and care about their desires.   Even with all the yeses built into the system, focusing on leadership turns me into a manager of the system and turns them into cogs in the wheel.  Focusing on partnership makes it all about the relationships. 

So I'm committing to getting back to focusing on partnership.  I'm calling up all the resources I've used before, but with little homeschooling community and no unschooling community here, and with D gone for possibly a few more months, I'm going to need to find some new inspiration, new tools, and new ideas.

And the journey continues....  


Thursday, August 2, 2012

How Sleep Happens Without Bedtimes

Sometimes when I've said we "don't have bedtimes," people have imagined chaos until midnight or later until exhausted kids eventually crash.  I wanted to explain a bit of what we do at night.  We don't have set bedtimes, where kids are in bed at a certain time of night, no matter what.  We do support them, provide information, and create a sleepy environment.  To me, that is different from saying "8 o'clock is bedtime, lay down and sleep."

We have done different things at different times, depending on the ages of the kids, what shift D was working, the time of year, how much we need alone time, and what was working for their individual personalities at that time.

Most often, we have done a loose routine of dinner, clean up, play until they're looking/acting sleepy, put on a movie, and they fall asleep while watching it.

We have also done routines of dinner, clean up, play, read books/watch movie, then lay down in bed with them until they fall asleep.

If we need to go somewhere in the evening, my kids aren't phased by staying out late.  They will fall asleep at someone else's house or in the car. 

A few things I keep in mind:

1) The important thing is *sleep* not bed, and sleep can happen just about anywhere.

This is how they fell asleep the night I wrote this post.
2) It has to be working for the whole family.
If dad has to get up early for work, his sleep is more important than their noise.
If mom is an introvert and needs that alone time, that's important. It doesn't make sense for tired kids to be cranky while mom needs to be alone. BUT if the kids are actually night owls, then maybe mom needs to find a different time to be alone.  I get my alone time at different times- sometimes when D is home, I sneak away.  Sometimes during the day while they are busy playing.  Sometimes at night after they have gone to bed.  Sometimes in the morning before they wake up.

If a kid is usually ready for sleep at 8, there's nothing wrong with doing a bedtime routine that gets them to sleep in bed by 8. But if they are still jumping around at 8:30, you might want to rethink that. Don't be stuck on 8 just because that's typical for kids that age or what your mom did for you or simply because it's convenient.

3) Provide information.

"We need to get to bed early tonight, because we've got to get up early to go to the museum with grandma."
"Mommy and daddy really need to be alone for a little while tonight."

4) Support them and create a sleepy environment. Turn lights off, sound down, snuggle and stop talking. My 6 year old talks non-stop sometimes, and I have said, "I'm done talking now." When I have kids who are clearly tired, but still jumping around, I've said, "It's time to relax now. We can watch a movie, read books or go to bed, but we need to be still." Then I help that happen by snuggling, rubbing their backs, etc.

5) Sleep patterns change with age, season, and what is happening in our lives.  That's even true for many adults.  If you are the type of person who has had the same routine for 20 years, this might not make sense to you, but try to understand.  Sometimes I go to bed at 10 and get up at 6.  Usually I sleep more like 11 or 12 to 7 or 8.  Sometimes, I'm more of a night owl and sleep from 1 or 2 till 9 or 10.  Kid's sleep needs change as well.  Work *with* them, rather than insisting on the same thing every day. If a routine is working for everyone- great! If it stops working, do something else.

6) It's really important for them to learn to listen to their own body's signals for sleep.  This takes time and patience, but it is really cool when a 4 year old says, "Mom, I'm tired and need to go to bed."  If you've started out attachment parenting and letting your babies sleep when they are tired and wake when they are ready, it's easy to just continue this as they get older.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


For the month of August, I'm going to start eating a whole lot more raw foods, and hopefully start a new habit that I'll keep up after August is over.  
I didn't come up with the catchy title of Rawgust- that was my friend and pastor.

I've eaten a high raw foods diet before.  Once for a month almost 100% raw, and a high percentage of raw off and on.  Lately, I've only been eating raw fruits and veges as a snack, but almost entirely cooked foods for meals.  I'm feeling drained and I know I'll feel better if I get back to eating raw. 
I'm working on my menu plan for next month. I will go shopping on the 6th and start after that. I'm going to attempt a combination between OAM... um NC  (Once A Month Not Cooking) .... and raw foods. 

I don't have a food processor and so many of the recipes I want to try require one. So, if I can plan ahead and spend one day chopping everything up at my mom's house, then I can freeze those things so they are ready to go. I hope it works!  I'd love to hear from anyone who's had experience doing that.  I'll also freeze fruit when I find a really good price and use it for things like smoothies.
So far I have:

Smoothies- which I do pretty often anyway, but I've kind of fallen into a rut of the same old ones. I need some new ideas!

Kale Avocado Sprout Salad

Rosemary Oregano Noodle Salad

Mango Breakfast Cobbler

Chickpea of the Sea

Pineapple Icebox Dessert

Several of those recipes came from this website, which looks like a great resource.

Something I learned from my fruititarian friend is how yummy and filling something as simple as a half a watermelon or a half a dozen bananas can be.  So I'm going to do a lot of just straight fruit, but I'll probably do recipes for dinners. 
How are you eating these days?  Have you ever tried eating raw?  How did you feel?

Thursday, July 26, 2012


This evening I walked into the kitchen and the magnitude of the girls' earlier fun with paper really hit me.  I knew they had been cutting up paper hours eariler and I knew they made a mess, but when I really stopped to look at it was shocking. It was EVERYWHERE on the table, the floor and the worst thing is that we have carpet in the kitchen, so there was no sweeping up the million pieces that were just big enough to be too big for the vacuum. *sigh

This morning, I had woken up to a similar mess because they had done the same thing the night before right before bed. I left it last night, because the baby was the one who dumped a lot of it on the floor and it was late and we were all tired. So first thing this morning, I took care of the bulk of it, and then my 4 year old woke up and helped.

So I called both girls into the kitchen and told them that I was frustrated at the big mess again. (I was very calm though, and frustrated just doesn't express the same intensity of emotions for me that it used to.  Yay for growth!). I said that I needed them to stop putting paper, especially little cut up pieces on the floor and that we needed to find a solution. They had no ideas, and said that they did it because they were just having so much fun with so many pieces and that they would forget to pick it up when it dropped. So I suggested that I would put the paper up and they could ask me for one piece at t time from now on, so it didn't get to be too overwhelming. They liked that idea (yay for solutions!).

My 4 year old had hurt her arm not long before that and was still holding it and hurting. I reminded my 6 year old that her sister and I had cleaned up the paper that morning, and I told her it was her turn.

E: I caaaannnnn'ttttt! Not all by myself.

Me: I think you can.  :)

E: NNNOOOOOO!!! You have to help me!

(Keep in mind here, that I frequently help them clean up, but I wasn't tackling that paper again today).

Me: Hhhhhmmm. Which part of that paper would you say is my responsibility?

E: None of it.

Me: Which part would you say is your responsibility?

E: Not all of it, because L made a mess too.

Me: Yes, but she cleaned up your mess this morning without any complaint and she is hurt right now. I'm sure if she can clean it up, you can too. :)

E: I'm just not like her. I'm not responsible.

Me: (Backtracking from comparing her to her sister- woops!) I didn't mean to compare you. It's ok that you are different.  You are different people. What I mean is that I know you are capable of doing it. :)

E: Well, yah, I *can,* but I just don't want to.

Me: So you're saying you *won't.*

E: Right, I won't clean it up by myself.  (Said very firmly)

(I shocked myself here by feeling absolutely..... nothing.  Even when I handle things perfectly well, there is a trigger inside me that says "Don't you tell me no, I'm your mother!" which I promptly self talk myself through. But this time, it just didn't phase me. Yay for growth again!)

Me: I trust that you'll decide to do what needs to be done. :)

And I walked away. I snuggled with L who was watching a movie and E came and sat with us for a few minutes. After a while she said:

E: Really, I'm just not responsible enough to do it. 

Me: I think you're very responsible.

E: No, I don't do anything responsible.
Me: Just this evening you ran and told me when L got hurt. That was responsible.

E: Well, ok ONE thing! But I'm not responsible with paper.
Me: You cleaned up your room last night. You are safe in the street when you go out to play.

E: Well..... yah....  AND I walk the dog! That's responsible!

Me: Yep, and you give her food and water.

E: Yah! And I take her outside and I help my sisters when they need help and I make sure the door is closed so baby Z doesn't get out!

Me: I think you are one of the most responsible 6 year olds I've ever met.

E: I guess I am responsible! What else do I do that's responsible?

Me: Well, when I take a nap with your sisters I can trust that you will take good care of things in the house. I know you won't get into things you aren't supposed to or mess anything up. I know you'll be safe and not open the door

E: Wow! Yah! I'm really responsible!  (She was very excited at this point)

She went on and on listing other things and repeating the things I had said she does.

I went on about doing other things, and after a while she came to me and said:

E: I'm ready to clean up the paper now. I just don't want to be alone.

Me: I need to do the dishes. How about if we both work in the kitchen together and we can talk while we work?

E: Yah!

So I did dishes and she cleaned up the paper.  She asked me to sing the clean up song while we worked, and she wanted me to add verses to it about how she's so responsible.

It worked out well, but I really was ok with however it worked itself out.  Obviously, I wanted it cleaned up and felt that it was her responsibility, but I didn't let my focus stay there.  I didn't know if she would clean it up this evening or ever.  It's a really amazing feeling just being at peace with whatever the outcome of a situation turns out to be.  It feels really good to just trust that when my focus is on relationship, not "shoulds" or "have tos" or my frustrations, things tend to work themselves out when given a little time and patience.  I don't always hit that sweet spot.  Sometimes I get too focused on what on want or how I want it. But I find myself in that place more and more often, and it's a great place to be.


Some more thoughts a few days later:

I don't think I communicated very well to *her* that I was ok with  however it turned out.  When I went back and reread what I wrote I saw that I said, "I trust that you'll decide to do what needs to be done."  However, at some point, I also remember thinking, "What if she NEVER picks it up?  Will it stay there all day?  All night?  FOREVER?!............... (mentally shrugging shoulders) meh, oh well.  I'm sure it will work out."    I'm not sure at what point that shift in my brain happened, but it's obviously not what I communicated to her.  hhhhhmmmm- something to think about for next time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Our Miserable Failure on Learn Nothing Day

Today was Learn Nothing Day.  

Naturally we failed at today's objective, but of course that just proves the point. ;)  

This morning:

E made a new friend and got her phone number. She started drawing bees which is a new addition to the recent skill of drawing pictures that look like more than abstract art.

L was introduced to the word "trick riding," at the park while she stood on the back of the bouncy horse thing.

So, nothing too extraordinary, but of course there are all those connections being made in the pathways of the brain that I can't see to report.

A picture E took of some flowers outside the newspaper office today.  The girls have been taking lots of pictures and videos the last few days.  

This afternoon:

Yesterday, dd1 discovered that she could make this whistle thing she has sound like a variety of birds. Except, we didn't really know exactly how enough birds sound to try to mimic them. So, this afternoon, I found this bird website for the girls. They got to see and hear owls, eagles, blue birds, doves, and more. We were at my mom's house and she mostly helped them with the site. They talked about birds that are nocturnal, what owls eat and eagles eat, and they got to hear some stories about eagles and owls with which grandma had close encounters.

We also watched a video at my mom's house of a guy singing Leaning on the Everlasting Arms the way it might have been sung if it had been written in the '40s, '50s, '60, '70s, '80s, and '90s. It's funny, and the girls got to hear the variety of music styles from the different time periods.

Baby Z coloring

Some other things we did today from which there was learning or at least connections in the brain being made:

We rhymed words
They looked at books
They ate strawberries from grandma's garden and helped her water it
They played pretend games with each other and kids at the park
We played with the dog
They watched a movie

Learn Nothing Day is not just for kids either! I failed miserably as well though.

I learned there are Blue Birds of Paradise in Australia, that sometimes middle age white guys *can* rap (kind of... watch the video), that strawberry plants produce more during their second year and beyond than the first year, and I'm sure many other things that were just so effortlessly processed by my brain that I can't even recall them but the information or skill is now stored for later.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bacterial Cells

E's drawing of a bacterial cell

E stepped on a nail a few days ago, which prompted a discussion about Tetanus.  Since then, she's been asking a lot of questions about bacteria, so today I went online looking for something that would show her the structure of a bacterial cell.  We found some videos, including one that showed step by step how to draw one.  She followed along and drew the cell, and I labeled it for her.  Then we found a game where she had to match the label to the part, and then it did some fun graphics. 

I'd still like to find a more fun game about bacterial cells or cells in general, so if you know of one, send it my way! 

While looking for those videos and games, we found one that involved introducing herbivores to a grassy environment, and then introducing predators to the environment, and watching how the presence of the different types of animals influenced each other.  L really liked that game. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reading- Oh SO close...

I'm not sure when to make the official announcement that E is reading.  Right now she can recognize some sight words, and she's getting better and better at sounding things out.  We frequently have conversations like:

E: Mom, how do you spell bat?

Me: Buh- A- Tuh.  What letter says Buh?

E: B

Me: What letter says A?

E: A

Me: What letter says Tuh?

E: T

Me:  So, how do you spell bat?

E: Oh!  B-A-T!

She's sounding out letters- like Cuh- A- Tuh, but then to combine them into CAT is a little harder for her.  Sometimes she can do it, and sometimes she needs help.   

So I wonder, when schools say kids should be reading by first grade or whatever, are they really reading?  Can they pick up a book, even an easy one, and just go?  Or are they reading like this?

I wonder, not because I'm comparing her to what schooled kids are doing, but because sometimes I hear homeschooling/unschooling parents with kids at her same reading level express concern because their state's school standard website says kids their age should be "reading."  That sounds like really, truly, reading, but somehow I doubt that is what is really happening.  Sure, some kids are.  But I think many, many others are where she is or reading even less.  Homeschoolers tend to get concerned lest their child be "behind," but I'd rather focus on my child, who she is, and where she is than focus on her in relation to anyone else. 

I've also seen some parents get their kid to this point without doing much formal teaching and then say, "She so close!  Now she needs some direct instruction to just push her over that hump."  I find that sad, because I think if they would just be a little more patient, they'd see natural learning in progress.  I've read of many unschooled kids who have a great amount of confidence about their "learning to read," as opposed to their schooled/ schooled-at-home peers who were "taught to read." 

Personally, I'm excited to watch her develop at her own pace.  I'm always here to help her, encourage her, and support her, but I'm not running out to buy a curriculum NOW, that's for sure!    

I've also found it interesting how much linear time and how little cumulative learning time it has taken for her to progress this far.  What I mean is that I'm pretty sure if you searched the archives of this blog, you'd find a post from when she was around 4 years old where I thought she was pretty close to reading.  Having never witnessed a child learn to read other than myself, I thought that knowing the names and sounds of most of the letters was "close."  In linear time, it wasn't, because her brain wasn't mature enough to grasp the concepts that it now is.  That has taken 2 or 3 years, and who knows how long from now until she is really able to just pick up any book and go.  On the other hand, the amount of time that we have spent actually doing reading related activities, has been very little compared to what she would have done in school.  Other than me reading to her, which we do almost every day, she doesn't spend a lot of time writing letters and words, learning letter sounds, and sounding out words.  She goes on kicks where she'll spend half an hour a day for a few days or weeks, then not do any of it for months while she's busy learning other things.

It's all really fascinating to watch.  I think I'll wait until she reads her first whole book or something before posting the official "She's reading" post.  But she's SO close!

L's 4th Birthday

Photobucket Photobucket 

L turned 4 on July 7th!  She's getting so big!

I went into labor with her on my birthday on the 5th, and she was born 2 days later.  My first VBAC baby, my lover of all things creepy crawly, my quiet child.  She generous, kind, easy going, and sweet, with a love for jumping off anything high, digging in the dirt, bugs, critters, and swimming.  Happy Birthday, L!

We went camping for her birthday and the 4th of July weekend.  She got to swim in the hotsprings and the cold pool, which is quite a treat since we don't have a pool near our house.  We also hiked to a waterfall where she swam.  She's not *quite* swimming yet, but getting close to swimming under water, and she likes to jump off the side.  

Snakes and Worms and Snails- Oh My!

L with her bug catcher she got for her 4th birthday. 

L has a thing for bugs, snakes, frogs, and pretty much anything creepy, crawly and slimy.  We got her a bug catcher kit for her 4th birthday.  It has the containers with air holes and magnifying glasses to see the bugs better.  She's used it just about every day. 

A snail L caught.

Today L caught a snail and put it in her bug catcher.

L with a HUGE worm she found in the yard.

She also caught this HUGE worm.

A few weeks ago, she caught a frog. Unfortunately, it died, since she has not yet learned to be very gentle with them.  She just grabs them and holds on tight.  She frequently comes to me with a handful of bugs she wants me to hang on to for her, or spiders she's caught by the legs that she wants to keep.

I wish I had a picture of the big bull snake D caught on the day of the eclipse!  It was 4 feet long- bigger than L.  It escaped the terrarium we were keeping it in, and D was trying to catch it with a stick.  L ran up to it, grabbed it around the middle and held it up.  "Here daddy, I got it!" she said.

I love watching her love of all things crawly, but I get a little concerned.  We've showed her the difference between a bull snake and a rattle snake, and we've shown her pictures of black widows.  Still, she's so young, that I don't think she'd remember or have the impulse control to stop herself if she saw either one.  At least she's having fun though!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Baby Nursed to Sleep Tonight

L will be 4 next week, but she's still my baby. She's still nursing, though not very much. Most days she only nurses once a day for a few minutes, and some days she doesn't nurse at all. I've been feeling conflicted about weaning her. On one hand, I've been nursing babies for 6.5 years straight, I'm tandem nursing for the second time, and my boobs are flat out tired. She's nursing so infrequently now, that I know she'd be ok with stopping. On the other hand, she's nursing so infrequently that I think it wouldn't really take much of my time or energy to continue. 

I told her that her 4th birthday will be her weaning party as well. She seemed a little excited about that, saying she was a big girl and didn't need nursies anymore. But she still asks to nurse, and I know she feels special when I tell Z to share nursies, because L is still my baby too.

Tonight, L nursed to sleep in my lap on the couch. She was snuggled under the blanket, and she looked so small that E even asked "Is that Z or L?" when all she could see were wisps of blond hair poking out.

Nursing toddlers and preschoolers is a funny thing sometimes. With an infant, it's easy for me to remember that I am her only or at least primary source of nourishment. Even when she bites, or wants to nurse all day, or tries to turn around and look at all the things distracting her with my nipple still in her mouth, there is a strong connection between us that makes it all ok. With a 2 or 3 or 4 year old.... well, sometimes I want to rip my boobs off and throw them across the room. The need, because it's no longer primary physical, is easier to forget.

For the child though, it's such a strong source of comfort. It's the perfect act of unconditional love. It is her safe haven.

When I can slow down and tap into that, when I can allow myself to connect with what she is feeling, it's the most powerful bond in the world. I'm not a very naturally nurturing person. I actually have to work really hard to proactively bond with my kids. But in that moment of nursing her to sleep, feeling her breath on my skin and her heartbeat, seeing her little fingers run through her soft blond hair, it's perfect unity between us. Everything is understood, everything is peaceful, everything is right. It's simultaneously an incredibly nurturing and incredibly powerful feeling. Powerful, because the feeling of protectiveness becomes so strong that heaven help the person who ever dared hurt my baby.

I will miss nursing L. As right as it is, however, for her to have nursed as long as she has, it is also right that she now a take another step into growing bigger. I pray that the bitter sweet memories of weaning her stay with me, to remind me not to ever push her to grow faster than she is ready. She might not nurse for much longer, but she will always be my baby.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Musical Theater

This is the show that E was rehearsing for when I wrote Would You Let Her Quit? This is one of the songs and if it didn't take so blasted long to upload things to youtube, I'd have the others! Maybe another day. This song is called Friendship and is part of the musical Anything Goes. She also did one song in Oliver, two songs in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and another song in Anything Goes. 100 hours of rehearsal, five songs in three shows, three costumes, full makeup and hair, and six two and a half hour long shows! She is the one in the front, near the right of the screen, in the purple swimsuit.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Facebook Obscenities

Facebook is, once again, taking down images of breastfeeding because they are "obscene."  I was able to share this picture on my page, but when I tried to share it on my Joyful Breath: Natural Christian Living page, it wouldn't allow me to.  I'd like to assume positive intent, that this is just a facebook glitch, but that's probably not the case.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rosh Chodesh: Head of the Month

I decided to start being more intentional about observing Rosh Chodesh (first day or "head" of the month), since it often flies by without me even noticing.  I made a calendar page for the kids that has the Gregorian calendar and the Biblical calendar overlapping for this month.  We also made a moon out of construction paper and colored a tiny sliver that indicates what we can see of the new moon.  I'm late on it for this month, which is Shevat.  It started on the evening of January 25th. 

While I was searching for things for us to do to celebrate, I found a few interesting things and I wanted to share them. 

I don't know anything about this website, and I don't agree with his use of "Gentile believers," but this page seems to sum it up nicely.  It gives all the Bible verses that speak of Rosh Chodesh.     

For us ladies, I thought this page about women and Rosh Chodesh was interesting, given our biology and inherent connection with the moon. 

I also found this worship dance to a song called Rosh Chodesh.  It's a really easy one, great for beginners and kids!

The Wikipedia page for each month has a list of things that happened, from the Bible and other historical sources, on each day of the month.  This month is Shevat

Most of the dates it gives to observe mark the death of various Rabbi's, but a few Biblical things stuck out to me: 

Moses began the review of the Torah on the first day of Shevat.
On Shevat 23 was the war on the tribe of Benjamin in Judges 19-21
On Shevat 24 Zachariah gave his prophecy. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

To Train Up A Child

You may have noticed the "Why Not Train A Child" button on the side of my blog.  If not, let me draw your attention to it now and to the issue it represents.  The book To Train Up A Child, written by Micheal Pearl is, simply put, a child abuse manual.  In the book, he tells parents to use a plumbing supply line to beat their children into submission, starting as young as 6 months old, and claims that this is Biblical advise.  Several children have died as a result of their parents following the methods in this book.  I could go on, but thanks to the work of Linda at Why Not Train A Child, I can just send you there where many bloggers have covered the book in depth.

Please take the time to read the information on her site, if you are not already familiar with this book.  Then if you are outraged, there is something you can do!  Here is the facebook page of the petition to Amazon asking them to stop selling this book.  Here is the petition itself.  And the blog of the woman who started the petition.  The purpose of the petition is to pressure Amazon to stop selling the book (and other similar books), so that it will not be so readily available to parents who are desperately seeking godly answers and might fall into this very ungodly trap.  Hopefully, it will also encourage them to look into WHY they can't find the book easily, and perhaps they will stumble across better information in the process. 

You may find that there are some people who do not support the book, but also don't support the petition.  They believe that this is censorship and that free speech should apply to anything, even the promotion of child abuse.  And they are right!  The government has NO place censoring this book.  This petition, however, is asking a PRIVATE business to stop selling it, because it violates the business's own policy of what they will carry.  This is Amazon customers informing Amazon of their demands.  It's no different than a customer speaking with the owner of a local bookstore about their choice to carry a book that is dangerous and reprehensible.

Please sign the petition!  And please spread the word via your blog or facebook page!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Random Cuteness

A few weeks ago, D was riding his bike and almost hit this dog when it ran into the street.  She's a Queensland Heeler puppy- very sweet, very cute..... and chews on everything of course.  I originally objected, but the puppy dog eyes (belonging to the kids and husband) won me over.  So now I have four children, and this one is more work than the other three combined.  Her name is Smokey. 

E loves to take pictures and she got this one of Z. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Testing a Hypothesis

Yesterday E was playing with this slime we made, and she said that she was doing a test.  I asked her what she was testing, and she said that if she held the slime up and hit it with the knife, she wanted to see if it would go to the left or the right.  "Like on Mythbusters!  They test things."

I said that she was right.  They do experiments.  She said, "No they test things."  So I explained that is what an experiment is- testing a hypothesis.  I gave her some examples.

Then she said "My hypothesis is that if I hold the slime up, it will be easy to cut."  Then she did it and said, "And it's true!"

She did a few other tests to see of the slime would fall one way or the other, and if it was easier to cut with a steak knife or a butter knife. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Would You Let Her Quit?

E is in a local musical theater production called Best of Broadway.  After she was selected from the auditions, someone asked me "What if she wants to quit?  What if she doesn't feel like going to rehearsal one day?  Would you just let her quit?"

This person asked me this, because she has heard me voice my opinion on forcing kids to do things in which they are not interested.  So she wondered if E lost interest, what was I going to do?

I told her that, first of all, E and I would be having a discussion about commitments, and we did.  I told E what was going to be expected of her, how many days a week she would be rehearsing and I showed her on the calendar how long the rehearsals would last and when the show would take place.  I told her that if she wanted to do this, she needed to commit to doing every rehearsal.  I explained that the people who direct the show chose people from the auditions who they think will do a good job in their part, and that they are depending on each person to do their part.  If people don't show up or don't what they are supposed to do, it could ruin the show or at the very least inconvenience the directors and other actors.

E saw the show last March, so she knew somewhat what to expect the final production would look like.  When she saw it last year, she said "I want to do that!  I want to be on the stage!" and she waited for 7 months for the auditions for this year's show to roll around.  She was excited to do the auditions and be in the play.

She didn't know, however, exactly what the rehearsals would be like.  For the first rehearsal, our day worked out in such a way that we had to get there an hour early and the girls spent that time running around and playing.  It was 6 pm when the rehearsal started and she was tired.  I tried to get her to spend a few minutes taking some deep breaths and getting centered before it started, but she wouldn't.  We were all in a small room that echoed every noise and the music was LOUD.  She got totally overwhelmed with the noise after already feeling tired and out of sorts.  She tried to participate, but we had to leave the room several times for her to pull herself together.

I gave her some Rescue Remedy and let her leave the room when she needed to, but I also reminded her that this was part of practicing for the final production that she wanted to do.  I told her that I didn't think every rehearsal would be like this and that once she got into the swing of things that it would probably be easier.

The next day we were talking about it and I said, "If you don't want to do this, it's ok.  But it seems like you want to do this, but you were overwhelmed and tired last night."  She agreed that was the case.  I said, "Let's come up with some ideas that will make the next rehearsal easier so you don't feel so overwhelmed."

She agreed that just knowing what to expect the next time- the loud music and many people- would be helpful.  She was totally surprised by that the first time.  We talked about getting centered before the rehearsal started, bringing Rescue Remedy, making sure she ate immediately beforehand, bringing a water bottle, and being well rested.

We have implemented those ideas, and she has now done 5 rehearsals, and she enjoys them.  There are times in between songs for her to talk and play with new friends, and they just started adding dance choreography to the singing which she likes.  It is hard work, but so far, it is worth it to her.   Before the last rehearsal, she asked me if she could skip it because she was a little sick.  I reminded her that if she didn't do the rehearsals, she wouldn't be able to be in the play.  She said ok, and by the time it was over, she didn't want to leave!

So would I let her quit if she changed her mind?  The simple answer is yes!  I mean, seriously, all ethics and parenting philosophy aside, how DO you force a child to be in a play?  Threaten to spank them if they don't sing?  Ground them from doing anything else if they don't smile big enough?  How does one justify making a child's life miserable to try to teach them to never quit?  To me that just says "My reputation is more important than your happiness" or "I think you're such a lazy worthless bum that you'd never do anything worthwhile if I didn't force you."  

Fortunately, there is a lot of distance between forcing a child to do something in which they are not interested, and shrugging your shoulders and letting them quit when they say they don't feel like doing it today.  That distance includes:

Not forcing them to start things in which they aren't interested in the first place.

Giving them a clear picture of what will be expected and then leaving the choice up to them.

Explaining what team work means and that there are people depending on them.

Not putting a child who is too young to understand those concepts in that position.

Supporting them by providing the practical things and the emotional help they need to continue.

Ultimately, I want my children to remember that I did everything in my power to support their interests and to encourage them in the things they enjoy even when those things were hard.  I also want them to remember that no activity was more important than our relationship, and that I was supportive of them stopping an activity that they felt, for whatever reason, was no longer beneficial to them.  

The play is in March, so stay tuned for pictures!  


Monday, January 23, 2012

Birds and Thank You Notes

A few recent natural learning moments:

A few days ago, as E and I were snuggling in bed after having just woken up, she said, "Mom, are eagles nocturnal like owls?"  She was suddenly, for no apparent reason, interested in eagles and owls and asked me a ton of questions.  So we looked them up.  We read that eagles are raptors and hunt for their food, as opposed to scavengers who find dead things.  I told her how the Bald Eagle is a symbol of America.  On a website about owls, she recognized the Barn Owl and the Snowy Owl from the movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole.  We looked for a website that might have a game or something for kids to learn about birds.  Unfortunately, all we could find is one that used information about birds to teach spelling and reading.  She played on it for a few minutes and L enjoyed the puzzles on the site, but it wasn't really what we were looking for.  If anyone knows about a site for kids about birds, please share it!


Thank You Notes

Yesterday, we wrote thank you notes to family members and friends who had given us Hanukkah gifts.   E wrote the names on the fronts, wrote "thank you" and signed her name.  L decorated with pictures and glitter.  I wrote the words on a different piece of paper and E copied them.  By the third one, she wrote "thank" from memory, without looking at what I wrote and she was very excited about that.