Friday, September 28, 2012

Favorite Photo Friday

Some of you have already seen this photo, but most of you haven't.  In honor of Gryffin's upcoming birthday I'm posting HIS favorite picture of himself.   He says "My eye is looking right into the frog's eye!"   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Three Sisters Soup

This post is in honor of my two sister, with whom I usually celebrate this turn of the wheel. Due to scheduling conflicts we won't all be together this Equinox :( --- miss you!

I thought I'd share with you a recipe for Three Sister Soup.  This is the soup I make every Autumnal Equinox, to celebrate Mabon or 'The Second Harvest'.  (Lammas - August 1st -being the first harvest, and Samhain - Halloween - being the 3rd or final harvest).  The Three Sisters are corn, beans and squash, all traditionally grown together in a wonderfully symbiotic relationship.  The corn becomes a support for the beans; the beans add nitrogen to the soil to fertilize the corn and squash; the squash acts as mulch for the corn and beans, shading the soil and base of the other plants.  These three are harvested at the same time (right now!), and eaten together form a complete protein.  (Well, really the corn & beans are a complete protein, but I couldn't leave out sister squash & all her yummy vitamins).  

Like any recipe I create, it's all very loose.  So if you try it out - get creative, season as you like...but don't forget to say a spell, a prayer, or a blessing as the soup is simmering.

Three Sisters Soup
1 cup dry aduki beans (soaked overnight)
1 large onion
Lots of veggie broth OR 2 bullion cubes & water
1-2 strips kombu or wakame (seaweed)

BOIL until the beans are fairly soft, then chop and ADD

4 (approx) large carrots
2 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 delicata squash, peeled

SIMMER for a bit, then ADD spices

lots of cumin & cardomom
some basil, thyme, cayenne (a pinch!), salt, pepper
1-2 cups cooked corn

SIMMER a bit more, until the flavors come together.  Serve hot with homemade bread and really good quality butter.  Yum!

From this stew of sisters three,
all shall eat in harmony,
and may this warmth stay in the heart,
as we return to home and hearth!
Blessed be

My sisters!  Equinox camping trip 2009

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about rhythm and balance.  With the autumnal equinox rapidly approaching, I'm more aware of the balance of light and dark, of day and night, and the transition into fall.  I’ve been planning curriculum for the very limited amount of formal ‘school’ I ask from Skyler (I know, I know, I’m late!!!) and trying to find a way to fold teaching into our day -- or to fold our day around teaching -- while still enjoying these beautiful days outside.
Rhythm is an idea I’ve embraced since first learning about it through Waldorf education.  Rhythm is our movement through the day, repetition, the balance of in breaths & out breaths.  Of all the many wonderful things I’ve learned from Waldorf, this has been perhaps the most helpful, and not just to homeschooling, but to parenting in general.  I like thinking of our days, not in terms of schedule or structure, but in terms of rhythm.   How do we begin & end each day?  What is the pace of the day?  When do we socialize, stay outside?  When do we come in and embrace quiet?  What do our transitions look like?  Rhythm is not rigid, it’s paying attention to the flow of your day, finding the balance.
Beginning our day with Yoga
As parents, I think we all recognize those days (or weeks) when the rhythm is working.  Those days that we move through with a certain amount of ease: things get accomplished without feeling rushed; it feels like everyone’s (even mamas!) needs are getting mostly met.  We have moments to breath, enough time alone, enough time outside, enough time with others.  Perhaps even clearer are the days (or weeks, or MONTHS) when our rhythm isn’t working: when everything feels rushed but nothing really gets done, we’re all crabby, we’re too busy, too alone, or bored.   Those days when things just feel ‘off’. 

Morning work - Skyler math

Morning work - Gryffin math
When the boys were babies, their very clear needs dictated the rhythm of the day.  Even last year our rhythm was dictated by early risers, a need for a lot of physical activity, and Gryffin’s very important afternoon nap.  The boys were up at 5:30, leaving Skyler time to eat breakfast, get dressed, play, & still do an hour or so of mama-directed school work BEFORE we left the house @ 9:00.  We filled our morning with activities, playground time, library, science museum, adventures, and then would head home for lunch & nap – when Sky & I (both introverts) would retreat with our books to opposite ends of the house.   About once a week we would go out again after nap, but mostly that time was spent playing, doing ‘projects’, cleaning and cooking dinner.   This rhythm was easy for me to hold, Gryffin’s nap was a precious and necessary (for all of us) priority.  The balance of busy morning and quiet afternoon felt right.

Homeschool meet-up - Playing 'Capture the Flag' with 20 other homeschoolers

Then, this summer Gryffin rather abruptly outgrew his nap.  Both boys started going to bed later & sleeping later (until almost 6:30)!  We let go of any formal lessons as the weather got warmer and the rhythm of our days changed.  We started hanging out at home longer during the still cool and comfortable mornings, playing, cleaning, and cooking.  I started packing our lunches to go, and we’d leave the house around 10:30 or 11 for afternoon adventures – to Walden, the beach, the woods, or just park hopping around the neighborhood.  We would come home late – usually right before dinner – cook something fast (to not heat up the kitchen), eat and take long lukewarm baths.   This rhythm sometimes left us a little too busy to work on projects or keep the house tidy, and I have to say we welcomed those few rainy days to balance all the sun and fun. 

Lunch at home on the backporch

 Now it’s time to find a new rhythm.  The weather is changing once again – autumn brings a return to our home, to cooking, inside work, crafting and ‘school’.   But without the strong dictates of naps and weather, it’s a rhythm I will have to create – a HUGE challenge for me.   I like a certain amount (read – ‘lots’) of floating through the days.  Without structure imposed externally, I easily become un-tethered.  I will start writing here & not notice that the kids haven’t eaten in hours…until I hear them start to fall apart in the other room.   Some of the rhythm of the week is determined by activities, but the internal rhythm of our days is imposed by me, & I find this sooo challenging.  And although Skyler easily floats through the day with me, Gryffin (because of his age and who he is) desperately needs a strong rhythm to lean against.
Late afternoon playtime with Cousin Bea
Working on a project at the 'Fountain Park'
So I try to find the balance.  I try to make sure we have time to work on mama-imposed work AND time for the boys to create their own wonderful projects and explorations.  I try to find the right rhythm between activities and time to read and play and imagine.   I am trying to make sure that we have time to breathe and notice our breath.  That we have time to socialize, make friends, play with other children, explore being a team and time to be alone.  That built into the rhythm of our day and week and year are moments of stillness, time to honor the change of seasons, time to pay attention to the natural world, and time to recognize the sacred rhythm in ourselves. 

What does the rhythm of your day or week look like?  Do you find it changing for fall?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Artist's Walk

Today, after a wonderful weekend filled with family, we decided to take stay close to home.   However our getting-things-done & lounging-about-the-house plans were derailed by the presence of an extremely loud wood-chipper operating just outside our front windows.  Such is city life.  The boys enjoyed watching the action for a while, but there's really only so much grinding noise we could stand, so out the door we went.  I decided to bring the boys on an Artist's Walk -- which I'm hoping to create as a weekly ritual.  I'm looking forward to sharing the results of these walks here with you.


An "Artist's Walk" is a walk taken without a particular destination in mind.  Instead, the goal is to gather observations and experiences.  We record these moments by writing descriptions & phrases, by sketching, by taking pictures.  On an Artists Walk we pay attention to the tiny details, the interesting moments, we pause to look, savor, remember.  We move at Gryffin's pace.  Skyler & I pretend to be 3 again, fascinated by puddles, cracks in the sidewalks, bugs.  

On an Artists Walk I try to enter into my child-mind and hang out with my children there. When I slow down and pay attention, I begin to notice the details of what surrounds me. I become absorbed in my senses, and from that place, wonder and fascination builds. Things I would normally just walk by, show up for me in new and interesting ways.  I am inspired to look, to see, to listen, to create.

Establishing the ritual of this intentional creative practice is extremely important to me, and part of my goals for the boys and myself in this homeschooling year. Like many mamas, homeschooling or not, I can easily find myself directing all my creative energy toward my children. When they were babies, each day was a creative exercise in trying to figure out how to meet their needs & (maybe) feed myself. Or take a shower. (Seriously - the creative problem solving in trying to figure out how to wash my hair with a super attached tiny baby was all I had the energy for). Now I expend a tremendous amount of creative energy in figuring out schedules, curriculum, dinner, the balance of the day. And although mama-ing is important and enriching work, it doesn't always fill my need for creative self-expression. Because really, I can't express myself through my children. I help them express themselves. And where does that leave me?

Well, it leaves me taking pictures with my children on this lovely fall-like day, while we talk about what images strike us as beautiful or interesting, while we find the richest, most expressive adjectives we can to describe what we see and hear and feel.   I watch them role down a grassy hill and stop for acrobatics.  We laugh at Gryffin running in circles while Skyler tries to snap his picture.  I am surprised by Gryffin's interest in urban objects and wild camera angles.   I am inspired, not only by what I find on our walk today, but by my children's explorations.  Together, we find our creative voices and I find myself renewed.  




I'm so impressed by their photos, I am bursting with mama-pride!  I am inspired.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


The first few weeks of back-to-school are always difficult for me.  Most of our summer friends are suddenly unavailable and our Homeschool classes and groups haven’t begun.  The playgrounds are empty, and athough Skyler & Gryffin enjoy having the place to themselves, I have that eerie feeling that everyone is off doing something fun without me.  I feel excluded, left out -- a feeling that reminds me of my own experience of school.   I start to fantasize about all the things I would be able to do if I my children were at school, it’s a rich & delicious fantasy.  I imagine the art classes I would take, bringing my laptop to the coffee shop and writing all day, napping, reading wonderfully long complicated books, days filled with quiet.  I imagine a clean house (but strangely, I never imagine myself cleaning – it is a fantasy after all).   Of course, the reality is that Gryffin is only 3 years old, so this fantasy wouldn’t be possible even if Skyler was in school.    But it sounds so…nice. 

I realize that this escape into fantasy is not really about what I want for myself, but is more about avoiding my fear.   These first few weeks in September are marred by low level (and sometimes not-so-low level) anxiety, sleepless nights, questions.  Am I making the right choice for Skyler?  What opportunities for friendships, experiences, and learning am I NOT allowing?  Am I making the right choice for Gryffin, who lives so strongly under his brother’s influence?  Am I making the right choice for me?  I love being with my children, playing and learning together.  But, Erik works long hours, and I am sometimes overwhelmed by being the boys one and only.  Every day.  All day. 

 Then I remind myself that I know how to do this – after all, we’ve been homeschooling for 2 years already.  Even when Skyler was in Kindergarten, I guided his academics.  I taught him to read – well, he learned to read, with some help from me.  I have a strong homeschooling community in place, classes to cover the things I can’t (soccer, gymnastics, Ninjitsu), co-ops and meetups to give the boys more opportunities to create friendships, and learn how to negotiate group dynamics.   

It helps even more when I remember that the boys know how to do this homeschooling thing even better than I.   As I write this, they are both completely absorbed in projects they developed themselves.  Gryffin is creating a massive glue & white paper construction, while telling a story about a woman dressed in white who lives in Connecticut.  Skyler has decided to make himself a top-hat.  This involves tape measures, a compass, a pattern created from newsprint then reworked in poster board, and an ingenious method of creating a series of tabs to attach the brim to the top part of the hat.   How did he figure that out?   Together they are discussing the magic show they will soon be putting on.   I pause in writing to convince them to comp me a ticket (rather than pay the $5.00 they requested).   Skyler stops working on his project long enough to show Gryffin how to write the word “Magic”.

I know not every day will have this ease, interest and creative energy.  But in these anxiety filled first weeks of fall, I hold onto the memory of the days that do:  when one project flows into the next, when my messy house is evidence of a day spent making things, when the science museum is empty and ours to explore, when the kids are so involved in their own projects that I can pick up that wonderfully complicated book and read a chapter.   I remember that the magic of learning happens every day in small and important ways and – lucky me! – I get to be a part of it all.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This Morning

This morning we awoke to rain.  Skyler woke early (5ish), but stayed on his top bunk to read (The Mysterious Benedict Society).  Gryffin was already in the big bed, so stayed snuggled in and asleep to the late hour of 6:30.   We breakfasted, made the beds, opened the windows wide to let in the smell of the rain & watched the garden drink deeply. 
Corner of 'The Big Bed', everyone's favorite place to watch the rain

This morning the boys are doing projects with maps...I have no idea what sparked the interest, but maps are located and pondered over.   Gryffin finds interesting things on the map of Massachusetts, Skyler is finding all the places he knows on the map of Cambridge.   Right now, Skyler is sitting at his new desk, working on a graph paper, to scale, map of his room, which includes a number of secret and previously undiscovered passageways.  Hmmm. 

Skyler's new desk was our labor day labor :).   A true 'back-to-school' prep for this homeschooled child.   This desk was found on the curb across the street -- we spent the weekend removing awful hardware, sanding down even more awful dark-brown laminate, and painting.  There's a piece of plexiglass covering the top so Sky can conduct science experiments or mix wizards potions without destroying the surface.  
Later in the morning the boys were invited by my sister, her husband & my niece for a walk to the wet park.   I join them later, walking along with my camera in hand and find these moments...
Camera play - puddle focusing on the surface 

Camera play - same shot, but focusing on the reflection

Cousin Beatrix




We return to my tea & this post.  The boys to further rainy day explorations in the backyard, where there are holes to dig and worms to find.  And treaure to bury.  And mud to make. 



"in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful"

e.e. cummings

[I know it's late summer, not spring, but this morning was soooo mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful that I just had to add ee cummings to my post.  Hope your morning was luscious & wonderful too.]