Friday, December 31, 2010

No Blogging? Did I Leave the Country Again?

No, no one left the country, I just left home, as in to work outside of it, for the first time in years and years. Oh sure, I've given the occasional conference, done volunteer work, I even escape weekly for some writing time, but this was a week of working every single day, including Sunday, somewhere else. There was also the little matter of injuries to both adults in the house, three doctor visits for ill children (I never go to the doctor, they were really not well!), and the holidays with all the joy, chaos and fabulous family visits that they entail.

I began the job with my arm in a sling, which explains why I had not written for a week or so before the job. Too much yoga on top of lots of snow shoveling on an old injury, and more functioning right elbow. (No, I did not shovel the snow onto my elbow, for those of you who do not own a snow shovel in Florida or southern France. One uses ones elbows and shoulders and back to remove the snow from the driveway in order to go to work.) The third day I had to drive through a snow-storm and eight inches of fallen snow to get to work. Then my children kindly passed on the awful cold they've been fighting.  I can appreciate just how bad it was, first-hand. My poor husband outdid himself on snow removal and helping Santa set up a trampoline in the dark on Christmas Eve, and hurt his neck. He still took care of us all while I was working, but he was in lots of pain, poor guy.

The job? My favorite, outside of parenting and homeschooling; interpreting. I have been hired to translate English to French and back again for different reasons, as needed around the community, and I am enjoying every minute of it.  I get to be the go-between to facilitate understanding when two people cannot connect in a common language. This is what I did before children, mostly for industry, relocation and the scientific community. This time it has taken me to places I have never been and shown me some sides of life I had not known. Not everyone has had the fortune most of us take for granted; parents who care about you, a safe home, sane siblings and step-parents.

How will this all work out with homeschooling? We will take it one day at a time, and make lots of plans for either type of day. It promises excitement and a chance for learning the skills of adaptation. Learning can happen in more than one situation.

Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza and a Jolly New Year!

I have been so impatient to send out my warmest holiday wishes to you, dear friends, family and readers. I am happy to do so today, late for all but one. I hope you have been enjoying the season with family and loved ones. If you have not had this chance, may it come to you soon. It has been a most blessed and busy holiday in our house, and we are grateful for the love, friendship and joy we live in each day.

We celebrated the Solstice both out at a special musical and poetry service and at home, with a spiral, candles, good friends and good food.

Our Christmas found a few of us a little under the weather and the weather a little over the top, but it turned out to be white and warm anyway.

May the coming new year be filled with good health, happiness and peace for you and yours.

Angela, Pierre, Lily, Aragorn, Alienor, Arthur and Puck

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blogs Awarded the Stylish Blog Award

I would like to say a short word about the blogs I elected for this award last week. Each of them has spoken to me in some special way over the months or years I have been reading it.

Invitation to the Butterfly Ball; this is the story of a second-generation homeschooling family. Interesting to those of us who wonder; how will this all turn out? Well, if Rachel's family is any indication, it looks like full of love, great ideas and beautiful, talented children with caring parents may be how it turns out, wonderful!

The Itchy Homeschooler is the blog of a witty, feisty homeschooling mother of two. Marlis is full of ideas for learning and growing, and not afraid to ask the BIG QUESTIONS about parenting, children in today's world, education; methods and reasons, and open up discussions on her blog. 

Three Little Pixies is a blog by a loving, experienced mother of four. One of Tammy's children has gone on to graduate from homeschooling, two more are constantly busy with projects, adventures and recipes that are shared in photos and words on this gorgeous blog. When I need an idea for a Waldorf study unit, this is where I head for the older children.

Ancient Hearth is by Jen, mother of twins, who has posted photos and tutorials and links to so many ideas and projects and books you may stay lost in her blog for days. It is a sure bet for Waldorf parents of younger children, the twins are in second grade, but I have used many of her ideas with my older children, including the tepee we made for third grade Native American block.

Soft Earth Art is a marvelous place to repose, resource and  bask in beautiful needle-felted art and poetry. Marie celebrates the natural and maternal world through photography and her needle-felting. Her work is just lovely, a must-see.

Untrodden Paths is a bilingual blog in German and English. This mother of five, Eva, is an inspiration in her gentle, creative lessons and uncompromising academics. I greatly enjoy walking down these paths each time I check out this blog.

The Parenting Passageway is where I go for inspired writing on Waldorf. Carrie deals with everything from being the queen of one's castle and going forth in a confident manner among your own family, to ages and stages in child development. This is a thoughtful, intelligent, simply amazing collection of essays and discussions.

Syrendell is a celebration of all that is Waldorf artwork, music, handwork and lifestyle. This talented couple of artists, Jennifer and Rick, has work that will lead you to be more inspired in your own knitting, painting, felting and aromatherapy, to name a few.


December 13th is a big day. This year is particularly special, as we had a 14 and a 41, respectively born in 96 and 69, both on 12/13. When a child turns thirteen, it is the first year of having your own teenager, one you can sort of take as a training year, getting used to the whole idea of adolescence. Fourteen is different, it is official, she is not getting any smaller, any shorter, things can only go one direction from here on out.

I am so grateful for my lovely daughter, she is special in every way, Happy Birthday ma cherie!

I was very excited, when after sixteen hours of induced labor, Lily was born at midnight; which day was it? The doctor and the anesthesiologist consulted each other; one's watch said one minute to midnight, the other one minute after. "Can I have a say in this?" I vaguely remember croaking, my throat completely parched from drinking nothing since the morning before. "Sure, do you have a preference?" joked the anesthesiologist. My doctor, by then, knew I had an opinion on everything concerning birth, but neither of us expected it to extend to the very date. "Oui! The 13th! That's her papa's birthday!"

So it was that my first born and my husband share the same birthday. Happy Birthday, dear Pierre! Thank you for the marvelous gift of our children, our family.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thank You!

Thank you to The Firefly Files, for passing on to me the Stylish Blogger Award. I am so pleased to accept! The rules of the award state that I must write seven things about myself, so here I go.
1) My grandfather was a writer and poet.
2) Favorite thing to cook and eat: mousse au chocolat.
3) I once took Esperanto classes and mean to get back to it one day.
4) I've also studied a little bit of Spanish, German, Italian, Basque, Chinese and Polish.
5) Of those, I speak only Spanish, a little bit, pitiful.
6) I wish I could visit Narnia, before and after the Snow Queen (White Witch?)
7) I like hats (cloche) and shoes (Mary Janes and boots), could care less about jewelry, unless someone made or bought it just for me.

I am, in turn, awarding this honor to a few favorite blogs:

I could go on...thank you to all of you bloggers that share your thoughts, ideas and smiles with us each day.

(Small) Boy and Dog

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Jasper, who fell in the creek and had to be warmed up, Alienor donated the ear-muffs and scarf

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Jasper (still working on obedience training)

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Life with a Dog

I don't think you have truly experienced all that life has to offer until you have had your own dog. Every moment in a dog's life spent with humans who love him is a joy. (Other than the moments when you are cleaning up the messes, trying to wrestle a stick of butter, a mitten or a favorite toy out of his mouth.) The children have fallen head over heels in love with him, of course, and do all they can to make Jasper's life nicer.

Our darling dog has brought out empathy, care and concern for the feelings of another being the way no one else ever has. I think this is especially true of a rescued dog, since we know he was found on the street, abandoned and sad before he came to live with us. The children watched the shelter's volunteer groomer trim him as he stood shaking on the table, they heard that he had been full of burrs and had to be shaved when he was found. They saw how he barked and barked when he was penned up in a cage, but perfectly quiet and playful as soon as he was let out.

Then they heard from the trainer we are working with, how he could tell Jasper had been abused since he flinched when a hand came near his face, and the reason for his aggressiveness where food was concerned; he had been on the streets and starving. This broke everyone's heart and made us all even more gentle and kind towards him. If you haven't tried a dog for loyal, unconditional companionship in your family, you might want to give it some thought. If you need a project for educational purposes, you should consider a dog, if you are ready for one. There are so many wonderful dogs filling the cold metal cages of shelters all over the world. The kids have listened for years about the pros and cons of owning a dog (me pros, my husband cons), researched every breed you can imagine, settled on a non-allergenic dog that would work for us, and visited almost every shelter in the area searching for the right furry friend for us. Now they are learning the hows and whys of pet training and care and how to dog-proof a home and be careful with their favorite possessions.

We have watched him grow from a nervous, slightly hyper creature into a calm, stable loving one, happy with playing fetch, happy being brushed and fed, and happy just to lie at your feet and be with you.That's the nicest part about a dog, they ask nothing more in life than to be yours, and they give so much in return.

Tree of Life Painted on a Tepee

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Boys, Dogs and Tepees

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Alienor's Tepee

I did not post the photos from the final results of Alienor's Native American project. It was a lovely group effort. It began when I was in line at a craft store carrying the extra bamboo poles we needed to complete the tepee. A girl looked at me curiously and slowly asked; "How much are they asking for bamboo poles?" When she heard that it was for a homeschool project, she offered a pile of them she happened to have in her basement and did not need any more. I followed her home, we loaded up the car and I left. THANK YOU, Chris, for the tepee supplies. It was such a kind gesture and I am grateful.

Alienor, alone for a day, then aided by Lily, spent hours painting the fabric. The next day she and Aragorn spent the day in the garage building the actual tepee. I had plans I wanted to follow, based on the ones I found here, at the blog of Ancient Hearth:
but the kids took over the project. Since that is the whole beauty of having siblings and a perfect learning opportunity, I gave up coaching them to do it "my way" and let them go. They did a great job, love their tepee and the whole thing was a huge success.

Those are Peace Pipes

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Knitting Workshop for Beginners

I should mention how happy I am that I will be giving a workshop on knitting for beginners and for those who want to bring handwork to their children, either in the classroom or at home. Here is the link if you are in the area and interested! Come treat yourself to the magic of working with beautiful, natural yarn and wooden needles in multi-stripes, there will be cookies!

Winter Creek Walk

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Wooden Nativity Scene, a Gift from St.Nick

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Enjoying Winter

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St.Nicholas: Oranges and Candy Canes

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St.Nicholas EARLY Morning

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Cold...Frightful Indeed, I Love it!

So the weather has gone from chilly to mild autumn days a week ago to COLD. Cold that some of you understand perfectly, as you live in non-temperate zones as we do. How do I describe it for the rest of the world? You open the door, that is, if you still have the courage to do so, after feeling the icy wind on your toes, rushing through the bottom of the door frame before you've opened it, and if it is not frozen shut. You close it again when the wind about knocks you over and the cold has turned the front of you to an icicle. Time elapsed: 10 seconds. Our poor dog acts as though he immigrated from Miami, will have nothing to do with the out of doors and whines pitifully or heads straight into his kennel if you suggest a potty break. We have almost attained the temperature where "boogers freeze" as I remember from my paper-carrying days. Lungs hurt from breathing the frosty air and toes freeze after only ten minutes. But for me, it is exhilarating, I love being out in this winter weather. A brisk walk in the brisk air is a thing of beauty and joy forever.(My grandfather used to say the same thing about a clean house, but his excitement was not contagious.)

The children could care less about the real temperature. As long as there is snow to play in, they are out in it. Yesterday it was all of 10 degrees (that's Fahrenheit,  in Celcius it's -12), and they were out, playing and sledding and even running around with the dog who will follow his kids anywhere, in spite of the weather.

As for the snow, beautiful! It snowed Friday and the kids went out to play in the couple of inches that were there. Then it continued to snow all night and on Saturday morning I had my first chance to shovel snow of the season. I have to say that my husband has done a fantastic job for the nine years we've been here of making sure the snow has been removed from the driveway before I head out. I occasionally shovel a little, but now that there is no baby sleeping or making messes without my supervision, I am looking forward to a full season of shoveling my own self out when I need to.  But first I will need some training, clearly. 

It is Saturday morning, I am awake at 4am, even though I don't usually wake until 5 on the weekend. When I see the color of the sky out my window, I understand why. The light is so white, it just has to mean snow, lots of it! I jump out of bed, full of strong, good intentions. I creep downstairs noiselessly, throw on snowpants, a hat, a coat, mittens and boots and head out. The stillness of a snow-covered landscape, even in town, is a marvel. All is powdery white, shining in the glow of the white sky and one lone lamp at the end of my driveway. The only shovel I can locate is the child-size one, but no matter, I think, I can hardly lift the big one anyway. So I shovel and shovel, huff and puff and after a good half hour, have removed the snow from the half of the driveway I need in order to back down it and make it to my 6:00 writing time with my friend. All is well. I had thought to do the whole thing, but wow, that was some heavy snow, all six inches of it.

The next part is the sad one. Sunday came and left with nary a twinge of muscle discomfort. Monday though...ah, Monday came and showed me just what an out-of-shape, sad wreck of a woman I am. First came the abs, hmm, sore abs, that's weird, I hadn't done any sit-ups lately. As the day continued, so did the new sensations; biceps, triceps, legs, ribs, back...a full body take-out. By the time dinner time rolled around, there was nothing left to add to the list. I took a walk in the snow-light to stretch out all of my parts and vowed to shape up, cause I don't want to miss the shoveling next time around!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

But I Want to be a Reindeer

"Seven swans a swimming..." swans are beautiful, my darling. "
I wasn't winning. He didn't wanna be swimming.
"I want to be a reindeer, not a bird."
Would he have the last word?

Grump, grump, moping, tears,
one sweet sister makes it all disappear.
At church, in the holiday show,
Brother and sister are buck and doe.
Now Puck is a reindeer too,
from his head to his little shoe

He still has to dress like a swan for the show,
but this might, perhaps
just soften the blow.

A Reindeer!

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Tribe Unda Belly Dancing

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Cyber Week Fall-Out

We have had a fantastic week, studiously ignoring all offers of irresistible discounts at 4am or at any other time, knitting, reading, playing in the snowflakes (it's a stretch, but the first ones fell this week and it was a jubilee!), planning holiday events from St.Nicholas to a cookie exchange to an Advent Spiral. We honored the first day of Chanukah yesterday, and we plan to listen to the story of this event today and bake a salt dough menorah, that I found here:
Alienor will be beginning Old Testament stories after the first of the year, and I did not want to miss an opportunity to begin with a festival that children can easily relate to.

This morning we are off on a walk before we begin lesson work. It is 20 degrees Fahrenheit, a perfect winter temperature! We'll come home and make a fire in the fireplace and stay home to work and play.

So why the "fall-out"? I had a really hard time forgiving stores in the US for what I saw as the unnecessary spoiling of a holiday last week. For the first time, my sister and her husband, like thousands of other in retail, not only had to work on that Friday following Thanksgiving that we refer to around here as "National Buy Nothing Day," but they had to leave our family get-together and leave their baby with my mother for the night, to drive home to be at work from 10pm-6am. Not to denigrate their profession in any way shape or form, but could not the stores wait ten hours to make a sale? People would be lined up at the door be it 6am, 8am or midnight. Who can find a babysitter to work from 10-6am when it is not a regular arrangement? Sigh.

On the other hand, I had a life-changing experience in the form of attending a belly-dancing weekend event. I love dance, I love music. I have not ever been particularly talented in either, but I have participated in some form or another my whole life; musicals, band, orchestra, learning piano all over again, playing the penny whistle and recorder with my children. You may have read of my fascination with Flamenco: and: for the photo. While Flamenco will always hold a special place in my heart, I know it would take years of discipline and dedication that should have ideally started in childhood to obtain a satisfactory level.

Belly dancing, on the other hand, while also an art form that takes years of training to master, is not only more accessible, but it is also a celebration of women dancing, laughing and being together in the music. I love sensual movement, the diverse music, the jewelry and voluminous skirts. I especially love the joyful friendship they share, this group that I was graciously invited into for a day and that has already become a meaningful connection in my world. Here is the website for this great troupe:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Painting from Alienor: Piggy and Me Over the Rainbow

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Morning's Knittings

I finished up this little guy for my little Arthur, the pattern is from "Knitted Toys" by Debbie Bliss, "small bear in Wellies and sweater". I gifted him with the bear a couple of weeks ago, and the yarn has felted like a well-loved toy. Then, at Arthur's request, when I finished the sweater, I wrapped the whole thing up and gave it to him all over again. He loved it, and his next question; "Mama, can you wrap it up when you finish the next pair of boots and sweater?"

Bear for Arthur

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Inspired by the water colours in "Turkey Girl" Alienor paints the story

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Lily's Lovely Solar System and Moon Phases

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Note on Lily's Moon Phases

My little Lily is a slight perfectionist, don't know where she got that, but let's just say I've mellowed with the years. She drew and redrew the two astronomy drawings I posted, and was dismayed to find that in her last drawing she had reversed the waxing and waning positions. I think it is beautifully done and I am posting it anyway.

Aragorn's Artistic Solar System

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A Last Week of Autumn

I awoke to a humdinger of a thunderstorm this morning, a real giant of noise, lightening and pouring down rain. I took it as a reminder not to rush into winter, not to join the Christmas craze already beginning, but to linger a little in autumn, in today. Our lesson plans for the week reflect that desire, I thought I would share them here.

A poem from Robert Frost:

The Last Word of a Bluebird

As I went out a crow
In a low voice said, "Oh,
I was looking for you.
How do you do?
I just came to tell you
To tell Lesley (will you?)
That her little Bluebird
Wanted me to bring word
That the north wind last night
That made the stars bright
And made ice on the trough
Almost made him cough
His tail feathers off.
He just had to fly!
But he sent her Good-by,
And said to be good,
And wear her red hood,
And look for skunk tracks
In the snow with an ax-
And do everything!
And perhaps in the spring
He would come back and sing."

I love the joyful, hopeful note to this poem. Winter is coming, but spring will follow, so "wear your red hood and do everything!" This was actually the last part of today's lesson that I discovered, but it so beautifully complements the rest that it made the whole scheme shine like a gem.

Grade Three
Alienor has been working on Native American stories and culture these past two months. Today's story is a local one, from the Sioux nation: "How Turtle Flew South for the Winter," that can be found in "Keepers of the Earth," by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac. Last night we finished up "The Turkey Girl," by Penny Pollock, which is not about Thanksgiving, but rather a Zuni Cinderella tale, minus the happy ending.

She requested to cook us lunch today, so she will make us "stewed pompion," from the book, "1621, A New Look at Thanksgiving," by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac. Tomorrow we'll cook up another recipe from the same source; "Nasaump." This will be our group read-aloud for the beginning of Thanksgiving week. It is a National Geographic book, with fantastic re-enactment photography and a realistic look at the culture of both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people at the time of the legendary first Thanksgiving meal.

Alienor's other projects for the week; finish her tepee, made on the model given here:
She will also be weaving on a lap loom, making projects for Christmas presents, and she and Lily are both busy with some top-secret knitting.

Arthur and I will read from Grimm's Fairy Tales; The White Snake, a tale of struggle, sacrifice and gratitude for good deeds done. (It too, seemed fitting for this week.) We will read verses from "Autumn" by Wynstones Press. We will paint a turkey today and paint from the story tomorrow.

Seventh and Eight Grade
Lily and Aragorn are in their last week of an astronomy study. The moon is the topic. Today we'll study a lunar calendar and look at two peoples who have used or continue to use one; the Egyptians and the Muslims and paint a picture from one of their festivals, au choix.

Have a great day and, for the Americans, a lovely Thanksgiving week, more recipes coming soon!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's For Lunch? Part II

If you read the below recipe earlier today, you will be missing one part of the instructions;

After cooking, mix the soup in a blender, until it is completely pureed. THEN add the cream.

If you are awake as I am today, you may need this note as well; do not use PUMPKIN PIE MIX unless you want to have some explaining to you when your daughter/husband/partner asks; "What smells like cinnamon?" Dang.

Writer's Block or Procrastination?

Writer's Block or Procrastination?

It's something to think about when assigning writing assignments to the children, only to find them walking around with a pensive air, "doing research" on the topic before beginning or mysteriously strumming a guitar in the corner, all thoughts of the project forgotten. Perhaps it is neither, perhaps this is simply part of the creative process, to be cherished and honored. This is November and for the first time I have given myself the goal, along with millions of other insane people doing "NaNoWriMo", of jotting down 50, 000 words of a novel in one month.

So far, this morning, I have entered an essay contest to win tickets to a Harry Potter event, ( way too cool to pass up), checked my email (who doesn't), posted a reply to a Waldorf homeschooling group, (it was a very moving post), sent a quick note to a friend, (a timely thing that couldn't wait) checked the weather forecast, in two different cities,(you never know), written in my food journal, (or I would have forgotten to add that fabulous homemade, gluten-free pizza my hubby made for me last night, mmm, not likely) made myself tea, (sleep is so dehydrating) played with the dog, (poor, fuzzy little guy) and written 0 words of the daily 2000. Maybe I should employ Lily's typewriter instead of this distracting computer. Sure, then I would finish a knitting project or paint the bathroom before settling down to write.

Have a fruitful day, I'm going to go write 2000 more words!