Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Retrospective

Since we (were) vacationing, the kids and I took some time to look at the Halloweens of years past. It was fun. Here are a few pics to take us back... The little girl with Lucy in all the pics is Maggie. She is also the yellow chick next to Baby Lucy in the pea costume. Maggie and Lucy celebrated Halloween together this year too (with lots of other little and big people too). Pictures coming of that...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hey - I'm on vacation...

Hello out to you, Greg - thanks for your comment yesterday. Reading the New Yorker while eating take-out Ethiopian and listening to Dar Williams sounds good, doesn't it? I'm going to try that someday... We're looking forward to seeing y'all too. And we will pretty soon, plus I just saw Loose Digits is playing Dusty Strings - we are so there. That is our kind of venue at a time we're available - 1 pm. We like to party at 1 pm...

As some of you know, we're on vacation from any program around homeschooling this week. We decided to take the whole week off even after Aunt Em and family left. It is so good especially because the sun has been out and the colors are brilliant. The kids and I still are swimming through our colds but all the better to really encourage us to relax during our vacation.

And I have to say hello to Farmer Megan (and Farmer Keith) too. Are you drinking your morning coffee right now? I don't know when we can come to the farm. November is not looking good, but we long for you and the critters and the dirt, sky, plants, hammock, river, cocktails, Keith and Megan after dinner concerts and all the other gifts you're offering...

And Em, I hope you're getting lots of good stuff for Teagan. Em is one of those superstar moms double pumping breastmilk on their breaks at work. I bow down to you and all the women with the double pump going. And speaking of longing... Every time I think of your little chubby man, I would do anything for one cuddle into his soft cheeks and neck and a nice long smell of his sweet babyness.

And we've another superstar in our midst - Rob Brown - you are special in so many ways and the UW Medical Center is aware of a jewel among them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I love you all

I have to admit that I am a little high right now. Not on anything illegal or even intoxicating... (what are you thinking??) Chalk it up to the following:

~ listening to the Dar Williams station on
~ drinking a citrus kombucha
~ having the lentil soup cooking away on the stove - dinner in a pot, my friends
~ a napping Jasper while Lucy is at Grandma Gloria's for a playdate
~ having spent a sweet, sweet afternoon in the warm sunshine at Carkeek Park with my precious little redhead - no trains, but lots of log walking and talk of trains
~ reading Hendrick Hertzberg's blog on i love that guy.
~ daydreaming about my next knitting project

As much as I love homeschooling Lucy, I miss all the Jasper and mom time we had last year, kickin' it all over the city on our little adventures.

I have this sweet and sad nostaligia for all the people I love who are far away - I wish I could just give you a little squeeze right now - you know who you are...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Four kids, four days, one house...

Well, one house and the great out-of-doors which is where you might also frequently head if you had four kids in your house - well, technically, only three because the smallest is a sweet, sweet baby. My sister and her kiddos came for a visit. We treasured and relished and were grateful as can be for every crazy and sane moment of our time with them. My sister beautifully handled travelling from Vail to Denver by car, then Denver to Seattle by plane on her own with her 6 month old and 3 yr old. I should have been waiting at the gate with a gold medal. All we had was lentil stew... But anyway, here are many pics. Rob took Monday off and was able to help out tremendously and capture lots of moments for us.

Em hits the big city - farmer's market Saturday morning, three kids and one brother-in-law. I stayed home with Teagan, who woke from his morning nap the moment the mini-van left the driveway. But the guy is cute - you'll see...

Saturday lunch - we're having Central Market pizza. I'm kind of embarrassed, but I was tired. What I didn't know then was that later that night I would come down with a super yucky cold. So, anyway, pizza for lunch. Yes, Uncle Robby - a twenty-five yr old young man, does still remove the mushrooms and black olives from his pizza.

I tried to compensate for the pizza by cutting up an heirloom tomato from our garden...

Teagan has his first look at salt water at Carkeek Park.

Rob took the three big kids to the grocery store, letting the two three yr olds have their own small cart. This was another gold-medal-worthy undertaking, in my view.

No one here but us flamingos...

Teagan is just baby perfection personified. His smiles are hard to capture, but not because of a lack of frequency. He is the super smiliest guy and super chubby and just all-around irresistable.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkins and Pagans

I have to admit we really had a fun old time on Saturday. It was the perfect Seattle autumn day - sunshine, blue sky, not too cold, trees turning. It is the kind of day that sends Rob galloping off for his camera bag. Perfect day for pumpkin shopping. Following our usual tradition of doing things the hard way, we did not pick one up at PCC or at the farmer's market, where we went first on Saturday morning. But we drove half of an hour to South 47 Farm to pick out perfection. Well, at least good enough. The pumpkins in our house are the realm of Rob and the kids so they did the pickin'. Then girls and boys split up so girls could do the corn maze and boys the tractor ride. Lucy and I somehow made it out of there. Seat of our pants, that's how we operate... And it usually works out ok.

But that wasn't the end of our fun, no... On our way back home, we went on a quick bike ride on the Burke Gilman trail. Then to make our day a little too perfect, Pop Pop and Grandma Gloria came over to babysit while we went to check out the new restaurant, Poppy. Well, we didn't think we were going there because we couldn't get a reservation, but we mosied up to Capital Hill and after a glass of wine at the Deluxe, Rob crossed the street to Poppy, and lo and behold, several parties were late for their reservations so we squeezed in... Anyway, it was delicious food and the perfect crowd for a date night. Not a soul in the place under the age of 21.

We got some good shots at the pumpkin farm and of the pumpkins Rob carved last night... with help from kids.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We are so lucky... have a Presidential candidate of the caliber of Barack Obama. From the first time I heard him speak, I was hooked. He is smart, he is kind, he makes sense, he doesn't spend much time blaming, berating or scolding, he is full of thoughtful and doable plans for how to responsibly address complex issues such as global warming and health care. There is a wonderful editorial piece in The New Yorker this week outlining exactly why to vote for Barack Obama. I will readily admit they nailed me and my reason for loving Barack with this: "Obama has inspired many Americans in part because he holds up a mirror to their own idealism." I still want to believe our country is capable of living up to its own ideals: the ideals trotted out by the Bush Administration like "freedom" but then trampled in every way possible - respect for human rights, balance of power between the branches of government, separation of church and state, respect and support for international organizations.

The next president is likely to make three Supreme Court appointments. If it is McCain, we can say goodbye to Roe vs. Wade, to restraining executive power, to keeping the separation of church and state and to having any legal checks whatsoever on corporate power. And to think these decisions could fall into the hands of Palin! I'm going to quote the New Yorker again: "In the interviews she has given since her nomination, she has had difficulty uttering coherent unscripted responses about the most basic issues of the day. We are watching a candidate for Vice-President cram for her ongoing exam in elementary domestic and foreign policy. This is funny as a Tina Fey routine on "Saturday Night Live," but as a vision of the political future it's deeply unsettling. Palin has no business being the backup to a Presidient of any age, much less to one who is seventy-two and in imperfect health. In choosing her, McCain committed an act of breathtaking heedlessness and irresponsibility."

But, friends and family, we are in luck! We don't even have to vote for whomever is running against her - we can actually just vote for this wonderful man who happens to also have chosen a respectable, bright running mate. More from the New Yorker: "...Obama's first book is valuable in the way that it reveals his fundamental attitudes of mind and spirit. "Dreams from My Father" is an illuminating memoir not only in the substance of Obama's own peculiarly American story but also in the qualities he brings to the telling: a formidable intelligence, emotional empathy, self-reflection, balance, and a remarkable ability to see life and the world through the eyes of people very different from himself."

And more: "Obama has returned eloquence to its essential place in American politics...We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama - a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first century America - would, at a stroke, reverse our country's image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting - rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader's name is Barack Obama."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An afternoon at the arboretum

Rob was not the only one at the arboretum today with his camera... We spent the day with the Dutch family - celebrating our very good friend Sebastian's third birthday. We enjoyed our day walking to the arboretum and then hanging out with them at their house. Juliette and Sebastian are the little ones I get to babysit every Friday afternoon, while mama Bianca goes to the Waldorf teacher training. I love the Friday afternoons spent at their house, away from all my chores and finished with homeschooling for the week, enjoying just being with the four children.

I'm excited about the week ahead - we start new circle activities tomorrow, we present Lucy with her recorder and start lessons this week, and keep working on math with the introduction of greater than/less than and working on her fairy tale verse book. I also want to do nature walks every day we can to our little secret garden. Lucy agreed this would be a good idea after she and I visited it on Saturday. We've got to establish our daily outdoor adventure habit now before the cold and rain really set in for good... Plus it is a great time of year for collecting nature's treasures - pine cones, chestnuts, leaves, acorns.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How's Homeschooling??

Time for a little update on the homeschooling front. Whenever I run into anyone who knows what we are up to, I always get this question: How's homeschooling??! It is quite a curiosity really, and I can see why. I can truly understand why most people never consider doing this. Sending kids to school is a very rational and wise decision in so many cases. And for a confluence of reasons, not doing that works for all of us right now. I don't mind having my days mostly consumed by child-raising, curriculum planning and prep, and then spending intense time with kids actually seeing the curriculum in action. Breathing room is built in here and there in the homeschool environment, especially since Lucy and Jasper play well together and also independently.

Jasper really enjoys his time with Lucy and also his time by himself. He wanders away and does his own thing often: playing with trains or coloring or playdoh or a puzzle or looking at books or hammering with his tools. Today after a long bout of circle, morning lesson and story reading, Jasper looked at Lucy and me and said, I need a quiet time. Then he went to his room and closed the door. Half an hour later I knocked on his door and went in and he was asleep all tucked into his bed.

As for the actual curriculum, our school days always start with a very active and long movement and singing session. That is where lots of academic topics are first broached in some kind of playful fashion - with verses or beanbags or whatever. We really get moving too - and frequently things get a little goofy during this time. I sometimes feel I've lost control of the ship, Jim. But then I hand out beanbags or start jumping like a frog or something and they are magically back on board... Then we go from circle into a "morning lesson." This is when Lucy and I really are doing what looks like school - with me sitting near a blackboard and her sitting at the dining room table with her notebook and crayons and pencils.

We have finished the first language arts block where we reintroduced all the letters and the correct way to write them. We did this by reading a fairy tale with a verse that used lots of that particular letter. Then we would recall the story together (to exercise her memory and sequencing, people!), do a drawing or some sort of artistic rendering from the tale, recite the verse many times and then finally bring out the actual letter and she would write it in her book, along with the verse. That was four weeks long. Now we're in the midst of a math block where we're going into more depth on numbers, odd/even, counting by, exploring the geometry of numbers (i.e. triangle for 3, square for 4, etc.), doubling and tripling numbers, greater than, less than. For each of the numbers and many of the concepts as well, we read a fairy tale to introduce the topic - i.e. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for seven. Today we read one that introduces nine and the concept of tripling as it has three sets of three as part of the plot. The story was a Bulgarian tale called Nine Peahens and the Golden Apples. It was a good'n. Lucy gets to sleep on the story and then tomorrow we dig into the number nine and the concept of tripling using threes as an example.

And during the math block, Lucy practices her letters from last month, creates keyword cards which is this little cache of special words she has written with a picture as a clue on the back, and is creating a book of the fairy tale verses we used in the first block. This is so cool because she has memorized these since we said them so often and now she "reads" the text of them out loud to me. She is clearly matching the word she remembers with the word on the page, but doesn't have the troublesome and tiring problem of having to sound every word out. It is very sweet and she is so thrilled after she's "read" them.

Then we sprinkle in other stuff as it makes sense: games of various sorts, nature stories, nature projects, sculpting with beeswax, watercoloring, knitting or doing art with wool. Not to mention the myriad of projects Lucy creates for herself to work on during the day. We're going to start recorder in a week or two.

Today, while Jasper was having his rest, Lucy wrote and drew a book that she titled "A Love Book to the Universe." Then we went to get Teo, a kindergarten friend of Lucy's, who spent the afternoon playing with Lucy. In short, I feel good and the kids seem to be thriving for the time being. Some pics follow of the kiddos in action (and the big guy at badminton too).