Category Archives: family

Wordless Wednesday: Sassafras Snow Candy

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The 2014 Read Aloud Project

A child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until eighth grade. You can and should be reading seventh-grade books to fifth-grade kids. They’ll get excited about the plot and this will be a motivation to keep reading. A fifth-grader can enjoy a more complicated plot than she can read herself, and reading aloud is really going to hook her, because when you get to chapter books, you’re getting into the real meat of print – there is really complicated, serious stuff going on that kids are ready to hear and understand, even if they can’t read at that level yet.  (source)

I’m pretty sure that most parents know why you should read with your kids, even once they are older (and heck, why we, as parents, should be reading too!).  Books change your brain.  And they change your life!  What we read matters, what we read to our kids matter.  It matters that we foster their critical thinking ability, their creativity, and their knowledge about themselves and the world around them.  It matters that we teach them to think about what they read and what that means in the context of their lives.  It matters that we expand their horizons and open their eyes, that we grow their hearts and set free their consciousness.  

So, we read together.  I stole this idea from another mom and blogger last year, and we are making a new list for the start of this year.

This Year’s Books:

The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)–The Hubby will be out of town for work through at least September, so he’s been reading this one to the kids via Skype (we actually use Google video chat…but we still call it Skype, which makes me wonder if skyping is going to be the next band-aid or kleenex)

The Series of Unfortunate Events books 3-13 (Lemony Snicket)–Chickadee loves the movie, and we’ve read books 1 and 2.  The plan this year is to finish the series, or at least make a big fat dent in it.  10 books sounds like a lot to add, but really, they are super quick to read.

Meet Kirsten, Kirsten Learns a Lesson, Kirsten’s Surprise, Kirsten Saves the Day, Happy Birthday, Kirsten!, Changes for Kirsten (American Girl Books)–So, I have a love-hate relationship with these books.  I love the fact that they introduce different time periods through the lives of ordinary girls, for other little girls to identify with…I hate the fact that they portray the idea that they are historical but (if they do address them at all) they gloss over some very basic unpleasant realities of history (particularly for women and girls and minorities, and in relation to economics and politics and social expectations and every day life and…I could keep going).  With that being said, I had three of these books as a kid, when I was Chickadee’s age and I loved them, so its something for us to share (like reading the Little House books last year or reading the Anne books in a few years).  I consider this a teachable lesson–how do books about history “change” history as we understand it, and where should we look for more accurate information.  I also like it because Kirsten is an immigrant from the same area that The Hubby’s ancestors are from, immigrating to the same place that his ancestors ended up.  And the subject of immigration, and how our ancestors got here and what that means for us today in how we treat others that come to this country looking for a better life, is yet another, HUGE, teachable moment.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson–I’ve actually never read this, but The Hubby loved this as a kid.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg–This is probably one of the most fun ideas in a children’s book ever–who the heck wouldn’t want run away to live in a museum?

The Story of Dr. Dolittle and The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting–This is another series that I loved as a kid.  Amazon Kindle has the first two available for free (they are pre-1928, public domain books).  I think a lot of people don’t realize there are actually 12 books in the series, though the last 10 can be a bit harder to find.

HELP WANTED: Put your vacuum to good use!

unclesam I have an unusual request. I am counting on you, gentlereader of the great wide interwebz, to fulfill it. All you need to do a good deed is the internet, a camera (or camera phone), and a vacuum. It is easy, and painless, its simple, and it will make you awesome.

Let me back up a bit (I can imagine you now, scratching your head in befuddlement–I know I would be).  I have a friend (yes, really, I actually have a friend or two) from my time in the Navy (she’s pretty awesome), and my friend has an autistic nephew who loves vacuums.  Adores them. Watches vacuum cleaner infomercials like they are Saturday comics, and loves pictures of vacuums.

I don’t know a whole lot about autism, but I am becoming quite familiar with OCD (off topic, but Sharkbait’s ADHD diagnosis was expanded a bit at his last appointment)…so I’m starting to understand the nature of fixations.  From what little I do know about autism, his fascination with vacuums is a Big Deal.  Fixations like this can be a sort of…anchor in times of stress and change.  They act as a way to relax, a gateway to clear thinking.  And, many autistic persons have been able to make careers out of their fixations (people like Temple Grandin), with the help of parents and teachers. (more info)

So here’s the deal.  Its hard to just find unique pictures of vacuums.  There are only so many sales advertisements for Dyson in the paper or the mail!  We need you to take a picture of your vacuum, be it Hoover or Eureka, Shark or Roomba, even a Swiffer Sweeper and e-mail your vacuum picture* to**.  Then, give yourself a pat on the back for being awesome and knowing that you helped a random family over the internet, for no reason other than your own compassion.   For extra karma cookies (and two pats on the back), reblog this or share it with your friends.***


Edited to add:  Please try to include the make and model in your e-mail.  I don’t know if how much that matters, but I know I have some readers that are outside of the US, and that often there are different brands and models available there.

vac pix8

*I think that you, fabulous readers, are indeed awesome enough that this is unnecessary, but…Please remember that these pictures are ultimately for a 7 year old boy.  Don’t send anything untoward.  Keep it G-rated.

**Rather than send all these pictures to me directly (as noted in the image above), for me to forward when I have the time to do it (regular readers know I can get behind schedule), I’ve set up an email address that they can use to check without having to wait on me (unfortunately, I’m having problems making it a link).  And yes, I have their permission to ask this on my blog (without including their personal information).  Also, I personally vouch that this is a Real Thing, and not just some random internet appeal (unless you aren’t one of my regular readers, in which this is both a Real Thing AND a random internet appeal, lol).

***To be honest, even if you don’t have a camera or a camera on your phone or whatever (or perhaps you don’t have a vacuum) sharing this will find others that do, so please, please, please share or repost!

Our Sacred Small Spaces

I wandered across a lovely blog challenge today, that I think I’ll go ahead and take up, since it seems to fit with one of my favorite themes around here!

We have a number of small, sacred spaces, where we pick mulberries and pull invasive ivy for crafts and make mudpies and pick up trash and dig for mussles and catch crabs for our dinner and forage for wild strawberries and pick wildflowers and play hide and seek and hunt for rolly-pollies and chase skinks and climb trees, where we meet Nature embodied in the nature all around us. Some of these pictures I’ve shared before, and some of them I haven’t…but here’s a look at two of our small, sacred spaces (and one slightly larger one).

The park across the street, bordering a creek and some woods:

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The beach by our old apartment (now just a couple miles down the road):

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Belle Island, a small park (not many non-locals know about it, so I figured it counted, even though its a park!) right in the middle of Richmond–on an island in the middle of the river rapids (a foot/bike suspension bridge gets you there) that has been an Powhatan Indian village, then a colonial racetrack, a Confederate storage site and Civil War prison, a steel works, a quarry, and a hydro-elecrtric plant before becoming a park:

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Where are yours?

Mother’s Day Musings


So, the day is mostly over…and my list of what I wanted to do hasn’t changed from last year…

What I would like this Mother’s Day:

  • To go for a jog on the beach, without kids banging on the door as I walk out of it
  • To take a long, hot bath without kids banging on the door to get in the bathroom
  • To take a nap without kids banging on the door to wake me up
  • A hug, and some original artwork, from the munchkin, a magically clean house and a dinner I didn’t cook
  • To have Daddy Man magically realize all of this, and make it happen
What will probably happen this Mother’s Day:
I’ll end up taking the kids to the beach so Daddy Man can clean house.  He’ll insist that I take a bath and a nap, but both will be interrupted because the kids cause a ruckus trying to color on the walls instead of on paper (or something similar) while he’s trying to cook dinner.  And I’ll be the one doing the dishes.

The day started out pretty well…I got a bath, and a back rub.  But, as some indication of how the day has progressed, I’ve just finished steam-cleaning after tripping over and spilling an entire glass of fruit juice that a small child left on the floor.   Oh, and I’m reading this parenting article, and quite enjoying it.

Oh, well…at least the hubby has taken the kids to the park so I can have the chance to blog!  Its been awhile since I’ve done one of these hodge-podge, potpouri style posts, so lets see what I can dig up to chat about!

What’s for dinner:  We’ve been continuing our gluten free dining explorations and experimentation.  Today, I baked a quick bread from a GF flour mix I mixed and matched today.  It was delicious, but I think I need to mess around with the ratios a bit more, and add a wee bit more baking soda next time.  I’ve figured out how to make a couple of flours from scratch, which has drastically reduced the cost of GF baking–making your own rice flour, for example, about halves the cost of buying pre-made (more on this to follow at a later date).  Here are some of our culinary forays:


Bean burgers with guacamole and greek yogurt in a lettuce wrap


Marshmallow-free “rice crispies” made with puffed rice (gluten free!)–click the pic for the recipe


Strawberry-mango-apple fruit roll-ups in the making


We found a huge patch of wild onions to add to our dinners!

And in other news, we are entirely unpacked in the apartment.  We need to pick up another bookshelf or two, and I think its time to bunk the kids beds, but otherwise, its pretty cozy.  We can’t just pick up an stroll to the beach whenever we want anymore (now its more of a 15 minute bike ride), but there is a huge park right across the street and a pool here at the apartment (as well as a year-round pool at the park).  Chickadee won’t be changing schools til the fall, since there are only 6 weeks left in the school year, and Sharkbait is in the lottery for a spot in pre-K.

And an announcement: I was offered a job at the beginning of April. I haven’t started it yet, and I’m not sure when I will, because I’m awaiting the completion of my security clearance screening. I’m going back to working for the Navy, but as a civilian this time, as an industrial hygienist. The security clearance process takes about 6 weeks, as a minimum, and can take more when there isn’t a rush on it and/or they are backlogged. In one way, its a awesome–the job will make us much more financially comfortable, and it has good advancement potential and pays fairly well in the civilian world as well. In another way, I’m bummed, because I really love my job now…but the part-time thing is barely keeping us afloat financially. Its been a wonderful stop-gap, an amazing learning experience, and I’ve met wonderful people (and I’m not just saying this because my boss reads my blog), but (as my boss told me when I told her about the offer) its an opportunity that’s too good to pass up.

Meanwhile, we’ve changed our altar a bit.  It’s all ready for the transition of spring-into-summer.  Here’s a couple of pics:


The burn block is a 1oo+ year old piece of teak from the door of a 19th century sailing ship that a friend of mine from work gave to me when I mentioned wanting to find some teak to burn incense on. Teak, if you are not aware, has the some of the densest fibers of any tree and is fire retardant (not fire proof, but the fire has to be pretty darn hot for it to catch–its one of many reasons that it was used on the decks of ships.  Magically, teak is a symbol of longevity and resilience.

This week’s recommended (Pagan blog) reading:
By Candlelight: Celebratory Ritual (blog post)
How Persephone Killed the Gods for Me (blog post)
How Can a Naturalist Emerge in Paganism? (blog post)

What (book) I’m reading now: 1493 by Charles C. Mann 

Quote for the Week:

 “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”

—Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Moment of Zen: Fallow time

I didn’t really get a chance to talk about Beltane, and I’ve been about sparse on the blogging for the past week or so (still have to make up for the I week for the Pagan Blog Project, lol).  It wasn’t intentional, and it wasn’t because we haven’t done anything or because I’ve ran out of things to say for the moment… I’ve just needed some time to let things marinate in my brain and germinate below the surface.  As a result, blogging has been a bit like a trip to the dentist.  Plus its been a bit busy around here.

I used to call this “being in a funk”, and I’d sort of wallow in it for a bit, and then feel guilty for it, and then finally yank myself out of the rut in a mad frenzy of activity before wearing myself out again.  Awhile back I decided to change my view of my funk into something that is more constructive in the long run.  I’m not the first person to make this connection either (and they’ve said it better than the level at which my brain is functioning right now):

Technically, fallow refers to not planting seed on a field, allowing it to rest, to be unproductive.

These days, being unproductive is a rather radical suggestion.

But it’s one worth considering. Who are you when you’re not doing, producing, creating a future in the present? Is it possible to try, even for a few hours, not to achieve anything? What might happen?

There’s a beautiful image from the ancient texts of a still pond in the middle of the forest where eventually all sorts of animals come to drink. It might be interesting and informative to see what visits you when you’re quiet and still.

Fallow time can be a Sunday afternoon, or it can be an entire phase of one’s life. But it’s important to allow for it and to respect it as part of a process, a part of life. I used to feel anxious in fallow times and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to consider the possibility that the anxiety is extra, that there’s wisdom and trust in pausing. It’s worth trying out.

Source: theKitchn, Weekend Meditation: Fallow Time

It might be a time for all of our activity to take a break, but seeing as most of us lack the resources for doing that for any real length of time, I choose to think of it more like crop rotation.  Right now, blogging is my crop being rotated out of high production, and once its phased in, something else with marinate for a bit.  Fallow time isn’t truly unproductive.  Its about giving the soil time to rest, to let it become healthy again.  Sometimes we need to do that in our lives, and there is no shame in it.

Parting Thought (set to music):

(Sweet Honey in the Rock performing “On Children”, the lyrics of which come from the writings of Kahlil Gibran)

P.S. The hubby is nagging me to go to bed (lol, I started writing this around 2 this afternoon, on and off between doing stuff!), so I’m proof-less posting.  Please forgive any boo boos on my part!!


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