Sunday, August 14, 2011

Coming Home

Such a lovely week we had in Minnesota! Visits with family, dips in lakes, nature walks and sleep. Really just the perfect thing for our tired bunch.

I have not been writing here much because life has been hard on me lately and I tend to mostly want to share the sweet stuff. Things are by no means perfect, but I have had a little time to catch my breath and it seems that we are finding some solid ground. It is amazinghow much I thought I had it all under control only to find that THAT was a huge joke! This year has been full of challenges but also full of grace. Here is a little summary.

After a winter of geologic hazards (floods and mudslides to be more specific), my neighbors are finally starting to see the light and it looks like we may (fingers crossed) get some protection in place before the next winter storms begin. Along with learning a WHOLE lot about drainage, erosion, geology and the many types of engineering careers out there, I also learned quite a bit about neighborly politics and about how to try to avoid making assumptions about other people's opinions and perceptions. That old saying "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" rings so true for me as I continue to lobby for my cause.

Even closer to home have been the troubles my middle child has had this year. About a year ago he had a BMX accident that resulted in a severe concussion. After recovering from that one, unfortunately he had another accident in February that resulted in a broken jaw. Well, you can imagine that he had a lot of pain and many doctors and dentists and chiropractors to visit. All of this meant a lot of missed school days. All along, he was suffering these severe headaches and also started having some not so great feelings. Sadly, his school (oh how I wish now - with hindsight - that we never sent him to that pit of despair we call public middle school) was not on his side and he ended up in worse and worse trouble. It was very much a terrible downward spiral. With a lot of work, family love, sleepless nights and a large team of both conventional and alternative medical practitioners, our boy is on the road to recovery from what looks like post concussion syndrome. As the new school year approaches and our son really wants to attend a "regular" school and not homeschool for high school, we are again holding our breath a little bit. This is certainly one of those times when we take a look at it all and realize how little control we have. During this terribly difficult time, I happened to be in a place where this poem was being recited. How perfectly appropriate it is for anyone parenting a teenager.

On Children
Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

And so we return from our little getaway and begin to prepare for the coming autumn. My oldest will start applying to college, and continue to strive to do her best (which is awesome!) at her wonderful private school. My middle one will join my oldest at that snazzy private high school and continue to recover his health as he seeks to find his own sense of himself in this tricky world full of pitfalls for teenage boys. My youngest will spend one more year in public elementary school, making new friends and proving to himself that he really can make it in that big, scary place. And I will continue to breath and hope for grace and accept the little gifts that come my way to help strengthen me for the sure challenges that will also come.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Working With the Senses

I am preparing for a class I will give next month and I thought perhaps my thoughts and notes might be a nice thing to share here.In my years of homeschooling I was always drawn toward working with the 12 senses that Steiner describes. I have gathered here much of my working knowledge of how to nurture the senses through daily home activities.

The Waldorf educational theory of development puts forth the idea of 12 senses, which are sometimes described as “upper” and “lower” and often placed into categories that coincide with the commonly understood “threefold” framework of “thinking, feeling and willing” or “head, heart and hands”. Each of these 12 senses are interconnected on a very deep level. It is suggested that through the nourishment of the senses in younger years, parents, caregivers and teachers can help to lay a foundation and remove obstacles to allow for healthy, happy development throughout life. It is also possible to work with these senses in a remedial way at any age.

The 12 senses:

(“Will” Senses)


("Feeling" Senses)


("Thinking" Senses)

Ego "I"

The first list, the “will” senses are considered to be key foundational senses associated with the earliest phase of childhood, from birth to age 7. These four senses are said to lead to the proper blossoming of the last four “thinking” senses in the adolescent years between 14 and 21. The middle four “feeling” senses are of course key to our experience of the world but they play a special role during the middle phase of childhood from 7-14.

In a general sense, all of the activities of Waldorf education are designed with the understanding of nourishment of the senses. Early education and “old fashioned” home life activities are by nature helpful to the will and feeling senses. Rhythm and harmony in the home and in school are key elements for the natural development of the senses. Art, music, nature and beauty are essential to enlivening the senses. When there are children or individuals who suffer from various difficulties, it can be helpful to work with the strengthening of certain senses to bring about a more harmonious state of being.

It is also worth stating here that a happy and peaceful caregiver is generally able to provide the best environment for children to flourish. Working to harmonize one’s own senses can have profound positive effects on a family, a home, a workplace or classroom. When we feel good, we can do good.

Following is a detailed description of the ideal state of each of the 12 senses and ways in which those senses can be nurtured.

Balance - Awareness of ones own space, ability to rest and find stillness. Posture, flexibility and finding a proper perspective flow from a healthy sense of balance. (Music, rhythmic activities, sequence games, drawing symmetrical or woven forms, carving, climbing, balancing).

Movement - Gracefulness, awareness of ones own movement in space, closeness and distance. Appropriate social behavior comes with a healthy sense of movement. (Walking, dancing, rhythmic games, walking forms and shapes. Drawing on the back with a finger, painting, weaving, finger knitting).

Life - Sense of well-being, soul level peace vs. nervousness, tension or stress. A healthy life sense results in a relaxed, alert and harmonious attitude. Rhythm, healthy sleep, proper digestion and a sense of safety are essential to healthy life sense. (Music, dance, color experiences, form drawing with mirror forms and metamorphic forms, walks or activities in nature).

Touch - Awareness of pressure, resistance, texture. Ability to distinguish oneself from ones surroundings. The birth process is the first opportunity to begin developing the sense of touch. (Swaddling, massage, baths, cocoon or “burrito” wrapping, games involving texture, body and hair brushing, sculpture, setting of clear boundaries). I liked to play the "fishing" game with my boys, either filling a big bin with warm scented water or filling a big bowl or bin with dried beans and hiding little treasures for the boys to try to catch with their toes. Also, the "feely bag" activity of placing several different textured or shaped objects in a dark soft sack and asking the children to guess what shape or guess the object.

Temperature - Warmth, coolness, sympathy, enthusiasm, love. (Activities that transform from one thing to another such as cooking, baking, gardening, building, sculpting. Also social arts and activities like games, singing, acting). Warm baths or warm scented wash cloths are nice in cool weather and cool scented spritzers are nice in hot weather.

Smell - Perception, judgement, memory. (Activities with spiritual connection, time in nature, scent experiences). I love to make my own playdough and add essential oils to the warm fresh dough.

Taste - Digestion, assimilation, ingestion, artistic taste. (Food preparation and meal presentation, painting, music, poetry and the appreciation of those arts). Blindfold taste tests are fun and can serve as a gentle entry into "science" curriculum. It is also great to get kids involved with making food and arranging it in beautiful ways. Wild food salads, home grown tea blends and edible flowers help combine many senses and get kids engaged with healthy food in fun ways.

Sight - Form, color, light, imagination. (Painting, drawing, sculpting, acting).

Hearing - Perception of sounds, tones, words of others, receiving input from the world. (Music, singing, poetry both listening and reciting, acting, experiencing silence). *Connected to the sense of balance.

Speech - Perception of thoughts and expression of thoughts, understanding and expressing through gesture as well as through words. (Poetry, literature, acting, ball bouncing or tossing while reciting, finger knitting, drawing with negative space). *Connected to the sense of movement.

Thought - Understanding of the inner character, ideas and truth. Ability to reflect, use clear judgement. (Metamorphic form drawing and mirror forms, memory games). *Connected to the sense of life.

Ego or the Sense of “I” - Perception of ones individuality and the individuality of others. (Music, dancing, group activities, singing, cooperative activities, spiral forms). *Connected to the sense of touch.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wild Weekend

It feels surreal to be "getting back to normal" after the weekend storm wee just had! For a few minutes this past Saturday, I thought we might need to evacuate from our house. So much rain fell in such a short time that the ground became completely saturated and earth began sliding all over the place. I have never seen a storm so powerful right next to my house! At one point part of the ditch that runs through my front yard came loose and clogged the drain that runs under the road. Water piled up against our fence and began to wash in large quantities over the road. I was so thankful when the whole neighborhood showed up and went waist deep in the stream to unclog the drain - saving theroad. Near our house (about six feet from the foundation) we have a retaining wall that started to go, tumbling blocks into the stream. Behind the house water flowed down in glassy sheets, every gopher hole ever dug sprang a leak! Two more huge mudslides just on our little road made getting out impossible for hours. Then we found our two main routes into town totally closed with firefighters standing around enforcing things!

Today things are clear and sunny and warm and the flowers are full and perky! It is a wild turn around. The two main roads I mentioned earlier are still in bad shape, losing ground underneath them. But they have opened them both as one lane roads while the county road crew considers the options.

As soon as the storm subsided and things were relatively stable, I went out and stocked up on staples and bought a new shovel! The experience made me realize that we are sorely underprepared for a quick departure. I will take some time this week to try and have a better emergency plan in place. If the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan was not enough to make me get my act together, a huge storm in my backyard sure did the trick!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Flowers

Spring is really starting to pop around here! I love my dog walks each day lately. Sometimes the fog hugs and sometimes the sky is clear blue and sunny, but always the spring greens and early flowers are full and lively!

My daughter took some wildflower books out of the library this week. I think she intends to make drawings for her art class. I opened one and immediately learned names and interes
ting facts and lore about some of my favorite spring wildflowers.

Here are some striking Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum grande) growing along the trail on a shady wooded hillside. It gets its name from the shape of its l
eaves. In medieval times it was believed that if you laid these leaves beneath your feet, dogs would not bark at you as it was known to "tie the tongues of dogs". Later it was used, mixed with animal fat as a remedy for dog bites. Native Americans used the roots medicinally to treat colic and ulcers and topically to relieve pain from burns.
I am getting my annual craving for some nettles tea. The young Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) in the yard are just right for picking. I find it to be an excellent spring tonic, full of iron and vitality.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Trouble in the Hen House

After all these years with chickens, I suddenly have one who wants to eat eggs! This is new to me but, apparently it is not that uncommon. For now I seem to have solved it by adding lots of extra straw to the nest box and collecting the eggs several times each day. I am also giving the ladies extra calcium in the form of oyster shells. It may be that a craving for more calcium is driving the egg-pecker to her crime. I began to suspect something was wrong when my daily egg count began declining and I noticed a tell-tale wet and sticky spot in the nest box.

These last two days (since the new measures) my egg count is back up and I have a lovely fresh rainbow in my fridge!

I have one suspect, "Red", my only remaining Rhode Island Red. I already have one hen, Olivia, separated from the group, I really do not want to have to pull Red out as well. I did manage to make Olivia her own private condo, but I have not really had that carpentry craving lately.

Cooking and gardening are my main two pulls right now. Last night I made a rich stock with roasted vegetables and roasted oxtail. The beet tops give the stock this nice red color.

I had a feeling this would be a good meal to serve my family right now. Acacia seems a little low in iron and she needs to be on top of her game right now with the college entrance tests around the corner. Ziah, well, with the fractured jaw I figure feeding him a little oxtail might help his bone healing powers. Rowan is certainly hitting his stride with school and violin and soccer. It is just a joy to watch him in his peak of childhood days. Something about the 10 year old child is such a treasure to behold! I suppose it is made more special for me because I have the other two moving into and through adolescence and all of the new challenges that entails. Now that my youngest is about to move into this next phase of development, I truly savor these last precious days of open innocence. So I think perhaps I too need the extra boost the oxtail soup provides to help me keep up with these kids and other animals in my life!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Miso Soup and Mammograms

I have not made miso soup for a very long time, even though I make some sort of soup just about every week. Today I revisited it and it was delicious! This version was filled with green onion, carrot, daikon, burdock, broccoli and fresh oyster mushrooms. I made it in honor of my very first mammogram, which I received today.

I read ahead in one of my nutritional guides and it suggested drinking carrot juice before and eating miso soup after a mammogram just to help with the processing of any radiation. I also decided to drink a glass of Kombucha and take several droppers of reishi mushrooms for good measure.
I decided a while ago that I would go ahead and get a baseline mammogram at age40. Well, I turned 40 in January this year and so here I am submitting to a very strange machine. I was nervous because of stories I have read and heard about the pain of the actual process, but for me, it truly did not hurt a bit.

Next, after the results come back and I hopefully get the A-ok, I will need to consider whether I will get another mammogram every year. At this moment, I don't like the idea of exposing myself to that sort of x-ray every single year unless there is a reason for concern. When I saw my lady doctor last week we had this same conversation and it appears that even among the experts, there is no clear path.

For today, however, I am just spending some time taking care of myself, a novel idea! I had a luxurious meditation and a fine shower and then soup and garden time!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mishaps and Mysteries

Well, I wish I could say that I have just been on vacation and that is why I have not posted here in so long.

Part of my trouble with posting here is that my life in changing somewhat. I am no longer a home schooling mom. My kids are not so young anymore. I am still at home, but more of a straight up home-maker, not a home schooler. It is a new identity and since this blog started when I was a home-schooler, I am not certain exactly what to say here that might be interesting. When I was home-schooling I was always planning and full of good ideas. These days, I just move from one task to the next.

One thing that holds true through all my years of parenting is that rhythm is key! I love those weeks when the routine carries itself and our household runs smoothly, with tasty meals served on time, not too much homework and time to relax. I am lucky to get one week out of four like that lately! But I have experienced it and know it to be possible, so that is what I strive for.

This winter has brought a series of mishaps and mysteries with my children, forcing me to rearrange my priorities from one moment to the next. Of course, these trials also make me appreciate how lucky we are in so many ways!

First Rowan failed his vision exam at school. This might explain some of the challenges he has been experiencing with reading and letter reversals! I scheduled him for another exam with our own eye doctor - someone who specializes in developmental optometry, but that is still weeks away, so I have no idea if we will be heading for glasses or special (time consuming and frustrating) exercises or both. Luckily our family has vision insurance!

Next we have Ziah! This boy has had a rough season. First of all he had the flu, bona fide influenza! It is funny that he was the only one in our family to really get knocked down - fever, chills, aches and aches and aches. He missed a full week of school, with his public school teachers and administrators already on my case for too much missed school. He recovered a bit and then went down again with a sinus infection. This time he got antibiotics and began to pull himself together, but not before we had to cancel our annual family trip to the snow. Truly we could not afford the trip to the snow anyway so it was rather a blessing that we had to cancel. The real excitement came, however, when we took a little trip to Austin TX to see some sweet family. Ziah brought along his bike so that he could check out the semi-famous "9th Street Jumps" a series of small and large dirt bike jumps close to the center of the city. Ziah rode well all weekend and then just before we were set to leave for the airport, he wanted me to film him doing one set of jumps that he was proud of. There we all were, the smiling audience when, bang, he hit a tree! He was wearing a helmet but the tree hit his chin straight on, causing much blood and loose teeth! After a stint in the waiting room of the large city ER, we decided to walk out and catch our flight and deal with the whole thing in our home town. This turned out to be a good decision, but that flight seemed much longer than it usually does!

All in all, Ziah was lucky. He did fracture a small portion of his jaw bone (the part that holds the lower teeth in place), but his teeth actually look ok! He did not lose consciousness, something I am happy about with all the new research about repetitive concussions. He did need 9 stitches in his chin, but now he looks even more "badass" to use his phrase. He now has a strange looking wire cage along his lower teeth, but his jaw is not wired shut. He cannot chew for four to six weeks, but his favorite food is soup and he can now have a milkshake every day! Luckiest of all, we have excellent health insurance!

Now for dear Acacia. Hers are the mystery ailments that will require more investigation and may not be the right subject matter to delve too deeply into here in this forum. On the bright side, she is super enthused about school right now and is doing well or even better than well in her high-pressure prep school classes. She has her eye on the prize (which right now is college) and seems to be really coming into her young womanliness beautifully!

Through all of this runs the daily routine - meals, rides, homework, violin, chasing the chickens, hanging the laundry (yes, my dryer broke a while ago) and sweeping up the mountains of dog hair that seem to be taking over! I so look forward every day to my dog walking time. It is for this half hour or so, twice a day, I can breath, be calm, think clearly and spend time with my fur bag of unconditional love and slobber.