Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas 2009!

Here, have a piece of my freshly baked Monkey Bread and let's talk about Christmas!

I thought it was about time I posted a few Christmas photos especially since our tree looks like some strange Freaky Friday specimen on the back deck now. It was so dry and twisted by Christmas morning, but still smelled amazingly good. Here are some photos of the big day!

Ember got a wonderful shopping cart which she immediately started driving around. Chris has since put foam bumpers all over it so our walls our safe.

The boys were so excited for about a month leading up to Christmas and they seemed to love all of their presents. They get distracted by one or two at a time and then a few days later they start investigating something else from their pile of goodies.

The Doink-It Darts were a huge hit for Beck and everyone else! It's a magnetic dart board using rare earth magnets and it works wonderfully! Notice Beck's super short hair. Chris took the boys to a barber this time and all three of them came back with pig shaves.

Our little Princess Ember with a new CD of African music.

Here the boys are setting up a new Playmobile set called the Magician's Workshop.

The cousins and the boys at play!

Unwrapping chaos.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book had some good stuff in it. Refreshing, straight-forward parenting advice like the kind I get from my parents. I liked the idea of parenting that is "good enough" -- "Consider that "good enough" can often be best for your child, because when life is mostly ordinary and just occasionally extraordinary, your child won't end up with expectations of herself and those around her that can't be met on this worldly plane."

I feel like I often run into children (especially in our neighborhood) who think very highly of themselves - they're precious, pampered, greedy, rude and imperious. So it's nice to read a book that includes these teachings:

*Accept that your children are both unique and ordinary.
*Teach them to honor their parents and to respect others - family, friends, and community.
*Teach them to be resilient, self-reliant, and courageous.
*Teach them to be grateful for their blessings.
*Teach them the value of work.
*Teach them to accept rules and to exercise self-control.
*Teach them the preciousness of the present moment.

And finally a lovely quote that the author attributes to "a modern educator".
Try to see your child as a seed that came in a packet without a label. Your job is to provide the right environment and nutrients and to pull the weeds. You can't decide what kind of flower you'll get or in which season it will bloom."

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mom's Birthday

Here's the little zippered pouch I made for my mom for her birthday! I'm getting better at these, but that curved zipper is still a little dicey for me. On the last few bags I've added the zipper pull charm which adds a lot, I think. Plus I love going to the bead store. It's like a candy shop without the calories. All those pretties!!

Beck was telling a mom friend of mine about celebrating his grandma's birthday. She asked him which birthday it was...

the mom: is your grandma 1? or 2? or 3? etc...

Beck just looked at her and said, "No, you have to count by 10's!"

See, all the homeschooling math IS working!

Gingerbread Play Date

Yesterday I was pretty wiped out after a super fun, but slightly exhausting play date -- which is what you get when you mix Christmas anticipation + decorating gingerbread with all the candies you can imagine + 6 kids. And then right after that, I had to take Ember to her well child check-up and by the time I got back home I needed a break. So, I told the kids they had to go and watch some TV.

Yogi opened his eyes wide and said,

"What? Why?? Did we get too much exercise??"

The photos:

Working at our BIG table - perfectly sized for 6 kids and their gingerbread houses!

Beck's finished house.

Margaret and Yogi worked together.

Yogi's finished house.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Some Christmas Bits

The kids got their annual photo with Santa the other day and now suddenly Ember knows Santa. She keeps looking at our past Santa photos and yelling out something like, "Dnta! Dnta!" And then she points to her mouth because the Santa she met gave her a candy cane which apparently was a pretty big deal to her! She also yells this out when she sees any kind of holiday display or Christmas yard decoration or even random people wearing a red coat like the lady we saw in a store yesterday.

And then we've been playing Christmas music here at home and the boys are starting to listen to the words and sing along. This year they noticed the line, " better not cry I'm telling you why! Santa Claus is coming to town!" I heard them have a long conversation about it while they were playing in the living room. It went something like this:

"Wait a minute! Why can't we cry? That doesn't make sense. Why would Santa say we can't cry?! What if someone hit you in the face? Then you would have to cry! And you would still get presents! That's not right. Right, Mom??"


We actually made it through an entire movie last night! This was a great film -- probably in part because I was the same age in 1987 as the characters in the movie. Plus I had the same crazy, fun "summer only" jobs and experiences. Nostalgic, funny, uplifting, sweet. Watch it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the Curve of Time

The Curve of Time The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a pleasure and an inspiration to read. The author was an early unschooler; she loaded up her kids onto a 25 foot motorboat for several months of poking around and exploring all the bays and inlets near Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia each summer. Her adventures took place in the late 1920's and early 1930's when visiting still-used winter Indian villages and remote logging camps, seeing abundant wildlife, and enjoying the stillness and wildness of the coastline was still possible. It made me want to do it with our own three kids!

View all my reviews >>

Monday, December 14, 2009

'tis the season

Some bits and pieces of the season:

Against my warnings, the boys left their advent calendars out and Ember popped open most of the little windows and scarfed down all the little chocolate pieces.

We lost Mary from our Playmobil "Jesus Set" (as Beck calls it!)

I bought "The Essential Now That's What I Call Christmas!". I played it for my book party, loved it!, and then brought it to my parents and somewhere in the transition it disappeared. Gone.

We attended out first ever Feuerzangenbowle with some German friends. The kids loved feeding the fire, but the drink was for adults only!

The kids got to see Santa arrive by chopper at the museum of flight.

I talked to Ember about seeing Santa and every time I said the word Santa she put her finger to her lips and said, "Shhhhh". Not sure where she learned that, but it cracks me up every time!

The Pain in my Toe

Big news: I have to have open toe surgery on January 15th. My left big toe has a "pothole" in the joint bone which needs to be filled. Little pieces of cartilage are breaking off and getting caught in the joint which is terribly painful when it happens. So, unless I get it surgically repaired, they'll have to fuse that joint together at some point.

Anyway, the worst part is that I won't be able to put any weight at all on my left foot for 4 weeks and then I'll have limited ability to walk for another 4 weeks. That's a long time when you're normally busy on your feet all day with three young kids!! My parents have generously offered to be here 4 full days a week so between their help and a few days of vacation time from Chris, I think we're covered.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More on Moo

I just have to put in another plug for Moo cards! We recently ordered our second batch with all new photos. They are just as wonderful as the first time, but we thought they'd been printed a little dark. So, we emailed the company and asked what we could do about that. And you know what they did? Re-printed the entire batch and sent us this improved second set, for free! It's a great product and a great company! If you see me, ask for one of my new cards!


So, you might have noticed my new widget on the sidebar over there. It's for Goodreads, a website to manage your literary life. Please go check it out and start your own "bookshelf" because:

1. It's a great way to keep track of what you want to read and titles you want to remember

2. It's a perfect place to read reviews and get more information about books

3. You can see what your friends are reading, how they reviewed what they've read, and you can recommend books to them

4. It's fun, it's free

5. And I need more Goodreads "friends"

Click on my bookshelf link above and check out my shelves! And then go start your own and friend me.

When Yogi Messes with Beck's Toys

"What?? (Beck picks up his lego Glatorian.)

"Yogi, stop putting crystal boobs on my Bionicle!!"

Now, that's a sentence I never thought I'd hear!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Beginning...

to look a lot like Christmas!

See those red bulbs? I think Ember has pulled down and broken about 10 of those so far.

We let the kids take complete control of the tree this year: they picked it out and except for the lights, decorated it all themselves.

And as soon as it was up, they got busy under the tree using it as a background for playing with all their little figurines and set-ups. You can see a Star Wars guy laying there on the floor by Yogi's feet. Apparently there's a Jawa still hidden in among the branches somewhere!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Here are the last of the photos from our trip up to the cabin last weekend. You'll notice the rain gear which the boys also wore for Halloween. Those pants are Grundens which is what commercial fishermen wear. I wish I had discovered them a few years ago because they have given us a new and wonderful sense of freedom in our rainy weather. Seriously, the boys last so much longer outside, they stay dry, warm, and clean. I love it! Also, I bought all three kids neck gaiters which have made a big difference as well and yesterday at REI we got waterproof gloves for them. Isn't it great? Now we can be outside and be comfortable all year long! I had a boyfriend a long time ago that said, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes."

Beck catches some air as he launches his stick.

The boys just can't stay out of the water!

Yogi and I are talking about something and it must be good!

Beautiful Ember.

Ember tries out a stick.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Weekend Away

It's Sunday night, late and I should be in bed, but Chris and I wanted to get this done while the photos are still so fresh! We just returned from a weekend at the cabin. (It feels like I'm always writing that!). Another wonderful time. We spent one day at the Vancouver Aquarium and one day staying closer to home except for the trip to the beach in our rain gear.

The best part of the aquarium trip was that the place was not at all busy and we didn't get rained on. The worst part was when Chris handed me Ember so he could go use the bathroom. I'm not even sure why he was carrying her, but when he left for a few minutes, she went completely crazy screaming and writhing around. People were looking at us so I put her down and she did this weird sort of elbow crawl between two garbage cans still screaming. So I picked her back up. Chris returned and then she looked over at him, gripped me tighter and said Mama. I don't get toddlers. The rational part of me knows this is just a phase, she'll be fine, blah, blah, blah, but the emotional side of me always feels a little hurt when she's so fierce in her rejection of me. It passes and then we have all kinds of wonderful, sweet moments too. But when she wants to, she can be really awful.

Here are some shots from our aquarium trip:

Now, would you believe that out of all the fabulous sea animals we see at the aquarium - like Beluga whales and their small grey, comma shaped babies, like white-sided dolphins jumping in perfect unison, like bizarre gigantic river fish from the Amazon. Out of all the amazing things we see there, Beck and Yogi have decided their absolute favorite is the Garden Eel. These little guys are about the size of #2 pencil.

Beck and Yogi spent a long time giggling at these blue jellies.

I'm in there somewhere.

Beck watching the dolphins from below.



Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I never anticipated that food would be such an issue when I became a mom. It takes up so much time: breakfast, second breakfast, cleaning up from breakfast, snack packing, lunch (three ways), cleaning up from lunch, dinner planning and prep, dinner which is often met with, "I'm not eating that!" And then there's dinner clean-up, and loading and unloading the dishwasher. And the various food accidents that occur throughout the day. There's all that and then there's all the conversation around it, the whining, begging, refusing, complaining -- the negotiating!

So, I had to laugh the other day when the first words I heard for the day which came from Beck who was laying next to me in bed were,

"Let's start eating!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Same Song, Second Verse

Time is flying by these days. Each morning I lay in bed and think, well here we go again! My planner is heavy with classes, field trips, new friends, dental appointments, leaf raking, home managment tasks and EMBER which I wrote in all caps since she is SO MUCH WORK right now.

She's learning to feed herself and is pretty determined to do it all by herself (!) so the floor, the table, her chair, and her clothes are all a disaster every time she eats. Today, after I had her all cleaned up, she found Beck's unfinished peanut butter and jelly sandwich and made a second giant smeared mess everywhere. It reminds me of a song we used to sing at camp: Same song, second verse, could get better, but it's gonna get worse!

I guess the most important news right now is that we've met so many wonderful, interesting, fun, and welcoming families in the homeschooling community. It's been a joy. I've planned a little gathering at my house with many of the new moms I'm getting to know and I'm really looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009

And here they are (trick-or-treating at Infospace)! We had two perfectly dressed little fishermen and one beautiful garden fairy. The boys just added the authentic fishing nets to their new rain gear (purchased from a marine and fishing supply store)and they looked like they just got off a fishing boat. Ember didn't really know what we were doing, but she got right into it and had a great time carefully placing candy into her bucket. Later when she noticed the boys actually eating candy, she gave them the funniest look and starting making complaining noises like, "Hey, no fair! Where did they get that candy?!!" Funny!

Beck carved the small pumpkin all by himself and added the details on Yogi's pumpkin on the left. I carved Beck's (the one in the middle which had an impossibly hard rind on it. My wrist still hurts!) I used Beck's drawing as a guide.

Yogi and Beck just before neighborhood trick-or-treating.
Ember peeks out the mail slot while Beck and Yogi ask her for candy!

Trick-or-treating with Chris at work.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Pumpkins

I think we're experiencing Halloween inflation. We've already been to 2 Halloween parties, (and invited to a 3rd which we didn't attend), we've been trick or treating in costumes at Chris's work and already collected gobs of candy and it's just Halloween today!

We'll hit the neighborhood tonight and I'll post some photos of the kids in costume. Here are some shots of us carving pumpkins - the ones we got at that organic farm a few weeks ago. My right wrist is still throbbing in pain from carving Beck's pumpkin. The rind on that one was more like a layer of formica which made carving it almost impossible. Ouch.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yogi's Night

This morning Yogi woke up and turned to me and we had this brief conversation:

Yogi: "Boy, that was a tiring night!"
Me: ???? What do you mean? Why was it so tiring?
Yogi: (Giving me an incredulous look...) Because I was so tired!

Mildew Be Gone!

I know this is very "Good Housekeeping" of me, but today I'm sharing a tip with you that worked a miracle on a very stubborn problem: mildew smell in the laundry.

A little background: a little over a year ago I washed a load of towels and then accidentally forgot about them. It's not like I left them sitting in the washer for days, but our washer and dryer share a small room with our furnace and when the furnace is running, the room gets quite toasty. So by the end of the day after washing the towels on hot and then having them sit there in that warm room, they smelled bad -a sour, musty, mildew smell. In the past I've actually thrown out towels or washcloths that end up smelling of mildew because I've never been able to get that awful smell out and there is nothing worse than drying off with a stinky towel. It's gross. But this time it was an entire load of towels -- our good matching towels in the right colors -- not just spare towels we might use for swimming.

So, over the course of the year, each time I use one of those towels I cringe from the smell and then kick myself for making such a stupid mistake. That is until a few weeks ago when I found this tip on the internet which I am now passing to you! It worked perfectly. Here's how you do it:

To Remove Mildew Smell from Towels:

The Vinegar Method
Put your towels in the washing machine, using the hottest water available. Add one or two cups of white vinegar. Do not add detergent, fabric softener, or any other products at this time. Run the washer.
Leave the towels in the washer and wash the same load again just as you would normally with laundry soap. Again, use the hottest water available. Don't use fabric softener or any other products.
Dry the load in the dryer using a high heat setting. Towels should be thoroughly dry when you pull them out. If they're not dry, put them back in, or move them immediately outside and hang them in the sunlight.

That's it. One time and problem solved!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Table-Scrap Tank

I almost forgot this darling little tank:

For building instructions see the link from this blog: MicroBricks

Microscale Legos

"Duck bot"

"Snail bot"

Lately we've gotten interested in Microscale lego construction. It's pretty amazing what people can do with just the tiniest bricks and these don't come as sets. You have to think them on your own. In case you're interested here are a few links:

the brothers brick

or this Lego Microscale Flikr group

And here are a few of my favorites we found on the internet:

Fall Days

Suddenly it's fall. Over the past few days we've had some of the heaviest rain I've ever seen in Seattle. Drenching, loud, rain. We even lost power for a few hours - not because it was windy, but somehow related to that rain, I'm betting.

Yogi is all better. There was one night last week, though, when he couldn't sleep so he found me and Chris and said his stomach felt "weird". And even though he didn't seem sick, we know enough to take any talk about sickness seriously and got him the vomit bucket and a hot water bottle. That's what really gave it away. He was so delighted about getting the hot water bottle, he had a hard time concealing his excitement. After a little while I went in to check on him, leaned down to give him a kiss and noticed that his face was totally hot and red. He smiled sheepishly and told me that he tried the hot water bottle out on his face! What a little nut!

Anyway, we had a nice week. It looks like we sold the subaru today.

Here are some photos of our field trip with some other homeschoolers to an organic farm. We picked apples and pumpkins, took a short hay ride, tried carmel apples and enjoyed the scenery!