Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In a Word

For the last couple of years, I've eschewed resolutions and instead have chosen a word to guide my year.  What I really need is something to come back to during the year -- all year.  An idea more than an action. Something simple, but sturdy.  Something to get me out of my tangles -- not create more.  A re-grounding, a re-centering.

So, 2014, you are about Beginnings.

A friend and I were talking about parenting recently, and she said, "Beginnings are hard."  We hadn't been talking about something that I'd even seen the "beginning" in, and it stuck with me.  When something is hard: is there a beginning in there that I have to catch up to?

I started seeing beginnings.  Other kinds of beginnings.  Some are big and profound and observable by everyone.  But, maybe even more importantly, there are lots of little beginnings.  So many are small, subtle, overlooked, invisible.  These beginnings give us the chance to choose -- if we can see them.

A beginning can be as simple as a deep breath or a new sun rising outside our window.  It can also be as complicated as forging a new path through the brambles.  But, what if even these beginnings are just series of the the deep-breath, sun out your window beginnings?

We live old patterns.  We play out old dramas.  We forget to update our files.
We stop seeing what's really in front of us.  We get caught up.  We stumble and trip over the past tangled around our ankles.

If we can remember to see beginnings, to use beginnings, to explore the possibilities, to notice where the old script has been set in motion but no longer applies, we get a fresh start.  We can use all that we really have at our disposal -- today, in this moment.

Beginnings give us more options.  They say, "Start here."

If you have a word for 2014, please consider sharing it in the comments!  I'd love to know about your journey through 2014!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


The Big Dance

To all the mamas & daddies who planned, 
shopped, wrapped, shuffled, baked, made, 
cooked, assisted, fretted, cleaned, and gave up sleep
to put together a special holiday for your family --
you did it!

Wishing you a joyful day & a harmonious 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Poetry Teatime

Good morning!

A good morning, indeed.  We started it with poetry teatime.

Balance is elusive in family life, but some things are constant: 
  :: we must eat, and 
  :: there are many, many books.  
So while some things slip off my radar, our weekly poetry teatime holds firm.

I learned about the idea from friends using Brave Writer's writing programs.  We haven't tried them yet, but I love what she has to say about writing and homeschooling.  

I love the simple beauty (and genius) of this idea.  I imagine every home sees a different version of it in action.  At my house, Sela delights in setting the table -- having the opportunity to use all the dishes, linens, and tchotschke I've collected over the years.  Sometimes she and I both read; sometimes she asks me to do all the reading.  Sometimes I gather the books, sometimes the kids do.  We take turns choosing poems to read.  Sometimes we all write.  Sometimes only one of us is inspired to write.  We have as many variations as weeks we've enjoyed it.  But, one element remains the same -- it does not require pre-planning.  It can be done richly on-the-fly.  And few things make me happier than this!

Our Christmas selections this week were:
It's Christmas by Jack Prelutsky & Marylin Hafner
The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore & Douglas Gorsline
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
You Are My Miracle by Maryann Cusiano Love & Satomi Ichikawa
Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Child & Christopher Manson
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Make & Listen Along with Simple Thing Notebook

I've been wanting to join Dawn for Make & Listen Along at Simple Things Notebook for ages.  Yesterday I finally made it happen!  (Christmas miracles, I tell you.  Christmas miracles.)

Three cheers for Dawn, for Christmas, for gingerbread, for creativity, for a cozy house on a cold day, for candles, and for Harry Connick, Jr.'s What A Night!

It's the Little Things...

We made cookies that called for crushed candy canes, and the kids decided how many they thought should be used.  Worked out great for me because the extras are used to sweeten my coffee.  And, they're pretty sweet-looking on my kitchen counter, too!

Next year, this will be done as a matter of course.  "Kitchen helpers!  I have a job for you!  Bring your hammers!"

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ordinary, Everyday {Amazing} Science

I think you know how much I love library book sales.  Last time, I bought seven great books of poetry for children.  Seven.  And, I was barely trying.  

In my delightful stack was a little book called Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman.  We didn't get to this one right away.  (Between you and me, I'm really not a bug-lover.  I fake it.  If my kids like them, great.  I can appreciate bugs in theory.  I love the beautiful photos that people take of them, the magnifications.  But, in real life, I'm okay with us each going our own separate ways.  You know?)  So, poetry book on bugs.  Probably great.  Probably really great for the kids to read and enjoy.  I was willing to come along for the ride.  But, seems I picked up the other new books first.

While later scanning the audiobook titles in the library proper I came across Joyful Noise again -- seemed like I really should try it.  We have a lot of car time.
It's... FANTASTIC.  I know that you're getting great book recommendations from lots of informed, well-read, interesting people out there.  I don't mean to add to your list.  But really -- I recommend this one so highly.  The poems are interesting and expressive.  They are beautifully recited.  It's informative!  (And John McDonough -- enough said.  Hearing him as Mr. Putter and Misty of Chincoteague's Grandpa Beebe makes this an especially easy sell.)

This same week, we mailed our collection for a nature exchange hosted by Mud Puddles to Meteors.  What a way to get into nature!  Again, I hate to be bossy (okay, I don't really), but do check out this site.  Find a way to participate that works for your family -- there are a lot of options.  And catch the next exchange when it happens.

 Aaaaand, we spent as many days of fall that we could at our favorite farm.  Open just one month every year, we go as many times as we possibly can.  We get to see baby animals of all kinds from almost the day they're born. We get to hold them and watch them grow and change.  We watch the chicks learn to fly, the puppies open their eyes.

So, where have I been lately?  Doing science with my two favorite lab partners.

(Did I happen to mention the fall tomatoes in our backyard?!  Yeah, science can be a tasty business, too!)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sometimes you need a little something...

Looking for a simple, cute & functional craft activity?
How about these wreath napkin rings?  They make cute package toppers and tree decorations, too.
Sometimes we need something for a mixed group -- kids who love crafts, kids who don't always but are in for something simple, big kids, little kids, adults.  Easy to make a few or a bunch.  Great for a gathering.

Here's what you need:
pipe cleaners
green tri beads
red round beads

Cut pipe cleaner to size, slide beads on, twist ends to form a circle, tie on bow!