Monday, July 28, 2014

Home from Yearly





We are returned from our five days at North Pacific Yearly Meeting. It's a gathering of Quakers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. This year it was in Forest Grove, Oregon for the second time. 

It's always a chance to meet and remeet good people, to hear stories of what life is like in many different places. To overhear snatches of conversations about the death penalty and the authorization of military force, about cycling across states and being arrested for peace. 

The kids run around in little packs, doing crafts and singing songs. The last night that we are together there is a Community Night with skits and songs. Brixton's group dressed up like suns and sang "You are my Sunshine." Unity's group made their own flags and did a dance to the anthem for the World Cup. 

It's a whole separate world, with a different rhythm, long conversations and shared community. I lose track of time there, forget the day and am barely aware of time. It's another kind of time altogether. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Odds and ends








Some odds and ends from the last few days. Lots of beach trips, and sharing snacks with friends. Playing school with dad and siblings. Both kids are into geography right now and they each have a country they are interesting in studying. Unity is interested in Uganda, because of a woman named Phiona Mutesi who came to speak at her school last year. She has a really amazing story, you should read about it here. 
Brixton is interested in China, because they have a Mandarin teacher one afternoon a week at his preschool. 

So we've been reading books about those countries and looking them up on maps and talking about how things there might be different. Oh my future world travelers. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Breaking it




Chris went to a friends house last weekend to return a drill he'd borrowed. He came home with a bag full of broken electronics. I raised my eyebrows but his plan was that he and Unity can take them apart together and look at all the stuff inside and maybe try to fix them. Ok then. 

While I don't share this fascination, I do love that Chris shares it with her. Partly because he wants her to feel comfortable tinkering, since sometimes boys are more encouraged in that pursuit than girls.  And partly just cause he does enjoy it and it's a way that they can spend time together, working on a project. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Before and after













                                    Yep, we did it. Brixton had his first haircut. Honestly I didn't mind the long hair and I would have let him grow it out for as long as he wanted, but he kept chewing on it. It was gross and we'd talk about it and he would promise not to do it anymore and then I find him chewing it again. I don't think he even realized he was doing it half the time. So, we decided together it was time for a  big kid almost 5 haircut. He is happy with it and so am I, although it is a BIG change for sure.

He looks so old!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Summer reading-mine



     Just as a warning, this picture doesn't quite match up with the text. Some of the books I read I've already returned to the library and some of my library books I haven't read yet. So it goes.

I've decided that summer and classic mystery novels go hand in hand like buckets at the beach. Last summer I read the complete Sherlock Holmes and it was so fantastic. This summer I decided to read the novels of Dashiell Hammet and they have not disappointed. I'm not a big fan of contemporary mysteries, they are often too gorey for me,  but I do enjoy the classics- especially by the pool. So far I've read his Red Harvest and Dain Curse and I'm working on the Maltese Falcon.

Other recent reads include:

City of Heavenly Fire- by Cassandra Clare. This is an urban fantasy YA series. It can be goofy at times, like all involved fantasy series but I like the characters and the world. These books to me, are like a fun escapist TV show.

All Joy and No Fun- by Jennifer Senior. This is a great parenting book, in that it is about the stages and development of the parents, not the kids. Each few chapters focus on a different stage of child-rearing and the ways that it emotionally and sociologically changes parents. I really related to this book and it helped me realize that our family is really at the turning point, moving from the chaotic and isolating early years into the different challenges of the scheduling and car-pooling elementary school years.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home- by Carol Rifka Brunt. I loved this novel that a friend gave me recently. It's a lovely and haunting coming-of-age story, set in the 1980s. A lonely bookish girl has always been close to her uncle, a painter. After his death from AIDS, she discovers that he had a partner, whom her parents blame. In their grief, they form a friendship that will eventually bring many hidden family dynamics to the surface.

Rules of Civility- by Amor Towles. Set in the late 1930s in New York, this novel follows a young woman from a working class immigrant background as she expands her world professionally and socially. It's filled with art deco style and martinis in smoky jazz joints and mysterious loves. Great beach read.

Listen to the Squawking Chicken- by Elaine Lui. A fun and quick memoir written by a Chinese-Canadian woman about her immigrant mother. Lui talks about her mother's difficult upbringing and how it transformed her into a a squawking chicken- loud, confident and the most important person in her daughter's life. I found it interesting to read about the differences between Lui's upbringing and the typical Western parenting. (Lui's mom didn't believe in telling her fairy tales, because you don't need to prepare for being happy, it's the hard times that need preparation.) It was also interesting to read about her mother's brand of feng shui/ Chinese zodiac luck since a lot of that was also new to me. Some of the chapters are a little thin but overall it's an interesting story of a lively lady.

 An Altar in the World: a Geography of Faith- by Barbara Brown Taylor
 This lovely little book came highly recommended by a friend. I've been reading it slowly, savoring. Each chapter is an exploration of a different spiritual practice that helps the author connect the sacred with the everyday. By exploring the profound mysteries in everyday moments, this is one of those books that helps you feel grateful and blessed to be right where you are.








Friday, July 04, 2014

4th of Hiking







                         We celebrated today by going for a great hike in the Mt Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest. It's a lovely hike that switchbacks through the forest and ends up next to a clear luminous lake. Our friends Jane and Ian and their dad came too. Our neighborhood can be kind of loud on the 4th, with people setting off fireworks in their yards all day long, so it was nice to escape to the trees. Now wish us luck for the rest of the night.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Summer reading- theirs




          In the summer we visit the library every couple of days. I love looking up lists of children's books organized by subject and then requesting a bunch of them and then staggering my requests so that we almost always have an interesting pile of various topics waiting for us. Yes, I'm a total library nerd. You knew that already. And yes I do this for my own reading too.

Some of the topics I've been focusing on for the kids are- money, math, art, cultures of the world, and the Middle Ages. Here are some of our favorite reads from this week.

If You Lived Here: Houses of the World- by Giles Laroche. This book contains pictures and descriptions of many different kinds of house all over the world such as log cabins in Colonial U.S., cave houses in the mountains of Spain, yurts of Mongolia and tree houses. My kids loved imagining what it would be like to live in such different places and Unity's been telling me she wished we lived in a log cabin with animals.

The Dragon's Tale and other animal fables of the Chinese Zodiac- by Demi. I'm not sure where Brixton's interest in China started, but he is really fascinated with it. He wants me to find all the books about China from the library, so I'm working on it. This one is a collection of fairy tales that correspond to the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. The kids enjoyed figuring out which animal goes with which person in our family.

Pretty Penny Makes Ends Meet- by Devon Kinch. Unity found this one on her own but I was really glad she did. It's the story of a girl who is trying to raise money to help her grandmother with home repairs. She decides to make and sell jewelry and the book goes into details of her budget and how to figure out the cost of supplies and calculate your profit. The pictures are a little more "glam girl" than I prefer, but of course that's why Unity likes it so much.

Wangari's Trees of Peace- by Jeanette Winter.  You've probably heard about Wangarai Maathai, the Kenyan woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work planting trees. This book tells the story in a realistic but gentle way. (It shows Wangari being hurt by the police and put in jail.) We had a lot of good discussions with this one.

Pete the Cat and his four groovy Buttons- by James Dean and Eric Litwin. This is very early basic subtraction, mostly appropriate for preschools. The pictures are zany and fun and the story involves lots of repetition and goofy singing.

Georgia's Bones by Jen Bryant and Bethanne Anderson. This is a beautiful and poetic story of the early life of Georgia O'Keeffee, from her childhood of noticing the beauty and shapes around her to her visit to New Mexico and the inspiration of the desert and animal bones around her. One to savor.
 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Role models and shadow drawings







Montessori is big on mixed age groups of kids. The idea is that the older kids get a chance to be a "role model" and show the younger kids the rhythm of the classroom and ways to be engaged. Everybody wins. Unity has been in mixed age classrooms her whole life, from preschool to her combined Kindergarten 1st grade classroom and this fall she'll start in a combined 1st 2nd 3rd grade classroom. And of course our household is a mixed age bunch all the time.

This summer she's really taken on being a helper for younger siblings of friends. She has enjoyed helping our 2 and 3 year old friends, and their parents often appreciate the help as well. It's fun to see her playing this new role and enjoying it, even if it does make her seem so old. 

Yesterday afternoon, we did an art project from this book, which is my absolute favorite art book for kids. Since it was hot and very sunny, we picked some interesting shapes from the garden and then traced their shadows. It was a fun project and afterwards we colored the pictures any old way. It was lots of fun and super easy. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sharpie mug oven project








                           We did our version of the sharpie mug project last week and it went pretty well. I bought some white mugs from Goodwill and had the kids plan our their drawings first. Then I let them draw on the mugs in permanent marker.

 There are lots of variations of this project floating around. Here's what worked for us.

1. Cheap mugs. They are from the thrift store, but originally the mugs are from Ikea, Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel. Basically the glaze has to melt in the oven and then dry again with the ink now on it.

2. Clean the mugs well. Ours had a few spots where the adhesive from the price stickers was still there and that part is an ugly brown after going through the oven.

3. Put the mugs in the cold oven. Then set to 425. Bake for 30 minutes and let cool in the oven.

4. Go read some books.

5. Remove when they are all the way cool.

 I put ours in the dishwasher right after they cooled down  just to see what would happen and all of the designs stayed put.

The kids thought this project was a blast and they love drinking out of their mugs now.